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.
Tags: baking, cake, dessert
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.
Tags: baking, breakfast, 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.
Tags: baking, breakfast, 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.
Tags: baking, cake, dessert, fruit
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.
Tags: baking, cake
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.
Tags: baking, breakfast, 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.
Tags: baking, 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.
Tags: baking, 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.
Tags: baking, cake, chocolate
I know that it’s technically spring, but the weather here seems to have missed the memo. I was hoping that the light snow called for in this morning’s forecast was just an April fool’s joke, but, alas, it was for real. Rhubarb and ramps have gotta be just around the corner, though, so I’m going to take these (hopefully) final chilly days to squeeze in some of the heavier desserts I won’t be in the mood for soon. Things like this dense, rich Chocolate-Cherry Torte.
I think this was my husband’s dream cake….chocolate, almonds and cherries…all his favorite things together in one. I loved the fudgy texture of the cake itself, and, of course, the chocolate ganache glaze. The thin layer of marzipan in between the cake and glaze was a nice flavor touch. This isn’t a difficult cake (in fact, you can make the batter in the food processor), but there are a few steps from start to finish. A fun project for a chilly day spent inside!
Lora Brody’s Chocolate Cherry Torte- makes 8 to 12 servings
adapted from The Essential New York Times Cookbook by Amanda Hesser
Steph’s Note: You can use semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, depending on how sweet you’d like the cake to be. I found jarred Morello cherries at Trader Joe’s. I used marzipan in lieu of almond paste here.
for the cake:
3 T finely ground fresh bread crumbs
one 24 oz jar pitted Morello or sour cherries
6 oz dark chocolate
12 T softened unsalted butter, plus some for greasing pan
2/3 c granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 t vanilla extract
1/2 t almond extract
1/2 c ground almonds
2/3 c flour
2 T confectioner’s sugar
8 oz almond paste (or marzipan)
for the glaze:
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tsp. instant espresso powder
8 oz. dark chocolate
-Preheat oven to 350°F; put rack in center of oven. Butter a 9″ or 10″ springform pan. Add the breadcrumbs and shake pan to coat bottom and sides. Shake out the excess. Drain cherries well and set aside.
-Melt chocolate in double boiler over barely simmering water, stirring occasionally.
-Put the butter and sugar into a mixer or food processor and blend until light and creamy. Add one egg and mix well. Then add second egg and mix well. Add the extracts. Add the melted chocolate and mix gently or process in a few quick pulses. Mix in the almonds and the flour, and finally, the remaining egg.
-Pour and scrape the batter into prepared pan. Smooth top with a spatula. Arrange cherries in close concentric circles on top (the entire surface should be covered) and press them gently into batter so just the tops are showing. If the surface is uneven, smooth it out with a wet spatula. There may be a few cherries leftover.
-Bake for 50 minutes to one hour. Don’t overbake. The cake may look dry on top, but will be moist inside. Remove from pan and cool completely on rack.
-Put a length of waxed paper on flat surface and sprinkle with confectioner’s’ sugar. Work the almond paste into a flat round and turn it in the sugar. Cover with the second sheet of waxed paper and roll out into a circle the diameter of the cake. It should be quite thin (about 1/16th”). Take off top layer of waxed paper.
-Using the cake pan as a guide, cut out a circle that will fit the top of the cake exactly. Save extra pieces to patch any torn part or use for decorations. Cover the cake with the almond-paste round.
-To make the glaze, bring cream and coffee to a slow boil in heavy sauce pan. Take it off the heat and add the chocolate; stir gently until the chocolate is melted with no lumps (you can strain it if lumpy). Let the glaze cool briefly, until spreadable. Thin it with 1-2 t hot water if it’s too thick.
-Place cake on a rack over a sheet of waxed paper to catch drippings. Pour a thin layer chocolate glaze over the cake spreading it with a spatula. It should cover the top and sides of cake. Chill the cake briefly and and a second coat. Decorate if you wish (you can make roses or cut-outs from any almond paste scraps).
-This cake will keep unrefrigerated in a cool place for 2 days. It can be refrigerated, but the glaze will lose shine.
Please note that the publisher, W.W. Norton, sent me a copy of this book…but I would have bought it anyway!