Upside-Down Pear Chocolate Cake

November 6, 2011 at 5:26 pm | Posted in cakes & tortes, simple cakes, sweet things | 9 Comments
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upside-down pear chocolate cake

When did weekends become all about errands and housekeeping?  This weekend, in addition to the usual vacuuming, laundry and trips to the market and bank, I did some grout touch-ups to the bathroom (how do I even know how to do that??), removed and cleaned up the couple of A/C units we still had dangling out the windows and did a rather ghetto weatherproofing job to the hatch that leads from our backyard into the basement (it involved a blue tarp and some bricks).  Carving out a little baking time on the weekends is a must.  For me, even though there are always dishes to wash afterward, it’s pure fun.

While I’ve never been one for most fruit and chocolate combos, I can do pears and chocolate together…Poire Belle Hélène is good stuff, afterall.  While I was flipping through the very sweet little book Rustic Fruit Desserts, this recipe for Upside-Down Pear Chocolate Cake caught my eye as a good and unusual way to use up the last of my CSA pears.  Making an upside-down cake is always exciting.  There’s the big revel– what’s going to happen when you turn it out of the pan??  Here’s what I got with this one: a perfectly moist and caramel-soaked chocolate cake with pears that turned a translucent, shimmering gold.  I must say though, that just from tasting the raw cake batter, I knew we were in for a treat.  I love the way the pears glisten in the light…this one might show up again for Christmas dinner.

upside-down pear chocolate cake

Upside-Down Pear Chocolate Cake- makes a 9-inch cake
adapted from Rustic Fruit Desserts by Cory Schreiber and Julie Richardson

Steph’s Note:  Regarding the caramel for the fruit topping– if you have another method of making caramel that you prefer (a dry caramel, for example), feel free to use it here, keeping the amount of sugar the same.  This one worked perfectly for me, but do what you are comfortable with.

for the fruit topping:
1 cup (7 ounces) granulated sugar
1/4 cup (4 oz) water
3 firm but ripe pears, peeled, cored, and each cut into  12 slices (1 pound prepped)

for the cake:
1/4 cup (2 ounces) unsalted butter, plus more for pan
4 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
1 cup (5 ounces) all-purpose flour
1/3 cup (1 ounce) unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa  powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
3/4 cup (5 1/4 ounces) granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup whole milk

-Preheat the oven to 350° F and butter a 9-inch round cake pan (preferably not a springform one).

-To make the fruit topping, put the sugar and water in a heavy saucepan (one with a tight-fitting lid) and stir until the sugar  dissolves. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, then cover and cook for  2 minutes. (Covering in this way allows the steam to wash down the sides of pan,  which will prevent any sugar crystals from forming.) Uncover the saucepan and  continue to boil the sugar, gently and slowly swirling the pan as needed to cook  the caramel evenly, until it becomes a dark amber color. Occasionally wash down  the sides of the pan with a pastry brush dipped in cold water, if necessary. Carefully pour  the caramel into the prepared pan and allow it to harden. The pan will be very  hot from the sugar, so take care in moving it if you need to. Fan the pear  slices on top of the caramel in a circle around the perimeter, filling in the  center with the remaining slices.

-To make the cake, place  the butter and chocolate in a small saucepan over low heat and melt, stirring  occasionally. Sift the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt together in a bowl.  Transfer the melted chocolate to a mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer and  add the sugar. Using a handheld mixer with beaters or a stand mixer with the  paddle attachment, beat on medium speed for about 3 minutes, until light and  fluffy. Add the eggs one at time, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each  addition. Stir in the vanilla. Stir in the flour mixture in three additions  alternating with the milk in two additions, beginning and ending with the flour  and scraping down the sides of the bowl occasionally.

