Tags: baking, cake
I look forward to rhubarb in the spring just as much as I look forward to all the berries and stone fruit that will come our way in the summer. It is one of my favorite things to bake with, so a Rhubarb Upside-Down Brown Sugar Cake? Yes, please!
This is, my opinion, better (and prettier) than the last rhubarb upside-down cake I made here. The brown sugar in this BCM recipe is in the cake rather than in the fruit topping, which uses regular sugar that I guess you can caramelize to your desired shade of darkness. I left mine pretty light, so it more or less just glazed the fruit and kept it from getting too brown. My rhubarb stalks were more green than red, and I didn’t want to make my cake topping look too murky…I didn’t bother to string the stalks during prep either so I could keep whatever bits of red they did have.
The brown sugar cake is really soft and not to sweet. The whole thing together hits the perfect sweet-tart balance…sometimes rhubarb desserts can be too sweet, and I like to be reminded of its snappiness! Before making the rhubarb topping for the cake, Dorie has you macerate the cut pieces in some sugar for a bit. This draws out some liquid from the rhubarb, which I suppose keeps the topping from being too wet when the cake bakes up. Dorie says you can save that sugary rhubarb juice for homemade sodas, but I reduced it until it thickened a bit and then used it as my glaze (rather than jelly) to give the topping extra shine.
Upside-down cake makes a great dessert with vanilla ice cream, and also a fabulous morning coffee cake with yogurt and some berries. For the recipe, see Baking Chez Moi by Dorie Greenspan. Don’t forget to check out the rest of the TWD Blogroll!
Tags: baking, cake, dessert
Markus Farbinger’s take on Cardinal Slice is the first I’d heard of this cake. Where have I been? On the wrong side of the Atlantic, I guess. It’s called kardinalschnitte in Austria, where it’s a classic (and apparently ubiquitous— ha!) Viennese pastry. Well, I didn’t need first-hand experience to know that I’d like to sink a fork into a cake made of ladyfingers and meringues sandwiched with coffee whipped cream. If I could successfully pull it off, that is.
When was poking around the interwebs for info on the Cardinal Slice, I came across Joe Pastry’s detailed posts on the subject. Seems that in order to recreate a classic version, he started off with the BWJ one and then scrapped it for another because he couldn’t make it work. Oh no– not promising! The cake layers are alternating strips of meringue and ladyfinger batters baked side-by-side…two things that require very different baking times and temperatures. The BWJ recipe bakes for a long time at a low temp, which cooks the meringue, but makes getting a puffed up ladyfinger tricky (I can only assume that Chef Markus has made this so many times in life that he just has the touch). I didn’t want to abandon the BWJ recipe entirely here, so I decided to follow the BWJ ingredients and mixing techniques with the baking temperatures Joe Pastry recommends (essentially to start out in a hotter oven and then reduce the temperature halfway through). I don’t think that my cake layers came out as poofy as either Markus’s or Joe’s, but my mixed up method seemed to work out OK.
The whipped cream filling is flavored with an intense syrup made from caramelized sugar and espresso called a couleur. This syrup reminds me a lot of a French coffee extract called Trablit that we use to flavor buttercream at the restaurant. It tastes so much better than instant espresso, but it’s pretty pricey and not so readily available for home use…I’m pleased to know I can make a very similar thing for the price of two shots of espresso from the coffee shop down the block. I have plenty extra for my future coffee buttercream or whipped cream needs…or perhaps my coffee milk or milk shake needs…
The Cardinal Slice has a bit of a tiramsu thing going on with the flavors, but since the filling’s all cream with no yolks or mascarpone, it feels a lot lighter. Like any other type of icebox cake, the cake layers soften further as the cream absorbs into them, and this needs about an hour’s rest before cutting into it. I’d say the recipe instructions to eat the cake within four hours of assembly are probably ideal, although we did have a hunk left over that we ate the next day. It was very smooshy at that point, but still tasty.
Tags: baking, cupcakes
These adorable little two-bite Nutella Buttons (i.e., mini cupcakes) have a surprise hiding inside. If you guessed a pocket of Nutella, you win! And if you aren’t a fan of Nutella, or if you just feel like getting creative, it’s pretty easy to come up with other ideas for the hidden surprise. Jam, peanut butter, ganche, flavored ganache, cookie butter….they’d all be good things to find in the middle of this yellow cake batter. I did a mix– some filled were with Nutella and others were filled with concord grape jam that I made back in the fall.
I made half a recipe of the cake batter and just did it, whipped egg whites and all, by hand. I used the optional almond extract, so the little cakes had a kind of marzipany taste to go along with their springy texture. I split the batter up evenly between the Nutellas and the grape jams. My buttons didn’t brown on top while baking, but they were done a minute or so early.
I topped my Nutella ones with a little of the milk chocolate ganache I have left from the super-delish Black-and-White Malted Icebox Cake I made last week. (That reminds me, have you entered my Icebox Cakes BOOK GIVEAWAY yet?? If not, get on it!) Then I wanted a little flair on top, but didn’t have any hazelnuts in my fridge nut drawer. I did, however, have a single Ferrero Rocher candy, so I chopped up the crispy outside coating part (I scooped out and ate the center…mmm) and decorated with that. The grape jam ones got dunked into a white chocolate and peanut butter glaze and sprinkled with some salty peanut bits on top.
