Tag Archives: cake

Su-Feh’s Gingerbread Cake

28 Oct

Gingerbread CakeI dont know why I have been baking all this week. May be its my longing to be back with my beloved sister, may be I am trying to create a sense of home and comfort from all the lovely scents wafting in from the kitchen. Whatever it is, this is the third cake I have baked in my bundt pan this week! And oh, what a cake it is…

My friend Su-Feh sent me this recipe. What a gift! Gingerbread cake … damp and thick with molasses, dark dark sugar, and studded with candied ginger. So dark and deep, such a complexity of flavours. Its a gorgeous cake – so many flavours in every bite.

I have to admit, the minute I read a recipe, I think about ways I can adjust it and make it mine. However, I stayed true to the original, and I am so glad I did. This is perfect for a mid-week dessert, coffee break, or light celebration cake. Its a multi-purpose wonder cake … and its so scrumptuious, none of us could have just one slice! You will love this cake – and its incredibly easy to make.

Whilst I did not change the cake, I did add something – a vanilla sour cream glaze. Especially with a bundt pan with such intricate design, you need a glaze to make sure all those points and swirls stay moist! Plus, it tastes really good.

You could also bake this cake in 2 9-inch cake pans, and ice it with a sour cream or cream cheese frosting – total ginger heaven. Enjoy this cake with family and friends, you will be so happy you made it. It will make your loved ones smile.

Thanks Su-Feh for this lovely recipe!

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 heaping tbsp ground ginger
  • 1 ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground cloves
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 cup butter, melted, cooled slightly
  • 1 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup molasses
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 2/3 cup chopped crystallised ginger (3 oz)

Preheat oven to 175C (350F). Butter a 12-cup bundt pan well.

In a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, cloves and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the melted butter and the dark brown sugar. Use an electric beater, and beat well – when you first start mixing, it will be loose and quite liquid. As the sugar and butter combine, it will become almost pudding-y. At this stage, gradually beat in the molasses, and then the eggs.

Beat in the flour mixture in heaping tablespoons. Once all the flour has been incorporated, mix in the hot water. Remove the electric beater (wonderful tasting for the cook!) and stir in the chopped crystallised ginger.

Gently pour and scrape the batter into your bundt pan, and bake for about 45 – 50 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean.

Cool the cake in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes, then rap it sharply against a flat surface.

Turn the cake out onto a cake rack, and cool for a further 30 minutes or so before eating.

You can eat this lush cake plain, or serve it with sifted powdered sugar over. I however loved it with this glaze:

Vanilla Glaze

  • 2 heaping tbsp sour cream
  • 1 vanilla bean, scraped or 1 tbsp vanilla essence
  • 1/2 cup icing sugar

Whisk all ingredients together until smooth. Taste for vanilla and adjust.

Pour gently over still warm cake. Make sure there is a jelly roll tin under the rack to catch dripping glaze!

Enjoy!

 

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

 

 

 

Vegan Chocolate Cake

6 Sep

Chocolate Vegan CakeSo keeping on with the vegan theme this weekend, I decided to try my hand at a vegan chocolate cake. I know, right. Vegan and chocolate just dont seem to go together, but if you stop to think for a moment, cocoa powder, which is the most intense chocolate taste you can find, is vegan. Get all the other bits right, and you have one superb cake. Its delicious, tasty, moist, velvety, and very chocolaty … and yet at the same time, its not heavy as most cakes are. May be because there are no eggs, milk or butter to weigh it down, but honestly, this was the most decadent light chocolate cake I have ever sampled.

The recipe for this cake, in one version or another, has been floating around the internet for ages. Its called Depression Cake because it was created during the Great Depression in America. It uses simple, easy to access ingredients. I bet you have just about everything to make this cake in your larder! The vinegar is the surprise ingredient. When it interacts with the baking soda, it not only leavens the cake, but also ensures a deep moistness. Most vegan cakes are either really dry, or really heavy. The vinegar changes this completely by taking the place of eggs which serve to moisten and leaven cakes usually. Once its baked, you cannot taste the vinegar, but you can experience the effects of it on the cake – heaven!

