Saturday, December 5, 2009

Ann's September Cake: Birthday Cakes!

Hooray for September because it's the official birthday month of Year of Cake! Or rather the sisters of Year of Cake. Although Listle didn't choose to highlight her birth through cake (rather surprising since she's all about birthdays), I thought that my birthday party would be a perfect time to make a high-impact cake.

My sister-in-law Charna sent me a blog post about one woman's birthday cake for herself - she made the infamous Alton Brown coconut cake. It was funny when I read the post because I knew exactly the recipe she was talking about - he makes the cake completely from scratch, including processing fresh coconut . I had kind of had this cake in the back of my mind from the beginning of the year, as some kind of elusive pipe dream, and the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to make it. It would be a birthday gift to myself! Because of course an extremely labor-intensive cake is a great gift (did you see in the original post? It took five hours to break down two coconuts!).

Alton Brown gives detailed instructions on how to easily remove the coconut husks. After a trip to the hardware store for a really long nail, I was ready.

I started out by draining out the coconut water, I baked the coconuts for a little while and then allowed them to cool. This was supposed to cause the husks to crack and separate from the flesh with a little prying...but nothing happened. So I baked them again and waited. Again, nothing. I tried prying at the shells, tapping them with a hammer to crack them...nothing. After my boyfriend Ol' Blue Eyes worked me through a little bit of a meltdown, I took the hammer and pounded them into tiny pieces.

I should note that I started this process several days before the party, and more than once I determined that it wasn't worth the effort and that I would just use store-bought coconut. Each time I decided that was lame and that I love making a cooking project into an adventure, so I would continue on. And then I tried peeling the skin off the flesh.

The recipe said to use a vegetable peeler to get the skin off, but it was wretched. It took forever, and it peeled in a really awkward way, almost pilling like an old sweater on the peeled surface as I tried to handle it. It was grossing me out, and after one piece, I realized that although I had a full day to make the cake in preparation for the party, I would not have a happy birthday if I spent all of it messing with this dang coconut. Sometimes it's good to know when to let go.

Thus I moved to Plan B, which involved using a recipe from a book I'd checked out called Southern Cakes, which features an entire chapter on only coconut cakes. The author includes a recipe similar to Alton Brown's, starting from the raw coconut, but also had several other promising options with store-bought coconut. I picked a simple, standard cake and went to work.

From this point, everything went pretty easily. I bake the coconut cakes on Friday and assembled a layer cake just before the party. The only mishap at this point was that my attempt at a meringue frosting failed, but I blame that more on the fact that I was running around to get things set up for my birthday party at the same time as trying to make frosting. It was bound to fail. My dear friend Cheriiiil stepped in and did a 7-minute frosting instead, as per the suggestion of the author, and the day was saved.

At some point, I decided to make a second cake, but I really can't remember if there was a specific reason or if it was just because I wanted to make sure we had enough for the multitudes that were coming for my party. I maybe had wanted a chocolate feature. Or I was trying to use up some ingredient I had in my fridge. In any case, I made a banana cake with chocolate frosting. Again, I made the cakes Saturday morning and then frosted them as the party was starting. The frosting ended up being pretty thin, so I threw the cake into the freezer to help it set up faster so we could serve it. When I retrieved it, this had happened:

Can you see it? The cake had slid whilst in the freezer and then set with the top layer hanging off the side of the first. Everyone got a good laugh over my terraced cake.

Both cakes were really, really good. I wish I hadn't been rushing so much at the end so I could have really taken my time to make them look great, but the cakes themselves were moist (sorry, Maria), had a great texture and were really flavorful. I confess that I didn't get much of either because of the antics of my party (it was a massive karaoke party), but I would definitely make both again. The coconut cake used coconut water as its liquid, which gave a lovely flavor to the entire cake, instead of just using it as a garnish to the frosting. The banana cake reminded me of a similar loaf cake that my host mom used to make, or when I used to eat bananas with Nutella - banana and chocolate is always a great combination (when it's real banana, of course). I would maybe have liked a bit fluffier frosting, but that can easily be fixed for next time.

These cakes, along with the red velvet cake and lemon pie courtesy of Melyngoch, made for a very, very good party.

Happy Birthday to MEEEEE!!!!!!!!

Classic Coconut Cake
from Southern Cakes: Sweet and Irresistible Recipes for Everyday Celebrations by Nancie McDermott

3 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup milk, or water from a fresh coconut plus enough milk added to make 1 cup
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
2 cups sugar
4 eggs

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour two 9-inch cake pans, line bottoms with parchment, and set aside. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt, and use a fork to mix together well. Stir the vanilla into the milk.

In a large bowl, beat the softened butter with a mixer at medium speed until creamy. Add the sugar and continue beating, until the mixture is light and evenly combined. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well each time, until the mixture is thick and smooth.

