Tags: baking, cake, fruit
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.
Tags: baking, cake, fruit
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)?.
Tags: baking, cake, fruit
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
4 tbsp water
for the cake
125g medium to coarse cornmeal/polenta
200g AP flour
1 tsp baking powder
a pinch of ground cinnamon
grated zest of a small orange
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.
Tags: baking, cake, dessert
Wow–I went all last week without a post. Blah. But now it’s time for cake with TWD and Norman Love’s Lemon Loaf. I bought a few Meyer lemons at TJ’s a couple of months ago, and although I was too lazy to use them then, I did manage to zest and juice them and stash that stuff in the freezer for another time….a time like this!
I didn’t have any issues with this recipe. I did do a half recipe (although I think that with the particular pan I used, I actually should have done two-thirds or three-quarters to get taller slices). It’s a pretty easy recipe and it’s made by hand. There were a couple of things I fiddled with here to ensure a moist and lemony cake. I rubbed the lemon zest into the sugar before mixing anything and I added (for a full recipe, the equivalent of) the juice of one lemon into the egg/sugar mixture. I also made a quickie soaking syrup by heating some extra juice and sugar together, and brushed it all over the loaf while it was still hot.
I liked this loaf cake. It had a nice sunny color and a good pound cake-style texture. I think cakes like this are really good with a little bit of fruit sauce or compote. Jam’s fine, too, when I don’t have any berries in the house. After I took this picture, you bet I totally smooshed the jam and cream over the the top and ate it as a open-faced cake sandwich (or maybe cake smørrebrød since I used lingonberry jam)!
For the recipe, see Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan or read Truc’s blog, Treats and Michelle’s, The Beauty of Life. It’s also on The Splendid Table’s site. Don’t forget to check out the rest of the TWD Blogroll!
Tags: baking, cake, chocolate, dessert, holiday
Apparently I think Saint Patrick’s Day is a good excuse to drench chocolate cake in booze. OK, I would gladly do that any day of the year (as is evidenced by this and that), but last year I marked St. Paddy’s day with whiskey-soaked chocolate and now I’ve moved to stout. Chocolate stout cakes are nothing new, but I am loving the ease of this one. So easy, you can whisk this together while sipping the remainder of your can of Guinness or Murphy’s and be confident you won’t muck it up.
You may notice that this cake is vegan. I’m not, but I can appreciate that the lack of eggs and dairy let the chocolate flavor of this cake shine. The stout and espresso boost that taste and temper the sweetness. There’s so much liquid in this cake that it stays moist and fudgy…improves with time even. Three days later and I think it’s better than the first. I’ll raise a pint to that!
Fudgy Chocolate Stout Cake- makes an 8″ cake
from mrslarkin’s recipe on food52
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
7 tablespoons natural cocoa powder (not dutched)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup Guinness or other stout
1/2 cup espresso or strong coffee
1/4 cup water
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon apple cider or white vinegar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
-Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Set oven rack to middle. Grease an 8” round cake pan with cooking spray, then line with parchment and lightly spray the parchment.
-Whisk flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl.
-In a measuring cup, mix together stout, coffee, water, vanilla and vinegar. Stir into the flour mixture a few turns, then add your oil and combine until you have a smooth batter (you can use a whisk for this, just be gentle).
-Pour into prepared pan. Place in oven and bake for 30-35 minutes. Check with cake tester, which should come out very slightly moist. Remove from oven and let cool on rack.
-Turn out onto cake plate. Peel off the parchment. Dust cake with powdered sugar, or cover with frosting.
*Alternatively, this recipe makes 1 dozen cupcakes. Bake for 18 – 23 minutes. Cool cupcakes. Frost with your favorite frosting or dip tops into a simple icing made of confectioner’s sugar, cocoa powder and coffee. Decorate top with a fresh coffee bean while icing is still tacky.
Tags: baking, bundt, cake, chocolate, dessert
I had wanted this post to be a recipe for a citrus loaf cake, but something went amiss in the preparation…namely, my brain when I tried to do some “cake math” to downsize the recipe. I was a math major in college, too. Seriously, Wellesley should revoke my degree for not being able to handle basic fractions. Anyway, that greasy disaster used up all my blood oranges and a copious amount of olive oil, so that was that for that– time to get over it and move on with chocolate!
I’ve made this Double Chocolate Bundt Cake from Food & Wine twice, and R and I like it a lot. It’s a homey, old-fashioned, easy peasy, hand-whisked thing. It’s kind of cake I imagine making for my imaginary children. Also, I have a particular fondess for chocolate cakes made with oil (I use grapeseed). They have a dense/moist crumb that I’m really into and they keep for days. The first time I baked this cake, used Dutch-processed cocoa, but the second time I decided to give natural a go, seeing as how baking soda is used as the leavener. While I didn’t notice any difference in rise between the two, I think the one made with natural cocoa tasted better…a little more chocolatey, maybe, although that could just be a difference between the two particular brands.
