Archives for posts with tag: dessert

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


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):

I love this time of year.  I love all the late-summer fruit heaped into piles at the farmers markets – yummy, juicy apples, pears and plums – all willing to lay down their lives for jams, jellies, pies and cakes.

This recipe is a fantastic alternative to Nutella for people who are allergic to nuts.  I had it on my toast this morning and it is absolutely stunning on a nice, crispy piece of sourdough or a flaky croissant.  I’ll bet if you take some an heat it up, it would also make a stunning topping to a bowl of vanilla ice cream.

And easy?  This is a seriously simple recipe (I mean, hey – five ingredients!) that takes less than an hour to put together.  Make yourself a batch or three for the cool autumn mornings for yourself and to give a bunch away for gifts!  Each recipe gives you about five jam jars.

Pear and Chocolate Jam

  • 2 1/4 lbs pears (peeled, trimmed, cored and diced) – weight after prepping
  • 7 oz dark chocolate, chopped
  • 2/3 cup lemon juice
  • 1 3/4 lbs jam sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

Pour the chopped pears and lemon juice into a large pot over medium-low heat, then stir to make sure the pears are well coated in the juice.  Cook five minutes.  Add the sugar and cinnamon, and stir thoroughly to combine.  Increase the heat to medium high and bring to a boil, then reduce to a strong simmer and cook for 30-40 minutes.  Test to see if the mixture has set (if you let the liquid drip, you should see the final drop jell on the spoon).  If the pears haven’t broken down, then use a stick blender to puree, then turn off the heat and add the chocolate.  Stir to combine, then pour into sterilized jars.

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.

Okay, that’s it.  As of last night at approximately 7:40 p.m., I officially gave up on summer. First of all, the UK had the coldest May followed by the wettest AND coldest June on record.  EVER.  Now, the weather folks are saying that July will be a wash-out, too (public service announcement:  for anyone who may be traveling here for the Olympics, pack your wellies … and maybe an ark).

So, I’m bound and determined to get my summer through FOOD since I can’t actually get it through weather.  So, despite the rain, despite the temperatures, I’m still cooking like it is a balmy 80 degrees and sunny.  Well, minus the barbecue … I’m not THAT nutty that I’m going stand outside in the hailstorm we had last night (when I lost my faith in summer) just to light up a grill.

The white stuff on the ground on your right? frickin’ HAIL.

But, you CAN have summer in other things … like pie!  I got this recipe from one of my besties, Penny, the owner, operator and all-around diva for Hello Cupcake in Washington, DC.  It’s light.  It’s refreshing and it would be the perfect addition to any summertime meal!

Lemon Mousse Pie

  • 10 oz graham crackers
  • 4 oz ginger snaps
  • 4 oz butter, melted
  • 3 Tbsp demerera sugar (sugar in the raw)
  • 1 recipe lemon curd (makes about 1 1/2 cup), chilled
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • Raspberries, blueberries, strawberries or any other fruit you like to garnish

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Either use a food processor to grind up the cookies to small crumb (or, put them in a zippy bag and bash the heck out of them with a rolling pin).  Add the sugar and mix in well, then pour in the melted butter and combine thoroughly.  Tip into a tart pan with a removable bottom, then use the bottom of a glass to press firmly into the bottom and sides of the pan.  Pop into the oven and bake for 10 minutes.  Remove and let cool while you work on the filling.

Whip the cream with the vanilla extract until it reaches stiff peaks – it’s important that the cream is thick so that the pie will hold its shape when you slice it.  When it’s reached this stage, add the lemon curd and whisk to thoroughly combine.  Spoon into the prepared pie crust and smooth, then decorate with your favorite fruit.

