Tag Archives: buttermilk

Lemon Bundt Cake

25 Oct

Bundt CakeMy beloved gorgeous friend Chiara sent me a bundt pan … and not just a garden variety bundt pan but a stunning, almost architectural pan. It is soooo pretty – and I was really excited to be able to use it! I kept wanting to bake a bundt cake when I was at my sister’s place, but never seemed to find the time. While cakes from scratch are generally easy, they also take a certain amount of commitment.

You need to set aside some time to really think about your ingredients, and gather them. You usually use about three or four mixing bowls to assemble things separately and then mix them all together. You bake, wait, remove from pan, wait again, and then ice. You can make cakes in less than an hour, but the slightly more complex ones take a while. Granted, a lot of the time is spent waiting for things to bake or cool down, but still, you need to set those times aside. I wasnt organised enough at my sister’s house to do that.

However, when I realised I was going to a family BBQ on Saturday night, I decided that Saturday afternoon would be the perfect time to bake a lemon cake … and then I remembered my bundt pan! Oh joy! This is such a terrific cake, and to make it even more stunning … such pleasures are these, I cant even tell you 😉

I served this bright tart glowing lemony cake with sweetened vanilla whipped cream and balsamic strawberries. Each on their own is fabulous. (Admit it, sometimes a mouthful of whipped cream is just what the doctor ordered!) But together… oh such ambrosia. Such contrast in colour and texture, such balance of flavours. They enhanced one another. So yummy and so good.

GlazeThe thing I love about this cake is that it is cake. Deceptively simple, its lemon flavour shouts with joy. Its fluffy and yet slightly damp – a pretty good combination if you ask me. Leftover cake becomes a little more solid, like pound cake … nothing to frown at either. You can bake it in 2 9-inch cake tins as well – if you did it this way, I would ice with whipped cream and have a layer of strawberries and whipped cream in the centre. Either way, this is a great dessert which people really flock to – its less rich and decadent than chocolate cake, its a bright and fitting end to a big dinner, and its totally delightful.

Oh and please… dont forgo the lemon glaze. Its fantastically tart, adds a layer of sweetness, and a textural crunch to the crust of the cake. It doubles the lemony flavour and is an integral part of success of the cake.

I adapted this recipe from Cook’s Illustrated

Fills 1 12-cup bundt pan or 2 9-inch cake pans

  • 3 + 2 lemons
  • 3 1/2 cups unbleached cake flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup + 1 tbsp buttermilk
  • 18 tbsp (2 1/4 sticks) butter at room temperature
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 cup caster sugar
  • 2 cups powdered / icing sugar

Preheat oven to 190C (350F). If your bundt pan is non-stick, butter it well with soft butter, making sure to get into the grooves and gulleys well. If its not non-stick, melt about a tablespoon of butter, stir in about a teaspoon of flour, and brush all over pan. This should ensure that your cake comes out whole. If you are baking in cake tins, butter and then line the tins with parchment or baking paper.

Wash the lemons well (I hope you are using organic lemons – they make such a huge difference in flavour!). Grate the lemon peel into a small non reactive bowl, making sure not to grate any (or much) of the pith. Slice the lemons in half, and juice the lemons straight onto the lemon peel. You should have 5 – 7 tablespoons of lemon juice and peel. Set aside for at least ten minutes or so – the acid in the lemon juice will soften the peel so that when it gets added to the cake mixture, it will melt straight into it.

In a small bowl (I actually used a large 4-cup measure – less washing up), whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

Whisk together the eggs and egg yolk until lightly lemon colored, and set aside.

Whisk the vanilla extract (a whole vanilla bean would work wonders here as well but would be rather decadent!) and the buttermilk into the lemon juice and rind. Set aside.

Cream together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Really allow your mixer to do some work here – you want a creamy mass where the sugars have really been incorporated into the butter. Dont overbeat, but dont just mix it all together quickly either. The basis of a good cake is a solid creamed sugar and butter mixture.

Add the eggs and whisk again until a batter forms.

Add the flour mixture and lemon-buttermilk mixture alternately until all is incorporated and you have a thick batter.

Spoon into your bundt pan (or divide evenly between your cake pans), and bake for 45 – 55 minutes, or a cake tester is inserted and comes out clean.

