Apple-Molasses Upside-Down Cake

Apple Mollases Upside Down Cake

Cast Iron pans are a secret weapon.  Yes, they are heavy enough that they could actually be used as a weapon, but that’s not what I am talking about.  I love my cast iron pan, but I hardly ever use it!  The problem is, because I don’t use it very much, whenever I go to use it – I usually have to re-season it.  It is not that hard, but kind of a pain.  It is always completely worth it though – particularly for baking.  The one thing I have not done yet is use my cast iron pan to bake something on the Big Green Egg…now we’re talking.

The other week I signed up to bring dessert for book club.  I decided that I would make two desserts – one for the kids, and one for the adults.  What did I make for the kids?  Of course these…but I wanted to do something completely different for the adults.  Something that was easy, not too heavy, but that looked appetizing enough for everyone to try it.  I was so happy when I found this recipe in Bon Appetit, and it called for a cast iron pan.  It had been a while since I baked on my cast iron pan, and it was time.

It was a little risky to make this when we were trying to think spring, but I think I pulled it off.  The apples really made this dish – the cake had such an intense flavor that the apples offset it nicely.  Most of the Moms had a taste, and many of the kids did too.  Now, all I have to do is make this on the Egg to give it a nice smoky flavor…now that would be something else.

Ingredients

  • 5 tablespoons unsalted  butter
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose  flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher  salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground  cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking  soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking  powder
  • 3/4 cup mild-flavored (light) molasses
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 teaspoons grated  peeled ginger
  • 1/2 cup sugar, divided
  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 3-4 Honeycrisp or Pink Lady apples,  (about 2 pounds), peeled

Preparation

Place a rack in middle of oven; preheat to 350°. Melt butter  in a 10-inch (as measured across the bottom) cast-iron or other ovenproof  skillet; set aside. Whisk flour, salt, cinnamon, baking soda, and baking powder  in a medium bowl.

Whisk molasses, egg, ginger, and 1/4 cup sugar in a large  bowl. Whisk in sour cream, then milk. Gradually whisk in dry ingredients, then 3  tablespoons melted butter from skillet. Set aside.

Place 1 apple on a work surface  stem up. Cut a large piece of  apple from 1 side, leaving core behind. Rotate apple and repeat twice for a  total of 3 large pieces (a triangular core will remain). Repeat with remaining  apples.

Add remaining 1/4 cup sugar to butter in skillet. Cook over  medium-high heat until sugar begins to caramelize, 2-3 minutes. Add apples; stir  to coat. Cook apples rounded sides down for  3 minutes, then turn over and cook  flat sides down until beginning to soften, about 5 minutes longer. Space apples  evenly in skillet flat side down and pour cake batter over.

Transfer skillet to oven. Bake until a cake tester inserted  into the center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, 30-40 minutes.

Let cake cool in skillet for 10 minutes, then carefully invert  onto a plate. Serve cake warm or at room temperature.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Apple Mollases Upside Down Cake

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Pistachio Pound Cake

Pistachio Pound Cake

Wow…what a weekend!!  It was spectacular – blue sky, warm temperatures.  You would have thought it was July.  Seriously – this is nicer than any weekend that we usually get in June.  We get these days here and there – and you know who I feel sorry for the most?  Those poor people who have just moved to Seattle, and think that we are all under a conspiracy here with our weather.  They are all thinking that we just make up the fact that it’s raining all the time.  I wish it were true…but sadly, it is not.  Just wait until Junuary, and you will see.

I love pistachios – no, I mean really LOVE pistachios.  I cannot just eat one, in fact, I cannot just eat ten.  Once I start, I can’t stop.  They are definitely my weakness, especially those crunchy salty ones. My daughters love pistachios too, and are always asking me to buy them.  I seriously say no only because I know I will be eating most of them.  Every once in a while I buy a big sack though, and we all sit around the table cracking open those shells and popping them in our mouths.  So, when I saw this recipe in Bon Appetit, I knew I had to give it a try.  Fortunately for me, Trader Joes now sells bags of pre-shelled pistachios – and they are not salted.  It makes baking with pistachios such a pleasant experience.  I remember the first time I wanted to make something with pistachios – my husband and I spend hours shelling the nuts so I had them ready.  At first it was one for me, one for the bowl…but I soon realized if I kept doing that, I would run out of nuts – and I needed to have enough for the recipe.  Boy was that a test of my will power.