Happy Jubilee Weekend!!  Yes, as I write this, we are celebrating the 60th anniversary of Elizabeth on the throne.  Despite my American upbringing – or, maybe because of it – I have a lot of respect for the Queen (or Betty, as I like to call her).    Growing up in a post-Watergate world, I’ve seen partisan battles and wild swings in political fortune and philosophy.  Brits have, as well, but in the midst of it all, there has been the Queen – someone behind the scenes who, despite not playing an active role in politics, is still a steadying force of continuity.  Regardless of what happens, the monarch will go on and can actually give the prime minister advice that one only gains through experience.

So, to celebrate the anniversary of Betty’s coronation, I thought I’d make a traditional English dish, Coronation Chicken, basically, chicken salad with curry.  The mister then vetoed that idea, so I thought I’d go for a traditional English dessert, instead.  As I’ve already posted the classic British treat, Victoria Sponge, I thought about my second-favorite dish, Eve’s Pudding … but … as Eve’s Pudding celebrates apples, it didn’t feel particularly timely, this being June and all.

So, this is a twist on Eve’s Pudding where I substitute rhubarb for Eve’s favorite fruit.  Why Lillith?  Because, according to myth, she was Adam’s first wife (also made of dust rather than his rib, making her his equal).  So, yes, basically, I’ve substituted one wife for another.

My non-British friends need to realize that “pudding” is a generic term for dessert, not a custard-y type of dish.  And this dessert is essentially a very simple upside-down cake that is lovely and light and perfect for a celebratory picnic – whether it’s for the Queen’s anniversary or America’s independence.

Buckingham Palace on Friday, before all the festivities began – happy anniversary Betty!!

Lillith’s Pudding

  • 2-3 large stalks rhubarb, cut on the diagonal into 1/2″ slices
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 4 1/2 oz butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup self-raising flour
  • pinch salt
  • 1 Tbsp hot water

Preheat oven to 350 F and prepare an 8″ springform pan by buttering it and lining it with parchment paper.  Then, toss the rhubarb with the light brown sugar and line evenly on the bottom of the prepared cake pan.

Use a standing mixer to cream the butter with the granulated sugar until light and fluffy, then add the eggs one at a time and then the vanilla extract, scraping down the bowl to make sure that the batter is smooth.  Remove from the mixer and gently fold in the flour and pinch salt without mixing too vigorously.  Lastly, add the single tablespoon of hot water, then use a spatula to drop dollops of the batter onto the rhubarb.  When all the batter has been added, smooth over to make sure everything is covered and bake for 40-45 minutes until a tester comes out clean.  When the cake has cooled, release it from the pan and invert onto a serving plate.  Super yummy with whipped cream!

I don’t know why, but about two weeks ago, I had a craving – I mean, a serious “must-have-soon-or-death-is-imminent” craving.  It was for chocolate chip cookie pie.  The even stranger thing is that my mom only made it once … maybe twice.  But, you know how you suddenly have a memory of something and you just WANT.  IT.  NOW.

That was me with this pie.

It sounds like it should be heavy and, frankly, kind of gooey like a large slightly undercooked cookie, but it isn’t.  It’s gorgeous and light – the perfect partner for a cold scoop of ice cream!  I supposed you could substitute toasted walnuts for the toasted pecans if you have to, but, to me, crunchy toasted pecans add just the right texture.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Pie

  • 6 oz. butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • pinch salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 cup dark chocolate chunks
  • 1 cup toasted pecans, chopped
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 ready-made pie crust (sorry, but sometimes I can’t be bothered)

Preheat the oven to 325 F and prepare your pie pan with the crust, then pop into the freezer.

In the bowl of standing mixer, cream the butter with the sugars until light and fluffy.  Turn the speed down to medium and add the eggs one at a time.  Add the salt and vanilla extract, then the chocolate chips and pecans, mixing until half-way incorporated.  Remove from the standing mixer and add the flour, stirring in by hand until just incorporated.  Pour into the pie tin and bake 50-55 minutes.  Cool then serve … with ice cream!

(note:  The picture above was a pie without pecans as I brought it to work and am sensitive to people who have nut allergies.   When you add the pecans, the pie bakes a little higher and the chocolate doesn’t create a solid layer on the bottom.)

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