-Tip the batter into the prepared pan and use a spatula to move it to the edges and cover the fruit. Bake in the middle of the oven for 40 to 45 minutes, or until  the cake bounces back slightly when touched. Cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes, then run a knife or small offset around the edge of the pan and invert the cake onto a plate, leaving the pan on top of the cake for 5 minutes before you remove it.  If any pear slices stick to the pan, just lift them out and place them on top of the cake.  Serve the cake warm or room temperature.

-Wrapped in plastic wrap, this cake will keep at room temperature for 2 to 3 days.

Tuesdays with Dorie: Far Breton

November 1, 2011 at 12:13 am | Posted in cakes & tortes, groups, puddings & custards, simple cakes, sweet things, tuesdays with dorie | 6 Comments
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far breton

It’s hard to believe, but TWD is coming close to the end of the book!  There are two recipes a week from now till the end of the year, but I think I’ll only be able to choose one because I can’t do much baking at home during the work week.  This week, I’m making the Far Breton, chosen by Nicole of Cookies on Friday (Jeannette of The Whimsical Cupcake chose Honey Nut Scones as the other recipe).  I’ve been intrigued by this one for a long time…just the name sounds so classy.  And there are Armagnac-soaked prunes–yum!  Falling somewhere between custard and cake, it’s made from a no-brainer batter that gets whizzed up in the blender, crêpe-style.  The finished dessert actually reminded me a lot of an unmolded clafoutis.  I like eggy desserts, so this was just the ticket.  I also like easy desserts that are totally dinner party worthy, and this one fits that bill, too.  Next time I’ll add a splash more booze.

For the recipe, see Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan or read Cookies on Friday.  And see The Whimsical Cupcake for the Honey Nut Scones. Don’t forget to check out the TWD Blogroll!

Tuesdays with Dorie: A Fig Cake For Fall

October 25, 2011 at 12:15 am | Posted in cakes & tortes, groups, simple cakes, sweet things, tuesdays with dorie | 14 Comments

a fig cake for fall

Fresh figs are a rare treat in my house…they are not so hard to find at the shops when they’re in season, but they don’t come home with me often.  I was excited to buy a pint to make this cake with TWD.  Beneath these flashy ruby port-poached figs is an appealingly rustic and sturdy cake, flavored with honey and cornmeal.  I brushed a little of the reduced port syrup on top of the figs after the cake had cooled.  Whipped cream on the side was a must.

For the recipe, see Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan or read Cookie Rookie.  Don’t forget to check out the TWD Blogroll!

Tuesdays with Dorie: Apple Nut Muffin Cake

October 4, 2011 at 12:09 am | Posted in breakfast things, cakes & tortes, groups, muffins & quick breads, simple cakes, sweet things, tuesdays with dorie | 10 Comments
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apple nut muffin cake

This Apple Nut Muffin Cake is quintessential fall baking…apples, cinnamon, brown sugar, walnuts and raisins…all things that make your house smell great.  Rolled oats (and swapping a little whole grain flour for AP) make this easy breakfast cake feel even more wholesome.  It is just like a muffin in terms of technique and texture, but, not that I would ever really call muffin-making fussy, you simply slap the batter into a cake pan and go….ready for coffee in about 35 minutes.

For the recipe, see Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan or read Baking and Boys!, as it was Katrina’s pick this week.  Don’t forget to check out the TWD Blogroll!

Tuesdays with Dorie: Flip-Over Plum Cake

September 27, 2011 at 12:01 am | Posted in breakfast things, cakes & tortes, groups, simple cakes, sweet things, tuesdays with dorie | 11 Comments
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flip-over plum cake

Plums are one of the last tastes of summer fruit.  Let’s not be too sad to see the summer go…instead, let’s celebrate with plum cake– Flip-Over Plum Cake.  This is the world’s easier batter to throw together…a quick whisk and that’s it.  It doesn’t even have any eggs.  That was kind of a curveball, actually– I had to, like, quadruple check the recipe to make sure I wasn’t missing something.  Scatter the plums over top and toss it in the oven.  The plums magically turn into a sweet-tart jam layer on the bottom, and the bizarrely egg-less batter turns into delicious cake!