This cake was delicious – it was densely populated with pistachio nuts – and they didn’t just float to the top or bottom.  It was rich and buttery as well – as you would expect when you are using two sticks of butter.  The girls loved it, as did I – it was quite a treat – and so easy to make – that is, if you have a Trader Joes nearby.  Otherwise – good luck with this.  If you can get through shelling the pistachios, with enough left for the recipe – a big gold star for you – and a beautiful pound cake to celebrate…

Ingredients

  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour plus more
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 5 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lime zest
  • 1 cup shelled, unsalted pistachios, coarsely chopped, divided

Preparation

Arrange a rack in middle of oven; preheat to 325°. Coat a 9x5x3″ loaf pan with nonstick spray. Dust pan with flour; tap out excess.

Whisk 2 cups flour, salt, and baking powder in a medium bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat butter on medium speed until light and fluffy, 2–3 minutes. Add sugar; beat until well incorporated, 1–2 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating to blend between additions. Add juices and zests; beat until well combined (mixture will look curdled), 2–3 minutes. Add dry ingredients; reduce speed to low and beat just until blended. Fold in 3/4 cup pistachios. Pour batter into prepared pan; smooth top. Sprinkle remaining 1/4 cup pistachios over.

Bake cake, rotating halfway through, until a tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 1 1/2 hours. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely in pan. Run a sharp knife around sides to loosen; unmold cake.

DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Pistachio Pound Cake

Passover Apple Cake

Passover Apple Cake 2

It is Passover time – one of my favorite times of the year – specifically for this – oh, and don’t forget about this. It’s funny – but I look forward to making both of those recipes every year.  I haven’t found a new one in quite a while…until I went to Israel.  Hold that thought…

So, Monday night we had a wonderful Seder at my neighbor’s house.  They had 24 guests – which meant 48 matzo balls, because you can’t just have one.  As I was heading home from work, I saw an email from my neighbor about a bad accident that occurred in the neighborhood, causing a huge back-up on one of the main streets that takes you from the highway to our house.  Our neighborhood has been the target of many burglaries lately, a shooting, and bank robbery - which has caused the schools to go into lockdown and traffic to stand still.  But this was different.  It was a drunk driver.  He drove into 3 adults and an infant.  A mother, her 10 day old son, and her in-laws.  The grandparents died at the scene of the accident, and the mother and son were rushed to the hospital, where they remain in critical condition.  What a tragedy.  The biggest tragedy of all, this was not the person’s first time with a DUI.  It makes me sick.  Something must be done.  I actually found this link tonight on the internet - in case you want to do something to help the family – I certainly did.

Ok, back to the recipe.  When I was in Israel last week, they had a special toast to celebrate the beginning of Passover.  It is definitely a big deal there, and one of the women told me about a cake she makes for Passover.  Now for those of you who celebrate Passover, you know that for the most part – Passover cakes are not that delicious.   It is hard to make a Kosher for Passover cake that you would actually long to eat – you cannot use any leavening in the ingredients.  Over the years, some of the boxed mixes have gotten pretty good – but I always prefer to bake from scratch.  The other wrench in the process is, technically, if you are serving meat for dinner, the dessert must be dairy free as well – so that means no butter.  So, when I heard about this amazing cake – I had to give it a try.  I figured, with 24 people at the Seder, there can always be an extra dessert.  I baked this on Sunday in preparation, and I could tell it was going to be a winner.  I was a little nervous with the number of eggs – but it completely worked.  This cake was delicious, particularly for a Passover cake – although I must say, even if I didn’t celebrate Passover, I would have been very happy to eat this.  For those of you who are cinnamon lovers - this is definitely a cake for you.  Happy Passover!

