guess again…a tomato spice cake

IMG_7914When I signed up to attend the hypertufa workshop, read about that here, I knew that I had to bring a cake with me.   As I walked in with my traveling cake safe, I heard a few gasps, and exclamations; “oh, you brought a cake!”  This came as no surprise to some, especially Doris, who looked at me and smiled and said “You brought cake? Of course you did!!!”  She obviously knows me, and the truth is, occasions like this are really just an excuse to take a mold down from the wall and use it!

IMG_7916Late summer is tomato season and if you find yourself with a few too many, consider making a cake with them.  Actually, this recipe is versatile enough that you can make it with canned tomatoes, either crushed or puree, or even with tomato juice which means you can have it anytime.  If you use a purchased puree or juice, check the ingredient list to make sure that ingredients such as onions or garlic are not included.

IMG_7917A few things to consider here.  Raisins are one of those ingredients that you either love or hate.  Personally, I am not a big fan but in this recipe, the golden raisins really work.  Just be sure not to skip the step to plump them or they will actually draw moisture from the cake and can make it seem dry.  If you use fresh tomatoes, blanch them to remove the skin and then cut each one in half and squeeze out as many of the seeds as you can before pureeing them.  The nice thing about using fresh tomatoes, you can mix it up by changing the variety of tomato.  Of course, you can just use a can of puree and make it anytime you want a fresh baked spice cake.

IMG_7971As the summer fades, spice cakes shift to center stage.  Slightly denser, jammed full of warm spices, and in this case, loaded with dried fruit and nuts, spice cakes are the perfect pick-me-up as the temperatures finally start to cool off.  For this cake, I combined cinnamon, allspice, cloves and freshly grated nutmeg which give the cake a warm, spicy flavor.

IMG_7979Guess Again Tomato Cake

with raisins and pecans

makes an 8-inch bundt cake, serves about 8-12

1/2 cup golden raisins

1/2 cup pecan pieces

2 cups cake flour

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

5 ounces (1 stick + 2 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened

1-1/4 cups packed dark brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 egg

1 cup tomato juice, puree or crushed tomatoes

vanilla glaze, recipe follows

Preheat the oven to 350.  Grease and flour a 6 to 8 cup tube or bundt pan.  Place the golden raisins in a small saucepan, cover with water and bring to a boil.  Remove from the heat and let the raisins plump until cooled.  Drain well before using.

Toast the pecan pieces on a baking sheet for 5 to 7 minutes, until lightly colored and fragrant.  Transfer to a dish and allow to cool.

In a mixing bowl, combine the cake flour, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, cloves and nutmeg.  Set the dry ingredients aside.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter on medium-low speed for 1 minute.  Add the brown sugar and vanilla and beat until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes.  Add the egg and mix completely, scraping the bowl at least once.  Sift one-third of the dry ingredients over the butter mixture, fold by hand a few times and add half of the tomato.  Fold a few times; sift half of the remaining spiced flour over the batter, add the remaining juice, and fold a few times.  Add the last of the flour mixture, and fold the batter gently until no streaks remain.  Add the raisins and pecans and fold enough to incorporate them evenly.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, spread it out evenly and bake until a pick inserted comes out clean, about 45 minutes.  Allow to cool in the pan for at least 10 minutes, then unmold and cool on a wire rack.  Using a large spoon, ladle the glaze over the top of the cake, completely covering the top and letting the excess drip down the sides randomly.

Vanilla Glaze

makes about 3/4 cup

2 cups confectioners sugar

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1/3 cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Sift the confectioners sugar into a bowl.  Add the melted butter, milk and vanilla.  Whisk until smooth and creamy, use at once.

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This cake is from my second book, Desserts from the Famous Loveless Cafe.

just another sunday in paris…a tuesdays with dorie post

img_7409If only I knew what a Sunday in Paris was like; someday… Actually, in this case, it is a reference to a pastry shop in Paris and that is the name of it; Sunday in Paris.  This cake is a specialty of theirs and a favorite of Dorie Greenspan’s which is why she developed the recipe for her book, Baking Chez Moi.  The Tuesdays with Dorie bakers chose this cake for February and it was a great cake for Valentine’s day, or any day that chocolate and peanut butter are appropriate-otherwise known as everyday in my book!

img_7413Peanut butter is not that popular in Paris where Nutella apparently reigns but here in Tennessee, it flies and fast.  We took this cake to a potluck dinner and I came home with crumbs on a dirty tray.  The dark, rich cake reminded me of Drakes Devil Dogs with a hint of peanut butter.  To have enough for the dinner, I doubled the recipe and baked it in a pullman loaf pan to make a tall, brick shaped cake.  We didn’t have any peanuts in the house but while rummaging through the cupboards, I found a Payday bar and chopped some of it up for the garnish on the top.

img_7417This is a recipe I would make again and if you have the book, do not hesitate to try it!  To see what the other bakers came up with this week, visit the website!  To participate, pick up a copy of the book and bake along with us.

granola cake; a tuesdays with dorie post

img_7316Back in September, I learned we were relocating again.  After a few bumps in the road, we have landed back in Nashville and are settling into our new home.  During the move, one of the things I missed the most was being able to bake in my own kitchen and now that I have a kitchen again, I am also baking again!