I used light brown sugar in this recipe. Of course some vegans dont take sugar or honey. If you are one, then substitute agave or liquid cane syrup to give the same sweetness as 1 cup of sugar. I also upped the amount of cocoa powder (because I really like chocolate) and added a dash of cinnamon. I find that cinnamon or coffee really deepens and develops the taste of cocoa powder – it ripens it and allows the cocoa scent to flower. I wouldnt add coffee to this cake simply because we were eating it in the evening, and I didnt want everyone to be up until all hours. However, if you like coffee better than cinnamon (or another spice – like nutmeg or even more vanilla), go ahead and substitute.

This cake is immensely forgiving. And very easy to make because literally, you can do it in the cake pan, though I used a bowl. And please, try and make it with the chocolate frosting. While the cake by itself is great, the frosting just brings it right over the top! The frosting is the icing on top 😉 Its creamy, light and yet very chocolate. I cant believe its made with so few ingredients, but again, the interaction of the different ingredients (salt is key here – dont leave it out!) created a creamy frosting that really worked well. Try this cake, and serve it to carnivores you know and love. They will not believe that there are no animal products!

Serves 8 – 10 (depending on greed). I used a 9 3/4″ spring form pan for this cake.

  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour (if you have it – all purpose flour is absolutely fine too – the whole wheat flour just gives a little nuttiness to the cake which is nice)
  • 3/4 – 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon (you can add up to 1 tbsp more if you feel the need but it will become very cinnamon-y)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2/3 cup canola oil
  • 2 tbsp vanilla essence
  • 1 tbsp white vinegar
  • 1 cup soy milk

Preheat your oven to 175 C (350 F)

Lightly oil a 9″ or larger cake pan. I did not oil mine – I lined it with greasproof paper, and it was fine. Oil if you wish. You can also mix all the dry ingredients straight into the cake pan, and then pour the wet ingredients over, but I preferred to do this in a bowl.

In a large bowl, measure out the flour, sugar, baking soda, cocoa powder, cinnamon and salt. Using a fork or small whisk, mix together until completely combined.

In a 1 cup measuring cup, measure out 2/3 cup canola oil. Measure the vanilla, and vinegar into the cup, and beat together well. Pour over the dry ingredients, and then measure and pour over the soy milk. Mix everything together very well with a fork or whisk, and immediately pour into cake pan.

Bake for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out with only a few crumbs attached.

Let cool for at least 20 minutes before icing.

With Vegan Chocolate IcingCreamy Chocolate Icing

  • 3/4 cup icing (powdered) sugar
  • 1 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 cup soy milk or soy creamer
  • 3/4 tsp salt

Mix everything in a small bowl. Whisk together for a few minutes, until the mixture is completely combined, and has become slightly fluffy, creamy, light and glossy. Pour straight over the cake, and refrigerate for a few minutes. The icing will be soft, but will not run.

Molly O’Neill’s Blackout Cake

8 Aug

Molly O'Neill's blackout cakeI am on a mission – to find the blackout cake of my childhood. My sister and I had this amazing cake when we were little – it was served in the embassy where we grew up. We used to watch like hawks when it was served, to see if we could shave infinitesimal amounts off the cake to share. We always got a slice, but we always wanted more. Our mother used to order it in these large logs – and we had at least 2 or 3 as “back up” desserts in the freezer room downstairs. My sister and I used to dream of that cake … and when I realised that it was a form of blackout cake, I decided to test a few.

Last week, I made the blackout cake from The Week, by Jeremy Sauer from Cook’s Country. It was delicious but it lacked a certain something. It was too sweet, and I think too milky. The pudding was made with a cream/milk mixture, and while it was phenomenal, it wasnt the cake of my childhood and my memory. This week, I decided to try Molly O’Neill’s blackout cake from her book, The New York Cookbook: From Pelham Bay to Park Avenue, Firehouses to Four Star Restaurants.

