Banana Layer Cake (with your favorite frosting)

April 12, 2013 at 5:11 pm | Posted in cakes & tortes, layer cakes, sweet things | 12 Comments
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banana layer cake

I am a master procrastinator.  I should be spring cleaning my disaster of a closet right now.  Instead, I am blogging about cake…a cake that I made two days ago, when I was also off work and also should have been spring cleaning my closet.  Housekeeping gives me the blues, but cake makes me happy!

I always buy too many bananas at once, so I have this perpetual stash of them in my freezer, waiting to be turned into smoothies or baked with.  Although I want to make every single thing in the book Vintage Cakes, I figured I’d start with a cake that would put some of those bananas to use.  I’ve made one, no two, banana layer cakes here before, so forgive me if I seem like I’m repeating myself.  They’re all good….moist, and most definitely cake and not banana bread.

I think banana cake is a good match for lots of frostings…cream cheese, chocolate, peanut butter.  I didn’t use the coffee walnut buttercream that is paired with this cake in the book.  Instead I frosted it with some leftover chocolate frosting that I brought home from work a couple months ago and stuck in the freezer.  It’s actually too sweet for my tastes, and isn’t a recipe I’d make at home (which is why I’m not providing it below), so I had to temper that sweetness a bit by rewhipping it with a little cream cheese and some instant espresso.  OMG, wait–I used bananas and frosting from the freezer…doesn’t that mean I did some spring cleaning after all?

Banana Layer Cake- makes an 8″ three-layer cake, serving 8-12
adapted from Vintage Cakes by Julie Richardson

Steph’s Note:  I halved the recipe to make 6″ rounds.  They took a little less time to bake, about 24 minutes.  Frost it with your favorite frosting.

2½ cups (12.5 oz) all-purpose flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1½ cups mashed ripe bananas (about 3)
¾ cup buttermilk, room temperature
1 cup (8 oz) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups (14 oz) sugar
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
4 eggs, room temperature

-Center an oven rack and preheat the oven to 350°F.  Grease three 8″ round cake pans and line them with parchment circles.

-In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda, then whisk them together.  In a small bowl or a measuring cup, combine the banana with the buttermilk.

-In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter, sugar, and vanilla together on high speed until fluffy, about 5 minutes, stopping frequently to scrape the sides and the paddle with a rubber spatula.  Blend in the eggs one at a time.

-With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture in three parts, alternating with the banana mixture in two parts, beginning and ending with the four.  After each addition scrape the bowl well.  Stop the mixer before the last of the flour has been incorporated and complete the blending by hand with a rubber spatula.

-Divide the thick batter equally among the prepared pans, and tap the pans on the counter to settle.

-Bake until the centers spring back when lightly touched, 28 – 30 minutes.

-Cool the cakes in their pans on a wire rack for 30 minutes.  Flip them out and let them continue to cool on the rack, top side up, until they reach room temperature.  Leave the parchment paper on until you assemble the cake.

-Fill and frost with your favorite frosting.

Tuesdays with Dorie BWJ: Boca Negra

February 19, 2013 at 12:01 am | Posted in cakes & tortes, groups, simple cakes, sweet things, tuesdays with dorie | 13 Comments
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boca negra

This Boca Negra isn’t the first super chocolaty cake I’ve made courtesy of Lora Brody.  Really though, this one is more like baked pudding than cake– it’s almost flourless, so it doesn’t really have a crumb.  It’s silky smooth, dense and at room temperature just barely holds shape (seriously, I destroyed the first piece I tried to lift up).  And has a good amount of booze to boot…the recipe calls for bourbon, but I used dark rum.

I made this in the food processor, rather than by hand.  It took barely any effort, and even less time, to make the batter.  I decided to cut back on the butter by a couple of ounces, figuring that it had enough chocolate, sugar, liquor and eggs to still be ultra luxe.  Along those same lines, I skipped the white chocolate cream that goes along with this one and just used plain, unsweetened whipped cream instead.  It helped cut the richness just a bit.  While the recipe recommends enjoying this at room temp, we really liked it about 15 minutes out of the refrigerator, when each piece was like a slice of the most decadent fudge.

I’ll make this again as an easy answer to a special occasion.  For the recipe, see Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan or read Cathy’s A Frederick Food Garden.  Don’t forget to check out the rest of the TWD Blogroll!

