blueberry muffin cake and welding; a perfect saturday morning

now that the kids have ditched us, i have found myself looking for new things to do.  sure, i spend lots of time in the garden but when my husband is working late-and that happens frequently, i need something to keep me busy.  the perfect solution has been to take classes at watkins college of art, design and film.  they have a fantastic community education program and i have taken several classes there and am signed up to take several more.

in the spring, i looked through the class schedule and saw a workshop on welding.  it was strictly for beginners and it sounded like a lot of fun.  my friend shirley, who is also a master gardener, was quick in agreeing to attend the class with me.  girls and power tools; a perfect match.

we learned how to weld using oxyacetylene, mig and arc methods.  above, the method being used is oxyacetylene which is why they are not wearing the shields on their faces.

 oxyacetylene welding is easy to do and it was a lot of fun.  i could easily see myself doing this again.

 this was my favorite piece of equipment!  it is a throatless shear, which cuts sheet metal-sort of a big paper cutter on steroids.  to make my project, i cut each piece using this simple machine.

 this was the other fun part; curving the metal with rollers.  shirley is putting part of her project through the rollers to curve them.  i also curved a lot of my project with that roller.

and my finished project.  when i told everyone i was making a flower, they looked at me a little funny.  they looked at my skimpy little curvy pieces and told me, “sure you are making a flower, sure you are…”  they were all a little shocked when i finished it and it looked like a flower!  after a couple more coats of clear finish, it will live out in the garden.

and as always, if i go to the garden, i bring cake.  yes, i know this was a college, not a garden.  but shirley and i went to this class with the idea that we could learn a skill that might be useful for gardening.  gardening with sculpture, that is.

this cake is a bit of a mash up.  halfway to vegan, there are no eggs and several ingredients could be replaced to make it vegan if you like-or throw caution to the wind and make it ovo-lacto.

blueberry muffin cake
1 (10″) bundt cake serving 12-16
ener-g egg replacer for 3 eggs (or 3 large eggs)
2/3 cup butter (or coconut oil or any combination of the two)
2 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/2 cup fresh blueberries
1 cup buttermilk (or a nondairy milk such as coconut or soy)
preheat the oven to 350.  grease and flour the pan and set it aside.  if you are using the egg replacer, mix it according to the directions and while it sits, cream the butter with the sugar and salt until it is fluffy.  add the egg replacer and mix it just to combine.  place the flour and baking powder into a sifter or mesh strainer and sift it over the batter in the bowl.  pour in the blueberries and fold the mixture a few times to coat the berries.  add the buttermilk and fold completely until no streaks of flour or butter are visible.  scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake until a cake tester comes out clean when inserted into the deepest part of the cake, about 1 hour.  allow the cake to cool on a rack for 20 minutes.  turn the cake out onto the rack and allow it to completely cool-if you can…

gardening for cake: zucchini-carrot bundt cake

sometimes, you have to resort to bribery.  to attract volunteers to the demonstration garden, we tell perspective volunteers that there will be cake to snack on.  we also tell them that there are plants and produce to share but the cake seems to get their attention quicker.  but baking a cake every week means that i have to find a recipe and secure the ingredients.  every now and then, someone comes out to the garden with a dietary issue that can make it especially challenging.  we recently had a few volunteers who followed a vegan diet and that makes baking cakes a real challenge.

believe it or not, butter adds moisture and flavor to cakes as well as texture from the fat.  eggs strengthen the structure and help add volume by holding the air that is mixed in during the baking process.  milk and buttermilk add flavor as well as moisture-try substituting water sometime, you will taste the difference.  let’s not forget, a true vegan diet also means no honey since the harvesting process kills bees and honey adds moisture, helps retain moisture with its hygroscopic nature and honestly, it tastes really good in a cake!  when you have to eliminate these items, it can make baking a good cake difficult, even for a pro.

with the garden in full swing now, there are so many possibilities.  berries, figs, peaches, carrots, summer squash and let’s not forget an abundance of herbs to choose from.  in my own garden, i had a few zucchini and some carrots to harvest and they both work well in cakes.  since this is a vegan recipe, i had to make a few changes to the original recipe.  the current darling of the diet world is coconut.  this recipe utilizes both coconut oil and an unsweetened coconut milk beverage rather than the traditional kind in the can.  to find these ingredients, check the natural food section of the grocery store.  the oil is sold in jars and is semi solid at room temperature.  the coconut milk beverage is packed in quart sized cartons and is sold alongside soy and rice milk.  substituting the eggs is tricky.  to get a nice texture with a small crumb, i find that ener-g egg replacer works the best and this can also be found in the same section of the store.

