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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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!

 

 

I made a Green Grape Pie!

Why, might you ask, and what? I had bought one of those supermarket packages of green grapes and found the the quality was not very good for eating fresh. But what should I do with all those grapes? I could throw them all in the compost bucket but that seems like a waste. I found this recipe on the internet and adapted her adaptation for my own pie: Green Grape Pie

I had two refrigerated ready pie crusts in my refrigerator. Sometimes I buy these instead of making my own. I did not have elderberry flower syrup but the rest of the ingredients were all ready. I gathered them all together and baked a pie.

I think there were about 3 pounds of green grapes. I pulled them off the stems. I did not weigh them. It looked like enough for a pie.
1 cup white sugar, plus extra for top crust
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg; I had Hubby grate the nutmeg while he was waiting for his Kindle to charge.
1 lemon, juiced; I had just sliced a bit off of a lemon for my tea, so I juiced the rest of it.
1/4 cup elderberry flower syrup; substituted light corn syrup with real Vanilla!
1/4 cup dark honey; my honey was not particularly dark. Actually I combined the corn syrup with the honey to equal 1/4 cup as 1/2 cup sounded like it would be too sweet.
1/4 teaspoon salt; who measures this? It’s a generous pinch.
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

Preheat oven to 425 F. put one pie crust in the pan and put in freezer while making the filling. This is because you will put boiling hot grapes in the crust and you want the crust not to melt.

Put grapes, sugar, nutmeg, lemon juice, and honey/syrup in a large saucepan and heat. This will eventually need to be brought to boil. Before that boils stir in the cornstarch and salt. Stir frequently until it is boiling and thickens.

With slotted spoon remove grapes and place them in the frozen pie crust. Then add a bit of the syrup to fill the pie. I did not. In fact, there seemed to be enough syrup attached to the grapes already. The recipe has said it was a very juicy pie anyway. Dot the grapes with the butter. Place the top crust and pinch the edges together. I used my pie bird so did not need to cut additional slits. Sprinkle the top generously with sugar. Bake for 30 minutes until crust is golden brown.

 

Looking good! It is supposed to cool completely before serving. This should let the juices set up a bit.

And then we ate a slice. I’m sorry to say that it is “nothing to write home about”. Hubby declared the crust wonderful but the pie “bland”. It was an interesting texture, mushy-like. The flavor probably did need that elderberry flower syrup.

I took the remaining pie to work to see what my coworkers thought. It was declared “interesting” but was not a hit. It was just not appealing. I will not be making this again. Next time I have a bunch of green grapes that are not the best, I will cook them down into a sauce for chicken or pork. I have to admit the sauce idea was Hubby’s first suggestion.

Two years blogging!

This was a perfect day for baking.  The weather was downright chilly after a week of sweltering heat. I had printed this recipe earlier in the month and this was the day to use it. So for the anniversary blog I have made the July Bake Along Recipe from King Arthur Flour: Blueberry Hand Pies. Now I have made hand pies before: Pork Pies. But this is summer and the berries are in season and blueberry pie is so good! I had anticipated changing the recipe when I got down to making these, but I followed it exactly! That’s probably a first. I had recently bought some tart pans and thought I would make these into individual tarts and I was even thinking of making my own standard pie dough or using store bought: oh my!

I gathered the ingredients for the pastry and got out my food processor with its brand new blade that I waited 6 months for Cuisinart to replace for safety reasons. This is the part of the recipe that I did not follow. The food processor makes making pie dough simple. I never liked making it by hand.

PASTRY

  • 2 cups unbleached All-Purpose Flour; I had exactly two cups; I thought I might have had to use some whole wheat pastry flour, but I had just enough.
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup (16 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup cold sour cream

I pulsed the dry ingredients and then added the butter and finally the sour cream. It does come together in clumps as described in the recipe. When I dumped that onto my lightly floured board and read the description of rolling this out, it dawned on me that this is a puff pastry. Most likely a rough-puff as it only has two turns: rolling out, folding over, rolling out again, repeat, fold over, and chill for 30 minutes. My cutting board block is marked in two inch squares so I measured it to the 8×10 inches both times.

