Category Archives: Cakes

Cider Glazed Apple Bundt Cake

with whole and sliced applesI happen to have a surplus of apples, so we’re baking apple cake around here this week. I have my go-to my favourite apple cake recipe, but I was intrigued by this recipe from the September issue of Cook’s Illustrated magazine. In addition to the apples in the batter, they added apple cider to the batter and glaze. A full litre of apple cider is reduced down to one cup to really concentrate the flavour.

The recipe fills a large 12 cup bundt pan, but because I can’t resist anything mini, I used my bundlette pan. I also made a small loaf with the leftover batter. loaf and minissingle miniThe batter comes together quickly. You don’t even have to bust out the mixer.

The baked cake gets brushed with some of that reduced cider and the remaining cider is mixed with icing sugar to create a yummy glaze.drizzling glaze 1

Click here to print the recipe for Cider Glazed Apple Bundt Cake.

with tea

 

Caramel Honeycomb Birthday Cake

make a wishRegular readers of this blog know that I bake my own birthday cake every year. My girlfriend Paula learned this the hard way. I am still apologizing to her for my rudeness!

My birthday cakes are usually multi-recipe, all day baking extravaganzas. It’s my birthday present to myself. I get exactly what I want and I get to spend time alone, baking in my kitchen, my happy place3 slices of cakeThis year’s cake was inspired by a trip to Charleston South Carolina we took with our friends The Grizzlies. One of the highlights of our weekend was a cooking class with Chef Vinson Petrillo at The Zero George Hotel, a charming 16 room boutique hotel. Chef Vinson is a recent transplant to the Charleston area. Originally from New Jersey, he honed his craft in New York. When I asked him what brought him to Charleston, he replied simply, “My wife wanted kids.” Chef PetrilloThey are now the proud and very busy parents of two little ones, aged 1 and 2. As I observed Chef Vincent during our 3-hour class it became obvious to me that he must be an excellent dad. He handled all our questions and comments with great patience and equanimity!

For the first course, he cooked butternut squash by the sous vide technique. He followed that up by sauteeing it in brown butter and finally topped it with torched marshmallow. Sort of a glorified sweet potato casserole but so much better.

For the main course, he prepared sauteed snapper. Watching him cook and plate the food was just a joy. His passion for and knowledge of the ingredients were obvious.

The dessert course was a Chocolate Cremeux, essentially a chocolate pudding, topped with big shards of honeycomb. My iPhone photo does not do it justice.chocolate cremeaux with honeycombIf you’ve ever had a Crunchie chocolate bar or sponge toffee, you know what Honeycomb is. Essentially, you make caramel and add baking soda at the end to produce a bubbly toffee confection. This honeycomb topping was the inspiration for my birthday cake.honeycombBefore he began cooking, Chef Vinson emphasized the importance of “mise en place”. Read through the recipe, measure and chop all your ingredients and set out all pans and tools you need before you start cooking. Nowhere is this more important than in the preparation of honeycomb.

You will need a candy thermometer and a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silpat sheet. The process goes quickly, so don’t walk away from the stove. Chef Patrillo left his honeycomb unadorned, but I dipped the corners of mine in bittersweet chocolate and sprinkled them with a bit of flaky sea salt because that’s the way we roll around here!

 

For the cake, I turned to Brian Hart Hoffman’s book “Bake From Scratch.” I thought his classic golden cake with buttermilk would be a perfect base for honeycomb.cake ingredientsadding eggsbatter in cake pansI filled and covered the cake with a salted caramel buttercream.piping icingWith a cup of tea or a glass of milk, this indulgent cake is the perfect way to celebrate a birthday.with a cup of teawith a glass of milk

Click here to print the recipe for Caramel Honeycomb Birthday Cake.

a slice taken out of the cake

 

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