Add one third of the flour mixture to the batter and beat well at low speed. Add half the milk to the batter, beating well. Continue beating as you add another third of the flour, followed by the remaining milk, and then the remaining flour, beating well each time until the batter is very thick and smooth.

Quickly scrape the batter into the prepared cake pans, dividing evenly, and place them in the oven. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the cakes are golden brown, spring back when touched lightly in the center, and begin to pull away from the sides of the pan.

Remove from the oven, and cool in the pans on wire racks for 10 minutes. Turn out onto wire racks, turn the cakes top side up, and cool completely.

Seven-Minute Frosting and garnish:
1 cup sugar
1/4 light corn syrup
1/4 cup water
2 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Flaked or shredded sweetened coconut (or both)

Bring about 3 inches of water to an active simmer in a medium saucepan. Meanwhile, in a heatproof bowl that will fit snugly over the saucepan, combine the sugar, corn syrup, water, egg whites, salt, and cream of tartar. Beat with a mixer at low speed for 1 minute, until the mixture is pale yellow and very foamy.

Place the bowl over the simmering water, and beat at high speed for 7 to 14 minutes or more, until the frosting becomes white, thick, and shiny, and triples in volume. Continue beating until the frosting forms firm peaks and loses some of its shine. Remove the frosting from the heat, add the vanilla, and continue beating for 2 minutes more.

Place 1 cooled cake on cake plate, top side up, and spread frosting on top, taking it to the edges, and then sprinkle with shredded coconut. Place second cake on top, and mound frosting on top and spread on sides, spreading and smoothing to completely cover the cake. Sprinkle and pat flaked and shredded coconut all over the cake.

Banana Cake with Chocolate Frosting
from Southern Cakes: Sweet and Irresistible Recipes for Everyday Celebrations by Nancie McDermott

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 cups mashed ripe bananas

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round cake pans and line bottoms with parchment. Combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl, and stir with a fork to combine well.

In a large bowl, combine the butter and sugar, and beat well, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs, one by one, and then the vanilla. Beat well for 2 to 3 minutes more, until you have a smooth batter.

Using a large spoon or spatula, stir in half the flour until it just disappears into the batter. Stir in the buttermilk, and then the remaining flour the same way. Quickly and gently fold in the mashed bananas, and then divide the batter between the 2 cake pans.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the cakes are golden brown, spring back when touched lightly in the center, and begin to pull away from the sides of the pans.

Remove from the oven, and cool in the pans on wire racks for 10 minutes. Turn out onto wire racks, turn the cakes top side up, and cool completely.

Chocolate Frosting:
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1/3 cup cocoa
1/3 cup evaporated milk or half-and-half
4 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a medium saucepan, combine the butter, cocoa, and evaporated milk. Place over medium heat and bring to a gentle boil. Cook, stirring often, for about 5 minutes, until the cocoa dissolves into a dark, shiny essence. Remove from the heat and stir in the confectioners' sugar and vanilla. Beat with a mixer at low speed until you have a smooth, thick frosting.

Place 1 cooled cake on cake plate, top side down, and spread frosting on top, taking it to the edges. Place second cake on top, and mound frosting on top and spread on sides, spreading and smoothing to completely cover the cake.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Elizabeth's September Cake - Swedish Visiting Cake

I adore this cake. I have made this three more times since September. It is the perfect cake to make when friends are coming over -- hence the name "Swedish Visiting Cake."

I pretty much always have these ingredients on hand, so I'll probably make it many more times for many more people. I even took it to my friend's house for her birthday, only a few hours after reading about her birthday on Facebook. THEN I found out that the cake was perfect for her because she did foreign exchange to Sweden for a year. Who knew?! See, it's the perfect cake.

This is yet another excellent recipe from Dorie Greenspan's fabulous book, Baking, From My Home to Yours.

The only change I would make to this cake is to cut down the almond extract just a bit. The teaspoon and a half of extracts (vanilla and almond) leave this cake tasting a little too much like alcohol for my taste. It's too bad I didn't try that during the first four times I made it, but I didn't. I'll post an update when I do try it.

The almonds on top are perfection.

I baked this iteration in a fluted-edge pan.
The other times I made it, I used a standard 9-inch pan
with a removable bottom.

Swedish Visiting Cake (from Baking, From My Home to Yours)

Makes 8 to 10 servings

1 cup sugar, plus extra for sprinkling

Grated zest of 1 lemon (I used orange a couple of times, and that was good too. - Eliz.)

2 large eggs

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

About 1/4 cup sliced almonds (blanched or not)

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a seasoned 9-inch cast-iron skillet or other heavy ovenproof skillet, a 9-inch cake pan or even a pie pan.

Pour the sugar into a medium bowl. Add the zest and blend the zest and sugar together with your fingertips until the sugar is moist and aromatic. Whisk in the eggs one at a time until well blended. Whisk in the salt and the extracts. Switch to a rubber spatula and stir in the flour. Finally, fold in the melted butter.

