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Pinterest is my latest obsession, and the inspiration behind this cake. That website has so many amazing and creative ideas!  Like this sweet garland I made yesterday:

 

So pretty, and so simple! I cut strips of paper about an inch wide, folded them in half, then curled each end around a knitting needle to form the heart shape. Then I used a needle to string some thread through the middle of the bottom of each heart, and double-sided tape to stick the tops together, pinching the thread in between. The bottom hearts are made by taking a heart-shaped hole punch to Behr paint chip. The paint chip was a free sample and the paper was leftover from making our wedding invitations, so this cute decoration cost me nothing! Sweet! And that’s why I love pinterest.

Anyway, I was hunting around Pinterest for party ideas when I came across an image of a pink bundt cake, and it linked to a recipe for a pink lemonade bundt cake. Yum yum! But when I went back later to check out the recipe in more detail, I realized it involved cake mix – something I prefer to avoid. Not only do I not dig the texture of box mix cakes, I can’t get past the chemically aftertaste that box mixes have. So I was disappointed that I didn’t have a recipe for a pink lemonade bundt after all.

But I could not get the idea of a pink bundt cake out of my head. It just seemed so cute and fun and girly.

I needed a pink bundt cake!

So I went to Martha, of course, looking for the perfect lemony pound cake to turn pink, and of course she didn’t let me down. This recipe comes from her Fresh Flavor Fast cookbook, although that recipe uses two loaf pans instead of a bundt. So I whipped it up, and added a healthy dose of pink gel food coloring (and maybe went a teensy bit overboard) – and I had me a pink lemon poundcake. And I’m calling it a pink lemonade poundcake, even though there isn’t actually any lemonade per se involved in making the cake, because hey. Pink lemonade is just lemons and sugar and pink food coloring anyway, and this cake has all that. Without any nasty chemicals!

This cake is deliciously fresh and very lemony and bright. It’s a great cake for winter – the flavor just perks you up and brings sunshine into your cold, grey day. And of course, the food dye is completely optional after all, it would be a yellow cake without it. But a pink bundt cake would be great for Valentine’s Day. And I think it would be the cutest for a bridal shower or a baby shower for a baby girl. A bundt cake like this has a kind of classy, old fashioned feel to it that could be really charming at an afternoon tea-style shower.

Why am I thinking about baby and bridal showers, anyway? BLAME PINTEREST. So many cute ideas. I can’t help it.

Pink Lemonade Pound Cake

Adapted from Everyday Food Fresh Flavor Fast

Prep: 30 minutes Total time: 3 hours (with cooling)

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for pans

3 cups all purpose flour, plus more for pan

3/4 cup buttermilk

Finely grated zest of two lemons

1 cup lemon juice (from 5 to 6 lemons)

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

2 cups sugar

5 large eggs, room temperature

Pink food dye gel (I used Wilton icing colors in Rose)

Lemon glaze (recipe below)

1. Preheat oven to 350. Grease a flour a 10 cup bundt pan.

2. Combine buttermilk, lemon juice, and zest. In a bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda.

3. With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until incorporated after each addition. Scrape down bowl as needed.

4. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture in three additions, alternating with buttermilk and beginning and ending with flour. Add just a touch of food dye gel (a tiny bit goes a long way!) and beat until just combined.

5. Pour batter into prepared pan, and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 50 – 60 minutes. Cool 15 minutes in pan, then turn out onto a rack to cool completely.

6. Transfer cake to a plate or cake stand and pour the glaze over the cake. Let set, about 30 minutes.

Lemon glaze

2 cups confectioner’s sugar

3 to 4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Pink food dye gel

Mix together sugar and lemon juice in a bowl. Add more sugar or lemon juice as necessary to make glaze thick yet pourable. Stir in a tiny bit of food dye gel to get the desired shade of pink.

 

I was just scrolling through old photos and I realized that I never shared this recipe with you. *Gasp* 

What. The heck. Is wrong with me.