Cranberry Crème Fraîche Bundt Cake

February 8, 2013 at 3:55 pm | Posted in bundt cakes, cakes & tortes, simple cakes, sweet things | 11 Comments
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Cranberry crème fraîche bundt cake

It’s almost Valentine’s Day.  A perfect excuse to make something sweet and pink, not that I really need one.  I never need an excuse to make a Bundt either– I just love them!  This Cranberry Crème Fraîche Bundt Cake seemed like just the right treat to make this year.  I know that cranberry season is gone, but if you’re like me, you bought a couple of extra bags during the holidays and threw them in the freezer.  When there’s not a lot of good fruit around, this comes in handy.

This cake uses a lush ingredient–crème fraîche.  You can make your own, but I just buy it.  It’s pretty easy to find now, even at TJ’s.   The crème fraîche gives the cake great structure and texture.  It also helps make it a great keeper.  The pockets and swirls of tasty cranberry sauce inside the cake ensure that each slice just as pretty as the uncut Bundt.  I liked the little bit of almond flavoring in the cake as well, but I’m sure it would be great without if you don’t have the extract or you avoid nuts.

Happy Valentine’s Day!  xoxo

Don’t want cake, try coeur à la crème.

Cranberry crème fraîche bundt cake

Cranberry Crème Fraîche- makes 10 to 12 servings
adapted from Cake Simple: Recipes for Bundt-Style Cakes from Classic Dark Chocolate to Luscious Lemon-Basil by Christie Matheson

Steph’s Note:  I buy my crème fraîche at the grocery store, but you can certainly make your own.  To do this, you’ll want to start at least a day before making this cake, and you’ll need 2 cups (480 ml) heavy cream and 2 tablespoons buttermilk.  Combine the heavy cream with the buttermilk, cover tightly, and let sit at room temperature (in a warm room) for at least 8 hours. Stir the mixture– if it hasn’t thickened completely, cover the mixture again and let it sit in a warm place for another 2 to 3 hours and check it again. When it has a nice, thick consistency, it will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

1/2 cup (115 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus melted butter for greasing the pan
2 cups (240 g) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the pan
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (200 g) sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract

1 cup (240 ml) crème fraîche
Whole-Berry Cranberry Sauce (recipe follows) or 2 cups (450 g) canned whole berry-cranberry sauce
Cranberry Glaze (recipe follows)
1/2 cup (45 g) chopped toasted almonds or toasted almond slivers

-Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C/gas 4). Brush the inside of a 10-cup (2.4 L) Bundt pan with the melted butter and dust it lightly with flour and tap out the excess.

-Whisk the flour with the baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl until thoroughly combined.

-In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter with the sugar on medium speed for 2 to 3 minutes, until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla and almond extracts.

-With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture (in three increments) alternately with the crème fraîche (in two increments), beginning and ending with the flour and beating after each addition until just combined.

-Pour half the batter into the prepared pan. Swirl half the cranberry sauce over the batter. Pour the remaining batter over the cranberry sauce, and then swirl the remaining cranberry sauce over the batter.  I tried my best to more or less keep the sauce from touching the sides of the pan and tube, just so there wouldn’t be any sticking. Bake for 50 to 55 minutes, until golden brown on top and a skewer comes out free of wet batter.

-Swiftly rap the pan on the counter once or twice right after pulling it from the oven…this will help the cake settle and release.  Let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack for about 15 minutes, then invert the cake onto the rack and let it cool completely. Transfer the cake to a serving plate and drizzle the glaze over the cooled cake. Sprinkle the almonds over the top.  The cake will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days.

Whole Berry-Cranberry Sauce (you can use 2 cups of a nice, canned whole cranberry sauce instead if you’d like)

12 ounces (340 g) fresh cranberries
3/4 cup (180 ml) water 
3/4-1 cup (150-200 g) granulated sugar, depending on sweetness preference 
1/4 teaspoon salt

-In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the cranberries with the water, sugar, and salt and cook for about 15 minutes (after about 10 minutes, remove about 2 tablespoons of the liquid for the cranberry glaze), or until the sauce has thickened and most of the liquid has reduced. Let the sauce cool completely before using it in the cake (you will need about 2 cups of sauce for the cake, so you may have a bit extra). The sauce keeps in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Cranberry Glaze 

1 cup (93 g) confectioners’ sugar
1-2 tablespoons cranberry juice (reserved from making the cranberry sauce)

-Mix the confectioners’ sugar and 1-2 tablespoons cranberry juice (depending on your desired thickness) in a small bowl until smooth.

