A Christmas Sponge: an Orange Upside Down Cake

This looked so fabulous and fancy in the magazine. And it uses candied oranges which is reminiscent of the candied orange peels my mother used to make. I made those a while back and you can read about that adventure here. The ingredients are simple enough. The time consuming part is poaching the orange slices in simple syrup to take away some of the bitterness. I have a lot of hopes while making this. And doubts.

I spent one evening preparing the orange slices. Scrub 4 navel oranges and then slice thin, 1/8-1/4 inch thick. Place these in a wide skillet or pan and cover with water. Bring to a boil and simmer one minute. If left too long the slices will start to break a little. Drain and set aside momentarily. Bring 3 cups water and 3 cups sugar to a boil in that pan and stir occasionally until sugar is dissolved. Then return orange slices to the pan. Slices must be put gently in the sugar water or they will break apart. Let this gently simmer for 2 1/2 hours, occasionally spooning the syrup over the oranges. Let cool in pan. At this point I stored these in the refrigerator covering the pan with its lid.

Two days later I am ready to make the cake. This is a sponge cake. I have only ever been successful at making a sponge cake once in my life! But I go for it anyway. Only afterward did it occur to me that I could have just made a butter cake which I have very much more success with.

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First, arrange the orange slices in a greased 9-inch round pan. I also added parchment paper to be sure it turned out of the pan okay. Additionally, the recipe said to drain the slices on paper towels and pat dry. Well…I forgot to do this. But I proceed.

  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted and cooled
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 large eggs, warmed in hot tap water for five minutes
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons freshly grated orange zest (about one orange’ worth)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In mixing bowl, beat eggs and sugar on low until blended and then on high 8-10 minutes until pale and thick and leaves a ribbon trail when the beater is lifted. I used the whisk attachment for this; not sure if that was the right thing to do. Where is Mom when you need her? I know she is up in heaven looking down and laughing at me! Merry Celestial Christmas Mom and Dad!

Then whisk in the orange zest and vanilla. Sift half the flour/salt mixture onto the batter and carefully fold this in. Repeat with the remaining flour. Then fold in the melted butter. So far, so good. Scrape this into the prepared pan and spread to edges to cover all the orange slices. Now bake this for 25-30 minutes until springs back when lightly touched and a toothpick comes out of the center clean. My cake took 33 minutes. Run knife around edge of cake and let cool in pan 10 minutes. Turn out onto cake plate.

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Very pretty!

First thing to notice is that they syrup from the orange slices has been absorbed into the cake. The second thing is after a few minutes on the cake plate the middle sank. Just a little bit, but still. Hmm? What is this about?

So now I am contemplating what to do. I could make a new cake and remove all these lovely orange slices and bake them upside down with a butter cake. I could spend 2 1/2 hours poaching more orange slices and make this again with a butter cake recipe. Or I could hope that there will be more than one dessert for Christmas Eve. And that this actually will be just fine, even though I cannot test it first. It is to be served with a chocolate orange sauce which might cover all ills. What to do?

Not content to leave well enough alone I decide to make a back-up cake! This one will have fresh orange slices in the manner of pineapple upside down cake. And will be a plain butter cake from my standard Betty Crocker Cookbook. I peel these oranges before slicing them. Melt 1/4 cup butter in the cake pan and sprinkle 1/3 cup brown sugar on the butter and then arrange orange slices. Make a batter for a single layer cake, 9-inches. Bake 45 minutes.

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I sprinkled it with red sugar to be festive!

I take both for the Christmas Eve feast. The pretty cake is pretty and smells quite orange-y. It is impossible to slice effectively. And there is virtually no cake under the center for at least a 3-inch diameter. The candied orange slices are sickly sweet, almost inedibly so. The cake that is there at the edges is okay, but this did not serve as a slice of cake. And was not worthy of the chocolate orange sauce I made to go with. An epic fail!

The back up cake was ugly. Especially ugly when displayed next to the first cake. The cake was nice, a moist ordinary butter cake. Orange slices because of their fibers do not make a good cake fruit. One should stick to apples, pineapple, pears, and the like.

Luckily a family member had made a nice apple pie and there were plenty of Christmas cookies for dessert…and bourbon…and wine. Did I mention there was bourbon? And everyone was full from the wonderful prime rib dinner.

Merry Christmas to all who celebrate! Happy Winter holidays to others! Hanukkah is past. Kwanzaa has just begun. And may we all have a blessed New Year in 2018!

