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maple apple cake {gluten free}

October 24th, 2013 | 3 Comments »

Several months ago I started having pretty severe discomfort in my belly and immediately suspected that wheat might be the problem. I decided to eliminate it from what I ate for a week to see if there was any relief, and it was clear after only two days that my belly was happier without it. I had been considering cutting back on my consumption of wheat anyway, so it wasn’t much of a change to stop eating it all together. Once dropping it completely, I’ve realized that eating a small amount here and there is not that disruptive on my digestive system, and can enjoy a bit of  good quality bread if need be, but along with dairy, I’ve learned that the more processed the product is, the worse it affects my gut. I think it’s so amazing that our bodies know what’s not good for us, and all we need to do is pay attention.

Along with eliminating wheat came the need to understand substituting gluten-free flours for baking, a process that is expansive and often dizzyingly complicated, with the starches, the gums, bean flours, ancient grain flours, rice flours and such, but thankfully there is a huge wealth of knowledgable people out there who can take the mystery out of replacing whole wheat with delicious alternatives. I’m not interested in just subbing in an AP GF flour blend when I bake; I want to understand how blending GF flours can enhance your baked goods, and make them more flavorful, instead of just relying on what someone else decides is a good alternative. Plus, the more I read about GF baking, the more I realize that not one blend will produce similar quality results for breads, cakes, muffins or scones. Each of those baked goods requires different blends, gums and starches to produce the textures that we crave, that are often gone missing in GF baked goods.

It’s been a learning curve, no doubt. I made a GF Lemon Coconut Cake that sounded amazing on paper, but the first bite was akin to a balloon rapidly leaking air. It wasn’t good. Not even close, and despite my hatred of throwing out food, the whole cake went in the trash. I’ve spent a lot of time reading GF blogs, researching and absorbing. I’ve purchased small bags of all the options I want to try, and slowly am working towards a fuller understanding, but folks, it’s a long way off. We all have to start somewhere, don’t we?

Yesterday, while pining for something cake-like and warm to use the apples that are sitting in storage, I found this cake recipe on Healthy Green Kitchen, which is one of my go-to sites for healthy eating. I had everything necessary to make it, too, which was miraculous. And Winnie is a source to trust, as far as I’m concerned, so I wasn’t all that concerned that this cake was going to end up in the garbage.

And if you’re one of those folks who think sugar is the devil itself, please read her current post containing her thoughts on the whole sugar uproar. It’s worth a few minutes of your time.

Now, back to that cake.

This recipe was heavily adapted from the one on Winnie’s blog, mostly because I discovered that I was out of white sugar so I subbed in a brown sugar/maple syrup blend. Her recipe called for straight almond flour too, but due to it’s expense, I don’t like to use it so freely, plus I love how coconut flour works to add bulk and texture in baked goods, and with the extra liquid from the syrup, it needed that bulk. I also wanted to add sorghum for experimental purposes. The texture, crumb and flavor of this cake was delicious and tender, with a flavor that we all gave an enthusiastic thumbs up! I’d make it again, exactly the same way.

Please note that it can be made with regular AP flour in the same amount as the total of the three GF options I’ve listed.

 

Maple Apple Cake

3 eggs
1/2 c. packed brown sugar
1/4 c. pure maple syrup
1 c. almond flour
1/2 c. sorghum flour
1/2 c. coconut flour
3/4 c. cup plain almond milk
3 T. butter, melted
2 t. baking powder
1 t. pure vanilla extract
3 medium apples, about 1 3/4 pounds peeled, cored, and chopped. I used Haralson.
Optional: Powdered sugar for dusting the top, ice cream or yogurt to serve along side.

Preheat oven to 350° and prepare a 9″ springform pan by spraying with cooking spray, or rubbing with butter. Coat with a sprinkle of almond flour, if desired. {{My springform pan always seems to leak, so I wrap the bottom in tin foil}}

In the bowl of a stand mixer, place the eggs, brown sugar and maple syrup. Beat on medium speed for 5 minutes, until light brown and thickened. Reduce the speed to medium-low and add the flour, scraping sides if needed, then the milk and melted butter. Scrape if needed, increase to medium, and blend for 3 minutes. Add in baking soda and vanilla extract, then blend for 2 minutes.

Scrape batter in to prepared pan and arrange chopped apples on top. Sprinkle with a few pinches of brown sugar and a sprinkle of cinnamon, then place in pre-heated oven. Bake for 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Do not over bake.

Allow to cool for 15 minutes, then release the spring on the pan. Cake can be served warm.

