Tag Archives: Cake

Birthday Cake!

Today is someone’s birthday….

Well, that’s true about every day, but today it’s someone close to me….

Jacob and me

and much, much taller then he was twenty five years ago!

I found the recipe I used for his fifth birthday, so it seemed time to use it again.

First, get out the trusty 9×13 pan

13x9-pan nordicware bake and store

one with a lid…and get to work.

Chocolate Birthday Cake

2 eggs

1 ½ cups firm packed brown sugar

2 oz (2 squares) unsweetened baking chocolate, melted

2 cups sifted cake flour (like I had a 5 year old and cake flour in the house at the same time – HA!)

1 t. baking soda

½ t. salt

¼ C white vinegar

¾ C milk

1 t vanilla extract

½ C butter, softened

  1. Preheat oven to 350°
  2. Have all the ingredients at room temp
  3. Butter and flour a 13x9x2-inch pan.*(I used a pan that has its own travel lid.)
  4. Sift together flour, baking soda and salt (the Drys)
  5. Separately, combine vinegar, milk and vanilla (the Wets)
  6. In a big, deep bowl beat together eggs, brown sugar and chocolate (3 minutes by hand – 1 minute with an electric Mixer)
  7. Into the big, deep add the drys and half the wets.
  8. Beat 3 minutes by hand and or 1 minute electric.
  9. Add the rest of the wets and beat for another minute.
  10. Pour into the prepared pan.
  11. Bake for 45 minutes or until it shrinks from the sides of the pan and tests done.
  12. Cool completely and frost.

*or 2 8-inch layer cake pans

– Adapted from ‘3-Minute Fudge Cake’ in Nika Hazelton. From Nika Hazelton’s Kitchen. Viking Penguin. 1985. p. 298.

from-nika-hazeltons-kitchen

And don’t forget the candles – and some matches….

Birthday-Cakecandles closeup

Happy Birthday!

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Filed under 1990's, Birthday, Cake, Holiday, Recipe, Summer

Coffee Cake

Cardamon Coffee Cake. Sour Cream Cardamom Coffee Cake.

I first had this cake maybe thirty years ago, and I remember it as if it were yesterday….and the memory still makes my mouth water.

It was a cold, crisp day in the fall…a day much like today.

Pat and Troy, two excellent bakers, were at work standing with a cake dish that had the most amazing cake smell coming from it.

I immediately became so focused on the CAKE that I can’t remember who made that particular cake, but it did inspire the other to make a second cake a few weeks later, so I had this cake twice in a month, lucky lucky lucky me…

Back to that first CAKE.

This image is from the Bakepedia website - there will be a link in a minute.

This image is from the Bakepedia website – there will be a link in a minute.

Don’t be deceived by appearances, it’s not just the look – which is that of a very nice coffee cake – but the aroma,

Oh, The AROMA!

And thus I smelled cardamom (or evidently, as  the English call it cardamon , which must be why I am going back and forth between the two spellings) for the very first time. 

Troy and Pat were discussing pre-ground cardamon versus buying the pod and grinding your own, as well as the expense….for the money, buy the pods and grind your own, it doesn’t take that much time or effort and it is 100 times better at much less then 100 times the cost.

spice-islands-ground-cardamom-2-oz-pack-of-3_1566247

Ground cardamom – sure , it’s good….but you can do better!

If you don't have a spice grinder OR a little mortar and pestle, you can use a baggie and a rolling pin (or other weight object) to grind it fresh - no excuses!

If you don’t have a spice grinder OR a little mortar and pestle, you can use a baggie and a rolling pin (or other weighty object) to grind it fresh – no excuses!

Then the conversation went to the vast amount of butter – a POUND – that goes in, as well as the vast amount of sour cream that goes in – a POUND – ….

This is not a cake to make impulsively, or for yourself.

This is a cake for an OCCASION, an  EVENT, a HOLIDAY, a GATHERING, a CROWD.