Scrape the batter into the pan and smooth the top with a rubber spatula. Scatter the sliced almonds over the top and sprinkle with a little sugar. If you're using a cake or pie pan, place the pan on a baking sheet.

Bake the cake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until it is golden and a little crisp on the outside; the inside will remain moist. Remove the pan from the oven and let the cake cool for 5 minutes, then run a thin knife around the sides and bottom of the cake to loosen it. You can serve the cake warm or cooled, directly from the skillet or turned out onto a serving plate.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Ann's August Cake: Orange Lagkage

One of my favorite cakes in the world is lagkage (pronounced lao-kay-eh), a very common sight in Danish bakeries. During my year as an exchange student it was perhaps just as common to see me hovering around bakery windows admiring lagkager and planning my next lagkage experience. Even though it just means "layer cake", nearly all of the lagkager I ate had the same basic elements - cake, fruit, custard, and whipped cream - but this is probably just because I preferred those cakes and picked them over less exciting versions. I recall that many also had marzipan, too. Despite their intense layers, they always seemed somewhat more informal than typical layer cakes I grew up eating, maybe because the sides were often unfrosted and the layers exposed. Those cakes hold a special place in my heart in for a few reasons: they were the instigators for my first "cafe culture" experiences, in which my best friend and I lingered for hours over slices of cake and tea cups of hot chocolate, and I always felt more inclined to practice my Danish skills when I knew that a delicious piece of cake would be mine if I spoke well (and I know I did despite the lame waitress who insisted on speaking English to me no matter how many times I responded back in Danish).

A typical lagkage - but not one I made

So, in honor of those happy afternoons, I wanted to make an awesome lagkage this month. I found a recipe in Nigella Lawson's Feast that reminded me of the correct structure, so I paired that with an old cookbook my dad got me called Wonderful Wonderful Danish Cooking. I also kind of just worked off my own memories to create the cake I wanted. didn't really work. That's not to say that the cake wasn't excellent, but it didn't taste at all like lagkage. The Nigella recipe included what I had thought would be a custard layer, but turned out to just be a buttercream using custard powder. I had really wanted the custard element in the cake since that may have been my favorite part, but oh well.

After I made the cake layers, I split them and layered each with orange marmalade, mandarin orange segments, and whipped cream.

After a couple layers like that, I spread the wannabe (in my mind) custard, and then followed with two more sets of orange/cream layers. I smoothed the top to look oh so pretty (thank you, offset spatula):

Then I decorated the top with orange segments and my lagkage was done! It was much taller than one I'd ever had in Denmark, though.

My friend Janelle and I negotiate the cake.

It was a good thing it was so big, since I served this at a Relief Society party. The best tactic for the cake was to dive right in:

I liked this cake, even though it wasn't really correct. I love orange and cream pairings, and the sponge cake was nicely flavored, and there was tons for everyone! Cake success.

Appelsin Lagkage (Orange Layer Cake)
adapted from Feast by Nigella Lawson and Wonderful Wonderful Danish Cooking by Ingeborg Dahl Jensen

1 1 /2 cups flour
3 tablespoons Bird's custard powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
4 eggs
2 sticks butter, softened
1 cups superfine sugar (or regular sugar blitzed in food processor)
2-3 tablespoons milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and line two 9-inch cake pans with parchment paper.

Put all the ingredients except the milk into a food processor. Process into a smooth batter, then add the milk a tablespoon at a time to make a soft dropping consistency. Divide between the prepared pans and bake for 20 minutes. It will have puffed up because of the cornstarch in the custard powder.

Remove from oven, place on cooling rack for 5 minutes, then turn them out, peel off parchment paper, and cool completely.

Buttercream Custard Filling:
1 cup powdered sugar
4 teaspoons Bird's custard powder
3/4 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 teaspoons boiling water

Process the powdered sugar and custard powder to remove any lumps, add the butter, and process. Feed the water down the funnel with the motor running until buttercream comes together.

1/2 pint whipping cream (or more...I can't remember now)
Orange marmalade
Canned mandarin oranges

Whip cream to desired consistency. When the cakes have cooled, split each cake into two layers. Place on layer on cake plate, spread with marmalade and arrange a layer of orange segments. Top with 1/3 of the whipped cream and spread to cover entire layer. Top with another cake layer. Spread buttercream on top. Add another cake layer, then repeat layers of marmalade, oranges, and cream. Top with remaining cake layer, then spread with remaining whipped cream. Smooth top with an offset spatula, and decorate with mandarin orange segments.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Elizabeth's August Cake - Devil's Food White-Out Cake

I have avoided posting this cake, because it was going to take me so terribly long to type out the instructions; they're really, really lengthy. But I'm a dufus, because I just googled the cake name and found the entire thing on Silly me.


It was LUKE'S FIRST BIRTHDAY in August! He turned one. Just in case you don't know what first birthday means.