 

 

coming home to the familiar (with spiced molasses cake)

October 3rd, 2012 | 2 Comments »

Fall began while I was away, on Mountain Time, amidst soaring majestic peaks and deep pine canyons. The Summer season passed in our initiation to a storied national park, and Autumn came on a cliff, crossing steep trails worn down by hooves and hiking shoes; it came through the sunrises over a new sky, shrouded with wildfire smoke, on a white water rafting excursion, over 3,000 miles and 9 days straight with my two most favorite guys. It was the longest vacation I’ve ever taken and it felt strange to clean up the house for the cat sitter, pack a container of veggie chili in the freezer to welcome us home, go over the lists again (and again and AGAIN) making sure that we had good snacks for the car, and lunch on the road (hello peanut butter), packing items like hand wipes and paper towels and extra plastic bags for trash, searching for good audio books to keep us occupied for the 10+ hour drive, and trying to remember all the quirky little things we should tell our cousin about caring for our silly cats. Among all the final frenzy of planning and packing, I kept running the whole thing over in my head, thinking “Can we really DO this? Can we drive across three states and explore the West and be sane enough to still say ‘I love you!’ every day and mean it while cramped inside a 4-door sedan?”

Truth is, yes. We can. And we did. I was never more excited to drive away from home on that glorious Sunday morning while most of our neighborhood still slept, nor was I more thrilled to return home as the sun set on the following Tuesday. To everything familiar and easy, to my bed and my home and my cats.

Even as all the unfamiliar became easy, the roads that I started to learn around my Uncle’s home, their wonderful hospitality, to the pines and peaks I stared at in awe, cementing them in my soul, even with everything that was so perfect about the entire trip, coming home felt better than I could have ever imagined. I couldn’t wait to get away and the anticipation was so richly rewarded, but I yearned for home the moment we turned our car Eastward and headed over the Interstate. Re-entry was simple; familiar, easy, calm, happy.

It’s nice to come home.

{{psssst….. I’m giving away cookbooks. Go check it out!}}

It wouldn’t take much beyond scrolling through my blog reader to know that Fall has most definitively arrived. Soups, stews, braises, pumpkin, squash, brussels sprouts and potatoes adorn the photos and fill the pages, hearty fare to shore ourselves up for the cold, the snow and the darker months to come. For me, Autumn needs two things: color blazed Maples and dark Molasses Cake.

Gingerbread. Molasses Cake. Whatever you refer it as, what name you prefer to call the dense moist crumb of such a perfect Autumn flavor, this recipe is the bees knees for anyone who loves molasses, deep and dark. It’s evokes the perfect memory of past seasons, where the deep reds and oranges of Maple burned bright against the rich blue sky, the crunch of leaves underfoot, the chill in the air as the sun drops it’s golden curve low on the horizon. The whiff of memory is bittersweet; of Gingersnap cookies that my Mom loved, the recipe that came out after school began for everyone, a welcome home with cold milk.

I still love those cookies, and all things ginger and bread and molasses. This cake has made a few other appearances in our kitchen and home, always against that perfect Fall backdrop of blaze and blue. Even with our warm days, bright sunshine and comfortable nights, after a few frosty mornings and finding the familiar in old and cozy sweaters and jeans, it welcomes you home whether you’ve been away, or just greatly anticipating Autumn. We all love Autumn; it’s universal in it’s daily changes of color, of temperatures and air and the gradual slide to Winter.

Ginger Spice Cake


adapted from several sources

2 c. AP flour
1 t. baking soda
1 T. ground ginger
2 t. ground cinnamon
1/2 t. ground cloves
1/2 t. allspice
2 T. espresso powder (optional, but it adds an amazing depth)
1 egg
1/2 c. molasses
1 c. sugar
1/2 c. unsalted butter, melted
1 c. buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350 and coat a 8″ square pan with cooking spray.

Stir together dry ingredients. With electric mixer, blend egg, molasses, sugar and melted butter until thick and very smooth. Gradually mix in dry ingredients, alternating with buttermilk, mixing each addition thoroughly. Mix for one minute after everything is in the bowl. Scrape batter into prepared pan and smooth top. Bake for 35-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the cake center comes out clean.

NOTE: This cake is wonderful with fresh cranberry sauce and a spoonful of yogurt. Or ice cream. Of course.

ginger nectarine cake, take 2

June 24th, 2012 | 4 Comments »

I’ve been blogging at this site for six years now. I KNOW! What the heck?!!! I’m either crazy, stubborn or irritatingly persistent, or maybe a combination of all three. At any rate, it’s like a child I’ve raised; I vacillate back and forth between utter frustration with it, and phenomenal pride. SIX YEARS!

And this here blog has seen some pretty major input of amazing recipes, many of which most of my readers have never, ever seen because, really, who looks through the Recipe Index? Does anyone? And in being a part of the blog world for six years, it’s been amazing to watch foods change and swell with time, going from something obscure and strange to being mainstream and freaking everywhere. Are whole grains all that new? It seems so, if you pay attention to the blog posts out there, but four years ago I was playing with grains, having to trek all over the city in search of quinoa, red rice, millet and farro. Now every supermarket has them, thankfully. And I love that people have embraced them.

