Tuesdays with Dorie: Apple-Coconut Family Cake

December 14, 2010 at 9:37 am | Posted in cakes & tortes, groups, simple cakes, sweet things, tuesdays with dorie | 16 Comments

apple-coconut family cake

R and I just got ourselves a new desktop computer.  After working off laptops for the past six or seven years, my fingers feel very clumsy on a full-size keyboard and I’m not used to a mouse at all.  (Can you tell I also haven’t had a desk job in a really long time?)  I have to be sure to hit the spell-check button, or this post will be riddled with typos.  I’m excited to see all the beautiful Apple-Coconut Family Cakes on a big screen, though! 

There’s something about the term “family cake” that sounds really appealing…cute and cozy.  And there’s something about the apple-coconut combination that sounds unusual…how often do you see those two paired up?  Even though there is quite a lot of coconut  in this cake (I used unsweetened desiccated coconut from the health food store, which is more finely grated than the sweetened sheds), I didn’t find its flavor to be that pronounced…I actually thought it tasted more of the rum than coconut.  Instead, I noticed most what it gave to the cake’s texture– sturdiness and bit of chew.  A heap of diced apples kept it moist and the unsweetened coconut kept it from being too saccharine.  This is one I’ll make again.

We are just a family of two, so I only made half a recipe.  Despite its small size, my cake took longer to bake than the 45 minutes Dorie recommended for the full version.  At the 45 minute mark, the edge was nicely browned, but the middle was still wet, so I put foil over the pan and popped it back in the oven for an extra 5+ minutes.  That helped steam up the middle a bit and cooked it through.

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

French Fridays with Dorie: Caramel-Topped Semolina Cake

November 26, 2010 at 10:27 pm | Posted in cakes & tortes, simple cakes, sweet things | 13 Comments

caramel-topped semolina cake

Oops– Friday almost passed me by.  Too much leftover Thanksgiving turkey putting me to sleep, I guess.  But I did make this Caramel-Topped Semolina Cake last week, so gosh darn-it, I’m making sure I get this up, stat!

What intrigued me about this cake is it can be made with Cream of Wheat.  I always have a box of that stuff in the cupboard.  I just love it.  It makes me think of snow days when I was a kid.  Waking up and finding out that school was cancelled because of snow was the best feeling ever.  Going back to bed for another couple hours and later having a piping hot bowl of Cream of Wheat while watching “Classic Concentration,” “Scrabble” or “The Price is Right” on TV, then bundling up and going outside to horse around in the snow with my brother and our neighborhood BFFs, Shannon and Andrew…that, to me, equaled childhood bliss.

This cake turns Cream of Wheat (or semolina) into something almost flan-like.  Caramel on the bottom of the cake pan becomes sauce when the baked semolina custard-cake is turned out.  I think the result is supposed to be a bit more saucy than mine (all the caramel was absorbed into the cake), so next time I’ll double the caramel in the recipe.  Very tasty, though.  I’ll make this again and serve it with one thing I never ate my kiddie CoW with– rum whipped cream!

For the recipe, see Around my French Table by Dorie Greenspan (it’s also here on Martha Stewart’s site).  Don’t forget to check out my fellow francophiles’ posts (not all of us are doing semolina cake this week)!

TWD Rewind: Cranberry Upside-Downer

November 23, 2010 at 12:01 am | Posted in cakes & tortes, groups, simple cakes, sweet things, tuesdays with dorie | 12 Comments

cranberry upside-downer

This week the TWD crowd will be going in about 200 different directions (and I’m not just talking about holiday travel plans)– we’re having a “rewind” day to make up a missed recipe or remake a favorite.  I’ve been in the group for a long time, and I think I can count on one hand the number of recipes I’ve skipped.  At some point, I’d like to tick at least a few of those of the list, but not this week…this week, I’m revisiting a recipe I’ve been itching to try again.

Back in September I made a Summery Peach Upside-Downer, and I’m been thinking about trying the original Cranberry Upside-Downer version ever since.  Now’s the time, especially since I’m on a cranberry roll this month!  The cake was just as soft and cinnamony as I remembered from the first time.  I think I actually prefer this version, though, because the tart cranberries are a perfect balance for the sticky sweetness of the butter-sugar topping.  If my husband weren’t insisting on pie for Thanksgiving, I would certainly not hesitate to put this on the table on Thursday night!

