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Archive for the ‘Cakes’ Category

All-In-One Holiday Bundt Cake

Even as I get older and wiser (?), life continues to be full of firsts. This recipe, for instance, was the first TWD entry in my brief TWD career baked entirely by King H, my first love (discounting the likes of Taylor Hanson and Jordan Catalano, who may have come earlier, but certainly weren’t as…real), during his first foray into baking in our first kitchen. As you might imagine, I am usually the one doing the baking in our relationship. King H, on the other hand, makes a fitting sous chef (he’s often found cleaning up the wake of baking products I leave behind), a mean Chicago deep-dish pizza, and the perfect choice of music to muck around in the kitchen to. He’s also very often left to eat half a batch of muffins or 25 cookies, all in the name of feeding my baking habit. And for that I’m grateful.

Imagine my surprise, then, when he came home from work one night and mentioned he was involved in a bake-off at work. Another first: our roles had suddenly been reversed. We got into the spirit last week, when our friend B stopped over to use the kitchen and prepare her entry, these stunning Carrot Cake Cupcakes with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting (incidentally, this will now be my go-to Autumn carrot cake recipe, and is a perfectly fall-spiced compliment to my more spring-y version previously posted here), but this week it was finally King H’s turn to shine. Initially inspired to bring in sweet potatoes with marshmallows, a Thanksgiving staple which is all but lost on anyone outside of the US (believe me, I’ve begged more than one English chef to make this for the holiday, only to be met with complete and utter shock and disgust, which is a big part of the reason I’ll be finally be hosting Thanksgiving at home this year), his excitement was tempered by the fact that he’d be assisting in making six pounds worth of candied yams (yams? Sweet potatoes? I’m going rogue and calling them both*) a mere four days later. And so King H had a momentary lapse in bright ideas on Sunday afternoon, as he was dragging a 14 pound frozen turkey and 12 pounds of potatoes home from Waitrose. Suddenly, all he saw before him was days of mashing, basting and mixing. It was enough to put him off baking entirely and he was suitably forlorn.

Enter me and my desire to get back on track in my quest to complete Tuesdays with Dorie and…problem quickly solved (at least the pot-luck part – he’s still got lots of mashing to do in the days ahead). I gave King H a choice of all four recipes this month (the folks at TWD have graciously done away with the one set recipe per week rule during November) and this one jumped right out at both of us, courtesy of The Nitty Britty. If he couldn’t make his candied yams, this Bundt cake, it appeared, would be a fitting substitute, as Dorie herself noted you could “name your favorite it-tastes-like-Thanksgiving flavor, and you’ll find it here”. And, as usual, right she was. I left King H to his own devices (one of the rules strictly enforced by his co-workers was that I would not produce this for him) and, aside from chopping a few unruly cranberries (why, oh why must cranberries pop all over the place?!) and answering a few questions about the KitchenAid stand mixer creaming/mixing process, I didn’t reappear again until he was pouring the batter in the well-buttered Bundt pan. And was I ever glad I had the foresight to appear at such a crucial moment, because this was the first time I was the one who got to lick the batter bowl clean, an honour I usually bestow on whoever pops down to the kitchen while I’m baking and tasting in my own time.  If the batter was any indication, this cake was going to be a hit at work. King H drizzled it with a maple syrup glaze and I watched it head out the door with him on his way to work this morning, feeling more than a bit despondent at the fact that I wouldn’t be tasting the cake that filled my whole house with the smells of Thanksgiving a mere twelve hours earlier. I may have to wait until Thursday to smell anything quite as good again, but I have it on good authority that King H’s compatriots were thrilled with this cake. And I’m thrilled with it, too, even though I never had a bite, because he baked something! And it was beautiful! And it smelled like heaven! And he’s so precise! And he told me I keep him, even when he wins the contest and becomes an international Bundt superstar! And, perhaps most importantly, now…now that he’s given these foreigners a taste of the cranberries, pumpkin, apples and pecans that help make this time of year so special, thanks to King H perhaps we just may have another first to look forward to: winning them over with those marshmallow-topped yams on Thursday…

All-In-One Holiday Bundt Cake

All-in-One Holiday Bundt Cake
(from Baking: From My Home To Yours)

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch of salt
1 1/2 tsp grated fresh ginger (or 1 tsp ground ginger)
1 1/4 sticks (10 tbsp) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup (packed) light brown sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups canned unsweetened pumpkin puree
1 large apple, peeled, cored and finely chopped
1 cup cranberries, halved or coarsely chopped
1 cup pecans, coarsely chopped
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting or maple syrup icing (see note)

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9- to 10- inch (12 cup) Bundt pan. Don’t place the pan on a baking sheet-you want the oven’s heat to circulate freely through the Bundt’s inner tube.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and ground ginger, if you’re using it (not the grated ginger).