If last week’s cake was a chocolate extravaganza, this week’s cake was a chocolate obliteration. No milk, save for a little in the cake, and dark as a blacked out night. Seriously. The cake is so dark, that you can only tell its been cut if you look at it from the top. Its dark dark dark. It was overwhelming favoured by my taste testers – they loved the deep dark chocolate layers, the balance between chocolate and sweetness, and the textures of the cake, pudding, topping and crumbs. It is truly a phenomenal cake. It comes much closer to the cake of my memory, but I think it might need more of a touch of bittersweet – next time I make it I think I will adapt it with a bit of coffee.

As Ezril said, “Eating this cake is an intense experience!” Making it was pretty intense as well. I love baking, but this cake… so many different processes involved in creating all the layers, the custard/pudding and the topping. The cake itself not only creamed the sugar, and bloomed the chocolate and chocolate powder, but also needed whipped egg whites folded in. By the end, I was covered head to toe in flour, chocolate and butter. I could have baked myself! I learned an important lesson. Even though I read the recipe many times over, and I knew what I was in for, I think I would have been better served if I laid out my ingredients, measured them out, and then started to cook. As it was, there was a fair bit of chaos, and a fair bit of mess. Given all of that, it was worth it. Delicious, deep, dark chocolate cake, layers of pudding, a bittersweet glaze, and the rubbly texture of the crumbs on top. Wonderful and very very satisfying!

Molly O’Neill’s Blackout Cake

Cake

  • ½ cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons boiling water
  • 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • ¾ cup milk
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened slightly
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 190C degrees. Butter and lightly flour two (8-inch) round cake pans. Place cocoa in a small bowl and whisk in boiling water to form a paste.

Combine the chopped chocolate and milk in saucepan over medium heat. Stir frequently until the chocolate melts, about three minutes. Remove from the heat. Whisk a small amount of the hot chocolate milk into the cocoa paste to warm it. Whisk the cocoa mixture into the milk mixture. Return the pan to medium heat and stir for one minute. Remove and set aside to cool until tepid.

In the bowl of a mixer, cream the butter and sugar together. Beat in the egg yolks, one at a time, and the vanilla. Slowly stir in the chocolate mixture. Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Using a spatula or a wooden spoon, slowly add the flour mixture to the chocolate mixture. Fold in until just mixed.

In another bowl, whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form. Using a spatula, gently fold the egg whites into the batter.

Divide the batter between the prepared pans. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 45 minutes. Cool the cakes in the pans on rack for 15 minutes.

Gently remove the cakes from the pans and continue to cool.

Note: in my oven the cakes only took 30 minutes to bake. Check after half an hour as timing and heat can vary widely.

Filling

  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 ¾ teaspoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • ¾ cup plus ½ teaspoon sugar
  • 1 ounce bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 4 tablespoons cornstarch dissolved in 1 tablespoon cold water (use 2 tablespoons cornstarch for a runnier filling*)
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

While the cake is baking, combine the cocoa and boiling water in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir in the sugar and chocolate. Add the dissolved cornstarch paste and salt to the pan and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Boil for one minute. Remove from heat and whisk in vanilla and butter. Transfer the mixture to a bowl, cover and refrigerate until cool.

Note: I added 100 g chopped bittersweet chocolate to this filling as I felt it was not chocolatey enough. I added it just before adding the cornstarch paste. I used the maximum 4 tbsp cornstarch, and it was just fine. I also sieved the pudding to make sure there were no lumps.

Frosting

  • 12 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 12 tablespoons (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter
  • ½ cup hot water
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler over hot, not simmering, water, stirring until smooth. Remove the top of the double boiler from the heat and whisk in the butter, one tablespoon at a time. Return the top to the heat, if necessary, to melt the butter.

Whisk in the hot water all at once and whisk until smooth. Whisk in the corn syrup and vanilla. Cover and refrigerate for up to 15 minutes before using.

Assembly

Black Out Cake SlicedUse a sharp serrated knife to slice each cake layer horizontally in half to form four layers. Set one layer aside. Place one layer on a cake round or plate. Generously swath the layer with one-third of the filling. Add the second layer and repeat. Set the third layer on top. Quickly apply a layer of frosting to the top and sides of the cake. Refrigerate for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, crumble the remaining cake layer. Apply the remaining frosting to the cake. Sprinkle it liberally with the cake crumbs. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving.