We love, love, loved this cake. It was the perfect size for the two of us. There was enough that we were able to enjoy it for a while, but not so much that it went stale. Or was  so big that we snarfed it more quickly than was reasonable in order to prevent it from going stale. Not that that ever happens around here. *Ahem*

Anyway, this is a great little cake, packing a lot of delicious, complex flavors from a generous amount of pumpkin pie spice. It’s a moist cake with a nice tight crumb that is really the perfect texture for a homemade cake – I’m not a fan of the spongy airy texture that you find in most cake mix cakes. My husband went really crazy for it and said it was one of the best cakes he’d ever had. The honey frosting is the perfect complement to the pumpkin-y flavor of the cake. These are flavors that you’d typically find in fall baking, but I don’t see why this cake should be relegated to only a few months of the year – the warm, comforting flavors of this cake would be perfect on a cold, snowy winter’s night.

Pumpkin Spice Cake with Honey Frosting

Adapted slightly from Everyday Food, November 2005

For the cake

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted, plus more for pan

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, (spooned and leveled)

2 teaspoons baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon pumpkin-pie spice (or 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon, 3/4 teaspoon ginger, 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, and 1/8 teaspoon each allspice and cloves)

2 large eggs

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 can (15 ounces) solid-pack pumpkin puree*

For the frosting

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, very soft

1 bar (8 ounces) regular (or reduced-fat) cream cheese, very soft

1/4 cup honey

2 cups powdered sugar

1 tablespoon milk

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch square baking pan**. (Mine is 8×8 and worked just fine.)
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking soda, salt, and pumpkin-pie spice. In a large bowl, mix eggs, sugar, butter, and pumpkin puree until combined. Add dry ingredients to pumpkin mixture, and mix gently until smooth.
  3. Turn batter into prepared pan, and smooth top. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached, 45 to 50 minutes. Cool cake 10 minutes in pan, then turn out of pan, and cool completely, right side up, on a rack.
  4. Make Honey Frosting: In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attached, beat butter, cream cheese and honey until smooth. Slowly mix in powdered sugar. Add milk to thin if necessary, so that the frosting has a nice spreadable consistency.
  5. Spread top of cooled cake with honey frosting. Cut cake into squares to serve.

*Be sure to use canned pumpkin, not pumpkin pie filling. Using pureed fresh pumpkin is not recommended.

**You can also use a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan: Increase baking time by 25 to 30 minutes (tent loaf with foil if it browns too quickly).

Oh, I miss this cake.

I distinctly remember the moment when I discovered this recipe. I was thumbing through (devouring, really) my just-arrived copy of Everyday Food magazine. There are a lot of delicious-looking recipes in that issue (November 2011), but when I came to this one, I just stopped and stared.


Maple cake. A layer cake made with lots of maple syrup. Okay. First of all, I love me some layer cakes. I prefer cake over all other desserts, and I prefer layer cakes with frosting over unfrosted cakes. Second: maple syrup is one of my favorite flavors. It’s so good, it’s so… maple-y. It’s a unique flavor, isn’t it? There’s really nothing else like it. And then this divine confection of maple-y goodness is topped not just with frosting, but with brown sugar frosting?!

So I handed the magazine to my husband and pretty much demanded that I make it as soon as possible. As you can imagine, he wasn’t about to hold me back. He knows a good thing when he sees it. His wife is hell-bent on baking a cake? He definitely can’t complain about that!

I made it that weekend, and while the recipe does take a good amount of maple syrup (1 1/2 cups! yowza), I knew that it would be worth it, even though pure maple syrup is rather pricey. While the cake was baking, the house was filled with the most luscious maple aroma ever.

This cake is dense and  moist with a nice tight crumb a lot like a pound cake. The flavor is divine. The maple really shines through – the flavor is right out in front, not like some maple recipes that you kind of have to search for the taste of maple. The brown sugar frosting is the perfect complement. I actually forgot to add the walnuts to the cake batter (I remembered after the cake had been baking for 10 minutes, oops!) and I think it turned out wonderfully, so I’m going to say that the walnuts are optional. I topped mine with maple sprinkles that we bought at a sugaring-off festival in New Hampshire this past spring. If you use walnuts in the batter, you can make a ring of whole walnuts around the top edge.

