Comfort Baking: Olive Oil Cake

My son and daughter-in-law visited so I baked a cake. I was flipping through magazines and so I baked a cake. I was looking through my news-feed and had to bake a cake. I sense a pattern here. I’m thinking I might be baking a cake in the near future as well.

I finally got around to making this cake. I was looking for the magazine that had created a recipe for veggie sauce with the mouth feel of ground meat. I had attached a note to the front of the magazine with the names and page numbers of recipes I wanted to try and this one was there. This turned out well, having a grown-up taste, not too sweet and quite moist. It is possible that I under-baked it by 5 minutes but that did not affect our enjoyment of the cake. The problem with this cake is that it was so easy to slice off a sliver each time one walked by it.

  • 1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 ¼ cups sugar, plus 2 tablespoons for topping
  • ¼ teaspoon lemon zest (I used orange zest; the second time I used lime zest. Stick to lemon or orange)
  • ¾ cup olive oil
  • ¾ cup milk (I used unsweetened vanilla almond milk.)

Oven to 350 degrees F. Grease 9 inch spring-form pan. Whisk flour, baking soda, and salt together. In a separate bowl whip eggs on medium speed (stand mixer with whisk attachment) until foamy about one minute. Add sugar and zest increasing speed to high and beating for about 3 minutes. Reduce speed back to medium and slowly pour in oil, mix only one minute. Add ½ the flour mixture about one minute. Add milk and mix for 30 seconds. Add the rest of the flour mixture and mix for one minute. Of course, you are scraping down the sides of the bowl during the addition of the flour and milk. Pour the batter into prepared pan and sprinkle on the remaining sugar. Bake 45-50 minutes. Let cool in pan for 15 minutes before removing. Supposedly let this cool completely before slicing. Hah!

And here’s another cake: Guinness Chocolate Cake in honor of St. Patrick’s Day but really because it was a Friday and I got home from work. For this one I made a Bailey’s Buttercream and not a cream cheese frosting.

https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1875-chocolate-guinness-cake

Thoughts:

Weight loss is out the window. With all this Coronavirus Pandemic, hunkering down, figuring out how to work from home, how worried should I be, binge-watching Netflix for escapism, I eat what I want. I apparently bake and eat cakes too! See above. We re-watched the whole Lord of the Rings Special Edition DVD set. There’s a situation that puts this in perspective. I would have liked to put one of those images and quotes here but am not sure how or if things are copyrighted.

It’s all about priorities and enjoying life. I like to learn about food. I like to do new things with vegetables to eat more of them. I like to bake and cook. I am reasonably healthy and not too overweight. I do not want to add more anxiety in this day and time with regard to the food I eat.

Maybe I’ll get back on the weight loss train sometime later this year. One day at a time.

Cake and Books

On this MLK, Jr. Day let us take a moment to remember all those who have lost their lives due to racial inequality. Let us also pause to remember those past and present who have worked and are working to eliminate racial inequality in our world.

Part A

So I broke down and baked a cake! It was a choice between a chocolate Coca-Cola cake or a cream cheese pound cake. Hubby likes pound cake and I did give him the choice. This particular recipe calls for clementine zest. I have not thought of zesting clementines. I zest oranges and lemons and limes. Now that I think of it I waste a lot of zest left on un-zested pieces of fruit. Think of all that zest one could stash in the freezer for later use. I wonder what use there would be for grapefruit zest.

I have a cream cheese pound cake recipe somewhere in my magazine clippings. This particular recipe is from a cookbook I got from the library. This is one published by a southern bakery apparently: Back in the Day Bakery, Made with Love by Cheryl Day and Griffith Day.

  • 1 ½ cups cake flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon grated clementine zest (2-3 pieces of fruit)
  • 12 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 5 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

I was able to let the various ingredients come to room temperature because my daughter called and we got busy planning a camping weekend this summer. They plan to get a large tent. We will be going to a campground where I used to take her and her brother “back in the day”.

Directions for the cake: sift the dry ingredients in a medium bowl and set aside. Mix the zest with the sugar in a small bowl and set aside. In the stand mixer cream the butter and cream cheese on medium speed for 2-3 minutes. Gradually add the sugar mixture and beat until very light and fluffy for 4-5 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each. Add the vanilla and mix to combine. On low speed add the flour mixture in thirds just until incorporated. Finish this by hand.

Pour batter into prepared pan. Oh yeah, a 9 x 5 loaf pan sprayed with cooking spray and lined with parchment paper. And the oven is to be 350 degrees F. Bake for 50-60 minutes. Mine took only 50 minutes. Cool in pan for 20 minutes then remove from pan and parchment paper and cool on rack until completely cool.

