Category Archives: Cakes

Apple Beehive

buzzing with anticipation 4I’m not sure what Elisabeth Prueitt had in mind when she created the Apple Beehive, but my mind immediately went to Rosh Hashanah. For the Jewish New Year, it is customary to dip apples in honey to symbolize our wishes for a sweet year for family, friends and all the Jewish people. There are quite a few sweet options available for us to choose from. Why specifically apples and honey?look at those layers

In researching this question, the interpretation I discovered on the website torah.org, resonated quite strongly with me. Their insight regarding the apple part of the equation, is explained this way:
“On most fruit trees the leaves appear before the fruit, thus providing a protective cover for the young fruit. The apple, however, makes a preemptive move by appearing before the leaves. The Jewish people are compared to an apple because we are willing to live out our Jewish lives even if this seems to leave us unprotected. “

The choice of honey was brilliantly explained with this insight:
“A bee can inflict pain by its sting, yet it also produces delicious honey. Life has this same duality of potential. We pray that our choices will result in a sweet year.”

This dessert is gorgeous in its purity. Gossamer thin slices of apples are shingled with butter, cinnamon and sugar. That’s it. Nothing else. When baked, the apple slices fuse together into a sweet-tart conglomeration that belie its simplicity. This is one of those cases where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The flavours are surprisingly complex for so few ingredients.

A mandoline makes slicing the apples easy. If you have stellar knife skills, you can just use a sharp knife. Granny Smith apples are the perfect choice for this as they are tart and hold their shape when baked.slicing applesBrushing with melted butterIt really looks like a beehive before it goes into the oven.before bakingDuring baking, the apples shrink and caramelize, losing the lofty height it once had. It doesn’t quite resemble a beehive as much after baking, but this is so delicious, no one will complain. Just remember to take a before picture to show everyone!after bakingOnce the beehive comes out of the oven, brush it with some melted apricot jam to give it a glossy coat. glossy from apricot jamDelicious warm or at room temperature, it can be served plain.a naked sliceOr gild the lily and add some vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.with some whipped creamOr do as I did and drizzle it with salted caramel sauce.everything's better with salted caramelWishing you all a happy, healthy and very sweet new year.

Click here to print recipe for Apple Beehive.

 

Banana Fudge Chocolate Cake

Cake with unlit candlesWe’re not into big, full-on birthday celebrations in our house. We’re just not the partying kind of family. 4/5 of us fall squarely into introvert territory. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, as I have recently learned from a wonderful book called The Introvert Advantage.

So while we do celebrate our birthdays without much fanfare, the one thing I do insist on is a homemade birthday cake. Even if I do have to bake my own cake. Everyone in our family has their favourites. My oldest son and husband always request Almond Berry Shortbread Cake, my youngest son will accept anything with chocolate, see here, here, here, and here.

My daughter usually requests Carrot Cake with Lemon Curd Filling. However, this year when I asked her what kind of cake she wanted for her August birthday, she told me I could surprise her and make anything I wanted. She knows I love to bake new things so I’ll have fresh material for the blog. What a great daughter.

Anything I want? I was a little overwhelmed with such wide parameters. Sometimes less choice is a good thing. I turned to one of my favourite baking books for inspiration. Bobbette and Belle is filled with classic baked goods with a unique twist.

I decided on baking the Banana Chocolate Fudge Cake since my daughter loves chocolate very much. I seem to recall that her first word was chocolate. If you plan to bake this cake, and you really should, plan on baking it over 2 days to allow yourself time to enjoy the process. There are 4 component parts to the recipe.Cake and presentThere are 3 layers of dense super-moist banana cake. Note that you will require 7 ripe bananas to make this! Most banana cake recipes call for 3 ripe bananas, so we are veering into deep banana territory here.Cake with slice removed 2The 3 layers are sandwiched with a deep dark chocolate fudge frosting. Then, the whole thing is covered in a silky light chocolate buttercream. Finally, the cake is topped with a chocolate glaze that drips ever so artfully down the sides of the cake.

I made the fudge frosting and buttercream on day one and the cake layers and glaze on day two. Here’s a video showing how the whole thing was assembled.

This cake was met with rave review from everyone who got to try it.Cake with slice removed

A very happy birthday indeed!!

slice with lit candle

Click here to print recipe for Banana Chocolate Fudge Cake.

slice laying on its side

Rhubarb Upside-down Cake

3 slicesHappy Mother’s Day! I fully intended to post about this cake last week so you would have ample time to plan ahead and make this cake for your mom. But unfortunately, the ultimate mother (Mother Nature), did not cooperate. Local rhubarb only showed up at my market yesterdayfresh rhubarbThe hardest part about making this cake is arranging the rhubarb in this gorgeous chevron pattern. I have been going through a chevron phase for a few years now and I’m still not tired of it. I alternated the rows, cut side up and cut side down, for an ombre effect. Rhubarb Cable Knitbaked 1It really links like a chunky cable knit sweater! Sadly, with my poor fine motor skills, this is as close to knitting that I am ever likely to get. Arranging the rhubarb is really not that difficult to do. It just takes some planning, patience and precision. If that’s not for you, feel free to slice the rhubarb into 1/2 inch thick pieces and just scatter them on the bottom of the pan.

I created this video to walk you through the process.

