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Entries in cakes (63)

Tuesday
Apr092013

Five Spring Cakes to Make You Smile

Image: Whipped BakeshopSpring has sprung, people! With it comes a sense of refreshing newness, not to mention an awfully pretty palette of blossoms and greenery beginning to sprout. Inspired by the pretty colors and the utter happiness that comes with the world coming to life again after a long winter, here's a collection of sweet Spring-like cakes to inspire you and get your appetite going for the season.

Pinwheel Cake (pictured above): Philadelphia bakery Whipped Bakeshop always inspires me, but this sweet cake takes the...well, you know. A delicate pastel pink cake garnished with adorable pinwheels evokes the gentle breezes and free-wheeling spirit of the first warm spring days. 

Image: Southern LivingStrawberries and Cream Cake: What says spring-into-early summer like strawberries? They taste like sunshine and happiness, especially when paired with rich cream. This lovely cake takes advantage of seasonal produce and dresses it up in its finest spring party outfit. Find the recipe here.

Image: Juliet Stalwood Cakes and BiscuitsDaffodil Cake: It's hard not to love daffodils--they're like little yellow sunshines growing from the earth! This cake captures the bursting blossoms of happy daffodils, and happily, this piece of art is bursting with sugar, too! Created by Juliet Stalwood Cakes, it appears to be reatively shaped fondant that give the sides and top its sweet look.

Image: Martha StewartCrocus Cake: You know that spring is starting when you start to see crocus buds peeking through the cold ground, sometimes even through snow! This cake perfectly shows the first flush of spring, complete with cocoa "earth" and a bird's nest made of phyllo dough! 

Image: Better With ButterSunshine Ombre Cake: This cake by Better With Butter just makes me smile. I imaging that a slice of this orange ombre cake is like eating graduated rays of sunshine. If you are what you eat, then I'd warrant a guess that you'd have a good sunny glow going on after a slice of this delightful cake.

Wednesday
Apr032013

The Delicious Tale of Dobos Torte

Dobos torte

He may not have had nine lives, but József C. Dobos left a many-layered legacy that's considered a symbol of Hungary. It's called Dobos Torte, an elegant caramel-coated cake which, when cut into, becomes even better--because once you get past that eloquent exterior, you'll find several (between 7 and 11) layers of delicate sponge cake sandwiched with a luscious chocolate buttercream.

Dobos torte

Sometimes thought of as the Hungarian equivalent to Escoffier, the famous French foodie who was the inventor of, among other dishes, Cherries Jubilee, Dobos was a fancy chef from a long line of fancy chefs. After spending his life in the culinary arts, he settled down in his later years to open a gourmet food shop in Hungary. He created this cake as a pleasurable way to satisfy the need for a dessert that would keep well: refrigeration wasn’t as easy to come by as it is today, and the high ratio of rich frosting to cake ensured that the cake would stay moist for far longer than a plain sponge cake.

Dobos Torte

 But that wasn't the only selling point of the cake: Dobos, a true pastry pilgrim, had discovered buttercream in his travels to France--ooh la la! When he used it in his cake (at a time when most cakes were filled with cooked creams or custards), the sinfully luxuriant, sweet buttercream-filled Dobos Torte stood out. That's right: while the combination of cake with buttercream filling is commonplace today, at the time it was really quite a revolutionary dessert concept! 

Dobos Torte

Mr. Dobos also seemed to be quite the marketing expert for his time: after he grandly introduced his Dobos Torte at the National General Exhibition of Budapest in the 1880s, the cake became a sensation throughout Europe, earning devotees from far and wide. Dobos, like a modern-day pastry rock star, even toured European capitals, introducing the cake to different cities and presenting it in a special, custom-made container. Talk about hyping your brand!
 
Dobos went to the great meringue in the sky in the 1920s, but his very unique cake has lived on: among the many honors bestowed on him and his creation over the decades, my favorite remains the time when  a six-foot-diameter Dobos torte was paraded by pastry chefs through the avenues of Budapest! Dobos torte remains a classic today; look for it when you're traveling the world, visiting fancy hotels, restaurants, and pastry shops.
 

Dobos

When it comes to making Mr. Dobos' creation yourself, don't be daunted by the long list of ingredients and instructions: this is definitely a recipe that requires time and attention, but it's not very difficult to prepare, and once it's served, you'll secure a spot as baking royalty among your family and friends. The crowning glory is the caramel top layer, which, when applied, will undoubtedly make you feel as if you are adding the torch to the Statue of Liberty.

