Friday, February 27, 2009

Ann's January Cake - Orange Chocolate Chunk

Hooray for CAKE!!!!

I have a confession. I don't particularly like pie. Did any of you know that? Okay, to be fair, I didn't like pie very much before I moved to Indiana but now I do. It seemed to be such a huge part of living here that I got excited about it, and I really liked all the pies I made. I think I just hadn't had good pie experiences. But cake...cake! Cake to me is like a delightful present. It's special. It's an English tea party, a warm Southern evening, a summer wedding. CAKE!

When Listle was here, we decided to make our cakes together since that is an experience usually reserved for Thanksgiving. We each picked a cake from my cookbooks (both from Ina, of course), and I decided to do a Bundt cake because I had a really excellent-looking recipe. Now here is a funny story that makes me look bad. I told Listle that I had a special Bundt pan that our mom had given me a few years ago. I described it as looking like a castle, kind of Gothic windowed. I thought it was all special. Then I pulled it out and Listle started laughing at me because apparantly all Bundt pans look like this one. It's just a standard Bundt pan. I hate me for being ignorant!!!

My cake was freaking AWESOME. My roommates begged me for it for days afterward, and it was so perfect: dense, chocolatey, tart. Is there anything better than chocolate and orange? No. No there isn't. I possibly baked the cake too long because it got really dark, but I don't think it tasted overcooked. I'm still experimenting with this oven, so we'll see how it goes next month.

Orange Chocolate Chunk Cake
From Barefoot Contessa Parties! by Ina Garten

½ pound unsalted butter at room temperature

2 cups sugar

4 extra-large eggs at room temperature

¼ cup grated orange zest (4 large oranges)

3 cups flour plus 2 tablespoons

½ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

¼ cup freshly squeezed orange juice

¾ cup buttermilk at room temperature

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 cups good semisweet chocolate chunks

For the syrup

¼ cup sugar

¼ cup freshly squeezed orange juice

For the ganache

8 ounces good semisweet chocolate chips

½ cup heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 10-inch Bundt pan.

Cream the butter and sugar in a bowl with an electrc or hand mixer for about 5 minutes, or until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, then the orange zest.

Sift together 3 cups flour, the baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. In another bowl, combine the orange juice, buttermilk, and vanilla. Add the flour and buttermilk mixtures alternately in thirds to the creamed butter, beginning and ending with the flour. Toss the chocolate chunks with 2 tablespoons of flour and add to the batter. Pour into the pan, smooth the top, and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until a toothpick comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, make syrup. In a small saucepan over a medium-low heat,, cook the sugar with the orange juice until the sugar dissolves. Remove the cake from the pan, set it on a rack over a tray, and spoon the orange syrup over the cake. Allow the cake to cool completely.

For the ganache, melt the chocolate and heavy cream in the top of a double boiler over simmering water until smooth and warm, stirring occassionaly. Drizzle over the top of the cake.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Elizabeth's January Cake: Blueberry Crumb Cake

YAY Year of Cakes!!

This was a fun cake to make, because I got to make and eat it with Ann when I was in Indiana to visit her. Luke didn't even get in the way. Isn't that nice?

It's not really a "showstopper" cake, but it worked out perfectly and tasted yummy. If I were to make it again, I'd use a springform pan so that I could pull it out. I think it would present better that way.

Blueberry Crumb Cake, by Ina Garten


For the streusel:

  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

For the cake:

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature (3/4 stick)
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 2/3 cup sour cream
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries (I used frozen, unthawed berries, and it worked great)
  • Confectioners' sugar for sprinkling


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour a 9-inch round baking pan.

For the streusel:

Combine the granulated sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a bowl. Stir in the melted butter and then the flour. Mix well and set aside.

For the cake:

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

Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and spread it out with a knife. With your fingers, crumble the topping evenly over the batter. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool completely and serve sprinkled with confectioners' sugar.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Let Us Eat Cake!

Our Year of Cake has begun! And just like Year of Pie, rules must be followed!

To start, I must say that it was difficult to decide on a definition of cake that was satisfactory to us. But here is what we came up with:

1.) Cake must be equal to or higher than one inch.

2.) It must be such that if someone walked into a room with your cake, they would say "Oh, look at that cake." It must be cake-like in appearance.

3.) Just because it has cake in the title doesn't make it a cake for our purposes, such as pancakes, crab cakes, or beefcake (Listle wanted to include a picture of her husband here).

4.) Alternate versions of cake are acceptable, such as flourless, torte, meringue, coffecakes, etc. Use your best judgement, per criteria 3.

5.) Any shape of cake is acceptable.

Here are the rules we must follow:

1.) We can't make the same cake in the same month.

2.) We want to explore as many cakes as possible, so no repeats per individual. You can, however, make the same cake as someone else later in the year.

3.) The cakes must be shared with one other person -with witnesses, who may or may not also get cake.

4.) In addition to 12 cakes, one cake must be given in full as a gift - if only for the excuse of using a folded cake box. In Listle's words, "Because it would be so fun!"

5.) For at least one cake, we must break out the piping tools.

6.) We will incorporate reviews of good cakes that we didn't make that we eat throughout the year.

7.) Finally, keeping up on posting on the blog is obviously a bit of a challenge for us :). So we must post our cakes within one month of baking them.

Let's go, cake nerds!!!!

