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by Caitlin Saniga

I served this cake with homemade whipped cream and sliced fresh peaches. For the whipped cream, I used a small carton of whipping cream, about 1 tablespoon of powdered sugar and 1 teaspoon of almond extract. The peach-almond combo was nice and a little unexpected.

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
  • 1 1/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for pan
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon find salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 peaches, peeled, pitted and diced small
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Whipped cream and sliced peaches are optional

Whoops! The dark spot on the right side of the cake is a bubble in the batter. I should have rapped the cake pan on the counter a little more than I did. Don’t forget this important step!

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 6-cup nonstick Bundt pan. Whisk together 1 1/2 cups flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Toss peaches with remaining 1 tablespoon flour to coat. In a large bowl, using a mixer, beat butter and 1 cup sugar on medium-high until fluffy and pale yellow. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until incorporated. With mixer on low, add flour mixture in 2 additions, alternating with sour cream, and beat until combined. Fold peaches and vanilla into batter and transfer to pan. Tap pan firmly on counter several times to remove any air bubbles, and smooth top.

Bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack set over a rimmed baking sheet; let cool 15 minutes.

Serve warm or at room temperature, with whipped cream and peaches if desired.

Makes 8 servings.

Recipe adapted from: MarthaStewart.com

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by Sarah Steimer

Feb. 1 is Baked Alaska Day! I learned from an America's Test Kitchen infographic* that the cake originated in New York's famed Delmonic's restaurant to celebrate the purchase of Alaska.

I made this cake over a period of two days – packing and freezing the ice cream, along with baking the cake base. I also only made a small version of the original recipe. The bowl I used holds three cups.

For the ice cream dome

  • 1 carton of neapolitan ice cream
  • cooking spray

Spray the inside of the bowl and place plastic wrap on the inside. Allow the ice cream to soften a little. Start with one flavor, making sure not to scoop out any of the others.

Coat the inside of the bowl with one flavor, being sure to work up the sides and maintaining the same thickness. Let freeze for at least an hour. Layer the next ice cream flavor inside the first. Freeze again for at least an hour. Fill the remaining space with the last ice cream flavor and freeze for a few more hours or overnight.

For the cake

  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled (use the double boiler method)
  • 3 large egg whites, room temperature
  • pinch of salt

Combine 3 tablespoons sugar and egg yolks in a bowl with an electric mixer until pale yellow and thick for about 15 minutes – if you’re using a hand mixer and not a standing mixer, this absolutely will not happen so just go for as long as you can or until the texture is right.

Pre-meringued.

Add the vanilla and fold in chocolate, mixing just enough to combine. Set aside.

In another bowl, combine the egg whites and salt and whip with an electric mixer until frothy. Add the remaining 3 tablespoons of sugar and whip until stiff. Add the chocolate and egg yolk mixture to this egg white mixture.

Carefully pour this mixture into a prepared 8-inch cake round – which was either sprayed with cooking oil or coated with butter and flour. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, or until cake is set and top is dull. Let cool completely on a wire rack.

Place a sheet of parchment paper on a baking sheet and set the cooled cake on the sheet. Flip the ice cream half-sphere on top of the cake – you may need to borrow an extra set of hands or loosen the ice cream by running a warm cloth over the bowl. Cut the excess cake away from the ice cream sphere and remove the plastic wrap. Place back in the freezer for about an hour.

For the meringue

  • 4 egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 pinch cream of tartar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine the egg whites, sugar and tartar in a heatproof bowl. Place this bowl over a small pot of simmering water on the stove (double-boiler system). Whisk constantly until sugar is dissolved and whites are warm to the touch – about 3 to 3 1/2 minutes. Test by rubbing the mixture between your fingers.

Remove from the heat and continue whipping with an electric mixer, starting on a low speed and gradually increasing to high until stiff, glossy peaks form, about 10 minutes. Add vanilla and mix until combined.

Remove the cake from the freezer. Either pipe the meringue onto the cake with a star-shaped tip, working from the bottom-up, or spoon over the cake and swirl with a spatula. If the cake begins to melt, pop the cake in the freezer. Either way, put the cake back in the freezer while you preheat the oven to 500 degrees.

Once the oven is ready, bake the cake for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the tips are lightly brown. If you have a mini kitchen torch, use that to brown the edges instead.

I wish I could have played around with shooting this longer! But when you're working with ice cream on a randomly warm (55 degree) day in Chicago, you do what you can.

Serves about 6 – depending on slice sizes.

Recipe adapted from: Martha Stewart

*Cakes Throughout U.S. History – America’s Test Kitchen infographic

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by Caitlin Saniga

I wanted a thicker glaze for this cake, so I used less juice and added some zest. P.S. My mom has mini-Bundt cake pans, so that's what I used. (But a lower cook time is definitely needed. I'd say 40 minutes or so.)

For the cake:

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for the pan
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for the pan
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 6 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons finely grated tangerine zest, plus 2/3 cup tangerine juice (from 7 tangerines)
  • 3/4 cup orange-flavored yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the glaze:

  • 1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 teaspoons tangerine zest, plus 2 tablespoons tangerine juice (from 1 tangerine)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 12-cup Bundt cake pan. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt.