You will need a big bowl.

But first, you will need a recipe.

So did I.

It took me a while to find the recipes. Every time I got into a bookstore, I couldn’t remember WHICH of the Mollie Katzan

Mollie Katzan, the Moosewood years

Mollie Katzan, the Moosewood years

books it was, and when I got one I made soups and salads, because REALLY how is a dessert vegetarian??????Most desserts don’t have meat in them….and I had cake and cookie and dessert cookbooks to give me all the sugar and spice and everything nice recipes that I could make.

moosewood_large

This is the cookbook with the Sour Cream Cardamon Coffee Cake to Die For Recipe in it

When I finally brought the right cookbook home, and got past the Gypsy Soup – this is SUCH Gypsy Soup weather….

page from the book - I recognized Gypsy Soup at a glance!

page from the book – I recognized Gypsy Soup at a glance!

I bought the cardamon and copious amounts of sour cream and butter and got everything mise-en-place, I went to bed to get up early, make coffee and make the cake. Had to use my trusty Kitchen-Aid, my biggest Budnt pan, which I put on a baking sheet, just in case there was overflow……it’s a LONG bake, but after about 25 minutes….back to

Oh, The AROMA!

It was a downright cold day the day I baked, and I hesitated to take it out of the pan because I didn’t want it to collapse, so I popped the pan, on the baking sheet in the back seat of the car, the one that smelled like baked beans in the hot summer sun, and set off to work. Once more,

Oh, The AROMA!

and when I arrived at work, before I could find a plate big enough to turn the cake out of the pan on, I found myself  surround by curious co-workers, and conversation about cardamon being so important to Finnish Christmas cooking, and the secret ingredient  of really good Chai …..and when the cake came out, a little slumped under the weight of the sour cream and the butter and the sugar and the spice…..and there were pieces of cake and plates and all passed around and then….silence.

A moment of silence.

We don’t get many of those in the workplace, so I wasn’t sure if it was endorsement or disappointment.

NOT disappointment!

More plates, pieces saved for lunch, pieces saved for those not in quite yet…..

I’ve made this cake several times, always the same reception.  But I haven’t made it recently.

But a lunchtime conversation about cardamom with someone named Molly….cardamon flashback

I will be making this coffee cake sooner rather then later…..

Being separated from my cookbooks only makes things more interesting.

What I’ve found on the Internet:

  1. This is an Occasional Cake – crave it occasionally, make it for a special occasion. This is not an everyday  cake.
  2. There are some who would cut back on the butter and/or the sour cream or shrink the volume to fit into an 8×8 pan- IGNORE THEM. They are idiots. They have completely missed the point. If you want low fat make an angelfood cake or eat a piece of fruit.
  3. You will need a big bowl, a big pan and some big time. It’s 90 minutes, at least, in the oven alone.
  4. It will be totally worth it.

And now for the links:

  • Bakepedia – Cardomom Coffee Cake – the first of their Throwback Thursday posts, and Mollie in her own words
  • Enchanted Fig Huge and Beautiful Cardamom Coffee Cake:  Momma Diaries 2
  •  Art of Gluten-free Baking  – Coffee Cake Friday: Cardamom Coffee Cake, Gluten-Free
cardamom in flower

cardamom in flower

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Filed under Autumn, Cake, Influencers, winter

bits and pieces

 apl-bite Finished reading The Book Lover’s Cookbook booklovers CBapl-biteI’ve long thought about cookbooks and recipe files to go with different books….part of the

you are what you eat – especially if you’re fiction

thinking.

apl-biteErle  Stanley Gardner and Perry Mason…steak, Scotch and baked potatoes

ESG DA cooks

This might be a good place to start, even if no actual goose is involved.

Earl Stanley Gardnerbooks

There are over 80 volumes in the series, so it could take a while, reading them, collecting the references, looking up appropriate period recipes, testing them…..

apl-biteTotally random bit : Erle Stanley Gardner was born in Malden Massachusetts in 1889.