We had a little party for him and invited another family. I made a series of sandwiches and salads, and it was oh-so-delightful. I went a little crazy on the food, but it was worth it. Because while it was definitely a celebration of Luke turning one, it was also a celebration of ME not having an INFANT anymore. HUZZAH!

I made Luke a tiny cake of his own, using little cake pans that my mom gave me for Christmas.

Aren't they adorable? Don't they make you want to have a little doll tea party just looking at them?

I cut off the tops of the cakes, and Jeff frosted them for me because I was running out of time. My husband is an accomplished potter, and therefore knows how to glaze and create artwork and all that jazz, but if you could see a close-up of this cake, you would see a cake frosted by a blind monkey. (With all due respect to my beloved.)

The blueberries were put on the cake because they are Luke's favorite. I didn't anticipate, however, that he would eat the blueberries one by one and take forever getting to the cake-eating part. We all stood patiently with our cameras, ready to take a messy-face picture, and there he was, eating blueberries one..... by one........ Oh well, he had a great time. And we did eventually get to a messy-face picture:

The cake I chose to make for the rest of the people at the party was this Devil's Food White-Out Cake, in Baking: From My Home to Yours, by Dorie Greenspan. I had checked the book out from the library after reading about Ms. Greenspan on the NPR website. The book was so marvelous that I kept it by my bed for nighttime reading. The photos are fabulous, the recipes themselves look divine (but approachable), and the writing is superb. What a great book!

I enjoyed the cake, as did everybody at the party but my husband (who has a very limited "cake palate"). I wouldn't say egg white frosting is my number one favorite, but it was very fun to work with. And here's the most interesting tidbit: The combination of the sweet egg white frosting and the chocolate cake made it taste like....raspberries! For real! We all agreed it tasted like there was raspberry flavor in the cake. Wild.

The final masterpiece

I wish I had taken a cue from the photo inside the book and put fewer crumbs on top than on the sides:

Or I could have done it like the photo on the front of the book, where the stylist put zero crumbs on top:

In both pictures, they also kept the sides a littler tighter and straighter. My cake looked really pretty up close, but the pictures make it look like a big blob of goo. I liked my cake, and I was proud to serve it; I just wish I had styled it to look more sleek.

Ella with the cake. (Isn't that an awesome face?)

The cake after the party.

No one in the whole world can keep the chocolate crumbs out of bright white icing. I wish I had a food stylist at my house to wipe the crumbs off of every delicious piece.


Devil's Food White-Out Cake

Makes makes 12 servings

For the cake

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/4 sticks (10 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/2 cup (packed) light brown sugar

1/2 cup sugar

3 large eggs, at room temperature

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled

1/2 cup buttermilk or whole milk, at room temperature

1/2 cup boiling water

4 ounces semisweet or milk chocolate, finely chopped, or 2/3 cup store-bought mini chocolate chips

For the filling and frosting

1/2 cup egg whites (about 4 large)

1 cup sugar

3/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

1 cup water

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

GETTING READY: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 8-x-2-inch round cake pans, dust the insides with flour, tap out the excess and line the bottoms with parchment or wax paper. Put the pans on a baking sheet.

TO MAKE THE CAKE: Sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt.

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter on medium speed until soft and creamy. Add the sugars and continue to beat for another 3 minutes. Add the eggs one by one, beating for 1 minute after each addition. Beat in the vanilla; don't be concerned if the mixture looks curdled. Reduce the mixer speed to low and mix in the melted chocolate. When it is fully incorporated, add the dry ingredients alternately with the buttermilk, adding the dry ingredients in 3 additions and the milk in 2 (begin and end with the dry ingredients); scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed and mix only until the ingredients disappear into the batter. At this point, the batter will be thick, like frosting. Still working on low speed, mix in the boiling water, which will thin the batter considerably. Switch to a rubber spatula, scrape down the bowl and stir in the chopped chocolate. Divide the batter evenly between the two pans and smooth the tops with the rubber spatula.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, rotating the pans at the midway point. When fully baked, the cakes will be springy to the touch and a thin knife inserted into the centers will come out clean. Don't worry if the tops have a few small cracks. Transfer the cake pans to a rack and cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes, unmold them and peel off the paper liners. Invert and cool to room temperature right side up. (The cooled cake layers can be wrapped airtight and stored at room temperature overnight or frozen for up to 2 months.)

When you are ready to fill and frost the cake, inspect the layers. If the cakes have crowned, use a long serrated knife and a gentle sawing motion to even them. With the same knife, slice each layer horizontally in half. Set 3 layers aside and crumble the fourth layer; set the crumbs aside.

TO MAKE THE FILLING AND FROSTING: Put the egg whites in a clean, dry mixer bowl or in another large bowl. Have a candy thermometer at hand.

Put the sugar, cream of tartar and water in a small saucepan and stir to combine. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, cover the pan and boil for 3 minutes. Uncover and allow the syrup to boil until it reaches 242 degrees F on the candy thermometer. While the syrup is cooking, start beating the egg whites.

