How does one make a birthday cake for a sugar-free, dairy-free, and gluten-free dietary need? Luckily for me the particular family member is a grown adult who is open to experimentation in recipes and not a small child who doesn’t understand why they cannot have cake.
Looking into gluten-free flours it seems important to get the 1:1 product that contains Xanthem Gum. I looked at the Xanthem Gum and it was not inexpensive and why would I need that much anyway? Oh, and the gluten-free flour must also not contain any almond flour. I found a small bag and purchased it with the intent of experimenting on my standard cake recipes.
Sugar-free is a challenge. Approved sweeteners are honey, dates, and maybe, coconut sugar. I found a small bag of coconut sugar as well.
Dairy-free is simpler as there are so many dairy-free “not milk” products out there. I like oat milk which is better for the planet than almond milk. Soy has a mixed reputation but would more closely match the protein in cow’s milk. Plant-based butters are available but if you read ingredients carefully you can find margarine that is completely lactose-free. An olive oil cake won’t need butter at all.
I have a Betty Crocker snack cake recipe from the back of an ancient flour bag which I have used for almost 40 years. This recipe is actually vegan. I have chosen the first cake experiment for this recipe as it will only need two substitutions: flour and sugar.
1/2 teaspoon vanilla (why is vanilla used in chocolate cakes?)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly spray 8-inch square baking pan with cooking spray or oil. I do this even though the original recipe does not direct one to grease the pan.
Whisk all dry ingredients together and then stir in the wet ones. Mix thoroughly and pour into prepared pan. Bake for 35 minutes until done.
Thoughts: coconut sugar is brown in color with a vague caramel aroma. It also does not hold moisture as well as brown sugar (according to the internet). I was concerned the cake may be dry, but it was not. It may have been done just earlier than 35 minutes though. It did have a hint of a caramel/”burnt-but-not-really” flavor. Coconut flavor was not detected. And the texture was good and cake-like, spongy. Perhaps some espresso powder to enhance the cocoa would not go amiss.
I was thinking that I could make one dessert for the week and that should satisfy my sweet tooth and love of baking. Well, that might be the case for reasonable people who don’t eat half a pan of brownies in one sitting or cut nibble size pieces from cake as one walks through the kitchen. I am not necessarily one of those reasonable people all the time. But here I am hoping that will work this time.
I have selected this recipe from a clipping in my Mom’s recipe notebook. this one appears to have been from a newspaper. It sounded interesting and relatively healthy, if cake can be healthy? And oatmeal is good for one, so here goes!
1 1/2 cups boiling water
1 cup quick-cooking oats
1/2 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup sugar (Oops! I accidentally omitted this!)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg (I added a shake of allspice as well as I was not sure if I grated enough nutmeg to equal one teaspoon.)
1/2 teaspoon salt
Pour boiling water over oats and mix well. Cream butter and sugar and then beat in eggs. I timed this for 3 minutes. Stir in soaked oatmeal. Sift or whisk the other dry ingredients together and add to batter. Pour this into a greased or buttered 13×9-inch pan and bake in 350 degrees F oven for 30-35 minutes. Cool in pan.
Make broiled topping.
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup flaked coconut
1 cup chopped nuts; I used walnuts but pecans would work here too.
6 Tablespoons butter
1/4 cup light cream
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
Heat all the ingredients in sauce pan until bubbly. Pour over cake. Broil in oven for about 5 minutes. Technically one should stir in the vanilla after the concoction comes to bubbly.
When this came out of the oven, my first thought was “this didn’t rise like a cake.” Then I thought that maybe it is more like a bar cookie. After letting the very hot topping cool slightly we tasted this. It is good and not too sweet. It is more of a spice bar than cake in texture. I have “hidden” this pan in the bread box to prevent “drive by nibbling”!
This is really cake. This one is from a recipe clipping in Mom’s recipe notebook and looks like it came from a magazine. There is no reference on the clipping. Did Mom make this? I’m not sure. I know she used to make a poppy seed cake with pudding filling and chocolate glaze, so maybe she did.
I read and re-read this recipe before proceeding. As I was making the cake I realized this is a hot milk sponge cake. I proceed hoping for the best and reasonably confident that the past two hot milk sponge cakes I baked were successful but not this recipe. Re-reading helped me see that this called for two 8 inch round cake pans. I recently bought nice 9-in pans. The amounts of the ingredients also seemed scant for two pans, so I doubled the recipe and am very glad I did. The recipe is almost exactly like the one from my previous blog entitled Hot Milk Sponge Cake so I will not reprint it.
I made the filling and the chocolate glaze from the recipe clipping. Making a pudding or cream-custard can by a little tricky and, I admit, mine had a bit of scrambled egg to it, but not much so you noticed.
1/3 cup sugar
2 Tablespoons flour
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups milk
2 eggs (okay so the original called for 1 egg and 1 egg yolk but why?)