Frost with a chocolate ganache or glaze as you would like. The honey chocolate glaze from the cookbook is very rich. I changed it somewhat so here is what I made.

  • ½ cup evaporated milk
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • ¾ cup dark chocolate chips
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Bring the milk to gentle boil in small sauce pan. Put the honey in a small bowl. Pour hot milk onto honey and add chocolate. Stir until melted. Add vanilla. Let cool to thicken slightly. Pour over cake.

Cake has no place in an eating for health and weight loss plan, but needs must! Cake has zeroed out any beginnings of weight loss this week. But at least I did not gain anything! Yay. And truth be told I started out this year 3 pounds less than the beginning of last year.

Part B

Library books! I went to the library after many months of not. I usually download library books onto my Kindle from my library using my computer. No need to step foot into our wonderful town library. But my library card had expired. Ahhh! Luckily the library was still open so off I go. It takes probably 10-15 minutes to get there but I always think of it as 5 minutes away.

There are books everywhere. Next to camping the library may be my second happy place. Well, being outdoors near the river or in the woods might take second place. It is the closest we have here in Connecticut as “the wilderness”.

Back to the library. They have reorganized the lobby so I wander around looking at titles of books, reading book jackets, and breathing in the atmosphere of paper and ink. I pick a few of the offerings in the lobby and head to the stacks. I’m in search of books about food and cooking. I just can’t stay away. I find a book on bread and a bakery cookbook which is the one mentioned in Part A.

I am on my way down the steps of the stacks and think “What about a book on sewing?” I have recently had my sewing machine repaired after gumming it up sewing an applique quilt with my daughter’s childhood through college t-shirts.

The quilt was far from perfect. My daughter had started it years ago with my advice on using heat and bond to attach the cut out designs to a large sheet. Then it languished at her house for years and years. Then I took it from her to fix and complete. It languished in my house for years and years and I finished it for her this Christmas. So now I need some sewing projects. I find a book on improvisational sewing and making simple patterns using a t-shirt. Interesting.

I come home with a tote bag full of books, real books!  I have one biography, one memoir, one mystery, one on sewing, and two on baking. I love books!

Snack cakes

I may or may not have posted this recipe before. I have a hard time keeping track. There are just so many recipes out there, and just so many that I keep going back to. On occasion I have spotted an interesting new one to try, but have not been adventurous lately.

I am almost three years into blogging, or is it four? It is actually four. I did not intend for this to just be a post of recipes but who am I to think people are interested in my musings on my ordinary life?

Life has happened in the four months since I last posted here. Hubby was laid off and is at that borderline age of contemplating whether this should lead to retirement but not quite there yet, so a job search continues. Leo the Dog had to be let go to doggy heaven after 13 1/2 years of life and 2 1/2 years as part of our family. 😦 Camping season is upon us and we managed to survive a week of biting black flies and chiggers in the Vermont woods. And now that Leo is not a consideration I have been able to look at the State Parks for camping but it is a bit late in the season already to find weekend spots at the shoreline parks.

The other day I needed to bake. Something. Anything. This snack cake recipe is an easy favorite and it has variety. I made the applesauce version with a few tweaks.

  • 1 2/3 cups flour; I used one cup all-purpose and 2/3 whole wheat pastry
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon gingerbread spice (recipe called for allspice)
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar

And my own additions:

  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/4 cup mini chocolate chips

Mix everything together. I do the dry ingredients first and then add the wet and the additions. Put in 8 inch square pan and bake at 350 degrees F for 35-40 minutes. All done!

This recipe makes a one layer cake. I made the chocolate version to make “bug cakes” for my daughters birthday. The grandchildren helped me decorate them. I bought this fancy pan for $3.50 at an estate sale last summer.

And yes I am aware that there is a unicorn butterfly. It’s all good. 🙂

Cake from a Box!

 

I found a box mix at one of those big warehouse type stores that sell odd items, discontinued stuff, and leftovers. The ingredients are your basic recipe ingredients: sugar, flour, cocoa, corn starch, canola oil, baking powder, and salt. I had to buy this; actually I bought two boxes. I’m thinking that I could make my own cake mixes by mixing up the dry ingredients and listing what wet ones to add. For this box mix one adds 1 1/2 cups milk, 1 stick butter, and three eggs. I’m not sure how they got the canola oil in the mix.

I love German Chocolate Cake. Either myself or a family member makes or buys one for my birthday. It is not my birthday, no where close. I have previously made a German Chocolate Cake just for fun, also not for my birthday. That post is Cake Envy

This was super easy to make. I baked it in my 8-inch round cake pans. I then made the frosting from the side of the box for the classic Coconut Pecan Frosting.