and for those of you that are not interested in baking a vegan cake, this recipe can be quickly converted.  substitute and equal amount of butter for the coconut oil, buttermilk for the coconut beverage and 3 large eggs rather than the equivalent amount of egg replacer.

vegan zucchini-carrot bundt cake
makes 1 bundt cake serving 10-12
1 medium to large carrot
1 zucchini
1/3 cup pecan pieces
4 1/2 teaspoons ener-g egg replacer (or 3 large eggs)
2/3 cup coconut oil (or 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, soft)
2 cups light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk beverage (or 1 cup buttermilk)
preheat the oven to 350.  grease and flour a bundt pan and set aside.  grate enough carrot and zucchini to measure 2 cups.  place the pecans on a baking tray and toast until fragrant, about 5 minutes.  let them cool before using.  whisk the egg replacer into 3 tablespoons warm water and allow it to sit while you begin mixing the batter.
cream the coconut oil with the brown sugar and the salt.  the oil will liquefy as it mixes so it is not necessary to mix for more than a couple minutes.  add the egg replacer and mix well, scrape the bowl too.  sift the flour, baking powder and spice blend over the batter.  fold it in a few times.  sprinkle the coconut beverage over the top of the batter and fold together.  sprinkle the zucchini and carrots over the top and fold together completely.  scrape it into the prepared pan.  bake the cake until a cake tester comes out clean, about an hour.  allow the cake to cool in the pan for 15-20 minutes and then turn it out onto a rack to cool completely.

strawberry savarin; a tuesdays with dorie rewind

a while back, the tuesdays with dorie bakers made the savarin recipe.  first we mixed up a batch of baba au rum dough.  it was ridiculously easy to do-a simple yeasted cake batter was placed in a pan and allowed to rise for a brief period.

look at how light and fluffy it is, and it rose so quickly too!  it baked up fast as well.

we made a simple syrup to soak the cake with.  apparently, that is the key to an authentic savarin, lots of syrup soaked up by the cake.

by spooning small amounts over the cake, it all gets absorbed.

to decorate it, lots of whipped cream and fresh berries.  a classic, a true classic.  i brought it to a potluck dinner, i blinked, i missed it.  all i got was the dirty plate.  good thing they are easy to make, if i want to try this one myself, i will have to make it again.  and when i do, i’m not sharing…to see what the other bakers came up with, check out the tuesdays with dorie page.

maple pecan cake with a cinnamon ribbon

sometimes, things go according to plan.  sometimes, they do not.  this cake landed somewhere in the middle of maybe.  what i wanted and what i got were close, but… either way, it was a really nice cake with a few surprises.

first surprise was peeking into the oven at the half way mark and realizing that the crumb topping had sunk below the surface of the cake.  that was a little worrisome.  crumb topping needs to be on top to get that typical crunchy texture of a good struesel.  when it sinks down into the cake, it can be gummy and oily.  this recipe yielded a moist ribbon which was not at all gummy.  the second surprise was that a small amount of the crumb topping actually remained around the edges on the top of the cake giving it a nice crunch.

the biggest surprise was in flavor.  to flavor this cake, i chose a grade b maple syrup because they are supposed to have more flavor than a grade a.  honestly, i didn’t get a clear maple flavor at all, and i do not think anybody else did.  perhaps the use of maple sugar would be better or a little pure maple flavoring or some combination of the three but that question will have to be answered on another day.  in the mean time, if you are wanting a piece of cake to have with your afternoon cup, this is an easy cake to make and despite the results, a tasty way to satisfy a sweet tooth.

maple pecan cake 
serves about 8
2/3 cup chopped pecans
1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup grade b maple syrup
1 egg
1/2 cup buttermilk
crumb topping/ribbon recipe follows
preheat the oven to 350.  grease and flour a small bundt pan, approximately 8 cup capacity.   toast the pecans by spreading them in a thin layer in a baking dish until they are fragrant, about 5 minutes.  set the nuts aside to cool.  place the flour, cinnamon and baking soda into a mesh strainer or a sifter and sift together onto a piece of paper.  cream the butter with the brown sugar, vanilla and salt until it is light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.  add the syrup slowly while the machine mixes.  scrape the bowl well.  add the egg and mix in.  add the flour in batches and alternate it with the buttermilk, folding gently until combined.  scrape the batter into the prepared pan.  sprinkle the crumb topping evenly over the top of the batter and bake until a tester comes out clean, about 50-55 minutes.  allow the cake to cool in the pan for 15 minutes and then turn it out onto a rack to cool completely.
crumb topping
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup all purpose flour
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold and cut into cubes
1 teaspoon cinnamon
place all of the ingredients into a bowl and rub together with your finger tips to make a crumbly struesel topping.  

