Posts Tagged ‘Cake’

Yellow layer butter cake with guittard ganache frosting

Wednesday, March 10th, 2010

ATK's Yellow cake with Guittard ganache frosting by lkwm on dRc

By nature, I am an introvert, so I tend to keep a few friends close, and tend to find long distances challenging. I am working on this, though I imagine it used to be easier for people to make friends and stay in touch with one another, since historically people tended to live in one place for longer, many times being born, raised, and carrying on the next generation within the same few square miles of their own birth place. Life was also less convenient. Washing and drying clothes, growing and preparing food, and supplying one’s household with basic necessities all required some degree of working outdoors, and invited interaction with one’s neighbors. Life demanded more direct human interchanges than is often required present day, which in turn, created rich, interdependent local communities. You needed your neighbors, and they needed you, and over time, friendships were cultivated.

Flowers falling by lkwm on dRcFlowers askew ll by lkwm on dRcLooking down on flowers by lkwm on dRc

Though perhaps requiring more conscientious efforts, these sorts of relationships surely live on in the present day, going beyond more casual definitions of friendship in dedication and tolerance, and ultimately still forming the foundations of thriving modern families, communities, and cultures. Friends of this sort do special things things for one another.

Things like throwing one another baby showers, giving up whole Saturdays to help each other replace defunct 1980s water heaters, helping lay new hardwood floors over quite acceptable old hardwood floors, saving a friend from woeful design errors and painting bathrooms in the corrected shade for the friend, ordering perfectly cut custom glass shelves for a friend’s bathroom and driving them over at 11:00 p.m. on a work night so there will be a spot for towels and toiletries for an impending parental arrival the next day, helping with wiring until past midnight, and other special things like making each other homemade birthday cakes.

Guittard discsGuittard discsGuittard disks on silk by lkwm on dRc

My husband and I first met Sheila and John in 2007 when I completed my graduate internship at Sheila’s counseling practice, and since that time they have become dear friends. Life is busy, and there are times we do not see each other for several weeks at a time before one set or the other of us will forge the 30 minute drive separating our homes, and remember why we should never let such time spans pass again.

Buttered and floured by lkwm on dRcButtered and floured by lkwm on dRcButtered and floured by lkwm on dRc

The men do what Sheila and I have come to term “work exchanges. Jon will come over to our house and help Brian, my husband, with some project, such as cutting and putting up a stairwell banister, or installing accent lights throughout our kitchen, and I will cook dinner for everyone (Indian, Italian and all things dark chocolate are always favorites) and Sheila and I will watch chic flicks late into the night, with the men sometimes pausing to join us for a show, and always stopping for food.

We do the same thing at Sheila’s home. She will cook some gorgeous, elaborate meal and dessert (I have come to learn she is incapable of doing it any other way) and we will sit tending to my little boy and leafing through cookbooks and design magazines while the guys hammer away on some project talking nanotechnology or some other foreign language. I love these days.

Flowers laying by lkwm on dRc

For Jon’s birthday this year, Sheila decided we should all go out for Thai and then back to her house for dessert, so I offered to try another yellow cake recipe (which I secretly eagerly volunteered for since I had just bought new cake pans – I get excited about this sort of thing). I say “another”, because since I’ve been thinking about being a better friend over the past several months, I have started making a conscious effort to make birthday cakes more often for people. It is a small gesture, but since I love to bake, it simply fits for me to fill this role, which brings me back to my hunt for my own personal religious yellow cake recipe. I have tried at least five recipes over the past year, with many turning out dry, or too eggy, or even almost a bit like sweet cornbread – all in all, just not what I have been looking for in a classic yellow cake.

Eggs vertical by lkwm on dRcEggs vertical by lkwm on dRcEggs horizontal by lkwm on dRc

But this one turned out just right. It is moist with a tender and delicate crumb, tastes deeply of butter, is beautifully hued from the four eggs, and is not overly sweet. Just about any favorite frosting would pair nicely with this cake. I chose a chocolate cream frosting, using Guittard 61% cocoa disks, which turned out to essentially be an incredibly smooth and luscious ganache – think heavenly, moist, butter laden yellow cake covered by the insides of a decadent chocolate truffle, and that’s what you’ve got here.

Swirls by lkwm on dRcBattered up by lkwm on dRcBattered up by lkwm on dRcBattered up by lkwm on dRc

In other news, I am starting to read novels again, which I haven’t done since my son was born and since finishing the last Harry Potter book. I have begun with The Keys of the Kingdom by A.J. Cronin because my brother recommended it and because it was on the top of my book pile. I’ll let you know how it goes. My favorite quote so far:

Decisively, Monsignor Sleeth closed the gilt-edged book. “To say the least, you seem to have lost your command of souls.”
“But…” Calmly: “I don’t want to command anyone’s soul.”