Full disclosure? When I made this cake, I made it slightly wrong. Usually the caramel is cut as triangles and then placed at a rakish angle along the cake's top, like this. I made it as a topping layer. You know what? Still tasty, even if not quite 100% traditional. So I have it that way in my tutorial!

Dobos

Dobos

Dobos Torte (Printable version here!)

Makes one tall 9-inch layer cake (16 servings) 

For the cakes:

  • 9 egg whites
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 8 egg yolks (use the last egg yolk for the buttercream)
  • 1/4 cup milk (whole or 2%)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest, from 1 large lemon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
  • Confectioners' sugar, for dusting 

For the buttercream:

  • 12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped (about 2 cups)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into pieces 

For the caramel:

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons water

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Generously grease and flour the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan. Have ready two 10-inch cardboard circles.

 To make the cake, put the egg whites in the very clean bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat the egg whites until frothy, then gradually add the sugar. Continue beating just until soft peaks form. Transfer to a large, wide bowl to make later steps (folding, etc) easier.  

In another bowl, whisk the  8 egg yolks with the milk, lemon zest, vanilla, and salt until well blended. Fold about ¼ of the egg yolk mixture into the egg whites to lighten the mixture; fold in the rest of the yolks in a second addition. This will keep the mixture from deflating. Sift the flour over the egg mixture, and fold in two additions, making sure that the flour has been completely incorporated.  

Measure about 1 cup batter into the prepared pan, then spread and level it, using an offset or rubber spatula. Bake for about 4 to 7 minutes, or until lightly browned on the edges, with a dull finish on top, and the cake has begun to pull away from the edges of the pan slightly. Remove the cake from the oven, and let sit for a 3 to 4 minutes before removing the layer from the pan with a metal spatula. Dust the cake lightly with confectioners' sugar (this will keep the layers from sticking), and place on a rack to cool.

Clean and grease the pan; repeat this process until all of the batter is used, about 6 times more. As you bake, stack the layers between waxed or parchment paper, and cover with a clean towel. Refrigerate the layers until completely cold, about 2 hours.

To make the buttercream, start by melting the chocolate in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over low heat, or in the top of a double boiler. Stir slowly and constantly until the chocolate melts. Set aside.

Using an electric mixer, whisk the eggs and egg yolk on medium-high speed until they reach the ribbon stage (“ribbons” will drip when you hold up a whisk, rather than just drips). Turn off the mixer, but leave the egg mixture in the bowl.

In a small saucepan combine the sugar and water, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Stop stirring and let the mixture come to a boil; cook to 240 degrees (the soft-ball stage) on a candy thermometer Take pan off the heat.  

Return to the egg mixture. Whisk on low speed,and pour the hot syrup into the egg mixture in a slow but steady stream. Increase the mixing speed and whip the mixture until it is roughly the texture of whipped cream and has cooled to room temperature (the mixing bowl may still feel slightly warm). Add the butter in 3 parts, stirring so that it gets mixed in. Then add the melted chocolate (it should be just slightly warm). Continue to whip until smooth and well blended.

To assemble the cake, start with one layer of cake; set it on one of the 10-inch rounds; cover the top surface with some buttercream ( a slightly overflowing 1/3cup), and then press down with another layer to make a good seal. Repeat this with all but one of the cake layers. Wrap the torte in plastic, and refrigerate for at least 6 hours; also wrap and chill the remaining buttercream (you should have about 2 cups left). Place a sheet of parchment paper on top of the other cardboard round, and place the last layer on it; wrap and refrigerate.

To make the caramel topping, in a medium saucepan, cook the sugar and water over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until an amber caramel forms, about 5 minutes.

Unwrap the single cake layer. Carefully pour the caramel over the cake layer and spread it thinly, using a small offset spatula. Don't worry if some of it drips off of the cake while you spread it. Working quickly, use an oiled or buttered sharp knife to indent the top of the caramel into 16 wedges (this will ensure that the caramel doesn't crack when you cut slices). Allow to cool slightly, and then retouch the indents with the knife again. Place the layer onto a countertop dusted with confectioners'sugar, and allow the caramel to cool completely.

Place more buttercream on top of the chilled torte, and top with the caramel round. Frost the sides with the remaining buttercream. Cover loosely, and chill the torte for about an hour before serving; let come to room temperature before serving.