 

 

 

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Banana Cake with Buttercream Frosting

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I made a cake and layered it and frosted it! This is a slightly adapted recipe from the larger KitchenAid Cookbook, not the one that comes with the mixer. I bought this one for $12.99 quite some time ago. The copyright date is 1992. Sister had just baked the pumpkin bread from this book which made me get my copy out to peruse.

I have a large bag of slowly browning frozen bananas. I have never cooked with frozen bananas. I am never sure as to why they turn brown if I have supposedly frozen them in airtight bags. So I used some of them and now have half a bag of slowly browning frozen bananas.

Cake:

  • 2 1/3 cups flour; I used 1 cup of whole wheat pastry flour in this amount.
  • 1 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 2/3 cup butter, softened or at room temperature
  • 2 1/2 frozen bananas to be about 1 1/4 cups mashed
  • 2/3 cup buttermilk; I only had 1/2 cup so added water to top it off
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2-1 cup chopped walnuts

I used the directions with the speed and timing for the KitchenAid stand mixer. So basically, sift all the dry ingredients into the bowl. Make a well and add the butter, banana, and 1/3 cup buttermilk. Beat to mix (Stir Speed for 30 seconds). Stop, scrape bowl. Turn to Speed 4 (high but not too high) and beat one minute. Add remaining buttermilk, vanilla, and eggs. Speed 2 for 30 seconds; stop and scrape; Speed 4 for one minute. Add 1/2 cup of the nuts at Stir Speed just until blended.

Pour batter into two 9-inch cake pans. I prepared the pans with parchment paper and sprayed that with cooking spray. Bake at 350 degrees F for 35-40 minutes. Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then remove and cool on wire racks.

Thoughts while making this…I often think that I should use my 8-inch cake pans in order to get taller layers. But the recipe said 9-inch. Sister told me she always doubles the nuts in her recipes so I did too. But I decided to put the extra nuts on top. While this was baking I hunted for my stash of cookie cutters thinking I had a maple leaf. I don’t. I was thinking of flavoring the frosting with maple syrup. I did not. I have always just used Speed 2 for mixing cake batters. But now I can go higher. Interesting.

For the frosting I also used the Speed and timing. This is very important for making fluffy frosting. Who knew?

  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

Beat the butter at Speed 6 for 30 seconds. Stop and scrape bowl. Sift powdered sugar into bowl. I got out my sifter and actually did sift the sugar into the bowl. I do not use the sifter very often at all. Add vanilla. Speed 2 for 30 seconds. Stop and scrape. Then Speed 6 for two minutes. Voila, fluffy, spreadable frosting. Frost cake after it cools. I found some prepared icing gel tubes and thought I would be fancy. I dream of decorating fancy cakes. Not the most intricate of designs, nor was it as easy as I thought it would be.

But the test is in the taste. And this was very tasty and moist. I took a large portion of it to work so as not to eat a whole cake this week. Everyone raved about it. This recipe will be marked as a keeper.

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Is it too early for Gingerbread?

I had seen a steamed chocolate cake recipe on my Facebook feed and thought it would be interesting to try. New technique and all that. I got out all the ingredients and when testing the pans I found I did not have a large enough Dutch Oven. Shucks! I still wanted to bake something. So then I found another recipe I had saved from my Facebook feed and went to the good old faithful King Arthur Flour website. Thus I found myself making Gingerbread Pudding Cake. My mom used to make a chocolate pudding cake and I have made a lemon pudding cake and they are scrumptious. Here is the link: Gingerbread Pudding Cake.

  • 1 1/4 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar

Instead of the separate spices I used the equivalent of KAF’s Gingerbread Spice mixture. I used 1/4 half & half diluted with 1/4 cup water for the milk. Everything else was as it should be. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease or butter an 8-inch square pan.

Whisk the flour with the spices with the baking soda and salt in a bowl. Set aside. Mix the molasses, milk and egg in another small bowl. Cream the butter and sugar together and add the flour mixture and molasses mixture alternately. Pour batter in prepared pan.

For the pudding mixture:

  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 4 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 1/4 cups hot water
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter

Mix the brown sugar and cornstarch. Heat butter and water just until butter melts. This was about 1 minute in the microwave. Add liquid to sugar mixture. Pour carefully over the batter in the pan. Bake for 28-30 minutes. The cake part should test done.

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Serve warm. I served this with whipped cream. For leftovers, put scoop of cake and pudding (on bottom) into microwave safe dish/bowl and heat for 20-30 seconds, depending on the power of your microwave.