Dorie has this in the breakfast section, and it’s so tasty, I’m sure it would be a fabulous way to start the day, but a little whipped cream turns it into a perfectly lovely dessert, which is how we ate it over here.  I’m betting it would also be great with peaches or nectarines, although I am partial to that intense plum-red color bleeding though.

For the recipe, see Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan or read Project Domestication, as it was Becky’s pick this week.  Don’t forget to check out the TWD Blogroll!

Apricot and Cinnamon Cake

August 19, 2011 at 4:13 pm | Posted in cakes & tortes, simple cakes, sweet things | 3 Comments
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apricot and cinnamon cake

No big story here…some apricots that needed using up led me to rifle through my cookbook collection for inspiration.  I found this Apricot and Cinnamon Cake in Bill Granger’s Every Day.  When we lived in Sydney, visiting one of the bill’s restaurants was always a special treat, and I think he is a master of simple cakes and baked goods (and he makes the best pancakes!).

This is a cinnamon-spiced cake with halves of juicy apricots baked in.  A crumb topping with more cinnamon gives it a perfect morning coffee cake vibe, but if you add a scoop of ice cream, it suddenly seems more like dessert.  I used small apricots, but I think peaches or nectarines would be equally delicious (if they are large, they may need to be cut into thick slices, rather than simply halved, though).  This cake smells wonderful in the oven.

Apricot and Cinnamon Cake– makes one 8″ cake
adapted from Every Day by Bill Granger

Steph’s Notes:  The cinnamon is front and center in this cake.  If you’d rather have it little more subtly spiced, I’d suggest leaving the cinnamon amount as-is in the cake portion and reducing it by half in the topping.  If you don’t have self-raising flour to make the cake, you can use 140 grams of all-purpose flour combined with 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder and 1/8 teaspoon of salt.

for the cake:
140 g (5 oz) self-raising flour
1/2 t ground cinnamon
50 g (1 3/4 oz) sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
4 T milk (or 3 T Australian)
1 t vanilla extract
85 g (3 oz) unsalted butter, melted
350 g (12 oz) apricot halves

for the topping:
40 g (1 1/2 oz) all-purpose flour
1 t ground cinnamon
35 g (1 1/4 oz) sugar
pinch of salt

35 g (1 1/4 oz) unsalted butter, chilled and diced

-Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C).

-To the topping, put the flour, cinnamon, sugar and pinch of salt in a bowl. Rub the butter with your fingertips until crumbs form. Chill while you assemble the rest of the cake.

-Grease and line the base of an 8″ (20 cm) round springform pan.  (You can use a regular 8″ cake pan, greased and lined with parchment, instead, but you will need to flip the cake out and reinvert it if you want to serve it out of the pan.)

-Sift flour and cinnamon into a large bowl and stir in the sugar.

-Make a well in the center and pour in the egg, milk, vanilla and melted butter. Mix with a wooden spoon until the batter is smooth, then spoon into the cake pan.

-Arrange the apricots, cut-side up, evenly over the batter and then press gently down. Scatter the topping evenly over the apricots.

-Bake for 35-40 minutes or until the cake is light golden and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.  Leave on a rack to cool before removing from the pan.

Tuesdays with Dorie: Date-Nut Loaf

June 21, 2011 at 12:01 am | Posted in breakfast things, cakes & tortes, groups, simple cakes, sweet things, tuesdays with dorie | 18 Comments
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date-nut loaf

I hate to admit it, but I didn’t think this Date-Nut Loaf seemed like much when it came out of the oven.  It was kind of pale, and when I sliced into it, I thought it looked a little dry.  Boy, I was wrong!  This was a great cake with a cup of coffee for breakfast.  It’s actually really soft and has a tender crumb.  My husband was pumped for this, because he loves dates.  They taste like soft brown sugar nuggets in the cake.