Blackout Cake

1 Aug

blackout cake version 1What is blackout cake? Simply put, very dark, almost bitter sweet, very soft cake, layered and iced with dark chocolate pudding. Cake crumbs adorn the outside of the cake. Its a study in chocolate, with no distractions. Not too sweet, rich but not overbearing, so dark that light will never penetrate. Cream is a good accompaniment, but you dont really need anything at all … Just a deep respect for all things chocolate.

If you say the words Ebinger’s Blackout Cake to people who lived on the eastern seaboard of America during the 1970’s, from New York to DC, but particularly those who lived in Brooklyn, you will be greeted by moans of delight and loss. Blackout cake is a cake from a very specific time, but oh my good goddess, it is perfection in chocolate. Ebinger’s was a bakery in Brooklyn that unfortunately closed down in the mid 1970’s — and the recipe for the original blackout cake went with them. There is a huge amount of online debate about the true recipe for blackout cake, and I have often wondered which one tastes the closest to my own memory.

I grew up in Washington DC during the 1970’s and 80’s, living in an Embassy. We hosted fancy dinners for dignitaries and my mother’s go-to dessert was a version of blackout cake. It was served in long rectangular logs, each serving 20 people. My sister and I used to hover in the kitchen, making sure that any scraps were summarily dealt with. We looked at each full slice of blackout cake, floating in cream, with longing and hope… May be when we were grown up, we would have blackout cake at our dinner parties too!

I have done a lot of research about blackout cake, and I have finally decided to try the recipe posted in The Week in 2008, from Jeremy Sauer in Cook’s Country. I had hoped this cake would come close to my memory … but unfortunately, it didnt. Dont get me wrong, it was superb. Dark, chocolaty, very moist… but there was something missing. It was just a little too not-blackout. Not sure why, or where, or how, but it wasnt the cake of my memory. I have one more recipe which I will try next weekend… but for now, this blackout cake version has made us all very happy.

Pudding

  • 1-1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 2 cups half-and-half
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 6 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

Whisk sugar, cornstarch, salt, half-and-half, and milk in large saucepan. Set pan over medium heat. Add chocolate and whisk constantly until chocolate melts and mixture begins to bubble, 2 to 4 minutes. It will thicken like a pudding. Make sure that you mix it well enough so that the pudding does not burn at the bottom.

Stir in vanilla and transfer pudding to large bowl. Lightly butter the top of the pudding, and butter one side of sheet of greasproof paper. Place the greaseproof paper over the top of the pudding so that a skin doesnt form, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours and up to 1 day.

Cake

  • 8 tbsp unsalted butter (1 stick), plus extra for greasing pans
  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp table salt
  • 3/4 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder, plus extra for dusting pans
  • 1 cup strong black coffee
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 165 C. Butter two 8-inch cake pans, line the bottom with greaseproof paper, and shift a bit of cocoa powder over the buttered cake pan. This will help in removing the cake from the pan after baking.

Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in bowl. Set aside.

Melt butter in large saucepan over medium heat. Stir in cocoa and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. You will smell the perfect smell of cooking chocolate.

Off heat, whisk in coffee, buttermilk, and sugars until dissolved. Whisk in eggs and vanilla, then slowly whisk in flour mixture.

Divide batter evenly between prepared pans and bake until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes.

Cool layers in pans 15 minutes, then invert onto wire rack. Cool to room temperature, at least 1 hour.

Assembly

Cut each cake in half horizontally. Crumble one cake layer into medium crumbs and set aside.

Place one cake layer on serving platter or cardboard round. Spread 1 cup pudding over cake layer and top with another layer.

Repeat with 1 cup pudding and last cake layer.

Spread remaining pudding evenly over top and sides of cake.

Sprinkle cake crumbs evenly over top and sides of cake, pressing lightly so crumbs adhere. Serve. (Cake can be refrigerated for up to 2 days.) Serves 10 to 12.

