Recipe


Apple-Basil Cake

So, the herb garden continues to chug along, making huge quantities of basil and rosemary and mint and other wonderful baking herbs.

This week I wanted to try something a little more unusual.  I pulled out last week’s book (Desserts from an Herb Garden, by Sharon Kebschull Barrett) and found this recipe on the page right after Lemon-Rosemary Cream Cake.  Fate!

The recipe uses oil for the fat – the first time I made it, I used all Canola oil, but the second time I was running low so I substituted half of it with unsweetened applesauce – something I often do to cut down on fats, plus it’s not like more apple flavor is going to hurt this cake!

Oh, and I sprinkled toasted pecan pieces in the bottom of the pan after I had spray-coated it – the crunch was a nice counterpart to the richness of the cake and the glaze.  And I added a teaspoon of Ceylon Cinnamon to the batter itself, because I think Cinnamon and Apples and Basil all go together.

A closer look at the glaze. Yum!

This cake is moist and dense.  Very flavorful – mostly apple with the occasional bright sparkle of basil.  It freezes well, and I imagine it’ll ship well (I’ll find out!  The second cake is getting shipped to Rhode Island after I freeze it).  My sweetie and I were having people over for dinner, so to dress it up for dessert I made a quick cream caramel sauce (infused with cinnamon stick) and added some Dulce de Leche Gelato.  Ohhhhh, my goodness.  That stepped it up from “really darned tasty” to “OMG; to die for”.

All dressed up for dinner…

What would you pair with it?

Apple-Basil Cake

from Desserts from an Herb Garden, by Sharon Kebschull Barrett

CAKE

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking soda

3/4 teaspoon coarse salt

2 Tablespoons (packed) minced cinnamon basil or sweet basil leaves

1 1/4 cups vegetable oil, preferably canola oil (can use half oil and half unsweetened applesauce)

1 3/4 cups granulated sugar

3 eggs

2 tsp vanilla extract

3 1/2 cups unpeeled, coarsely chopped cooking apples, such as Granny Smiths

1/2 cup toasted pecan pieces [optional]

GLAZE

3 TB unsalted butter

3 TB packed light brown sugar

3 TB granulated sugar

3 TB heavy cream

1 tsp vanilla extract

INSTRUCTIONS

Preheat oven to 325F.  Pan-coat a 10-inch removable-bottom tube pan. [Note: you’ll want this – the cake sticks like mad] Sprinkle about 1/2 cup of toasted pecans in the bottom of the pan, if you’re using.

Sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt.  Whisk in basil leaves until thoroughly dispersed in the flour; set aside.  In a large bowl, beat together oil and sugar on low speed.  On medium speed, add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add vanilla and beat on high for 30 seconds.  On low speed, add flour mixture and beat just ’til blended.

Fold in apples; spread batter in prepared pan.  Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the cake comes out clean.

Just before the cake is done, make glaze: Over med heat, melt butter in a small saucepan and whisk in both sugars, cream, and vanilla.  Boil glaze for 1 minute.

When the cake comes out of the oven, immediately pour the hot glaze over.  Let cake cool completely on a rack before removing from pan.  To remove from pan, run a knife around the edge to release it, then run a think knife between cake and pan bottom; invert to release and invert again to place on platter, so glaze side is up.

12 to 16 servings.

Lemon Rosemary Cake

A few years back, I acquired an interesting-looking little cookbook called Desserts from an Herb Garden.  It tempted me with a wide range of really unusual-sounding combinations and categories (it covers cookies and candies, cakes, pies, crisps, custards, puddings, frozen desserts, and plated desserts).

The librarian in me loves that it has two indexes – your usual index at the back that lists everything by name and ingredients, and a “Recipes Listed by Herb” index up front – fantastic when I’ve got an abundance of one particular herb and want to find something to use it up.

I hadn’t actually baked anything from it until this year – chalk it up to substandard herb gardens since we’ve moved to the new house (3 years ago, sigh), or just forgetfulness… but I’ve gotten it out twice in the last week, and the results have been fantastic!

The first thing I tried was the Lemon-Rosemary Cream Cake, which came out like a dream.  The cake uses cream for the fat and no butter at all, which gives it a really light airy texture – almost like an angel-food cake, but without the stickiness.

(One taster commented that it was the first homemade cake he’d ever had that reminded him of the texture of store-bought cakes (rather than being dense and very moist).  He loved it, so I can forgive him the comment and take it in the spirit it was intended.  🙂

Next week, the Apple-Basil Cake.  Mmmm.