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter and both sugars together at medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, and beat for 1 minute after each addition. Beat in the vanilla. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the pumpkin, chopped apple and grated ginger, if you’re using it-don’t be concerned if the mixture looks curdled. Still on low speed, add the dry ingredients, mixing only until they are incorporated. With a rubber spatula, stir in the cranberries and pecans. Scrape the batter into the pan and smooth the top with the rubber spatula.

Bake for 60 to 70 minutes, or until a thin knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Transfer the cake to a rack and cool for 10 minutes before unmolding, then cool to room temperature on the rack.

Note: just before bringing the cake to the table, dust it with confectioners’ sugar or drizzle it with maple syrup icing, which Dorie introduces in her “playing around” section and which King H used to much praise in his version. Simply sift 6 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar into a bowl and stir in 2 tablespoons maple syrup. Add more maple syrup little by little, until you have an icing that runs nicely off the tip of the spoon — you might need another 1/2 tablespoon syrup to get the right consistency. Put the cooled cake on a sheet of wax paper and drizzle the icing from the tip of the spoon over it. Let the icing set for a few minutes before serving.

*Edited to add this link, aptly found by King H a mere day after my great yam/sweet potato debate.

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Pumpkin Cake with Brown Butter Icing

There are so many cooking supplies that I’ve learned to live without in England (cake flour, kosher salt, corn syrup, molasses, proper marshmallows and graham crackers to name but a few), but I’m pleased to report that Libby’s canned pumpkin is not one of them. Somehow, Libby’s has made it across the pond in spades and I am currently able to buy it one can at a time without fear of it falling off the shelves inexplicably and sans any sort of notice (why, yes, I am still traumatized by the removal of Skippy’s from the shelves of Waitrose and now hoard it in batches of seven or more wherever I can find it). And although I applaud anyone who makes their own pumpkin puree, there is something so nostalgic for me in that little Libby’s can that I just can’t give it up. It instantly reminds me of Autumn at home as a child, helping my mother prepare pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving or pumpkin cheesecake for Halloween or…pretty much any dessert including pumpkin. I wouldn’t want to bake during this time of year without it.

This cake was prepared during one such fit of nostalgia, when I woke up on a rainy Sunday morning to watch my brother run in the ING New York City Marathon on a tiny computer feed. I used to live minutes from the finish line in Central Park and would march down each year to cheer on the runners, always wishing I could see FDW among them. My brother, never one to shy away from pain or athletic feats (how unlike his sister), has run many a marathon, but it was NY that always eluded him. That was until he finally achieved a qualifying time and was automatically cleared for entry this and any year in the future. You can’t imagine just how thrilled I was for him and yet how crushed I was at the same time to know I wouldn’t be there to see it in person. It’s such a give and take, this European adventure of mine – one weekend I’m walking through Amsterdam, thrilled at all the opportunities I’ve had to travel over the past few years and the next I’m so fiercely wishing I was home I can’t see straight. That’s where this cake came in: baking, as it so often does, became a way for me to escape on Sunday, to clear my mind of worry for FDW’s run and sadness at my inability to be standing at the finish line, banging pots and pans and cowbells (I’m sure the other spectators are thankful I wasn’t there, come to think of it). I dragged the computer down to the kitchen on Sunday afternoon, still sleepy from staying up half the night to watch the Yankee game (another downside of the cross-continental divide), and watched my brother’s little tracker move from mile to mile, over the Verrazano, through Park Slope, up First Avenue and all the way to the park, while I baked and ate this delicious pumpkin cake. It was simply enough to prepare while simultaneously tracking one runner in a sea of thousands, but the brown butter icing and caramelized pecans (I didn’t have walnuts, but prefer pecans in any event) gave it a sophisticated taste that made me feel like it should have taken much longer to bake and assemble. The combination of the pecans and the thin layer of brown butter icing is a success in itself, so much so that I’ve taken to saving that bit of each slice for last. That combination, coupled with an incredibly moist yet subtle pumpkin base, made this cake an Autumn dessert worthy of being added to my permanent Libby’s line-up. It also officially sold King H on brown butter for life. He was astounded by its nutty taste, as am I nearly every time I make it.

