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This summer my son, Aanen, declared that peaches are his favorite fruit.  Given the quality of the organic peaches from our co-op this year, he may be right– they’ve been perfectly ripe, juicy, and delicious.  We’ve eaten so many in the last month– and not just for snacks.   Turns out they’re perfect for baking (surprise!) as well.

I’ve made this cake twice in the last couple of weeks– and if the judgment of my family and neighbors is any measure– it’s fantastic.  More than one person has mentioined that it’s one of the best cakes I’ve made.  I agree, and it’s all about the peaches.  This cake is adapted from a fellow Minnesota Food Blogger and friend, Zoe Francois.  I’ve mentioned her before, though you may know Zoe from her well-known cookbook Artisan Bread In Five Minute A Day.  She is an top-notch pastry chef who always has wonderful ideas on her blog, Zoe Bakes.

A few words about what makes this cake stand out.  First, the sauce is unforgettable.  The peaches, butter, and brown sugar meld together to create an amazing flavor.  The addition of three tablespoons of whiskey adds additional complexity.  Both times I’ve made it I’ve wanted to keep licking the spoon.  Second, the flavors of the sauce combine with the caramel-like addition of browned butter in the cake.  I’ve found that the toasty, nutty, carmel flavors of the browned butter make most any dish better.  Here, it really acts as the framework– a subtle backdrop that accentuates the the peach, brown sugar, and whisky perfectly.  Finally, I decided to toast and add millet, a whole grain, for a little bit of texture.  As with most any grain, the toasting adds additional ‘toasty’ flavors.  Here, it also provides a nice little crunch that makes this cake unique.  If you don’t have access to millet, don’t worry.  It’s not a necessity.

The Recipe:  Upside-Down Peach and Cardamom Cake

Peaches:

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

3/4 cup brown sugar

pinch of kosher salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

3 tablespoons whiskey (substitute orange juice, if you don’t cook with alcohol)

1 pound peaches (about 2 1/2 large) Cut into slices, peelings can be left on.  (Firm peaches will work well here, as they won’t break down as much)

Cake:

4 ounces (8 tablespoons unsalted butter)

1 cup  (5 ounces) all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

3/4 cup brown sugar

2 eggs at room temperature  (To do this quickly:  place eggs in a dish of warm water for roughly 10 minutes)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/3 cup buttermilk  (To make your own: mix 1 teaspoon white vinegar into 1/3 cup milk — let sit for 10 minutes)

1/3 Millet, toasted

To toast the Millet:  Place millet into a small frying pan over medium heat, toast until golden and fragrant.  Being careful not to burn.  Remove from heat and set aside.

To brown the butter for the cake:  Place butter into a small saucepan over low heat.   Cook the butter until it is a beautiful caramel color and smells toasted, making sure to stir all the while. Being careful not to burn.  There will be dark brown bits in the pan.  Remove from heat and strain.  Set aside to cool slightly.

To make the peaches: In a large skillet cook together the butter, brown sugar, salt, cardamom, vanilla, whiskey, and peaches.  Cook them on low heat until the juice is as thick as maple syrup.  I ended up removing the peaches so they didn’t fall apart and cooked the juices down a bit more.

Place the peaches and juice into a 8-inch round or square cake pan. (And if you’re a little bit neurotic like myself, you can make a pattern with the peaches while carefully trying not to burn your fingertips.) I also made it in a 9-inch cake pan and it turned out fine, if that’s all you have.  The cake will not be as thick, but still delicious.  (Note: Both times I made the cake, I didn’t butter the pan and it came out easily, but if you’re hesitant — feel free to butter away!)

Preheat oven to 350°F.

To make the cake batter:   In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, cardamom, and salt. Set aside.   Using a paddle attachment, on an electric mixer  (a hand mixer will also work), beat together the browned butter that has cooled a bit, brown sugar, and vanilla.  Add the eggs one at a time, making sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl after each one.    Alternate adding the flour mixture with the buttermilk, starting and ending with the flour mixture.   Finally, fold in the toasted millet with a spatula.