Sour Cream Almond Coffee Cake

31 Jul

Sour Cream Coffee CakeThis weekend is rainy and damp – the perfect time for baking. Cakes and cookies, the scent of warm cinnamon and chocolate – all these are, to me, the ultimate comfort. A slice of cake, be it carrot, coffee or chocolate, is a welcoming gift to present a visitor, and they pack wonderfully for on-the-go presents. I love cake – the beautiful crumb, the creamy icings, the melding of flavor and texture. Baking a cake is immensely satisfying – the finished product is an act of magic, bringing together simple ingredients and creating a stunning finished product. I dont trust people who dont like cake 😉

And oh, this cake. A humble coffee cake, something you could whip together in half an hour or so, even though it has a filling, topping and batter. Its a simple cake, and it bakes up beautifully – fluffy, cinnamon specked, cream-cheesy interior, with little specs of baked apple, streusel topping. Its surprisingly balanced, and not over-the-top sweet. A wonderful snack, and a delightful breakfast with a cup of hot coffee. My idea of the perfect thing to have in the fridge at all times 🙂

This cake is adapted from Tamasin Day-Lewis from her Kitchen Classics book. She got the recipe from her assistant, who got it from her Auntie Fei. So this recipe has been handed down and redrafted at least four times – which is one of the things I love about cooking. You can tell someone how you made a dish, you can even write out a recipe for them. As soon as they get it home, look in the fridge and realise they have raisins rather than an apple, or creme fraiche rather than sour cream, they substitute and change around and add. Its human nature, but its also what makes cooking so personal. As soon as you have any confidence in the kitchen, you know what you like, and you adapt things to that sense of taste and artistry. Its why I love eating other people’s cooking so much. They expose their sense of taste, colour, texture, flavour and fun through what they cook, and how they cook it.

And I must admit something here. This cake actually has nuts in it! I usually dont go for cake with nuts. Ever. I took the nuts out of the sublime carrot cake from yesterday. I would never make anything chocolate with nuts. I love nuts, but not with sweet, except in this cake (well, may be I would use almond meal in a cake in place of flour in a pinch, but thats another story). Here, the nuts act as the texture component, and elevate the coffee cake with their smoky crunchy bite. They also cut the creaminess of the cake well – its made with sour cream, and layered with cream cheese, so its very rich. The nuts help that richness stay balanced. I use almonds because I find them the least offensive of nuts in sweet things, but you could use hazelnuts, walnuts, pecans, or even macadamias if you like.

Making this cake is not hard, but I would certainly make the filling and topping first, before making the batter. That way, the final assembly is quick and easy. Also, you can make it in a bundt pan, but I didnt want to, so I made it in a cake tin. Cooking time is about 10 – 15 minutes less in a bundt pan so watch for that.

Eat this at breakfast or during a coffee break, for a tea time snack or as dessert. Its delicious any which way, but I particularly like it warm from the oven.

Filling

  • 3/4 cup cream cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp light brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Please make sure you get a good cream cheese. That Philadelphia stuff is full of stabilisers, gums and other chemicals. If you can find a natural, organic or locally made cream cheese, get that. The difference is huge.

Beat all ingredients together till light and creamy, and set aside.

Topping

  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 cup toasted sliced almonds, divided (note: you can use any nut you like)
  • 4 tbsp melted butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

In a medium to large frying pan, toast the almonds (or other nuts) until they become light golden. Divide into 3/4 cup and 1/4 cup. Set the smaller amount aside to use with the filling, and place the 3/4 cup of almonds in a bowl along with the flour, sugar, salt and cinnamon. Melt the butter, add the vanilla extract to the melted butter, and mix into the almond-flour mixture. It will be crumbly. Set aside.

Cake

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 1/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 200 ml (about 1 cup) sour cream (you can substitute creme fraiche if you like)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

In a mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time.

Meanwhile, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. In a separate bowl, mix together the sour cream and vanilla.