Maple Layer Cake with Brown Sugar Frosting

Adapted slightly from Everyday Food, November 2011

Yield: 10 Servings Prep time: 45 minutes Total time: 1 hour 15 minute, plus cooling

For the cake:

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for pans

4 teaspoons baking powder

3/4 teaspoon fine salt

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

1/2 cup packed dark-brown sugar

2 large eggs

1 1/2 cups pure maple syrup

3/4 cup whole milk

1 cup chopped walnut halves, toasted (optional)

For the frosting:

8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

3/4 cup packed dark-brown sugar

4 cups confectioners’ sugar

  1. Make the cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease two 9-inch round cake pans. Line bottoms with parchment paper; lightly grease parchment. Flour parchment and sides (tapping out excess); set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter and brown sugar on high until light and fluffy, 5 minutes. Beat in eggs, one at a time, scraping down bowl as needed. With mixer on medium-high, add maple syrup in a slow, steady stream. Add flour mixture in two additions, alternating with milk, beating well after each addition and scraping down bowl as needed. Fold in walnuts, if using.
  3. Divide batter between pans; firmly tap pans on a flat surface several times to remove air bubbles. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center of a cake comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Let cakes cool in pans on wire racks, 15 minutes, then invert onto racks; peel off parchment. Invert cakes again and let cool completely on racks.
  4. Make frosting: In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese, butter, and brown sugar on high until light and fluffy, 5 minutes. Gradually add confectioners’ sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, beating well after each addition.
  5. Assemble cake: Place one layer, top side up, on a cake stand or serving plate. Spread top evenly with 1 1/2 cups frosting. Top with second layer, top side down. Spread remaining frosting over top and around sides of cake.

My lovely mother-in-law and brother-in-law were here for a week-long visit last week. I made an awesome chicken dinner for them on the night of their arrival – a recipe I’ll have to post despite the fact that I didn’t manage to get a single picture of it, because it’s that good. And for dessert, I made this cake. I had never made this recipe before but since it comes from Nicole at Baking Bites, I knew it would be great.

And it was! It was everything a pound cake should be – dense, but not heavy. Substantial, I guess. The ideal texture for a cake in my opinion. And simple, but not boring. The ideal foil for slices of fresh strawberries. And the bright lemony flavor was perfect for spring, and played beautifully against the strawberries. The glaze added the perfect zing of extra lemon flavor. It was perfect, and everyone loved it.I’ll definitely be making this one again – hopefully soon!

Note: I didn’t let my cake cool all the way before applying the glaze, which is why a lot of it slid off. Don’t be like me! Be patient and let the cake cool completely (not that having the cake standing in a glaze puddle is a bad thing, actually).

Lemon Buttermilk Pound Cake
3 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
2 tbsp lemon zest
3 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
1/2 cup vegetable oil

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour a 10-inch bundt pan.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt.
  3. In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light. Beat in lemon zest, then beat in the eggs one at a time until well-combined.
  4. In a measuring cup or small bowl, combine vanilla, buttermilk and vegetable oil. Working in two or three additions, alternately add the flour mixture and the buttermilk mixture to the butter mixture, ending with a final addition of dry ingredients. Stir only until no streaks of flour remain. Pour into prepared pan.
  5. Bake for 50-55 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  6. Cool on a wire rack before topping with lemon glaze (recipe below).

Serves 16

Lemon Glaze
2 tbsp butter, melted and cooled
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp lemon zest
1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and whisk until smooth. Drizzle over cooled cake.

My brother gave me Baked Explorations this past Christmas. What a gorgeous book! The photos are luscious. There are a lot of great-looking recipes in there. When my brother came for a visit recently, I was happy to have an excuse to make something out of the book for him.

Whoopie pies are all the rage lately in the food blogosphere, but I never made them because every recipe I come across makes a ton! This recipe from Baked Explorations claims to yield 10 to 12 large or 15 to 17 small pies, but I feel like it made much more than that. Happily, though, the whoopie pies freeze well. However, I won’t be making these again unless it’s for a big party – there was an overwhelming amount of dessert in the house for just three people that weekend. (Also, I don’t repeat recipes that much.)