When the syrup is at about 235 degrees F, begin beating the egg whites on medium speed with the whisk attachment or with a hand mixer. If the whites form firm, shiny peaks before the syrup reaches temperature, reduce the mixer speed to low and keep mixing the whites until the syrup catches up. With the mixer at medium speed, and standing back slightly, carefully pour in the hot syrup, pouring it between the beater(s) and the side of the bowl. Splatters are inevitable -- don't try to scrape them into the whites, just carry on. Add the vanilla extract and keep beating the whites at medium speed until they reach room temperature, about 5 minutes. You should have a smooth, shiny, marshmallowy frosting. Although you could keep it in the fridge in a pinch, it's really better to use it right now.

TO ASSEMBLE THE CAKE: Put a bottom layer cut side up on a cardboard cake round or on a cake plate protected by strips of wax or parchment paper. Using a long metal icing spatula, cover the layer generously with frosting. Top with a second layer, cut side up, and frost it. Finish with the third layer, cut side down, and frost the sides and top of the cake. Don't worry about smoothing the frosting -- it should be swirly. Now, cover the entire cake with the chocolate cake crumbs, gently pressing the crumbs into the filling with your fingers.

Refrigerate the cake for about 1 hour before serving. (If it's more convenient, you can chill the cake for 8 hours or more; cover it loosely and keep it away from foods with strong odors.)

SERVING: I think the cake is best at room temperature or just cool, but many people prefer it cold (the texture of the cake becomes fudgier after it has been refrigerated). No matter the temperature, the cake is so pretty it should be cut at the table, so bring it out on a platter and cut it into generous wedges using a serrated knife and a sawing motion.

STORING: The frosted cake can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 days; let it stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving, or longer if you have the time.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Ann's July Cake - Peanut Butter Ice Cream

Summer cake means ice cream cake! This was one of the first ideas I'd had for Year of Cake, and I'd been super looking forward to it all year. I researched ice cream cake for a long time, but only came up with molded ice creams. I definitely wanted something with a cake element - and felt like it was pretty essential to the recipe, this being the Year of CAKE, not the Year of Ice Cream Shaped to Look Like Cake. I wanted something similar to what I'd get if I bought an ice cream cake from the store, but the recipes I found weren't helping. Finally, I found a recipe on the Food Network website that looked fun.

First I made the cake, which ended up being one of the best chocolate cakes I've ever had - rich and dark and super moist (sorry, Maria). As I split the cake into layers, I kept sneaking cake pieces, so I may at some point consider making this recipe again just for the cake.

Next, I softened some chocolate ice cream and stirred it until it was spreadable. So pretty!

This was poured on top of the cake and then refrozen. I did this over the course of a couple of days - I think the cake was one night, and the rest of it a second night. I confess that I probably didn't freeze each layer as much as I should have, but I had people over for Enrichment to observe me make this cake so it had to get done.

Next I softened peanut butter and poured it over the chocolate ice cream, added the second layer of chocolate cake, and refroze it. Then, the same method with the vanilla ice cream.

Finally, it all went into the freezer for one last freeze. When it came out, I cut it in half lengthwise and stacked them on top of each other to create multiple layers, and I melted some chocolate to go on top as per the picture on the website:
Yeah... well... mine didn't quite turn out like that:

I don't think I let the chocolate melt enough, and in my defense, the cake was starting to melt and I really needed to get it served. On the other hand, I really should have made this when it had time to freeze properly. Oh well. Look how pretty it is sliced!

It would be interesting to see how this cake tasted if everything had been frozen correctly, but I did enjoy that the ice cream melted into the cake and it all kind of melded together. Chocolate and peanut butter combinations seem to always equal happy eaters, so everyone seemed to love this cake. Unfortunately for me, I started a diet the day after I made this, so I still have tons of it in my freezer if anyone wants some.

Ice Box Cafe Peanut Butter Ice Cream Cake
Adapted from a recipe courtesy the Ice Box Cafe, via www.

Chocolate cake:

1 cup oil
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup of milk
1 cup water
1 cup Dutch cocoa powder
2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
Pinch salt

Ice cream cake:

1 pint chocolate ice cream
2 cups creamy peanut butter
1 pint vanilla ice cream
Chocolate cake

To make the chocolate cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Choose between a 10 by 3-inch round or a rectangular shaped baking pan and spray it with baking grease or butter and then line the bottom with parchment paper.

Combine the oil and the sugar in mixer until well blended. Add the eggs and the vanilla extract and continue to mix until well blended. Add the milk and the water.

Sift all of the dry ingredients and then add them to the wet ingredients in three batches allowing each batch to be thoroughly absorbed.

Pour the batter in prepared pans and bake for approximately 25 minutes or until a skewer is clean when removed. Allow to cool before unmolding. Once chocolate cake has cooled, unmold, and refrigerate overnight to allow it to cool thoroughly.