Three years ago I made a cake with olive oil in it and was all over myself at how odd that felt, and also jumping up and down a little bit with each bite because, whoa….. it was GOOD. Nowadays, there are olive oil cakes popping up in every season, with every fruit imagineable. No one bats an eye at olive oil in a cake. But three years ago? It seemed new, fresh and different. And I clearly recall feeling rather odd pouring all that oil in to the batter. But the result was stunning.

That was three years ago, and I haven’t revisited that recipe once. Shame. It was pretty amazing, and now with nectarines in season, I picked up a sack of them and pulled up the recipe in my Index. And I’ll tell you; nothing makes me groan in agony, feeling like banging my head on a wall as I do when I see the way I used to photograph my food. {{Go on, take a look. I don’t mind.}}

Thankfully, we’ve come a long way in that area.

In re-working this recipe, the one substitution I made was to use fresh grated ginger in place of dried and ground. I recalled that the ginger taste was just not that noticeable in the previous attempt, but with the addition of it fresh, it just popped out of the cake, dancing up front and center in my face. Balanced with the tang of lemon, and the subtle fruity nectarine pieces that literally melt inside the cake, it was a combination of tastes that are at once bold and forthright, yet clean and crisp. And that olive oil? It’s darn near perfect.

Ginger Nectarine Cake

2 eggs
1/3 c. milk
1/3 c. good quality olive oil (use the best you’ve got; you will taste it in this cake)
1 lemon, zested. Squeeze out juice from half.
1 T. finely grated fresh ginger
1/3 c. sugar (original recipe calls for 2/3- I found the smaller amount to be perfect. Adjust accordingly to your taste)
1-1/2 c. AP flour
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. sea salt
3 large nectarines, two diced small, one sliced for garnish
2 T. crystallized ginger, chopped fine.

Preheat oven to 350°. This cake can be made in any number of pans, like a 9×13 for a thin cake, or an 8×8 for a thicker cake. You can also use a 10-inch springform pan with removable bottom. I used a 2-qt oval baking dish. Spray any pan you use with non-stick baking spray.

In a large bowl, whisk eggs, milk and oil until emulsified. Add lemon zest and juice and whisk again. Mixture will look slightly curdled and will be very thick. Stir in fresh ginger and sugar, whisk the mixture vigorously.

Separately, whisk flour, baking powder and salt together. Stir in to wet ingredients until just barely blended. Add in diced fruit and fold to incorporate. Scrape batter into prepared pan and smooth top. Arrange sliced nectarines on top, and sprinkle with the crystallized ginger and a tablespoon or two of sugar, if desired.

Bake cake until the top is nicely golden brown and the cake springs back when touched, about 40-60 minutes, depending on the pan you use. The toothpick test will help determine when it’s done. (A 9×13 will get done quicker, so be aware of that)

This cake recipe originated in a copy of Real Food magazine, available quarterly at Lunds/Byerly’s

all that’s left

December 27th, 2011 | 2 Comments »

There isn’t much now, that signifies Christmas was only two days ago, other than the abundance of chocolate in the house, the presence still of a tree with glittering ornaments and other holiday decor. The gift bags are empty and some treasured new items have been absorbed in to our days. Everyone seemed to have a good time this year. The stocking hunt was successful…..

The cats received fun new toys that they enjoyed…..

And there was plenty of gatherings, with laughter, delicious food and wine, more cookies than one could shake a leg at, and little children with bright happy faces. But just like that, the planning and preparing and decorating and plotting and going and coming and caroling and waiting waiting waiting was over…… *poof*…… just like that. You wake up on the 26th and it’s back to normal, back to reality, back to work (for some) and another Christmas is done. It seems like so much anticipation, and then in a blink it’s gone.

Some aspects remain, memories made and smiles shared and a new gift to use or enjoy. Or maybe, what remains most prominently is a smidgen of the amazing Cranberry Pound Cake that, on a whim, I whipped together and pushed in to the oven, before dashing upstairs to shower an hour before guests were due to arrive. It was still baking, rich and fragrant and eliciting all sorts of ‘What IS that in the oven?’ queries when my family arrived, and before coats were even shed.

And me, nonchalantly trying to avoid panicking, since the cake seemed off when I shoved the pan in the oven and raced off with a prayer, I just shrugged and said ‘Cranberry cake’ as if I’d just, you know, trimmed a nail or something because I really had little confidence it was going to be worthy of Christmas dessert. It was a blind preparation, something I’d never made before and I had everything I needed and took a chance. It seemed simple enough.

