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Entries in cakes (63)

Wednesday
Sep222010

Pound It: Pound Cake Recipe, Circa 1824

So, here's the deal. Anyone who has ever had the slightest bit of curiousity about why Pound Cake is referred to as such is probably aware that it is derived from the French "Quatre Quarts"--meaning, literally, four quarts--which refers to the equal weight of the four ingredients (eggs, butter, sugar, flour) which went into early versions of the cake. Apparently, this easy ratio was necessary because"  In the days when many people couldn't read, this simple convention made it simple to remember recipes." (What's cooking America".

But what this brief historical lesson does not tell you, however, is how these early versions tasted.

And so, dear friends, I bravely stocked up my reusable grocery tote (I am in Seattle, after all) with a whole lot of eggs, butter, sugar, and flour, and tried it out for you.

Of course, my first inclination was to try this recipe, found on The Food Timeline:

[1817] A Pound cake, plain.
Beat a pound of butter in an earthen pan till it is like a thick cream, then beat in nine whole eggs till it is quite light. Put in a glass of brandy, a little lemon-peel shred fine; then pork in a pound and a quarter of flour. Put it into your hoop or pan, and bake it for one hour."
---The Female Instructor or Young Woman's Guide to Domestic Happiness, [Thomas Kelly:London] 1817 (p. 462)

But as tempting as it was to figure out how to "pork in" a pound and a quarter of flour, something seemed missing from this recipe: namely, sugar. So instead I opted for a variation on the recipe (also from the Food Timeline):

[1824] Pound cake.
Wash the salt from a pound of butter and rub it till it is soft as cream, have ready a pound of flour sifted, one pound of powdered sugar, and twelve eggs well beaten; put alternately into the butter, sugar, flour, and the froth from the eggs; continuing to beat them together till all the ingredients are in, and the cake quite light; add some grated lemon peel, a nutmeg, and a gill of brandy; butter the pans and bake them. This cake makes an excellent pudding if baked in a large mould, and eaten with sugar and wine. It is also excellent when boiled, and served up with melted butter, sugar, and wine."
---The Virginia Housewife, Mary Randolph, with historical notes and commentaries by Karen Hess [University of South Carolina Press:Columbia] 1984 (p. 161)

In this version, the proportions were pretty much a pound each, but in the effort to produce the most pure final product, I did not add the peel, nutmeg, or brandy.

So, here's how it all went down.

 

  • First, creaming the butter til it was "like cream"--basically, I beat it (in my very not 1824-esque Kitchen Aid) until it was softer than butter itself, and became an aromatic, beautiful sort of thing that begged to be slathered on bread.
  • In my second stand mixer (because yes, I have two...jealous?), I separately mixed the eggs. What did "well-beaten" mean? I took it to mean "beat into complete submission", so I let them thoroughly froth up by mixing them on medium for about 5 minutes (but to be 100% honest, I didn't really look at the clock).
  • Then, I started to add the rest of the ingredients, bit by bit, to the extremely creamy, dreamy butter.
  • This makes a pretty significant bit of batter, so I divided among a few pans. I baked each cake in a moderate (350-degree) oven until lightly golden on top--about 30-45 minutes depending on the pan size.  

 

But what of the cake that came out of the oven? Amazingly, this cake was far lighter than I would have expected. The crumb was surprisingly delicate, and the texture almost feathery--and yet, and yet, the indescribeably buttery and rich taste allows you to make no mistake, this is a serious cake through and through.

Would I suggest moving back to our pound cake roots? Probably not, because ultimately (for better or worse) I think I do prefer the hefty, dense, sliced loaves of pound cake that are more common these days. But it did make for a sweet experiment, and an even sweeter taste of history.

Want more? You can find a plethora of historic poundcake recipes (and info) on Food Timeline.

 

Monday
Aug232010

Being Green: Zucchini Cake with Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting Recipe for Serious Eats

It's not easy being green.

It is, however, exceedingly easy to eat green, especially when we're talking about zucchini cake. Now, you probably already knew that the abundant late summer fruit (yes, it's a fruit) yields a moist, dense, and delicious quick bread. But please, don't let the story end there—because when you take it into cake territory by adding a thick slathering of chocolate cream cheese frosting, you'll have a far sweeter finish.