Store, loosely covered, in the refrigerator, for up to 3 days. 

Wednesday
Feb272013

Teatime Tastiness: Lady Baltimore Cake Story and Recipe

Lady Baltimore cake

Here’s a cake that was built for genteel tea parties: a large layer cake filled with chopped nuts and dried fruits and topped with a dramatic (but ever ladylike) billow of boiled frosting. But while one might suppose that this distinguished cake was named after Lady Baltimore, that's not quite how the story went. Like many cakes, its origins are disputed--but like any teatime gossip, this makes the story so much more fun to delve into. A very helpful resource in my delving was The Old Foodie, by the way. Oh, and if you like tales like this, you should probably pre-order my new book, The Secret Lives of Baked Goods: Sweet Stories & Recipes for America's Favorite Desserts.

Lady Baltimore Cake

Let's start with the tales that are likely false. First: the Lady Baltimore connection. Highly unlikely that the cake dates back to her day: the Lady, whose Irish husband inherited Maryland in the mid-seventeenth century, never even lived in America, and in any case baking powder leavening agents were not invented until well into the nineteenth century – making a cake of this sort not very likely to have been invented as a casual teatime treat during her day. The Big Fella of American Cookery, James Beard, says of Lady Baltimore that it is “said to have originated in Maryland, this one one of the first fine-textured cakes mentioned in old cookery books. It required a delicate touch in mixing and exact measurements--this, in the days of no standard measuring cups, teaspoons, or tablespoons.” Second: the Dolley Madison connection. Some say that the cake rose in popularity due to the fact that it was similar to a cake enjoyed by Dolley Madison, the fourth First Lady but this story fails to explain why it is not then called Dolly Madison cake. Also, she's already got an ice cream named after her—isn't that enough?

And now, the favored explanations for the cake—likely, the true story is a combination of the two. First: It originated in Charleston at the end of the nineteenth century, at “The Lady Baltimore Tearooms”, and was a variation of another popular cake.

Lady Baltimore Cake

Second: novelist Owen Wister is the one who made this cake famous--while writing his 1906 romance, Lady Baltimore, set in a fictional city based on Charleston, he was extremely taken with the city and a cake he ate there. In fictional form, it is described as being not unlike a wedding cake, and the suggestive passage is as follows:

"I should like a slice, if you please, of Lady Baltimore," I said with extreme formality. I thought she was going to burst; but after an interesting second she replied, "Certainly," in her fit Regular Exchange tone; only, I thought it trembled a little.

I returned to the table and she brought me the cake, and I had my first felicitous meeting with Lady Baltimore. Oh, my goodness! Did you ever taste it? It's all soft, and it's in layers, and it has nuts--but I can't write any more about it; my mouth waters too much.

Upon reacting in a strongly favorable way, the narrator realizes that the girl he’d been speaking to was the cake-maker. He finds that it has broken the ice, and their sweet flirtation continues. Some say that it is an instance of art imitating life: could it be possible that Wister had been served some delicious cake by an appealing Southern belle, and was inspired to immortalize the experience?

Supporting this is the fact that there seems to be no mention anywhere of a cake called “Lady Baltimore” until the first known publication of the recipe in 1906. Suddenly there was a flood of newspaper articles mentioning the cake; one writer in 1907 only agreeing to part with the recipe ‘with the sanction of Owen Wister’. Most likely? The cake preceded Wister's novel, but was renamed toute-suite after the novel's popularity became evident. Perhaps some entrepreneurial cake-shop owner took note after reading the book and tweaked the recipe to live up to the novel. Perhaps it was even the ladies at the Lady Baltimore Tea Rooms in Charleston.

Lady Baltimore, in cake form, has a male companion: the Lord Baltimore Cake. This yellow cake variation was created as a clever way to use up all of the egg yolks discarded while making the Lady version of the cake, yielding a rich, decadent counterpart.

Lady Baltimore Cake

Delicate and fine-crumbed, this cake is nicely paired with the rich fillings and toppings which keep it from being too light and angel food-like. Precision with the cake is necessary to get the “lift” from the egg whites, but it's worth the effort: it makes for sweet, easy eating, and the cake's history will make for some fascinating conversation.