1 teaspoon vanilla
Stir dry ingredients together in medium saucepan and slowly add the milk and cook over moderate heat until boiling, stir and cook 2-3 minutes longer. Meanwhile have your eggs slightly beaten in a bowl or measuring cup. Pour some of the hot milk mixture into the eggs and then pour it all into the saucepan and cook and stir until returns to boiling. Add vanilla and let cool.
When cool and set beat until smooth and layer over one cake layer. Top with the other.
Make the glaze by heating one ounce unsweetened chocolate with 1 Tablespoon butter until melted and add one cup powdered sugar and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla. I did this in a microwave safe measuring cup and not on the stove. Blend in 1-2 Tablespoons boiling water until drizzling consistency. Pour over top of cake.
“This elegant company dessert combines three American favorites–cake, cream-custard, and chocolate.”
I wanted to bake a cake. I wanted to try something new. I looked at my Soulard Market cookbook and found the 12th street hot milk cake and decided to try it. The first time I made this I halved the recipe. I remember my sister mentioned she uses this recipe. I then called her up and asked if it really called for so little butter. She then reminded me that this is a sponge cake and that she actually uses our mother’s Hot Milk Sponge cake recipe. The key to success, she said, was to aerate the eggs long enough.
I then went to my mother’s recipe notebook and found the Hot Milk Sponge recipe. The ingredients are almost the same as Soulard’s, except the typo in Soulard of “1 teaspoon flour” which most likely is the salt, except it calls for a “dash of salt” later in the ingredient list and it did not say when to add the vanilla. A bit confusing but when I made the half recipe it came out beautifully. We ate that one before taking a picture.
I made the full recipe in a greased 9×13-inch cake pan as directed in the Soulard book. Mom’s recipe calls for an ungreased 9-10 inch tube pan. There is also a difference in directions in putting together the batter. I used the Soulard because I knew that one worked. I have not had much luck with sponge cakes before but this one is going to be a repeat!
2 cups sugar
2 cups flour (or sifted cake flour)
1 Tablespoon butter per Soulard (2 Tablespoons per Mom’s)
1 teaspoon vanilla (or 2)
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
2 teaspoons baking powder
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Mix butter and milk in saucepan or pyrex (for microwave) and heat until butter melts. This takes 1-2 minutes in the microwave. In the mixer bowl put the eggs and beat 5-8 minutes and then slowly add the sugar. This will look fluffy when ready. Now fold in the dry ingredients except the baking powder. I mixed this in on low speed for 30 seconds. Stir in the hot milk mixture. This is where to add the vanilla. Now fold in the baking powder and allow to stand for 10 minutes “to allow the baking powder to expand”.
Pour batter in a greased 9×13 inch pan and bake for 25-30 minutes. Cool on wire rack. Frost with icing of your choice. My choice of frosting is a super easy chocolate one from a King Arthur Flour sales flyer. Melt one stick of butter in a saucepan. Stir in ¼ cup cocoa and 6 tablespoons buttermilk or plain yogurt. Bring to a boil and boil for one minute. Remove from heat and stir in 4 cups confectioner’s sugar. This makes a wonderful fudge like frosting.
Variations: one can use coconut oil in place of the butter. This will give the cake a slight coconut flavor, a very mild one. It using coconut oil in place of the butter in the frosting this will be a stronger coconut flavor. I like the combination of chocolate and coconut. It is one of my favorite combinations.
I got the pan for free at the Dump. You know how some municipal dumps have a “free shack” where reasonable items can be donated for others to take at will. This was my prize find along with a Trivia game of facts from the 1940s through the 1990s which proves to me how much I should remember but don’t!
We like flan. Flan is like custard, crème caramel. I find the pan where it had been hiding in my overfull kitchen cabinet. I have these ingredients. I’m making flan. This will be the dessert for the week, not counting the apple pie made 3 days ago which we have since eaten.
In making the recipe I do wonder about flour and butter in a custard, but forge ahead. I did not separate the eggs very well so there are two whole eggs with one egg yolk. Otherwise all is as is printed on the pan.
This is a light sponge-y cake. I look up flan on the internet and find some pictures of this pan since the title of the pan is Nordic Flan Pan. But flan is custard. Or cake with custard. This pan and cake are designed to be topped with fruit, custard, ice cream, etc. I sprinkle this one with powdered sugar for the first taste. The second slices are topped with jam and marmalade. It’s a nice light dessert, but it is not flan!
I wanted to make a lemon cake. I wanted to make a lemon cake with fluffy coconut frosting. I wanted to bake something. The grandkids were coming so I wanted something fun so I baked an ordinary banana muffin recipe in the “bug pan”.
I figured I could make it lemon although that is not one of the options given. Would white sugar be okay instead of brown sugar? I just gave it a go.
So for the lemon cake I substituted all white sugar for the brown sugar. I added 1 teaspoon of lemon flavoring and one teaspoon of lemon zest. I added a few tablespoons of lemon juice to the water, still equal to 1 cup.
