Archives for category: Cakes

Cake.  As much as I love cookies … and scones … and pastry … I ask you: is there anything that is just flat-out nicer than a slice of cake?  It’s the thing that we always seem to have for big occasions – weddings, birthdays, christenings and anniversaries.  But, it’s one of the easiest things that you can make to make every day feel special.

One of the things I really love about living in England is that they are all about the “everyday” cake.  Of course, they like their “show-stoppers” that are iced and decorated, just like everyone else.  But, they also like their simple, work-a-day cakes that you make when you have someone coming around for tea, or just for a little mid-week pick-me-up.  Much like an American pound cake, these cakes are simple but substantial and perfect for anything like a school bake sale or just having someone over for lunch.

Perfect for this type of simplicity is the bundt cake – whether they are a plain circular or if they have extra decoration (me, I’m a HUGE fan of NordicWare’s fantastic designs!!), they are a little more fancy-pants than a loaf tin or plain round traditional cake pans.  With the built-in “decoration”, all that’s left for you to do is to dust it with powdered sugar or maybe push the boat out with a flavored drizzle.

This cake is the result of about a month if research – oh, the things I do for you people!  The pain!  The toil!  But, I’ll be honest with you – I couldn’t be more pleased with the final result.  And, I think you’ll like it, too.

Mocha Bundt Cake

Cake

  • 2 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 Tbsp instant espresso powder
  • 1 cup Green & Black’s cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1/2 bar Green & Black’s dark chocolate (70% cocoa), melted and cooled
  • 1 1/2 cup whole milk, soured with the juice of one lemon
  • 5 oz butter, room temperature
  • 1 3/4 cup super-fine sugar
  • 3 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Glaze

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 Tbsp hot espresso
  • 4 squares dark chocolate
  • 1 Tbsp whole milk

Preheat the oven to 350 and prepare a bundt pan by buttering it well.  (I’ve never had a good results from the baking spray – I warm butter until it’s mostly melted butter and use a pastry brush to make sure it gets into every nook and cranny – don’t forget the middle!)

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, espresso powder, baking powder and salt and set aside.

In the bowl of a standing mixer, use the paddle attachment to cream the butter and sugar on medium until light and fluffy.  Add eggs one at a time and mix thoroughly, then add vanilla and melted chocolate and mix thoroughly, scraping down the sides.  Reduce the speed to low and alternate the flour mixture and the soured milk, starting and ending with the flour (I do 3 flour additions with 2 milk additions in the middle).  Once you add the last bit of flour, stop the mixer and finish mixing by hand.

Pour into the bundt pan and smooth across the top, tapping once against the counter to make sure it’s settled into all the decorative bits.  Place on the middle rack of the oven and back 50 minutes – 1 hour, until a tester comes out clean.

Let cool in the pan for about 30 minutes, using a knife to loosen a bit before turning out onto a plate.

Once the cake is cooled, make your glace by putting all the ingredients in a saucepan over low heat and mix until the chocolate is melted and everything is thoroughly combined.  Drizzle over the cake and serve!

Mocha Bundt Cake

So, today is Easter Sunday and kids everywhere are waking up to baskets of chocolate eggs, Reese’s chocolate mini cups, and candy-coated chocolate eggs (could easily eat my weight in those things).  Sense a trend?  Much like Christmas, Easter seems to be overwhelmingly about chocolate.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.  Chocolate is all well and good – particularly if you’ve given it up for Lent.  But sometimes you just want something a little different.

And that’s this cake.

It’s a really nice, light, moist cake that is perfect for a mid-morning treat or dessert after a heavy dinner.  And the cardamom gives it a fabulous scent and such an interesting flavor that you’ll want to keep this in your repertoire!

I’ll tell you now that it might sound like it’s labor-intensive, but I promise you that it isn’t.  Get everything measured out and ready before you start and it all comes together very quickly.