Lady Baltimore Cake (printable recipe here!)
16 servings

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup milk
  • 7 large egg whites
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

Boiled frosting (recipe follows)

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Grease and flour the bottoms and sides of three 8-or 9-inch round cake pans; line with rounds of parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter with the sugar until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes on medium speed. Stir in the vanilla.
  4. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture in 2-3 additions, alternately with the milk, and stir the batter until it is just combined.
  5. In another large bowl, beat the egg whites, cream of tartar, pinch of salt until they form stiff peaks.
  6. Stir a portion of the egg whites into the batter to lighten the mixture; follow by gently folding in the remaining whites.
  7. Divide the batter evenly among the prepared pans. Use a spatula to smooth the top of the batter in the pans.
  8. Bake for 25-35 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean.
  9. Let the cake layers cool in the pans on racks for 10 minutes, turn them out onto the racks, and let them cool completely. If the cakes have formed a dome on top, slice using a serrated knife to level. 

Boiled frosting

  • 6 large egg whites
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped dried figs plus sliced dried figs for garnish
  • 1 cup pecans, toasted lightly and chopped fine, plus pecan halves for garnish
  • 1/2 cup raisins, chopped
  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the egg whites until they hold soft peaks. Set aside.
  2. In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the sugar and the water, stirring occasionally. Once it comes to a boil, continue stirring, more frequently, until the sugar is dissolved; boil the syrup until it registers 248 degrees F on a candy thermometer.
  3. With the mixer running add the hot syrup to the egg whites, in a slow, steady stream.
  4. Add the vanilla, beating the icing until it is smooth and cool.
  5. Transfer two cups of the frosting to a bowl. With the remaining portion of frosting, fold in the chopped figs, pecans, and raisins.
  6. Place the first cake layer on a serving plate, flat (un-cut) side up. Spread it with half of the fruit and nut-filled frosting, keeping a ½ inch margin around the edges—the weight of the next layer will spread the filling to the edges. Place another cake layer on top of the frosting, once again so that the flat side faces up. Spread the remaining fruit and nut-filled frosting on top of this layer, once again leaving a margin. Place the third cake layer on top, flat side up. Use the reserved plain frosting to frost the top and sides of the cake. Garnish with any remaining fruit or nuts.
Tuesday
Feb122013

Heart Shaped Peanut Butter and Jelly Roll Cake for Peanut Butter and Company

I’m not saying that you should totally ignore chocolate on Valentine’s Day. But…why not also include a cake that is more fun to make with a partner: the Peanut Butter and Jelly Roll! If you’ve ever made a Jelly Roll cake at home, you know that it can be hard to handle the rolling of the cake while baking solo–so why not employ your Valentine with this most delicious task? You’ll be rewarded with a delicately spongy cake which gives way to a rich, deliciously smooth white chocolate peanut butter filling, beautifully paired with sweet strawberry jelly. Bonus points if you roll it into the shape of a heart! This is an adaptation of a classic Jelly Roll recipe I discovered in Taste of Home.

For the full post and recipe, visit Peanut Butter and Company!

Monday
Jan282013

Clean Out the Cabinets Cake Recipe

Clear out the Cabinets Cake

It doesn't happen, but every now and again (usually when I know I'm moving soon) I get the urge to clean out all the random ingredients that I have lying around in the kitchen. But I absolutely despise throwing things out--it seems so wasteful. But how to make use of these ingredients in an efficient way? 

Well, when I found myself cleaning out the cabinets recently, I had an inspiration.

Clear out the Cabinets Cake

It started when I found a box of Jiffy Yellow Cake mix. All of a sudden, I looked at everything else with new eyes.

What if I could combine orphan ingredients, all in one cake? It would certainly be something completely awful, or awesome. Maybe both.

Clear out the Cabinets Cake

So I rounded up a few things that I thought could possibly work in this monster of a cake: half a jar of peanut butter, a third of a box of Teddy Grahams, a handful of Fun-Size candy bars, and about 2 handfuls of potato chips (plain, salted). 

I started by mixing the cake according to the box ingredients (1 egg, 1/2 cup of water). Then, I stirred in the peanut butter. It smelled really good, and my spirits began to get high.

Clear out the Cabinets Cake

I then stirred in the rest of it--I broke each candy bar into 3 or 4 pieces, crushed the chips in my hand before adding, but just added the Teddy Grahams as-is. It made for an extremely thick, lumpy batter.

Clear out the Cabinets Cake

I spread it into a well-greased 8x8-inch pan.

