Sunday, June 28, 2009

All Cakes, All the Time

I love dessert best. I love holiday meals and the best part of the best type of meal is the dessert. They are often overlooked because people stuff themselves on meat and starch and the occasional vegetable dish for forms sake. But the desserts are really the meal homerun, if you save space.
Here are few that I’ve tried over the years. Some are light and airy and designed not to send you into a coma because you are sure you can’t eat one more thing. Some are events all by themselves. You have the tiniest piece, because that is all you can handle but the thought of passing them by makes you want to cry.

From, lime bundt cake
This cake recipe does not include a glaze or a frosting, but I think either would fancy it up a bit. I did use a cream cheese frosting with a bit of lemon (not lime) zest and juice. Result: One of the tastiest cakes I’ve had, but it seemed to separate into layers. The top was dense cakey, but the bottom was dense clay-like. If I try this again, I will cut the shortening (lots of butter) and see if that makes a difference. Otherwise, it really is a great lime-y dessert, perfect after a heavy meal to have a dessert that is so not cloying.

From, the Double Chocolate Bundt Cake with Ganache Glaze
We had this one for my birthday. Bundt cake onslaught coming on, because they really are lovely and relatively easy. Adding anything raspberry (fresh raspberries, raspberry ribbon, etc) would probably be a nice finishing touch, although this one didn’t need any help to be elegant and delicious.

I hosted gathering at my house to introduce my friends to some of my recent finds and planned to include the chocolate bundt. My sister, who has some unexplained pull on me, convinced me that I needed to have something without flour represented! So I canned the dbl choc bundt in favor of this Flourless Chocolate Cake recipe from The reviews say it is unsinkable unless you are a moron. I may be many things, (including a dummy at times) but I am NO moron, so I felt pretty confident. The reviews were right. The cake was dense, moist and delicious. The real concern with chocolate is that you not scorch it or your product will be garbage. This cake is really easy, so go for it and your friends who don’t cook will think you are some kind of baking goddess/god!

From Joy of Cooking (1975) French Apple Cake
This cake was delicious. Firm and dense but not overwhelming because it is apple (after all, fruit is barely a dessert at all given how good it is for you). To up the fat content and make it fit with my notion of ‘special occasion’ baking, I served it with whipped cream enhanced with whiskey and sugar.

From HomemadeS blogspot, the Almond and Orange Cake
This is a beautiful cake and it tastes fantastic. A few cook's notes on things I learned to make this:
1. Almond meal is ground almonds – you can make them in your food processor. Blend them for a good while
2. Caster sugar is superfine granulated sugar – I couldn’t find this in the store either but the Joy of Cooking said it could be made in the food processor so I did. It takes a long time and sends up clouds of sugar dust so you’ll have to dust your whole counter after.
3. Note conversions, including the cooking temp. 175 is not a Fahrenheit temp. The Fahrenheit temp is about 350.
The cake doesn’t need powdered sugar on top, but I thought it was pretty that way. I also refused to pour the orange syrup over the cake. Instead I put a pool on each serving plate and put the cake on top. A much better option in my opinion.

From the imagination of Juanita Ricks, a Butter Pecan Ice cream cake with a Carrot Cake base
This year for her birthday, my daughter wanted an ice cream cake. Of course, thinking about the blog, I planned to make it. She burst my bubble and directed me to call Baskin-Robbins. Fine! Her birthday, her choice. But I wasn’t deterred. Since she didn’t want me to make the white cake with strawberry ice cream cake for her birthday, I could be a bit more adventurous with the pairing of flavors, but darn it, I was going to make that cake.

Starting with a recipe for carrot cake from the New Basics Cookbook (Rosso and Lukins), I paired with butter pecan ice cream. Using this recipe as a basis for assembly, although I only had one layer of ice cream and one of cake, I think I pulled it off!
A few variations from the carrot cake recipe. I didn’t have any pineapple in the house so instead used apple sauce. To add a bit of texture, I added about ½ cup oat bran. I also left out the nuts. Oh, and I cut back on the oil by ½ and added carrot juice to make up the correct amount.
And of course in the recipe for the ice cream cake, they use whipped topping for frosting. Of course I whipped my own whipped cream for the cake.