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup canned evaporated milk
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/3 cups flaked coconut
  • 1 cup chopped pecans

Cook all this except the coconut and pecans in a sauce pan. Bring to boiling and then cook over medium heat 4 to 5 minutes, until slightly thickened. Stir in the coconut and pecans. Cool completely before frosting the cake.

What could be simpler? Well, it usually helps to read the recipe several times. I put in an entire can of evaporated milk so that was 1 1/2 cups. I cooked this longer than the 5 minutes because it was not getting thick. I admit I also had to pick out a few small pieces of scrambled egg! After cooking and stirring in the coconut and pecans it seemed more pudding like than frosting. I contemplated making it into a German chocolate trifle. But I persevered and stuck it in the fridge to firm up. And voila! It worked!

Cake Week: part two; Julia Child’s Biscuit au Beurre

Butter Spongecake from  Mastering the Art of French Cooking: this was chosen when I consulted this cook book about the size of pan to use. Julia uses a 10 inch pan for 4 eggs. In “Cake Week”: or my attempt at the sponge, part one I used 6 eggs in an 8-inch pan.  Julia tells the baker what equipment to use, balloon whisk and 10 inch pan. This recipe adds some butter. The other recipe choice I could have made was the Orange Sponge which uses 4 eggs in a 9 inch pan. Hopefully I will redeem myself with this Sponge.

  • 4 Tablespoons butter, melted and left to cool
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 egg whites
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 Tb sugar
  • 3/4 cup cake flour turned into a sifter
  • IMG_2020
    not quite as elegant a mise en place as in part one

Butter and flour a 10 inch round cake pan at least two inches deep. I use my 10-inch springform pan. I spray all around with baking spray. Perhaps I should have just sprayed the bottom and not the sides? This is a sponge recipe so the eggs are separated with the egg whites folded into the batter.

Gradually beat the 2/3 cup sugar into the egg yolks, add the vanilla and beat for several minutes until thick and pale and “forms the ribbon”.

Beat the egg whites and salt together in separate bowl until soft peaks form. Sprinkle on the sugar and beat until stiff peaks are formed.

The combining of these gets fussy. And I believe this affected the outcome.

Scoop 1/4th of the egg whites over the egg yolk mixture. Sift on 1/4th of the flour. “Delicately fold in until partially blended”. Repeat with 1/3 of the egg whites and flour. Repeat with 1/2 of each.  Then the last of each. When partially blended fold in the rest of the tepid butter but not the milky residue at the bottom. “Do not overmix; the egg whites must retain as much volume as possible.” Turn into the pan and bake at 350 degrees F (a proper temperature) for 30-35 minutes. Let rest in pan for 6-8 minutes and then turn out.

It was difficult not to add the milky residue. And I may have more fully blended than partially. The volume of the batter diminished slightly while adding the butter.

This cake did not rise. It did remain spongy though. I glazed it with a Lemon Marmalade as I had substituted one of the teaspoons of vanilla with one teaspoon lemon extract.

So did I redeem my place in “the tent”? I am not sure. I do not know what constitutes “a proper sponge”. But I do not think I will get a handshake from Paul!

Both cakes were spongy. The butter sponge was slightly more dense than the other but not quite as dense as an ordinary butter cake. The crumb looked good with even air bubbles. The first sponge was quite spongy. And its flavor was more enjoyable. The verdict is to remake the first cake using the 10 inch pan. Or maybe I’ll just stick to butter cakes.

 

“Cake Week”: or my attempt at the sponge, part one

I have finished binge watching the 5th season of GBBO and Hubby is concerned that I have not mastered the sponge. I think most American cakes are butter cakes. Sponges for me usually turn into hockey pucks. I did have one success here. But my favorite cakes to bake are still butter cakes. “Paul and Pru” would probably throw me out of the tent for this latest endeavor. They seem to always be saying “make a sponge” and do this, that, and the other thing to it. I looked up in my French and British cookery books what an “opera cake” and “Victoria sponge” are about. We mid-American home cooks just bake cakes and ice them with frosting or powdered sugar without naming them. Except for German Chocolate Cake and that isn’t even German. Okay, also Angel Food Cake…and others…it’s the thought that counts.

Fall is here with cooler temperatures. My new kitchen counters have been installed and I have reorganized my baking supplies and I have a kitchen sink again. We won’t mention the three holes in the ceiling waiting for the plumber to come fix a leak. And I have been drooling over cook books in these two weeks without a functioning kitchen, so it is finally time to bake something. And that something will be the gateau de Savoie from my French Feasts cookbook: Savoy Cake (blow-away sponge).

Warning: the results are not pretty! Not Star Baker material today.