It defies logic to think that a pumpkin cake made for someone while they were running a marathon, a cake they would never even get to eat, would spur them on and entice them, too, but I’d like to think FDW would have been pleased to think of me baking away while he ran his heart out. It’s the way it’s always been in our family, the way I remember it, and the way I hope it will be the next time he’s running on the first Sunday of November, when I’m standing there banging my pots and pans like a loon. So here’s to FDW, the boy who bonked and still reached the finish line in three hours – I’ll eat to that.

Pumpkin Cake with Brown Butter Icing

Pumpkin Cake with Brown Butter Icing
(adapted from Martha Stewart)

For the cake:
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup homemade Pumpkin Puree, or canned
1/2 cup warm (110 degrees Fahrenheit) milk

For the icing:
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup sifted confectioner’s sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 to 2 tablespoons milk

For the caramelized walnut/pecan halves:1/2 cup sugar
10 well-shaped, large walnut or pecan halves

Heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter a 9-by-2-inch round cake pan. Line pan with parchment, and butter the parchment. Coat pan with flour, and tap out any excess.

In a large bowl, sift together flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, salt, baking powder, and baking soda; set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat sugar and butter together until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add eggs, and beat until combined. Add pumpkin puree and milk; beat until combined. Add reserved flour mixture; beat on low speed until just combined.

Pour batter into prepared pan, and bake until a cake tester inserted into the middle comes out clean, about 55 minutes. Transfer the cake to a wire rack to cool. Let cake rest 20 minutes.

In a small skillet, melt sugar over medium-high heat until medium golden, about 3 minutes. Remove skillet from heat. Working quickly, drop walnut halves, one at a time, into the melted sugar. If the sugar hardens, return skillet to low heat, and stir several minutes. Using a fork, turn walnuts until they are evenly coated. Transfer walnuts to a wire rack to cool completely.

In a small saucepan, melt butter over medium-high heat until nut-brown in color, about 10 minutes. Remove pan from heat, and pour butter into a bowl, leaving any burned sediment behind.

Add sugar, vanilla, and 1 tablespoon milk; stir until smooth. If the icing is too thick, add the remaining tablespoon milk, a little at a time, until consistency is spreadable. Let cool 5 minutes.

Unmold cake. Using an offset spatula, spread icing over top of cake, and decorate with caramelized walnut or pecan halves.

Yield: 8 to 10 servings.

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Cream Cheese Pound Cake with Spearmint-Lime Glaze

I have a confession to make: I purchased a Bundt pan nearly a year ago and, up until this weekend, I had yet to use it. It feels good to get that out in the open. I’ve discovered that’s the beauty of the Bundt pan, though: when one has made enough brownies and cupcakes and tarts and crumbles to last a lifetime (or at least a summer), there it is, the promise of a dense and delicious slice of pound cake, staring back at you from/falling out of your ridiculously overstuffed cupboard like some sort of divine culinary sign (or perhaps just a sign that you need to do some cleaning).

I will be the first to admit what a mistake it was to wait this long to put that Bundt pan to use, particularly if everything I make in it from now on is even half as good as this gem from Flo Braker’s Baking for All Occassions (one of my favourite go-to dessert books). I stumbled upon this recipe on Saturday afternoon when I found myself in an unusual mood for dessert simplicity. Normally what I love most about baking on the weekends is the lack of time contraints, albeit such a lack often leads to marathon sessions in the kitchen at all hours and a trail of flour in my wake come Monday morning (have I mentioned how badly I need to clean?!). But, this weekend, I wanted none of it. Perhaps it was my eventful tart-making escapade the previous weekend, or the fact that I had batches of Polperro chips to dunk in hot oil, or that we’d spent the past two weeks knee-deep in the most decadent peanut butter brownies EVER. Whatever it was, I set out to peruse a few cookbooks with the express desire to find something simple, not too sweet, but a bit summery, befitting of one of our final barbecues of the season. I was sold on this recipe the minute I read Flo’s preface to it – this cake, she assured me, is simple and perfect for a leisurely picnic beneath a shady tree. And, it is. It’s dense, citrus-y, incredibly easy to prepare and the speariment-lime glaze gives it a moist inside that almost makes you forget you’re inhaling a solid pound of cream cheese and sugar. But, my favourite part by far is the very bottom, where the cream cheese batter bakes to form a sweet crust that is simply heavenly and which has to be tried to be believed. This is the kind of recipe that will draw your co-workers into your office on a Monday morning to tell you you’re in the wrong line of business (oh, how I love those recipes!). It works for dessert, it works for breakfast, it works for a snack…it works for everything. I’m pretty sure it could cure anyone’s easing into Autumn blues and I, for one, plan on making it again and again. King H is already begging for more, for one, and that Bundt pan refuses to work its way back into the overstuffed cupboard. A divine culinary sign, if you ask me.