For the recipe, see Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan, or read Superfluous, as it was Sabrina’s choice a couple months ago.  Don’t forget to check out the TWD Blogroll to see what everyone chose to make this week!  Happy US Thanksgiving!!

Bolzano Apple Cake

November 18, 2010 at 4:22 pm | Posted in cakes & tortes, simple cakes, sweet things | 23 Comments

bolzano apple cake

When my husband comes home from work, he likes to plop down on the couch and settle in with some ESPN or some business news.  Yawn.  I like to plop down beside him and settle in with a cookbook.  For the past couple of weeks, my book of choice has been Amanda Hesser’s The Essential New York Times Cookbook.  I have to tell you that you won’t find many pictures in the book, but that’s fine with me because it makes way for heaps more recipes!  The book spans the archives of newspaper, and the recipes in each section are arranged by date (one day I’ll be adventurous enough to make you a cake from 1876, but for today’s one is from 2004).  It also has a beautiful red cloth cover, and would make a pretty sweet holiday present for anyone who loves to cook.

When I came across the Bolzano Apple Cake recipe in the book, I knew instantly that I wanted to give it a shot.  (Just because October has come and gone, does that mean I should move past apple desserts?  I hope not, because I still have half a crisper drawer full of them from my orchard excursion a month ago.)  What really attracted me to this cake, was that it sounded so similar to Marie-Hélène’s Apple Cake (which I was crazy about) from a few weeks back.

The cakes are not quite identical twins– maybe fraternal?  Marie-Hélène’s has a healthy dose of rum in it, while the Bolzano is all about real vanilla bean.  And while Marie-Hélène’s certainly has a custardy texture, this one does, too, but even more so.  In the Bolzano cake, the apples are thinly sliced, instead of cut into chunks.  The cake bakes up into a stack of soft apples with batter barely seeping in between the layers.  I’m glad that I don’t have to choose between the two cakes, but can quickly and easily make either one!

Bolzano Apple Cake- makes 6 to 8 servings
adapted from  The Essential New York Times Cookbook by Amanda Hesser

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for greasing pan
2 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped and reserved
1 1/4 pounds (3 to 4 small to medium) Granny Smith apples
1/2 cup AP flour, plus mor for dusting the pan
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup milk, at room temperature
Powdered sugar for dusting

-Heat oven to 375°F (190°C). Line the base of an 8-inch springform pan with parchment, then smear with thick layer of butter. Dust with flour; turn pan over and tap lightly to remove excess flour.  Melt butter in small saucepan (you can take it a step further and lightly brown it, if you like). Set aside.

-Beat together eggs and half the sugar in a bowl (it’s not hard to do by hand). Continue to beat while slowly adding remaining sugar until thick; it should form a ribbon when dropped from a spoon.  Add the vanilla seeds to the batter and add the pod to the melted butter.

-Peel, quarter and core apples, then trim ends and slice thinly.

-Remove vanilla pod from butter and stir butter into egg-sugar batter. Combine the flour and baking powder, then stir it into batter alternately with milk. Stir in apples, coating every piece with batter. Pour batter into pan, using fingers to pat top evenly.

-Bake for 25 minutes, then rotate pan; bake for about 25 minutes more, until cake pulls away from pan and is brown on top; a thin-bladed knife inserted into center will come out clean when it is done. Cool 30 minutes on a rack.

-Remove the sides of the springform, cut the cake into wedges and sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Please note that the publisher, W.W. Norton, sent me a copy of this book…but I would have bought it anyway!

Tuesdays with Dorie: Not-Just-For-Thanksgiving Cranberry Shortbread Cake

November 9, 2010 at 1:01 am | Posted in cakes & tortes, groups, simple cakes, sweet things, tuesdays with dorie | 31 Comments

not-just-for-thanksgiving cranberry shortbread cake

I am apparently the world’s worst interior decorator.  Bought a few rugs for the new house, and totally don’t like them with the furniture.  Got a new mattress for the guest bed, and didn’t realize I should have gone with a low-profile boxspring…looks ridiculous…like a princess and the pea bed.