First up; granola cake.  Actually, this recipe comes from Baking Chez Moi by Dorie Greenspan and not only is it the first cake I have baked in a while, it is the first time I have been able to join the Tuesdays with Dorie bakers since we started packing up for the move.  Since we are back in Nashville, we are active with the Master Gardener program and this cake was a great choice for the potluck dinner we have each month.  Having cut the cake into thin slices, I placed the cake on the dessert table and didn’t have any trouble convincing folks to try it!

img_7318The recipe calls for bittersweet chocolate, shredded coconut and granola which all combine to make the flavor similar to an oatmeal cookie with coconut and chocolate chips.  The only thing you need to know, use a good quality granola because it is a large part of the flavor and texture of the cake.  With this in mind, I made a small batch of my own granola rather than buy it.

While I am not posting the recipe for the cake, we do not post the recipes from the book out of respect for the author, I am posting the recipe for the granola that I used in the cake.  This recipe is the one that I made for years when I was working at the Loveless Cafe and I suggest you mix up a batch-it’s that good!

img_7330Granola

This small recipe makes about 2 cups of granola and can easily be doubled or tripled, just store it airtight and use it within a month.  My preference is to use a combination of wildflower honey and sorghum but you can use just one for the total amount.  If you can’t find sorghum, molasses will work but will give it a little more color.

3/4 oz light brown sugar

1-3/4 oz pecan pieces

5 oz whole rolled oats

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 tablespoon honey

1 tablespoon sorghum

Preheat the oven to 350. Line a baking pan with parchment paper. In a heat proof bowl, stir together the brown sugar, oats, nuts and cinnamon, set aside.  In a small pan, combine the butter, honey and sorghum and over low heat, stir until the butter melts and the mixture is heated but not boiling.  Pour the melted butter mixture over the oats and stir until it is combined.  Dump the mixture onto the prepared pan and spread it out evenly.  Bake for about 10 minutes, stir it well and continue baking for another 10 minutes or so.  The time depends on how thin the layer is in the pan.  Keep a close eye on the granola and stir it frequently until it turns a nice deep amber color.  When the granola is the color you want, remove it from the oven and let it sit for 5 minutes.  Using your hands-it will still be hot and it needs to be pretty warm for this to work, break up the granola so that it will be free flowing when it cools off.  Gently rub the clumps between your fingers to separate the large lumps-they will be pretty hard once cooled so do not be tempted to leave them in tact.  Allow it to cool completely and store it airtight.

img_7326Want to bake along with us?  Pick up a copy of the book, visit the website and get to work!

matcha financiers; a tuesdays with dorie post

IMG_5395A while back, I picked up a little tin of matcha tea so that I could try baking with it.  Needless to say, it has been living on the spice rack in the pantry and would probably still be there, unopened, if the Tuesdays with Dorie bakers had not chosen to make matcha financiers this week!

IMG_5388Since we are trying to lose a little weight here, I only made a third of the recipe which gave me 10 little cakes.  My new pan, one I found on my last trip to Pennsylvania, is actually for popovers and for some reason, it only has 7 cups in it which meant I had to use 2 pans.  The ones I baked in the muffin pan, a black-nonstick pan, are on the right side of the photo.  The look very different from the ones baked in my aluminum popover pan.

IMG_5382Not only did they look different, they also came out shorter and much darker.  Beleive it or not, I used a portion scoop and each one is the same amount of batter-the pans were just so different that it really shows in the baked cakes above.

IMG_5328Matcha tea is not easy to find and I picked mine up in a spice shop that also sells teas.  The tin is so cute but if you notice the size of my measuring spoons next to it, you should see that it is also tiny; it holds barely 2 tablespoons!

IMG_5355My new, old pan.  It is a fairly heavy gauge, aluminum popover pan and the cups are nice and deep.  Best part, I think I spent $3.00 for it!

