This week’s cake of the week holds very special memories for me. I first made this cake over ten years ago when I was expecting my second child. It was the middle of summer. It was hot and I was 7 and a half months pregnant. I was already uncomfortable and I still had almost two months left before out little bundle of joy was expected to enter the world. We had gone cherry picking and had some fresh cherries hanging around, so I made this cake. I credit this cake for getting me through one week of that uncomfortable time. My husband doesn’t remember the cake at all. That could be because I ate practically the whole thing by myself.
Anyway, flash forward 10 and a half years later and we are in the middle of winter when fresh cherries are nowhere to be found. I had a hankering for this cake, though (and no, there are no buns in the oven this time!), so I did some tweaking and the result is just as good if not better than my memory of the cake.
To make this cake in winter, you will need to find jarred or canned sour cherries in light syrup. I had a jar of Morello cherries that I got from Trader Joe’s just before Christmas. However, when I went last week, there were no cherries to be found. I did see some at the grocery store that were tinned, though. Just be sure you are buying cherries in syrup and not cherry pie filling. That won’t work here. For this recipe, you’ll need 12 ounces of drained cherries and 1/2 cup of the juice. The cherries from one 24.7 ounce jar from TJ’s measured two heaping cups of cherries.
You may find that if you have to use canned cherries that you will have some left over. They are great in smoothies. In fact, we kept the leftover syrup in the jar and drank it with soda water to make homemade cherry soda. Do not be tempted to use more cherries in the recipe, though. It will make the cake too wet and soggy.
I baked this on a snowy day. We ate it warm and it was light and fluffy and heavenly. It almost melted in our mouths. After it cools to room temperature, it starts to get more fudgey, but it is still moist and delicious. The cake keeps well for up to four days at room temperature if you can make it last that long. We had it for breakfast and dessert.
It was fabulous and the best part is that you can bake it any time of year you want. Though I did not do it, I think this cake would also be wonderful cut into heart shaped pieces and served for Valentine’s Day. The baker gets to eat all the offcuts:) To make it even more decadent, serve with a mug of Mexican Hot Chocolate.
CHOCOLATE CHERRY ALMOND CAKE
(adapted from Gourmet, July 2003)
1 cup boiling water
3/4 cup (2 1/4 oounces) unsweetened cocoa powder (not dutch process)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 cup reserved cherry juice from the cherries below
2 cups (10 ounces) unbleached all purpose flour
1/4 cup (1 ounce) almond flour (this is optional, but nice if you have it)
1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cups (8 3/4 ounces) packed dark brown sugar
4 large eggs at room temperature
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
12 ounces (a little over two cups) drained sour cherries from a 24.7 jar (keep the juice! You will need it)
1/2 cup dried tart cherries
1/4 cup sliced almonds
Confectioner’s sugar for serving
- Preheat the oven to 350. Butter and flour a 13 by 9 inch baking pan, preferably metal.
- Whisk the boiling water and cocoa powder in a bowl until smooth. Then, whisk in the 1/2 cup of cherry juice, the vanilla extract, and the almond extract. Set aside.
- Sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, and almond flour (if using).
- In a bowl of a mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until very light, at least 5 minutes. Scrape down the bowl as needed. Add the eggs one at a time and mix until thoroughly incorporated.
- Add the flour mixture and cocoa mixture alternately, beginning and ending with the flour. The mixture might be a little curdled, but should also be fairly light and fluffy.
- Stir in the chocolate chips, dried cherries, and drained cherries until evenly distributed.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan and level. Sprinkle the sliced almonds over the top of the batter.
- Bake 40-45 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Test carefully in several places! The cherries can trap pockets of unbaked batter. Let cool on a rack for at least 30 minutes before cutting and serving with an optional dusting of confectioner’s sugar. Makes 16-20 servings.
Last week, I made some marmalade. Making marmalade is one of my favorite things to do in the winter. Citrus is at its peak at this time of the year and the fruits just brighten up these cold, darkish days. As a bonus, making marmalade fills the house with a delightful scent and turns something we would normally throw away (citrus peels) into something deliciously edible.
For my batch, I used this recipe from Food52 as my guide. I had 7 navel oranges, 3 lemons, and 2 limes.
After filling three pint jars, I had about a cup and a half leftover to store in the fridge. Marmalade never goes to waste in our house, but I had a hankering for cake; an orange marmalade cake.
The recipe I found used all whole wheat flour, which I replaced partly with regular all purpose flour. It still has the hearty taste of whole wheat, but is not overpowering or overly gritty. Also, when the cake came out of the oven, it looked a little plain, so I dressed it up a bit with a marmalade glaze, which also helped to boost the citrus flavor of the cake.