Ingredients

Filling

  • 2 pounds Golden Delicious Apples, peeled and sliced ​​into pieces (about 5 apples)
  • 3/4 cup of sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • Juice of one lemon

Dough

  • 1 1/2 cups matzo meal
  • 1/2 cup potato flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 cup canola oil 240ml (1 cup)

Topping

  • 1/2 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped (optional)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Make the filling by mixing the apples, sugar, cinnamon and lemon juice until completely coated.  Set aside approximately 30 minutes.

Make the dough.  Whisk the matzo and potato flour.  Add the sugar and stir.  Add eggs and oil and blend with an electric mixture until the dough is uniform and very soft. Set aside for 20 minutes.

In a third bowl, mix the walnuts, sugar and cinnamon.

Assemble the cake. With wet hands, spread half the dough on the bottom of the pan. Spread the apples on top - without the liquid.  Place the rest of the dough over the apples and spread using wet hands or a spatula, cover the apples evenly.
Sprinkle the surface of the dough with the topping. Bake for about an hour to an hour and fifteen minutes, until dough is golden.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Passover Apple Cake

Sticky Ginger Cake

Sticky Ginger Cake

I feel like we are in the home stretch.  The holidays are over for some of us, and for others, they are just around the corner.  All of the treats have been made, the teacher gifts are wrapped and ready to be handed out, and winter vacation is just a few days away. Wow – I can’t believe I am almost there.

I can’t let this season go by without making at least one gingerbread recipe.  Every year I try something different  – but I always get the same result – a beautifully flavorful cake that is rich in spices and incredibly moist.  This time the recipe came from Cooking Light - from a 10-year-old girl.  She has started to write a column for the magazine each month – and I just love it.  These are definitely recipes that my daughter could easily make.  In fact – my birthday is coming up – and would you believe that my older daughter asked me what kind of cake I want??  I couldn’t believe it – she is actually going to make me a cake for my birthday.  It is like a dream come true – I usually go pick out my own cake because I am so picky – it can’t be just any cake, if we are going to spend money on it – it has to be better than one I could make myself.  Seriously she could make me just about anything, and I would love it.

Ok – back to this cake.  So – since this came from a 10-year-old, it is super easy – and just the recipe you need as you come into the home stretch.  So – if you spent all your energy on your main course – and need a quick and easy dessert for this time of year – here is your answer.  Better yet – find a 10-year-old, and they can make it for you…

Ingredients

  • 4.5 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1 cup)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup low-fat buttermilk
  • 2  large eggs, beaten
  • 5 tablespoons honey, divided
  • 5 tablespoons molasses, divided
  • 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 teaspoon powdered sugar

Preparation

Preheat oven to 400°.

Lightly coat an 8-inch square metal baking pan with cooking spray. Set prepared pan aside.

Weigh or spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour and next 5 ingredients (through salt); stir with a whisk. Combine buttermilk and eggs. Combine 1/4 cup honey, 1/4 cup molasses, brown sugar, butter, and fresh ginger in a pan over medium heat. Stir constantly until sugar melts. Remove pan from heat; cool 5 minutes. Add egg mixture to honey mixture, stirring with a whisk. Add egg mixture to flour mixture; stir until well combined.

Pour batter into pan. Bake at 400° for 25 minutes. Place on a rack; pierce surface with a skewer. Combine 1 tablespoon honey, 1 tablespoon molasses, and 1 tablespoon water; brush over hot cake. Cool. Dust with powdered sugar.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Sticky Ginger Cake

French Apple Cake

It is apple season, and in the state of Washington, it is a wonderful thing.  The farmer’s markets have more varieties of apples than you can imagine.  There is one podcast that I listen to called SpilledMilk – and last year at this time they played a little game, Mathew read names of apples to Molly (some of which were real, some of which he made up) and she had to guess which ones were real.  It was hilarious listening to these names, and would you believe that I got most of them wrong?  That is how many varieties there are.