Rich Chocolate Cake with Salty Dulce de Leche

December 29, 2012 at 2:56 pm | Posted in cakes & tortes, simple cakes, sweet things | 4 Comments
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rich chocolate cake with salty dulce de leche

So, Christmas came and went in a tinsel-strewn blur.  And now we are just about to say goodbye to 2012 and hang a new calendar on the wall…but first there’s one more party to throw.  New Year’s Eve is a night that calls for sparkle, like these Glitter Ball Cookies, or decadence, like this Rich Chocolate Cake with Dulce de Leche.

Here’s proof that decadence doesn’t have to be difficult.  This cake is easy to put together because it’s just a single layer.  It’s a dark devil’s food-style cake, so that’s really all you need.  And you can buy the dulce de leche, although I did make David Lebovitz’s homemade version (which, to be honest, is no  more difficult than opening a can). Some chopped nuts or crushed brittle add a little crunch, but even that isn’t totally necessary.  What is necessary, though, is sprinkling of salt– preferably a fancy coarse sea salt– so don’t skip it.  Salty and sweet, just like this year.

Happy New Year!  See you in 2013…

rich chocolate cake with salty dulce de leche

Rich Chocolate Cake with Salty Dulce de Leche- makes one 10-inch round cake
adapted from One Girl Cookies by Dawn Casale and David Crofton

Steph’s Notes:  A half recipe will yield an 8-inch round cake that bakes in 30-35 minutes.  The authors suggest decorating this cake with crushed nut brittle, but chopped salty peanuts or hazelnuts would be just as good (and easier). 

for the cake:
1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee
1/2 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
3/4  cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup plain whole-milk  yogurt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
8 tablespoons  (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups  granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 1/4 cups all-purpose  flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon table  salt

for the topping:
1/2 cup dulce de leche (homemade or store-bought)
a few pinches of kosher salt, fleur de sel or Maldon
about 1/2 cup of roughly chopped, salted nuts or crushed nut brittle for decoration (optional)

-Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Grease a 10-inch round cake pan with cooking spray and line the bottom with a parchment round.

-To make the cake, pour the hot coffee into a medium bowl and stir in the  cocoa powder until it dissolves.  Stir in the brown sugar, followed by the yogurt  and the vanilla.  Stir thoroughly to ensure that all of the ingredients are  incorporated.

-In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat  the butter and granulated sugar on medium speed until light-yellow and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the eggs and mix for 2  minutes.

-In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt.  With the mixer running on low speed, mix in a third of the flour mixture and half of  the coffee mixture.  Scrape down the bowl.  Add another third of the flour mixture and all the remaining coffee mixture.  Remove the bowl from the mixer and, using  \a rubber spatula, fold in the remaining flour mixture until all of the  ingredients are fully incorporated.  Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan.

-Bake the cake for about 45 minutes, rotate the pan at the halfway point, or until a cake tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out  clean.  Remove the pan from the oven and let the cake cool in the pan for 20  minutes.  Run a knife around the edge, and then turn the cake out onto a clean plate, remove the parchment, and  turn the cake back over onto a wire rack.  Let the cake cool completely.

-Put the cooled cake on a serving dish.  In a microwave-safe dish, heat the  dulce de leche on high power for 30 seconds, or until it is just liquid.  Spoon the dulce de leche over the cake, and then sprinkle the salt over the  dulce de leche.  If using nuts or brittle, sprinkle about 1/2 cup around the outer edge of the cake as a delicious decoration.

Tuesdays with Dorie BWJ: Gingerbread Baby Cakes

December 4, 2012 at 12:02 am | Posted in cakes & tortes, groups, simple cakes, sweet things, tuesdays with dorie | 22 Comments
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gingerbread baby cakes

What–December already?!?  Seems I am refusing to belive it, because every time I went to label the stuff I made at work today, I wrote “11/” and then had to turn that second one into a goofy two.  I feel not quite ready to tackle this month.

Johanne Killeen’s Gingerbread Baby Cakes should help me get into the December spirit.  These cakes may be little, but they are strong, with a spicy molasses, ginger and black pepper punch.  Espresso and cocoa add extra dark, bitter notes.  I want to say that I loved these, because they came out so darn cute, but really, they were too intense for me…too adult for my juvenile taste buds.  I don’t have baby cake molds, but I do have baby tube pans, which made a fine substitute.  I have two cakes left, and I’m thinking they will be cubed for a trifle with sweet cream and stuff to temper their spicy bite.

For the recipe, see Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan or read Karen’s Kitchen Stories (it’s also here).  Don’t forget to check out the rest of the TWD Blogroll!

