a cake with tomatoes? absolutely!

you are not imagining this-i really am suggesting that you make a cake with tomatoes.  a spicy, moist cake studded with currants and pecans that is perfect for the extra tomatoes your garden is dumping on you hourly.  it is also good in late winter when dreams of a summer garden are all you have to keep you going in dreary weather.  honestly, it is good anytime; when isn’t a bundt cake a good thing?  never, if you ask me.

it does not matter what type of tomatoes you use for this recipe.  they can be yellow, pink or red, even green.  what is important is that they taste good to you.  sweeter varieties will probably add a little to the sugar content of the cake but the tomato flavor really isn’t detected in the final product.  the only exception might be that the redder varieties could give the cake a more golden-orange hue.  i haven’t tried it with green tomatoes but i am thinking that the color may not be as pretty as the cake in my photos-i used deep red beefsteak tomatoes.

one final note, you can use your own homemade puree or if you do not have flavorful tomatoes to make puree, use tomato juice or canned whole or crushed tomatoes.  be sure to run them through the food processor to eliminate the chunks and be careful of using a brand with flavors added; no one wants garlic or onion in their cake.  

the tomatoes will need to be peeled first.  you could simply run them through a food mill to do this or mark an “x” on the bottom of the tomato with a paring knife and then lower the tomatoes into rapidly boiling water.  after 45 seconds to a minute, remove the tomato and check it by pulling at the skin where you cut it.  if it peels up easily, they are ready.  if not, put them back in the water for another 15 seconds and repeat the test.
the skin will peel off easily when they are blanched properly.  

cut the tomatoes in half, remove as much of the jelly and seeds as you can, roughly dice them and put them into the food processor.  pulse them to form a puree that has no detectable chunks of tomato.

so easy to make!  this is one of my favorite bundts.  
to see the recipe, visit my page on food52.com by clicking on this link.
go ahead, bake one, i dare you.  then send me a photo, i will post it here along with mine!

guess again cake and the importance of following directions…

there are few scents as intoxicating as the smell of a spice cake in the oven.  immediately, the house feels warm and inviting.  once it comes out of the oven, very few can resist the urge to grab a knife and slice a thick slab.  just be sure to take it out of the pan first…and speaking of that pan, if the directions call for you to grease and flour it, please, for the love of cake, heed the warning.

sad but true, i did not do as the directions instructed and the results were a lovely cake coated pan.  sigh.
doubly sad since not only do i bake for a living, but that recipe was one of my own; i broke my own rule.  my excuse, i was in a hurry.   even worse, i needed the cake for a meeting and there was no way to hide this.  so, off i went, head hanging low and my lame excuse at the ready for anyone who dared to ask.

funny thing is, no one seemed to think much of it.  sure, they were a little surprised that i could have such a mishap, but none were the least bit shocked.  it was if they knew something i didn’t and had just realized…regardless, i came home with a tray holding just a few small chunks and some crumbs.  apparently, they liked it.

when they learned the cake had a secret ingredient, they went back for a little more.  it was fun making them guess.  spice cakes are easy to hide unusual ingredients in since the spices tend to mask the flavors of the other ingredients.  are you curious about that ingredient?  well, believe it or not, it was a can of crushed tomatoes.  once baked, the tomatoes are not obvious in either appearance or taste.  they do add some wonderful color and lots of moisture.

guess again tomato cake with pecans and raisins
makes 1 (10-12) cup bundt pan serving about 16
3/4 cup golden raisins
3/4 cup pecan pieces
3 cups cake flour
1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
8 ounces unsalted butter, softened
2 cups dark brown sugar, packed
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
1 can (14.5 ounce) crushed tomatoes-make sure they do not contain things like garlic and herbs!
preheat the oven to 350.  grease and flour the bundt pan.  place the raisins in a saucepan, cover with water and bring to a gentle boil.  remove from the heat and allow them to cool completely in the water.  drain well.  
toast the pecans on a baking sheet for 5-7 minutes, allow to cool before using.  in a mixing bowl, combine the cake flour, baking soda and the spices.  in a large mixing bowl, beat the butter, brown sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.  add the eggs and mix completely, scrape the bowl and mix it in.  place the dry ingredients into a sifter or mesh strainer and sift them over the butter mixture.  fold it a few times by hand.  pour the entire can of tomatoes over the top of the batter and fold it all together.  fold in the raisins and pecans and scrape it into the prepared pan.  bake until a tester comes out clean, about an hour.  cool in the pan for 10-15 minutes.  invert onto a rack and allow it to cool completely.  

gingerbread beer bundt cake; a winner!

it’s a winner alright.  like everyone else, i love a good contest.  especially when i know i have the winning recipe.  isn’t it funny how that winning recipe never wins anything?  maybe not so funny, but it doesn’t stop me from trying.  and try i did when food52.com ran a best recipe with beer contest this month.  i knew i had the winning entry-who else would bake a cake with beer?  apparently, several entrants had the same idea.  but in the end, mine was the winner.  honestly, mind=blown.  one of the perks of the win, my cake got a glamour shot and a slide show which you can view on food52.com.

one of my favorite ingredients goes into this cake; sorghum.  for those in the know, they understand why.  it is all the flavor of molasses without any of the bitter or the black color.  the syrup pressed from fresh sorghum canes is cooked slowly to reduce, clarify and concentrate the sugar as well as the flavor.   it is also a less refined product and is frequently made in amish and mennonite communities which can make it hard to find.  unless you live in the south, it is still pretty common here and we don’t have to look very hard to find it.  try looking in amish or mennonite stores, farmer’s markets or if you are lucky, the whole foods supermarket near you may carry it-they do in nashville.  
the syrup starts out as a bright green juice but by the time it is cooked, it is a rich amber shade.  it is never so dark that light cannot shine through it.  so my apologies to the folks at food52.com-that looks a lot like molasses in your photos!  looks like i am going to have to send you some southern love in the form of sorghum.

with my large collection of bundt pans, the hard part was choosing one.  

 spice cake with mustard, dos perros pale ale, chocolate glaze; nothing else needed exept a fork…
 the marbleized interior of the cake

for the complete recipe, visit food52.com.  

don’t call it molasses

you wouldn’t think that these tall canes could be responsible for something as tasty as sorghum. sometimes called molasses, sorghum is a well kept southern secret. don’t be fooled by the reference to molasses, it may taste similar but sorghum is it’s own product whereas molasses is what is leftover from the refining process of cane and beet sugar-the “garbage” that they remove to make it white.

the seeds are an important grain in places like africa but they can also be ground into a gluten free flour. in my neighborhood, i can find it in the indian markets and at some point i want to buy some and try it out in some bread.
the tall stalks are cut, pressed for the juices and the juices are cooked down to make the sorghum. 5 gallons of juice will yield about one gallon of sorghum. every fall in the ellington agricultural center in nashville there is a music and molasses festival. i have watched them make the sorghum many times and have some pictures posted here.

my book wouldn’t be complete without at least one sorghum cake and here it is. a sorghum spice cake drizzled with some lemony glaze.