And thankfully, the alchemy of eggs, sugar, butter, flour and a hot oven created a masterpiece that I can’t wait to make again.

I get a bit overly excited each year when faced with orbs of fresh deep red cranberries in the store, and often stockpile as many bags as I dare in the freezer to use over the winter months. I spotted this recipe at Apartment Therapy (as usual….) and tucked it away to try, then of course, got caught up in the crazy whirlwind of pre-Christmas and neglected to make a dessert for our family gathering. But…. like I said, it worked despite a few reservations. In fact, it worked so well that I already am thinking about another go of it. I mean, by golly the initial cake isn’t even gone from it’s plate and I want another one. That HAS to be a good cake, right? It’s got an amazingly rich, yet light taste and a dense sponge to the cake, sweet but not cloying. Pops of deep cranberry flavor are laced with pure almond taste, and the crumbly sugary crust is simply divine. You could make this for an amazing dessert to impress, or you could just make it for yourself as a phenomenal treat.

Cranberry Cake

3 eggs
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup unsalted butter, slightly softened and cut into chunks
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon almond extract (optional)
1 tablespoon kirsch (optional)
2 cups flour
2 1/2 cups cranberries (1 bag)
Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 9×13 pan or a 10″ springform pan. You can also use a standard Bundt pan, or 10″ tube pan with removable bottom.

Beat eggs and sugar together for 8-10 minutes —no, this is not a misprint! …. the egg and sugar mixture should double in volume and turn pale yellow, leaving thick and shiny ribbons of batter when you lift the beaters. This is the only leavening in the cake so make it good and fluffy.

Add the butter and flavorings and beat for 2 more minutes. Stir in flour and fold in cranberries. Pour into greased pan.

Bake 45-50 minutes for a 9×13, or a little over an hour for the springform, bundt or tube pan. You made need to tent the cake with foil in the last 15 minutes or so to keep the top from browning too much.

Cool completely before serving.

Optional pecan topping: 
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup pecans, toasted

Heat the butter in a pan over medium-high heat. Add the sugar and stir. Add the toasted pecans and cook for several minutes, stirring, until the butter and sugar mixture is shiny and smooth and the nuts smell toasted. Spread over the cake batter and bake as above.