Beat the dry ingredients and sour cream into the butter-sugar-egg mixture bit by bit – I usually mix in a couple tablespoons flour, then a couple tablespoons sour cream, etc, until you have a smooth batter.

Assembly

  • Cake batter
  • 1 large apple (I used a Fuji apple) peeled, cored, and diced (you could use dried cranberries, raisins, or any other fruit you like)
  • 1/4 cup reserved almonds
  • Filling
  • Topping

Preheat oven to 180C.

Butter a cake pan, or  a bundt pan with removable sides, well. I usually put some baking paper on the bottom of my cake tin, and butter that as well, just to make removal a bit easier.

Pour about half of the cake mixture into the prepared cake tin, and smooth. Sprinkle on the diced apple, and then the reserved almonds. Spoon over the cream cheese filling, making sure you get it smeared up against the sides, and dropped throughout the interior of the pan. Top with the remaining cake batter. Smooth the top, and sprinkle over the filling. Using a fork or spoon, fold over a little batter so that you have spots of batter peaking through the filling.

Bake for 55 – 65 minutes depending on your pan, or until a cake tester comes out with crumbs.

Allow to cool on a rack for at least 20 – 30 minutes before unmolding, cutting and devouring.

Enjoy with friends.

Carrot Cake (The Best EVER)

30 Jul

Carrot Cake from heaven I cant tell you how much I love this cake. It looks like a huge effort but if you break it down into its component parts, and you start at least two days in advance, it’s a doddle.

The recipe for this cake comes from the Frog Commissary Cookbook – probably my favourite cookbook of all times. My first version was so battered, I could barely read the recipes anymore, but it didn’t matter – I had cooked the food so often, I kind of knew what needed to go in and where. Steven Poses totally innovated the Philadelphia food scene, and this cookbook really highlights easy, casual, scrumptious American cooking.

This carrot cake is something that once you make, every single person who has tasted it will ask you when you are making it again. You will become known for this cake, and you will be begged for the recipe. It will become your signature, and people will talk of you and the carrot cake together, in the same hushed awed tones. Its really that good!

As a breakfast after cooking a feast, it is a sublime cooks treat. It’s a pain to make in one go because there are so many steps, but easy enough if you cook the caramel stuffing and assemble the cream cheese frosting a day or two before hand. The cake can be baked the night before, and everything put together on the day. Seriously, this recipe will become something which will bring you fame, and depending on who you serve it to, may be even love! Heh.

We have the opportunity here to look at how our shopping choices affect the taste of our food. Its carrot cake. PLEASE buy organic carrots for this. It will make a world of difference. Get the slightly more expensive French butter if you can for the frosting – but you can use the cheaper butter for the caramel stuffing. If you are watching your budget, these things are important. Because the frosting is butter, cream cheese and vanilla, whipped together and uncooked, the actual flavour of the butter is very important. Because you cook the butter into the sugar for the caramel stuffing, the flavour gets muted and changes, and thus does not have so much responsibility.

I have made changes to the original recipe.  I hate nuts in dessert. I don’t know why, I just do. I love nuts but don’t mix them with chocolate or cake or brownies for me. They interfere with the original taste, and don’t do anything to add to it.

In this carrot cake, especially, I don’t like anything to interfere with its smooth unctuousness. There is something so luscious about how this cake feels in the mouth that nuts just interfere with the sensual experience for me.

I have taken out the pecans in the cake and the caramel stuffing – add in if you like nuts. Ugh.

I have also added mixed-spice as I like the low musky note it adds, and I have upped the cinnamon as I don’t think you can ever have enough cinnamon!

Serves 16 – 20

This cake is most easily made if you start it at least one day ahead, preferably two, since the caramel filling, for one thing, is best left to chill overnight, and the cake needs at least a day or so to firm up. The different components can be made even up to several days in advance and stored separately until you are ready to assemble the cake (as early as the night before you will serve it).

Caramel Stuffing

(This is the “stuffing” of the carrot cake – between the two layers of cake).