To make the ice cream cake: Cut the chocolate cake horizontally to make 2 layers out of the 1 layer and slide 1 of the layers onto a plate or cake board attempting not to break the layers.

Line the same pan used to bake the chocolate cake in plastic wrap (the plastic will help you remove the ice cream cake from the pan once it is set, so make sure to use a large enough piece and slide 1 of the half layers of chocolate cake into the pan). Make sure that it rests firmly in the bottom of the pan and if the plastic wrap has slipped in, adjust so that it spills over the sides of the pan.

Empty a pint of chocolate ice cream, or your favorite brand, into a mixer and soften until it is easily spread, do not let it become runny. Pour the ice cream into mold over chocolate layer and spread evenly with a spatula or the back of a spoon. Return to freezer until set, approximately 2 hours.

Soften 2 cups of creamy peanut butter in the microwave without letting it get runny, approximately 2 minutes. Then pour the peanut butter over the chocolate ice cream. Using a spatula or the back of a spoon, spread the peanut butter evenly over the chocolate ice cream. Place the second half of the chocolate cake layer over the peanut butter and pat down firmly. Return to freezer until set, approximately 2 hours.

Empty a pint of vanilla ice cream or your favorite brand, into a mixer and soften it until it can be easily spread. Pour into mold over chocolate layer and spread evenly with a spatula or the back of a spoon. Return to freezer and allow to set overnight.

To unmold, simply invert over cake board or plate, place a warm towel over the pan for a couple of minutes. The cake should slide out without any problems, grab a hold of the ends of the plastic wrap, and give it a tug if it is stubborn. Invert back so that vanilla ice cream is on top. Decorate with melted chocolate or whipped cream.

If you chose a rectangular shaped mold, cut lengthwise and stack on top of each other for a dramatic presentation. Drizzle with melted chocolate.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Elizabeth's July Cake - nothing

I didn't make a July cake. Meh. I'll make an extra cake another month and post it.

Now I turn the time over to Ann to post her July cake....

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Ann's June Cake - Peach Tatin Cake

This month, I threw an outdoor birthday party at the drive-in for my boy, Ol' Blue Eyes. You may remember him from the pasty-making experience last year. We weren't dating then, but now we are. Things change. Hooray! Because we were going to be outside and everything would be subjected to Indiana's unusually humid June weather, I needed to find something weatherproof. I'd been looking forward to some kind of upside down cake, but Listle had already made a pineapple upside down cake. I decided to explore a version of tarte tatin - a Frenchified upside down cake usually made with apples. There are lots of cakes out there that have different fruit substituted for the apples, and so I picked a lovely summer fruit version: peach tatin cake, from a cake book my mom gave me for Christmas. Amazingly, it is called The Cake Book. This seemed pretty perfect for the occasion - easy to make ahead, without filling or frosting that could potentially melt, and full of summer deliciousness.

First, I made a caramel sauce for the bottom of the pan. I'm a little afraid of making caramel sauce because the last time I tried to make it (also for OBE, incidentally), it was a complete disaster. This version worked really well - I ignored some of the directions (waiting for the sugar to dissolve completely - maybe my idea of completely is different than everyone else's, because it was smooth and lovely in the end but I expected it to be grainy. Anyway, after the caramel sauce went into the cake pan, I sliced up the peaches and arranged them, and then chopped up some crystallized ginger and sprinkled that on for kicks.

Next I mixed up the sour cream batter and poured it over the top. After it had baked and cooled, it was ready for the party.

Next, the moment of truth - the flipping!

It went pretty well - one chunk didn't make it, but it was easily added back in. I served the cake with vanilla ice cream, with caramel sauce on the side. Oh was SO GOOD! The caramel sauce on the cake had an amazing smoky flavor that melted into the cake, and but the peaches brighten up the flavor, so it had a kind of summer-meets-autumn vibe, with a little bit of snap from the ginger.

Happy Birthday, Sweetness!

Peach Cake Tatin
from The Cake Book by Tish Boyle

Caramel Peach Topping:
1 C granulated sugar
2 Tbsp water
5 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
4 large ripe peaches
3 Tbsp crystallized ginger, chopped

Sour Cream Cake:
1 1/2 C flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp salt
1 C sour cream
2 tsp vanilla extract
9 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1 C granulated sugar
2 large eggs

1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Grease the bottom and sides of 9-inch round cake pan. Line the bottom of the pan with a round of parchment paper and grease the paper.

2. In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar and water, and cook over medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Stop stirring; increase the heat to high, and cook, occasionally brushing down the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush to prevent crystallization, until the mixture turns into a golden caramel. Remove the pan from the heat and immediately whisk in the butter, one piece at a time (be careful - the mixture will bubble up furiously). Carefully pour the hot caramel into the bottom of the prepared.