Clear out the Cabinets Cake Clear out the Cabinets Cake

I baked it for 22 minutes at 350 degrees, at which point I took out one of the most alluring-smelling cakes my nose has ever known.

When it cooled, I realized that this was a great opportunity to use another ingredient--half a can of cream cheese frosting--so I added that too. Why not? And sprinkles. Rainbow! 

So, you're wondering after this big buildup, how did it taste? 

Clear out the Cabinets Cake

I was so glad I hadn't thrown anything out--this cake was a keeper. The peanut butter mixed throughout the batter worked amazingly with the chocolate chunks studded everywhere from the Fun-size candy bars, making it feel like you were eating birthday cake with alternating bites of a peanut butter cup. But all mixed in your mouth. The only weirdness was the Teddy grahams, which had lightly softened in the baking process, just to the point where they were just crunchy enough to distract from the cake texture, but not different enough to really have a crunchy crunch impact. Clear out the Cabinets Cake Next time I'd crush them before adding. The chips were a pleasant surprise, adding a nice saltiness which made all the competing tastes--peanut butter, cake, frosting, chocolate--come together in a beautiful salty end note. It's like the most beautiful epilogue. 

Clear out the Cabinets Cake

Clean Out the Cabinets Cake (Printable recipe here!)

Serves 9

  • 1 Box Jiffy Cake
  • 1 Egg 
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Whatever stuff you want to add (I added: half a jar of The Bee's Knees peanut butter by Peanut Butter and Company, 2 handfuls of potato chips, about 6 fun-size candy bars, and a third of a box of Teddy Grahams

Procedure

  1. Preheat the oven to 350. Grease a cake pan (round or square).
  2. Prepare the cake mix per the package instructions (1 egg and 1/2 cup water). 
  3. Once the batter is ready, stir in the peanut butter (or any "wet" ingredients).
  4. Stir in the rest of your ingredients.
  5. Bake for 20-25 minutes, per the package instructions. When golden, remove from the oven. Cool the cake, and turn out on to a wire rack. Let cool completely.
  6. If you have frosting, go ahead and frost it. Add sprinkles (why not?). Enjoy!
Tuesday
Jan222013

Sweetened Condensed Milk Funfetti Cake

Teddy Graham Cake

Certainly, if there were an Official List of Things That Are Grand and Mighty, the following would be on it: Funfetti Cake Mix, Sweetened Condensed Milk, Chocolate Fudge Frosting, and Teddy Grahams

So you can imagine how wealthy in sweet riches I felt when I found myself in possession of all of these things, at once, in my kitchen, at the ready. 

Knowing that I needed to make the most of this precious bounty, I thought long and hard before settling on the ideal concoction: a Sweetened Condensed Milk Cake. 

I quickly found a recipe on this forum which detailed how to trick-out a cake mix with sweetened condensed milk for a decadent treat, and was delighted to see that I had all of the ingredients on hand. 

Now, the recipe I started with was somewhat like Houdini Bars--a cake mix crust, but with a sweetened condensed milk and chocolate gooey topping.

But what the heck, I thought, and decided to pour in the sweetened condensed milk right along with the cake mix and see how it baked up. 

Teddy Graham Cake

And you know what? It worked! The resulting cake was very dense, more like a bar cookie texture; the taste was heavenly sweet, with that lightly caramelly-milk tasting flavor that the sweetened condensed milk so deliciously imparts. So rich. You really shouldn't eat a lot of this. Just kidding. Eat more.

Teddy Graham Cake

And in a case of pure gilding the lily, I added an extremely thick layer of fudge frosting on top of it all, and since they were on hand, gently placed Teddy Grahams on top. Now, it wasn't my intention, but with those Teddy Grahams gently resting on top of the cake, waiting for their final resting place in the greedy mouth of various sugar fiends, something was pointed out to me by the creators of The Sporkful. These teddies resembled the rows of soldiers so dramatically captured in Gone With the Wind! Teddy Graham Cake

So I started to think of it as a Teddy Graham Graveyard. So, that's my secondary title for this cake: Teddy Graham Graveyard Cake.

Teddy Graham Cake

Sweetened Condensed Milk Funfetti Cake, or Teddy Graham Graveyard Cake

Printable recipe here!