Year of Pies: Memories and Reflections, by Elizabeth

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

I loved the year of pie. I loved doing the "Pie of the Month" by myself for a few months, but when Ann jumped on board in January and we made it "Year of Pie," it became astronomically more fun.

Favorite pie: (Besides August's Cutie Pie) Probably the Chocolate Cream Cheese pie in September, but I loved all three chocolate submissions.

Favorite looking pie: The apple pie by far! I'll never forget how it felt to open the oven and say "WOW, that's my pie." I loved it.

Most satisfying moment in the year of pie: Reading about Ann dropping her cheddar-topped apple pie. HEElarious!

Favorite line in the posts: When Ann said (about the same cheddar-topped apple pie) "Suddenly I had an American icon on my hands." Brilliant!

Regrets: Having such a lame summer of pie because of being pregnant. I missed all the summer fruit. But I'm going to do some pies this summer (APRICOT!!) to make up for it. I also regret not doing lemon meringue, like I had intended to. A person cannot do a year of pie and skip doing a meringue! This is another thing that I must remedy.

Most fun pie audience: Ann.
It was very fun taking the pie to random occasions this year (which is why I don't have a scheduled pie audience, like Book Club or girl's night out or anything), but hands down the best pie audience is Ann. When we made our pies in November, we'd get so excited together, and then we'd take our bites and nod while we concentrated on the flavors, ultimately declaring a winner. I loved it. I wish she could taste every pie submission of mine!

Best pie expression: Shut your pie hole. But there are many other good ones!

Year of Pies: Memories and Reflections, by Ann

I sucked at pie making.

The End.

-- Ann

That is what my lovely, beautiful, talented-at-pie-making sister, Elizabeth wrote about me when she was blocking out the posts for the end of the year. I would like to point that out. Who's the bigger person now, huh?!

One lesson that I've always appreciated from my parents is that they gave me a deep love of cooking, but even more than that, they taught me never to be afraid of cooking. This may seem kind of silly and obvious, but most people that I know that don't like to cook also are intimidated by it. Maybe they never learned the right techniques, or haven't had good tools or ingredients, but confidence is, in my opinion, a key element of cooking well. Why should food tell you who's boss? If you go into a recipe assuming that it's going to be awesome, you have a much better chance of turning out a product that matches your expectations. However, pie-making has always been intimidating to me, mostly because I don't really enjoy baking that much, and also because it has such a reputation for difficulty. To be honest, I think that pie talks a big talk. I really enjoyed Our Year of Pie, and was surprised that pie-making wasn't as daunting as I expected it to be. Except for my last two dismal months, I felt like I did well. There were several months that I felt like I ought to have spent more time on the pie, but it was always more forgiving than I expected to be. And so many good things happened! I had lots of great pie sharing with friends (did I suddenly have more friends this year than in previous years? I don't know...), I felt more connected to Indiana culture, and I ate really, really good pie. And I MADE that really, really good pie! Hooray for me!!!!!! Now, I just have to overcome my fear of cooking shellfish, and I'll have conquered all food.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Elizabeth's Pie Book Review - Lemon Meringue Pie Murder

It was kind of fun to read a book that featured pie.
With that said, this book was lousy.

1. This books has 7 or so fun baking recipes, including a recipe for lemon meringue pie.
2. This book is set in a small town where the protagonist works in a bakery. I love bakeries! I love small, local businesses! If it weren't for this particular "pro," I would have put the book down after the first chapter.
3. This book was light and an easy read.
4. This book makes you want to bake and eat constantly. (...should that be a con?...)

1. This book has awful writing, especially with its ridiculous dialogs.
2. This book is a mystery, but the ending is so obvious by Chapter Three that I kept expecting there to be a dramatic twist. There wasn't one.
3. This book requires the reader to suspend all reasonable thought in order to enjoy the story. I'm all for a light read, and I often enjoy suspending disbelief in a plot, but this book was ridiculous from start to finish. The way the protagonist conducts her murder investigation defies logic at every turn. It's excruciating.
4. In this book the protagonist calls her mom "Mother" and has the most annoying relationship with her that you can imagine. None of the characters in this book are endearing.
5. Through this book, the author tries to air her personal grammar and etiquette pet peeves. She makes the protagonist PERFECT in every way, and features situations in which someone talking to the protagonist says or does something wrong and she has to bite her lip to keep from correcting the person. No character is perfect except the protagonist. It is all very pretentious.
6. This book has sappy you-can-see-the-punchline-coming-a-mile-away kind of humor.
7. This book has a campy subplot about the protagonist's diet that made me roll my eyes dozens of times.
8. In this book, the protagonist has two boyfriends and there's even a scene where she holds hands with both of them at the same time while they watch fireworks. Ugh.

(Side annoyance that wasn't quite as important - This book mentions the protagonist's clothes many times, and the styles that are described are oh-so-ugly. I thought maybe it was written in 1989 but it was written in 2003. Before returning this book to the library, I should have copied the text of a passage or two about fashion to make Ann squirm.)

(Speaking of Ann, sometimes we like to watch a movie that we will both hate just to pause it and freak out at the stupidity of it. This book reminded me of that. Maybe during the year of cakes we'll read a cake version of this series and we can both post about it.)

FINAL ANALYSIS: Do not read this book. Unless you want to hate your life for a few hours. Then read it. But don't blame me.