As I am sitting here in the airport writing this, I am wondering what is in season where I am going.  Fortunately I am going with a few people who have been there before, and they know I love food – so I am excited.  It is funny how things change – when I little, I was always so focused on the food I would get on the airplane – I could really care less about what I would eat when I landed.  Even today,  my little one commented on the food that was served on a flight we were on last year – it was disgusting, but to her, it was such a special treat.  Unfortunately for them, they don’t really serve food on the airplanes anymore – because that was definitely my favorite part of flying when I was their age.

So – I am leaving you tonight with this delicious apple cake – a Cook’s Illustrated classic recipe – it was really outstanding.  The recipe didn’t come out like it was supposed to – and I was really glad it didn’t.  This was more like an apple pudding cake – rich and delicious – perfect for this time of year.

Ingredients

  •  1/2 lbs granny smith apples, peeled, cored, cut into 8 wedges, and sliced 1/8 inch thick crosswise
  • 1 tablespoon calvados
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour (5 ounces)
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar (7 ounces)
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • confectioners’ sugar

Preparation

Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Spray 9-inch springform pan with vegetable oil spray. Place prepared pan on rimmed baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Place apple slices into microwave-safe pie plate, cover, and microwave until apples are pliable and slightly translucent, about 3 minutes. Toss apple slices with Calvados and lemon juice and let cool for 15 minutes

Whisk 1 cup flour, 1 cup granulated sugar, baking powder, and salt together in bowl. Whisk egg, oil, milk, and vanilla together in second bowl until smooth. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and whisk until just combined. Transfer 1 cup batter to separate bowl and set aside.

Add egg yolks to remaining batter and whisk to combine. Using spatula, gently fold in cooled apples. Transfer batter to prepared pan; using offset spatula, spread batter evenly to pan edges, gently pressing on apples to create even, compact layer, and smooth surface.

Whisk remaining 2 tablespoons flour into reserved batter. Pour over batter in pan and spread batter evenly to pan edges and smooth surface. Sprinkle remaining 1 tablespoon granulated sugar evenly over cake.

Bake until center of cake is set, toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, and top is golden brown, about 1 1/4 hours. Transfer pan to wire rack; let cool for 5 minutes. Run paring knife around sides of pan and let cool completely, 2 to 3 hours. Dust lightly with confectioners’ sugar, cut into wedges, and serve.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  French Apple Cake

French Yogurt Cake

I have spent a lot of time in France.  I studied there in college, and actually lived with a family – so I feel like I did have a glimpse into French life – although when I really stop and think about it – I have a glimpse into a particular family’s life – can I really say that because they did things a certain way, that’s the way all French families did things?  Of course not, and I always have to remind myself of that very fact.

My French mother (yes, that’s what I called her to everyone else, except her – she was Madame when I spoke to her) was a very interesting lady.  She did not work, but she kept herself very busy – and now that I am a mom, I understand what she did. She went to the market everyday in preparation for the family lunch, as there was hardly anything stored in the refrigerator – some cheese, charcuterie on occasion, yogurt, and that’s about it. She also had three kids – so I assume that the rest of her day was consumed with caring for them.  There were always fresh baguettes when I came down for breakfast, that she would get from the neighborhood Boulangerie.  The only thing that was missing in my mind was baking.  She never baked, in fact, I do not remember a fresh-baked good prepared in the house the entire time I was there.  She was an amazing cook – but obviously baking was not her thing.  In fact, she rarely used the oven.  The question I have though, was it just not her thing, or with so many wonderful baked goods on every corner, is it uncommon to have a french mother that loves to bake?  I seriously doubt that.

I saw this recipe in Bon Appetit, and I love a good French Yogurt Cake – in fact, I have posted one before – and it was amazing. This one looked different though - it was more of a snack cake, made in a loaf pan, with no glaze.  If French people made snack cakes, this is exactly what I would picture.  My girls loved this cake – they had it in their lunches all week, and they even had some for breakfast.  It’s not overly sweet, which makes it completely versatile.  Unfortunately I lost touch with my French family years ago – I think they would be surprised to see how consumed I am with food – and they had a part in that – at least their country did.  Even though she didn’t bake, her cooking still made an impact on me.  Fortunately my real mother’s obsession with baking gave me plenty of experience living with someone who always has something in the oven.