About 1 hour - 24 servings

For the cake

  • 1 box cake mix (I used Funfetti)
  • 2 large eggs 
  • 1/3 cup oil 
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk 
  • 1/2 stick butter, cut small

Frosting

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 cups confectioners' sugar, divided
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream

Teddy Grahams, for garnish

Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 13 x 9 x 2 inch baking pan.

Teddy Graham Cake

In a large mixing bowl, beat the cake mix, eggs, oil, and sweetened condensed milk in a large bowl with mixer until blended. Pour into the prepared pan. 

Teddy Graham Cake

Bake 20 to 25 minutes until lightly browned. 

While the cake cools, prepare the frosting. To make the frosting, in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter on high speed until smooth, about 1 minute. In a separate bowl, sift together 3 cups of the confectioners' sugar with the cocoa.

Add the sugar and cocoa mixture to the butter mixture in 2 to 3 additions, beating on low speed to incorporate. Pause to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula after each addition.

Add the salt, vanilla, and cream; increase speed to medium, and beat until the mixture is very fluffy a spreadable consistency. If the frosting is too soft, add a little more sugar; if it's too thick, add additional cream in small increments, mixing after each addition, until it has reached your desired consistency.

Teddy Graham Cake

Frost the cake all over, right in the pan. It's gonna be a lot of frosting. Sprinkle with nonpareils or sprinkles of your choice, and don't forget the Teddy Grahams.

Tuesday
Oct162012

Trick or Sweet: Candy Corn Upside Down Cake

Recently, I asked my favorite Pineapple Upside-Down Cake recipe a serious question: "What would you like to be for Halloween this year?".

After considering various options, such as Doughnut Upside-Down Cake, Tarte Tatin, and various other options for the inverted dessert, we decided to go with something festive: Candy Corn Upside-Down Cake.

It was simple enough to do: just substitute candy corn for the pineapple requested in the original recipe. But what happened when I baked it up was a surprise: the brown sugar and butter topping fused with the melted candy corn to form some sort of unholy, monstrous Halloween caramel-sugar topping, which dripped back into the cake when inverted. The result? The entire buttery cake tasted like it had been basted in candy corn. And if you're a candy corn lover, that might just be a beautiful thing.

Even Unicorn agrees!

Candy Corn Upside Down Cake

9 servings

  • 1/3 cup (about 5 tablespoons) butter, plus 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened and divided
  • 2/3 cup (about 6 ounces) packed light brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups candy corn
  • 1 1/2 cups (7 1/2 ounces) all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (about 7 ounces) granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup milk (whole or 2 percent)

Procedure

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place the butter in a 9-inch square baking pan, and set it in the oven until melted (it is fine to do this as the oven preheats). Remove the pan from the oven and gently tilt so that the butter coats the entire bottom of the pan. Sprinkle brown sugar evenly over the butter. Sprinkle candy corn evenly on top.
  2. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt.  
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and granulated sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the eggs, mixing until incorporated. Add the flour mixture alternately with the milk, in 2 to 3 additions, pausing to scrape down the sides of the bowl with each addition. Beat on low speed until fully incorporated. Pour the batter into the pan, taking care not to dislodge the carefully planted candy corn.  
  4. Set a cookie tray under the cake in the oven, in case the candy bubbles or drips. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out mostly clean, 45 to 50 minutes.  
  5. Immediately place a heatproof serving plate upside down over the pan; in one swift, sure motion, flip the plate and pan over so that the cake is now on the plate. Leave the pan in place for several minutes so the gooey mixture can drip down over the cake. After the dripping is done, lift off the pan. Serve still slightly warm. Store, loosely covered, at room temperature.
Sunday
Sep022012

Sweet Idea: Hummingbird Cake Truffles

Hummingbird Cake Truffles

Cake Pops and truffles are getting a lot of press these days. And with good reason--they're delicious.

But they don't have to be an all-out production--they can also be a clever and quick way to use up cake scraps. For instance, when I recently made a delicious Hummingbird Cake, I found that I had several cake scraps left from when I leveled the cake layers. Rather than discard them, I did the following, and suggest you do so too, the next time you have some cake scraps:

Hummingbird cake

First, I mashed them up by hand, making them into cakey crumbs. Then, I mixed the crumbs with about a half-cup of the remaining cake frosting (I waited til after frosting the cake to make sure I had extra!). This doesn't have to be a scientific thing--you just need enough frosting so that the mashed cake will stick together and form into balls, but not so much that they turn into gooey, shapeless masses. Some more dense cakes actually don't need frosting at all to be able to shape into balls! You can shape them into balls by hand, or use an ice cream scoop for more free-form truffles.