Let the cake cool in the pan for about 15 minutes.

While the cake is cooling, juice the remaining lemons, and whisk together the lemon juice, 1 tbsp buttermilk and powdered sugar. This will be your glaze. Set aside, covered, until you need to use it.

Then, rap the bundt pan sharply against a flat (strong) surface a couple of times. This should loosen the cake out.

Flip the cake onto a cake rack, and lift off the bundt pan in one smooooth move.

Place the cake and cake rack over a jelly roll pan (to catch any dripping glaze) and slowly pour over about half the glaze. This will soak into the still warm cake. Leave to settle for about an hour, and then pour over the remaining glaze and transfer to a serving plate.

CakeServe with about 2 cups heavy cream, whipped with 1 tbsp sugar and 2 tbsp vanilla extract, and a punnet or box of strawberries, hulled and chopped and mixed with a tablespoon of aged balsamic vinegar.

Photographs copyright Chan KY




Vegetarian Panna Cotta

9 Jul

I have always loved panna cotta. The milky, trembling, perfectly set dessert just does it for me. May be because its so simple – the essence of milk. Scented lightly with vanilla, not too sweet, creamy and yet light, its a wonderful dessert. You can add all sorts of things – a chocolate sauce, a drizzle of strawberry jelly, fruits – to the pana cotta itself, or on the side, and you will get a different taste. A light espresso sauce comes to mind. Anyway, the whole point is, panna cotta is a simple and delicious thing – but I was unpleasantly surprised when I found out how it was made: milk, sugar, vanilla and gelatin. Now, vegetarians cannot eat gelatin because its made up basically of hooves, bones and cartilage of animals from the slaughterhouse boiled down. I will consume animal by products like eggs and milk, but not by products from animals that have been slaughtered. So I have foregone my panna cotta, and moved on to other delights.

Until a few months ago, when I used agar agar to stiffen and hold whipped cream. Hmmmm. I wondered if the same could be applied to the creation of panna cotta. Well, yes, but. Yes it can, agar agar is an excellent gelling agent. And yes, its relatively easy. But, you really have to follow instructions. I know this by trial and error. For almost each cup of milk or cream that you use, you need a little less than 1 tsp powdered agar agar. The agar agar must be given sufficient time, in a variety of circumstances, to melt and incorporate into the cream. If it doesnt, you get a yucky, grainy, unset mess. I know. It happened to me!

I did save it though, and now have six pretty glasses of panna cotta settling peacefully in my fridge. This dessert is easy to make as long as you accept there will be a long period of calm reflective slow cooking, and a few moments of utter chaos. Best prepare for the chaos at the beginning and set everything up so that at least it is controlled. If you do, you will have a guilt free (well relatively) panna cotta that really delights.

For 6 ramekins or glasses you will need:

  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk (or additional milk if you dont have or dont want to use the buttermilk)
  • 3 3/4 tsp agar agar
  • 3 cups cream or half and half (I used 1 1/2 c cream and 1 1/2 c whole milk)
  • 6 – 8 tbsp sugar (preferably caster)
  • 1 vanilla bean split in half  or 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • At least 2 cups ice

First off the prep. Set up your six glasses or ramekins on a clean tray or baking sheet and set aside. Have a large mixing bowl (that will fit your saucepan comfortably) at the ready, along with ice in the freezer, a large pouring jug, and a sieve.

In a medium saucepan, pour the 1 cup milk + 1/2 cup buttermilk and sprinkled the agar agar on top. Mix well and leave for at least 5 – 10 minutes to soften and incorporate. I use buttermilk in this recipe because I love the subtle tang it gives the finished product – it enhances the taste of milk, without intruding. However, if you just like milk, just use milk!

Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, pour the cream / half and half and sprinkle over the sugar, and mix in the vanilla extract, or scrape out the vanilla bean, and pop its contents, and it, in. Leave to get acquainted.

After about ten minutes or so, go back to the saucepan, and on low heat, bring to the simmer, stirring all the while. What you will want to see is the mixture slowly getting thicker, and the agar agar melting. You want to bring this just-almost-not-quite to the boil. A few bubbles coming lazy to the surface and you know youre just  a tad too hot. You want to do this slow and gentle.

