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Posts Tagged ‘cake’

I can safely say that gingerbread, or anything molasses-flavored, is going to go over well in my house. Some people have their chocolate, their Proustian moment that renders them poetic. Apparently ours is gingerbread. And it turns us into stealthy nibblers.

I made a small pan of Martha Stewarts’s Chocolate Gingerbread, primarily as an olfactory impetus in ridding the house of the scent of bacon that I had cooked that morning. I don’t think the pan had even fully cooled before I slipped a knife through it and created a set of imperfect squares for us to sample. It was amazing; rich and moist with the tiniest hint of chocolate among the deep taste of molasses. Griffin and I nodded in agreement over this newfound treat. I pulled plastic wrap over the top and set it on the counter.

And then, a day later, there were considerable gaps in the pan. The next day, even more was gone. Something was amiss, because I’d only had one piece.

I can’t say I fault anyone for freely indulging in this treat. What I love about gingerbread is the lack of cloying sweetness that comes with most desserts. Gingerbread has enough going for it to give it dessert-like status, but it’s also like a teabread, and can be treated like a snack, or even a bit of your breakfast too. It partners equally with a scoop of good vanilla ice cream, a mound of yogurt or even topped with fresh whipped cream.

Or even just eaten out of hand, with a napkin to catch the crumbs.

This recipe, from Everyday Food, yields a moist and superbly tender cake, owing to the use of sour cream in the base. It’s a simple quick bread style recipe that takes minimal effort, but can taste fancy enough for a party, that is, if you can keep it around long enough.

Martha Stewart’s Chocolate Gingerbread Cake
from Everyday Food

  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted, plus more for pan
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, plus more for pan
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin-pie spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup packed dark-brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsulfured molasses
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • confectioners’ sugar, for dusting (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8-inch square baking pan. Line bottom with a strip of parchment paper, leaving an overhang on two sides; butter paper. Dust paper and sides of pan with cocoa; set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together cocoa, flour, ginger, pumpkin-pie spice, and baking soda; set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together butter, brown sugar, molasses, egg, and sour cream until smooth. Add flour mixture; stir just until moistened (do not overmix). Stir in chocolate chips. Transfer batter to prepared pan; smooth top.
  3. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack; let cool completely. Using paper overhang, lift gingerbread from pan. Transfer to a cutting board, and cut into 16 squares. Before serving, dust bars with confectioners sugar, if desired. (To store, keep in an airtight container at room temperature, up to 3 days.)

KATE’S NOTES:
I skipped the parchment step, instead just using cooking spray on my 8×8 pan. I did not add the chocolate chips, and probably would keep them out of future uses of this recipe. I just don’t think they’re necessary. The molasses taste was rich, the chocolate not so noticeable. I think that the addition of some extra cocoa would make it more balanced- and in future use I may reduce the molasses to 3 T. and increase the cocoa to 1/3 c. to see if it makes a difference. I also thought about the addition of 1 oz. melted bittersweet chocolate to increase that aspect a bit, and may try that. I don’t keep pumpkin pie spice on hand. I used a teaspoon of cinnamon, and 1/4 teaspoon each of nutmeg and allspice.

If you’re interested in other gingerbread recipes, you can find more gingerbread love with just a click.

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Mike and I recently had our 7th anniversary. I’ve posted on the blog in prior years about it, but this time around I enjoyed it quietly. With cake. I’ll get to that in due time, ok?

And as a side note, today, August 22nd, is Mike’s birthday, my niece Leah’s birthday, and my friend Melissa’s birthday!! Woot!

Ok, now back to anniversaries, the untraditional, and of course, CAKE.

Someone asked me what gift coincided with the 7th anniversary, and I had to pause a moment to recall what they were talking about. Apparently each year has some sort of meaning in terms of the gift you give, and seriously,  who does this anymore? If you’re at all interested in what each year should entail, check this out. The 7th anniversary, according to that chart, should be either Wool, Copper or a Desk Set.

wool

copper

deskset

I’m stunned at the romance behind that.

My husband is not a gift giver, and I don’t know that I’ve met anyone who has more anxiety and trepidation over getting someone a gift. It just isn’t his thing. If you’re one of those people who think that no special occasion is complete without a pretty wrapped package, you might have some trouble with this mentality, and admittedly, it was a somewhat tough reality for me to accept at first, but Mike has shown me in the eight years I’ve known him that the best gift he can give me resides within him, not in some store. He gives me his heart and his love on a daily basis. No brightly wrapped box will ever come close to that. Although in years past I have asked for a few items- a simple bracelet, a 5th anniversary ring- what I get from him every day comes without a price tag, and all year long. I would take that over a thousand red roses, a paper card or a shiny trinket because it really is so much more vital to a happy union than some expected token given out of a sense of obligation.