And he really was a lawyer, in California.

Erle is an odd ball enough spelling of his name to keep him as a crossword puzzle clue for generations.

apl-biteLaura ‘Half-Pint’ Ingalls Wilder from the Little House on the Prairie is mentioned .She already has a cookbook of her own.LittleHouseCookbook apl-biteAlmond macaroons – the Italian ones, made of almonds, (not French one O macaron  or the coconut ones, which are good) ….are a very good thing.

Almond-Macaroon

Easy Almond Macaroons by Caterina Borg, Good Food Gourmet on January 13, 2013

Almond macaroons are also known as  ‘squishy cookies’ (at least in my family) Here’s a link to a recipe or find a good Italian baker. apl-bite

Family party which include my mother and her cousins discussing the best sfogliatella…..

Sfogliatelle_pic

Sfoglitella – flaky pastry from southern Italy

Evidently the best  these days is  in San Diego or Naples….again, a treat you buy and don’t make at home. There are a number of videos on YouTube, but once you start calling them ‘Lobster Tails’ you’re already too far from the source to be taken too seriously. And none of them are being done by home cooks or Nonnas.

apl-biteWhat do Italians talk about when they sit at the table with food?

Other food.

Food we have had, food we remember, food we would like to make or eat or improve. Who made it, who else was there, who ate with us. Before there were foodies, there were Italians.

apl-biteI’ve also been watching Bluebloods. Almost every episode has at least one scene of the whole family, all four generations, seated around a totally enormous table.

Everyone gathered. Everyone talking. But this is an Irish family, not an Italian one.

Bluebloods, the Regan clan gathered round the dinner table

Bluebloods, the Regan clan gathered round the dinner table

What do the Irish talk about around the table? Politics. Work.

Not so much food, except to pass the dish or clear off at the end of the meal.Also pretty true.

And last but not least, a piece of Birthday Cake, for the family June birthdays.

cake_slice

A piece of cake

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Filed under Birthday, Books, Irish, Italian

Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day comes twice in the ancestral home – once in May, just like for everyone else,

Ma day

Although she signs her cards ‘Mom’ – we tend to call her ‘Ma’ – “Ma, Ma, Ma,” she said once, “What am I raising – children or sheep?”

and then again on the first of June.

That’s because the first of June is the anniversary of the maternal birth – that’s right –

Ma’s Birthday

Irma - my friend

My Friend Irma is not the same Irma…

Erma Bombeck - also not the same Irma

Erma Bombeck – also not the same Irma

She's the second from the left, reading to give a hand....this was from last Veteran's Day

Here’s Irma! She’s the second from the right, ready to give a hand….this was from  Veteran’s Day last year.

Time to sing "Happy Birthday" - and take a deep breath to blow out those candles!

Time to sing “Happy Birthday” – and take a deep breath to blow out those candles!

Irma B day

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Filed under Birthday, Influencers, Italian, squash, Summer

Irish Breads

There’s more than one way to loaf around in Ireland…..

Soda breads

White and Brown

Brown Soda Bread

Brown Soda Bread

Soda Bread in farls - a griddle cake

White Soda Bread in farls – a griddle cake

Oatcakes

Irish Oatcakes (they're not just in Scotland or Wales)

Irish Oatcakes (they’re not just in Scotland or Wales)

Blaa

Waterford Blaa - in the Irish Food Guide

Waterford Blaa – in the Irish Food Guide

and Cakes.

This is called Irish Bread with Golden Raisins, but really it's tea cake, even if it shows up in The Boston Globe and even if Sheryl Julian and Julie Riven say bread - it's cake

This is called Irish Bread with Golden Raisins, but it is really not bread, even if it shows up by that name  in The Boston Globe and even if Sheryl Julian and Julie Riven say it’s bread – it’s cake.