3. Cut the peaches in half and discard the pits. Cut each peach half into six wedges. Arrange a circle of wedges, overlapping them slightly, around the edge of the pan, on top of the caramel. Arrange another circle of wedges in the center, facing the opposite direction, covering the caramel completely. Sprinkle ginger on top.

4. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ground ginger, and salt into a medium bowl. Whisk to combine, and set aside.

5. In a small bowl, stir together the sour cream and vanilla extract; set aside.

6. In a bowl, using an electric or a hand mixer, beat the butter at medium-high speed until creamy, about 1 minute. Gradually add the sugar and beat at high speed until the mixture is lightened in texture and color, 2 to 3 minutes. Reduce the speed to medium and add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. At low speed, add the flour mixture in three additions, alternating it with the sour cream mixture in two additions and mixing just until blended.

7. Spoon the batter in large dollops over the peaches, then smooth it into an even layer. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, until the cake is golden brown and springs back when lightly touched. Set the pan on a wire rack and cool for 10 minutes.

8. Run a thin-bladed knife around the edge of the pan. Using pot holders, very carefully invert the cake onto a cake plate. Peel off the parchment paper. Serve the cake warm or at room temperature.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Elizabeth's June Cake - A repeat??

Buttermilk Spice Cake with Roasted Walnut Cream Cheese Frosting

This month I decided to do a spice cake for a friend who had a baby. It ended up being so much like my carrot cake in March (the cake, not the baby), that I'm a little embarrassed to call it my Cake of the Month!

I chose Emeril Lagasse's recipe. I planned to do a tall layer cake as his recipe instructs, but then I couldn't find my cake pans (post move). I had to settle for a 9x13 pan. Boooooring.

The cake was easy enough to make, and came out decent. It was WAY too sweet, though. After our first pieces, Jeff and I hardly ate any of it, and ended up throwing out the rest several days later. (I wish I had taken half of it to friends that first day.) I compared the ingredients in Emeril's cream cheese frosting to America's Test Kitchen's cream cheese frosting from March's carrot cake. Emeril's version had three times(!) the sugar. Eesh. In his defense, he's from the South, and sugar is in their blood. Usually when I make a recipe from a southern cookbook or website, I'm extra-aware of the sugar content and careful not to add too much. I didn't think of it this time and paid the price. Hoooooo-weeeeeeee, was this sweet! Sweet as a prairie flower! (Did that sound southern enough?)

The cooked cake, sans frosting

The crazy-sweet frosting

The roasted walnuts

The frosted cake

The frosted cake with the nuts on top

A piece of the final of cake (in my backyard)

The dinner that I took to my friend
(Grape tomatoes on angel hair, green beans, salad, cake.)

Total cuteness

Buttermilk Spice Cake with Roasted Walnut Cream Cheese Frosting

Source: Emeril Lagasse, 2005


  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 5 large eggs, separated
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 recipe Roasted Walnut Cream Cheese Frosting, recipe follows


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Lightly grease 2 (9-inch) cake pans. Cut 2 (9-inch) parchment paper rounds and line the pan bottoms. Grease and flour the parchment rounds.

In a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer, cream the brown sugar and butter. With the mixer running, add the oil in a steady stream. Add the egg yolks, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder, spices and salt into a medium-size mixing bowl. Alternately add the flour mixture and the buttermilk to the batter, mixing well. With the electric mixer, in another large mixing bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form, then fold them into the cake batter. Pour the batter evenly into the prepared pans. Bake until the center springs back when touched, about 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool on wire racks. After the cakes have cooled, invert them onto sheets of parchment paper. Slice each cake in half and set aside.

Spread a layer of the frosting over 3 layers of the cake. Place the layers of cake on top of each other and top with the fourth layer of cake. Frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining frosting. Slice the cake into individual servings.

Roasted Walnut and Cream Cheese Frosting:

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

1/2 stick butter, softened

3/4 pound (about 3 cups) confectioners' sugar, sifted

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 tablespoon milk

1 cup roasted walnut pieces

In a large mixing bowl, with an electric mixer, cream the cheese and butter. Add the sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, mixing after each addition. Add the vanilla and milk, if needed to thin consistency, and mix well. Fold in the walnut pieces. Yield: about 3 cups

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Ann's May Cake - A Tale of Two Birthdays

I have two delightful roommates. Actually, I should say I had two delightful roommates, because one has moved out, but then another delightful roommate moved in, so I guess I still have two. These two original delightful roommates both have birthdays in May, and they clearly wanted cakes. Well, maybe one wanted a cake, and I told the other one she was getting one as well. Anyway, on with the cake!

First, we had a party for Control's birthday, which was actually later in the month, but she was leaving for Utah before we could celebrate, so we added her birthday into our end-of-the-semester/Reverse Halloween Opposite Day party. She had requested months in advance that I make her a bûche de Noël. So, despite the lack of Christmas, I set out to make this classic December cake. The cake itself is a flourless sheet cake, which I then frosted with chocolate icing and then rolled up like a jelly roll. I sliced off the end at an angle and then sort of formed some little twigs to stick on the sides. This part was all kind of free-form, but look how awesome it turned out!