  • 1 1/2 cups sugar (I use a mix of white sugar, vanilla sugar and organic brown sugar – 1/2 a cup each)
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream (I use the pouring cream you can buy in the long life milk cartons)
  • 6 ounces (3/4 cup) butter (I use salted – but you can use unsalted)
  • 2-3 teaspoons vanilla extract (or more – depending on your taste)
  • 1 tsp to 1 tbsp Maldon or Fleur de sel to sprinkle over the stuffing
  • OPTIONAL: 1 1/4 cups chopped pecans (I dont use nuts in this cake because I dont like cake with nuts, but feel free to add them if you like. You can use walnuts, or even dried coconut if you like).

In a very heavy saucepan, blend well the sugar(s), flour and salt.

Gradually stir in the cream. Make sure they are blended – the dry ingredients will slowly absorb the cream. Leave this for a few minutes to let the sugar really melt into the cream.

Chop up the butter and add to the saucepan.

Put the saucepan on low heat and stir as the butter melts. You will see the butter getting absorbed into the creamy mixture as it melts.

Once the butter is absorbed, stir in 1 teaspoon of the vanilla.

Simmer the mixture for 20 – 30 minutes (up to an hour depending on the heat), stirring occasionally. It will start to pop and sizzle. Make sure you stir so the bottom and sides of the pan get scraped down.

Once the caramel is golden brown to nut brown in colour (again, depending on your taste), and the mixture is thick, take off the heat and cool to lukewarm.

Add the remaining vanilla (I usually add at least another teaspoon because of how weak the vanilla is in Malaysia), and the nuts or coconut if you are using them (don’t!).

Let cool completely and refrigerate, preferably overnight. If its too thick to spread when you are ready to assemble the components, let it warm a little to spreading consistency. Just before spreading, sprinkle the Maldon or Fleur de sel over the caramel.

Any extra is SUPERB with vanilla ice cream as a topping.

Carrot Cake

  • 1 1/4 cups corn or other clear light vegetable oil
  • 2 cups sugar (I use a mixture of white and organic brown)
  • 2 cups flour
  • 3 -4  teaspoons cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons mixed spice
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 eggs
  • 4 cups grated carrots (about 1/2 kilo bag) – if you dont have enough carrots, you can add a few apples
  • 1 cup raisins
  • OPTIONAL 1 cup chopped pecans (see above re nuts in cake).

Preheat the oven to 175 C

Line the base of two 10 inch cake pans with baking paper, and grease well with butter

In a large bowl whisk together the corn oil and the sugars until the oil is absorbed into the sugar. Leave to let the mixture meld for a while.

Meanwhile, mix the flour, cinnamon, mixed spice, baking powder, baking soda and salt together in a separate bowl.  Sift half of the dry ingredients over the sugar-oil mixture and blend.

Alternately sift in the rest of the dry ingredients while adding the eggs (lightly beaten), one by one.

Combine all well, and leave to sit for a bit while you grate the carrots.

Add the carrots, the raisins and (if you are using them) the pecans.

Pour mixture into prepared pans and bake for about 25 – 30 minutes, or until a knife inserted comes out clean.

Cool upright in the pan on a cooling rack. Unmold the cake before you refrigerate it if you are not using the cake that day. Wrap it well in plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel.

I think this is best made at least 1 – 2 days in advance. Too fresh a cake makes it very difficult to cut – I used a very fresh cake at my last party, and after the first few slices, the cake was unfolding herself like a blowsy lady who had too much to drink at a party!

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 1/2 stick to 1 stick of butter (salted) – I usually use less butter than cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1-8 ounce package of cream cheese at room temperature
  • 200 – 500 g of powdered sugar (I usually use less, and add more to taste)
  • 1 – 3 teaspoons of vanilla

Using electric beaters, cream the butter well.

Add the cream cheese and beat until well blended.

Sift in the sugar and the vanilla.

Depending on the consistency of the frosting, leave in fridge for a few minutes (if too soft) or add a little sour cream or milk (if too stiff).

Assembly

Centre the cake on your serving plate.

Depending on your taste, use a serrated knife to cut the cake into 2 – 3 layers.