Original recipe, from Faith Durand at Apartment Therapy, The Kitchn.

~~~Next time I make this cake, I think the addition of fresh orange juice and freshly grated orange zest would be wonderful. Also, a scant 1/2 teaspoon of fresh grated nutmeg would also be marvelous. So many possibilities!!!

chocolate gingerbread cake

November 17th, 2011 | 1 Comment »

Who doesn’t like a good cake?


Especially one that combines the best of two important cake flavors; chocolate and gingerbread. I admit a bit of skepticism when I first saw the recipe, but I love chocolate and I adore gingerbread so I took a deep breath and cranked out the recipe.

And then over the course of two days, it magically kept disappearing every time I looked in the pan.

It’s from Martha. Can we really go wrong here? She doesn’t do much that makes me shrug with indifference. And I tend not to favor many of her recipes, but I loved this cake. My guys did too, hence the magic ‘poof and it’s gone’ act. It’s a snack cake, a breakfast cake, a perfect dessert with ice cream or yogurt and it just plain tastes delicious. It’s chocolate. It’s gingerbread. It’s a keeper.

Martha Stewart’s Chocolate Gingerbread Cake

  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted, plus more for pan
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, plus more for pan
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin-pie spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup packed dark-brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsulfured molasses
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • confectioners’ sugar, for dusting (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8-inch square baking pan. Line bottom with a strip of parchment paper, leaving an overhang on two sides; butter paper. Dust paper and sides of pan with cocoa; set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together cocoa, flour, ginger, pumpkin-pie spice, and baking soda; set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together butter, brown sugar, molasses, egg, and sour cream until smooth. Add flour mixture; stir just until moistened (do not overmix). Stir in chocolate chips. Transfer batter to prepared pan; smooth top.
  3. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack; let cool completely. Using paper overhang, lift gingerbread from pan. Transfer to a cutting board, and cut into 16 squares. Before serving, dust bars with confectioners sugar, if desired. (To store, keep in an airtight container at room temperature, up to 3 days.)
What’s on YOUR plate for November??
{{{Yesterday's post included a pretty awesome giveaway for a gift code to Red Envelope.
Go back and comment on the post for a chance to win. That's all you do!!}}} 

dark dark molasses cake

October 13th, 2011 | 2 Comments »

There’s something quite elegant about a dark, almost black molasses cake.

It’s a hallmark of Fall too, even though really, it’s good any time of year. But the cinnamon and ginger have the warm and tranquil feel of a blazing fire, or a maple tree in full color. They speak their spice words and the ones we hear the loudest is ‘Autumn’. Cooler weather means baking. A warm oven is the right means to chase the chill away, and a dark rich molasses cake sits on the counter, awaiting the moment when the dishes are done, the light is gone and the dessert plates come out, forks clinking in anticipation.

Call it gingerbread, call it molasses cake. It’s all the same in my head. And it’s a taste I’ve loved for an eternity, it seems. There is something about that flavor the moment that it lands in your mouth. It’s soothing, again; another impression that tells me of a passing season. A cake to usher in sweatshirt weather, and extra blankets on the bed. We all love these dark and inviting cakes, whether with a scoop of ice cream on top, or yogurt.

I’m not a recipe loyal cook. Ok, I recant; I can be a recipe loyal cook until I see something that I think would be even more amazing and then I try the new option and the old standby gets tossed aside. I’m easy like that. I like to experiment. I like to travel new gustatory paths and explore new tastes. This particular molasses cake has LOADS of molasses- a full 1-1/2 cups. And it strongly suggests you use blackstrap molasses to make it the richest, darkest most lush molasses cake of all time. I didn’t have blackstrap on hand. In fact, I’ve never bought blackstrap molasses. I might. Just to try this cake again in it’s original form, because, to this molasses cake crazy girl, this recipe was one that might never get replaced. It’s that good.

Coming from the kitchn, one can expect a recipe of extraordinary taste. I’ve been a bit hooked on what Faith Durand and Sara Kate Gillingham put forth, finding a great deal of recipes that stretch the limits of normal food items, a wide range of delicious and healthy vegetarian dishes that don’t read like a 1990′s restaurant menu and plenty of kitchen design upgrades that make even the most even-keeled, happy in her place person swoon in delight. And there’s never been a crashing dud in any of the recipes I’ve been bold enough to try. You need to really like your food to love what these ladies do with it, and I appreciate a place that wears like an old friend, a comfortable trustworthy feeling that brings a smile, a lightness to your heart. With so many slap-dash recipe sites out there, finding a trustworthy one that works is a gem.

So…. back to this cake. Did you think I’d forgotten?


I would never forget to share such a treat with you. Are you a cake and ice cream fanatic? Because this works beautifully with vanilla, or mix it up a bit and go for pumpkin ice cream, cinnamon or when it’s available, try eggnog ice cream for a big decadent kick. It also works to eat it with yogurt, the richer and more dense, the better. A few brandied cherries on top wouldn’t be bad, nor would a turn in a microwave to warm it slightly, after which you drizzle a thin stream of pure maple syrup over the top. And whipped cream! If that’s your thing, you’re in luck. This cake does it all. All the parameters of a good dessert.

And if dessert isn’t your thing exactly, try a piece of this with your morning coffee. You’re welcome.

Dark and Damp Molasses Cake