Tuesdays with Dorie BWJ: Nectarine Upside-Down Chiffon Cake

September 7, 2012 at 4:16 pm | Posted in cakes & tortes, groups, simple cakes, sweet things, tuesdays with dorie | 14 Comments
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nectarine upside-down chiffon cake

It’s Fridays with Dorie for me this week with  Mary Bergin’s fabulous Nectarine Upside-Down Chiffon Cake.  I made, and ate, this cake a couple of weekends ago.  Then I was so excited to go Montreal for Labor Day weekend, I didn’t post.  We came home and I still didn’t post, because I’ve been too busy looking at Montreal real estate websites and daydreaming about living there!!

This recipe is in a section in the book called “Everyday Delights” but I think it’s pretty fancy.  It’s not just a standard-issue tinned fruit upside-down cake.  Underneath the glistening fresh nectarines is a light chiffon cake bisected by a layer of crispy almond streusel. It’s a bit of work to pull off, but I thought it was worth every bite.  And really, the streusel could be skipped to save a step…it would be just as good, I think.

I had good success with this chiffon.  I was a little worried when I saw the batter almost totally filled my springform, and it did mushroom up in the oven.  But nothing overflowed, thank goodness.  If you are worried, I’d suggest taking out a couple scoops and making them into cupcakes or something.  It was kinda hard to tell if the cake was done, and I think I left it in the oven a few extra miinutes.  When making chiffons, the cake pans are often ungreased so the batter can really climb up the sides.  I’ve learned to (gingerly!) run a thin knife around the edges of the pans about five to ten minutes after the cakes have come out of the oven.  This helps the cakes to not tear away from the sides as they start to cool, which I think can cause them to sink a bit.

nectarine upside-down chiffon cake

For the recipe, see Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan or read Marlise’s The Double Trouble Kitchen and Susan’s The Little French Bakery.  There’s also a video of Julia and Mary baking this together.  Don’t forget to check out the rest of the TWD Blogroll!

Ice Cream Cake with a Thin Mints Crust

August 17, 2012 at 4:09 pm | Posted in cakes & tortes, ice creams & frozen, simple cakes | 6 Comments
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ice cream cake with a thin mints crust

Why must bikini season and ice cream season be one and the same?

It was my husband’s birthday last weekend.  Like a good, caring wife, I made him an unbaked cake using all prepared ingredients.  Sounds kind of mean when I put it that way, but it started when an unopened box of Girl Scout Cookies from God know when (they don’t expire, right??) was found in the cupboard, and he requested an ice cream cake with a Thin Mints crust.  That sounded pretty simple compared to some past requests, so I was happy to oblige.  I used a nice (but store-bought) chocolate gelato, and redeemed myself a bit by stirring together a little ganache for the top.  Colored sprinkles, a candle and a secret wish made it a birthday cake.

ice cream cake with a thin mints crust
Ice Cream Cake with a Thin Mints Crust makes an 8- or 9-inch cake

Steph’s Notes:  I made a half recipe in a 6-inch springform, using one sleeve of Thin Mints (minus two cookies), 1 tbsp of butter and one pint of ice cream.

1 box Thin Mints cookies (should you want to set 4 or five cookies aside for snacks or decoration, that’s fine)
2 tbsp butter, melted
2 pints of ice cream
stuff to decorate!

-Line the base of an 8- or 9-inch springform pan with a circle of greased parchment.

-In a food processor, blitz the cookies and melted butter until mixture is coarse crumbs. Firmly press cookie crumbs into the bottom of the prepared pan.  You can give it a little lip, or leave it flat.  Pop in the freezer for about 30 minutes.

-Slightly soften your ice cream on the counter for several  minutes.  Using a scoop, evenly distribute the ice cream around the crust and then smooth it all out with a small offset spatula.

-Freeze your cake for at least a few hours or overnight, until well-set.  Decorate and pop off the side of the pan (temper it for a few minutes or run a warm offset around the edge if it’s difficult to remove).  Slice using a warm knife.

Boozy Berry-Topped Tres Leches Cake

July 1, 2012 at 12:37 pm | Posted in cakes & tortes, simple cakes, sweet things | 7 Comments
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boozy berry-topped tres leches

It’s kind of hard to fire up the oven in the middle of a heat wave, especially when you don’t have A/C in the kitchen.  But I’m willing to get started early in the day if I know that by the end of it I’ll have a piece of cool, chilled tres leches cake on my plate.  It pairs so well with seasonal fruit, that this really is a great summer cake, if you have a place to keep it cold.