The frosting prettily contrasts the color of the cake, and the triple-threat of complementary flavors—tangy cream cheese, rich chocolate, earthy zucchini—makes for a final product that leaves zucchini bread absolutely green with envy.

 

 

For the full entry and recipe, check out Serious Eats!

 

Wednesday
Aug112010

Pie + Cake + Shake = Pake Shake

This is a personal note to everyone who came to Monday's Cake Vs. Pie Party. This crust-against-crumb was a star-studded event, and you have my greatest thanks (along with co-hosts Jenise and Edible Seattle) for coming. True, a PIE was declared best in show--but it was a rather fine specimen, so I can live with this.

But today I'm here to talk about the darker side of sampling 10 pies and 10 cakes in one evening: the massive pie-and-cake sugar hangover you're bound to have the next morning. How to deal with this unique sort of sugar shock to the system?

Hair of the dog that bit you, that's how. And my suggested medicine? The Pake Shake.

Equal parts pie, cake, and shake, this beauty is inspired by both the pake and the excess of Monday's indulgent evening of tasting pie and cakes. True, it may not be the most beautiful concoction, but it's good for what ails you, a sort of bloody mary equivalent for a sugar hangover.  Keep this idea on file for the next time you find yourself sampling 10 pies and 10 cakes in one night (it might be sooner than you think).

Pake Shake (Pie-and-Cake Shake)

Ingredients

  • 1 slice pie (I used the "Rhueberry", a lattice-topped rhubarb-blueberry pie made by Wendy Sykes)
  • 1 slice cake (I used a slice of mocha cake with chocolate buttercream made by Nazla Merce)
  • 2 large scoops vanilla ice cream
  • Cream or milk, to taste

Procedure 

  1. Combine all of the above ingredients in a blender. Blend until smooth, adding more milk or cream until it has reached your desired consistency.
  2. Pour into a glass, reflect on last night's revelry, and enjoy.

 

Tuesday
Jul272010

Chess Pieces: Yellow Chess Cake Recipe

Is it just me, or does the phrase "light summer dessert" seem like a fancy way of saying "low fat, dull suffering"?

Luckily, there's an antidode: Aimee's Chess Cake, a recipe I found in The Cake Mix Doctor Returns . Similar to that St. Louis specialty called Gooey Butter Cake, this dessert is decadently, deliciously, delightfully, thick as a brick.

The recipe I adapted suggests cutting "into small bars because it's so rich"--but my vote goes for big, fat slices. Topped with candied nuts. Take that, low-fat dessert!

Yellow Chess Cake

Adapted from Aimee's Chess Cake from The Cake Mix Doctor Returns

Ingredients

  • Vegetable oil for the pan
  • Flour, for dusting the pan
  • 1 package plain yellow cake mix
  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons) butter, melted
  • 3 large eggs
  • 4 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
  • 1 package cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 cup candied walnuts (I used these ones ) --these are optional but I like the texture and flavor they add

Procedure

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour one 9 x 13 inch pan.
  2. In a large bowl mix together cake mix, butter and 1 egg. Pat batter into greased 9x13 inch pan.
  3. In a medium size mixing bowl mix together cream cheese, 2 eggs and sugar. Pour the cream cheese mixture over the cake mix batter. Sprinkle the nuts on top.
  4. Bake for 35 minutes or until golden brown on the edges (the middle will still be soft but will set to a solid but gooey consistency as the cake cools).

CakeSpy Note: Like this cake? You might also enjoy Houdini Bars.

Monday
Jun142010

Whiskey Me Away: Chocolate Whiskey Cake from Columbia City Bakery

It's always five o'clock somewhere, but really, any hour that you devour the chocolate whiskey cake from Columbia City Bakery is a happy hour indeed.

This loaf cake is actually pretty simple: it starts with a dark as night, exceedingly dense and rich chocolate cake, which is then topped with a crowning glory of sweet-but-with-a-bite whiskey-espresso icing glaze.