Ingredients

  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 3/4 cup whole-milk Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350°. Coat pan with vegetable oil spray. Dust with flour; tap out excess.

Whisk 1 1/2 cups flour, baking powder, and kosher salt in a medium bowl.

Using your fingers, rub sugar with lemon zest in a large bowl until sugar is moist. Add yogurt, oil, eggs, and vanilla extract; whisk to blend. Fold in dry ingredients just to blend.

Pour batter into prepared pan; smooth top. Bake until top of cake is golden brown and a tester inserted into center comes out clean, 50–55 minutes.

Let cake cool in pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Invert onto rack; let cool completely.

DO AHEAD: Can be made 3 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  French Yogurt Cake

Miniature Wedding Cake

Remember that special baking project I have been working on?  Well, here it is – the ultimate baking challenge.  I must admit, I cheated a little, this was a miniature version – but challenging enough for me.  So, who could have been special enough to even attempt this?  Let me explain…

Almost 16 years ago, my husband (then fiance) moved to Seattle from Denver.  We moved here knowing one person from college, but we both landed jobs here, and Seattle had mountains and water.  My husband was working on his thesis at the time, and decided to take a break and go down the street to a yard sale that our neighbor was having.  There he met another neighbor, who happily introduced herself, so curious to find out who had bought their friend’s house.  A couple of days later, she called us and invited us over for dinner – unfortunately we had plans that evening, so she asked about the following weekend.  My husband explained that we were busy that weekend also – we were flying back east to get married.  She immediately asked if there was anything she could do to help while we were away, take in the mail, maybe look for packages?  Her son walked right by our house on his way home from school, and she could have him check.  We graciously accepted, not really knowing her at all.  Little did we know that we would not just get a few packages, but most of our wedding presents would be sent to us.

When we got home, we drove up to their house – and the woman looked at us confused.  She had never seen me before, and only met my husband very briefly – and was so pleased when we told her who we were.  She told us they felt like we were old friends, she had a basement full of wedding gifts for us.  They started putting them in the front hall closet, but once that was full, they moved them all to the basement.  We couldn’t believe all the trouble these people went through for us, and we didn’t even know them!  We met her husband, and their two sons, who were about 10 and 11 at the time.  They were so nice and welcoming – and from then on, we became family to them.  There have been good times and hard times, in fact they are no strangers to my blog.  We watched their children grow up – and when their youngest son came home from college with his girlfriend for the summer, she lived with us.  When they got engaged, they asked our daughters to be in the wedding, and I was so touched.  So when they were talking about desserts for their wedding, and how she wanted a mini-wedding cake – I offered to make it for her.  It was the least I could do.  I can’t wait to watch them grow as a married couple…and we are so fortunate to have them in our lives.  Congratulations J&R!!

This cake comes from the Cake Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum, and the frosting is my stand-by Cream Cheese Frosting that I use in many of my recipes, but I had to really create the entire template and decorations myself.  I will do my best to try and explain what I did below…

Ingredients

Vanilla Cake

  • 12 large egg yolks
  • 2 cups  milk
  • 4 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 6 cups sifted cake  flour
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 sticks  unsalted butter (must be softened)

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 10  tablespoons  butter, softened
  • 8  teaspoons  non-fat buttermilk
  • 2  (8-ounce) blocks cream cheese, softened
  • 7  cups  powdered sugar (about 2 pounds)
  • 2 1/2  teaspoons  vanilla extract

