Everyday Cakes Archive

Thursday, January 14, 2010

cranberry syrup (and an intensely almond cake)

cranberry syrup, almond cake

Almond cake, schmalmond cake… Can we just talk about this syrup? I got briefly and over-enthusiastically into making fruit syrups this summer when this September arrival forced me into a mocktail kinda lifestyle. I had quickly dismissed all of those new grown-up sodas everywhere; they were either too sweet or their so-called “natural” nature was a theory easily poked holes in upon a cursory glance at the ingredient label. Wouldn’t it be easier to just make my own fruit syrups and stir them into a glass of seltzer? I did alright with a rhubarb and a mango syrup, but they were really nothing to write home, er, I mean to you all, about. It took me a while to get back to the drawing board.

cranberries from the freezermostly defrosted cranberrieschoppy choppysugarsugar, starting to meltbubbling syrup

I understand that homemade fruit syrups probably don’t sound particularly exciting from the outset, but do consider all of the things that you can do with them: beyond the aforementioned homemade sodas, imagine splashing it in some champagne, if you’re fancy, or building a cocktail around it. You can swirl it into your morning yogurt or splash it over your oatmeal. It would be a tasty swap for maple syrup over pancakes, if maple syrup isn’t your thing (but if it is not, who are you?) or an accent to a bowl of vanilla ice cream. Or, as this cranberry syrup did a couple nights ago, it makes a easy, delicious dessert sauce for the kind of cake that needs some contrast.

almond pastespringforms, batter-ed upalmond cakes, baked and coolingalmond cake, toasted almonds, powdered

Continued after the jump »

Friday, December 25, 2009

pear bread

pear bread

A year and a half ago, an Op-Ed ruined bananas for me. Everyone knows in a kid’s mind, there are only three fruits: apples, oranges and bananas. Apples grow in the fall. Oranges grow by grandma’s house in Florida. And bananas grow in… corporation-cleared rainforest in Latin America by laborers deprived of worker’s rights, an economic condition reinforced by heavy-handed military tactics? Egads, people, I so didn’t learn that side of the story as a kid.

pears, eggs, dry ingredientspears, ready to grategrated pearready to bake

Look, I didn’t give up bananas that day; they’re still sliced them into my oatmeal, over my cottage cheese and eaten to occasionally convince myself that it’s not a real dessert I’m craving, and I’m not here to nudge you to either. But there has been a whole lot less banana bread in my life since last year, and I’ve missed it. Yet you can imagine my surprise realizing that most of what made banana bread awesome for me had little to do with bananas, something I discovered making pear bread last week.

letting it snow

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Friday, September 25, 2009

date spice loaf

orange date spice bread

Shh, the baby is sleeping.

First of all, thank you so much for so warmly welcoming little Jacob to the Smitten Kitchen! Such love! I must officially be a mom because I have read all 2,500-plus comments, twice, and it turns out that hearing how objectively cute your newborn son is doesn’t ever get old.

And he is, that is, insanely cute. Did I mention that he punches his left fist in the air in his sleep? That he has so much hair, we had to buy him a little baby comb and brush set? Gah, do not even get me started.

top of the rock

So, while we’re catching up and stuff, it seems worth mentioning — you know, now, after the fact — that we were given a week’s notice that they wanted to induce little Jacob, just to play it safe. A whole week! So much time! I asked people what they would do if they knew they were having a baby, say, the very next day and I used everyone’s suggestions as an activity schedule of sorts for our last week before becoming parents. I got a manicure, pedicure and a haircut. We went out for long, luxurious meals, watched movies, finally got to Top of the Rock, came home and nearly sent myself into labor and delivery days early cracking up over Bill Cosby: Himself (this should so be a must-watch for all almost-parents) especially the part where he wants to give the baby back because it looks like a lizard that needs at least another two, three months to cook but the hospital makes them take it home. Right so, where was I? Basically, we did so much lazy, indulgent stuff that I was bored of all of that indulgence and ready to get on with it by the time his eviction date rolled around.

datesorange zestmisepecans
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Wednesday, August 5, 2009

lighter, airy pound cake

lighter, airy pound cake

Old-school pound cakes come with their own easily-remembered formula (a pound of butter to a pound of sugar, eggs and flour) with leavening only coming from the air one whips into the batter. But just because it’s the classic way to do it, doesn’t mean mean I don’t think most pound cakes need a little extra creativity to keep them from becoming foamy, forgettable bricks. You can swap out some of the butter for cream cheese, as I do in my favorite non-traditional pound cake recipe, you can add loads of lemon, baking powder, baking soda and buttermilk, rendering something that is impossibly delicious but really, a pound cake in name only, or you can do as James Beard does, and apply smart cake-baking techniques to improve the predictable.

sifting sifting sifting
sifted sifted

What drew me to this version from Beard that I’d bookmarked some time back was the subtle tweaks he’d made to the classic recipe: a little bit of baking powder, slightly less sugar and the real stroke of smarty-pants insight, separated eggs with the whites whipped so that they can add a volume and lightness old-school pound cakes lack. (What’s good for pancakes is even better for cakes.) Oh, and the fact that he flavors it not with vanilla extract, as most American chefs would, but with a shot of cognac and some lemon zest, my my. I had to find out.

whipping egg whites

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Friday, July 31, 2009

plum kuchen

concave plum kuchen

I’ve been curious to make a yeasted coffee cake for years, but every time I got close to making one, I decided against it. Would it be dry or overly-firm? Would it taste too much like bread? How would I know a good one if I’ve probably never had an authentic German kuchen — a general name for a type of sweet, yeasted cake, usually served with coffee — one? I’ve said this before but it bears repeating: I’m a master at talking myself out of things.

glossy yeasted cake batter
doughy batter

But then I saw a plum kuchen in this month’s Gourmet magazine and I couldn’t get it out of my head. It called for whole milk yogurt, we had whole milk yogurt in the fridge. It called for plums, we’ve been buying them in multi-pound increments. It called for one and a quarter sticks of butter and like magic, I had exactly one a quarter sticks of butter left, and seriously, not a smidge more. I had run out of excuses.

plum armadillos
butter sugar and plum slices

Continued after the jump »


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