pina colada cake

this is the story of two cakes.  one a beautiful cake and the other, a shipwreck.  or train wreck, take your pick.  either name will work.

as i have mentioned before, i work in a demonstration garden with my fellow master gardeners.  it is my responsibility as the project chair to round up the volunteers and maintain the garden.  to do this, i have resorted to bribery; it works out so much better than whining and begging…since i go out to the garden every sunday morning, i have made it a habit to take a freshly baked cake with me.  sounds easy but it is a challenge to come up with a different cake each week.

the result is that every week, i create a new recipe.  sometimes, it is as simple as substituting an ingredient or two in an already successful recipe.  other weeks, it can be complicated as i attempt a new formula all together.  most of the time, the cake works out and i am able to make minor adjustments to use the next time i bake the cake.  other times, not so much.  this last time, really, really not so good.  and by not so good, i mean the cake was self destructing from the moment i took it out of the oven.

 don’t you love the ski slope effect?  trust me, it went completely down hill from here…

as i stood there looking at my sad cake, i watched in horror as more and more of the sides of the cake just fell off and littered the tray.  so sad, so embarrassing.  how would i fix this?  there wasn’t any time to bake another cake, i would just have to bring it out to the garden and hope for the best.  the best laugh that is.  shirley quickly dubbed it a total shipwreck.  and honestly, it was-no harm, no foul, just lots of giggles.  she and lynn were astonished that i could have baked this.  so as you see, even a pastry chef is capable of a shipwreck every now and then.  the mistake here, i tried to temper the acid level of fresh pineapple by adding a little baking soda to the recipe.  guess what, the cake did not need any tempering.

so this week, when i set out to bake a cake for my gardening friends, i had a new challenge; no eggs.  we have a couple of new volunteers that both follow a mostly vegan diet and the eggs needed to go.  luckily, they were both okay with a small amount of butter but definitely not the eggs.  and luckier still, i happened to have a package of ener-g egg replacer in the pantry and a supply of coconut milk and coconut oil.  i also had the determination of a baker scorned; i simply was not going to be pushed around by a cake.  no, i was going to win this thing, we were going to eat pina colada cake and it was going to be a good cake.  no ifs, ands or buts.  just a really good cake!

recipe notes:  to get a nice pineapple flavor, use fresh, ripe pineapple.  peel, core and cut enough of it into 1″ cubes to make 2 cups.  place the pineapple in a food processor and pulse to produce tidbits.  do not let the machine run for more than 5 or 10 seconds at a time or you will quickly make puree.  put the pineapple tidbits into a mesh strainer and press out as much of the juice as you can.  reserve the juice for the syrup that is poured over the warm cake.  2 cups of chunks should yield 1 cup of tidbits and 1/2 cup of juice which is what you will need for the cake.

for the liquid in the recipe, i have used coconut milk.  to get the best texture without it being gummy or overly moist, use a light coconut milk or an unsweetened coconut milk beverage.  these will add moisture without excess fat that can make the cake greasy and heavy.

for the vegans, use all coconut oil(2/3 cup) and ener-g egg replacer(4 1/2 teaspoons mix to 6 tablespoons of warm water).  for the not so vegan, you can do as i did and use half unsalted butter(6 tablespoons) and half coconut oil(1/3 cup) with the egg replacer.  and for those of you throwing caution to the wind, you can also just use 3 large eggs, and all butter but you will have to use  coconut milk to be able to call it pina colada!

if you have never used ener-g egg replacer, it is easy!  follow the instructions on the box and use as you would real eggs.  place the powder in a mixing bowl, whisk in warm water and let it sit while you start mixing the recipe.