Enjoy!

Gateau Basque: another French cake

I’ve been on vacation camping in the Adirondacks, but I am back home. No more camping until next year.:(

Anyway, I was flipping back through the pages of my big French Feasts cookbook to look for the Breton Butter Cake  to make to take on vacation when meeting up with my sister. I wanted her and her husband to taste this creation. I find a recipe that is cake AND a filled cake at that. Is this the real French butter cake? I’ll have to make it and find out. The ingredients are basic cake.

  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons light rum
  • 1 egg yolk for brushing on top
  • filling of pastry cream or jam; I used about 1 cup blackberry/blueberry preserves

Whisk the eggs and sugar until pale and thick. I did this with the KitchenAid stand mixer. Whisk the flour with the baking powder.

 

 

French Pound Cake: Quatre-Quarts

I love all things French! I have always wanted to speak the language. I took four years of French between High School and College but to no avail. I do recognize some words and phrases and enjoy knowing what Christie’s sleuth, Hercule Poirot, says from time to time on the Masterpiece Mystery movies. But, alas, I never was able to immerse myself into a French-speaking environment in order to learn to speak it myself. I can ask where the bathroom is, though, in a pinch!

On a beautiful weekend afternoon I wanted to bake a cake. Well, I wanted to bake a cake and use this new technique of making fluffy frosting with whipping cream in the food processor. But I did not really want to make chocolate cake. I get out various cookbooks and start browsing. I was all set to make a cake with apples and walnuts or walnuts and maple syrup or a pound cake. Hubby likes pound cake. He had suggested a carrot cake but I did not buy carrots when we grocery shopped the previous day. However, I did not have any walnuts in the house either. I searched. So, pound cake it is.

From my French Feasts coffee table-sized cookbook, there is a pound cake recipe.

  • 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

The recipe description says this is a basic recipe that can be personalized by adding apples, pears, banana, fruit conserves, etc. As you can see there is no “flavoring” in the recipe. Also there is probably an assumption that the butter is salted. So I add:

  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
  • zest from one very small lemon
  • I forgot to add a pinch of salt

We like lemon glazed pound cake so that was my plan. Then I wondered about adding some raspberry preserves…lemon and raspberry is a nice flavor combo!

  1. Whisk the eggs with the sugar until the mixture is pale and thick. Add the softened butter, sifted flour, and baking powder. So I rarely sift flour anymore. Instead I whisk the two dry ingredients together for about 30 seconds to thoroughly mix.
  2. I lined a 9×5-inch loaf pan with parchment and cooking spray. I poured about 3/4 of the batter into the pan. I then added about 1/4 cup raspberry preserves to the remaining batter. Then, forgetting how to marble a cake, I plopped the purple batter on top and attempted to make a swirl.
  3. Bake in preheated oven 315 F for 45 minutes. In future I will set the oven for 350. I had to leave it in the oven baking for another 15 minutes. But this may be because I added the jam.

I let the cake sit in the pan for about 15 minutes and then took it out and let it cool on a wire rack. I paced paper towels (parchment paper would have been better) under the rack and while it was still warm I glazed it. To make the glaze I added the juice from the small zested lemon to 2/3 cup confectioner’s sugar. That made too much glaze so I poured about 1/2 of that on the warm cake. Then I let it sit to cool a bit more. And then we ate it.

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I served this with some thawed frozen mixed berries and freshly whipped cream. It was yummy. The swirl is evident but the flavor of the raspberry preserves did not come through. The lemon overpowered it. In future, I would add vanilla to the cake itself and more fruit preserves, maybe just dropping the preserve into the batter in the pan for swirling. The outside had a nice crust but the interior texture was not as dense as expected in pound cake. Not a failure! Actually a success!

 

 

Breton Butter Cake my way!

The weather has cooled down a bit and baking seems like a good idea. I have been going through my magazines and marking the recipes I want to try, one of which is a French butter cake. This I found in January/February 2017 edition of Cook’s Illustratedhttps://www.cooksillustrated.com/articles/368-french-butter-cake?incode=MCSCD00L0&ref=new_search_experience_1.

I forgot to find Californian dried apricots while shopping so had to decide what type of filling to make. I looked into my  French Feasts cookbook and found some tasty sounding fillings for gateau roule. And then I just took out an open jar of lemon curd and decided to use that one. Now also in this book is a recipe for Breton Butter Cake. This one is not filled. I compared the recipes and decided I would try the French Feasts‘ recipe but use the magazine’s techniques. And this would allow me to use my  8-inch cake pan with the removable bottom. Yay!