I made a half recipe in my little loaf pan, so I shortened the baking time to under an hour (and didn’t bother to foil tent it).  Because it sounded like a good candidate for a little whole grain flour swapping, I subbed about a quarter of the AP for whole wheat pastry flour.  I haven’t yet tried Dorie’s suggestion of toasting left over slices, but if there’s any remaining tomorrow morning, I might give it a shot.

For the recipe, see Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan or read Popsicles and Sandy Feet, as it was Mary’s pick this week.  Don’t forget to check out the TWD Blogroll!

Tuesdays with Dorie: Blueberry-Brown Sugar Plain Cake

June 7, 2011 at 5:06 pm | Posted in breakfast things, cakes & tortes, groups, simple cakes, sweet things, tuesdays with dorie | 15 Comments
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blueberry-brown sugar plain cake

A trip to up Boston for my Wellesley reunion this past weekend meant that I wasn’t able to make this Blueberry-Brown Sugar Plain Cake until this morning.  Glad I got around to it though, because it is just plain good.  It has a hint of cinnamon, a kiss of brown sugar and a big whomp of blueberries.  With almost as much fruit as batter, I think it should stay moist for a good long time…although I won’t find out, because we’ll be polishing it off for breakfast tomorrow!  (Hey–don’t judge–I only made half a recipe…we can’t eat that much cake in two days!)

For the recipe, see Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan (it’s also here on Culinate) or read Everyday Insanity, as it was Cindy’s pick this week.  Don’t forget to check out the TWD Blogroll!

P.S.: I forgot to mention that I swapped out some of the AP for spelt flour, one of my favorite flours to use in muffins and fruity cakes like this.  Also, I think this cake would be tasty with raspberries, and I may try that out later in the season.

Tuesdays with Dorie: Brown Sugar Bundt Cake

May 10, 2011 at 12:10 am | Posted in bundt cakes, cakes & tortes, groups, simple cakes, sweet things, tuesdays with dorie | 19 Comments
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brown sugar bundt cake

Well, I do think we have finally found ourselves at the end of the TWD Bundt cake chapter.  A bittersweet day, perhaps…if that may be said concerning something called a Brown Sugar Bundt.

The recipe for this brown sugar and buttermilk cake calls for chunks of apple or pear in the batter (and some prunes, too), but in the interests of being sort of seasonal, I was really hoping to make this with rhubarb.  That plan was foiled, though, after trips to two different farmers’ markets and one produce stand turned up zilch.  I returned home with a nice, ripe mango in my bag and just used that instead (and nixed those prunes).  Despite all the brown sugar in the ingredient list– I used half light, half dark–this cake was not a sugar-bomb at all.  The sweetness was understated enough that I think it would have been a fabulous breakfast cake, even though we had it for dessert.

For the recipe, see Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan or read Pantry Revisited, as it was Peggy’s pick this week.  Don’t forget to check out the TWD Blogroll!

Tuesdays with Dorie: Matcha Marbled Loaf Cake

May 3, 2011 at 12:01 am | Posted in cakes & tortes, groups, simple cakes, sweet things, tuesdays with dorie | 12 Comments
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matcha marbled loaf cake

Chocolate and vanilla may be the classic marble cake combo, but a flash of springtime color inspiration made me want something different from the usual swirls of black and white for my Basic Marbled Loaf.  After wondering what I might have at home that would give me a “natural” green swirl (besides frozen spinach, that is), I remembered my tiny tin of matcha tea powder.  I used it to tinge half of my batter green, and added almond extract to the other (plain) half.

I made a half recipe in my little loaf pan, so I was already on the lookout for a shorter baking time than the recipe suggests, but it sounds like even if you bake a full-sizer, you may want to check your cake several minutes early.  My marbling efforts looked more like blobs, but I don’t care too much since it tasted good.  I had a slice with some tea while watching the Royal Wedding.

For the recipe, see Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan or read The Bake More, as it was Carol’s pick this week.  Don’t forget to check out the TWD Blogroll!

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