For the cake gathering, I made Ice Cream Cupcakes so that they would be portion sized and so I could leave them in the freezer until people were ready to eat them. Cookies and cream ice cream seemed a good crowd pleaser. I had a yellow cake and a chocolate cake for bases.

Dulce De Leche Cream Cake inspired by these two websites:
Just thinking about this cake makes my mouth happy. This cake is deceptively heavy even though it is not at all cloying. Serve your guests meager portions and they won’t fall asleep on your couch or at the wheel of their car heading home after dinner.

Roll cake with fruit
I wanted to have one roll cake at the gathering. I remembered a roll cake that I made for my husband several years ago. It was a white cake, rolled with some jelly filling (don’t recall the flavor of jelly) with whipped cream, fresh sliced strawberries and fresh peach slices on top. It was heavenly. I knew I could pull off another one for this party and reintroduce this old fashioned gem as an option for holiday cake desserts
Inspirations: - but a gluten full version since I’m not wheat allergic. - but of course, with homemade cake, nothing with pancake batter (good grief, it is NOT THAT HARD)
But the real winner was this one: It won because I had a peanut butter and jelly scone at my favorite coffee shop recently and the idea of having a peanut butter and jelly cake really called to me.
This cake was tasty. Maybe peanut butter and jelly roll cake is a better option for a kid’s birthday party than a national holiday. But hey, what is a birthday but a personal holiday? I guess it fits. The other thing is the cake was pretty flat. Finished, it looked more like a crepe than a cake, so if you are interested in something fuller looking, experiment with doubling the recipe or a smaller pan (but the smaller pan could create problems for you when it is time to roll the cake.)

Cheesecake is fancy by design, so it doesn’t have to be over the top with flavoring. In fact a nice simple cheesecake lends itself to being jazzed up if you choose with toppings, or kept simple with fresh fruit on top (or even nothing on top – gasp!). I went for simple, but did mix it up a bit with my cheese choices.
I made this goat cheese cheesecake recipe:
Served with potted strawberries on top and made with a gingersnap crust. It was very good and I think just about everyone liked it. The cake was lighter than traditional cheesecake and had a slightly different taste to it, although folks won’t necessarily know that it is made with goat cheese unless you tell them.

Pound cake
Finally, if cake is the perfect holiday dessert, we have to push the traditional holiday pies to the side (I’m talking about the holy trinity of pumpkin or sweet potato, pecan, mincemeat.) To prove my theory about cakes replacing holiday pies, I included a sweet potato pound cake. Try this one for Thanksgiving!
I did not include the glaze and that was fine. I did find that the recipe was more than enough for two cakes. I made one in a bundt pan and a second in a loaf pan. I also sprinkled chopped pecans in the bottom of my cake pans so that they were baked into the top of the cake. Just a touch to make it special. If you are inclined to frost this cake, you can adhere the pecans by sprinkling them on the frosting. The cake was dense, moist and not too sweet. Lovely. I think it went a long way to proving my theory.

Spice Cake

Things had come together perfectly for the cake gathering, when I went into a last minute panic. There were kids coming. My kid has always been pushed to eat whatever we serve (and like it), but I know that some people are more kid friendly. What to do? I added one more cake to the menu with T-2 hours until guests arrived.

A Quick Spice Cake with whipped cream cheese frosting. My daughter added the finishing touch of sprinkles to make it clear that this one was unadulterated kid joy! I did monkey with the recipe and cut down on the liquid and substituted in some applesauce. My husband liked this one best. The kids liked the ice cream cupcakes best.

In true West Indian fashion (did I mention I had a West Indian-influenced upbringing? Well, I did), I managed to make twice as much food as I needed, but at least I didn't run out (a deadly sin).

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Junetieth, or so. Also Father's Day

This post is a bit skim, so upfront I apologize for no pictures associated with the post.