Too cute, especially when you find a smile inside!
Tags: dessert, giveaway, icebox
Now that the days are getting warm– maybe even borderline hot– wouldn’t it be nice to just reach in the fridge and pull out a cool, creamy dessert that practically made itself? That exists…it’s called an icebox cake! At its most simple and familiar, an icebox cake is just store-bought wafer cookies and sweet whipped cream, stacked in alternating layers and left to meld in the refrigerator (or icebox– my dad actually calls it that, by the way) for several hours. The cookies absorb moisture from the cream and soften during the rest, and what you get afterward is a rich, creamy dessert that falls somewhere between pudding and cake.
You can imagine that you can take this basic, yet brilliant, idea in a lot of interesting and delicious directions…like my friend and former co-worker Jessie Sheehan, who, along with her co-author Jean Sagendorph, just published a super-fun (and super pretty) new cookbook called Icebox Cakes: Recipes for the Coolest Cakes in Town. They have the basic “old school” covered, of course, and recipes for 24 other awesome-sounding icebox cakes. Espresso-chip– hello! Chai-ginger– whaat? And OMG– a black-and-white malted. That’s the first one I decided to try.
You need four main components for this malt shop-inspired treat: whipped cream flavored with malt powder (super easy), milk chocolate ganache (super easy), vanilla wafer cookies (not hard to make yourself, but super easy if you choose to buy them instead) and time (the hardest part!). Oh, and some chopped malt balls scattered over top will make it extra pretty– let’s not forget that! You just alternate layers of the cream, cookies and ganache in a springform pan and you’re ready to refrigerate. If you’ve used store-bought cookies, you can get away with just 5-8 hour chill, but if you’ve made your own cookies, you’ll need a full 24 hours in the fridge for them to properly soften. You can see I took a little artistic liberty and divided the components into individual-sized mini icebox cakes instead of a full 9″ springform.
Go find the full recipe for the Black-and-White Malted Icebox Cake on Jessie’s blog…and know that you can use shop-bought vanilla wafers (like Nabisco or Keebler) if you don’t have the desire or time to make your own. It’s rich, creamy, malty, sticky and delicious, and when you see this black-and-white zebra striped beauty waiting for you on the icebox shelf, you’ll be very happy you put it together the night before. Jessie says it’s a crowd-pleaser, and I can’t argue with that.
I’m so excited about Icebox Cakes: Recipes for the Coolest Cakes in Town that I want to send a copy to one of you! A signed copy at that! Just leave me a comment (one per person, please) on this post before 5:00 pm EST on Friday, May 15 and I’ll randomly choose a winner from the list. Be sure your e-mail address is correct so I can contact you.
***Giveaway Winner Update: I have two copies to giveaway, actually! I used random.org to generate two random comment numbers to find the winners. Congratulations to Maureen and franklyentertaining! I’ll be in touch soon.***
Tags: baking, bundt, cake, chocolate, dessert
This Crème Bruléed Chocolate Bundt is the first, no second, no make that third Mary Bergin chiffon cake we’ve made. I’ve liked them all…I think I just really like the spongy, fluffy softness of chiffon cakes. And it also helps here that I love chocolate and Bundts. And crème brulée, too…who am I kidding? I knew this would be good.
If you watch the video of the BWJ episode, you’ll see that this chocolate chiffon Bundt gets its center stuffed with raspberries and then a big glug of vanilla crème brulée custard is poured over top of the whole shebang and torched. I figured that as soon as the brulée was poured on, the cake pretty much needed to be eaten up…This would be very dramatic and impressive for a crowd, but since I was just making it for two of us, I had to both reduce the recipe and settle for adding the custard to order. I made a half recipe of the cake (in my 6-cup Bundt pan) and a half recipe of the brulée cream, too. I was convinced, even though I’d sprayed the heck out of my Bundt pan and coated it well in cocoa (which I prefer to use instead of flour for a dark chocolate cake), that the cake would stick like crazy and rip when I tried to unmold it. It didn’t! I made sure to kind of gently nudge it from the sides with a little offset as it started to cool and shrink in a bit, and it released perfectly– phew!
I used my darkest cocoa powder (Valrhona) and my Bundt had great flavor. The chiffon was easy to make, too…in fact, I did the whole thing in my bathrobe (TMI??). I’d happily make it again on its own, just to have with ice cream or whipped cream. I liked the stovetop water bath method for thickening the crème brulée…that was new to me, and it came out nicely. After the better part of a day in the fridge, the brulée had thickened up well and I was able to pour it over a single slice without it looking a mess. All in all a winning dessert for Valentine’s Day weekend.
For the recipe, see Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan (it’s also here, along with a video). Don’t forget to check out the rest of the TWD Blogroll! (Update: I see from the blogroll that some folks wound up with a thinner custard, in which case I’d just serve it as an anglaise sauce on the plate.)