Most of what will be passing for Irish bread this week is actually cake – tea cake and seedy cake. If it has sugar, butter, seeds or raisins in it – it’s a cake and not a bread. It’s delicious and delightful, please enjoy,  allowing  me my Marie Antoinette moment by letting you all eat cake, but bread is bread and all that added stuff is cake.

Oatcakes have morphed into a kind of biscuit – or cookie – for the most part and are probably the most traditional bread of Ireland, although not the most famous. Oats and griddle baking go back to the medieval period when Ireland was saving civilization for the world. Don’t believe me? Read Thomas Cahill.    How_the_Irish_Saved_Civilization

Blaa is a sort of yeasted white bread roll, perhaps named from the Norman ‘blanc’ when they stopped in to conquer  Ireland. Recently it was a headline in a New York Time travel article, Dining in Dublin from Boxty to Blaa ( http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/02/travel/dining-in-dublin-from-boxty-to-blaa.html?_r=0 ) which includes  In November, I spent a week in Dublin eating my way through some of these restaurants, most of which opened in the last few years. It was my fourth visit to this stately city of Georgian townhouses and lively pubs, and I’ve never eaten better.”  a sentence I hope to make my own some day.

Soda Bread is the kind of bread that screams “Irish Bread” in the month of March around here. It is a bread that is leavened with baking soda and not yeast. Commonly referred to as “quick bread” they go together quickly – no rising time – and are ready as soon as they come out of the oven. Many of them are best warm….and are improved the next day by toasting, because they do stale up almost as quickly as they cook.

Because milk is an important part of the Irish diet – it’s called the Emerald Isle because of all the grass that grows there, which I great fodder for cows, so the butter and beef of the country is not a cliché, but an important part of the culinary landscape for centuries – Soda bread is often made with sour milk or butter milk. The slight acidity level of this liquid actually makes the soda work better.

The classic Soda Bread is a pound of flour and a pint of sour milk, a spoonful of soda and a little salt. Mix together, form into a rough ball, slash a cross into the top to allow the steam to escape the middle so it bakes all the way inside OR to divide it into quarters, or farls, for griddle baking.  The cross  has no religious significance, or if it does I’d like to see a reference from someone who isn’t a detractor about the superstitious Irish. But in typical Irish fashion, we accept the venom of our detractors into as compliments. thus confusing them, and then start to believe our own press. Sigh.

And now for a recipe that isn’t particularly Irish in it’s origins, but turns out a really nice loaf in American kitchens.

Irish Whole Wheat Soda Bread

3 cups whole wheat flour

1 cup all purpose flour (four cups of flour is roughly a pound – measure it by weight if you have a scale…..)

1 Tablespoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

¾ teaspoon double acting baking powder

1 ½ -2 cups buttermilk (2 cups is a pint, and a pint’s a pound the world around….)

  1. Combine the dry ingredients. Make sure there are no lumps in the soda, it’ll leave dark patches in the bread. I toss it into a bowl and use a whisk to combine everything.
  2. Add enough buttermilk to make a soft dough.
  3. Knead it until it comes together, maybe for a minute or two. It should be firm, velvety and able to hold it’s shape.
  4.  Form into a round loaf and place on a greased cookie sheet (or on a silpat on the cookie sheet). IF the dough is a little slack and starts to schlump on the sheet, butter a 8-inch cake pan or casserole dish and bake in that to give the bread it’s form. (How do I know this? You know how I know this)
  5.    OR in a genius move from the current Martha Stewart Living Good Thing: form the dough into 16 equal pieces and place on a lined cookie sheet – YES – Irish Bread in Individual Loaf Form!!!! I’m planning to freeze it at this point, and then making as much bread as I need at any given moment. (Marthastewart.com/soda-bread http://www.marthastewart.com/1055131/pull-apart-soda-bread)Or divide into farls and bake on a griddle and let me know how it works for you.
  6.    Bake in a 375° oven for 35-40 minutes. The loaf will be brown and have a hollow sound when rapped with your knuckles. 
  7.   James Beard let the loaf cool before slicing….let it cool at least a little, it makes it easier to slice. Slather with butter…maybe some marmalade….with bread like this who needs cake?