If you were one of those kids that excelled at Leggo and puzzles, this will be a piece of cake for you. Once you get the main chevron pieces in place, you need to go back and fill in the top and bottom gaps with little wedges of rhubarb. For the record, I am spatially challenged, so if I can do it, anyone can. spooning batter Raw rhubarb is quite astringent, not to mention tough and fibrous. But blanket it with butter and brown sugar and it just it melts into silkiness in the oven.  The sour cream in the batter makes for a super moist cake.

Click here to print recipe for Rhubarb Upside-down Cake.

ready to serve 1

one slice

 

 

The Ultimate Gluten Free Chocolate Cake

petal cake with candles 1I AM SO EXCITED ABOUT THIS CAKE!! Sorry for the shouting, but I can’t contain my elation. As Joy would say, this cake is “Bonkers Awesome.” My search for a blog-worthy gluten free chocolate cake has been going on for quite a while now. My youngest son follows a gluten-free and casein-free diet. For special occasions he goes off the wagon, but he doesn’t feel all that great when he does. This week is his birthday and I wanted him to celebrate without feeling sick.sliced cake with glass of milkThe problem with most gluten-free cakes is that they have a dry and crumbly texture. They often fall apart when you bite into them. The main reason for this is that gluten is a protein that provides structure and strength to baked goods so they don’t crumble and fall apart. Gluten also forms air pockets in the batter which leads to light and fluffy baked goods.

The good folks over at America’s Test Kitchen have figured out how to get around these problems and created a stellar GF chocolate cake. I made the cake twice. The first one was served to my son’s co-workers at his office. No one could believe this was a GF cake. Unfortunately, I could not photograph the inside of that cake, because it would be kind of rude to serve a previously sliced up cake. I made the second cake to have at home with friends and family. To them I served a cake that had been hacked up and photographed, because that’s what you do with family.3 slicesThe cake batter comes together very quickly and does not require a mixer. I used Bob’s Red Mill 1 to 1 Baking Flour Mix. In gluten free baking, it is important to use a blend of different gluten free flours, not just one kind. Using both melted bittersweet chocolate and cocoa powder provide the perfect chocolate flavour. Baking soda and baking powder give the needed lift and xanthan gum supplies strength and structure. Xanthan gum is a common ingredient in gluten free baking. Without gluten you need something to act as the binding agent for the flour. It keeps things moist and helps to hold the cake together without crumbling.

Vegetable oil, instead of butter is the perfect fat of choice as it keeps the cake incredibly moist. I substituted coconut milk for whole milk, as I wanted my version to be dairy free. Almond or rice milk would work too.

To keep the cake super moist, I brushed the cooled cake layers with a coffee flavoured simple syrup. For the frosting, I decided to make a mocha flavoured Swiss buttercream. I substituted unsalted margarine for butter, because I wanted to keep it dairy free. While the taste and texture of margarine will never beat that of butter, in this application, with the addition of chocolate and coffee to create a mocha frosting, the results were very delicious.Ingredients for Swiss Meringue ButtercreamA Swiss buttercream is a bit more complicated than an American buttercream. In an American buttercream you simply beat powdered sugar and butter, and any flavouring you like. With a Swiss buttercream, egg whites and granulated sugar are whisked and heated to 160°F and then whipped into a meringue. Softened butter (and any flavouring) is then added to the meringue. Swiss meringue is smoother, lighter and less sweet than American buttercream. Yes, it’s more work, but I think it’s worth it. You will need a stand mixer and a candy or instant read thermometer.cooking meringuewhites and sugar whipped to stiff peaksmocha buttercreamI decided to decorate the cake with a petal frosting technique. It looks quite impressive but is actually quite simple to execute. You will need a 1/2 inch round piping tip, some disposable piping bags and a small spoon or off-set spatula. First, pipe a vertical row of dots. Next, spread the buttercream dots with a small spatula or spoon. This creates the look of petals. Repeat, one vertical row at a time, until you go all the way around the cake.petal cake 1I have demonstrated the technique in this video.

sliced cake with milk pitcher

Click here to print recipe for The Ultimate Gluten Free Chocolate Cake.

slice with milk

 

Hummingbird Cake

One SliceI made this cake to celebrate my father’s 90th birthday. Sadly, he will have to enjoy this cake vicariously, from his perch in heaven, as he died in 1999. Some may find this a bit macabre, but those who knew my dad understand that enjoying life vicariously, through others, was ingrained in his being. He got great pleasure and joy from other people’s good fortune.one slice 2Hummingbird cake is a classic Southern dessert, with Jamaican roots. The glorious trifecta of banana, pineapple and pecans meld into a moist dense cake that, once filled and frosted with a cream cheese frosting, could drive a sane person just a tad crazy. I added some unsweetened coconut to the batter because, well, coconut! All you coconut haters can leave it out. You won’t hurt my feelings. I used coconut flakes, but for a less chunky texture, you could use shredded coconut.

This cake recipe is adapted from Bobbette and Belle’s recipe for Hummingbird cupcakes.  ready to bakeNo one is quite sure how this cake got it’s moniker. Some theorize that because the cake is so sweet, loaded with sugar and fruit, that it would naturally attract hummingbirds. Others posit that the cake is so delicious, it makes people hum with happiness, like a bird.cakes coolingassembling cake 1assembling cake 2To decorate the cake I used a #8 Wilton tip to pipe a string of “pearls” around the top and bottom of the cake. I tied some gold ribbon around wooden skewers to create little flags and staggered the heights in the cake.cake and milk

Click here to print recipe for Hummingbird Cake.

Two slices