Place the batter evenly over the peaches and spread it out smoothly.  Bake for 30-35 minutes or until the cake is set and a tester comes out clean.  Let sit until the pan is cool enough to handle and invert onto a serving platter.  I prefer to let the cake cool completely before serving.  This cake begs to be served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream along side of it.  Enjoy!

Source:  Adapted from Zoe Francois at Zoe Bakes

As always, thanks for stopping by Relishing It today.  This little blog has become  such an amazing place for me to connect with new friends and still keep in touch with old ones.  I am so happy to share it with all of you.

Laurie

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I live in Minnesota, where the maple trees are now being tapped.  Yes, its a bit of poetic dreaming, but this makes me long for a little country home with my very own maple trees, big red barn, and sprawling garden.  I conveniently ignore the “back-breaking labor” part of that dream.  While I don’t get to live the bucolic life here in the middle of the city, I’m fortunate enough to have access to the local, delicious maple syrup from nearby (not to mention a few fantastic farmers markets).

I love maple syrup, though this wasn’t always true.  The fact is, for most of my childhood I’d never had the real thing.  I detested the overly-thick, sugary mess that most restaurants labled “maple syrup.”  At home, we usually had a berry syrup, as getting real maple in rural North Dakota wasn’t an option at the time.  Once I finally had a taste, I was hooked.  I couldn’t believe that it was nothing like the gloppy corn syrup-based knock-offs I had been exposed to.  It was thin– delicate almost– and just sweet enough.

A friend recently told me about a fantastic cake recipe by David Lebovitz— one of my favorite accomplished chefs.  This maple walnut pear cake is perfect for this time of year.  It’s one of those desserts that’s simple to throw together and toss into the oven, yet the result is so much more than an ordinary cake.  The flavor-combination is beautiful.  The maple syrup, walnut, and pear build off of one another, while the cinnamon binds them all together.  This is a moist cake that gets better with each passing day.  I think I even prefer it on the second day when the glaze really gets a chance to soak in.  But seriously,who’s going to wait that long for a piece?  Try it– you’ll love it.  And for goodness sakes, don’t forget the whipped cream!

The Recipe: Maple Walnut Pear Cake 

Topping:

1/3 cup maple syrup

1/4 cup packed light or dark brown sugar

1/2 cup walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped

3 ripe Bosc pears (I used D’Anjou and they worked fine), peeled, quartered, cored, and cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch slices

Cake:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup packed light brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 eggs, at room temperature

1/2 cup whole milk, at room temperature

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Make the topping:  Combine the maple syrup and 1/4 cup dark or light brown sugar in a 9-inch cake pan or a cast-iron skillet.  Set the pan directly over the heat on the stovetop until it begins to bubble; simmer gently for 1 minute, stirring often.  Remove pan from heat.

Sprinkle walnuts evenly over maple mixture in the pan, then arrange the pear slices over the walnuts.  A pinwheel pattern works perfectly.

Make the cake:  In a small bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt).  In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment or by hand, beat together the butter, granulated sugar, and 1/4 cup light brown sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes.  Add the vanilla and eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated.  Gradually mix in half of the flour mixture, then stir in the milk, then add the remaining flour mixture.  Mix just until combined.

Scrape the batter over the pears in the pan and carefully smooth into an even layer.  Bake for about 50 minutes, or until a tester inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.  Cool 15 minutes in the pan.

Run a knife around the sides of the cake to loosen it from the pan.  Invert a serving plate, or cake stand, over the pan, and carefully invert cake onto it.  Gently lift the pan off of the cake and arrange any walnuts that may have gone astray.

(Note:  Apples can easily be substituted for the pears in this cake.)

