Sorry for my extended absence. I’m really not worthy of your audience. I’ve been swamped with work and life. Maybe I can make it up by sharing a a recipe with you.
Two weeks ago, neighbors of mine celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary. Their children, some of whom I had grown up with, were all flying in to surprise their parents with a weekend of eating and catching up. I volunteered to bake the cakes; 5 layered cakes for 40 guests. (You can see all of the cakes and food on my flickr).
With so many cake recipes, it was hard for me to decide on which ones to make. I ended up selecting a couple of my favorites along with some new cakes I’d been wanting to try.
“That Chocolate Cake” is from the Scharffen Berger “The Essence of Chocolate” cookbook. It’s moist, it’s fluffy, it’s rich, it’s dark, it’s velvety, it’s luscious, and it’s sinful. It’s so many things, and yet, really, it is just that chocolate cake. The frosting is essentially a dark chocolate ganache made from 99% chocolate, butter, cream and sugar. Not surprisingly, it was the first cake to go.
Per the recipe, this is a two-layer cake layered and frosted with a dark (99%) cooked ganache. I took to decorating the cake on the outside with cake crumble, which is not in the recipe. (See a cross-section here.)
Dark chocolate and cherries is one of my favorite combinations. So, I baked another “That Chocolate Cake” and put my own twist on it by layering it with a home-made cherry filling. I call it “That Black Forest Cake.”
I rarely eat carrot cake. But, I *love* the carrot cake recipe from the Gourmet Cookbook (edited by Ruth Reichl).
If I were the creator of this version, I would have called it the “Everything Carrot Cake” – it’s full of nuts, carrots, raisins, coconut, and pineapple. This is a four-layer cake and is one of the most moist carrot cakes I have ever tasted (just blindfold yourself when you read the amount of vegetable oil in the ingredients list). It is layered and frosted with a pretty straightforward cream cheese frosting. Here, take it from Ruth Reichl’s own mouth:
“Moist, rich, and dense, carrot cake is one of the most American of desserts, popular from one end of the country to the other. But there’s always room for improvement: this version includes pineapple and coconut, which keep the cake extra-moist. The recipe, which came to us from reader Felix Papadakis, is one of the best we’ve ever tasted.”
I totally agree. Here’s the recipe:
About 3/4 pound carrots
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
4 large eggs
1 (8-ounce) can crushed pineapple, drained
1 cup sweetened flaked coconut
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
2/3 cup raisins (optional)
2 (8-ounce) packages of cream cheese, softened
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
Special Equipment: two 9-by-2-inch round cake pans
Make the Cake: Put a rack in middle of oven and prheat oven to 350F. Butter and flour cake pans, knocking out excess flour.
1. Shred enough carrots on smallest teardrop holes of box grater or with fine shredding disk ina food processor to measure 2 cups.
2. Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon into a large bowl. Stir in sugar, oil, eggs, carrots, pineapple, coconut, walnuts and raisins (if using).
3. Divide batter between cake pans and bake until a wooden pick or skewer inserted in center of cakes comes out clean, 35 to 45 minutes. Cool layers in pans on a rack for 5 minutes, then run a thin knife around edge of each pan and invert layers onto rack to cool completely.
Make the Frosting: Beat together cream cheese, butter, and vanilla in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until fluffy about 2 minutes. Reduce speed to medium, add confectioners’ sugar, and beat until frosting is smooth.
Place 1 cake layer bottom side up on a cake plate and spread with some of frosting. Place remaining cake layer right side up on top and spread remaining frosting over top and sides of cake.
– The cake layers can be made up to 1 day ahead and kept, well-wrapped in plastic wrap, at room tempurature.
– The frosting can be made up 1 day ahead and refrigerated, covered. Bring to room temperature, then beat with an electric mixer at medium speed until smooth before frosting cake.
Perhaps a more “challenging” cake for the common palate, but one of my favorites, is the Rosemary and Olive Oil Cake from the Babbo Cookbook. I decided to offer a non-traditional cake, and no one seemed to bat an eyelash at the foreigner.
I blogged about this cake upthread and posted the recipe (see “rosemary and olive oil’s baby…“). This time, instead of baking it a loaf pan, I put in a square cake pan and adjusted the time.
To jazz it up, I layered the cake (you can’t see the seam, thankfully) with orange marmelade and candied some orange slices (basically making a heavy simple syrup and boiling thinly sliced orange wedges in it until the rinds go translucent) for a top garnish. I used the syrup from the orange candying process to moisten the layers of the cake while assembling it.
Lastly, I also made the Pecan Spice Cake (pictured at the very beginning of this post) from the April, 2007 issue of Gourmet. I also blogged about this cake and posted the recipe in a previous posting (see “they should pay me…“). The only change I made to the cake this time was that I spiked the cream cheese frosting with a just a touch of spiced rum.