Cream Cheese Pound Cake with Spearmint-Lime Glaze

Cream Cheese Pound Cake with Spearmint-Lime Glaze
(from Baking for All Occassions)

For the cake:

3 1/4 cups (13 ounces/370 grams) cake flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
9 ounces (2 1/4 sticks/255 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
One 8-ounce (225-gram) package cream cheese, at room temperature
3 cups (1 pound, 5 1/4 ounces/600 grams) granulated sugar
6 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (or 325 degrees Fahrenheit if the pan has a dark finish). Butter a 10 by 3-inch Bundt pan, light coat it with nonstick spray, then flour it, tapping out the excess flour. Have all of the ingredients at room temperature.

Sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt onto a sheet of waxed paper; set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and cream cheese on medium speed until creamy and smooth, 30 to 45 seconds. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl. On medium speed, add the sugar in a steady stream and continue to beat until light in color and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Stop the mixer occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl.

With the mixer still on medium speed, add the eggs, 2 to 4 tablespoons at a time, beating after each addition until incorporated. The entire process of adding and beating the eggs should take 2 to 3 minutes. Add the vanilla and lime juice during the final moments of mixing. On the lowest speed, gradually add the flour mixture, mixing after each addition only until incorporated and stopping the mixer occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl. The entire process of adding the flour mixture should take about 2 minutes. Detach the paddle and bowl from the mixer, and tap the paddle against the side of the bowl to free the excess batter. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the lime zest. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly with the spatula.

Bake the cake until golden and a round wooden toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean, about 1 1/4 hours. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool for about 10 minutes while you prepare the glaze.

For the spearmint-lime glaze:

6 tablespoons (3 fl ounces/90 ml) water
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup lightly packed spearmint leaves
1 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons (5 ounces/140 grams) powdered sugar
2 teaspoons finely grated lime zest

In a small saucepan, combine the water, lime juice, butter and mint leaves over low heat just until the mixture bubbles around the edges. Remove from the heat and let steep for 1 minute.

Without delay, tilt and rotate the cake pan while gently tapping it on a counter to release the cake sides. Invert a wire rack on top of the cake, invert the cake onto it, and lift off the pan. Slide a sheet of waxed paper under the rack to catch any drips from the glaze.

Press the mint leaves against the side of the saucepan to release most of the moisture, and then discard the mint leaves. Stir the sugar and lime zest into the liquid until smooth. Using a pastry brush, coat the top and sides of the warm cake with all of the glaze. Let the cake cool completely before serving. As the cake cools, the glaze sets up to form a shiny coating.

To serve, slide the bottom of a tart pan, a small rimless baking sheet, or a large offset spatula under the cake and carefully transfer it to a serving platter. Cut into thin slices with a serrated knife.

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“I’m not eating again for a week!”


This familiar phrase, uttered time and time again by someone or other in my family after a painfully large meal, has come to typify my experience with food.  We share the ultimate love/hate relationship, food and I, and we have since I was old enough to sneak my eight-year-old hands into the cupboard to steal a few Oreo cookies when my mother wasn’t looking.  I often wonder if anyone else feels this way about food and, as with most things in life, have had many a discussion with my brother, affectionately known henceforth as Frau Dr. Weiderberg (FDW), about it.  What I’ve come to find is that perhaps this relationship is one that runs through my family, for one reason or another.  We just love food.  We love thinking about it.  We love talking about it.  We love making it.  And we love eating it, most of all, even to the point where we feel the need to exclaim out loud that we’ll never take another bite.  In the end, of course, we do eat again (and usually within a few hours, which is why the human digestive system continues to amaze me) and the food brings us such joy and comfort that for a moment we forget the pain, both physical and otherwise.  Because how bad can life be when the smell of chocolate pecan pie is wafting from the oven? 