Lemon-Rosemary Cream Cake
from Desserts from an Herb Garden, by Sharon Kebschull Barrett.

Cake Ingredients:
2 cups bleached all-purpose flour (I used Lily’s White)
3/4 teaspoon coarse salt (I used Trader Joe’s sea salt)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon minced rosemary leaves
1 Tablespoon minced lemon verbena or lemon zest (I used lemon balm, because I have lots of it and no verbena – next year!)
1/2 cup nonfat or low-fat buttermilk (I used Maple View Dairy’s buttermilk, they’re a local dairy that makes exceptional products)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 eggs
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup heavy cream (Maple View, again)

Glaze Ingredients:

1 cup confectioner’s sugar
1 tablespoon half-and half or milk
4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350F.  Grease and flour (or pancoat) a 10-cup Bundt pan.

Whisk together flour, salt, baking powder, and rosemary and lemon verbena leaves; set aside. In a small bowl, whisk together buttermilk and vanilla; set aside.  In a large bowl, beat eggs on medium speed with sugar until thick; batter should fall in a ribbon when beaters are lifted.  With mixer on low speed or by hand, alternately mix in flour nad buttermilk mixtures, beginning and ending with flour.  Mix just until combined.

In another bowl with clean beaters, beat cream until stiff peaks form; gently but thoroughly fold into batter.  Pour batter into prepared bundt pan and smooth the top.  Bake for 45 minutes, until the top just springs back when pressed.  Cool 10 minutes in the pan on a rack, then turn cake out onto rack to cool completely.

Transfer cake to a serving platter and glaze: Whisk together confectioners’ sugar, half and half, and lemon juice and drizzle over cake.

Note: I totally skipped glazing, and while the cake would have been stupendous with the glaze, it was just fine without – lightly sweet and delicately perfumed with the taste of the herbs inside.  Yummy!

One small corner of the herb garden on the deck this year

Delicious banana-rum cake using my new bundt pan!

I’ve been reading the Sticky, Gooey, Creamy, Chewy blog for a little over a year now, and being in love with her writing (and recipes!), picked up a copy of her book a few months ago.  I read through it when I first got it (something I usually do with new cookbooks – I love reading them just like books), but while I kept meaning to make something from it, I just kept getting distracted by old favorites.  Which also explains the paucity of posts lately 🙂

A few weeks ago, however, I had some extra bananas to use up,  picked up the book to see if there was anything interesting in it, and found this recipe.

It looked fantastic, so I made it (and took the excuse to use one of my new spiffy Bundt pans obtained on sale this winter), and Oh My God.  It really was fantastic.  The outer layer of rum-soaked cake became this sticky, crusty incredible goodness (we won’t even talk about the pecan layer on top), while the inside banana cake, which was soft and creamy right after baking (you think we waited for this to cool completely?  Ha!) becomes dense and creamy after you let the cake cool.  And if you throw the leftovers in the fridge?  Oh my goodness.  It is soooo good.  We even threw the last piece in the freezer (double-wrapped), and when I thawed it back out and ate it, it was still perfectly wonderful.

The book itself is a joy to use – recipes are clearly and beautifully laid out, instructions are easy to follow, and the book itself is a visual treat.  I highly recommend it.

Look at that creamy interior...

So this cake is an excellent one for cake stands, leftovers, etc.  Bakesales, you name it.  It holds up well, the flavors just get more rich after the first day, and it’s sooo good.

If only real cathedrals tasted this nice

So while we had friends over to play cards, I made it again – this time using my new mini-bundt pans (I cut the recipe in half, which made me six mini-bundts and one leftover tart-pan’s worth of batter).  Still amazing, amazing, amazing.  I took one to my sweetie for lunch at work, and he wrote to tell me that he was still tasting it on his tongue hours later.

Another cute little bundt shape

Bahama Mama Banana Rum Cake

from Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey by Jill O’Connor

Dark Rum Glaze:

1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup firmly packed light or dark [I used dark] brown sugar
1/2 cup dark rum

Combine the butter, water, and sugars [but not the rum!  I did this the second time and had to double the rum, oh noes] in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil.  Immediately reduce the heat to medium-low nad simmer for 5 minutes.  Remove from the heat and stir in the rum.  Set aside and keep warm.