Tags: baking, cake
A weekend cake- I love it! A good cake does make the weekend even better, if you ask me. (Hopefully it will make the nor’easter we’re about to get socked with better, too!) This one’s a simple loaf cake, but it’s flavored with brown butter, vanilla bean and rum. Simple but special.
I have a French blue steel loaf pan, and I thought it naturally appropriate to use for a French cake. I like that the pan has perfectly straight, not flared, sides. It’s longer and slimmer than the standard 9×5, so I was sure to check it in the oven plenty early.
The ingredients are lovely and fragrant, and the cake smells so good out of the oven, that it’s hard to wrap it up and let it sit overnight like Dorie suggests. It’s less buttery and heavy than a pound cake but has a similar delicious crust. This cake is good on it’s own or with a sauce. (I’m going to try it in early summer as a strawberry shortcake base.) If you can’t eat it all up over the weekend, don’t worry because it freezes nicely. Dorie also says stale slices are good toasted, although I don’t plan on testing that out this time.
Tags: baking, cake, dessert, holiday
It’s almost Christmas, and that means it’s time to get fancy in the kitchen! Something like a Gingerbread bûche de Noël sounds like the right way to celebrate. Way back in the early days of this space, I made another bûche. That one was all done up with stumps, meringue mushrooms and faux wood grain…this one’s easier in that it’s just a roulade but it’s still a showstopper and, of course, it still has several steps. In addition to a gently-spiced geniose-style gingerbread sponge cake, there’s a cream cheese filling, a marshmallow meringue frosting and, for crunch and sparkle, a pecan praline.
If you’re the organized type, you can actually break up the steps and knock out the praline and filling a day in advance, but I did it all start to finish in one afternoon, so I can tell you that it’s procrastinator-friendly, too. I did kind of goof up the cake a bit, and you can see it in the center of the spiral. I deflated the cake batter while mixing in the butter at the end. I was pretty annoyed with myself, and worried it would be like eating a rubber mat, but there’s a lot going on with this cake and we also had it with a scoop of eggnog ice cream, so it really wasn’t that noticeable. Next time, I’ll do better with that. Although the marshmallow makes a stunning, glossy, snow-white frosting, I had a lot left over…next time, I’ll also try cutting that amount in half. I’ll reduce the cream of tartar in the frosting a bit as well because I think it gave the marshmallow a slightly acidic taste. If you’re on the fence about gingerbread (I know not everyone is crazy about it), the flavoring here is very subtle…no molasses or cloves or other dark and mysterious flavors.
Tags: baking, cake, dessert, fruit
These Oven-Roasted Plum Cakes from Marcel Desaulniers were an easy little treat to make with my CSA plums. The batter was a simple butter cake, flavored with orange zest. I made half a recipe (6 cakelettes), so I just mixed it by hand. I had to sub some plain yogurt for the buttermilk, but that worked out fine. The recipe calls for the cakes to be baked in ramekins or custard cups…I was worried that I’d never get them out (although sounds like I needn’t have been), so I used some shallower mini pie tins instead, buttered and floured.
These were good, although the plums (even though they turned very soft in the oven) wanted to jump onto our forks all in one piece. I liked them best with whipped cream. For the recipe, see Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan (there’s also a video). Don’t forget to check out the rest of the TWD Blogroll!
Tags: baking, cake, dessert
Markus Farbinger’s Viennese Poppy Seed Torte is one of the more unusual things I’ve baked. Now, I’m aware that poppy seeds are widely used in foods all over the world and are not unusual at all, but we Americans– especially those of us who are many generations and more than a couple hundred years removed from our ethnic roots– normally just mix a mere tablespoon of them into lemon muffins or white cake, or sprinkle them on top of bagels or crackers. Maybe it’s because we’re afraid we’ll fail a drug test, but any recipe that calls for two cups of poppy seeds sounds a little strange. The Austrians sure know their pastries though, so I knew this would be tasty, no doubt.
Those two cups of poppy seeds are whizzed up in a coffee/spice grinder, and along with cake crumbs (I used a frozen slice of leftover Vanilla Pound Cake, also put through the same coffee grinder) become the dry ingredients for the cake. The crowning jewels on top are poached apricot halves. I found the cutest little apricots with rosy cheeks at the Greenmarket. I didn’t bother to blanch and peel them before poaching…the skins slipped right off anyway once they cooled, and I think poaching them skin-on helped infuse the flesh with that rosy color. I’m saving the poaching liquid, btw, which I think will be nice as a fruity simple syrup for drinks or poured on top of raspberries and vanilla ice cream.
Based on visuals alone, I’d assume a dark colored cake like this would be dense and heavy. But it’s quite light and springy (thanks to the meringue that’s folded into the batter), moist and not too sweet. It really tastes like poppy seeds (as it should), and since they are ground into flour, they don’t get stuck in your teeth! I made a half-recipe..a full makes a big 10-inch cake…and debated the pan size for a while before settling on a 8-inch round.