FILLING

  • 2 cups fresh blueberries
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt (a large pinch)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

Rinse berries and put in saucepan. Mix the dry ingredients and pour over. Add the lemon juice and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes. My filling began to thicken in about 3 minutes over medium-hot heat so that is how long I cooked it. I don’t usually cook the blueberries before putting in pie. But this does help hold the filling together for the small squares of pastry. Let cool. I let the filling cool but not quite to room temperature. And I have leftover filling. This could be good on pancakes or to top ice cream. I will use it to top Brie cheese!

Preheat oven to 425 F and get that pastry out of the fridge and get ready to roll!

Here again I found the markings on my cutting board block helpful. Roll the pastry into a 14 inch square. Then cut it into sixteen 3 1/2 inch squares. My squares were not squared completely nor were they cut to the exact size. Put a heaping tablespoon or two on eight of the squares. Brush the edges with beaten egg. Oh yeah, make a vent in the other eight squares. Then put together and press the edges with the tines of a fork. Brush the rest of the egg yolk on the tops and sprinkle with sugar. And they are ready for the oven.

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Looking good so far…

Bake for 18-20 minutes until lightly browned. When I took these out I was in awe…

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And they taste great. I am not sure how to share this with the King Arthur website for the bake-along so I will be content sharing it with you who read this.

Many blessings to all!

Fresh Fruit Tart, Revisited

This is the same basic recipe from Fresh Fruit Tart. I made a few slight changes and I used farm fresh strawberries.

We went camping and the campground is just down the road from a farm market. This farm makes the best jams and jellies, and also makes fruit wines. Those are surprisingly interesting and rather good. No grapes allowed. Last year was cherry, this year is blueberries and apple. And it is not at all the Boone’s Farm Apple Wine from high school!

20170618_232216046_iOSI am thrilled! I made the perfect pre-baked tart shell. I thought the previous crust was a bit greasy with 10 Tablespoons of melted butter. So this time I used 8 Tablespoons and melted it in a small skillet. Even though it did not brown it was more cooked than simply melting it in the microwave. I made sure I pressed the sides to the top rim of the Pyrex pie pan and again baked it on a rack in a rimmed baking sheet, 30 minutes at 350 F.

The most labor intensive part of this dessert is cutting the fruit. I cut about 1/2 quart of strawberries in halves. These strawberries are sweet and very red. None of those white cores to cut out like supermarket strawberries.

For the custard I used a combination of lemon and lime zest and the juices from one each. The original recipe calls for 7 teaspoons but I did not bother to measure. I also used 1 cup mascarpone cheese instead of the 3/4 cup in the recipe. This carton of cheese was firmer than the first one I used.

Letting the crust cool completely takes patience. I wanted to go ahead and make the cream filling but patience is a good thing. The no-cook custard-y filling must be poured into a completely cool crust.

I did not artfully arrange the berries. I put them in concentric circles just the way the Cook’s Illustrated article said made it difficult to cut the tart without cutting the berries too. Oh well! As I was putting the berries on the tart I remembered one is supposed to glaze the tart with apricot jam mixed with a teaspoon of the lime juice. I still don’t have apricot jam. But I do have this fabulous Black and Blue from the farm market made with blueberries and blackberries with crushed fruit in it. Yum! I put about 1/4 cup into a Pyrex ramekin with a bit of the citrus juice and nuke it for 30 seconds. I brush this on quite heavily and the top now looked darker than the bright red berries. I also brushed a bit around the crust. This goes into the refrigerator for 30 minutes to chill.

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Hubby declares this the best tart ever (or yet); I don’t remember exactly.

  • crust is crisp and slightly sweet
  • the custard-y filling is not too sweet; it is creamy yet set
  • the farm fresh berries were fabulous
  • the heavy glazing with the other berry jam added flavors to the fruit topping

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Fresh Fruit Tart

Okay, folks, I really, really, intended to follow the recipe to the “t” but just didn’t. What can I say?