I like that this recipe uses butter and canola oil rather than shortening, which I’ve heard is more traditional. I had never made swiss buttercream before but it was really rather easy and I really liked the results. They pies are very chocolatey and very slightly salty, which I enjoyed against the buttercream. But the buttercream isn’t bracingly sweet either. There’s a good balance of not-too-sweet and very slightly salty going on here. I did have a problem with the pies being so tender and moist that they fused to whatever surface I was storing them on (including each other), so that the bottoms always ripped off a bit whenever I moved them. But that just meant more tastes for me because I couldn’t let that little bit of chocolatey goodness go to waste. 🙂

Chocolate Whoopie Pies

Adapted slightly from Baked Explorations

Yield: A whole lot of whoopie pies

For the whoopie pies:

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 cup Dutch process cocoa powder

2 teaspoons instant espresso powder (I used one packet of Starbucks Via)

1/2 cup hot coffee

2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar

3/4 cup canola oil

1 large egg, room temperature

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup buttermilk, shaken (I used powdered buttermilk)

For the Swiss meringue buttercream:

3 large egg whites

1 1/2 cups sugar

2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, cool but not cold, cut into 1/2 inch pieces

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

To make the pies:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silpats.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together cocoa powder and espresso powder. Add the hot coffee and 1/2 cup hot water and whisk until both powders are completely dissolved.

In a medium bowl, stir the brown sugar and oil together. Add this to the cocoa mixture and whisk until combined. Add the egg, vanilla, and buttermilk and whisk until smooth. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Make sure to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as you fold.

Use a small cookie scoop with a release mechanism to drop heaping tablespoons of dough onto the prepared baking sheets about 1 inch apart. Bake pans one at a time for 10-12 minutes, until the cookies are just starting to crack on top and a toothpick inserted into the center of a cookie comes out clean. Let the cookies cool completely on the pans.

To make the Swiss meringue:

In a medium metal bowl, whisk egg whites and sugar together. Set the bowl over a pan but do not let the water touch the bottom of the bowl. Heat the mixture until the sugar is completely dissolved and the color is a milky white, about 2-3 minutes. I gently whisked it during the heating process, it seems odd that the recipe doesn’t explicitly tell you whether to whisk it or not, but it seems that if you want it to heat evenly and for the sugar to dissolve quickly, whisking would be desirable.

Transfer the egg mixture to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and beat on medium-high (start slowly at first) until smooth and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Switch to the paddle attachment and add the cubed butter; beat on medium-high speed (start slowly at first) until smooth and fluffy, about 5 minutes. If the butter mixture looks like it is breaking, don’t worry, it will eventually come together (mine did, I couldn’t help but worry a bit, but sure enough it came together perfectly in the end).

Add the salt and vanilla and beat for 5 seconds to combine.

To assemble the whoopie pies:

Turn half of the cooled cookies over so that the flat side faces up. Use your cookie scoop or a tablespoon to drop a large dollop of buttercream onto the cookie and spread with a knife. (The original recipe says to put a dollop in the center of a cookie and then press another cookie onto it to spread the filling out – I didn’t think that worked too well.) Top with a second cookie. Repeat until all the cookies are used. Put the whoopie pies in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes to firm up before serving.

The whoopie pies will keep for up to 3 days (I definitely noticed a staleness creeping in when we got to day 3 1/2), on a parchment-lined baking sheet covered with plastic wrap, in the refrigerator. Bring the pies up to room temperature before serving.

When I said to my husband the other day, “How about I bake a busy day cake?” he cheered. He actually lifted his arms over his head and let out a whoop. He loves this cake, and so do I. It’s a cinch to throw together and it’s delicious. It’s like a pound cake in terms of denseness, and it has a subtle vanilla flavor. It may not knock your socks off like a deep rich chocolate cake slathered with a chocolate buttercream would, but it’s a tasty treat and especially handy for when you’re busy but still want to have a yummy homemade dessert.

This recipe comes from my neighbor when I was growing up. I was friends with her son in elementary school and she was, for a time in my life, like a second mother to me. She and her family still live next door to my parents, and when there was a problem with the bouquets on my wedding day – deep purple peonies in what should have been all light pink arrangements – she volunteered every bloom on her pink hydrangea bush to replace the dark peonies. It was a small detail in the wedding, but having Mrs. C’s flowers in the bouquets meant a lot to me. I still get a little misty-eyed when I think about it. This recipe makes me think of her, and smile.