Hummingbird cake truffles

Next, let the balls freeze for a good 2 hours - this will ensure that when you coat them in chocolate or candy coating, they won't melt, and will retain their shape.

At the end of the cooling period, set up a double boiler or just gently melt some chocolate or candy melt wafers (I did 2 squares of Baker's chocolate for about 10 truffles). Then dip your truffles directly from the freezer into the melted mixture, coating on all sides. Using a fork, tap them on the side of the pan to let excess chocolate drip off. Place on parchment paper or waxed paper and top with sprinkles or garnish while still quite wet, to ensure that it sticks (optional, but aren't sprinkles always cute?). 

Let them set for an hour or so before eating to ensure you're not going to get too messy. Then, enjoy! these keep quite well too, for up to a week. 

Monday
Aug062012

Olive Oil Lemon Poppyseed Cake With Lemon Almond Glaze

Lemon Poppyseed Olive Oil Cake with Almond Glaze

Not so very long ago, the California Olive Ranch sent me some olive oil with which to try out some baking.

Olive oil lemon poppyseed cake

YES!

So, I looked up recipes, because I have been really wanting to try out an Olive Oil Cake. But I specifically wanted a loaf cake type. I don't know why. Well, OK, yes I do. I have an adorable loaf pan. It's by Emile Henry and it's green. I think it's very cute. Plus, when you bake cakes in loaf form, they sort of resemble bread, and in my mind, that kind of makes them health food.

Olive oil lemon poppyseed cake

So I found a recipe which looked good, but I decided that instead of blood oranges, I wanted to use lemon. And I like lemon poppyseed, so I added some seeds. And, well, just to be a bit zany, I decided to add a dash of almond extract to the glaze. 

And so, with all of these little additions and amendments, I ended up with Olive Oil Lemon Poppyseed Cake with Lemon Almond Glaze.

DEAR GOD was this thing good. While it may look like a pound cake, the olive oil sets it apart, taste-wise. While a pound cake is delightfully dense, this had a more tender, layer cake-like crumb, but a rich flavor that while not buttery, was very delicious--luxuriant and lightly fruity-nutty. It is hard to describe, so rather than fetch my thesaurus I am going to suggest that you break out some olive oil and give it a try. I'll give you one more reason why you should try it:

Lemon Poppyseed Olive Oil Cake with Almond Glaze

Aw yeah. Here's the recipe.

Olive Oil Lemon Poppyseed Cake With Lemon-Almond Glaze
For the cake
  • 1 3/4 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • zest of 1 large lemon [about 1 tablespoon]
  • juice of 1 large lemon
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon poppyseeds
Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 5-by-9 inch loaf pan. 
In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside. 
Combine sugar and zest together in a bowl; using your fingers, rub together well. Add juice and milk, and whisk to combine. Add eggs and oil, and whisk to combine. 
Add flour mixture to the milk mixture, and whisk until smooth. Whisk in the seeds last, stirring until evenly distributed.
Transfer batter to the pan, and bake until golden and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean, 40-50 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes.
Turn cake out on rack, and using the tines of a fork, gently poke small holes on the top surface of the cake. Apply half of the glaze while cake is still warm.  When cake has cooled, apply second half of glaze. 

 

For the Glaze

  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup confectioners' sugar
  • dash of almond extract 
  • squeeze of lemon juice

Mix all this stuff together. If it's too thin, add a little more sugar. If it's too thick, add more lemon juice or milk or cream. 

Olive oil lemon poppyseed cake

Wednesday
Aug012012

The Story of Carrot Cake

Photo c/o K. Morales, Carrot Cake from Hiroki

Although it would be a stretch to call this homespun favorite a fashion plate of a dessert, carrot cake--a lumpy and slightly frumpy but incredibly moist and flavorful carrot-flecked light brown-hued spice cake, frequently studded with either pineapple or plump raisins, nuts and finished with a thick coat of tangy cream cheese frosting--has enjoyed several moments of vogue over the years.

Believe it or not, the idea of using carrots in desserts actually dates back to Medieval times, when carrot pudding was enjoyed as a sweet at banquets. This was probably borne out of necessity, making use of the carrots’ natural sweetness; while a pudding would have been a steamed and vaguely cakelike affair, there was still much adaptation which would occur, because as much as you search for it, you're not going to find any mention of medieval cream cheese frosting.