The ganache glaze and sprinkles may be mandatory for me, but if you can do without, a simple sift of powdered sugar on top of the cake would look really great. Don’t forget a little scoop of vanilla ice cream.
There’s a little Bundt cake trick I’ve learned at the shop where I work. Sometimes even a well-greased and floured a Bundt can have trouble releasing from the pan and can get a bit torn up. Right after you take the Bundt out of the oven, using potholders, give the bottom of the pan a good, swift rap on your counter (only if it’s heatsafe, though!). This helps the cake to settle a bit and come away from the sides of the pan, especially around the tube area, where it can sometimes get caught. I would not do this with most types of layer or loaf cakes, but a sturdy Bundt can take it– as long as it’s baked all the way, of course.
Double-Chocolate Bundt Cake with Ganache Glaze- makes 10-12 servings
adapted from Food & Wine (November 2006)
Steph’s Notes: I made half a recipe in my 6-cup Bundt pan, but still used the full egg (I just chose the smallest egg in my carton). Also, my smaller cake baked in about 35-40 minutes.
vegetable oil spray or softened butter for the Bundt pan
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
3/4 cup canola or grapeseed oil
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 tablespoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup strong-brewed coffee
1 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/2 tablespoon corn syrup or golden syrup
1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter
-Preheat the oven to 350°F. Thouroughly grease a a 12-cup Bundt pan with vegetable oil spray or softened butter. (I did not, but if you’d like added insurance, you can flour the pan as well.)
-In a small saucepan, melt 2 ounces of the chopped chocolate over low heat, stirring constantly. Scrape the chocolate into a medium bowl and let cool slightly. Whisk in the oil and sugar until smooth, then whisk in the egg.
-In a small bowl, whisk the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. Add half of the dry ingredients to the chocolate mixture along with 1/2 cup of the coffee and 1/2 cup of the buttermilk; whisk until smooth. Add the remaining dry ingredients, coffee and buttermilk and whisk until smooth.
-Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake in the lower third of the oven for about 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out with a few moist crumbs attached. 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 on a rack for 10-15 minutes, then turn it out and let cool completely.
-In a small saucepan, bring the cream to a boil. In a heatproof bowl, combine the remaining 3 ounces of chopped chocolate with the corn syrup (or golden syrup) and butter. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and let stand until melted, about 5 minutes. Whisk until smooth. Let the ganache glaze cool until thick but still pourable, about 5 minutes.
-Pour the ganache over the cooled cake. Let the cake stand until the glaze is set, at least 30 minutes, before serving.
Tags: cake, dessert
Yowzer– it’s been ages since I’ve had an FFWD post. I happened to notice this week’s recipe, Quatre-Quarts, and it looked like good a point to jump back in. I guess quatre-quarts is most often compared to pound cake. I’m sure every grand-mère has her own version of quatre-quarts, but I thought this one was much lighter and springier than an American pound cake typically is. In fact, it seemed quite like a sponge cake, thanks to the beaten egg whites that are folded into the batter. I only made half a recipe, thinking a full would be too buttery and heavy for us to eat for more than a couple of days. I was wrong–we could have easily polished of the whole thing. Also, I flavored it with a glug of good Cognac, which made it pretty easy to enjoy!
P.S.: If you don’t already have it, enter my BOOK GIVEAWAY for a chance to win a copy of Baking with Julia!
Tags: baking, cake, chocolate
This week, we are having a rare rewind week for TWD, a chance to make-up something we missed. There was a time when I was making (and eating) layer cakes left and right. Despite the last couple of weeks, they are kind of a rarity around here now (although I wish they weren’t). In fact, I really made this cake months ago..for Easter…in case the pastel Robin Eggs didn’t give that away. Chocolate cake with a chocolate-malt buttercream…I can see why this would be a good birthday cake. Maybe my husband will make it for me next year? Yeah, probably not….I’ll have to make it for his instead.
I made a half recipe of this cake and baked it in my six-inch pans. Any time I have a cake recipe, I pay close attention to it as it bakes. Sometimes it takes just as long as the full recipe, and sometimes it takes ten minutes less….you just never know. I happened to pull this cake out of the oven at the perfect sweet spot. The cake was so moist and velvety…I wish I remembered how long it was in there for! Hopefully I can repeat that success next time. This cake recipe is really just a scaled-up version of Dorie’s Chocolate-Chocolate Cupcakes. It’s the same thing, but for some reason I liked it much, much more as a layer cake. I think it baked nicer in “real” cake form, but maybe it was really the pairing with the chocolate-malt buttercream that I liked so much. There were some reported troubles with the frosting, but I thought it came out just right, and it was easy to work with. I like when I can get the frosting on a cake without too much mucking about.
For the recipe, see Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan or look at The Splendid Table’s website (not sure that we had an “official” TWD host/recipe poster that particular week, as it was a recipe for the group’s second anniversary). Don’t forget to check out the TWD Blogroll to see what everyone picked to catch up on this week!