This recipe could stand up to some adjustments, and I want to tinker with it. It’s great as is, but: it calls for vegetable shortening, which is the bane of foodies everywhere. I want to try using all butter and seeing what happens (I suspect it’ll be just fine). I also think this could be livened up with some citrus zest. I made a quick cream cheese glaze, but a lemony glaze or  maybe even a chocolate ganache would also be good.

Busy Day Cake

From Mrs. C

3 1/3 cup flour

2 cups sugar

½ teaspoon salt

5 teaspoons baking powder

1/3 cup butter

1/3 cup shortening

1 1/3 cups milk

2 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla

Sift first four ingredients. Add remaining, mixing until well blended. A hand mixer is best for getting all of the butter/shortening incorporated. Pour into greased and floured tube pan. Bake at 350° for 1 hour (check for doneness after 50 minutes or so).

Let cool and remove from pan.

Cream Cheese Glaze

My approach to making frosting is more along the lines of “throw the basics together and keep adjusting until I like it,” so this recipe isn’t exact. But making frosting or a glaze isn’t an exact science. A little fat + a good amount of sugar + some milk to loosen it up +  a splash of vanilla for flavor is all you need. You can replace the cream cheese with butter, if that’s more your style, and you could use a citrus juice, like lemon, instead of  the milk to make a glaze with a tasty zing.

about 2 Tablespoons cream cheese, softened

1-2 Tablespoons milk

about 2 cups powdered sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Mix all of the ingredients together until well blended. The glaze should be thin enough to drip from your spoon, but not so thin that it will soak into the cake (although that wouldn’t be a bad thing if it happened, actually). Just adjust the powdered sugar and milk to get the consistency you like – and remember, a little milk goes a long way.

This cake is legendary in my family. It’s probably the most-requested birthday cake that my mom has made through the years. My mom has an arsenal of cake recipies that stir up fond memories, a burst of sentimentality and a desire to head to the kitchen and break out the flour: devil’s food cake (my favorite), blueberry buckle, gingerbread with lemon curd, a chocolate chip sheet cake with a crinkly cinnamon and sugar top, busy day cake, and of course the spiceless spice cake.

This cake was born out of a mistake – my mom was putting together a spice cake, but she completely forgot to add the spices. And, having a family of cake-hungry fiends in the next room salivating over the thought of another of her made-from-scratch wonders, and having nothing but a spiceless spice cake to serve them, my mom slathered on some buttercream and served it up.

And it was awesome. It’s a dense, moist cake with a delicate vanilla flavor. We all gobbled it up and declared that she should always forget to include the spices. And so spiceless spice cake was born.

Thanks, Mom!

Spiceless Spice Cake

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

2 cups sugar

3 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

2 eggs

2/3 cup shortening (crisco)

1 1/2 cups milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease two 9 inch baking pans, line with parchment paper and grease again.  Into a large mixing bowl, measure all ingredients.  Blend on low speed 1-2 minutes, scraping bowl constantly.

Beat on high speed 3 minutes, scraping bowl occasionally.

Pour into prepared pans.  Bake until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.  Bake 35-40 minutes.  Cool and frost. Buttercream is traditional, but cream cheese frosting is also good.

Eek, it’s been a long time! The Christmas season was busy busy busy. I baked up a storm of cookies and sent them in packages to my parents and my sister. Then there was a second flurry of baking so I could bring several different kinds of cookies with us to California when we went to spend the holidays with James’ family. We had two delightful weeks in California, and now that the holidays are safely behind us, I can get back to blogging without going crazy.

This cake has been on my mind ever since Deb of Smitten Kitchen (the most beautiful and drool-worthy food blog out there, in my humble opinion) posted it back in July. July! I can’t believe I waited that long to try it. I originally wanted to make this for my birthday in October, but James and I went to a charming bed and breakfast in New Hampshire that weekend for some leaf-peeping, and to make things easier on myself I whipped up a batch of vanilla cupcakes.

My apologies to Deb for the blatant and amateurish mimicry of her astonishing, peerless photography.

Anyway, I’ve been craving this frosted, delicious cake for a long time now, and it didn’t let me down. Deb says this cake will work every time, and I believe her. It went together easily and baked up beautifully (I may have overbaked it just a smidge but it doesn’t seem to have suffered for it).