I did another tres leches cake here before with a baking group.  I wasn’t crazy about that one…it was dense and heavy, for which I blamed the creamed butter mixing method.  I like this separated egg method much better.  It makes a cake that’s light and spongy and just sucks up all tres of the leches you pour on top.  I’m amazed that a cake can absorb such a ridiculously huge amount of liquid, but it does.

I made this with strawberries, which have now come and gone from the Greenmarket, but the raspberries and blueberries that are around now would be just as tasty…and very Fourth of July appropriate, I think.

Boozy Berry-Topped Tres Leches Cake- makes a 9×13-inch cake
adapted from a recipe in Fine Cooking, Issue 117 by Fany Gerson

Steph’s Notes:  If you don’t want the booze, just leave it out of the cake and topping for a “regular” tres leches.  Of course, you can leave off the fruit as well.  You can soak the cake in the milk mixture up to a day ahead and top it up to 2 hours ahead. 

for the cake
unsalted butter, softened, for the pan
4 1/2 oz (1 cup) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp kosher salt
5 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup whole milk
3/4 tsp pure vanilla extract

for the soaking liquid
1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
1 12 oz can evaporated milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
Pinch kosher salt
1 tbs gin, tequila, rum or orange liqueur

for the topping
2 1/2 cups heavy cream
3 tbs gin, tequila, rum or orange liqueur
2 tbs confectioners’ sugar
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
4 cups summer berries (one type or a mix)

Bake the cake:

-Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F.

-Butter the bottom and sides of a 9×13-inch Pyrex baking dish or a nonreactive metal pan.  Line the bottom of the baking dish or pan with parchment and lightly butter the parchment.

-Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl and set aside.

-Separate the eggs, putting the whites in a medium bowl and the yolks in a large bowl. With an electric mixer, beat the yolks with 3/4 cup of the sugar on medium speed until the mixture is pale and creamy, about 2 minutes.  Add the milk and vanilla and beat until combined, 1 minute more.

-Clean and dry the beaters and then beat the egg whites, gradually increasing the speed to high, until they reach soft peaks, 2 to 3 minutes.  Add the remaining 1/4 cup sugar in a stream, continuing to beat on high, until you reach firm but not dry peaks, 1 to 2 minutes more.  Whisk a third of the dry ingredients into the yolk mixture until thoroughly combined. Gently fold in a third of the egg whites with a rubber spatula.  Fold in the remaining dry ingredients and egg whites, alternately, in two more batches each, until fully incorporated.

-Pour the batter into the prepared dish or pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes.  Let the cake cool in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes, then invert the cake onto the rack, remove the parchment, and let cool completely.

-Return the cake to the baking dish or pan (the cake will soak up more of the liquid if returned to the pan it was baked in), or invert it onto a rimmed platter.

Soak the cake: In a 2-quart saucepan, stir together the condensed milk, evaporated milk, heavy cream, and salt until the condensed milk is well blended.  Cook over medium-low heat, stirring to avoid scorching, until it begins to bubble around the edges, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, add the booze and pour into a heatproof 4-cup measuring cup. With a toothpick, prick the cake to the bottom in 1/2-inch intervals. Pour the soaking liquid slowly over the cake, starting at the edges and pausing to let it soak in before adding more.  Cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate until the cake is well chilled, at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours.

Top the cake: In a large bowl, beat the heavy cream with an electric mixer on medium speed. When it begins to thicken, slowly add the booze, sugar and vanilla and continue to beat just until it holds firm peaks, 3 to 4 minutes (be careful not to over-beat). Spread the whipped cream all over the top of the cake. Spoon the berries over the whipped cream and serve.

Tuesdays with Dorie BWJ: French Strawberry Cake

June 19, 2012 at 12:01 am | Posted in cakes & tortes, groups, layer cakes, sweet things, tuesdays with dorie | 24 Comments
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french strawberry cake

Flo Braker‘s French Strawberry Cake is the perfect thing for right now, right here.  Strawberries are all over the NYC greenmarkets (and my CSA), so a summer strawberry cake of some sort was bound to be in order even if we hadn’t picked this for TWD

This is a lovely simple cake…no fancy buttercreams or anything.  Just some lightly sweetened whipped cream and mashed strawberries filling a whole egg sponge cake.  The cake is called a genoise in the book, but it’s the only genoise I’ve ever made that doesn’t heat the eggs in the process.  The recipe calls for making one tall cake and splitting it into three layers.  I made just a half recipe and I thought my little six-inch cake really only needed to be cut into two.  This type of sponge cake can be a little dry on its own, but the whipped cream and macerated berries add the moisture that is needed.  I think it became even tastier the second day.  I can see this being great with raspberry smoosh, too, if you are feeling more English than French (Victoria sponge, anyone)?.

french strawberry cake

For the recipe, see Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan or read  Sophia’s, Sophia’s Sweets and Allison’s Sleep Love Think Dine.  Don’t forget to check out the rest of the TWD Blogroll!