IMG_5358A side view of the cups-nice and deep

IMG_5398The photo in the book has very bright green cakes but the recipe tells you that the batter will be a pea green.  Mine are definitely pea green which makes me wonder about the photo in the book.  The day these were baked, the flavor was a little grassy and I did not care for them but as they aged for a day or two, the flavor improved, a lot.  These may make another appearance in our kitchen, but not for a while-we really need to get back on track with the diet!

To see how the other bakers did, visit the website.  Feel like baking along with us?  Pick up a copy of the book and head to the kitchen!

odile’s fresh orange cake; a tuesdays with dorie post

IMG_5338It has been a while since I have participated in the Tuesdays with Dorie baking and I decided to get back to it this week by baking Odile’s Fresh Orange Cake.  Luckily for me, I happened to have a bowl of Sky Valley heirloom oranges from Trader Joe’s camping out on the kitchen counter and this gave me a way to use them before they went bad.

The recipe is simple and easy to prepare, it was also very easy to cut in half thanks to the fact that Dorie includes the weights for the ingredients in the recipe.  Honestly, if you aren’t using a scale at home, you really need to pick one up.  It is easier to weigh out ingredients and it guarantees accuracy.

To decorate the cake, I followed the directions except rather than use slices of whole oranges, I cut the oranges into sections-not really the supremes but close enough!  And just as Dorie suggested, I only used half of the syrup to soak the cake.  The rest was drizzled over the slices as I cut them from the cake.  The flavor is strongly orange but not overpowering or cloying, either one is easy to do with orange.  The soaking from drizzling half of the syrup on the warm cake gave it a nice amount of moisture without making it wet or soggy.

My half batch of batter made a 6 inch cake which actually was more than we could eat.  We both like oranges and will snack on them but when an orange flavored dessert is offered, neither of us will go crazy with it.  This cake would probably be wonderful with tangerines or blood oranges so I may try it again!  To see what the other bakers came up with, be sure to visit the website and if you would like to bake along with us, pick up a copy of Baking Chez Moi and head to the kitchen!

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lemon-parsnip cake; a tuesdays with dorie post

IMG_5068The cake for today’s challenge is supposed to be a tangerine-carrot cake but after a quick check in the fridge, I could only find lemons.  Then I spied the last lonely parsnip and decided that I should keep going in this direction and change it all up.   We have been trying to cut back on snacking and it has been a while since I made a cake.  The fresh eggs from our hens are stacking up on the counter and it was a chance to use a couple.

IMG_5082The change from tangerine to lemon meant that the acid level was increased and I am pretty sure that it changed the texture of the cake and made it a little denser than the description in the recipe.  Even so, it was still pleasingly moist and a little firm.  The parsnip mellowed during the baking and honestly, you wouldn’t know it was there unless I told you.

IMG_5087The only other observation I made was that the batter amount baked up just fine in my 8 inch tart pan.  After greasing the ring and bottom and dusting it with flour, I set it onto a sheet pan to prevent leakage in the oven.  It came out of the pan and off the bottom beautifully.  This was such an easy cake to make and honestly, the potential combinations are numerous so I can see myself pulling this recipe out again when I need a quick and foolproof cake!

Please consider picking up a copy of Baking Chez Moi by Dorie Greenspan and baking along with us.  To join in on the fun, visit the website and see how the other bakers made out with this recipe!

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pear-almond baby loaves; a tuesdays with dorie post

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Now that I am home full-time, not only do I plan to work on my book, I also plan to participate with the Tuesdays with Dorie group more.  This week, we are working from the book Baking with Julia and the chosen recipe is for Hazelnut baby loaves.  The recipe is actually for a small loaf cake and requires an unusual pan size.  Most mini loaf pans are 5″ x 3″ x 2″ or a close approximation to that but the recipe calls for eight 4″ x 2″ x 2″ pans and I only have three-hard to believe.  After looking in a couple of shops, I could only find the 5″ pans and had no desire to buy a big baking plaque for loaves in that size (think rectangular cupcake pan) so I did the next best thing; I used a muffin pan.