I had a bit of a hard time thinking of a title for this cake. It’s got apple, but not a lot of it and adding whole wheat to the title made it seem really long with the orange marmalade. Just think of this as a great snacking cake. The whole wheat and the apple together make for a healthy feeling cake, so we ate this cake for breakfast and for snacks. It was not too sweet and great with a cup of tea or coffee, which I guess is kind of the theme for a lot of my cakes lately.
Orange Marmalade Cake
You will need a 9 inch springform pan, sprayed with oil
2 sticks unsalted butter
1 cup (7 ounces) light brown sugar
6 Tablespoons orange marmalade
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups (7.5ounces) whole wheat flour
1/2 cup (2.5 ounces) unbleached all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoons salt
1 large apple, peeled, cored, and diced
1/4 cup golden raisins
2 Tablespoons orange marmalade
1 Tablespoon water
2/3 cup powdered sugar
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
- Whisk together in a medium bowl, all the dry ingredients: flours, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt.
- Cream the butter and sugar together in an electric mixer until light and fluffy. In my cold kitchen, this took over five minutes, so be patient. Add the orange marmalade and mix until combined.
- Add the eggs to the butter one at a time, mixing and scraping the bowl between each addition. It will look curdled at times, but just keep mixing on medium speed until it smooths out.
- Add the flour mixture to the batter and mix just until there are no dry bits. Add in the apples and raisins and mix just until evenly distributed.
- Scrape into your pan and level the batter. Bake for 45-55 minutes or until a tester comes out clean and the cake is golden brown.
- When the cake is almost finished, microwave the marmalade and water for the glaze in a medium bowl until warm. Stir until the marmalade is melted and then whisk in the powdered sugar. It should be fairly runny, but not fluid.
- Remove the cake from the oven and pour the glaze over top, spreading it so that it covers the entire top. If it dribbles over the side of cake, that’s ok. It will get absorbed by the cake. Let cake cool in the pan for ten minutes. Then, remove the sides and cool completely before serving.
The internet is an amazing place. Twenty years ago when I got married and wanted to learn how to cook a dish or make a quilt, I went to the library and checked out books. Today, I don’t even have to leave my house to learn just about anything. It’s also a great place to connect with other people who have the same interests. Chances are, if you have a hobby or interest, there is an online group for it. Many of those groups even “gather” to do a particular activity together, such as baking through an entire cookbook or knitting a particular project together. For me, the pull of these groups is strong and I am almost always tempted to join in on anything I find remotely interesting, which is quite a lot, actually. Maybe it’s because I am at home all the time and I need to feel like I have some sort of semblance of a life outside of my children or maybe it’s because I am an introvert that really wants to be an extrovert. I don’t know. All I know is that, recently, I have found myself joining in on several new online group activities.
The first started a couple of weeks ago. SusannaIC’s mystery shawl knit along is a must do for me every time she runs one, which is roughly once or twice a year. They are always fun, well paced, and turn out beautifully. Here’s the one I made from the last mkal:
The next one coming up for me is the Stopover sweater knit along that is being hosted by the funny ladies over at Mason Dixon knitting. This one starts on Monday, February 1st. Now, I have no business starting another sweater right now when I am deep into some test knitting (which is another type of group knitalong that is quite fun, but kinda exclusively so). However, when I read about it, I just happened to have a leftover skein of Cascade Ecological Wool hanging out on the table that I was thinking of using for a hat. The gauge for the Stopover sweater is 13 stitches over 4 inches, which happens to fall in the same range as the Ecowool, so I thought I would try a swatch.
Lo, and behold, the swatch was an exact match for gauge and it felt light and fluffy and nice. So, I did what any knitter does when faced with a pattern and a swatch that yields a perfect gauge. I gathered my yarn and then asked Instagram and Facebook to help me a pick a blue to go with my neutrals.
Opinions were pretty evenly split, so I decided to go with Plucky Scholar, mostly because it has some cashmere in it and since I intend to use this colors for the hems and neck, I thought it would be less scratchy. After going to the store to buy size 10.5 needles, I now have everything I needed for the project and, though I was tempted to cast on immediately, I am waiting until Monday to cast on with the rest of the group. Because of my other commitments, I may not exactly Bang Out this Sweater, but I will do my best with it and it will be fun to be following along with the rest of the group.
Which brings me to the most recent group that I have joined recently, the Splendid Sampler. This one is by far the biggest and most intensive group thing I have joined. It’s 100 quilt blocks, done over the course of a year; two a week. The blocks are supposed to all be different and they are a mystery until they are posted. The nice thing about this one is that I feel that I can pick and choose the ones I want to make. I will probably start with my scraps, which I have started to try to organize, and see where I go from there.