At least I can usually make a cake look nice, although it’s not hard to do when the cake has a layer of gorgeous ruby-red cranberry jam running through it.  This Not-Just-For-Thanksgiving Cranberry Shortbread Cake that Jessica of Singleton in the Kitchen chose for TWD seemed more puffy cookie than fluffy cake to me, but I was more than happy to gobble it up.  It’s very good, and it’s not just for Thanksgiving at all.  I really like a nice, tart cranberry sauce, but it could just as easily be filled with fruit jam.  In fact, I’m tempted to try it with the lingonberry jam I buy from IKEA, and also to see if a half-recipe with fit in a loaf pan, because I think it would make for nice bars.

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

I have a dentist appointment today…time to see if the past six months of sweets have caught up with me!  Eek!

French Fridays with Dorie: Marie-Hélène’s Apple Cake

October 29, 2010 at 12:01 am | Posted in cakes & tortes, french fridays with dorie, groups, simple cakes, sweet things | 27 Comments

marie-hélène's apple cake

I mentioned last time we met, that R and I went apple picking in Warwick, NY.  Sometimes it’s really nice to escape the city and go to a place that looks like this.  It’s also nice to have a bin full of apples at home!  The first thing I did with them was to make Marie-Hélène’s Apple Cake.

This cake is easy to make because it’s easy to mix.   No creaming required, as it uses melted butter.  I actually used browned butter in my cake, which wasn’t entirely intentional (I put it on to melt before I’d had my morning coffee), but as soon as I tasted the cake, I knew it wasn’t a mistake either.  Rum and vanilla flavor the apples, and while you could use cinnamon instead if you wanted, I really think that apples and vanilla are a fabulous combination.  I went a tad skimpy on the sugar measurement, because although I was using a mix of apple varieties (like Dorie and her friend Marie-Hélène recommend), they were all on the sweet side.  There’s really only just enough batter here to hold together all the chunks of apple, and the result is an almost puddingy-soft texture inside.  Definitely one I will make again.

For the recipe, see Around my French Table by Dorie Greenspan (it’s also here on Epicurious).  Don’t forget to check out my fellow francophiles’ posts!

Want more apple cake?  How about Double Apple Bundt Cake, Fresh Apple Cake with Brown Sugar Glaze, Applesauce Spice Bars or Applesauce Snack Cake?

“Anyway You Like It” Pumpkin Bread

October 14, 2010 at 3:04 pm | Posted in breakfast things, muffins & quick breads, simple cakes, sweet things | 6 Comments

"anyway you like it" pumpkin bread

Before I’m able to face the slew of holidays that are fast-approaching, I need to clear my cupboard of the ghosts of holidays past.  Here, I’m talking about a freakin’ can of pumpkin pie “mix” I bought at some point last year, thinking it was straight-up pumpkin.  I always think I must be losing it when I do stuff like that, but gosh, don’t those cans look so similar?  That slip-up is far more understandable than the times I’ve returned from the grocery store and put my purse in the fridge!

I had to get rid of that can, because it’s been taunting me for almost a year now.  I didn’t know what to do with pumpkin pie mix, though, because I have no idea how much sugar is really in there, so I turned to the expert source, none other than the Libby’s website, for a little help.

What I came away with was a great pumpkin bread recipe that promises it can be made “anyway you like it.”  Hmmm…I like it with chocolate chips (I am always surprised by how good the pumpkin-chocolate combination is) and spinkled with a little spice sugar, so I don’t mind if I do.  This bread may not have quite the texture you’d normally expect for pumpkin bread, but that’s because it really has very little added fat.  It’s still quite moist, and kept just fine for three days, so I’d gladly trade the reduced oil for reduced guilt (and chocolate chips!).

“Anyway You Like It” Pumpkin Bread- makes one 8 x 4-inch loaf
adapted from Very Best Baking

Steph’s Note: The recipe below is half the size of the one on the website, which makes two loaves and uses a big 30 oz can of pie mix.  If you’re more in the mood for mini-loaves or muffins, those variations are at the end. 

1 3/4 c + 2 T all-purpose flour
1/2 c granulated sugar
1 t pumpkin pie spice
1 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/4 t salt
1/2 c stir-ins (raisins, sweetened dried cranberries, chopped dates, nuts or chocolate chips)
1 15 oz can of pumpkin pie mix (the stuff with some sugar and spices added)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup orange juice, apple juice, skim milk or water
1 large egg
1 to 1 1/2 T sprinkle-ons (chopped nuts, cinnamon sugar, seeds such as: poppy, sesame or sunflower, optional)

-Preheat oven to 350° F.  Grease an 8 x 4-inch loaf pan.