Deb used a chocolate sour cream frosting with this cake, and recommends a fast fudge frosting as an alternative. I chose to go with the fudgy frosting because I was hesitant that the sour cream frosting might be too sour for my taste. I’m glad I did, because this frosting is awesome. It whirls together in a food processor in a flash, and when it’s room temperature it is light as air.

The cake is also light and airy at room temperature, but I found that I like them both much better when chilled. The cake seemed denser (I’m a big fan of dense – but not heavy – cakes) and the frosting went from mousse-like to fudge-fudge-fudgy. Yum!

Yellow Layer Cake

Yield: Two 9-inch round, 2-inch tall cake layers, and, in theory, 22 to 24 cupcakes, two 8-inch squares or a 9×13 single-layer cake

4 cups plus 2 tablespoons cake flour (not self-rising)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 cups buttermilk, well-shaken

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter two 9-inch round cake pans and line with circles of parchment paper, then butter parchment.

Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until pale and fluffy, then beat in vanilla. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well and scraping down the bowl after each addition. At low speed, beat in buttermilk until just combined (mixture will look curdled). Add flour mixture in three batches, mixing until each addition is just Incorporated.

Spread batter evenly in cake pan, then rap pan on counter several times to eliminate air bubbles. (Deb recommends dropping it a few times from two inches up, which worked wonderfully.) Bake until golden and a wooden pick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool in pan on a rack 10 minutes, then run a knife around edge of pan. Invert onto rack and discard parchment, then cool completely, about 1 hour.

Instant Fudge Frosting

Makes about 5 cups (I generously frosted my cake and still had a ton left over!)

6 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
4 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar (no need to sift)
3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
6 tablespoons half-and-half or whole milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Place all of the ingredients in a food processor and pulse to incorporate, then process until the frosting is smooth.

Don’t rush to the frosting step! I don’t think my layers were completely cool when I started slathering on the frosting. It was fine until after I cut out our slices, and I saw that the frosting in the middle was getting melty and oozing out. I popped it into the fridge to stop the melt, and the next day was when I discovered how tasty this cake is cold!

This slice was supposed to be just for the photo shoot while I had good light, and I swore I was going to put it back and wait until after dinner to eat it. You can see how well that plan went!

Yesterday, I had a crummy, stressful day at work. It was one of those days when the higher-ups are freaking out about an impossible deadline at the end of the week, getting everyone else all stirred up and anxious, only to find out later that the deadline is actually two weeks away. It was frustrating and tiring. My cure? Baking, of course.

My husband had an even worse day, not coming home until 9:30pm (we usually leave work around 5). He had asked me over the weekend that my next baking project be a coffee cake, so I wanted to surprise him with a fabulous coffee cake when he finally got home. I knew just the right one: Michelle of Brown Eyed Baker blogged about an amazing coffee cake from Ina Garten a while back, and I’d been waiting for a chance to make it.

James is a big fan of streusel topping, so I knew this cake would make him happy.  Not only does it have piles of cinnamon-y, nutty streusel on top, and a layer on streusel in the middle, it’s topped off with a maple glaze. Seriously. How does it get any better than that?

I was surprised that the recipe calls for cake flour rather than all purpose, and that you sift it too.  I guess I’m used to dense coffee cakes with a texture more like pound cake. The light texture, the slight tang from the sour cream, the cinnamon-y struesel and the yummy maple glaze definitely  make this a coffee cake with “the volume turned up,” as Ina likes to say. It’s awesome when it’s still slightly warm, too.

Oh, and when James came home from work, the first thing he did was exclaim about how yummy the house smelled.

Sour Cream Coffee Cake
(Source: Barefoot Contessa by way of Brown Eyed Baker)

Yield: 8 to 10 servings

12 tablespoons (1½ sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
1½ cups granulated sugar
3 extra-large eggs at room temperature
1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1¼ cups sour cream
2½ cups cake flour (not self-rising)
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt

For the streusel:

¼ cup light brown sugar, packed
½ cup all-purpose flour
1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
¾ cup chopped walnuts, optional

For the glaze:

½ cup confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons real maple syrup

Preheat the oven to 350° F. Grease and flour a 10-inch tube pan.

Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment for 4 to 5 minutes, until light. Add the eggs 1 at a time, then add the vanilla and sour cream. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture to the batter until just combined. Finish stirring with a spatula to be sure the batter is completely mixed.

For the streusel, place the brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, salt, and butter in a bowl and pinch together with your fingers until it forms a crumble. Mix in the walnuts, if desired.

Spoon half the batter into the pan and spread it out with a knife. Sprinkle with 3/4 cup streusel. Spoon the rest of the batter in the pan, spread it out, and scatter the remaining streusel on top. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean.

Let cool on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes. Carefully transfer the cake, streusel side up, onto a serving plate. Whisk the confectioners’ sugar and maple syrup together, adding a few drops of water if necessary, to make the glaze runny. Drizzle as much as you like over the cake with a fork or spoon.

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Despite my best intentions, four of the bananas that I bought earlier last week suddenly got away from me – it seemed like just overnight they went from being tolerably ripe to racing towards rotten. Of course, my idea of “rotten” is a bit skewed – I used to like them nice and ripe, but nowadays I prefer them to still have a touch of green. Once a banana starts spotting, the flavor stops appealing to me until the point that a really ripe banana is actually a bit nauseating. But that’s okay because it gives me an *urgent* excuse to bake!
 
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(Icky overripe bananas return to pure deliciousness once they’re in baked goods, happily enough.)
 
My hubby loves banana bread, so I was rifling through my recipies searching for one that takes four bananas, when I stopped to ask him if he’d prefer bread or cake. I fully expected him to say bread, since I haven’t made one in a long time, but he surprised me by asking for cake. Even better! I’d been sitting on a Dorie Greenspan banana bundt cake recipe for a long time, waiting for the opportunity to use it, and wouldn’t you know it calls for four ripe bananas?
 
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(Note: although I used Big Red – yes, I named my stand mixer, what of it? – for this, you can also use a hand mixer.)
The batter came together quickly, and I ended up having to follow Dorie’s advice of tenting the cake with foil after 30 minutes, because it was getting fairly brown at that point. I checked on the cake at 65 minutes and it was still gooey in the middle. It took another five minutes, maybe a bit more, for the center to cook through.
 
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The cake is delicous and moist, with a tender crumb and a delicate banana flavor. I’m excited to try some tonight, to see how the flavors deepened overnight!

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Classic Banana Bundt Cake

 From Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan

 3 cups all purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

2 sticks (8 oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 cups sugar

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

2 large eggs, preferably at room temperature

About 4 very ripe bananas, mashed (you should have 1 ½ – 1 ¾ cups)

1 cup sour cream or plain yogurt

 Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Generously butter a 9- to 10-inch Bundt pan. (If you’ve got a silicone Bundt pan, there’s no need to butter it.) Don’t place the pan on a baking sheet- you want the oven’s heat to circulate through the Bundt’s inner tube.

 Whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt together.

 Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter until creamy. Add the sugar and bat at medium speed until pale and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla, then add the eggs one at a time, beating for about 1 minute after each egg goes in. Reduce the mixer speed to low and mix in the bananas. Finally, mix in half the dry ingredients (don’t be disturbed when the mixture  curdles), all the sour cream and then the rest of the flour mixture. Scrape the batter into the pan, rap on pan on the counter to de-bubble the batter and smooth the top.

 Bake for 65 to 75 minutes, or until a thin knife inserted deep into the center of the cake comes out clean. Check the cake after 30 minutes – if it is browning too quickly, cover it loosely with a foil tent. Transfer the cake to a rack and cool for 10 minutes before unmolding onto a rack to cool to room temperature.

 If you’ve got the time, wrap the cooled cake in plastic and allow it to sit on the counter overnight before serving – it’s better the next day.

 Lemony white icing*

 Sift ¾ cup confectioners’ sugar into a bowl and squeeze in enough fresh lemon juice (start with 2 teaspoons and add more by drops) to make an icing thin enough to drizzle down the Bundt’s curves.

*Although Dorie recommends a lemony drizzle, I opted for a plain one – I followed her directions but used milk instead of lemon juice.

Suzi

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