Honestly, I am not sure that I could keep up with that pace even if I wanted to, but this quilt along is a great example of how wonderful the internet can be. There are thousands of people taking part in this from all over the world. Just seeing the pictures of people’s fabric choices has been interesting and inspiring. Also, the blocks are supposed to cover just about every piecing technique out there and will be a great learning experience, even if I just read them. Best of all, it’s free! The organizers will start posting patterns on February 14. Right now, everyone is picking fabrics. I have not decided yet on my level of involvement, but I am excited nonetheless for this project!
Phew! I think February is going to be a busy month. What about you? What are you working on these days?
This week’s cake came from an overabundance of pears. It happens to us all from time to time. We go to the store. We need some fruit, so we buy some. Maybe more than we need because it is cheaper to buy the three pound bags of fruit than it is to pay the select your own price. However, life is busy and we bought other fruit at the store, too. This always results in a few pieces hanging around that we need to “do something with” before they go bad, but no one is willing to do the obvious and just eat them. This must be how cobblers and crisps got their start. Another alternative is to make this cake.
This is a super easy cake. If your butter is fairly soft (like mine was not because it is winter and room temperature butter is cold here), you can even mix this cake up without turning on your mixer. I did not bother to peel the pears since I had bartletts and they are thin skinned. If you have pears with thicker skin, I would recommend peeling. Also, other fruits would be good here. The original recipe called for purple prune plums, but cherries would be good as well as peaches.
Ours was gone so fast that I did not have a chance to get a photo of a single slice for you. You’ll just have to make one for yourself to see it.
PEAR ALMOND TORTE
adapted from The Essential New York Times Cookbook
1 cup (5 ounces) all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (7 ounces) granulated sugar plus 1 additional Tablespoon for topping
1 Tablespoons (4 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
3-4 ripe pears, cored and sliced into 1/2 inch wedges
juice from 1/2 lemon
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
a handful of sliced almonds
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9 inch springform pan.
- Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a small bowl.
- Cream the butter and 1 cup of sugar together in a large bowl until light and fluffy.
- Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and then add the eggs and almond extract.
- Spread the batter in the pan evenly.
- Arrange the pears on tope of the batter in concentric circles. Push them into the batter a little.
- Sprinkle the lemon juice, cinnamon, and almonds over the top of the cake.
- Bake for 45-50 minutes or until golden brown and a cake tester comes out clean.
- Cool on a rack. Then unmold and enjoy with tea or coffee.
Winter is a great time for baking. What better way to warm up when it is cold outside than to turn on the oven and bake something? Lately, I have been trying to use the oven as much as possible, which means that almost everything we eat these days is either baked or roasted. This is partly to make up for the fact that not all the burners work very well on our range, so cooking is sometimes a challenge and other times it is downright frustrating. A full kitchen renovation is in the works, but until the ball gets rolling, I am baking and roasting away. Thankfully, there is nothing wrong with the oven other than the fact that I could use another one because I often want to make two things at once that don’t require the same temperature.
In the last couple of weeks in particular, I have been focusing on cakes for the sweet part of the oven work. I made these little blueberry cakes using the last of some jarred blueberry pie filling that I had canned a long long time ago. It was a good thing the filling was sweet because I forgot to add the sugar to the cake batter. I blame the computer for that mistake because I was unable to print out the recipe. I have not made the switch over to using a device in the kitchen, mostly because those devices are expensive and I do not want to risk spilling something on them! So, I had to shuttle back and forth between the computer in the family room and the kitchen. Somewhere in there the sugar got left out. The filling saved the day and it ended up tasting more like a blueberry cobbler, which was fine with everyone here.
After that fiasco, the next sweet bake was a gorgeous Lemon Cake.
This is Maida Heatter’s East 62nd Street Lemon Cake with a simple powdered sugar icing over half of it. Why only half? Well, not everyone in this house likes icing and I was trying to make it appealing to everyone. It is a fabulous cake that I urge you to try making. Don’t be tempted to leave out the breadcrumbs in the pan. I am pretty sure I had made this years ago, but bread crumbs was not a standard pantry item for me, so I know I left it out. Trust me, the crust on this cake, not to mention the wonderful way it releases from the pan, relies on those bread crumbs. I used panko bread crumbs, which is the only kind I have and it was fabulous.
I think I had two slices a day until it was all gone, which was in less than 48 hours. It’s perfect with tea. There might have been some clamoring over the last slice; iced or not, it did not matter at that point. The lemon adds some brightness to these dreary winter days, which we need desperately now that the temps are mostly below freezing and Jack Frost is a regular visitor.
This cake renewed by love for cake in general and the act of baking cakes. There will certainly be more cake in the future. Maybe not every day, but at hopefully every week, And this lemon cake will return for sure.
Do you have a favorite cake? Tell me about it because if I haven’t had, I will want to try it!