The Cake:

1 1/2 cups chopped pecans, toasted [I ran out halfway through and used walnuts as well, which worked just fine]

1 1/2 cups unsalted butter
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup firmly packed light or dark brown sugar [I used dark]
5 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup mashed very ripe bananas (about 3 medium)
2 tsps pure vanilla extract
3 tablespoons dark rum [I use Myers Dark]
3 cups bleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
3/4 cup sour cream

Preheat oven to 350F and position a rack in the middle.  Spray a 10-cup tube pan with nonstick cooking spray.  Sprinkle the pecans in the bottom of the pan.  Set aside.  [note: Yes, the pecans make quite a deep layer on the bottom of the pan.  It will all work out, I promise.]

In a large bowl, with an electric mixer on medium speed, beat togethe rthe butter and sugars until the mixture is light and fluffy.  Beat in eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition.  Beat in mashed bananas, vanilla, and rum.  Sift the flour, baking osda, baking powder, and slat over the batter and fold in using a rubber spatula, just until no streaks of flour remain.  Fold in the sour cream.  Spoon the batter over the nuts in the pan and spread to the ede of the pan using the back of the rubber spatula.

Bake until a wooden skewer inserted in the center of the cake comes out with no more than a few moist crumbs clinging to it, 60 – 80 minutes.  [For the smaller bundts, it took around 30 minutes] Transfer to a wire rack and let cool for 5 minutes.  Use a wooden skewer to poke holes all over the cake and pour 1/4 cup of the warm glaze over the cake.  Let the cake cool for 5 minutes more.  Place a serving platter over the pan and invert to release the cake onto the platter.  Spoon the remaining glaze over the cake, a little at a time, and let stand until the glaze is completely absorbed into the cake.  If the glaze starts to pool at the base of the cake, use a small metal spatula to spread it up and around the sides of the cake.  As the glaze hardens, this will encase the cake in a rummy, sugary shell.

[Let’s just dwell on that phrase for a moment, shall we?  Rummy, sugary shell.  Yummmmmmmm.]

Let the cake cool comp;letely before cutting into wedges and serving.  [Ha!  I can say that when warm/hot, this cake is almost like banana bread pudding.  It’s so awesome.  Don’t deny yourself.] Will last 2 to 3 days if covered well.  And if your house contains only one person, or somebody who has no taste buds.  Otherwise, don’t plan on saving any.  It’s that darned good.

Yummy!

Yummy birthday cake

A little while ago, I made a birthday cake for someone to have at their “Free Cake Day” party (not wanting to have a Birthday Party, or really celebrate their birthday in general – I know!  How odd.)

I’d recently acquired Rose Beranbaum’s newest cake book (Heavenly Cakes), and wanted to make something from that . I settled on Woody’s Lemon Luxury Layer Cake (page 43), because the lemon flavor seemed bright and cheery, and I hadn’t really done anything interesting with white chocolate in a while.  Plus, I wanted to try out my new transfer sheets.

The cake is a lemon butter cake, baked in two 9″ layers that are split and filled with homemade lemon curd (Rose’s fabulous recipe, that works like a charm and tastes amazingly zingy).

The white chocolate lemon buttercream was the real surprise in this recipe.  The technique Rose calls for is one that I’d never come across before – essentially, you make a white chocolate custard, cool it, beat in butter and then beat until stiff peaks form – and then leave it at room temperature for up to 2 hours until “slightly thickened and spongy”.  Then you beat until smooth, and beat in the lemon curd.

Why the fermentation period?  The buttercream was smooth and creamy and tasty – everything you want – but I can’t quite figure this one out.  It’s easier, overall, than doing either French or Italian buttercream, but you have to have those two hours of downtime.  Does anyone know what’s going on, here?

In any case, the cake and buttercream both came out delicious, I put it all together and decorated with white chocolate shards, and served with either raspberry or blackberry cabernet sorbet.  The not-birthday-boy and his friends/family were highly pleased; very little of this cake was left after the party!  Another hit, Rose.

Cinnamon Rolls, ready-to-eat

Cinnamon Rolls!

One of the things that happens around the holidays is that you have a lot of things to do and places to go, and not much time to get ready or do prep work.  One thing that I’ve found makes a great hostess gift for brunch, or to have on hand for guests, are these lovely and easy-to-make cinnamon rolls.

The thing that makes these easier than usual is the use of the dough from Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day – if you already have a batch in your fridge, throwing together these rolls is easy-peasy.  If you don’t, why not?  You can make these, and then make a batch of dinner rolls, then have a loaf of bread, or make some pizza… it’s really flexible.

I used the basic boule recipe for this – it’s not a sweet dough, but it works just fine once you’ve added a bunch of brown sugar and pecans and butter 🙂

Cinnamon Rolls

1 lb prepared dough from Artisan Bread Dough (a yeasted, proofed dough)
1 1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup softened butter
2 TB cinnamon
1 cup toasted pecans

As part of the preparation of the bread dough, it will have had the first rise.  Take a one-pound chunk of dough, either just after the first rise or from the fridge, and punch down the dough and roll out into a rectangle approx 15″ x 10″.