12 T. unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1 1/2 c. unsulphured dark or unsulphured blackstrap molasses
3/4 c. brown sugar
1/3 c. white sugar
3 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 t. fine salt
2 1/2 t. baking soda
2 t. ground ginger
1/2 t. cinnamon
2 t. espresso powder (optional)
1 t. vanilla
2 large eggs, beaten
1 1/2 c. whole milk

Heat the oven to 350°F. Lightly butter or grease a standard bundt cake pan.

Place the chunks of butter in a 2-quart saucepan set over medium heat. Pour in the molasses and whisk in the brown sugar and white sugar. Whisk as the butter melts. When the butter has melted and is completely liquid, and the sugar has dissolved and is no longer grainy, give it a final stir and turn off the heat. Set the pan aside to cool. (The molasses will look slightly separated from the melted fat; they won’t be smoothly combined.)

Use a clean dry whisk to combine the flour, salt, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon and espresso powder in a large bowl. (The espresso powder is optional; it will lend one more dimension of flavor to your cake.)

Whisk the vanilla, eggs, and milk into the saucepan with the molasses and melted butter. When it is completely combined, pour this liquid slowly into the bowl of dry ingredients. Whisk thoroughly to combine, making sure there are no lumps.

Pour the thick batter into the prepared springform pan. Bake at 350°F for 45 to 50 minutes or until a tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cool for 20 or 30 minutes, then run a thin, flexible knife around the inside of the pan to help the cakes edges release. Remove the cake from the pan and let it cool completely on cooling rack.

 

recipe from the kitchn; for a delicious frosting to spread on top of this cake, follow the link here.

disappearing gingerbread

March 12th, 2010 | 13 Comments »

I can safely say that gingerbread, or anything molasses-flavored, is going to go over well in my house. Some people have their chocolate, their Proustian moment that renders them poetic. Apparently ours is gingerbread. And it turns us into stealthy nibblers.

I made a small pan of Martha Stewarts’s Chocolate Gingerbread, primarily as an olfactory impetus in ridding the house of the scent of bacon that I had cooked that morning. I don’t think the pan had even fully cooled before I slipped a knife through it and created a set of imperfect squares for us to sample. It was amazing; rich and moist with the tiniest hint of chocolate among the deep taste of molasses. Griffin and I nodded in agreement over this newfound treat. I pulled plastic wrap over the top and set it on the counter.

And then, a day later, there were considerable gaps in the pan. The next day, even more was gone. Something was amiss, because I’d only had one piece.

I can’t say I fault anyone for freely indulging in this treat. What I love about gingerbread is the lack of cloying sweetness that comes with most desserts. Gingerbread has enough going for it to give it dessert-like status, but it’s also like a teabread, and can be treated like a snack, or even a bit of your breakfast too. It partners equally with a scoop of good vanilla ice cream, a mound of yogurt or even topped with fresh whipped cream.

Or even just eaten out of hand, with a napkin to catch the crumbs.

This recipe, from Everyday Food, yields a moist and superbly tender cake, owing to the use of sour cream in the base. It’s a simple quick bread style recipe that takes minimal effort, but can taste fancy enough for a party, that is, if you can keep it around long enough.

Martha Stewart’s Chocolate Gingerbread Cake
from Everyday Food

  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted, plus more for pan
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, plus more for pan
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin-pie spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup packed dark-brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsulfured molasses
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • confectioners’ sugar, for dusting (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8-inch square baking pan. Line bottom with a strip of parchment paper, leaving an overhang on two sides; butter paper. Dust paper and sides of pan with cocoa; set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together cocoa, flour, ginger, pumpkin-pie spice, and baking soda; set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together butter, brown sugar, molasses, egg, and sour cream until smooth. Add flour mixture; stir just until moistened (do not overmix). Stir in chocolate chips. Transfer batter to prepared pan; smooth top.
  3. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack; let cool completely. Using paper overhang, lift gingerbread from pan. Transfer to a cutting board, and cut into 16 squares. Before serving, dust bars with confectioners sugar, if desired. (To store, keep in an airtight container at room temperature, up to 3 days.)

KATE’S NOTES:
I skipped the parchment step, instead just using cooking spray on my 8×8 pan. I did not add the chocolate chips, and probably would keep them out of future uses of this recipe. I just don’t think they’re necessary. The molasses taste was rich, the chocolate not so noticeable. I think that the addition of some extra cocoa would make it more balanced- and in future use I may reduce the molasses to 3 T. and increase the cocoa to 1/3 c. to see if it makes a difference. I also thought about the addition of 1 oz. melted bittersweet chocolate to increase that aspect a bit, and may try that. I don’t keep pumpkin pie spice on hand. I used a teaspoon of cinnamon, and 1/4 teaspoon each of nutmeg and allspice.

If you’re interested in other gingerbread recipes, you can find more gingerbread love with just a click.

Schooled in the untraditional

August 22nd, 2009 | 4 Comments »

Mike and I recently had our 7th anniversary. I’ve posted on the blog in prior years about it, but this time around I enjoyed it quietly. With cake. I’ll get to that in due time, ok?

And as a side note, today, August 22nd, is Mike’s birthday, my niece Leah’s birthday, and my friend Melissa’s birthday!! Woot!

Ok, now back to anniversaries, the untraditional, and of course, CAKE.