Espresso, Cardamom and Pistachio Cake

  • 2/3 cup shelled pistachios, divided – half ground finely, half roughly chopped for the topping
  • Seeds from 24 cardamom pods, ground finely then divided in half
  • Just under 1 cup self-rising flour
  • 4 oz butter, room temperature
  • just under 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 Tbsp + 1 tsp instant espresso powder, divided
  • 8 1/2 oz mascarpone
  • 1-2 Tbsp milk

Okay, let’s start by getting everything prepped:  bash your cardamom pods and remove the seeds, grind them finely, then divide in half (you should have about 1/2 tsp each).  Then, grind 1/3 cup of the pistachios, then set aside with 1/2 tsp cardamom and 1 Tbsp instant espresso.  Finish prepping by preheating the oven to 350 and buttering and lining with parchment paper two 8″ round cake pans.

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs one at a time and scrape down the sides to make sure that the mixture is smooth.  Add the ground pistachio mixture and mix to combine completely before adding the flour, stirring in by hand to make sure you don’t overbeat.

Divide the mixture into the two tins – it’s not going to look like a whole lot, so spread it out across the bottom – it’ll only be about 1/2″ batter in the bottom.  Bake for about 20 minutes until a tester comes out clean.

While the cake is baking, prepare the coffee syrup – in a small bowl, mix 1 Tbsp instant espresso with about 1/4 cup boiling water, 1 Tbsp sugar and the other half-teaspoon of the ground cardamom.  Stir well and let cool.

When the cake is finished baking, poke all over with a toothpick and drizzle in the syrup while still in the pans, then let cool.  (If you have a squeeze bottle, use that for the syrup to make sure that you get a nice, even drizzle.)

Make the frosting by mixing the mascarpone with 1 tsp espresso and 1 Tbsp sugar, thinning slightly with a little milk.  When the cake is cool, spread half the mixture on the bottom layer, then sprinkle half of the roughly chopped pistachios, then top with the other layer, frosting and the remainder of the pistachios.

Espresso cardamom pistachio cake

No!!!  Don’t go!!!

Don’t leave just because I said “fruitcake” – really, they can be delicious and rich and absolutely perfect with your morning cup of coffee!  Unfortunately, most people only experience the god-awful fruit-bricks that are sent by relatives that they don’t know or like, so you may not realize that fruitcake doesn’t have to involve green candied cherries! (I mean … ew!)

In fact, in this particular case, I stuck with some of my favorite fruits – dried apples (yum!), raisins and currants.  But, if you wanted to add dried cherries or apricots or cranberries, I think they would be absolutely lovely, too!  In fact, if you don’t have any Calvados – the apple-y booze of the gods – then, substitute rum or bourbon.  That’s the fun of fruitcake – it really is one of the easiest cakes to tweak to your own taste.  And, hey, they count as one of your five-a-day, right?

Anyway, this makes two loaf-tin cakes, so save one for yourself and give one to a relative that you DO like … and convert them to the wonders of fruitcake, as welll!

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!

Calvados Fruitcake

  • 2 1/2 cups mixture of golden raisins and currants
  • 1 cup chopped dried apples
  • 1 cup candied ginger
  • 1 Tbsp candied peel (optional)
  • 1 1/2 cups Calvados, divided
  • 2 1/2 cups toasted pecans, roughly chopped
  • 8 oz unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Okay … let’s get started with a little light prep, shall we?  First of all, preheat your oven to 300 F and butter and line with parchment paper two 8″ loaf pans.  Set aside and move on to your dried fruit – dump the raisins, currants and apples into a medium-sized pot along with about a half-cup of the Calvados.  Heat over medium heat until the fruit absorbs the liquor, then set aside to cool.  Toast your pecans in the oven for about 10 minutes, then add to the fruit mixture along with the ginger and candied peel, mix well and let continue to cool.  In a measuring pitcher, mix the 5 eggs and vanilla extract, using a fork to break up.  And, lastly, in a bowl, mix the flour, baking powder and salt.  Now, you’re all set!