  • 6 eggs, separated
  • 1 cup superfine sugar (make this by whisking regular sugar in the food processor)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup cornstarch (Hunh?)

    IMG_2013
    Mise en place

Unfortunately this cookbook fails to state what size pan to use. Most of the gateau are made in loaf pans. Most of the British cakes are made in 7-8 inch pans. I choose my 8 inch spring form pan, thinking this will work out well.

Directions: Beat the yolks with the sugar until pale and tick. Add the vanilla, flour, and cornstarch. Beat the egg whites into stiff peaks and fold them gently into the rest of the mixture using a spatula. Pour into non-stick pan and bake at 300 degrees F for 40 minutes. It is at this point I am wondering if my pan is too small. I’m also thinking that the oven should be at 350 which is the temperature at which most cakes get baked. Hmmm?

Yep! Wrong size pan! And 40 minutes in the slow oven was not enough time. Silly me, I put it back in the oven for 10 more minutes.

A complete disaster and waste of 6 eggs! The crust is a tasty meringue; the top part of the cake is not done. I scrape that part off and the bottom half is spongy. What to do?

The cake is soft and spongy. And foldable. I get out the blackberry preserves and…

IMG_2021

Did I save my place in the tent? Stay tuned for Part Two.

Chocolate Mousse Cake a la King Arthur

King Arthur Flour (no I do not get paid for talking about them) has a monthly bake-along. February is a Chocolate Mousse Cake with Raspberries. Looked and sounded delicious and something fun to make on one of my two February holidays. Well, if you know me, I changed it up just a bit. I was not going to spend a fortune on fresh raspberries in the middle of winter. I like chocolate covered cherries and I had a can of cherries in my pantry. I could use those.

So the original bake-along recipe is right here: Chocolate Mousse Cake with Raspberries. I made the cake exactly. I happened to find four 8-inch cake pans, two of which were three inches deep so I baked the cake in two pans and cut these into the four layers. Hint for you: this is a thin batter just like they say. It may not be that wise to use pans that have removable bottoms. Just saying. I had a bit of leakage, very little but I had to bake the cakes on a cookie sheet. I also baked the cakes at 350 degrees F. They came out nicely. They did not have domes, so I am not sure if they fell a bit. The finished product is so rich it was impossible to tell.

  • 1 3/4 cups Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 3 large eggs

Whisk dry ingredient together. Mix wet ingredients together but not eggs. Put wet ingredients into dry ingredients, combine thoroughly. Beat in eggs one at a time. Put into the greased pans and bake. The two 8-inch x 3-inch pans took 55 minutes. Cool completely and slice each layer in two.

The mousse filling was more difficult. It did not come out smoothly and was difficult to spread between the layers of the cake.

  • 2 tablespoons soft butter
  • 8-ounce package cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips, melted
  • 1 cup heavy cream

Beat the butter, cream cheese, 3/4 cup sugar, vanilla and salt until creamy. Melt the chocolate and stir that in. Whip the cream with the remaining sugar until stiff. Fold this into the cream cheese mixture. This ended up swirled and not a uniform color. Perhaps that was okay.

I used a can of cherries, drained, and a jar of cherry fruit spread instead of raspberries. I mixed this and spread it on top of the mousse layer. I forgot to put cherries on the middle layer. I don’t think anyone noticed this omission.

Once this is done chill or freeze the cake for 30 minutes so it will be easier to frost.

At this point I am thinking about the frosting. This cake already looks extraordinarily rich. The KAF frosting calls for another cup of butter and 4 cups powdered sugar. That just is too much. I then remember I had made a chocolate sauce to serve with the disastrous orange cake for Christmas. Since that cake was inedible I had frozen the sauce for use at another time. This seemed to be that “another time.”

  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon orange extract or liqueur (it was actually the poaching syrup from the disastrous orange cake A Christmas Sponge: an Orange Upside Down Cake)

Whisk sugar and cocoa in a small sauce pan. Gradually whisk in the milk until a smooth paste forms. Reduce heat and simmer whisking constantly for 4 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in chocolate and orange extract. (the orange taste does not come through at all.)

So I thawed the chocolate sauce and poured it out on the cake. This gave it a nice glazed cover. Now this glaze looks like a ganache but does not firm up like one.

This is not nearly as good looking as the picture on the King Arthur website. But served with a bit of whipped cream it is chocolate decadence! A little dab will do ya!

Lessons learned: If you want a rich chocolate cake that makes thick layers use this cake recipe. I would make a different filling or just use the fruit and preserves in between layers with some whipped cream. Cover with your own ganache or just sprinkle with powdered sugar. That way you could have a fancy cake with less fuss. But we are enjoying our indulgence a little at a time. Store cake in refrigerator.