From James Beard. Beard On Bread. Alfred A. Knopf. 1973. pp.164-5

James Beard

James Beard

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Filed under Bread, Holiday, Irish

World Upside Down Chocolate Cake

When the weather gets really cold and the ponds freeze over – which doesn’t happen every winter – it’s time to think of post-skating snacks.

One year when I lived on a pond there was an early deep freeze and the pond stayed frozen most of the winter. And everyone came to skate. Which was great fun….except

I’m  no Peggy Fleming

Peggy Fleming

Peggy Fleming

nor I am I ever mistaken for Dorothy Hamill

Dorothy Hamill

Dorothy Hamill

and certainly no Michele Kwan.

Michelle Kwan

Michelle Kwan

No, there are no Blades of Glory in my story

Will Ferrell and Jon Heder

Will Ferrell and Jon Heder

I spend a whole lot of time on the ice…ON the ice.

This is pretty much my best skating figure..OK, Maybe not quite this graceful

This is pretty much my best skating figure, The World Upside Down. OK, Maybe not quite this graceful

The end result of all the time demonstrating gravity is that I would get really cold and tired very quickly…and then retreat to the warm kitchen to make snacks for everyone else. And what better to fortify and recover and generally make a good day/night of it all then something chocolate?

Long before there was chocolate lava cakes, there was chocolate upside down cake.

Pyrex Baking pan in Fireside - this color was introduced in 1977 and I have lots of it. There was a discount store in Cordage Park for cut rate Pyrex and Corelle

Pyrex Baking pan in Fireside – this color was introduced in 1977 and I have lots of it. There was a discount store in Cordage Park for cut rate Pyrex and Corelle

UPSIDE-DOWN CHOCOLATE CAKE

1 cup sifted flour*

¼ teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 ¼ cups granulated sugar**(divided)

7 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa***(divided)

¾ cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 tablespoons melted butter

½ cup chopped walnuts or pecans****(optional)

½ cup firmly packed brown sugar

1 cup water

  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Grease an 8” square baking pan.
  2. Sift the flour, salt, baking powder, ¾ cup granulated sugar and 2 tablespoons in a bowl.
  3. Mix in the milk and vanilla until smooth. Stir in the melted butter (add nuts)
  4. Spread evenly in the prepared pan.
  5. In a saucepan, mix the brown sugar, water and remaining granulated sugar and cocoa.
  6. Bring to a boil, stirring until the sugars dissolve. Pour over the batter in the pan.
  7. Pop the whole thing – without a last little stir – into the hot oven.
  8. Go about your business for a little while. Smile and start humming little snatches of favorite songs as the smell sugar and chocolate start to fill the air.
  9. Since I usually use a glass (Pyrex) pan I start checking at ½ hour, (theoretically, you could lower the temp by 25°, but I’m a little bit impatient!)and of course the actual timing will vary with your oven.   The original recipe says 40 minutes, but 30-35 has been more my history with it, and that’s with multiple ovens. A cake tester should come out clean.
  10. Cool on a cake rack for 20 minutes, then turn out, bottoms up and the fudgy sauce will now be on the top.
  11. The original recipe says cool and then cut into 2 inch pieces, but I have never once done that. Start serving, warm, at the 20 minute mark. Sometimes I just spooned it out of the pan into bowls, not pretty, but pretty darn good.

* I stopped sifting flour for all but the finest of baking projects sometime during the Ford administration. This cake doesn’t really require sifting with most commercial flours.

**I’m pretty sure I’ve cut back in this sugar, but since I didn’t write it down…it just seems awfully sugary.

***Hershey’s  will do. They’ll be cold and it the warmth (and butter) that will make the difference.

****Nuts are optional – and almonds are nice, too. Or a little grated orange rind. Or some very finely cut candied ginger or dried apricots. When I made this cake a lot, I made it A LOT and was always looking for something interesting to toss in.