  • 2 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup soft brown sugar
  • 1/4 ounce yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
  • 1 cup salted butter (I used unsalted butter with every intention of adding one teaspoon salt, but forgot to add the salt!)
  • 4 egg yolks (3 for the batter and 1 for brushing on top)
  • 2 tablespoons rum

Yeast in a cake! And no rising time! How will this turn out?

  1. Mix together the flour, sugars, and yeast. Grate the cold butter and add to the mixture along with three egg yolks and knead together. This will be crumbly. Well, I cut the butter into tablespoons and chopped it up a bit and put it in the mixer bowl. I then added all the other dry ingredients and mixed it up in the Kitchen Aid stand mixer. This got crumbly and I added the egg yolks and rum. It then came together into a stiff batter.
  2. Place a sheet of parchment paper in a tart pan than is about 8 inches in diameter and spread the dough over its base. Beat the remaining egg yolk and brush it on the dough. Ridge the dough surface with a fork. So I followed the magazine and spread half the dough onto the base of the pan. I then spread the 1/2 jar (about 6 ounces) of lemon curd on the base to about 1/2 inch from the edges. I placed this in the freezer for about ten minutes. Per Cook’s this will freeze up firm enough to put the second half of the batter on top. I forgot completely that lemon curd does not freeze firmly. Oops! I then attempted to spread the second part of this dough on top. I should have rolled it out into an  8-inch circle and put the whole thing on top all at once. Live and learn. I had to put pieces around the edge to stop the lemon curd from spreading to the edge. I did my best and then brushed the top with egg yolk and ridged it with a fork. IMG_0218
  3. Bake in preheated oven 400 degrees F for about 25 minutes; then lower the temperature to 350 F and continue cooking for 15 minutes. Allow the cake to cool in the oven with the door open. I baked it as directed but decided to let it cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes per Cook’s. The cake was ready to have the pan removed right out of the oven, no need to run a knife around the edge to loosen. IMG_0219
  4. When the cake is lukewarm, wrap it in foil. This cake is better when it is not so fresh–the day after, or the day after that. We cut this baby up after the 30 minutes! IMG_0226Actually we waited a bit longer and cut and ate a slice while we were watching a Poirot mystery set in the French Riviera. That seemed appropriate.

I first was concerned that it was not fully baked around the filling but this was hard to tell given the lemon curd was not distinct from the rest of the cake. It was firm on the outside, top, bottom, and sides. it was dense. It tasted delicious!

And how did it taste the next day? Still delicious. A little gummy but that gives it a fudge-brownie type texture. The lemon filling is marvelous in this cake. The outside of the cake gave it a shortbread type of feel. It is definitely not the American butter cakes I grew up baking and eating. But this I will make again.

 

Lemon Pudding Cake

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This dessert recipe I found many years ago on allrecipes.com. In fact it was 2010 when I printed it out so maybe that is not so many years ago. The recipe is still posted here. I did not make too many adjustments so as not to mangle the results.

  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice (I juiced one lemon and topped it up with jarred lemon juice to make 1/3 cup.)
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest (this was 1/2 the zest from the aforementioned lemon; I froze the remainder for future use.)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 1/2 cup sifted all-purpose flour (I did not sift. I figure if I whisk the flour in the container and then spoon it into the measuring cup lightly without packing, that is close enough.)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups milk (I did not have cow’s milk except for half-and-half. So I used 1/2 cup half-and-half, 1/2 cup almond milk which emptied the carton, so I topped it up with 1/2 cup cashew milk. I thought it was necessary to use the half-and-half for the fat content.)

Beat together egg yolks, lemon juice, lemon zest, and butter until thick and lemon colored. Combine the flour, sugar, and salt. Add this alternating with additions of the milk.

Beat egg whites until stiff. Blend egg whites into the batter on low speed of electric mixer. I am so glad I have two bowls for my KitchenAid mixer. I used one bowl with the paddle attachment for the batter and the other bowl with the whisk attachment for the egg whites.

Pour this into an -inch square pan. Heat oven to 350 F. This bakes in a bain marie: place a 9 x 13 inch pan in the oven with hot water. Put the square pan in it and bake for 45 minutes.

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We ate this warm from the oven. The sauce/pudding formed under the sponge thickens up as it cools so it is good warm or cool. The birthday girl had a second helping and declared it good! 🙂