Cutting the cake at Sheila'sHappy birthday John! by lkwm on dRcThe cake and the lady by lkwm on dRcFor later by lkwm on dRcSheila sheila sheilaLast bite by lkwm on dRc
Yellow layer butter cake
adapted from American Classics by the editor’s of Cook’s Illustrated

4 large eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup whole milk, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups sifted (6 3/4 ounces) plain cake flour
1 1/2 cups (10 1/2 ounces) sugar
2 teaspoons aluminum free baking powder
3/4 teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted organic butter, softened, each stick cut into 8 pieces

Adjust an oven rack to the lower middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 9 inch cake pans with vegetable shortening (I use a natural oil spray) and cover the pan bottoms with rounds of parchment paper or wax paper. Grease the parchment rounds and dust the cake pans with flour, tapping out the excess.

Beat the eggs, milk, and vanilla with a fork in a small bowl; measure out 1 cup of this mixture and set aside. Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; mix on the lowest speed to blend, about 30 seconds. With the mixer still running at the lowest speed, add the butter one piece at a time; mix until the butter and flour begin to clump together and look sandy and pebbly, with pieces about the size of peas, 30 to 40 seconds after all the butter is added. Add reserved 1 cup of egg mixture and mix at the lowest speed until incorporated, 5 to 10 seconds. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Add the remaining egg mixture (about 1/2 cup) in a slow steady stream, about 30 seconds. Stop the mixer and scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl. Beat on medium-high until thoroughly combined and the batter looks slightly curdled, about 15 seconds.

Divide the batter equally between the prepared cake pans; spread to the sides of the pan and smooth with a rubber spatula. Bake until the cake tops are light gold and a toothpick or skewer comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. (Cakes may mound slightly but will level when cooled.) Cool on a rack for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the pan perimeters to loosen. Invert one cake onto a large plate, peel off the parchment, and reinvert onto a lightly greased rack. Repeat with the other cake. Cool completely before icing. Store iced cake in the refrigerator, but bring to room temperature before serving (bringing to room temperature took about four to five hours for my cake).

Guittard ganache frosting (Chocolate Cream Frosting)
adapted from American Classics by the editor’s of Cook’s Illustrated

16 ounces 61% or 70% Guittard bittersweet chocolate, or other bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine*
1 1/2 cups heavy organic cream
1/3 cup light corn syrup*
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Bring the heavy cream to a boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat; pour over the chocolate. Add the corn syrup and let stand 3 minutes. Whisk gently until smooth; stir in the vanilla. Refrigerate 1 to 1 1/2 hours, stirring every 15 minutes, until the mixture reaches a spreadable consistency (mine got a bit hard, so I microwaved it for a very few seconds and it was perfect. Also, if you heat cake with this frosting on it, the frosting will almost immediately turn to fudge sauce – delicious fudge sauce, but not icing anymore)

* I used 61% Guittard, but would likely go even darker next time around. This had a very smooth, rich chocolate flavor, but if you love dark chocolate, like me, you could go darker. This recipe makes a large amount of frosting and it is rich, so next time I might use 3/4 of the icing for the cake and save the rest to heat up as a sauce to serve over ice cream alongside.
* The corn syrup makes the icing smooth and spreadable, I would not substitute another ingredient.

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Posted in Dessert | 35 Comments »

Apple buttermilk cake with Sea salt caramel

Saturday, January 2nd, 2010

Apple buttermilk cake with Sea salt caramel being poured on top

Happy new year. It is going to be a good year, I can feel it in my bones. My husband and I have started a company where we have finally found common ground for working together. Food. My son has opened up a whole new dimension of love in my life and gets easier to care for everyday – yes, I admit I am thankful for this side effect of children growing up. I am starting this blog and feel excited about writing for the first time since overflowing boxes (currently collecting dust in my basement) of journals in high school and college. As for cooking – that has always been exciting and stress relieving – my favorite shows at 11 years old were “Great Chefs of the West” and “European Cuisine.” Why the vocation that seems so clear to me now eluded me for 30 years of life, it is complicated to assess, however, in short – as I am sure you well know – many times in life we must take a long roundabout way to embrace what has always been close to our hearts. And so here I am. Excited. Not too nervous. But a little. I love to cook. I hope it rubs off. Now onto this cake.

Completed Apple buttermilk cake with Sea salt caramel

What I like about the cake part of this cake is that it’s not too sweet, uses part whole wheat flour, has a subtle buttermilk tang, and is marbled with moisture supplying grated apple, giving it a wonderful wholesome and slight earthy quality. So much so that I can easily recommend it served for breakfast or brunch alongside a dollop of greek yogurt and honey.

Unbaked Apple buttermilk cake with Sea salt caramel

But do not mistake this cake as all morning sunshine once drenched in deeply caramelized sugar combined with large pats of butter, pure organic cream, and a sprinkling of sea salt. Now we have something different altogether. The hot caramel poured over the warm cake seeps into the surface and sides creating a sticky, slightly chewy, moist crust. The contrast between the intensely flavored caramel and the more delicate flavor profile of the apple cake is a noticeable and well suited juxtaposition.

Sugar caramelizingButter melting in caramel

Homemade caramel is an example of something I had put off trying for at least one, likely all, of the following reasons: I had never made it before and had fear of the unknown, fear of not using the right recipe, fear of finally settling on a recipe and then having said recipe be a flop (hate that), and/or fear of not making recipe perfectly once perfect recipe was found. But, as is often the case in life, the actuality of the process was much less monstrous than the preceding mental haze of ignorance and learned helplessness (more on this at a later date).