In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  While the mixer is on medium, slowly add the eggs and vanilla, scraping down the sides to get it as smooth as possible.  Reduce the mixer to low and add the flour mixture, then, before the flour is fully incorporated, add the fruit and nuts, making sure it’s thoroughly combined.

Divide the batter between the two prepared loaf tins and bake for 1 hour 10 minute to 1 hour 20 minutes, until a knife inserted down the middle comes out clean.  Set the tins on a wire rack and immediately pour about a half-cup of Calvados into the hot cake (it absorbs better and some of the alcohol evaporates when the cake is still hot).  Let cool for about an hour before removing from the tin to finish cooling.  Keep wrapped in foil and it’ll last for a week.

Calvados Fruit Cake

I’m back!  I’m back!  I’m back!!

Yes, I’ve taken a bit of a break from blogging during the last month – first was because of an actual break (went home to see the fam), then work was a bit insane when I got back, so something had to give.  Plus … well … I have a confession to make.  I’ve started reading the Harry Potter series and that has TOTALLY sucked up my spare time.  Yeah, I know … tardy to the party, that’s me.  But, hey, I don’t have kids, so I have an excuse.  At any rate, I feel like I’ve totally made up for lost time and plunged myself head-long into the series, abandoning any semblance of adult responsibility in order to park it on the sofa and read.  Housework arresto!

But, before I get too engrossed in Order of the Phoenix, I thought I’d post a totally scrummy apple cake recipe that is not only easy to make, you don’t have to have the presence of mind to leave the butter out to come up to room temperature!  Because, let’s face it, for anyone who has those spur-of-the-moment baking ya-yas that we need to get out of our system, waiting for butter to be warm enough to cream until light and fluffy can be a serious impediment!  And there’s no spell for that.

Nope, this recipe uses MELTED and cooled butter!  Because of that, the cake batter, such as it is, is almost closer to a pancake batter that fills the spaces between the apples rather than a fluffy cake batter that lifts the apples.  The end result is an incredibly moist cake that is dense and almost pudding-like.  And it is outstanding if you serve it still warm with ice cream.  I based this recipe on one from Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table, which I highly recommend, but tweaked it slightly.  I added mixed spice to this recipe which gives it a little more depth of flavor that just adding cinnamon – and, don’t worry, you’ll use it again in another recipe I’m going to post next week.  So, make some yourself or pick some up at the grocery!

Pudding-y Apple Cake

  • Juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • 4 1/2 oz butter, melted and cooled
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 Tbsp rum
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • good pinch of salt
  • 1/2 tsp mixed spice
  • 5 fist-sized apples, peeled, cored and dixed to 1/2″ dice (I like Pink Lady, but Macintosh would be good, too)
  • Demerera sugar

Preheat oven to 350F and prepare an 8″ springform pan by buttering and lining the bottom and sides with parchment paper.

Sift the flour with the mixed spice, baking powder and salt, then set aside.  Peel and core the apples, then halve and set aside in a large bowl of water and lemon juice, to keep from browning.

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a whisk, beat the eggs until fluffy, then add the sugar and incorporate thoroughly before adding the rum and vanilla.  Give one final mix, to make sure it’s completely combined, then add the melted butter and flour, beginning and ending with the flour.  When adding the last bit of flour, give a single stir rather than thoroughly incorporate.  Quickly chop the apples and add them to the batter – it’s going to look like you have way more apples than you need, but that’s fine – you want the end result to be a dense, moist apple cake that’s more apple than cake.  Once all the apples have been added and stired in to coat with the batter, pour into the prepared cake pan, then smooth the top over and cover generously with the demerera sugar.  Pop it into the oven and bake for 50-60 minutes.

This is how it looks right out of the oven:

 

And, as I mentioned, it’s a dense, moist cake, so this is how it looks in cross-section (yes, it does look almost like a quiche):

This cake will change your life.

I know what you’re saying … “Change my life???!!!  Yeah, cake can be good, but come on … ”

No.  I’m serious.  This cake will make you LONG for autumn and the fresh apple harvest.  It will make you turn away from apple pie and question what you ever saw in it in the first place.  It will make you reexamine your long-held food beliefs – specifically, the one that says “if it has apples in it, it MUST contain copious amounts of cinnamon.”