Spread the caramel filling between the layers of cake. You may have to use a spoon and just drop the thick caramel onto the layers.

Spread the frosting over the top and sides.

Refrigerate to let the cake hold itself together.

Serve cake at room temperature.

Variations

  • The assembled cake freezes very well
  • You can substitute apples or zucchini for the carrots
  • Batter can also be baked as cupcakes, loaves, sheet cakes

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

Banana Cake

1 Jul

This cake is soooooooo good! Its got such a beautiful banana taste, light, fluffy, perfect crust. It does not bake up high, so if you are going to stuff it with salted caramel, make sure you make two layers. You wont be able to slice in half lengthwise because of the tenderness of this cake, and the gentleness of the crumb, so dont try!

If you are serving this as a dessert for a nice dinner, it would be perfect iced with a cream cheese and vanilla frosting (beaten with a few tablespoons of powdered sugar), or stuffed with salted caramel. However, if its for an afternoon tea, or just because… it needs no embellishment. Its beautiful and light, satisfying and happy making!

My Toh used to eat pisang mas (the tiny gold banana common here in Malaysia) and so, in memory of him, that is one of my favourite fruits. I look for it everywhere, and was so thrilled when my wonderful organic delivery guy had them. I used pisang mas for this recipe, but please feel free to use any very ripe (even black) sweet banana.

  • 2 1/4 cups cake flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups mashed ripe bananas
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon plus 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs

Preheat oven to 175°F. Lightly butter two 8-inch-diameter cake pans with 2-inch-high sides; dust pans with flour.

In a small bowl, combine cake flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

Mash bananas well and measure – we used about 8 or 9 small pisang mas. Mix bananas with buttermilk and vanilla and set aside.

In an electric mixer, beat butter and sugars in a large bowl until blended well, and light. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition.

Add dry ingredients alternately with banana in 3 – 4 additions, beating for a few seconds until just blended. Let rest for a few minutes.

Divide equally between the cake pans, and bake, one at a time for approximately 25 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out with a few crumbs attached.

Let cake cool on a cake rack, in the cake pan, for about 10 minutes, and then turn out and allow to cool completely.

Ice (or stuff) with salted caramel, and sprinkle with a little bit of Maldon.

Try not to eat before the guests come – unlike me (as you can see from the picture!)

Salted Caramel Filling

1 Jul

This is food of the goddesses. Sweet, salty, caramel perfection. This is so good, so easy, so quick to make. I got it from one of my favourite cookbooks of all times – The Frog Commissary Cookbook – and its used as a stuffing for a sublime carrot cake.

Use this as an icing, as a stuffing, or even warmed as a caramel sauce for ice cream or anything else. My nephew likes to eat it straight from the bowl. So do I, which is why I try NOT to have it in the fridge on a regular basis.

  • 1 1/2 cups sugar (I use a mix of white sugar, vanilla sugar and organic brown sugar – 1/2 a cup each)
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream (I use the pouring cream you can buy in the long life milk cartons)
  • 1/2 cup butter (I use salted – but you can use unsalted)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract (or more – depending on your taste)
  • 1/2 tsp or more to taste Maldon or fleur de sel

In a very heavy saucepan, blend well the sugar(s), flour and salt. Gradually stir in the cream. Make sure they are blended – the dry ingredients will slowly absorb the cream.

Chop the butter and add to the saucepan, and put saucepan over low heat, stirring gently as the butter melts. You will see the butter getting absorbed into the creamy mixture as it melts.

Once the butter has been totally absorbed, stir in 1 teaspoon or so of vanilla.

Simmer this ambrosia for a minimum of 30 minutes, and up to an hour, depending on the heat, and how deep you desire your caramel flavour to be. Stir every 5 – 10 minutes. Make sure you stir so the bottom and sides of the pan get scraped down.

Once the caramel is golden to nut brown, and the mixture is thick, take off the heat, and add at least 2 – 3 more teaspoons of vanilla, taste, and add a little Maldon or fleur de sel. Stir.

Let cool to lukewarm, where you can really taste the flavours, and adjust the salt to your liking.