1 2/3 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon lemon flavoring
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 cup water, add 2 Tablespoons of lemon juice to measuring cup then fill to 1 cup with water
1 teaspoon vinegar
Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl. Spray an 8-inch square pan with cooking spray or brush with oil. I sprinkled unsweetened coconut flakes on top before putting it in the oven at 350 degrees F. Bake 35-40 minutes.
Well, I saw this recipe from The Telegraph for a chocolate cake with a kick of ginger. Sounded good to me so I thought I’d give it a try. First let me check for ingredients. No muscovado sugar but I do have brown sugar. No double cream but I do have evaporated milk. No golden syrup but I do have light corn syrup. No chopped dark chocolate but I do have dark chocolate chips. No dairy milk but I have nut milk. I’m good to go!
Spoiler alert: This essay is about process and not the recipe. I will show you the end product and review the taste. For fans of the GBBO this did not come out as a signature bake, a show stopper, nor would it have passed the technical. I would have to leave the tent!
First of all I pulled together the ingredients for the cake. This cake used oil and not butter and had more sugar than flour which I thought was interestingly different. So I am standing in my kitchen with Google on one hand, a cookbook open to a chart of conversions from Metric to Imperial and vice versa, a calculator, and pen and paper. I have to convert grams to cups and portion of cups, weight to volume. This takes quite a bit of finagling since Siri says one thing and the chart says one thing and the calculator says another thing. Finally I decide on a formula and measure out the cake ingredients. Luckily my liquid measuring cups have ml markings. The batter comes together and is very thin, and there is not a lot of it either. This is to be baked in 20cm round pans which to my measurement were the 9-inch pans. I fit parchment paper, pour in the batter, and bake.
(I have just now double checked the 20 cm measurement and find that it is 8 inches. There is a reason for the “measure twice, cut once” truism.)
The cakes were very thin. Clearly the result of the above mentioned measurement error. But they were raised so I put them on racks to cool. They smell and look good.
While the cakes were baking I had put aside and prepped the ingredients for the ginger caramel as well as the chocolate frosting. But for the frosting I figured the cocoa would make it chocolate enough and did not put in chopped chocolate chips. Boiled (was to only melt) the frosting ingredients and set aside to cool and thicken. Which it did not do. I put the frosting in the fridge. Still liquid. I melted some chocolate chips to try to thicken it which did not really work. So I have fudge sauce for the frosting. Great.
Meanwhile I am looking at the very thin cakes and decide I’ll bake another set of cakes from a tried-and-true recipe, Best-Ever Chocolate Cake (https://mykitchenmythoughts.com/2016/02/18/best-ever-chocolate-cake/) that my mom always made. I whip this up. This cake uses a cup of butter and has more flour than sugar. I bake this in two layers in the 8-inch cake pans. Why? I was not thinking properly? I wanted a cake with good height? There was much more batter than the other cake and the 8-inch pans took longer to bake than I expected and I was afraid the edges that were trying to overflow the pans would burn. They didn’t and finally the cakes were done. I now have these cooling on the racks and turn my attention to the caramel.
I do not make caramel. I cannot recall ever making caramel. The instructions did use the word “stir”. This turned into a sauce that did not thicken to drizzle state when cooled. I wondered about that when I was pouring in the ginger cream (ginger infused evaporated milk) and remember almost all GBBO bakers commenting on NOT stirring the caramel while bubbling. Live and learn.
Now I have four cake layers, fudge sauce, and caramel sauce. I put the two thin cakes together by drowning them with the fudge sauce and a few spoon of caramel. I now add the first layer of Best-Ever. This is tall enough and would be too tall with the fourth layer. So I now have to use the rest of the fudge sauce for the top of the third layer. I’m drowning the cake and the sauce is overflowing the cake plate. I busily scoop around the cake and try to spread some sauce on the sides. Then I pour the caramel over the top of it all. It dawns on me that I forgot to add the tiny bit of sea salt to the caramel so I sprinkle that on top. Cake is complete. It looks a mess. And after all that, we don’t even have a slice until the next day. I put it in the fridge overnight.
I used the wrong sized pans for both cake batches.
I stirred the caramel.
The chopped chocolate was essential for the texture and thickness of the frosting.
The fudge sauce (supposed to be frosting) was absorbed by the thin bottom cakes so they became very dense. It did not saturate the Best-Ever cake layer all the way through so there was a bit of cake texture there.
The ginger only came through from the sauce on the top of the cake.
The chocolate was too intense and although very rich did not result in the best tasting chocolate flavor.
It would be helpful to have a kitchen scale.
We’ll be eating chocolate cake all week!
Does this ever happen to you? You try something new and are disappointed. It is not certain that it is the recipe or how you carried it out? That does not mean I will stop trying. There are those home bakers who have tried-and-true cakes, pie, cookies that they consistently bake. The only one I have is Best-Ever Chocolate Cake. But I like to try new recipes and they sometimes do not turn out a well as I had hoped. I have a trove of cookbooks, I follow cooking blogs, and the internet has almost everything else. The adventure continues.
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. 🙂
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!