Also, this post is late for two reasons: I won't even pretend that we had this meal on Juneteenth, which is commemorated on June 19. June 19th was a Friday night. I don't cook full meal deals on weeknights and especially not on Friday nights when I have worked a hard week and am tired. We had pizza that night at a cool little restaurant in our neighborhood. The other reason it is late is that after we had the meal on June 21st, I was busy and didn't have a chance to post it.

Actually, June 21 was a busy day. I also had a 'We'll let you eat cake' mid-day gathering at my house. My feeling is that cake is the perfect holiday dessert for just about every meal. So I've been making and tasting a lot of cake lately (good thing I am also training for a few triathlons this summer, or I'm not sure I would have any clothes that fit by now). More on that in another post.

June 21 also being Father's Day, this meal served a double celebratory purpose. Since we'd already had dessert earlier in the day, there is none associated with this menu. If I were going to make a cake for Juneteenth, it might be something with peaches. If I were going to make something specifically for Father's Day, I'd have to go with one of Andy's favorites: either a pineapple cake or coconut cake (both from the Paul Prudhomme family cookbook).

I did go with a southern theme. My good friend, Mrs. T suggested cheese grits and shrimp and almond honey fried chicken. My mouth watered at the thought of it and immediately I was decided that I would make that. With a few minor modifications. So our Father's Day/Junetieth commemoration meal consisted of:

Cheese grits

Oven fried honey-mustard chicken

Spinach salad

White wine sangria/Sparkling lemonade

What, no bread? No, no bread. We'd already had a lot of dessert earlier in the day so this was a somewhat skim meal. Too, folks in my house have somewhat small appetites. Chive biscuits with lots of butter), but I knew that it would be over the top for our stomachs and wouldn't be appreciated.

What happened to the shrimp? Good question. It may be the mystery of the ages who took the shrimp out of the refrigerator and dumped them in the garbage. No one remembers doing it (there are three of us in the house and we are all sticking to our stories). I checked the refrigerator 5 times and checked my car one time before I remembered the awful stink that was the garbage just before the cake party. The garbage went out in a mostly empty bag to get that smell out of the house and so it was easy to confirm that the culprit was my once beautiful and never cooked/tasted shrimp. And they had been beauties. And expensive. Needless to say, the meal went forward without them.

So a modest meal. I guess better modest but good, than contaminated or with some silly last minute substitute.

Oh, yeah, here is an appropriate photo choice. Happy Father's Day Andy! Thanks for letting us double it up as Junetieth and for the Cake eating event!

Cook's note: There are no recipes attached or links provided. I know. I did all of these using a tried and true grandma method - guestimating. I can give you details if you ask....

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


Why not do a new spin on an old-fashioned recipe. Like a black-eyed peas salad? Hoppin John - black-eyed peas and rice - is a good luck dish on the first of the year. It's a southern tradition and a southern black staple. You heard it here first.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

What's cooking this month?

We'll be celebrating Juneteenth on June 19th. Juneteenth is a liberation celebration. It commemorates the day that slaves in Texas finally learned that they were free. Well after the Emancipation Proclamation and even after the end of the Civil War.

Not sure what's for dinner that night. Maybe some modernized 'southern' favorites. I am not from the South, so this isn't my cuisine, but I like smothered food as much as the next gal, so I'll cobble something together. And try to make it look good (Lord knows it should taste good) and try to make it vaguely healthy (which may turn the whole tasty thing on its head.)

Also, I am hosting a 'cake' party mid-month. No real reason other than that I've been making a lot of cakes lately. I've decided that cakes are the perfect holiday dessert in most cases. For instance, tradition dictates pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving, but you could make a pumpkin cake in its place!
There are a number of cakes I have made over the last few holidays. I'll be repeating a few of those and adding a few new creations. I am particularly proud to have pieced together an ice cream cake. I worked during college at Baskin-Robbins and was a scooper extraordinaire, but never earned my stripes as cake-maker. Well, I have now corrected that deficiency in my training. It is actually pretty straightforward to make an ice cream cake.

Anyway, just giving an update because it will be at least another week before you see food here this month and I wanted to let you know what to look forward to.