I’m not sure whether others would deem it unhealthy, this obsession with food, but I do know that it makes me awfully happy, and because of that I tend to think it’s one of the healthiest aspects of my life.  And so I continue to celebrate good food, to cook and bake for people to the point where they are begging me to give their stomachs a rest, to trek miles in a foreign city while the rest of the tourists are visiting museums just to find the perfect paella or Liege waffle.  I just make sure I force myself to go on a gruelling bike ride with FDW (who is more effective and terrifying than any personal trainer) or spend a few hours contorting myself into ungodly positions in yoga class afterwards.  Or I go off hunting for more food I’ve researched, as is often the case when I’m travelling.  It may not be the perfect balance, but it seems to be working for at least two of the Roses.


And so, without further adoand in speaking of unhealthy obsessions (though, really, how unhealthy can something with carrots in it be anyway?!), I find it fitting that my first recipe here should also be one of my oldest, the very first sweet treat I ventured to bake for anyone outside my family (a fond memory of it once being made in college for a kindred spirit’s birthday and featuring Legolas from The Lord of the Rings springs to mind, but that’s another story entirelyand the one recipe I always come back to, time and time again, spurred on by the voices of friends and family who just won’t take “No” or, far more likely in my case, “But, I want to try something new!” for an answer.  I have my mother to thank for this one who, although she hid the Oreos from us at all costs, would take the time to indulge us in all of Maria Tillman Jackson Rogers glories on a special occasion.  And thanks to Maria, too, the creator of this recipe according to the ancient photocopied version found in my mother’s cookbook, for creating such a delightful obsession (a quick Google search for Ms. Rogers led me to a snippet of an obituary about a mother who cooked her son’s way through Harvard with her Creole recipes.  Incidentally, he later compiled these recipes into a book, though I wasn’t about to purchase a subscription to read the rest of the article online, and so I’m afraid my shoddy detective work ends there.  I’m not sure, but I’d like to believe it’s the same Maria who helped me cook my way through college and beyond).  And, finally, to food itself, the inspiration behind this first blog of mine, for comforting me in dark times, bringing me so much to smile about and look forward to, whether I’m on holiday or just on my way home from work at night, and inspiring me day after day, inspiration which I hope to both catalog for myself and share with the world (wide web).  Here goes nothing…

 

Maria Tillman Jackson Rogers’ Carrot Cake

 

For the cake:

1 pound (455 grams) carrots, approximately

2 cups (400 grams) granulated sugar

1 ½ (360 ml) cups vegetable oil

4 eggs

2 cups (255 grams) flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

½ cup (115 grams) coarsely chopped pecans

 

1.  Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit (165 degrees Celsius/Gas mark 3).

2.  Trim, scrape and grate the carrots, then measure them; there should be about three cups.  Set aside.

3.  Combine the sugar and oil in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Start beating.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating well.

4.  Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  

5.  Add the flour mixture to the oil mixture while beating.

6.  Add the grated carrots and nuts and blend well.

7.  Lightly oil three nine-inch cake pans.  Line the bottoms with circles of wax or parchment paper; oil the paper.  Pour the batter into the pans.  Place in the oven and bake 45 minutes.  Prepare the cream cheese frosting while the cake is in the oven and then place frosting in refrigerator until ready to frost.

8.  Turn the cakes onto wire racks and let cool.  Remove the paper liners.  Frost with the cream cheese frosting.  Enjoy!

 

Yield: 8 or more (if you’re lucky) servings.

 

For the cream cheese frosting*:

2 cups (200 grams) confectioners’/icing sugar

1 eight-ounce (225 gram) package cream cheese

4 tablespoons (55 grams) butter at room temperature

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

 

1.  Add the cream cheese, butter and vanilla.  Beat until smooth and creamy.  

 

Yield: enough frosting for a three-layer carrot cake.

 

* I often tend to double this recipe, which inevitably means I end up with leftover frosting for everyone to fight over, but it also ensures there’s plenty enough to thickly coat all three layers.  Note to self: don’t overdo the frosting too much or you’ll end up with the sadly all too familiar Leaning Tower of Carrot Cake.  

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