This cake is dense and moist, yet really light.  It is also a nice mixture of textures with a soft crumb, the slight resistance of the fruit and a crunchy top from the demerera sugar.  All-in-all, the perfect blend of taste and texture!

Why is it Surrey Apple Cake?  Well, it’s a twist on a Dorset Apple Cake, using blackberries that I purloined from my mother-in-law’s garden and she happens to live in … wait for it … SURREY!  So, there you go.  It was either that or call it Kingston Apple Cake after the rum in it, but when you think if Kingston, Jamaica, apples aren’t exactly the first fruit that comes to mind.

Surrey Apple Cake

  • 8 oz unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • Zest of a lemon
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 Tbsp rum
  • 1 1/2 cup self-rising flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 cup ground almonds
  • pinch salt
  • 1 lb apples, peeled cored and cut into 1/2″ dice
  • 1 cup frozen blackberries
  • 3-5 Tbsp demerera sugar

Preheat oven to 350F and prepare a 9″ cake pan by buttering it and lining with parchment paper.  Then, prepare the apples, putting the diced apples in a large bowl of cold water that’s had the juice of a lemon squeezed in so that they don’t brown while you make the batter.

In the bowl of a mixer, beat the butter, sugar and zest until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs one at a time, being sure to scrape down the sides to get it all nice and smooth.  Add the rum and mix lightly, then remove the bowl from the standing mixer.  Add the dry ingredients and give a couple of stirs before the fruit and adding it to the batter, gently folding until everything is well combined.

Pour into the prepared cake pan, smooth across the top and sprinkle over the demerera sugar so that it is evenly distributed on the top, then bake for 50 minutes to an hour, until a tester comes out clean.  Let it cool in the pan for at least 30 minutes, then invert (twice) onto a plate so that the top of the cake remains on top when you dish it up.  If you serve it still warm, then it’s totally yummy with ice cream.  If you serve it at room temperature, then try it with warm crème anglaise.

Today is the Sunday of the late summer bank holiday weekend – the mark of the end of summer here in the UK as the kids start to go back to school over the next week or so.  We’ve started noticing that the nights are drawing in and the days are getting shorter.  Food-wise, it’s like summer is giving us its last of its bounty as the “late fruits” are starting to ripen – blackberries, apples, plums and pears – to get us ready for the autumn.

So, go out and forage!  Grab a big plastic bowl and take it to a park or a field that has brambles in its hedges – you’re going to get scratched up and possibly bug-bit, but the payoff is so worth it!  Big, dark, luscious blackberries that are perfect for  muffins or cakes and make lovely jams.

And, blackberries are easy to freeze so that you can enjoy them all year around!!  All you need to do is line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper, then pour the berries on it in a single layer and freeze like that – it’ll only take about 30 minutes.  Once they’re frozen, pour them into a zippy bag and throw them back into the freezer.  This way, you won’t wind up with a blackberry brick, but will have dozens of individual berries.

Anyhow, this is one of those fantastic easy-peasy cakes that takes next to no time to throw together – think of it as an “anyday cake” that you don’t have to spend tons of time on.  Throw it together, toss it in the oven and you have a just-about-instant treat for family or to take to work.

Blackberry Upside-Down Cake

Cake

  • 7 oz butter, room temperature
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 4 large eggs (room temperature)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 3 cups blackberries (fresh or frozen)

Syrup

  • 2 cups blackberries
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 Tbsp water
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 Tbsp Chambord (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 and prepare an 8″ springform pan by buttering it and lining with parchment paper, then pour the three cups of blackberries evenly along the bottom.

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, add the butter and sugar, then beat on medium until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs one at a time, then the vanilla, scraping down the sides to make sure everything is completely smooth.  Remove from the mixer to add the flour, baking powder and salt, mixing in by hand to keep from overbeating.  If the batter feels stiff, loosen with two tsp milk.  Spoon over the blackberries and smooth across the top before popping into the oven for an hour, testing at 55 minutes to see if a sharp knife will come out clean.