Myra Waldo. Cakes, Cookies, and Pastries. Galahad Books, NYC reprinted with permission from Crowell-Collier Publishing. 1962. Third printing 1970. p. 19.

There is a similar upside down chocolate cake in the King Arthur Flour 200th Anniversary Cook Book, too

I’m not at all sure when or why I got this cookbook – except that it was before 1982 and survived my cookbook purge.

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Filed under Books, Recipe, The 1980's

Dark and Handsome

happy birthday candles

Someone has a birthday….OK, we ALL have birthdays, whether we acknowledge them or not , but SOMEONE has a birthday today….and birthdays need cake.

Some people have particular cakes that they share for birthdays. Some people have favorites that are extra special for special occasions, but if you say, “BIRTHDAY CAKE” the only constant will be the candles. And even that isn’t always the same.

800px-Blue_candles_on_birthday_cake

Make a wish!

Birthday cake is made special by the occasion of the birthday.  But sometimes the “This Day in History” makes you want the day to go by quickly….

On January 30th

in 1649

Charles I of England was executed

charles1_execution in 1948 – Mahatma Gandhi assassinated in New Delhi
in 1968 – The Viet Cong launched begin the Tet Offensive.
in 1969 The Beatles make their last public performance. (BTW -it was so NOT Yoko’s fault) and then in 1972 – Bloody Sunday  – you get the sad and sorry picture.

So this is a day the needs cake, birthday or no birthday.

One of the cookbooks I first bought when I went out on my own (and I’m pretty sure I got this at Woolworths, no less) was

Manners Quick and easy

RuthAnn Manners and William Manners The Quick and Easy Vegetarian Cookbook .

40s-old_woolworthsPlymouth MA

Woolworth’s in downtown Plymouth a few year before I went shopping there

Woolworth’s photo from http://www.jabezcorner.com/phs63/pictures.html 

 Much of it was indeed quick and easy and also good, which wasn’t always, or even often, the case in the late 70’s and early 80’s vegetarian cookbooks. That goes for quick and easy, but especially GOOD. There was a whole lot of far too undercooked brown rice in the ’60’s and ’70’s.

Their chocolate pound cake was what my not-crazy-about-frosting brother had as his birthday cake for several years. It’s also a good anytime cake. Ice cream or whipped cream are referred to as lily-gilders by the Manners, and they’re right – it doesn’t need heavy dairy products to be good, but it can make the day much better.

They call their chocolate pound cake Dark and Handsome…..what more could a girl ask for?

Dark and Handsome

A chocolate pound cake

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350°
  2. Grease a* 8 ½ x 4 ½ x2 ½ inch loaf pan.
  3. 3.   Then in a Pyrex measuring** cup melt 1- 1 oz square unsweetened chocolate with 1 Tablespoon butter (I now use the microwave…)
  4. Sift together 1 cup AP flour, 1 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon baking powder and a pinch of salt in a bowl.
  5. Crack 1 egg into the now not so terribly hot chocolaty melt and stir it in.
  6. Add milk (approximately ¾ cup) so that the chocolate/butter/egg milk equals one cup.
  7. Add the wets to the drys and mix thoroughly – no streaks.
  8. Scrape into the greased pan.
  9. Bake about 40-45 minutes or when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  10. Cool on a rack and remove from the pan.  Serves 8. OR
  11. Eat directly from the pan with a spoon while still warm. Serves one (on a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, which will then be made significantly better.)

*Spellcheck wants to make this a an an and I disagree.

**or melt it in a whatever/however  and scrape it into a 1 cup measure to continue OR just mix in 3/4 cup of milk with the butter, chocolate and beaten egg and call it a day.

bakers-squares-375

Walter Baker’s – local chocolate – Pa Flynn worked there – not designer or artisanal, but the one I reach for.

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Filed under Birthday, Holiday, The 1980's