Rhubarb Cinnamon Polenta Cake

May 12, 2012 at 3:13 pm | Posted in cakes & tortes, simple cakes, sweet things | 12 Comments
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rhubarb cinnamon polenta cake

May is a good time to be in New York City.  People are happy to be out and about.  It’s nice sleeping weather (our house doesn’t have A/C, so this is a big thing for me!).  And there’s finally more at the greenmarket than tired ol’ potatoes and apples.  About the same time I saw the first rhubarb here, my copy of Nigel Slater’s Tender, Volume 2 (called Ripe: A Cook in the Orchard in the US edition).  I knew he’d have some good rhubarby ideas for me…this guy has a London city garden that puts my weedy Brooklyn backyard to utter shame.  I’ll certainly never have a mini orchard like he does, but maybe one day I’ll have a couple of raised beds for a few homegrown herbs and things.  Until then, I’ll have to tote my seasonal fruit and veg home from the market.

Slater’s Rhubarb Cinnamon Polenta Cake would be just as good for breakfast as it is for dessert.  It’s made from more of a dough than a batter.  The cake is a little crunchy from the cornmeal and perfectly moist, but sturdy enough to support the layer of baked rhubarb that makes a pink stripe in the center.  I make a stove-top rhubarb compote a lot when it’s in season, but I kind of like the more hands-off baked method from this recipe, and I’d use it again even if it’s just for my morning granola.  The rhubarb more or less keeps its shape when handled this way and you get to pour off the gorgeously pink liquid it releases.  Even if I wasn’t going to serve it alongside the polenta cake, I wouldn’t think of pouring this down the drain.  Hello, homemade rhubarb sodas, cocktails, yogurt or ice cream drizzle…I could go on.

Rhubarb Cinnamon Polenta Cake- makes an 8-inch cake
adapted from Tender, Volume 2 by Nigel Slater

Note: Use a medium to coarse cornmeal/polenta for the best texture. The cake is fragile when warm, so it’s best to serve it cool, together with the reserved juices from the cooked rhubarb.

for the filling
500g rhubarb
50g sugar
4 tbsp water

for the cake
125g medium to coarse cornmeal/polenta
200g AP flour
1 tsp baking powder
a pinch of ground cinnamon
150g sugar
grated zest of a small orange
150g butter
1 large egg
2-4 tbsp milk
1 tbsp demerara sugar

-Lightly butter am 8-inch (20-centimeter) loose-bottomed cake tin, preferably spring-form. Set the oven at  350°F (180°C/gas mark 4). Put in a baking sheet to get hot.

-While your oven is heating, trim the rhubarb, cut each stem into three or four pieces and put them in a baking dish. Scatter over the sugar, toss, and let everything sit until the oven is hot.  Sprinkle over the water and bake for about 30 minutes until the rhubarb is soft but still retains its shape.  Remove the fruit from the dish and put them in a colander to drain. Reserve the juice to serve with the cake.

-Put the cornmeal/polenta, flour, baking powder, cinnamon and caster sugar in the bowl of a food processor. Add the grated zest and the butter, cut into smallish pieces, then blitz for a few seconds till you have something that resembles breadcrumbs. (You could also do this by hand, rubbing the butter into the polenta with your fingertips as if making pastry.) Break the egg into a small bowl and mix with the milk, then blend into the crumble mix, either with the food processor or by hand. Take care not to over-mix: stop as soon as the ingredients and liquid have come together to form a soft, slightly stickydough. If it isn’t sticky, add a little more liquid.

-Press about two-thirds of the mixture into the cake tin, pushing it a couple of centimetres up the sides with a floured spoon. Place the drained rhubarb on top, leaving a small rim around the edge uncovered. Crumble lumps of the remaining polenta mixture over the fruit with your fingertips, and don’t worry if the rhubarb isn’t all covered. Scatter over the demerara sugar. Bake on the hot baking sheet for 45-50 minutes, then cool a little before attempting to remove from the tin. Serve in slices with the reserved rhubarb juice.  You can wrap leftovers in plastic and refrigerate for a couple of days…just bring back to room temperature before serving.

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