Tags: baking, cake, holiday
I know that I’ll be making a pie for Thanksgiving dinner, so I’m getting the craving to stuff my face with cake out of the way ahead of time. I’ve actually been itching to make this Brown Butter Pumpkin Layer Cake ever since I saw it on the cover of Fine Cooking last year. And it was everything I’d hoped for in a spice cake, complete with cream cheese frosting and a crunchy topping.
If you are ambitious, you can make your own pumpkin purée by roasting a squash. If you are lazy, like I am, you can just open a can. The canned stuff works just fine, in my opinion, and you always know what you are going to get. Anyway, you have to go through the extra step of browning butter a couple of times, so why make things too hard on yourself? Actually, making browned butter is no big deal, and it’s totally worth it in terms of flavor. It makes an especially gorgeous addition to the cream cheese frosting, giving it that slightly nutty taste and beautiful taupe color. The browned butter baked into the cake gives the pumpkin and spices extra dimension, and because you use it as a liquid fat, you mix the cake by hand. I love that! I thought about skipping the pecan and pepita topping, but I’m glad I didn’t. It’s crunchy and kind of Cracker Jackey caramelized. I can’t wait to make this again next fall (or possibly sooner…)
P.S.: Don’t forget to enter my BOOK GIVEAWAY, if you haven’t done so already….
Brown Butter Pumpkin Layer Cake– makes 8-12 servings
adapted from Fine Cooking, Issue 107
Steph’s Notes: You can substitute 1-1/2 cups canned pumpkin purée for homemade, if you like. If you do choose to make the purée, you can do so up to 2 days ahead. The frosting amount is a bit on the skimpy side. I made it work, but there wasn’t a lot of extra play around with. If you’d like more leeway, I’d suggest a 1.5x recipe.
for the purée (if not using 1-1/2 cups canned):
2 tsp. vegetable oil
1 medium-large Sugar Pie pumpkin, cut in half from stem to bottom and seeded
for the cake:
6 oz. (3/4 cup) unsalted butter; more for the pans
9 oz. (2 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour; more for the pans
1-1/2 tsp. baking soda
1-1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
3/4 tsp. table salt
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
2/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/3 cup buttermilk
for the topping:
1-1/2 Tbs. unsalted butter
2/3 cup pecans
1/2 cup unsalted, raw, hulled pepitas
2 Tbs. firmly packed light brown sugar
1/4 tsp. table salt
for the frosting:
4 oz. (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
pinch of salt
5 oz. (1-1/4 cups) confectioners’ sugar
-Make the pumpkin purée (if not using 1-1/2 cups canned): Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Brush a 9×13-inch baking dish with the oil. Put the pumpkin halves in the dish cut side down and bake until tender when pierced with a fork, about 45 minutes. Let cool. Peel the pumpkin and purée the flesh in a food processor until smooth. You’ll need 1-1/2 cups of the purée for the cake. Refrigerate or freeze any remaining purée for another use.
-Make the cake: Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Butter and flour two 9-inch round cake pans with removable bottoms (or butter two 9-inch round cake pans, line the bottoms with parchment, butter the parchment, and flour the pans). Melt the butter in a heavy-duty 1-quart saucepan over medium heat. Cook, swirling the pan occasionally until the butter turns a nutty golden-brown, about 4 minutes. Pour into a small bowl and let stand until cool but not set, about 15 minutes.In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, salt, and cloves. In a large bowl, whisk 1-1/2 cups of the pumpkin purée with the granulated sugar, brown sugar, eggs, and buttermilk until very well blended. With a rubber spatula, stir in the flour mixture until just combined. Gently whisk in the brown butter until completely incorporated. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans. Bake the cakes until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about 28 minutes. Let the cakes cool in the pans for 10 minutes. Turn the cakes out onto racks, remove the pan bottoms or parchment, and cool completely.
-Make the topping (while the cake bakes): Melt the butter in a heavy-duty 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the pecans and pepitas and cook until the pecans brown slightly and the pepitas begin to pop, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle in the brown sugar and salt and stir until the sugar melts and the nuts are glazed, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and let the mixture cool in the skillet.
-Make the frosting: Melt the butter in a heavy-duty 1-quart saucepan over medium heat. Cook, swirling the pan occasionally until the butter turns a nutty golden-brown, about 4 minutes. Pour into a small bowl and let stand until the solids settle at the bottom of the bowl, about 5 minutes. Carefully transfer the bowl to the freezer and chill until just firm, about 18 minutes. Using a spoon, carefully scrape the butter from bowl, leaving the browned solids at the bottom; discard the solids. With an electric mixer, beat the butter, cream cheese, brown sugar and pinch of salt on medium-high speed until light in color and the brown sugar has dissolved, 2 minutes. Gradually beat in the confectioners’ sugar and continue beating until fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes.
-Assemble the cake: Put one cake layer on a cake plate. Spread 1/2 cup of the frosting on the layer and top with the second layer. Frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining frosting. Arrange the topping on top of the cake and serve. The assembled, frosted cake can be covered with a cake dome and refrigerated for up to 2 days. Serve at room temperature.
Tags: baking, cake, chocolate, dessert
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- 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
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.