Something happens when these flavors come together: the chocolate, the whiskey, the sugary glaze with a buzz of espresso: it might just make you tipsy with pleasure overload.

Oh, is this ever a happy cake.

Chocolate Whiskey cake from Columbia City Bakery, 4865 Rainier Ave. South, Seattle; also frequently available at the Broadway Farmer's Market; find out more online at columbiacitybakery.com.

Wednesday
May262010

Great Pear-ing: Brown Sugar Ginger Cream Cake with Five Spice Pecans and Caramelized Pears

With my first attempt at baking from the new book Seasonal Fruit Desserts by Deborah Madison, I managed to do something rather unlikely: I made a dessert which contained absolutely no fruit, seasonal or otherwise.

What I did, of course, was I flipped right to the back of the book where there is a section entitled "cakes to go with fruit"--and I chose the most rich and delicious-sounding one, the Brown Sugar-Ginger Cream Cake, which was described as having a "poundcake-like personality". Sold! I baked it up, using part almond flour for fun (it made the texture slightly more coarse, I think, but not in such a bad way), and it came out beautifully.

But how to top it? Flipping to another section of the book, I came across a recipe for Candied Five-Spice Pecans, suggested as a great accompaniment to ripe pears; they sounded good, so I made a batch and put them on top of the cake, completely ignoring that pesky and vaguely healthy-sounding pear part. And oh, are they divine on top of the buttery, rich cake.

But ultimately I realized it wouldn't necessarily be honoring the book's, ah, entire mission, to not include fruit, so I sliced up a ripe Washington pear in a skillet with 2 tablespoons of butter and 3 tablespoons of brown sugar, stirring frequently over medium heat until the liquid had reduced and the pear had been battered into sweet, buttery submission.

And you know what? The fruit made it even better, and made me feel a whole lot better about eating it for breakfast (It has fruit! And nuts! It's practically health food!)

Here's how you do it at home. 

Brown Sugar Ginger Cream Cake with Five Spice Pecans and Caramelized Pears

For the cake

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup almond flour (you could use cake or all purpose flour here instead, the original recipe called for 3/4 cup each AP and cake flour, respectively)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

For the five spice pecans

  • 1 cup pecan halves or pieces
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspon five-spice powder

For the caramelized pears 

  • 1 large ripe pear, sliced thinly
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar

Procedure 

  1. Butter and flour a loaf pan. Line the bottom and ends with parchment paper (it will make your life so much easier). Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Combine the flours, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl; whisk together. Make a well in the middle.
  3. Using the whisk attachment of an electric mixer, beat the eggs till foamy, then add the cream, sugar, and flavorings. Beat until you have what resembles a soft whipped cream. Pour the mixture into the center of the flour mixture and whisk together just until well combined and lump-free. Scrape batter into the pan and even it out.
  4. Bake until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 40-50 minutes (original recipe called for 50-60 minutes, but I think using the almond flour might have altered the baking time).
  5. Let cool for about half an hour in the pan before loosening the sides with a knife and turning out onto a wire rack to cool.
  6. Prepare the candied five-spice pecans. Adjust the oven to 300 F. Toast pecans until they are fragrant, about 15-20 minutes. Turn them at about 10 minutes to ensure that they brown evenly.
  7. Heat your butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add your pecans, and sprinkle the sugar on top. Stir and cook until the sugar melts and covers the nuts. Remove them to a bowl and toss with the five-spice powder. Gently put them on top of the cake (it's ok if the cake is still warm); they will crisp up a bit as they cool.
  8. Go ahead and use the same skillet and melt some more butter over medium heat; add your slivered pear pieces, and once you've turned the slices once or twice and they're a bit wilty around the edges, add the sugar. Continue to heat until the juices have begun to reduce and the mixture is thick and caramel-y. Serve on top of cake slices.
Wednesday
Mar032010

Up, Up, and Away: 7-Up Cake for Serious Eats

Up is a sweet film of dreams realized: by tying thousands of balloon to his home, main character Carl Fredricksen sets out to fulfill his lifelong desire to see the great wide world. But when it comes to a cake inspired by the movie, you're going to want all of the charm but none of that floating away business.