In a small bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon.  Spread approx half of this mixture onto the rectangle of dough, leaving a half-inch margin clear. Starting at the long edge, roll the dough (jelly roll style) into a cylinder, sealing the edge.

Meanwhile, put the other half of the butter mixture into a 9″ cake pan, and sprinkle the cup of pecans over it.

Slice the dough log into 2-inch rolls, placing them into the cake pan on top of the butter/pecan layer.  Cover with a towel and let rise in a warm, moist place until puffy and near-doubled, about 20 minutes if the dough is fresh, and 45 minutes if from the refrigerator.

Bake in a 350F oven uncovered until tops are brown, approximately 35 minutes.  Immediately turn over onto a serving plate while the caramel is still hot, serve when you can stand the temperature.

You can also put together the rolls the day before, and stick into the fridge overnight – pull them out first thing in the morning and an hour later, they’ll be ready to bake.

It’s a new year, and time for a new book!  I’ve loved nearly everything we made from Sky High : Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes, and I’m looking forward to baking from Southern Cakes : Sweet and Irresistible Recipes for Everyday Celebratons.  Because you don’t always have an immediate outlet for a sky-high cake, you know?

Coffee Cake, though – I can peddle that anywhere.  It’s practically healthy.

This recipe, I altered.  Couldn’t find raisins anywhere, but did find dried cranberries from Trader Joe’s.  Also, have inexplicably run out of pecans; substituted walnuts.  All else the same.

I think, were I doing it again, I’d go ahead and make the crumble instead of layering the ingredients separately.  The butter dribbled around weirdly and ended up making odd shapes.  The taste is fine, but it looks funny.

The topping ends up nicely crunchy and caramelized, the cake moist and fluffy.  The rest disappeared rather quickly at work this morning, so I can’t report on how it holds up over a few days, but I hear it does well.

See? weird bobbles of cake.

See? weird bobbles of cake.

Cinnamon Pecan Cranberry Walnut Coffee Cake

Printable Version

For the Cake:

  • 3 cups all purpose flour [I used White Lily]
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs

For the Cinnamon Raisin Cranberry Walnut Filling:

  • 1½ cups light brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp all purpose flour
  • 3 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1½ cups raisins dried cranberries
  • 1½ cups coarsely chopped pecans walnuts
  • ¾ cup (1½ sticks) butter, melted

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 13 by 9 inch pan.

To make the filling, combine the light brown sugar, flour and cinnamon in a bowl and stir with a fork to mix everything well. Combine the raisins and pecans in another bowl and toss to mix them. Place the cinnamon mixture, nut mixture and melted butter by the baking pan to use later.

Yummy cinnamon, sugar, and flour

Yummy cinnamon, sugar, and flour

To make the cake batter, combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Stir the vanilla into the milk. In a large bowl combine the butter and sugar and beat with a mixer on high speed until pale yellow and evenly mixed, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the bowl to ensure a good mix. Add the eggs and beat for another 2 minutes, scraping down the bowl now and then, until the mixture is smooth and light.

Use a large spoon or spatula to add about a third of the flour mixture to the butter mixture and stir only until the flour disappears. Add a third of the milk and mix in. Repeat twice more until all the flour and milk mixtures have been incorporated. Stir just enough to keep the batter smooth. [Actually, I mixed per Rose and beat it for a minute or so til it was light and fluffy.  The cake came out perfectly light and moist regardless]

Spread half the batter evenly into the prepared pan. Sprinkle half the cinnamon mixture over the batter followed by half the melted butter. Scatter half the raisins and nuts over the top. Spread the remaining batter carefully over the filling, using a spatula to smooth the batter all the way to the edges of the pan. Top with the leftover cinnamon, butter and nut mixture, covering the cake evenly.

Ready to bake!

Ready to bake!

Bake for 45 to 50 minutes [I’d check sooner – mine was quite very well done at 45 minutes], until the cake is golden brown, fragrant and beginning to pull away from the edges of the pan. Place the pan on a wire rack and allow to cool in the pan for 5 to 10 minutes before serving in squares right from the pan. The cake is delicious hot, warm or at room temperature.

Nummy!

Nummy!

It’s been a few months since I’ve managed to make the CSB cake, but I’m back on track!