Look, it looks like a real log!!! I almost didn't want to frost it because it looked so real. However, I did frost it, and added some marzipan mushrooms and powdered sugar "snow".

Painting spots on the mushrooms.

I like that I look like a ghost in this picture. Here are the lovely swirly insides:

I was quite surprised at how moist and gooey this cake tasted. I had been a little worried that the cake would be dry, or that there would be too little frosting, but it really worked out perfectly. I love a recipe that has perfect quantities - no leftover frosting, but also just the right amount on the cake. Our friend Clovis said this was the second best cake he'd ever had, after the Rigo Jansci from last month. Hooray!!!! Happy Birthday, Control!

Next we celebrated Marcue's birthday. Marcue has a deep and abiding love for strawberries (or "strawbries" as we say in our apartment), so I decided that I was making a Barefoot Contessa cake I'd had my eye on for a few years. I then informed her of this and that we were having a party for her. Luckily, she went along with my decision. The cake looked like was full of strawberry goodness, so it seemed like a perfect fit for Marcue.

The original recipe for the cake layered two 9-inch cakes with whipped cream and strawberries, but I decided to split the cakes and double the layers. This is a birthday cake, after all!

Fluffy clouds of whipped cream.

It's so pretty! The cake was a pretty simple white cake, but the addition of lemon zest seriously sent this over the top. It was so crazy good with really vibrant flavors. The citrus made the flavor of the strawberries and cream really pop, and everyone loved it, especially Marcue.

Happy Birthday, Marcue!

Bûche de Noël
From Feast: Food That Celebrates Life by Nigella Lawson

For the cake:
6 eggs, separated
3/4 C superfine sugar
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 C unsweetend cocoa powder

For the icing:
6 oz semisweet or bittersweet chocolate
2 C confectioners sugar
2 sticks butter, softened
1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
3-5 tsp confectioners' sugar, to decorate

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a half sheet pan with parchment paper, leaving a generous overhang at the ends and sides, and folding the parchment into the corners to help the paper stay anchored.

In a large clean bowl, whisk the egg whites until foamy and thick, then add 1/4 C of the sugar and continute whisking until the the whites are holding peaks but not dry.

In another bowl, whisk the egg yolks and remaining sugar until they are pale and thick. Add the vanilla extract and sift over the cocoa, then fold both in.

Lighten the yolk mixture with a couple of dollops of the whites, folding in gently, and then add the whites in thirds, mixing carefully to avoid losing the air.

Pour the cake into the lined pan, and bake in the oven for 20 minutes. Let the cake cool a little before turning it out onto another piece of parchement paper.

To make the icing, melt the chocolate in a double boiler and let it cool. Put the confectioners' sugar into a food processor and blitz to remove any lumps, add the butter and process until smooth. Add the cooled melted chocolate and vanilla and pulse again to make a smooth icing.

Trim the edges of the cake. Spread some of the icing thinly over the cake, going right out to the edges. Roll up from the short side facing you taking care to get a tight roll from the beginning, and roll up to meet the other short end. Trim one end slightly to form an angle.

Use the cake trimmings to make branches as you wish, and then ice the cake with the remaining icing, covering the cut off ends as well. Create wood-like texture by going along the length of the log with a skewer, etching in knots. Remember to make tree rings at the ends.

Form little mushrooms with the marzipan, paint spots on with cocoa powder. Place on cake as desired. Dust with confectioners' sugar for snow.

Strawberry Country Cake
from Barefoot Contessa Parties! by Ina Garten

3/4 C unsalted butter at room temperature
2 C sugar
4 extra large eggs at room temperature
1/2 tsp grated lemon zest
1/2 tsp grated orange zest
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 C flour
1/4 C corn starch
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda

For the filling:
1 pint heavy whipping cream
6 tbsp sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 pints fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour two 9 inch cake pans.

Cream the butter and sugar on high speed until light and fluffy in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. On medium speed, add the eggs, on at a time, then the sour cream, zests and vanilla, scraping down the bowl as needed. Mix well. Sift together the flour, cornstarch, salt and baking soda. On low speed, slowly add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and combine just until smooth.

Pour the batter evenly into the pans, smooth the tops with a spatula, and bake in the center of the oven for 40-45 min, until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool in the pans for 30 min, then remove the wire racks and let cool to room temperature.

To make the filling, whip the cream by hand or in a mixer until firm; add the sugar and vanilla. Split the cakes into two layers each with a serrated knife. Place the bottom slice of cake on a serving platter, spread with a quarter of the whipped cream, and scatter on a quarter of the strawberries. Cover with the top slice of cake. Repeat, ending with a the last layer of cake. Spread remaining cream on top of cake and decorate with strawberries on top.