While this 7-Up Cake may be infused with the buoyant lemon-lime soda bubbles, it's far from light-as-air. This is actually a rich, decadent pound cake made with five sticks of butter.

Coloring the cake a gentle sky blue and topping it with a fluffy, cloud-like coating of rich coconut frosting lends an air of drama when it's sliced into, and a garnish of lollipops (the "balloons") add a bit of whimsy. So good, it'll disappear into thin air.

For the full entry and recipe, visit Serious Eats!

Wednesday
Feb032010

Holy Guacamole: Chocolate Avocado Cake With Avocado Buttercream Recipe

Yes, you heard me. Chocolate avocado cake. With avocado buttercream. Trust me, I too had my doubts about this vaguely healthy-sounding, bright green-topped confection. But after reading Joy The Baker, who raved "It actually worked! It was honest-to-goodness delicious!" I felt that it was worth a try. 

Plus, with the Super Bowl—only the biggest avocado consumption day of the year—just around the corner, chances are you might have an extra avocado or two lying around. Why not make use of it by making a sweet treat full of good fat?

For the full entry, plus more pictures and the recipe, visit Serious Eats!

Monday
Jan182010

Holey Yum: Doughnut Upside Down Cake for Serious Eats

Trying to improve a classic can be tricky business.

However, when it comes to Pineapple Upside Down Cake, I believe I may have actually done it--by adapting it into a Doughnut Upside Down Cake.

How did I attain this magic? Not through complicated chemistry or advanced algorithms. I simply looked through a classic recipe and replaced every instance of "pineapple" with "doughnut" and replaced shortening and milk with butter and heavy cream, respectively.

The result, scientifically speaking? Holey yum.

For the full entry and recipe, check out Serious Eats!

Thursday
Dec032009

Instant Pleasure: Pumpkin Cake in a Mug from Coffee Mug Cake Cookbook

Coffee Mug Cake
I know what you're thinking after looking at this picture. "CakeSpy," you're thinking, shaking your head sympathetically, "has been hitting the vanilla extract a bit hard".
Well, maybe sometimes. But not this time--this cake, which might be a little ugly but is actually surprisingly tasty--was baked in the microwave, in a mug.
It was a sample recipe from the self-released book Coffee Mug Cake Cookbook which immediately intrigued me--after all--cake? Baked in the microwave? In a mug? I had to give this a try.
The recipe was very easy to follow; the cake itself came out with an unusual but not unpleasant texture, more like a sort of thick flan or custardy cake. To try and make it ever-so-slightly cuter I topped it with some confectioners' sugar quickly whisked with cream and a mellowcreme pumpkin. I am not going to forsake the oven, but in a pinch, this is definitely a sweet option for a quick sweet fix.

Curious about the book? It can be purchased here. Want to try the recipe? Here it is:

Pumpkin Cake in a Mug

  • 7 tablespoons flour
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Dash of ginger, ground cloves and nutmeg
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 cup canned pumpkin
  • 3 tablespoons chopped pecans (optional) - I used walnuts

MixedIn the Microwave
  1. Mix together the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, ground cloves and nutmeg. Add egg, milk and vanilla. Mix well, making sure to scrape the sides and bottom of the mug. Stir in the pumpkin and pecans.

    Just out of the MicrowaveFlipped

  2. Cook for 3 minutes on high on a microwavable plate, followed by 2 minutes at 50% power. Turn the mug upside down to release the cake onto the plate.

Coffee Mug Cake
Notes: 

1. CAUTION: MUG WILL BE HOT.
2. Make sure to use a microwaveable mug that is at least 15 ounces large (about 4.5 inches in height and 3 inches in
diameter). If you opt for something smaller, be prepared for massive spillage.
3. Coat the inside of the mug with a no-stick spray to ensure easy release.
4. Unless you have a mini whisk, forks work just as effectively.
5. The outside may be a bit “gooey-er” than the inside. The cook times listed are optimal for a 700-watt microwave and are the best for ensuring the cake is not too dry on the inside.

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