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.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Elizabeth's May Cake - Fudge Cupcakes

I did it again.

I couldn't help myself! I thought I had learned my lesson, but I guess I didn't.

I read another Joanne Fluke book.

I know! It's ridiculous that I read it, given how much I hated the other one. But the very next one in the series had cake in the title, and I had looked at it when I picked up the Lemon Meringue Pie one, AND it involved a mystery I just had to get it from the library when the year of cakes started.

Luckily, it wasn't quite as bad as the Lemon Meringue Pie book (although that's not saying much). Still, I just had to find out what the secret ingredient was in the Fudge Cupcakes, which was the title recipe). Well..... (spoiler alert!) it was Raspberry Syrup! Who knew!? Thus solving the best mystery Ms. Fluke could possibly put together, because her murder investigations are completely absurd.

Getting back to the cupcakes....

These were awful. I made them twice, because I thought I might have done something wrong, and they were just as bad the second time. I eventually searched online for reviews of the book to see what others had to say about the recipe. Turns out there was a MISPRINT in the original edition: it's not baking SODA, it's baking POWDER! Argh. This was the title recipe, and Fudge Cupcakes sounded oh-so-tasty. I'm thinking about making them again the correct way, but .... I don't have the energy for it just now. If I make them again, I'll post the results. I promise. And I promise not to read another Fluke book again. Really.

Cross my heart and hope to die.

...'Cuz I'll WANNA die if I read another one! Oh snap!! Good one, Elizabeth.

Right before melting the chocolate

Waiting for the chocolate to melt

And...the chocolate has melted.
I skipped all the steps after this, such as adding flour, etc. Boring.

The finished cupcakes. What the....?

The cupcakes after we poked at them a little bit. They didn't taste too terrible, actually, but they clearly went over the pan and didn't hold their rise. They were also too chewy-weird.

Fudge Cupcakes

(This is the correct recipe, in case you want to make them and post them or something)


  • 4 ounces unsweetened chocolate squares (1 oz each)
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup raspberry flavored syrup (for pancakes- I used Knott's red raspberry)
  • 1 2/3 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup butter, room temperature (one stick, 1/4 pound, I use sweet butter)
  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar (you use 1 3/4 cups sugar in all)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup milk


  1. Pre-heat oven to 350°F Position rack in the middle of oven.
  2. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with double papers. Since this recipe makes 18 cupcakes, you can use an additional 6-cup muffin pan lined with double papers, or you can butter and flour an 8-inch square cake pan or the equivalent.
  3. Microwave the chocolate, raspberry syrup and 1/4 sugar in a microwave-safe bowl on high for 1 minute. Stir. Microwave again for another minute. At this point, the chocolate will be almost melted, but it will maintain its shape. Stir the mixture until smooth and let cool to lukewarm. (You can also do this in a double boiler on the stove.).
  4. Measure flour, mix in baking powder and salt, and set aside.
  5. In an electric mixer (or with a VERY strong arm), beat the butter and 1 1/2 cups sugar until light and fluffy. (About 3 minutes with a mixer--an additional 2 minutes if you're doing it by hand.) Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition to make sure they're thoroughly incorporated.
  6. Add approximately a third of the flour mixture and a third of the milk. (You don't have to be exact--adding the flour and milk in increments makes the batter smoother.) When that's all mixed in, add another third of the flour and another third of the milk. Thwn that's incorporated, add the remainder of the flour and the remainder of the milk. Mix thoroughly.
  7. Test your chocolate mixture to make sure it's cool enough to add. (You don't want to cook the eggs!) If it's fairly warm to the touch but not so hot you have to pull you hand away, you can add it at this point. Stir thoroughly and you're done.
  8. Let the batter rest for five minutes. Then stir it again by hand and fill each cupcake paper three-quarters full. If you decided to use the 8-inch cake pan instead of the 6-cup muffin tin, fill it with the remining batter.
  9. Bake at 350° for 20-25 minutes. The 8-inch cake should bake an additional 5 minutes.
Fudge Frosting - for 18 cupcake, or 12 cupcakes and 1 small cake, cooled to room temperature and ready to frost.
  • 2 cups chocolate chips (12-ounce package)
  • 1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk.
  1. If you use a double-boiler for this frosting, it's foolproof. You can also make it in a heavy saucepan over low to medium heat on the stovetop, but you'll have to stir it constantly with a spatula to keep it from scorching.
  2. Fill the bottom; part of the double boiler with water. Make sure it doesn't touch the underside ot the top.
  3. Put the chocolate chips in the top of the double-boiler, set it over the bottom, and place the double boiler on the stovetop at medium heat. Stir occasionall ntil the chocolate chips are melted.
  4. Stir in the can of sweetened condensed milk and cook approximately two minutes, stirring constantly, until the frosting is shiny and of spreading consistency.
  5. Spread on cupcakes, making sure to fill in the "frosting pocket.".