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. ūüė¶ 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. ūüôā

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.

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!

 

 

 

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.

 

 

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 Illustrated:¬†https://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.

Chocolate Chip Walnut Loaf with Craisins, and some thoughts

Here are some thoughts…

  • Sometimes I think that there are no more unique recipes or ways to prepare ordinary food. And then I read food blogs…
  • I have too many cookbooks so I get stymied in my search for cooking and baking. Too many choices.
  • I was standing over the compost bucket disassembling a k-cup having images of my mother putting all the food scraps in a coffee tin to throw into the garden. She did not have the luxury of a compost service like I have. But there I was “channeling Mom”.
  • How does one simplify the kitchen supplies without giving away something I will need later?
  • Sometimes I don’t feel like cooking even though I am home from work a full hour or more before Hubby. I would like to take a weeknight or weekend afternoon to cook for the week. But I am concerned that I would then not want to eat what has been prepared! And camping season is arriving so my weekends should be spent camping.
  • I need to get three years of pictures off my phone and computer. And organize them in some way. I can’t always remember how to get to the “cloud”.
  • I want to get back to writing my memoirs and organizing them so that my kids can have my thoughts for posterity someday in the future, a long way into the future, when I am gone.
  • Writing is a creative outlet that I need to discipline myself to fit into my daily or weekly schedule. And regular exercise, and meditation, and prayer, and reading, and sewing, and all sorts of things I want in my life…!
  • I also am thrilled that there are those of you out there who read what I write!

Now for cake. This is a recipe that I found in one of my UK published cook books. I made it once before and it broke apart coming out of the pan. The recipe instructed to grease the loaf pan and sprinkle with sugar. Just so you know this does not work well with a stoneware loaf pan. This time I greased the pan, floured it, and put a rectangle of parchment paper in just to be on the safe side. I am pleased to say that the loaf came out of the pan in one piece. Yay!

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The recipe:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 4 Tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • grated rind of one lemon (I used a 1/2 teaspoon of lemon extract because I did not have a lemon on hand. I did use the zest in the first loaf I made.0
  • 2 Tablespoons currents or raisins (I used Craisins.)
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
  • 3 Tablespoons chocolate chips

Sift the dry ingredients together. Cream the butter and sugar. Add eggs one at a time beating after each one. To this I added the vanilla and lemon extracts. Add the dry ingredients in three batches. Do not over mix. Then fold in the goodies. I used a combination of the three to an equal of one cup, so a little more than what is listed.

Spread in prepared loaf pan, 9 x 5 inch. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 45 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes before turning out of the pan onto a wire rack.

I never let something like this cool before cutting and eating. It is quite tasty and not too sweet.

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Ginger Cake

We are expecting a blizzard. I’ve already been given a snow day from work. Hubby will work from home so he’ll be no fun at all!

My kitchen is a mess; I wish I had a housekeeper every other week to do the baths, the kitchen, and the floors. Would be nice; not going to happen! Meanwhile it is good that we are not allergic to dust or pet hair. We will do a super cleaning when the grand-kids are coming down.

Dog doesn’t like his standard dog food anymore. He used to like it just fine. We buy his dog food at the pet store. It is for the mature dog. We made the mistake once of buying a specialty human grade dog food. Now he’s trying to hold out for the good stuff!

So after taking our cable box back to the cable store and coming home with a new one (but less monthly cost!) we spent three hours setting this thing up. And we now only have 45 channels but we don’t miss many of the previous 300+ channels we had. So we found a few things to watch and are being careful not to binge watch too much because when all the episodes are gone, they’re gone. Then what will we watch?

But that is not what this essay is about.

There was plenty of time during the rest of the weekend to putter around the kitchen but I did not. It is cold out there, my kitchen, and I do have heat in my house. I heated water for tea, took a beautiful teacup down from the shelf above the sink, and poured in the water. Hubby heard the fine porcelain crack from across the room and then the water came pouring out. Oh no! So learning my lesson, today I have warmed the teacup before making the tea. And a nice cup of hot tea with lemon goes very nicely with ginger cake.

By the time dinner time on Sunday rolled around and Hubby was fixing twice baked potatoes and in charge of cooking the salmon, I needed something to do. I flipped through one of my UK published baking books and found this ginger cake that I had been wanting to bake. It is entitled Preserved Ginger Cake but I did not have a jar of preserved ginger. I have crystallized ginger and since that is for the garnish I figured it would be just fine.

This is baked in an 8 inch round pan, not a 7-inch square pan that the recipe called for. Be sure not to use a 9 inch pan or it will be as flat as a pancake. Prepare the pan with parchment paper and cooking spray. Preheat oven to 325 F.

  • 4 ounces butter
  • 1 1/2 cups self-rising flour; make this by using 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder per 1 cup flour
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons corn syrup
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons milk; I used half-and-half.

Whisk the dry ingredients together in the mixer bowl. Soften the butter for 30 seconds in the microwave. Mix butter with the dry ingredients. Put the eggs, corn syrup, and milk in a separate bowl and whisk together. Mix everything together until smooth. Spread in the prepared pan. Bake 45 minutes. Let cool a little and then turn out onto plate.

For the topping I used 1/4 cup powdered sugar and a tablespoon of lemon juice to make a small amount of glaze. I let the cake cool some but not completely. I poured on the glaze and then snipped a piece of crystallized ginger around the top. Warm ginger cake was a nice treat.

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Not as pretty as the picture in the book.