Sea Salt caramel with cream being added

Really, it is quite simple and yielded incredible return for effort, meaning homemade caramel is vastly superior to store bought and the 5-10 minutes it takes to make is a tiny investment for the amazing return received. And as for the perfect recipe? I ended up pulling from several different recipes using the tips and ingredients that seemed most appealing – and it worked. I love it when it works.

Sea salt caramel complete

So, it is not difficult, but read the directions ahead of time, and take care not to allow the caramelized sugar to come to a rapid boil and burn – as I did on my first attempt (fear four actualized – no big deal – pour in grass out backdoor and heat up new sugar – five minute setback and now I know how to make, and not make, amazing caramel).

Grated apple, core and peel

As for the cake, the most tedious part of the prep is peeling and grating the apple. Altogether you should be able to pull this cake off in about an hour including baking. Time is always a consideration when I cook. I find it satisfying to figure out ways to cut time and simplify prep work without sacrificing quality.

Egg in cake batter

This is a versatile cake whether dressed up with the caramel to show off after dinner, or set in the sunshine for brunch with yogurt and honey. I imagine it would also work as a breakfast muffin or as cupcakes with whipped cream or cream cheese frosting. While I used whole wheat pastry flour, white or standard whole wheat flour will also work. White whole wheat will yield a milder, more delicate flavor profile while not sacrificing any of the nutritional benefits of standard whole wheat.

Butter and brown sugar in sunlightCourvoisier Cognac

Next time I plan to use more cognac (if serving for breakfast I would eliminate this flavoring and perhaps sprinkle a favorite chopped nut on top), try it with a pinch of allspice and a touch more sea salt. My husband thinks a little lemon zest might add a nice extra zing. But it was great just like this.

Apple buttermilk cake batter

Oh, and please take a couple of extra minutes to whip up any leftover heavy cream (an electric hand mixer works fine) with a bit of brown sugar and vanilla extract or vanilla bean seeds to serve alongside. You won’t regret it.

Vanilla bean whipped cream in spoon

Apple buttermilk cake

1 cup unbleached white flour
1 cup  whole wheat pastry flour, white wheat, or standard whole wheat flour
2 1/2 teaspoons aluminum free baking powder
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt or kosher salt
1/4 lb. (1 stick) unsalted butter softened to room temperature
3/4 cup light brown sugar
2 tablespoons white cane sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg at room temperature (can let sit in hot water a couple of minutes to bring to room temp)
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon buttermilk
1 medium sized firm apple, peeled, cored, and grated (I used Granny Smith)
1 tablespoon brandy/cognac (can use more, but I would not go over 2 T)
1 recipe for Sea salt caramel

1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
2. Grease a 9×9 baking pan or similar equivalent volume baking dish, or line with parchment paper.
3. Use a hand whisk to combine the flours, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt in a medium sized bowl.
4. In a separate larger bowl or standing mixer, cream the butter with the sugars until light, about 4 minutes.
5. Beat in the vanilla and cognac, then the egg until just incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
6. Add one-third of the flour mixture to the butter mixture, beating slowly until just blended. Beat in half of the buttermilk. Repeat with another third of the flour and the last half of the buttermilk. Beat in the remaining flour.
7. Fold in the grated apple.
8. Scrape batter into prepared pan and bake for 35 – 50 minutes (depending on size of pan used) until a tester comes out clean. In the pan I used, the cake was done after 35-40 minutes. Check frequently after 35 minutes. Do not over bake.
9. Make Sea salt caramel while cake is baking.
10. Pour Sea salt caramel onto warm cake. Cool on a wire rack. Serve warm.

Sea salt caramel

1 cup white sugar
6 tablespoons organic or premium unsalted butter at room temperature
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons organic heavy cream warmed slightly (not boiled) or at room temperature
1/4 + 1/8 (3/8) teaspoon sea salt

1. Have all ingredients out, measured and within reaching distance of your cooktop. Caramel gets very hot, so use oven mitts, be mindful of your arms and eyes, and keep all little ones away for the few minutes this takes to make.
2. Distribute sugar evenly in a large, even heating saucepan or pot (to allow room for hot caramel to foam up) and begin heating over medium high heat. Keep an eye on the sugar, as when it begins to caramelize, it is a quick process that will need your constant attention.
3. Within a few minutes, the sugar will begin to melt and caramelize. As large patches of sugar turn to liquid puddles in the pan, stir only often enough to aid even caramelization (because sugar is comprised of crystals, it tends to clump together as it is melting and stirred). As soon as all of the sugar has turned to liquid (aside from any stubborn clumps that will dissolve later or can be strained out), resembles the color of copper, and just begins to simmer/bubble around the edges, remove from heat and immediately add butter and sea salt, stirring vigorously. Add cream and stir until completely combined.
4. Cool slightly. Pour over warm cake or other dessert.

Note: If pouring over above apple buttermilk cake, you may end up with an extra 1/2 cup or so. This can be served in a a pouring dish alongside the cake, or with ice cream.

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Posted in Sweet | 16 Comments »