Source:  David Lebovitz’s: Ready for Dessert

One last note…Food Bloggers across the country are uniting on May 14 to help fight childhood hunger.  In Minneapolis/St. Paul the bake sale will be held at 920 East Lake St. Mpls, MN 55407 — in the Midtown Global Market.  The hours of the sale are 11:00am-4:00 pm.  I hope you come out and support this important cause.

Hope you are all well and enjoying a bit of spring!  As always, I appreciate your comments!

Thanks for stopping by,

Laurie

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I bought a new pan– a mini-bundt pan, and I love it.  I’ve recently found myself coming up with excuses to bake more, just so I can see those tiny, adorable cakes.  As my husband has mentioned (after listening to me justify making another little bundt-shaped treat) , the line between a hobby and mental illness can be a thin one.  Who cares when the results are fabulous?  I love these orange and vanilla-scented bundt cakes.  They’re incredibly flavorful, and just small enough to justify eating more than one.

For this recipe, do not cheat and use anything other than freshly-squeezed orange juice.  Trust me, you won’t get the concentrated flavor that these cakes can deserve from a bottle or from a frozen can.  I love it when a cake recipe delivers a potent, layered, flavor.  Here, the orange zest in the cake batter is the first wonderful layer.  Next, there’s the glaze with its freshly-squeezed orange juice that also moistens the cake.  Finally, there’s the fantastic icing.  These three layers really combine for a powerful citrus punch.  Here’s the thing though, the cake flavors aren’t limited solely to orange citrus.  This cake also offers strong vanilla notes.  If you’ve baked with vanilla beans before, you know that they are not subtle.  They give you big flavor.  Together, the vanilla and orange citrus pair beautifully in this cake–or cakes, if you want to break out the mini-bundt pan.

The Recipe: Orange and Vanilla Scented Bundt Cake

( Makes 1 bundt cake or 26 mini-bundt cakes)

Cake

3 cups unbleached all purpose flour

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 2/3 cups sugar

1 tablespoon finely grated orange peel

1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise  (2 teaspoons vanilla can be substituted, if in a pinch)

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

3 large eggs

2/3 cup freshly squeezed orange juice

2/3 cup buttermilk  (To make your own buttermilk — 2/3 cup regular milk with 2 teaspoons white vinegar mixed in.     Let sit for 10 minutes).

Glaze

1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice

2 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) unsalted butter

Icing

2/3 cup powdered sugar

4 teaspoons (roughly) freshly squeezed orange juice

For the Cake:

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350° F.  Butter and flour 12-15 cup Bundt pan.  Whisk flour, salt, and baking soda in medium bowl to blend.  Using electric mixer, beat sugar and orange peel in large bowl at low speed to release essential oils from peel.  Scrape seeds from vanilla bean into sugar mixture and beat to blend well.  Add butter and beat until light.  Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Mix in orange juice (mixture will look curdled).  Stir in flour mixture, then buttermilk.  Transfer batter to prepared pan; smooth top.  Bake cake until tester inserted near center comes out clean, about 50 minutes.  (Note: if using mini bundt pans — fill them 3/4 full and bake between 12-15 minutes. A toothpick inserted should come out clean.)

For the Glaze:

Meanwhile, boil orange juice, sugar, and butter in heavy small saucepan over medium heat until reduced to 1/2 cup, swirling pan occasionally, about 5 minutes.

Cool cake in pan for 10 minutes ( less for mini-bundts).  Using small sharp knife, cut around the sides and center tube of pan to loosen cake.  Turn cake out onto rack and brush with glaze.  Cool completely.

For the icing:

Place sugar in small bowl.  Mix in orange juice, 1 teaspoon at a time, until thick pourable consistency forms.  Drizzle icing over cake.  Let stand until icing sets.  (Note: I felt there wasn’t enough icing to top all of the mini-bundts, so I double the icing ingredients.  The recipe already reflects the change). Enjoy with a relaxing cup of coffee or tea.

Source: Bon Appetit Desserts

I hope you all enjoy this cake as much as we did!  Have a great day and see you soon!

Laurie




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