pina colada bundt cake
1 bundt cake serving about 12
*before starting-read the notes above!!!
1 cup fresh pineapple tidbits*
ener-g egg replacer equivalent to 3 eggs*
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened*
1/3 cup coconut oil*
2 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 cup coconut milk*
1/2 cup pineapple juice
1/4 cup light brown sugar
preheat the oven to 350.  grease and flour a bundt cake pan.  place butter, coconut oil, sugar and salt into the bowl of a food processor.  pulse to combine.  with the motor running, pour in the egg replacer and process until smooth.  pour the mixture into a mixing bowl with the pineapple tidbits.  stir to combine and distribute the tidbits evenly.  sift the flour and the baking powder over the batter and fold it in a few times.  sprinkle the coconut milk over the top of the batter and fold together until no streaks of flour or butter remain.  scrape the batter out of the bowl and into the prepared pan.  smooth out the top and bake until a pick inserted comes out clean, about an hour.  while the cake bakes, make the syrup by combining the juice and the brown sugar in a small sauce pan.  bring the mixture to a boil, reduce it to a simmer and allow it to simmer for 2-3 minutes.  set it aside while the cake bakes.  allow the cake to cool in the pan for 15 minutes and then turn it out onto a rack to cool.  prick the surface of the cake with a fork and spoon the glaze over the top of the cake.  allow it to cool completely before slicing.

mocha swirl bundt cake

when colors are swirled together, they catch my eye.  the intricate pattern created by the marbleization of two or more colors has always fascinated me.  it can be paint or it can be cake, doesn’t matter.  one of my favorite mediums for marbleizing is biscotti dough but cheesecake is a close second.  then there are bundt cakes; my new favorite “canvas” for mixing swirls of color.  almost as much fun as choosing the colors is choosing the flavors to combine.  if chosen correctly, it is a perfect yin and yang of both color and flavor.

working the marbleizing magic with cake batter is a little tricky.  depending on your leavening agent, the colors can shift.  baking soda can give blueberries, blackberries and raspberries a greenish tint that is not very pleasing but it will turn chocolate a much darker brown or even black.  baking powder on the other hand will keep the berries looking like their natural shades of purple and red but will cause the chocolate to turn a muddy red.  to further complicate things, mixing two completely different cake batters can be difficult since they may not bake the same.  finding the balance is part of the challenge.  luckily, dutched cocoa powder is not hard to find and that makes it a little easier to prevent the color shift.  and for those of you who cannot find the dutch process cocoa, try adding a small amount of baking soda to simulate the higher alkaline content; i added an 1/8 teaspoon to the 1/3 cup of cocoa and had good results.

mocha swirl bundt cake
1 10 cup bundt serving about 12

1/3 cup dutch processed cocoa powder (or 1/3 cup natural cocoa and 1/8 teaspoon baking soda)
2 tablespoons instant espresso powder
1/3 cup boiling water
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 eggs
3 cups cake flour
5 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/3 cup buttermilk

preheat the oven to 350.  grease and flour a bundt pan and set it aside.  in a small heat proof bowl, whisk the cocoa and espresso powder to combine.  add the boiling water and stir to make a smooth paste, set this aside while you mix the batter.

to mix the batter, cream the butter with the sugar, vanilla and salt until it is light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes.  add the eggs one at a time and mix until combined, scrape the bowl as you go.  sift the cake flour and the baking powder over the top of the batter.  fold this a couple times and then sprinkle the buttermilk over the top of the batter.  fold the batter together until it is just combined.  remove 2 cups of the batter and stir it into the chocolate paste.  place dollops of batter into the prepared pan, alternating between dark and light.  using a skewer or thin knife, carefully swirl the batters by dragging it through and stirring it occasionally.  be careful not to go overboard or the pattern will not be visible after baking.  bake until a pick inserted into the cake comes out clean, about 45 minutes.  allow the cake to cool in the pan for about 20 minutes.  turn the cake out onto a serving plate and allow it to finish cooling.

strawberry swirl bundt cake

yes, another bundt cake to add to the collection.  why not?  there are endless possibilities and flavor combinations to try.  strawberries are in season and a pink swirled bundt cake sounded like a perfect use for them.

nothing says summer like a handful of fresh picked strawberries.  warm from the sun, they are juicy and sweet.  picking them is like having a treasure hunt in my own garden.  to find them, you must peek under the leaves of the plants and hope that the slugs and chipmunks have missed a few.  strawberry season is a short affair.  we enjoyed it while it lasted but i can see that we will need to add some more ever bearing plants to prolong the season.

a few notes about the cake.  if you think that you will have a strongly flavored cake, think again.  baking with fresh berries is tricky because of the effects on the batter that the ph balance of the berries can have.  besides, the box mix cakes you may be familiar with utilize lots of artificial color and flavor to get their results.  using strawberries adds a bit of flavor and a more pronounced floral note to the swirl.  mainly, the color of the swirl is what you get.  if you want a darker swirl, you can add a few drops of pink color, i left mine the natural shade from the berries.