-Combine flour, sugar, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl.  Combine pumpkin pie mix, oil, orange juice and eggs in another large bowl. Pour pumpkin mixture into flour mixture; stir just until moistened.  Fold in stir-ins. Spoon batter into prepared pan.  Sprinkle with your choice of sprinkle-ons.

-Bake for 50 to 55 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool in pan for 10 minutes; remove to wire rack to cool completely.

for four 5 1/2 x 3 1/4-inch mini-loaf pans:
-Prepare as above. Bake for 38 to 42 minutes.

for one dozen muffin cups:
-Preheat oven to 400° F. Prepare as above. Bake for 16 to 18 minutes.

Tuesdays with Dorie: Double Apple Bundt Cake

October 5, 2010 at 12:27 am | Posted in bundt cakes, cakes & tortes, groups, simple cakes, sweet things, tuesdays with dorie | 26 Comments

double apple bundt cake

Lynne of Honey Muffin keeps the autumn recipes coming with her Double Apple Bundt pick for TWD.  This is kind of a spicy sister to the Fresh Apple Cake I made a couple of weeks ago…that one was flavored with vanilla, but this one has all the classic fall spices goin’ on.

This cake is “double apple” because in addition to fresh apple, it calls for a heaping helping of apple butter.  Since I didn’t have nearly enough on hand,  I used unsweetened apple sauce instead.  I was a little worried, since they’re not really the same consistency, but as it turned out, all was fine.  I also swapped out about a quarter of the AP for whole wheat flour, which these days I find myself doing probably more often than I remember to tell you about.

All in all, a delicious fall cake…and it’s a good keeper, too, as it’s super-moist.  For the recipe, see Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan, or read Honey Muffin.  Don’t forget to check out the TWD Blogroll!

The Cake Slice: Fresh Apple Cake with Brown Sugar Glaze

September 20, 2010 at 12:21 am | Posted in cakes & tortes, groups, simple cakes, sweet things, the cake slice | 19 Comments

fresh apple cake with brown sugar glaze

OK, I am the first to say that my Fresh Apple Cake cake looks an awful lot like a meatloaf, but it is in fact the perfect sweet way to welcome fall and apple season!  I scaled back the recipe to make a standard loaf cake, but to tell the truth, we could have easily polished off a full-sizer.  It’s moist texture reminded me of  banana bread (and I even swapped a third of the oil for unsweetened applesauce), but the taste here is all about apples, walnuts and vanilla.  Yes– vanilla, a welcome change from the usual cinnamon!  A brown sugar glaze makes an addictively sticky topping.

This is the last cake the group is baking from Southern Cakes.  Not all of the cakes I’ve made from this book have been so successful, so I’m glad to go out on a high note with this one.  Speaking of going out on a high note, this is also the last cake I’ll be baking with The Cake Slice group.  I’ll certainly still be following the other blogs as they move on to the next book, but I think I need to ease off the baking commitments for a bit.  Thanks so much, Katie, for all the hard work in keeping this group going– I’ve had such a great time!

Here’s a printable link to the recipe.  Or get your hands on a copy of Southern Cakes by Nancie McDermott.  Cruise through the list of The Cake Slice Bakers to check out all of our apple cakes this month!

Tuesdays with Dorie: Summery Peach Upside-Downer

September 14, 2010 at 12:06 am | Posted in cakes & tortes, groups, simple cakes, sweet things, tuesdays with dorie | 30 Comments

summery peach upside-downer

Sabrina of Superfluous chose Cranberry Upside-Downer For TWD this week.  This cranberry cake sounds sooo good, but it will have to wait for cooler weather (and cranberry season).  In the meantime, I made Dorie’s summertime version with peaches and raspberries for Labor Day weekend.  I don’t know about you, but I think it looks like sunshine! 

The topping isn’t caramelized like it is in a pineapple upside-down cake, but it infuses the fruit with buttery sweetness, all the same.  And the cake is soft and full of cinnamon.  I made a half recipe, and it was all R & I could do not to eat it all in one go!  The cranberry version is definitely making my fall baking list.

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

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