Hold the milk at a simmer, stirring slowly all the while for 3 – 5 minutes, and then add half of the cream mixture. Continue stirring and repeat bringing the milk-cream mixture just to the boil, and keeping it at a high simmer for a few minutes. Finally, add the rest of the cream mixture and repeat. This entire process should take you between 10 – 15 minutes. Your main aim here is a smooth creamy mixture. You want to ensure that the agar agar is completely melted into the milk and cream, and it can only do so if you bring it just to the boiling point. Enjoy this time, because all hell will break loose soon!

Agar agar gells without the need for refrigeration, so as soon as you take it off the heat, it will start to stiffen up. You now need to work extremely quickly. Put ice into the large bowl with water, and set the saucepan atop. Mix to cool down for only a few minutes – you still want to work with a warm/hot mixture, otherwise it will start gelling! Place sieve over your pouring jug, and pour all the cream through, pressing down on the solids, and discarding. Pour the cream straight into your ramekins or pretty glasses. You will see the drips and drops starting to gel so work quickly but evenly. Cover, and refrigerate for at least an hour, or overnight.

A note on the agar agar: I have read that agar agar to liquid should be a 1 tsp to 1 cup ratio. I have tried this, and it comes out a very very stiff jelly. My aim for the panna cotta was a slightly wobbling, smooth, silky dessert. I have therefore come up with a ratio of 4 1/2 cups liquid to 3 3/4 tsp agar agar. This is an important measurement. Please make sure you measure everything carefully. If your agar agar does not set, or sets too hard, you can always melt everything down again, reheat and go through the same process. If it is set too hard, add at least 1/2 cup of milk and 1 tsp or more of sugar. If it has not set enough, add 1/4 tsp of agar agar.

Good luck!

Sticky Fresh Ginger Cake

6 Jul

We made the dough for Chicago deep dish pizza tonight, and Ezril and AngelKitten decided to stay to watch the Netherlands – Uruguay game. Though we had already had dinner, we felt like something warm, tasty and comforting for a snack. I checked what was in the cupboard, and found the ingredients for a fluffy yet sticky, warm and crusty fresh ginger cake. Oh wow, was this good. We devoured it as soon as it was out of the oven (a bit of a mistake, we should have reigned in our greed and waited five minutes!) and it warmed us with love and companionship as it fed us.

This is a great tea cake – quick to put together, and so very welcoming. You could use powdered ginger instead, but I love the sharpness of fresh.

For a 9 inch cake pan, you will need:

  • 2 cups flour – 1 1/2 cups cake flour, 1/2 cup all purpose (or all all purpose if you have no cake flour)
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp mixed spice
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 – 3 tbsp grated fresh ginger or 2 – 3 tsp dried ginger
  • 1 stick / 8 tbsp butter (1 cup)
  • 1/2 cup golden syrup
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup ginger beer or ginger ale
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp vanilla
  • A few tbsp caster sugar

Preheat your oven to 180C or 350F. Butter a 9 inch cake pan well and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine flours, baking soda, salt, mixed spice, cinnamon and ginger. Whisk gentle to combine.

In a saucepan, over medium to low heat, combine butter, golden syrup and brown sugar until just combined, and the butter has melted.

In a small bowl or measuring cup, combine buttermilk, milk ginger beer, egg and vanilla, and beat with a fork to combine.

Pour the butter mixture into the flour, and beat with a whisk to incorporate, and then beat in the buttermilk mixture. You will have a very liquid cake batter.

Pour into cake tin and bake for 30 – 45 minutes, until the top has turned golden and a toothpick inserted into the centre of the cake comes out with a few crumbs attached. The cake will be fluffy at the edges and sticky gooey in the centre. A delightful combination!

Sieve a few tablespoons of caster sugar over the top of the cake, and leave to cook for at least 5 minutes before slicing from the pan and enjoying.

If you really want to gild the lily, this would be pretty extraordinary with some lemon curd slathered over the top instead of caster sugar. It would be great baked in loaf tins as well, and sliced. Excellent with a very old cheddar or other sharp cheese. And this is perfect summer picnic cake. Any which way, enjoy with love!

Special thanks to AngelKitten again for keeping track of the cooking ingredients, and to Ezril for tasting!

All photographs copyright Chan KY