My tale of woe does not end here.  When one isn’t working, one watches spending and I could not bring myself to spend $6 on hazelnuts when I only needed 1/3 cup so I used 1/4 cup of almond flour, something I am apparently hoarding in my freezer.  
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When my husband and I went to the not so local International market on Sunday, I stocked up on tiny pears.  They had both Fourelle and Seckel pears and I chose a half-dozen of each.  What can I say, I happen to love pears and was thinking of something I saw on Pinterest recently and thought I would give it a try.  First I poached the pears.  To do this, I placed the peeled pears-stems and cores left in place, into a saucepan with 1/2 cup ruby port, 1/2 cup apple cider, 2 cups water, 1/2 cup light brown sugar, 1 cardamom pod, 1 star anise pod, a 1″ piece of vanilla bean, 3 whole allspice and 5 whole black pepper corns.  With the heat at medium-low, I allowed the pears to simmer gently, turning them occasionally so they would color evenly until they were tender when a knife tip was inserted.  The pears were allowed to sit in the liquid until mostly cooled and then were carefully lifted out and placed in a dish lined with a paper towel and placed in the fridge over night.
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The recipe also called for creme fraiche and since I had some heavy cream and cultured buttermilk, I made my own by pouring 1 cup of cream into a glass measuring cup, then I stirred in a tablespoon of buttermilk and let it sit out overnight.  It was pretty thick-I may have added a bit more than a tablespoon of buttermilk.
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Having toasted the almond flour, I proceeded with the recipe but doubled the almond extract to give it a bit of a frangipan flavor.  The batter was divided between the pans and the pears were pressed into the batter.  A little of sprinkle of Demerara sugar over the top and into the oven they went.
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They baked up beautifully; the pears only added about 5 extra minutes of baking time.  They needed to cool in the pans so that the cake could set and support the pears.  However, the greasing/flouring of the pans allowed them to slip out undamaged.
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To get an idea of what the pears were like, the front left is a Seckel pear, the front right is a Fourelle pear and in the rear is a fully ripened Comice pear.  Can you see the difference in size?  The Comice pear was easily twice the size of the others but all were ripe and juicy and when poached, they held their shape without falling to pieces.
IMG_4761The syrup on the plate is actually the poaching liquid.  After I removed the pears, I had about 2 cups of liquid and using the same sauce pan over medium-low heat, it was reduced down to slightly less than a cup.  It is flavorful and a beautiful ruby color and I am thinking it will make some wonderful cocktails…My only thought on this, the cake was not very sweet.  While my first impulse is to add more sugar next time, I think in this case, more syrup and possibly a scoop of ice cream would do the trick nicely.

Until next week, bake on friends.  To see how the other participants made out with this recipe, check the website and consider joining in on the fun!

tiger cakes; a tuesdays with dorie post

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It was a tough decision but I had to do it.  Last week, I gave notice to my employer that I would be leaving.  For the last two years, I have wanted to write another book.  A while back, I did co-write a proposal and unfortunately, it flopped.  The publishers that read it ultimately chose to pass on it and after all was said and done, I was done with it too.  The whole process led me on a journey to figure out what I want to do and what I want to write about and after some major soul-searching and more than a couple of pity parties, I finally figured it all out.  Well, most of it anyway, and thanks to a consultation with a literary agent, an even better and more focused plan is beginning to emerge.  This proposal will focus on things I love so you know it will involve baking. But for now, I will leave it at that; you will just have to wait to hear more about it…

While I work on that proposal, I am trying to get back to things I love doing and Tuesdays with Dorie is one of those things that I have truly missed.  If things go as planned, I will get caught up and make all of the recipes I missed over the last 6 months.  This week, we are baking from Baking Chez Moi and our chosen recipe is for Tiger Cakes.  
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Can you say “easy peasy” because that is what this recipe was-easy; crazy easy and quick and topped with ganache.  The batter mixes up quicker than you think, it actually takes longer to measure out the ingredients than it does to whisk them together!  The main ingredient is almond flour and it is whisked into egg whites and sugar with a bit of flour and a generous helping of finely chopped bittersweet chocolate.  These decadent little cakes are moist and chewy and as if that wasn’t enough, they get dressed up with a bittersweet chocolate ganache.

Join us, bake from Dorie Greenspan’s books, Baking Chez Moi and Baking with Julia; to see how the other bakers made out with the recipes, check the website, Tuesdays with Dorie.

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two for tuesday; a tuesdays with dorie post

IMG_3948 Late again.  Things just seem to escape me and suddenly, I am chasing the bus down the street.  My husband was in Germany for a month and when he got back, we spent days trying to get caught up on all the things I could not do myself while he was gone.  Then of course, my job; after working a 10 hour shift in a kitchen that is 100+ degrees, baking at home has been the furthest thought from my mind.  Somehow, in the last few days, I managed to bake a cake and tarts so that I could get back in step with the Tuesdays with Dorie bakers.

The restaurant I work in was once owned by Marcel Desaulnier and when I saw that the White Chocolate Patty Cake was another of his recipes-he contributed several to Baking with Julia, I decided to give it a whirl.  It was easy enough to make but I think I whipped my egg whites a little too much because I ended up with a crust that fell away in shards.  Despite the over-whipped whites, the cake still had a nice, dense and creamy texture.  Since I was making this for just the two of us, I cut the recipe in half and baked the layers in 6 inch pans.  Rather than make the raspberry filling, I used some tart cherries in syrup and rhubarb that I had and made a thick puree.  The tart flavors of the cherries, rhubarb and the fresh raspberries worked nicely with the cake.  To see the round-up of all the participants, visit the Tuesdays with Dorie website.