Preparation

Before I start on the instructions – my kitchen-aid mixer was not big enough to make the cake batter in one batch, so I cut this recipe and half, and made it twice.  I also cooked the cakes in stages.  I had some leftover batter, so in case one of the layers doesn’t come out the way you like it, you have some extra.  I used the following size pans (and then cut them down): 8″, 5″, 3″.  I then cut them down to 7″, 4.5″, 2.25″.  Each tier was two layers.  I found that was the best way to do it, so you could completely control how big the tiers were.  I also cut a 4.5″ diameter cardboard piece (that I bought in the cake store) to be in between the bottom and middle tiers.  I took a straw and cut it down to be the same height as the bottom tier, and placed four straws for the cardboard to sit on, then placed the second tier on that.  I didn’t think the cardboard was necessary for the top-tier, but I did put a straw in the top and middle tiers, to keep the top from falling off.  I bought small candy pearls to decorate the sides of the cakes, and piped frosting in pearl shapes in between each tier.  You will have a lot of leftover frosting, and I took some with me to the wedding, just in case I had to touch up anything.  If you decide to attempt this, and have questions – please don’t hesitate to email me.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

In a medium bowl lightly combine the yolks, 1/2 cup milk, and vanilla.

In a large mixing bowl combine the dry ingredients and mix on low-speed for  30 seconds to blend. Add the butter and the remaining 1 1/2 cups milk. Mix on low-speed until the dry ingredients are moistened. Increase to medium speed (high-speed if using a hand mixer) and beat for 1 1/2 minutes to aerate and develop  the cake’s structure. Scrape down the sides. Gradually add the egg mixture in 3  batches, beating for 20 seconds after each addition to incorporate the  ingredients and strengthen the structure. Scrape down the sides.

Cut out a piece of parchment to fit perfectly on the bottom of the pans.  Butter the pans first without the parchment, place the parchment on the bottom, then butter and flour the pans.  Fill the batter up around 1/2 way and cook the cakes until they are golden and a toothpick inserted in comes out clean.  This will be different depending on the size of the layer, so you really need to watch them so they don’t burn.

Let the cakes cool in the pan on racks for 10 minutes, then turn them over onto a cooling rack, and let them completely cool.

I then wrapped the cakes in plastic and froze the cakes until the day of the wedding and let them defrost on the counter completely before starting to frost.

To prepare frosting, beat 10 tablespoons butter, 8 teaspoons nonfat buttermilk, and cream cheese with a mixer at high-speed until fluffy. Gradually add powdered sugar; beat until smooth. Add 2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla; beat well.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here: Miniature Wedding Cake

Monkey Bread

Sometimes I feel like I should have a bucket list on my blog.  I have noticed over the years that some people do that – they write down everything they have ever wanted to make, and little by little they start crossing things off of their list.  Some people are really on a mission, and will only make things on their list, while others stray from time to time, thinking that eventually they will get to everything.  I do not have a bucket list of foods to make written down, but I certainly have one in my head.  The problem is that quite often my head is too filled with work and kid stuff, and the food sometimes gets the shaft.  I know that eventually I am going to have to make list – like I do for everything else these days.  If it is not on a list, it does not get done – as sad as that may sound.

If I did have a list though, Monkey Bread definitely would have been on it.  My favorite part about having a list?  Crossing things off…  I have wanted to make Monkey Bread for years – I thought it would be a fun baking project with the kids.  I saw this lighter recipe in Cooking Light, and decided that if we are going to go through with this endeavor, that making it light might not be a bad thing.  You would have never known this was a light recipe.  The kids LOVED making this – they had a little assembly line going.  The finished product was amazing – especially when it came right out of the oven.  We decided it tasted so good warm, that every time we took some more, we warmed it slightly in the microwave.  After making this, I decided if I did have a bucket list, I would pretend I never made this, so I could make it again…

Ingredients

  • 13 1/2 ounces all-purpose flour (about 3 cups)
  • 4 3/4 ounces whole-wheat flour (about 1 cup)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1  package quick-rise yeast (about 2 1/4 teaspoons)
  • 1 cup very warm fat-free milk (120° to 130°)
  • 1/4 cup very warm orange juice (120° to 130°)
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  •  Cooking spray
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 4 1/2 tablespoons fat-free milk, divided
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon 1/3-less-fat cream cheese
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preparation

Weigh or lightly spoon flours into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flours, salt, and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer with dough hook attached; mix until combined. With mixer on, slowly add 1 cup milk, juice, honey, and 2 tablespoons butter; mix dough at medium speed 7 minutes or until smooth and elastic. Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, turning to coat top. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 1 hour or until doubled in size. (Gently press two fingers into dough. If indentation remains, the dough has risen enough.)