strawberry swirl bundt cake
1 10 cup bundt cake serving about 12
1 cup strawberries, fresh or frozen(but thawed)
8 ounces unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 eggs
3 cups cake flour
4 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/4 cup buttermilk
preheat the oven to 350.  grease and flour a 10 cup tube or bundt pan and set it aside.  place the strawberries into a blender or food processor and process until a smooth puree is achieved.  measure out 1/2 cup of the puree and set it aside for now.  place the butter into a mixing bowl with the sugar, lemon zest, vanilla and salt.  cream this mixture until fluffy, about 3-5 minutes.  add the eggs slowly, scraping the bowl after each addition.  cream again till light, about 1 minute.  sift the flour and baking powder over the batter in the bowl and fold it a few times.  add the buttermilk and fold gently until completely mixed.  remove 1 1/2 cups of the batter and place it in a separate bowl, stir in the strawberry puree and mix until the color is evenly distributed.  dollop some of each of the batters into the prepared pan so that the colors alternate.  continue doing this until all of the batter is in the pan.  using a thin knife or a skewer, swirl the batter by inserting it and dragging it around the batter to mix the colors.  the less you swirl, the more marbleized the pattern will look; excessive swirling creates a fine pattern that is hard to see.  bake until a cake tester comes out clean, about 55 minutes.  allow the cake to cool in the pan for 20 minutes and then carefully turn it out onto a serving plate to finish cooling.  
happy baking!

hummingbird cake with cream cheese icing

when it comes to southern desserts, red velvet cake and chess pie are popular choices.  let’s not forget banana pudding, it is always on that list too.  and it wasn’t until i moved to nashville that i even heard of a hummingbird cake.  since learning to make one, i must say, it is one of my favorite cakes.  
when describing a hummingbird cake to someone unfamiliar with it, i always compare it to a carrot cake.  the two cakes have an oil base with lots of raw produce and nuts in them.  a carrot cake is a blend of raw carrots, pineapple, shredded coconut and walnuts while a hummingbird cake is a combination of bananas and pineapple with pecans.  both cakes have a generous amount of cinnamon in the batter and they are both decorated with cream cheese frosting.  but honestly, they don’t taste anything alike except that they are both mouth watering good!
since i was taking this cake to a pot luck dinner, i decided to make it easier on everyone; i baked it in a tube pan rather than the traditional 3 round cake pans.  the result was a huge cake that fed our large group easily.  
so here are a few hints.  do grease and flour the pan-you will be sorry otherwise!  the bananas should be ripe but not mushy.  the perfect state of ripeness; a few black freckles and an obvious banana scent before you actually open the skin.  ripe pineapple will give the best flavor but you can use a small 8 ounce can of crushed in a pinch, just realize it will not add the same amount of flavor as the fresh.  whether you use fresh or canned pineapple, make sure you add the juice too-don’t drain it or the cake will be on the dry side.
hummingbird party cake
serves 16 or more
2 cups pecan pieces
2-3 bananas, ripe
1 1/2 cups fresh pineapple chunks, about 1/2 pound
2 cups light brown sugar, packed
1 cup canola oil 
3 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon salt
3 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 recipe of cream chess frosting
preheat the oven to 350.  grease a large tube pan and dust it with flour.  place the pecans on a baking sheet and toast until fragrant, about 5-7 minutes.  measure out 1 cup for the cake batter and reserve the rest for the garnish.
place the bananas and pineapple into the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the fruit is chopped to the size of peas.  pour into to a mixing bowl.  add the 1 cup of pecans, brown sugar, oil, eggs, vanilla and salt.  whisk until blended.  place the flour, baking soda and cinnamon into a sifter and sift over the batter in the bowl.  fold this all together and pour it into the prepared pan.  
bake until a cake tester comes out clean, about an hour to an hour and 15 minutes.  allow the cake to cool on a rack for at least 30 minutes before taking it out of the pan.  to remove the cake, place a cooling rack over the top of the cake and invert.  set the rack down and remove the cake pan carefully.  allow it to cool completely before frosting.
cream cheese frosting
4 ounces of regular cream cheese
2 cups powdered sugar, sift after measuring
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup toasted pecans (from the cake recipe-not additional)
cream the cheese with the sugar and vanilla.  spread it over the sides and top of the cake using a spoon to create swirls.  sprinkle the nuts over the top of the cake.  can be refrigerated but let it come to room temp before serving.