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It was nice to get back to the old routine of baking, styling and taking photos; if only I had more time…Found that  nifty cake plate on one of my trips to the thrift store-I think it is a candle holder but I like it as a cake plate much better.  My collection of stuff has gotten a little large and my husband wants me to start selling some of it off or give it away.  He isn’t keen on clutter, calls me a hoarder sometimes.  Maybe I should open a shop; opinions, anyone???


IMG_3962As much as I like cake, I think I like tart better.  What’s not to love about a tart topped with fresh fruit?  This is my version of the Apricot-Raspberry Tart from Baking Chez Moi.  A week ago, I picked up a box of peaches when I went to Trader Joe’s.  Ripe peaches sounded like a nice substitution for the apricots and I added a few dark cherries just for fun.  In the recipe, Dorie suggests an almond cream filling as an alternative to the lady fingers or cake crumbs and since I was in an almond mood, I added some almond extract to really give it an extra almond punch.   The dough recipe actually made six 4″ tart shells but I froze four of them for another day and just made two tarts and filled them with half of the recipe for the cream filling.  Even though the tarts were smaller than the recipe called for, the baking time was almost the same due to the cream filling which took a while to set in the oven.  We both enjoyed this one but then, you cannot go wrong with peaches and frangipan which is what this filling made me think of!

To see how the others made out, be sure to visit the Tuesdays with Dorie website!

cardinal slices; a tuesdays with dorie post

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Hard to believe but we have been baking from the book, Baking with Julia, for more than two years.  While I have enjoyed the process and reading posts from the other bakers, not every recipe has excited me and a few were just not an option.  But when I read the headnote to the recipe for Cardinal Slices, I was a bit excited; this was a chance to make a classic cake and a caramel syrup.  Then I read the entire recipe and saw the suggestion of turning the leftover batter into chocolate dipped ladyfingers called Rothschilds.  Now this was what I call a great way to spend a morning!!!

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The recipe for the cake layers instructs you to make a meringue first.  The meringue is piped with a 1/2 inch tip the length of the baking pan, actually, three long ropes that are fairly close together; the two outer ropes are just three inches apart.  The leftover meringue is incorporated into an egg and egg yolk mixture with sugar and whipped to a full ribbon with flour folded in last.  This mixture is piped between the meringue stripes and then it is baked.  
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The espresso caramel syrup is made by burning a small amount of sugar and adding more, bit by bit as you go.  This caramel is cooked much darker than you would expect and the final step is to add hot espresso.  It is intensely flavored and it can be a little bitter from both the burned sugar and the espresso but the whipped cream will temper the bitter and even if you are skeptical, make it!  
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The final step is to make a lightly sweetened, whipped cream and flavor it with the espresso caramel syrup.  You are instructed to trim the three strips so that they are evenly sized but let me warn you, if it is a humid day, think twice and perhaps bake the strips longer or wait until a dryer day.  My strips got pretty sticky and were difficult to trim so I didn’t bother.

Do you remember the mention of ladyfingers?  Well let me suggest this, if you do not want to waste leftover batter, cut the recipe in half and do not bother with the lady fingers.  There was enough of the batter left to make lots of ladyfingers, three trays, actually.  According to the directions, I sifted almond flour over the cookies and placed a pan in the oven with my cake strips.  Honestly, I wondered about this because the cake strips were baked at 300 degrees and everything I know about sponge cakes tells me that temp was way too low.  My suspicions were correct and after the instructed baking time of 30 minutes, I had lovely, golden brown, ladyfinger shaped strips of sawdust.  They were awful, truly awful.  Since I noticed that the recipe suggested reading the other ladyfinger recipe in the book for hints, I flipped to it.  This recipe called for baking them at 400 and since I really wanted to make the Rothschilds, I cranked up the heat.  Sadly, the results were not much better, they weren’t as dry or sawdust like but truth be told, they were not any puffier.

Needless to say, my dreams of chocolate dipped Rothschilds were crushed.  In the future, I will probably try making them from the other recipe in the book, the one written by Flo Braker and if I, or should I say when I, make this cake recipe again, I will skip that step and just make half the cake recipe.
IMG_3767Oh, one more thing, totally worth the calories.  Try this one if you can-you will not regret it!  To see how the other bakers did, check the Tuesdays with Dorie website and look for the LYL page.