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.


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

stop-light tomato pickles

IMG_4797Having a garden means you have a tremendous amount of patience.  How else can you explain the process of waiting for the right time to put seeds in the ground, waiting for them to germinate, waiting for the plant to mature; wait, wait, hurry up and wait.  Participating in this process also makes you an optimist.  Gardeners are always looking ahead to the harvest, convinced that they will be blessed with an abundance.

Composting is a vital part of gardening.  It enriches the soil and replaces what is removed every time we harvest food from the beds.  As a gardener, I cannot imagine not having a few piles aging for future use.  One important rule of composting is not adding seeds unless you want those seeds to sprout and grow in your garden.  We do our best to follow this rule and I always compost weed plants in a pile by themselves.  Usually, the only seeds that make it into the compost are from foods we eat or grow.

My love affair with cherry tomatoes falls into this category.  As a devoted salad eater, I always have cherry tomatoes on hand and when they are not ripening in my garden, I pick up the little plastic containers from the store.  My favorite pick is the miniature heirloom tomatoes from Trader Joe’s.  A rainbow of color ranging from green to yellow and orange to brown, these beauties actually taste like tomatoes when compared to the large ones.  Sadly, I usually end up with more than I can eat and some end up taking a trip out to the compost pile.

IMG_4800As a result, we have an endless stream of tomato seeds germinating in our compost piles.  We always let a few of them grow and because we never know what they are, we generally call them surprise tomatoes.  This year, we had quite the haul: miniature plums, red cherries, full sized plums and brown kumatos.  As the frost approached, we made the decision to pick as many as we could.  Actually, the first real frost came late here, and on November 20th, we finally had the full freeze to kill the vines.

With the holidays approaching, we decided to pickle a large quantity of the cherries so that we could give them as gifts.  It was a fun way to spend a Sunday in the kitchen with Darry.  With this easy recipe courtesy of my good friend Melissa of Corbin in the Dell, we gathered the ingredients and supplies.

IMG_4805Darry is a reluctant hand model but he also likes to humor me.  Here he is peeling cloves of garlic to place in each of the jars.

IMG_4811We picked and sorted the tomatoes by color so that we could pack each jar with a variety of colors, just like a stop light.  (Sounds better than traffic light)

IMG_4813Each of the jars has fresh basil leaves, lemon peel, pepper corns, chili flakes and mustard seeds to flavor the pickles.

IMG_4814Vinegar and water are heated with salt and a little sugar and then poured over the tomatoes.  The jars are topped off with a little olive oil and then heated in a waterbath to seal them.  Ours are ready to go and we are hoping that  we have enough for everyone on our gift list!