So I didn’t get an anniversary gift, not in a box, wrapped in paper, with a bow anyway. I got this…..

mikepic

……for the rest of my life. That’s an awfully spectacular gift.

But there has to be cake. It is, after all, the best of celebrations, the finest excuse to kick up our heels and revel in what we share. And because there is little convention to our celebrations, what with the absence of pretty packages, the cake we shared should also bear little resemblance to those towering stacks of genoise, layered in thick cloying buttercream that are often represented at your standard party.

So I made a Flourless Honey Almond Cake.

flourless honey almond cake 007

This cake, from the April issue of Eating Well magazine, caught my eye immediately when I first read about it. I like a good cake that is versatile, a slice being perfect for a quick light snack or dressed up with vanilla bean ice cream for a more glorious treat. The cake is light and deeply nutty, using ground toasted almonds for the base that is then fluffed with beaten egg whites. Although I was expecting something a bit sweeter due to the honey, and it was delightful as it was, I imagined a version with orange zest and juice to give it just a little more personality, some more ‘Hey, Look at Me!’ kind of taste. It was the easiest cake to put together. My new springform pan worked beautifully too.

Flourless Honey Almond Cake
1-1/2 c. toasted whole almonds
4 large eggs, room temperature and separated
1/2 c. honey
1-1/2 t. pure vanilla extract
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt

Topping (optional)
Honey and toasted sliced almonds

Heat your oven to 350°. Spray a 9-inch springform pan with cooking spray; line bottom with parchment paper and spray paper. Process the whole toasted almonds in a food processor until finely ground. It’s ok if there are some larger bits, it makes for a delicious texture.

In the bowl of your mixer, beat the 4 egg yolks, honey, vanilla, baking soda and salt on medium speed until well combined. Add in the ground almonds and mix to incorporate. The mixture will be very thick and sticky.

In a separate bowl, and with clean beaters, beat the 4 egg whites until they become very foamy and double in size, but not to a point of holding stiff peaks. You want them to be firm, but still loose. Turn off the beaters and push them gently through the whites; the whites should be firm enough that the beaters make ridges yet still fall away when you stop.

With a rubber spatula, gently fold the egg whites into the almond-honey mixture until just combined. Be sure to scrape the bottom of the bowl as you fold. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake on center rack of oven for 25-30 minutes. A cake tester will come out clean and the top will be golden brown. Allow the cake to cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then run a knife around the edges and release the spring. Cool the cake completely before removing the bottom part of the pan.

Serve with vanilla ice cream, yogurt or fruit topping. Or just eat it plain.

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Let me tell you about my nephew Matt, or as he likes to refer to himself  ‘my second son’.

weekend fun 014

Matt is nine, with light red hair and an adorable grin that’s going through its ‘Jack-O-Lantern’ phase, losing his baby teeth and replacing them with Chiklet chompers. He has a personality that just lights up a room. Last summer, he spent so much time at my house hanging out with Griffin, sleeping over and basically insinuating himself into our lives that it stopped surprising me to find him sprawled on the sofa with my own child, coming out of the bathroom in the early morning hours or pulling up a chair at mealtime. He became a permanent fixture, and when September rolled around, I missed him like crazy.

When Matt was about three, we were at our lake home for a perfect summer weekend and all the kids were outside playing Flashlight Tag as the sky darkened. On our screen porch, Matt’s mom Aimee pulled out a bundt cake, a stack of plates, forks and a big knife, and as she began cutting into the cake, the kids came racing inside to gather round the giant wooden picnic table that dominates the room. Matt climbed onto one of the benches, saw what his Mom was doing and loudly exclaimed “CAKE!?? What’s happening??”

cake_whats_happening

See, he always associated cake with celebration, and this was just another typical summer weekend for our extended family. But the sight of that cake was enough to send him into shivers, with the wonder of his age bringing forth a now most cherished family quote. Rarely does a real celebratory event pass where someone doesn’t exclaim “Cake! What’s happening!?” when dessert is being served.

nectarine ginger cake 012

I’m not one to make a lot of cake. Special occasions aside, cake is just too tempting in this house, and should there be a plate of delicious moist cake hiding out under the domed cake holder, it slowly gets whittled away through furtive slips of a knife, while telltale crumbs are disposed of as sweet tooth cravings are duly satisfied. My family has no willpower. And neither do I. It’s best that we just leave cake to those special occasions where it can be appreciated in a quick burst of sugar joy and then forgotten. I think it leads to a better cake appreciation factor.

nectarine ginger cake 005

On a whole other level, cakes that fall outside the ordinary of the flour, butter and sugar world have quite a different effect on me, hence the siren pull of this Nectarine Ginger Cake. With an unusual (at least for cake) recipe, lots of ripe fruit and a one-bowl and pan deal, this was a cake that I knew wouldn’t languish under the cake dome once we got our cake-ness fill,  especially given the fact that the recipe mentions this being a perfect breakfast, snack AND dessert option. Cake with multiple personalities should be on everyone’s To-Do list.