Combine granulated sugar, brown sugar, and cinnamon in a shallow dish. Combine 3 tablespoons milk and 2 tablespoons butter in a shallow dish, stirring with a whisk.

Punch dough down; divide into 8 equal portions. Working with one portion at a time (cover remaining dough to prevent drying), roll into an 8-inch rope. Cut each dough rope into 8 equal pieces, shaping each piece into a 1-inch ball. Dip each ball in milk mixture, turning to coat, and roll in sugar mixture. Layer balls in a 12-cup Bundt pan coated with cooking spray. Repeat procedure with remaining 7 dough ropes. Sprinkle any remaining sugar mixture over dough. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 1 hour or until almost doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 350°.

Bake at 350° for 25 minutes or until golden. Cool 5 minutes on a wire rack. Place a plate upside down on top of bread; invert onto plate. Combine powdered sugar, remaining milk, and remaining ingredients in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Microwave at HIGH 20 seconds or until warm. Drizzle over bread.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Monkey Bread

Marble Bundt Cake

I love big bundts and I cannot lie…  There are so many different reasons why they are so loveable.  For me, they are usually pretty hearty cakes that are easy to make, and look beautiful.  In addition, because I am not a huge frosting person (aside from marshmallow or cream cheese), I love a good cake that can stand on its own.  Capable of making a big impact without too much fuss.

When I first started this blog, a whole world was opened up to me – a world I didn’t really know existed.  It was a world driven by food, pictures, and people’s commentary on both.  What I realized is there were blogs on just about anything to do with food.  Some people stick to a certain discipline of food – for example, desserts.  Some people stick to a certain way of making food – for example, canning.  And some people go in different phases – like choosing the best Banana Bread out there, before moving onto the next subject.  There are many ways to get there, but at the end of the day, it is all about ranking the best.  Isn’t that really what readers want to know – what delivers the best overall experience?  I have to say, it is not easy.  In the beginning of my blogging days, I remember finding this blog, when she was doing 30 days of Bundt Cakes – can you really determine which is the best?  In the end, it is all relative.

When my daughter asked for the best “Chocolate Swirl Bundt Cake” for her birthday, I actually struggled to determine which one could be the “best.”  I finally settled for one Adapted from “Baked” by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito – published by the Food Librarian.  After we had the cake in the oven, I went back to the computer and started combing through her site, and realized that she actually made a different one that sounded like it was even better.  Ugh!    Well, the cake was a huge success.  It was moist, dense but in a good way, and could definitely could hold its own with just some powdered sugar on top.  I would have to say that relative to its Bundt Cake peers that I have experienced, it was pretty damn good – but then again, have I ever made a Bundt Cake that was not good?  Again, I guess it is all relative.

Ingredients

Chocolate Swirl

  • 6 ounces dark chocolate, coarsely chopped (I used Trader Joe’s Bittersweet)
  • 1 tsp unsweetened dark cocoa powder (I used Valrhona cocoa powder)

Sour Cream Cake

  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, soft but cool
  • 2 1/4 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 16 ounces sour cream
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Preparation

Chocolate Swirl
In the top of a double broiler over simmering water, melt the chocolate. When the chocolate is completely smooth, add the cocoa powder and whisk until thoroughly incorporated. Remove the bowl from the heat and set aside.

Sour Cream Cake
Preheat the oven to 350℉. Prep 10-inch bundt pan (I spray mine with “Pam with Flour” spray…man, I go through a lot of that this month!).

Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together into a medium bowl.

Using the paddle attachment, cream the butter until smooth and ribbonlike. Scrape down the bowl and add the sugar. Beat until the mixture is smooth and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape down the bowl and mix for 30 seconds.