Faceoff: Bunnies v. Carrot Cake

Carrots were imported to America by European settlers, and so was, apparently, the pudding; there are bushels of recipes for the stuff from this era on show at the Carrot Museum. The reason again is the carrot's natural sweetness: they contain more sugar than any other vegetable besides the sugar beet, and were much easier to come by during this time.

A big development in the world of carrot cake came in the early 1900s, when the pudding began to be baked in loaf pans, more like a quick bread. Carrots were used as an agent of moisture and sweetness in cakes, when luxury foods were rationed during the first and second world wars. It's possible, too, that the government became carrot-pushers: in England, recipes were distributed to promote the carrot as a nutrient-dense ingredient.

Carrot Cakes, Europa Cafe, Penn Station

By mid-century, the carrot cake had hopped over to America, where it would make dessert history. Most likely, the recipe was imported to the states following the second world war, where it caught on in cafeterias and restaurants. However, there is a delightful story which indicates that following WWII there was a glut of canned carrots in the U.S; an enterprising businessman named George C. Page hired bakers to find uses for the cans of carrots to create a demand for the product, and the solution was carrot cake, which he then sold through the company Mission Pak, a large purveyor gourmet foods.

At first a novelty, carrot cake nonetheless proved popular enough to stick around on menus. But it really caught on in a big way in the health-conscious 1970s, when carrot cake was perceived as being “healthy." And really, the idea isn't too far-flung: after all, carrots are vegetables, and raisins and nuts are pretty much health food, right?

Carrot Cakes

Of course, the thing that really separates carrot cake from being equivalent to eating a salad is the thick slather of cream cheese, butter, confectioners’ sugar and cream that became the frosting of choice in the 1960s, a time during which Philadelphia Cream Cheese released many recipe pamphlets; possibly it is during this time that the carrot cake and cream cheese frosting really became a bonded pair.

Dangling a Carrot

And if we're truthful, what's ultimately kept the cake going isn't necessarily carrots, it's the full spectrum of flavors in the package. Those pretty little flecks of orange are not the dominant flavor of the cake: carrot cakes often taste like spice cake, with the sweetness of raisins or pineapple or even apples, paired with cream cheese frosting, is generally what we look for in a carrot cake. 

Carrot Cake, Baker Boys, Asbury Park, NJ

Speaking of which, the additions can be the subject of some argument. While raisins are undoubtedly the oldest complement to carrots, many modern palates prefer pineapple, apples or applesauce; sometimes walnuts, sometimes pecans, sometimes no nuts at all. These add-ins are the choice of the baker and the preference of the eater. The cake's mild but distinct flavor have made the cake an enduring favorite: while few would think of it as fashionable, it's considered a timeless classic that never goes out of style.

Here's a carrot cake that would please palates from yesterday and today. Go ahead and think of it as health food as you like; I won't stop you.

Carrot Cake

 Makes 1 cake

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups vegetable oil
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 cups grated carrots
  • 1 cup chopped pecans, plus 1/2 cup unchopped pecans, for garnish
  • 1 batch cream cheese frosting (recipe follows)

 Procedure

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour two 8 or 9-inch pans, and line the bottoms of the pans with parchment paper.
  2. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Set aside.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the eggs, oil, two sugars, and vanilla. Beat on low speed for about 30 seconds, and then turn up the speed to medium for about 2 to 3 minutes, or until combined and lightly frothy.
  4. Reduce the speed to low, and add the flour mixture in 2 to 3 increments, pausing to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula with each addition.
  5. Stir in carrots, mixing until combined. Fold in the pecans.
  6. Pour an even amount of batter into each of the prepared pans.
  7. Bake in the preheated oven for 40 to 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Let the cakes cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack, remove the parchment paper, and cool completely.
  8. Once cooled, place one cake layer, flat side up, on a serving platter, and spread [f]1/2 to [f]3/4 cup of frosting on top. Leave a half-inch margin all around, as the weight of the second cake layer will spread the frosting to the edges. Place the second cake layer, flat side up, on top of the frosted layer. Frost the top and sides. 

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 cups confectioners' sugar

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla. Beat at medium-high speed until the mixture has a very smooth consistency; pause to scrape the bowl as needed. Add the confectioners' sugar cup by cup, mixing after each addition, until it is smooth and spreadable.

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