nectarine ginger cake 002

Who am I to argue with lemon zest, olive oil, crystallized ginger- this is cake?- not to mention using one bowl, getting to cut into fragrant nectarines and all that finished off with an aroma of baking cake that rose from my oven like a treasure trove slowly displaying its riches. I’m so there. Even with a few fundamental flaws in the recipe (which are totally correctable and well worth a repeat- I’ll spare you the same issues) this cake was a hit.

nectarine ginger cake 013nectarine ginger cake slices 002

Now, admittedly, I’ve never made a cake with olive oil and whoa, tell me why I waited so long? That won’t be happening again. The subtle flavor of this moist and tender cake was only a part of it’s beauty; this cake sang like the Spring days outside my window. It was fresh and incredibly light with a nice browned crunchy top full of chewy nectarine slices and tiny dots of candied ginger. And about that breakfast option? I might just have to pour another cup of coffee and check that out. I mean, you need all the exquisite details, don’t you? I would be a bad blogger to leave them out.

So what did go wrong with this, as I hinted to? For one thing, again I didn’t trust my culinary instinct and when I read some things in the directions that just didn’t sound right, I went with them anyway and had some issues. The temperature called for was 375°, which to me seemed a bit hot for a cake. Most cake recipes I’ve used require 350°. The cake pan called for was way too small, and I knew it but didn’t scrape out the batter into a bigger one. At least I put the pan on a foil lined cookie sheet. First instinct ignored, and I fumed as I watched it bubble over. Secondly, it called for 5 large nectarines, four of them diced. Folks, that’s a lot of fruit, and this cake needed a 9″ pan. I used barely four and got a super fruit-filled result which is fine; the snack of the leftover fruit held off my cake-hunger, but if you’re making cake- that fluffy concoction of flour and sugar- it’s good to actually have something cake-like in the finished results.

Other than that, the recipe is indeed very simple. While it calls for ground ginger in the batter, I think that fresh grated would taste better. I detected little ginger taste in the end result. The lemon zest is amazing, people, and do yourself a favor; slip a few tablespoons of juice into the batter. Your taste buds will high-five you in joy.

Nectarine Ginger Cake
(with modifications already made)

Preheat oven to 350°.  For your cake pan options, the original recipe called for a 9-inch round cake pan with a removable bottom. This is entirely too small so don’t do it, unless your pan is higher than normal. I started to use an angel food cake pan and decided against it. Then I kicked myself as the cake poured out while baking. A 9 x 13 would work well too, with a slightly shorter end result. Whatever pan you use, spray it and sprinkle a little sugar in to coat.

Cake:

2 eggs
1/3 c. milk
1/3 c. good quality olive oil
1 lemon, zested completely and half of it squeezed
2/3 c. sugar
1  T. fresh ginger, grated
1 1/2 c. AP or cake flour
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
4 large nectarines, three diced small and one for slicing
1/4 c. crystallized ginger, minced or sliced

In a large bowl, whisk eggs, milk and oil until emulsified. Add in all the lemon zest and juice and blend well. Stir in the sugar and fresh ginger. Seperately, blend flour, baking powder and salt then stir into wet ingredients until just barely incorporated. Fold in diced fruit gently.

Pour batter into prepared pan. Arrange nectarine slices on top and scatter crystallized ginger over that. Sprinkle with about two tablespoons of sugar, either white or something fancier. I think raw sugar would be awesome. I’ve been gifted with a divine pistachio sugar, and I’m almost inventing excuses to use it.

Bake until cake top is nicely golden brown and cake springs back when touched- about 45-60 minutes (See Notes). Be careful if you touch the cake top- the candied ginger gets really  hot! The toothpick method will work as well.  Allow to cool, or serve warm.

CAKE NOTES:
Depending on the freshness and juice level of your nectarines, this cake’s cooking time could vary. Be sure to check starting around the 45 minute mark. If the top is browning too much, place some foil over it.

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Applesauce Spice Cake

4 T. real butter, softened

1 c. sugar

1 egg

1/4 c. water

1 c. unsweetened applesauce

1 1/4 c. flour (use half whole wheat if you wish)

2 T. ground flaxseed

3/4 t. baking soda

1/2 t. salt

1/2 t. cinnamon

1/4 t. each nutmeg, allspice and ginger

Blend all dry ingredients together. Cream sugar and butter until smooth then add in egg, water and applesauce and mix well. Stir in dry ingredients and mix until incorporated and slightly fluffy. Spray an 8-inch pan with non-stick cooking spray and pour in batter, bake in a 350d oven 30-35 minutes, or until tested done.

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