Someone asked me what gift coincided with the 7th anniversary, and I had to pause a moment to recall what they were talking about. Apparently each year has some sort of meaning in terms of the gift you give, and seriously,  who does this anymore? If you’re at all interested in what each year should entail, check this out. The 7th anniversary, according to that chart, should be either Wool, Copper or a Desk Set.

wool

copper

deskset

I’m stunned at the romance behind that.

My husband is not a gift giver, and I don’t know that I’ve met anyone who has more anxiety and trepidation over getting someone a gift. It just isn’t his thing. If you’re one of those people who think that no special occasion is complete without a pretty wrapped package, you might have some trouble with this mentality, and admittedly, it was a somewhat tough reality for me to accept at first, but Mike has shown me in the eight years I’ve known him that the best gift he can give me resides within him, not in some store. He gives me his heart and his love on a daily basis. No brightly wrapped box will ever come close to that. Although in years past I have asked for a few items- a simple bracelet, a 5th anniversary ring- what I get from him every day comes without a price tag, and all year long. I would take that over a thousand red roses, a paper card or a shiny trinket because it really is so much more vital to a happy union than some expected token given out of a sense of obligation.

So I didn’t get an anniversary gift, not in a box, wrapped in paper, with a bow anyway. I got this…..

mikepic

……for the rest of my life. That’s an awfully spectacular gift.

But there has to be cake. It is, after all, the best of celebrations, the finest excuse to kick up our heels and revel in what we share. And because there is little convention to our celebrations, what with the absence of pretty packages, the cake we shared should also bear little resemblance to those towering stacks of genoise, layered in thick cloying buttercream that are often represented at your standard party.

So I made a Flourless Honey Almond Cake.

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This cake, from the April issue of Eating Well magazine, caught my eye immediately when I first read about it. I like a good cake that is versatile, a slice being perfect for a quick light snack or dressed up with vanilla bean ice cream for a more glorious treat. The cake is light and deeply nutty, using ground toasted almonds for the base that is then fluffed with beaten egg whites. Although I was expecting something a bit sweeter due to the honey, and it was delightful as it was, I imagined a version with orange zest and juice to give it just a little more personality, some more ‘Hey, Look at Me!’ kind of taste. It was the easiest cake to put together. My new springform pan worked beautifully too.

Flourless Honey Almond Cake
1-1/2 c. toasted whole almonds
4 large eggs, room temperature and separated
1/2 c. honey
1-1/2 t. pure vanilla extract
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt

Topping (optional)
Honey and toasted sliced almonds

Heat your oven to 350°. Spray a 9-inch springform pan with cooking spray; line bottom with parchment paper and spray paper. Process the whole toasted almonds in a food processor until finely ground. It’s ok if there are some larger bits, it makes for a delicious texture.

In the bowl of your mixer, beat the 4 egg yolks, honey, vanilla, baking soda and salt on medium speed until well combined. Add in the ground almonds and mix to incorporate. The mixture will be very thick and sticky.

In a separate bowl, and with clean beaters, beat the 4 egg whites until they become very foamy and double in size, but not to a point of holding stiff peaks. You want them to be firm, but still loose. Turn off the beaters and push them gently through the whites; the whites should be firm enough that the beaters make ridges yet still fall away when you stop.

With a rubber spatula, gently fold the egg whites into the almond-honey mixture until just combined. Be sure to scrape the bottom of the bowl as you fold. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake on center rack of oven for 25-30 minutes. A cake tester will come out clean and the top will be golden brown. Allow the cake to cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then run a knife around the edges and release the spring. Cool the cake completely before removing the bottom part of the pan.

Serve with vanilla ice cream, yogurt or fruit topping. Or just eat it plain.

Cake!? What's happening??

June 4th, 2009 | 3 Comments »

Let me tell you about my nephew Matt, or as he likes to refer to himself  ‘my second son’.

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Matt is nine, with light red hair and an adorable grin that’s going through its ‘Jack-O-Lantern’ phase, losing his baby teeth and replacing them with Chiklet chompers. He has a personality that just lights up a room. Last summer, he spent so much time at my house hanging out with Griffin, sleeping over and basically insinuating himself into our lives that it stopped surprising me to find him sprawled on the sofa with my own child, coming out of the bathroom in the early morning hours or pulling up a chair at mealtime. He became a permanent fixture, and when September rolled around, I missed him like crazy.

When Matt was about three, we were at our lake home for a perfect summer weekend and all the kids were outside playing Flashlight Tag as the sky darkened. On our screen porch, Matt’s mom Aimee pulled out a bundt cake, a stack of plates, forks and a big knife, and as she began cutting into the cake, the kids came racing inside to gather round the giant wooden picnic table that dominates the room. Matt climbed onto one of the benches, saw what his Mom was doing and loudly exclaimed “CAKE!?? What’s happening??”

cake_whats_happening

See, he always associated cake with celebration, and this was just another typical summer weekend for our extended family. But the sight of that cake was enough to send him into shivers, with the wonder of his age bringing forth a now most cherished family quote. Rarely does a real celebratory event pass where someone doesn’t exclaim “Cake! What’s happening!?” when dessert is being served.