Cook’s Illustrated July/August edition has a test-kitchened version of the fruit tart, you know, the kind you see in the bakeries each summer when the berries come into season. The kind on a layer of pastry cream or pudding. This new and improved version is supposed to stay together when cut in filling and crust. Hubby thinks this type of fruit tart is a great thing so I intend to make this. It has a pat-in-the-pan crust and a no-cook filling. Sounds easy to me.

I traipse off to the store to buy mascarpone cheese and white baking chips. Yes that’s what is in this, along with lime juice and zest. I’m cheap and just was at my local chain grocery so bought blueberries and strawberries which were less expensive (by a lot!) than raspberries and blackberries. No fresh peaches so I didn’t use those either. I forgot that kiwi makes a nice edition too, so just blueberries and strawberries for us.

The recipe is simple enough. It calls for using freshly sliced peaches to make an edible slicing guide. Good idea. It added lime to the filling to give it oomph. And the white baking chips hold the cheese filling together without cooking.

  • 1 1/3 cups flour (I read this wrong and used 1 1/2 cups.)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 10 Tablespoons unsalted butter (can be browned in a skillet, stirring frequently, for 2-3 minutes. Watch carefully as it can burn.)
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 Tablespoons water (apparently browning the butter cooks off a lot of liquid which is needed for the flour to hold the crust together.)

So I make the crust, almost exactly. I did not brown the butter to give it a nutty taste. I melted the butter, added the water, the flour mixture, and patted it into a 9 inch Pyrex pie pan. The tart pan I have does not have a removable bottom and is about 12 inches in diameter. I thought that would be too big. Now, thinking about it, it might have worked anyway. And I may not have needed to add the whole 2 Tablespoons of water.

The crust gets baked in a 350 F oven for 30 minutes, turning half way through. It is also baked on a wire rack placed in a rimmed baking sheet. Let cool completely. Note to self: this may be the way to bake pies in the future.

I cored then cut supermarket strawberries in half and washed 1/2 pint of blueberries. The glaze is supposed to be made from apricot preserves but when I opened the jar, I found that the little bit left was not fit for human consumption. Into the compost bucket with it! All I have now is dark jellies. I consult with Hubby and we agree that I can use the dark jelly for a glaze since I am using berries anyway. We have a wonderful berry preserve from a local farm and it is made from blackberries and blueberries. Cook’s calls for 1/3 cup. I use about 1/4th.

Meanwhile for the filling.

  • 1/3 cup white baking chips
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream (I bought and used whipping cream because I would have more uses for the remainder in the pint carton.)
  • 1 teaspoon grated lime zest plus 7 teaspoons juice (This supposedly needs two limes. Well, the zest from one lime was a tablespoon and the juice was a few teaspoons at best. I figured the extra zest would make up for the juice and only used one lime. After all, one needs them for Lime Rickeys and G&Ts!)
  • 6 ounces mascarpone cheese at room temperature. (I used 8 ounces because that was the size of the small tub that I found at the grocery store.)

I really did have every intention of following the recipe exactly. But as you can see from my notations above I did not.

Melt the baking chips with the zest, a pinch of salt, and the cream. Do this in the microwave for ease. It took less than a minute to melt it to a smooth consistency. Now add 1/3 of the mascarpone and whisk. Then add the 6 teaspoons of lime juice and the rest of the cheese. Whisk til smooth and pour into the completely cooled crust. Arrange fruit as desired.

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Melt the preserves with a little lime juice (this teaspoon came from a jar) and carefully glaze the fruit avoiding the crust. Well, this is easier said than done. As mentioned above I had a dark glaze and there were gaps between the fruit. This is to be put in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

 

So did this new improved tart meet its goals? Yes it did. Life is too short not to eat dessert when it looks like this. I admit it is not as pretty as the ones in the bakery or the picture in Cook’s Illustrated. But it is in my kitchen ready to eat. And the crust and filling did not break apart or ooze out when cut. Yay! I see no need to let it sit out for 15 minutes before cutting, either. Also farm fresh strawberries will be tastier than supermarket berries. I will have to look out for some next time I pass a farm market or stand.

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