Add the sour cream and vanilla and beat just until incorporated. Add the dry ingredients in three additions, scraping down the bowl before each addition and beating only until each addition is just incorporated. Do not overmix. You will have a lot of batter.

Pour one third of the cake batter into the chocolate swirl mixture. Use a spatula to combine the chocolate mixture and the batter to make a smooth chocolate batter.

Spread half of the remaining plain cake batter in the prepared pan use an ice cream scoop to dollop the chocolate cake batter directly on top of the plain cake batter. The dollops will touch and mostly cover the plain batter, but some plain batter will peek through. Use a butter knife to swirl the chocolate and plain batter together. Pour the remaining plain batter on top of the chocolate layer and smooth it out. Once again, use the knife to pull through the layers to create a swirl.

Bake in the center of the oven for about 1 hour, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time, or until a sharp knife inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.

Remove from the oven and let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack for 30 minutes. Invert from pan onto wire rack and let cool. Serve warm or at room temperature. The cake will keep for three days, tightly covered, at room temperature.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Marble Bundt Cake

Chocolate-Peanut Butter Fun Cake

I am in need of some fun right about now.  My kids are in their last couple of days of school, and although my 4th grader comes home with stories on how her teacher is still making them work up until the last day (no picnics and day long parties like the other classes), I can tell they are still having fun.  I haven’t seen her do any homework in days, which is quite impressive given the mountain of work she had to do this year.  My kindergartener on the other hand, is in complete lala land with the final days.  She is having the time of her life - she said she would much rather stay in school than go to camp.

I remember when I graduated college and started working, it was quite a shock thinking that there was never an “end” unless you created one.  I loved the end of the year, taking a break from school, than starting the next year completely fresh.  At work, even though we start fresh each year with new commitments, the old ones pretty much roll into the new, and you never really have a clean break.  Although, this year…we are going to try something new – they don’t know it yet, but we are getting closer to fun.

So just like a true food obsessed person would do, I turn to food.  What can you do if you want to infuse a little fun in your life?  Well, I turned to Bon Appetit, and decided to make this cake.  First of all, anything with the words chocolate and peanut butter has to be delicious – but seriously – add the word fun, and you have just created yourself a party.  This cake was so amazingly moist and delicious, and that frosting, I seriously could not get enough.  I don’t even like buttercream frosting, but this was more like a marshmallow frosting with butter in it – it was light and sinfully good.  The best part about it was how simple it was to make.  Now, who is having fun now?  So, if you need a little fun in your life – this is the cake for you, and the best part of all is you don’t need to go through an entire year of school to get to the fun part…

Ingredients

Chocolate Cake

  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 1 1/4 cupsall-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped semisweet or bittersweet chocolate (3 1/2 ounces)

Peanut Butter Buttercream

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup egg whites (from about 2 large eggs)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup chopped semisweet or bittersweet chocolate (about 1 3/4 ounces)
  • 1/4 cup chopped unsalted, dry-roasted peanuts
  • special equipment:

    An 8x8x2-inch cake pan

Preparation

Chocolate Cake

Preheat oven to 350°. Coat bottom and sides of pan with nonstick spray; line bottom of pan with parchment paper. Whisk flour and next 4 ingredients in a large bowl. Add oil, vanilla, and 1 1/4 cups water; whisk until smooth. Fold in chopped chocolate. Scrape into prepared pan; smooth top. Bake until a tester comes out clean when inserted into center, 35–40 minutes. Let cool completely in pan on a wire rack.

Peanut Butter Buttercream

Combine sugar and egg whites in a medium metal bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water. Whisk constantly until sugar dissolves and mixture is hot to the touch, 3–4 minutes. Remove from heat; using  an electric mixer, beat on high speed until cool and thick, 5–6 minutes. Beat in vanilla, then peanut butter. With mixer running,  add butter a few pieces at a time, beating to blend between additions. Season with salt.

Run a thin knife around pan to release cake. Invert cake onto a serving plate. Spread peanut butter buttercream over top. Garnish with chopped chocolate and peanuts.

DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Chocolate-Peanut Butter Fun Cake