Tag Archives: cake

Gingerbread Cake with Poached Pears and Mascarpone Cream

14 Feb

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When you’re married to a lady who likes to make cakes as much as I do, your choice of birthday cake can sometimes require a bit more intense concentration and debate than ever thought logical or necessary. It goes without saying that I have no problem at all making someone a birthday cake as simple as a classic chocolate cake with chocolate frosting, but if anyone so much as mentions that they might want a cake made of something a bit more adventurous, it’s all systems go in my mental cake Rolodex.

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How about fruit? Chocolate and fruit? Citrus and chocolate? Citrus and cream? Fruit and cream? How about all of those ideas, because maybe I’ll just make two cakes? (Which, incidentally, I have totally done before. And then I stacked the cakes on top of one another, sandwiched some mocha cream in between them, and made my husband remember why he puts up with slightly obsessive cake talk at all hours—because cake talk turns into cake eating and, oh, yes, it all makes sense now.)

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This year, after, once more, talking myself in and out of making more than one cake for my husband’s birthday, we settled on a single cake with a few show-stopping qualities. Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you to my husband’s 2013 birthday cake: spicy dark gingerbread, layered with smooth mascarpone cream, and studded with juicy poached pears. Just fancy enough to satisfy my desire to make a spectacular cake for a special birthday, but also bursting with classic, humble flavors that provide the cake with a bit of comfortable familiarity. This cake may look like a big burst of song and dance, but it tastes like a giant, loving hug. Which makes for a very happy birthday for anyone.

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Last Year: Crisp and Hearty Homemade Granola Bars

Gingerbread Cake with Poached Pears and Mascarpone Cream

Gingerbread Cake

Adapted from Epicurious

1 cup Guinness extra stout or dark beer

1 cup mild-colored (light) molasses

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

2 cups all purpose flour

2 tablespoons ground ginger

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom

3 large eggs, at room temperature

1/3 cup sugar

1/3 cup (packed) dark brown sugar

3/4 cup vegetable oil

1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour three 8-inch-diameter cake pans. Bring stout and molasses to boil in heavy medium saucepan over high heat. Remove from heat; stir in baking soda (mixture will foam up, so be prepared to move pan to the sink if the foam threatens to escape over the sides of the pan). Let stand 1 hour to cool completely.

Whisk flour and next 5 ingredients in large bowl to blend. In a separate medium bowl, whisk eggs and both sugars to blend. Whisk in oil, then stout mixture. Gradually whisk stout-egg mixture into flour mixture. Stir in fresh ginger.

Divide batter among prepared pans. Bake until tester inserted into centers of cakes comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Cool cakes in pans 15 minutes. Invert cakes onto racks; cool. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Wrap each cake separately in plastic and keep at room temperature.)

Poached Pears

4 cups water

¼ cup sugar

juice from 1 lemon

3 medium-size firm but ripe Bosc pears, peeled, sliced in half, core and stems removed

Bring water, sugar, and lemon juice to boil in large saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Add pears. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until pears are very tender, turning occasionally, about 20 minutes. Cool pears in syrup. You can poach the pears up to a day ahead if you like, then store the pears, still in their poaching liquid, covered in the refrigerator.

When you are ready to use the pears, drain them thoroughly in a colander or strainer, discarding the liquid. Slice the pears lengthwise into thin strips that can be fanned out in a circle on top of the cake layers.

Mascarpone Cream

8 ounces mascarpone cheese

4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 ½ cups powdered sugar

½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

pinch of salt

In a large bowl, or in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine mascarpone, cream cheese, and butter. Beat on high speed until light and creamy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Slowly add in powdered sugar, ½ cup at a time, beating until combined. Add the vanilla and salt and beat on high speed for about 3 minutes, until everything is smooth, creamy, and fully combined.

To assemble cake, Place one cake layer on a large platter. Spread on 1/3 of the mascarpone cream, leaving clear about a ½-inch edge. Cover the cream with a concentric circle of pear slices. Place another layer of cake on top, cover with half of remaining cream, then cover with another circle of pear slices. Repeat for final cake layer.

Because the mascarpone cream and poached pears do not provide the most stable structure, it is a good idea to stabilize the cake with a few wooden dowels (or trimmed wooden chopsticks, or trimmed wooden skewers). Simply clip 3 dowels or skewers to the proper height, then place them in a circle in roughly the middle 2/3 of the cake. This will keep your cake layers from sliding off of one another. When you are cutting and serving the cake, simply remove each skewer as you get to it.

How to Make a Heart-Shaped Cake

11 Feb

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Regardless of one’s personal feelings about Valentine’s Day, it’s tough to completely shun the sentiment attached to the holiday. We’re pretty darn mushy in this house when it comes to declarations of love and affection (especially with our son, since we know that there are only a couple of years remaining wherein we can still tell kiss the kid and tell him we love him without having him draw back in horror and tell us that we’re lame), so while Vanlantine’s Day itself may not provide that much of a difference in terms of making sure we make our fondness for one another clear, it does give me an excuse to get a little fancy with my food preparation.

In years past, I have made heart-shaped cookies on Valentine’s Day, but this year, in keeping with my cake-themed personal goal, I thought it would be nice to highlight a simple Valentine’s Day treat that is suitable for nearly anyone’s baking skill set. In a slight change of events, this particular tutorial is not so much focused on the recipe for a cake as it is on the presentation of a cake. And, as I mentioned before, it’s a dead simple project that anyone can tackle, no special tools needed. If you have a square baking pan, a knife, and a cereal bowl, you can make a heart-shaped cake. No special heart-shaped pan required.