While the cake is cooking, make the blackberry syrup by pouring the blackberries, sugar, water and vanilla into a small saucepan over medium-high heat, bring to the boil, the reduce to a simmer for 20 minutes until it coats a metal spoon and is nice and syrupy.  Sieve into a small pitcher to remove the seeds, then stir in the Chambord.

When the cake is done, remove from the oven and cool in the tin for 30 minutes before inverting onto a plate to cool a little more – you want to serve it still a little warm, so don’t cool completely.  When you’re ready to serve, pour the syrup over the top and let soak in, then slice!

Good Sunday morning!!

It’s the start of the second full day of the London 2012 Olympics and I’ve got a pot of coffee brewed, ready to settle in for a morning of swimming (go Rebecca Addlington!) and men’s volleyball.  The men’s swimming absolutely blew me away yesterday with Ryan Lochte taking the Men’s 400 IM.  I’m hoping that Michael Phelps has a better day in the pool and a better Games, overall. And the women’s soccer – the first UK women’s Olympic soccer team nailed their match against Cameroon yesterday as did the US team against Columbia – both of them with a score of 3-0.  So, yes, I’m cheering for both the Team USA and Team GB, my adopted home.

To celebrate the opening ceremony on Friday, I baked two Summertime Cakes to take to the office as a treat for my company.  A lot of my colleagues have been working their cotton socks off to get ready for the launch of the Games, so I wanted to make something a little celebratory.  Of course, the result is leftover fruit – in this case, a couple of nectarines and some raspberries.  And, as everyone knows, raspberries can go from being lovely and bright and juicy one day to grey and furry the next, the little bastards.  So, before my fridge started looking like an Alexander Fleming experiment gone wrong, I thought I’d use them up.

I had raspberries and nectarines – if you have blueberries, peaches, or strawberries, feel free to substitute them, instead. That’s the fun thing with this kind of recipe – the base of it is a lovely, light and refreshing flavor that complements pretty much any summer fruit.  This makes two dozen muffins, so if you are just feeding the family, it’s easy to halve (or not!).

Midsummer Madness Muffins

  • 1 1/3  cup granulated sugar
  • 2 lemons, zest and juice
  • 4 cups all purpose flour
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cup Greek yogurt
  • 4 eggs
  • 8 oz butter, melted
  • 3 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 nectarines (or peaches or even a few plums), pitted and diced into 1/2″ dice
  • 1 1/2 – 2 cups berries

Preheat oven to 400 F and prepare two dozen muffin cups with paper liners.

In the bowl of a standing mixer, beat the sugar with the zest of two lemons until it’s nice and light and lemony.  Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt and mix until thoroughly combined, then pour into a large, wide bowl.

In a separate bowl, mix the wet ingredients – the melted butter, yogurt, eggs, lemon juice and vanilla extract, using a whisk to blend until smooth.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and give a couple of stirs before adding the fruit.  Mix only until there is still just a trace of dry ingredients left – it is absolutely crucial that you don’t overmix so that your muffins have a large, irregular crumb.  Put a huge, heaping tablespoon of batter into each muffin cup – it should be about 3/4 full – then pop into the oven and bake about 20 minutes until golden on top.

NOTE:  I know that there are some popular TV chefs who say that you can mix everything before you go to bed, then just pour the batter in the cups and bake in the morning.  Now, I realize that they have a TV show and I don’t, but chemistry is chemistry, regardless of who you are – and the baking powder starts reacting the minute it makes contact with the wet ingredients.  So, if you’d like to do as much prep as possible before you go to bed, measure and mix the dry ingredients and the wet ingredients, but don’t mix them together (hey, you’ll need something to do while the oven is heating, anyway).  Your family will thank you for lighter and fluffier muffins.

Midsummer madness muffins in the early morning light

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