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter and granulated sugar on medium-high speed until it’s light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the tangerine zest and juice. With mixer on low, add flour mixture in three additions, alternating with two additions yogurt, and beat to combine; beat in the vanilla. Transfer batter the pan, smooth the top with the back of a spatula, and firmly tap pan on a flat surface to remove air bubbles.

Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, 55 to 60 minutes. Let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack for about 30 minutes. Invert the cake onto a rack set in a rimmed baking sheet and let cool completely. (With a serrated knife, trim cake to sit flat, if necessary.)

Make the glaze by whisking together the confectioners’ sugar and tangerine juice until smooth. Spoon the glaze over the cake and let set 1 hour. Store covered at room temperature until you serve it.

Makes 12 servings.

Recipe adapted from: Everyday Food

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It goes without saying that our mothers taught us a lot of what we know about cooking. We learned everything from how to saute onions without setting off smoke detectors, to how much raw cookie dough you can ingest before your stomach hurt (not that we listened). So in honor of our moms and obviously to outshine our siblings we each chose a recipe that was handed down to us from our mothers.

Gingerbread cake with lemon sauce

by Sarah Steimer

Gingerbread just for Christmas? Absolutely not.

Sometime during my adolescence I decided I didn’t like regular birthday cake anymore. I often chose a cake alternative: cheesecake, pie, ice cream cake and so forth. I asked for this cake a few times, a recipe my maternal grandmother made for my mom and her siblings. It may not be the exact same recipe she used, but I’m sure it’s just as good. Jameson women know how to bake — whether for six kids  and a husband or just herself.

For the cake

  • 11/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup light molasses
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter

In a bowl, combine flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, baking powder and baking soda.  Add softened butter, molasses, egg, and 1/2 cup water. Beat with an electric mixer on low to medium speed until combined. Beat on high speed for two minutes.

Mom with my little sister and a cake she made. Marth is a cake-decorating wiz. She made the kind of cakes that left other mothers wondering where she had the time and left her three girls convinced she was the favored daughter (I am, for the record).

Pour the mixture into a greased and floured 8x8x2-inch pan or a 9-inch round cake pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.  Cool on a rack for about 10 minutes.

For sauce

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 4 teaspoons butter

In a saucepan combine sugar, cornstarch and lemon peel. Stir in water and lemon juice. Cook and stir on low to medium heat until thickened and bubbly. Cook and stir two minutes more. Remove from heat and stir in butter.

Serve the cake and sauce warm. Refrigerate the sauce between uses. It will turn into a jelly-like consistency because of the cornstarch, but makes absolutely no difference in taste.

Recipe: Martha Steimer (mom)/Virginia Jameson (grandma)

Photo: Sarah Steimer

Take 5 brownies

by Caitlin Saniga

Maybe all you have on hand are stale pretzels, almonds and peanut butter... but no chocolate chips or caramel. Pop the pretzels in the oven for a few minutes to freshen them up, and chop up the almonds. Microwave the peanut butter until it's runny, and voila! A new take on toppings for Take 5 brownies. That's what my mom would do. Half the fun is experimenting!

One quality I love about my mom is her thrift. She can make something ordinary seem spectacular with a few thoughtful tweaks. Take for example her recipe for Take 5 brownies. We always had boxes of out-of-season holiday-themed brownies lying around for some reason, and we always had pantry staples like pretzels and peanut butter on hand. So one day, her sweet tooth got her thinking, and Take 5 brownies were born. Sweet and salty — these brownies never lasted more than a few hours with her three kids (me included) lingering in the kitchen.

Well, it's fitting that Mom gave me this image of her to post. 1. She's a graphic artist. 2. My sister, Holly, often makes her own darn dinner. 3. That said, Mom usually makes dessert.

  • brownies (made from a box according to package directions)
  • 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 15-25 square-shaped pretzels
  • 1/4 cup unsalted peanuts
  • 1/2 cup caramel sauce

While the brownies are baking, combine the chocolate chips, peanut butter and milk in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir continuously for 7-8 minutes, or until all ingredients have smoothly melted together. Remove from heat and set aside.

After brownies come out of the oven, let them cool about 5 minutes. Arrange pretzels over the top of the brownies. Sprinkle peanuts over the pretzels. Drizzle the chocolate-peanut-butter mixture over top, allowing it to pool in spots. Drizzle the caramel sauce over top.

Place brownies in the refrigerator for about a half-hour so the chocolate-peanut-butter mixture has a chance to set.

Serve brownies cool, at room temperature, warm, with vanilla ice cream on top, with seven different kinds of ice cream on top, with Take 5 candy bars on the side, with more chocolate sauce and whipped cream, with sprinkles, with more pretzels, or however you darn well please.

Recipe: Stephanie Saniga (mom)

Photo: Caitlin Saniga (food), Stephanie Saniga (interpretive self-portrait)

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