almond poppyseed bundt cake

poppy seeds are often overlooked when it comes to sweets.  they add a mild, nutty flavor and a wonderful crunch to cakes and scones.  and of course, a little chuckle when you realize that you have just spent the last 15 minutes talking to people with the tiny little black seeds wedged between your teeth.

honestly, i love to add poppy seeds to a cake flavored with almond paste and lemon zest.  it adds a nice crunchy surprise to the texture of the cake.  lemon zest also serves to brighten the flavor a bit too.  this is the perfect solution to the “what can i make” dilemma when fresh fruit is still out of season or you just want to try something different.

almond paste is another great staple to stock in the “larder”.  it adds nice flavor, a little richness and moisture.  to purchase some, look for the little cans in the baking aisle of the supermarket.  they will be mixed in with the cans of pie fillings.  open the can at both ends and push the cylinder of paste out.  cut it in half and then cut each half into 4 equal pieces and wrap each one separately. store the pieces in the freezer and anytime you need some, you will have pre-measured 1 ounce pieces that will thaw quickly.

almond poppy seed bundt cake
makes 1 large bundt cake serving about 16
6 ounces unsalted butter, softened
3 ounces almond paste
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon zest.
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
3 1/3 cup unbleached all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 tablespoons poppy seeds
1 1/2 cups sour cream
glaze, recipe follows
preheat the oven to 350.  grease and flour a bundt pan and set it aside. place the butter into the bowl of a food processor.  crumble the almond paste up and add the pieces to the food processor with sugar, lemon zest and salt.  pulse to combine the mixture.  process until smooth and then add the eggs, one at a time scraping the bowl as you go.  dump this mixture into a large bowl. sift the flour and baking powder over the top of the batter.  sprinkle the poppy seeds over the flour mixture.  fold it in a few times.  add the sour cream and fold until no streaks remain.  scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake until a cake tester comes out clean, about an hour.  cool the cake in the pan for at least 15-20 minutes.  invert the cake onto a rack and allow it to cool completely before decorating.  glaze and serve!
lemon glaze
2-3 tablespoons sliced almonds
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon poppy seeds
while the cake is baking, place the almonds in a bake proof dish and toast them in the oven.  such a small amount will toast quickly so keep an eye on them-takes 5 minutes or less.  place the sugar in a sifter or a mesh strainer and sift to remove the lumps.  add the lemon juice and whisk until smooth.  place the cake on a serving plate and drizzle the glaze over the cake.  sprinkle the almonds and poppy seeds over the top of the cake.  allow the glaze to set before serving, at least 30 minutes. 

fresh apple cake with dried figs

you have to love a cake that mixes up quickly and easily.  especially nice is a recipe that can be manipulated to include many different flavors.  don’t like apples? use pears.  not a fig fan, fine, use dried cranberries.  not sure what to use that can of roasted hazelnut oil for? bake this cake with it.  just use what you’ve got.  think outside the box; carrots or zucchini could also stand in for the apples.  the only caution, stay away from something that will add a lot of liquid or acid.  that means fresh strawberries and pineapple chunks may not give desirable results.

fresh apple cake with dried figs
makes one bundt cake serving about 12
2 medium granny smith apples, peeled and chopped 
1/2 cup walnut pieces
1 cup oil-any kind suitable for a cake
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla (because it blends well with figs, can be omitted)
2 teaspoons lemon zest
3/4 cup diced, dried figs-i used mission
2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
preheat the oven to 350.  grease and flour the bundt pan and set aside.  place the walnuts in a baking dish and bake until fragrant, about 5-7 minutes.  set them aside to cool.  in a large mixing bowl, whisk the oil with the sugar and the eggs.  add the vanilla and lemon zest and whisk to combine.  add the apples, walnuts and figs and stir to combine.  place the flour, baking soda and cardamom in a sifter or a mesh strainer and sift over the batter in the bowl.  fold the batter together and scraped it into the prepared pan.  bake until firm on top and a tester comes out clean, about an hour.  allow the cake to cool in the pan for 20-30 minutes.  carefully invert onto a rack or serving plate to cool.  this is a tender cake so try not to handle it while it is hot.  due to the moisture of the apples, it is best if served within a day or two; any longer and it becomes a bit sticky and soggy at room temperature.