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I’m not one to make a lot of cake. Special occasions aside, cake is just too tempting in this house, and should there be a plate of delicious moist cake hiding out under the domed cake holder, it slowly gets whittled away through furtive slips of a knife, while telltale crumbs are disposed of as sweet tooth cravings are duly satisfied. My family has no willpower. And neither do I. It’s best that we just leave cake to those special occasions where it can be appreciated in a quick burst of sugar joy and then forgotten. I think it leads to a better cake appreciation factor.

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On a whole other level, cakes that fall outside the ordinary of the flour, butter and sugar world have quite a different effect on me, hence the siren pull of this Nectarine Ginger Cake. With an unusual (at least for cake) recipe, lots of ripe fruit and a one-bowl and pan deal, this was a cake that I knew wouldn’t languish under the cake dome once we got our cake-ness fill,  especially given the fact that the recipe mentions this being a perfect breakfast, snack AND dessert option. Cake with multiple personalities should be on everyone’s To-Do list.

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Who am I to argue with lemon zest, olive oil, crystallized ginger- this is cake?- not to mention using one bowl, getting to cut into fragrant nectarines and all that finished off with an aroma of baking cake that rose from my oven like a treasure trove slowly displaying its riches. I’m so there. Even with a few fundamental flaws in the recipe (which are totally correctable and well worth a repeat- I’ll spare you the same issues) this cake was a hit.

nectarine ginger cake 013nectarine ginger cake slices 002

Now, admittedly, I’ve never made a cake with olive oil and whoa, tell me why I waited so long? That won’t be happening again. The subtle flavor of this moist and tender cake was only a part of it’s beauty; this cake sang like the Spring days outside my window. It was fresh and incredibly light with a nice browned crunchy top full of chewy nectarine slices and tiny dots of candied ginger. And about that breakfast option? I might just have to pour another cup of coffee and check that out. I mean, you need all the exquisite details, don’t you? I would be a bad blogger to leave them out.

So what did go wrong with this, as I hinted to? For one thing, again I didn’t trust my culinary instinct and when I read some things in the directions that just didn’t sound right, I went with them anyway and had some issues. The temperature called for was 375°, which to me seemed a bit hot for a cake. Most cake recipes I’ve used require 350°. The cake pan called for was way too small, and I knew it but didn’t scrape out the batter into a bigger one. At least I put the pan on a foil lined cookie sheet. First instinct ignored, and I fumed as I watched it bubble over. Secondly, it called for 5 large nectarines, four of them diced. Folks, that’s a lot of fruit, and this cake needed a 9″ pan. I used barely four and got a super fruit-filled result which is fine; the snack of the leftover fruit held off my cake-hunger, but if you’re making cake- that fluffy concoction of flour and sugar- it’s good to actually have something cake-like in the finished results.

Other than that, the recipe is indeed very simple. While it calls for ground ginger in the batter, I think that fresh grated would taste better. I detected little ginger taste in the end result. The lemon zest is amazing, people, and do yourself a favor; slip a few tablespoons of juice into the batter. Your taste buds will high-five you in joy.

Nectarine Ginger Cake
(with modifications already made)

Preheat oven to 350°.  For your cake pan options, the original recipe called for a 9-inch round cake pan with a removable bottom. This is entirely too small so don’t do it, unless your pan is higher than normal. I started to use an angel food cake pan and decided against it. Then I kicked myself as the cake poured out while baking. A 9 x 13 would work well too, with a slightly shorter end result. Whatever pan you use, spray it and sprinkle a little sugar in to coat.

Cake:

2 eggs
1/3 c. milk
1/3 c. good quality olive oil
1 lemon, zested completely and half of it squeezed
2/3 c. sugar
1  T. fresh ginger, grated
1 1/2 c. AP or cake flour
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
4 large nectarines, three diced small and one for slicing
1/4 c. crystallized ginger, minced or sliced

In a large bowl, whisk eggs, milk and oil until emulsified. Add in all the lemon zest and juice and blend well. Stir in the sugar and fresh ginger. Seperately, blend flour, baking powder and salt then stir into wet ingredients until just barely incorporated. Fold in diced fruit gently.

Pour batter into prepared pan. Arrange nectarine slices on top and scatter crystallized ginger over that. Sprinkle with about two tablespoons of sugar, either white or something fancier. I think raw sugar would be awesome. I’ve been gifted with a divine pistachio sugar, and I’m almost inventing excuses to use it.

Bake until cake top is nicely golden brown and cake springs back when touched- about 45-60 minutes (See Notes). Be careful if you touch the cake top- the candied ginger gets really  hot! The toothpick method will work as well.  Allow to cool, or serve warm.

CAKE NOTES:
Depending on the freshness and juice level of your nectarines, this cake’s cooking time could vary. Be sure to check starting around the 45 minute mark. If the top is browning too much, place some foil over it.

Applesauce Spice Cake

September 9th, 2006 | 2 Comments »

Applesauce Spice Cake

4 T. real butter, softened

1 c. sugar

1 egg

1/4 c. water

1 c. unsweetened applesauce

1 1/4 c. flour (use half whole wheat if you wish)

2 T. ground flaxseed

3/4 t. baking soda

1/2 t. salt

1/2 t. cinnamon

1/4 t. each nutmeg, allspice and ginger

Blend all dry ingredients together. Cream sugar and butter until smooth then add in egg, water and applesauce and mix well. Stir in dry ingredients and mix until incorporated and slightly fluffy. Spray an 8-inch pan with non-stick cooking spray and pour in batter, bake in a 350d oven 30-35 minutes, or until tested done.