STEP 1: To begin, bake a cake in a square pan. (I baked this coconut chocolate marble cake in a 9”x9” square pan instead of a bundt pan, and it turned out wonderfully.) When the cake is cooled, place it diagonally on a clean, flat surface.

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STEP 2: Place a cereal bowl over the left hand corner of the cake, and, using a sharp knife, very lightly trace around the top half of the bowl.

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STEP 3: Move the cereal bowl to the right hand corner of the cake, and trace around the bowl in the same manner as before.

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STEP 4: Cut all the way through the cake on the outermost left and right corners of the area traced around the cereal bowl. You will now have two rounded corners.

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STEP 5: Place the cereal bowl back on the left hand side, and cut the cake around the top curve of the bowl, stopping about halfway across the cake, where the curve of the bowl points to the center of the cake.

STEP 6: Move the cereal bowl to the right hand side, and continue cutting in the same manner as before.

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You have now cut your cake in the shape of a heart.

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Use the knife to touch up the shape here and there, cutting in the top center of the heart a bit more if you want more definition. I made a single layer cake for this project, but you can certainly make a two or even three-layer cake if you choose. Topped with a creamy blanket of pink raspberry buttercream, it’s a sweet and cheerful treat that you can tackle in no time at all, no special tools needed.

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Last Year: Indian Cauliflower Rice–the cauliflower IS the rice in this delicious, light meal

Lemon Coconut Cake

30 Jan

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I opened a kitchen cabinet last week and was met with the most aromatic blast of coconut imaginable. It was like I had stuffed my entire face into a bag of freshly shaved coconut. Being me, the first place my mind went upon being bombarded with the scent of coconut was not to Hawaii, but to cake. What can I say? I like what I like (which is not to say that I do not like Hawaii—because I do, very much—but more to say that, when it comes to what I can make happen ASAP to satisfy my needs, making a cake lands far, far ahead in the realm of plausibility than making a spontaneous trip to Hawaii).

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Because, as we know, I like making cakes, I tend to have a lot of documentation of many, many cakes. After a while, however, though the cakes I make are mostly new affairs that I test out in the name of promised deliciousness, I have noticed that many of the cakes I make tend to look fairly indistinguishable from one another. Observe:

This ginger cardamom cake:

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looks a lot like this rum cake:

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which looks pretty much identical to our current lemon coconut cake:

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Oh, don’t get me wrong. The cakes may look the same, but their tastes are anything but the same. That ginger cardamom cake is a blast of spiciness and subtle cardamom, while the rum cake is boozy enough to make you feel a little flushed after eating it. But how boring is it to show you all pictures of what appear to be the same golden cake, time after time again? It’s super boring, I admit. The good thing is, this cake may look like just a plain old bundt cake, but, like the cakes that came before it, there is nothing plain about it.

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With coconut milk taking the place of regular milk, an added hit of shredded coconut, and a double burst of both lemon zest and fresh lemon juice, this cake is totally worth sharing with you. In fact, it would be a crime not to let you know about it. That initial inspiration provided by the coconut shines through like a tropical dream, and the punch of lemon, plumped up just a tad by the addition of a light lemon glaze, makes for a perfect pairing. Though not a traditional pound cake in the sense that the ratios of flour, butter, eggs and sugar do not line up equally, the crumb of this cake is very much in the realm of a pound cake, with a dense, moist crumb, and the unmistakable flavor undertone of rich butter. It may look like a plain, innocent bundt cake, but don’t be fooled. This cake had got kick, and it wants to be heard. I mean tasted. You know.

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Last Year: Apple Cinnamon Crumb Bread (this may be called a bread, but, come on, it’s a cake in a bread tin) and Grilled Lemongrass Chicken

Lemon Coconut Cake

2 2/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

2 ¼ teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature

1 1/3 cups granulated sugar

4 large eggs, at room temperature

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon zest

½ cup unsweetened shredded coconut

¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 cup coconut milk

Lemon Glaze:

1/3 cup powdered sugar

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

drop of pure vanilla extract

pinch of sea salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Generously grease and flour a 10 or 12-cup bundt pan.

Into a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, or in the bowl of a stand mixer, cream butter on medium-high speed until soft and fluffy. Grandually add in sugar and continue to beat on medium high speed until mixture is fluffy and light. Reduce mixer speed to medium, and add in eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides and bottom of bowl in between each egg. Beat in vanilla. Beat in lemon zest, shredded coconut, and lemon juice, and mix until just combined.

Scrape down the sides and bottom of bowl, then add in 1/3 of the flour mixture, followed by ½ of the coconut milk. Mix until barely combined, then add in ½ of remaining flour mixture, barely mixing to combine, then rest of coconut milk. Add in remaining flour, beating until just combined. Scrape down the sides and bottom of bowl one last time, and gently fold the batter two or three times, just to incorporate any unmixed bits of flour.

Pour batter into prepared bundt pan, then bake in center of oven for 50 to 55 minutes, until a cake tester inserted into the cake emerges with just a few moist crumbs attached. Cool cake in pan for 10 minutes, then invert onto a wire rack to continue cooling.

While cake is cooling, prepare glaze. In a small bowl, combine all glaze ingredients and whisk to combine thoroughly. Whisk for 2 to 3 minutes, until powdered sugar has lost some of its graininess.

While the cake is still warm, gently brush on glaze, covering as much of the surface of the cake as possible.

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