This month’s cake presented some challenges.  The cake recipe itself came out very moist, almost wet – which made it a bit of a handful to work with while decorating.  The white chocolate mousse failed entirely the first time around (mostly because I misread and added all of the cream to the chocolate – hence the white chocolate ‘sauce’ you’ll see in a later pic), but I made  a milk chocolate mousse the second time around (being out of white chocolate) and it was still really soft – the extra chocolate liqueur should have helped it hold up more, but others reported soft mousse as well, so if I were making this again I’d use some other mousse recipe.  The frosting came out fine, although it took longer to set up for the final coat than I’d like, and it was un-pipeable.  I wanted to do something more interesting for decoration, but it really wasn’t going to happen with this frosting.

The taste was great, though – the cake was soft and flavorful, the frosting was dense and fudgy, and the mousse had soaked into the layers enough to make nice gooey mess.  Incredibly rich – I’ve had two parties now with this cake and still have some left over.  Help!

Slice of cake with some white chocolate 'sauce'

Slice of cake with some white chocolate ‘sauce’

Recipe: Triple Chocolate Fudge Cake
(from the Sky High: Irresistible Triple Layer Cakes cookbook)
Makes a 9″ triple layer case – serves 16 to 20

Ingredients:

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour [I used White Lily]
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder [I used Ghirardelli]
2 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 1/2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 cup milk
1 1/4 cups hot, strongly brewed coffee
2 eggs
1 cup mayonnaise (use real mayonnaise and not a low fat or fat-free version or anything labeled “salad dressing”)
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups sugar

White Chocolate Mousse (recipe below)
Sour Cream Chocolate Icing (recipe below)

Finished layer

Method:

1. Heat oven to 350F. Butter bottom and sides of 3 (9-inch) cake pans. Line bottom of pans with parchment or wax paper and butter the paper.

2. For batter, sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Set aside the dry ingredients.

3. Put chopped chocolate in heat-proof bowl. Bring milk to a simmer. Pour the hot coffee and milk over the chocolate. Let stand 1 minute, then whisk until smooth. Let the mocha liquid cool slightly.

4. In a mixer bowl, beat together the eggs, mayonnaise, and vanilla until well blended. Gradually beat in sugar. Add dry ingredients and coffee liquid alternately in 2 or 3 additions, beating until smooth. Divide batter among pans.

5. Bake 25-28 minutes, or until pick inserted in center comes out clean. Let cakes cool in pans on wire racks 10-15 minutes. Unmold cakes. Peel off paper lining and cool completely, at least 1 hour. (The layers can be baked a day ahead, wrap well, and refrigerated)

To Assemble the Cake:

1. Place one cake layer flat-side up on cake stand. Cover top with half the white chocolate mousse, leaving 1/4 -inch margin around edge. Repeat with second layer.

2. Set third layer on top and pour half the sour cream chocolate over the filled cake. Spread all over the sides and top. Don’t worry if cake shows through. The first frosting is to seal in the crumbs which is whey professinal call it a “crumb coat”. Refrigerate cake uncovered for at least 30 minutes to allow the icing to set. Cover the rest of the icing and set aside at room temperature.

3. Frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining icing, which should have the consistency of mayonnaise. If the icing becomes too soft, chill briefly. If icing becomes too stiff, microwave on high 2 or 3 seconds to soften, and then stir to mix well. Use an offset palatte knife or the back of a spoon to swirl the frosting decoratively around the cake.

White Chocolate Mousse:

4 ounces white chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 cup heavy cream
1 egg white
1 tablespoon sugar

For mousse, melt white chocolate with 1/4 cup cream in a double boiler or in a small metal bowl set over a pan of very hot water. Whisk until smooth. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.

When it has cooled, beat the remaining 3/4 cup heavy cream until soft peaks form. In another clean bowl, whip egg white with sugar until fairly stiff peaks form.

Fold the beaten egg white into white chocolate cream. Then fold in the whipped cream just until blended (do not overwhip or your icing will split).

[I tried this with milk chocolate and it was still too mushy; after refrigerating for an hour, I was able to get some of it into the middle of the cake using the big gaps made by the sunken cake bits to hold it in.  Still, it was tasty.]

Egg white awaiting folding into ganache

Egg white awaiting folding into ganache

Sour Cream Chocolate Icing:

12 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 stick unsalted butter
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/4 cup half-and-half, at room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream, at room temperature

Melt chocolate with butter and corn syrup in a double boiler over barely simmering water or in a heavy pan over very low heat. Remove from heat and whisk until smooth.

Whisk in half-and-half and sour cream. Use while soft.

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