Tag Archives: Cake

Wild Blueberry Coffee Cake

On Highway 7, in Ontario, about halfway between Perth and Madoc, there is a stretch of road, about 20 kilometers long, that is dotted with blueberry farm stands, every 2 kilometers, just like this:

I know this because we drove this route mid-July every summer for 10 years, to visit our son at camp. The first few summers we drove the route there was much discussion and bickering about which of the 10 stands would have the best wild blueberries and whether we would look too eager or desperate if we stopped at the very first stand. Then, in 2006 we made a startling discovery. All the berry stands along that stretch of highway are owned and operated by one woman – Isobel Wood. She lives in the tiny town of Cloyne, and the stands are all staffed by her kids and grandkids.

Our kids no longer go to camp but we discovered we can take that same route to visit our friends, The Monkees, at their cottage in the Muskokas. So our wild blueberry tradition is safe.

For those of you who have never tried wild blueberries, it is an experience you will not soon forget. They differ from cultivated blueberries in several ways. Wild blueberries are smaller, sweeter and more flavourful than their cultivated sister. They hold their shape, texture and colour better during baking. As an added bonus, they are higher in antioxidants. And, they are more expensive! (But so worth it)


They also sell bluebery pie and blueberry jam, but for me, the main attraction is the wild blueberries.

Of course we bought way too many blueberries, so I had to bake then into something before they ended up in the compost heap. I am not a huge blueberry pie fan, although I do recall some amazing blueberry buns from Open Window Bakery when I was growing up in Toronto. I opted for wild blueberry coffee cake.

I know that blueberry coffee cake does not sound like the most exciting dessert, but trust me on this one. This cake is moist and dense thanks to the addition of sour cream. It is studded with tons of little blueberries and the topping is a crunchy concoction made from pecans, oats, butter, brown sugar, flour and maple syrup. And the crunch from the topping is still just as crunchy on day 2, should there be any leftovers.

                                         I put together a little video showing how to prepare the crumble topping. Not that video instruction is necessary, this is a simple cake to make, but just because I am having too much fun playing around with iMovie on my new Mac!

Resist the urge to eat this immediately out of the oven. Give it at least 2-3 hours to cool. You can even make it a day ahead of time, as the flavours seem to improve. It also freezes quite well. I made it last week when we had friends visiting. Everyone was full after dinner so we each had a small piece. There was still almost 3/4 of the cake left. I wrapped it up, put it in the fridge and went to bed. When I got up in the morning only about 1/4 of the cake was left. Either I have fridge mice who know how to use a knife or someone was doing some midnight snacking. I’m not accusing, I’m just saying!

Click here to print the recipe for Wild

Blueberry Coffee Cake.

Almond Berry Shortbread Torte

 

This post is wrong, so wrong, for many reasons.  I apologize.  In the first place, hot on the heels of 8 days of cookies, I should be coming to you with healthy and good for you recipes like cauliflower salad, in order to attone for the gluttony that preceeded. In the second place, this is not berry season, for goodness sake.  The berries in the supermarket now are pale and insipid and have had to travel many miles to get to me.  I am certainly creating a huge carbon footprint with this one, and for that, I apologize again.

However, in my defense, I had to make this cake or there would be hurt feelings in my house.  This is the cake my first born requests every year for his birthday.  It’s his favourite cake and it’s not his fault he was born in December.  Blame the mother. (we get blamed for everything else!!)  This year he is turning 21.  A very big birthday which deserves a very special cake.  And this cake, while perhaps off-season now, is nothing short of spectacular.

I found this recipe many years ago in Chatelaine magazine.  I make it twice a year now, once in September, for my husband’s birthday and once in December for my son.  Some traditions you just don’t mess with.

This is a simple cake to make, essentially you make 4 giant shortbread cookies and then layer them with whipped cream and berries.  Start with creaming the butter and sugar, add the egg yolks, then add cake and pastry flour and ground almonds.

The dough gets chilled for about 30 minutes, then divided into 4 and pressed into large discs.  The wonderful thing about this cake is that the layers can be pressed into shape by with your fingers and palms, just using a rolling pin at the end to smooth out the round.  Here is a video showing how to form the layers.

While the layers are baking, get the berries ready.  I found golden raspberries, red raspberries and strawberries in the supermarket that day.  Feel free to use whatever is in season, or looks good.  This is awesome with little wild blueberries in August.

While cake layers are cooling, whip the cream.  The original recipe called for adding a few tablespoons of icing sugar to the cream but I prefer the cream unsweetened.  You get enough sweetness from the cake layers and berries.

After slicing strawberries, assemble the cake.  To keep things tidy, cut 4 layers of waxed paper and lay around the edges of the cake plate.  Put a blob of whipped cream in the center to hold the cake in place so it does not slide across the plate when carrying it into the dining room (not that this ever happened to me!).  Spread 1/4 of the cream on the first layer.  I made an orderly boarder of strawberries and then dumped more berries, haphazardly in the middle.     Continue with 2 more layers and then finish the top layer, taking care to place the berries in a decorative fashion.

 

The cake should be made several hours in advance.  Leave it in the fridge for the layers to soften a bit, so cutting it will be easier.  It is not the prettiest cake when sliced, but it is the most delicious.

To print the recipe, click here.

Happy Birthday To Me!

Every family has their own birthday traditions.  When I was growing up, birthdays were celebrated with a “Deluxe Bakery” (Deluxe was actually the name of the bakery) cake, complete with pink buttercream flowers, which my sisters and I fought over.  Now that I have my own children I let each of them choose their favourite cake and I bake it for them.  My youngest always picks chocolate.  My middle child usually selects something challenging for me to recreate.  One year it was a treasure box, another year we made a swimming pool, complete with bright blue Jell-O as the water.  My oldest, whose birthday is in December, always requests strawberry almond shortbread cake.  It’s not always easy to find great berries in the winter.

Yesterday was my birthday and I began the day by baking my own cake.  Now don’t go feeling sorry for me.  I have been baking my own cake for many years now.  When I was younger, my sister had a friend who worked at a bakery.  Every year she would bake and decorate her own birthday cake.  We always thought it was the saddest thing.  However, now that I’m grown up, I think that baking your own birthday cake is a joyous thing to do.  Think about it.  No having to be gracious and pretending to be thrilled when someone brings you a chocolate cake, when what you really wanted was carrot cake.  

Not that I would know anything about being gracious!  I am ashamed to admit that one year my good friend bought me an over the top artisan bakery creation for my birthday.  We were at my cottage for a girl’s weekend.  I told her, “Thanks, but I made my own cake for tonight.  We can serve yours tomorrow night.”  So, no I don’t get any points in the generosity of spirit category for that one, but I did get to eat my carrot cake on my birthday.

The carrot cake I’m takling about here is not your standard issue carrot cake.  I am talking about a dense, moist carrot cake with lemon curd filling and cream cheese frosting, showered with toasted coconut.  The lemon curd filling keeps it from being too cloyingly sweet, something that too many carrot cakes are guilty of.  This cake was created by my friend Pam.  This is not one of those cakes that you mix up in one bowl and then bake.  Baking it requires you to dirty pretty much every bowl, measuring cup, spoon, spatula and whisk you own.  This cake is a labour of love.

While the cake is baking, you can prepare the lemon curd filling.  After whisking sugar, eggs, lemon zest and lemon juice in the mixer until light and fluffy, the mixer bowl is then placed over a pot of simmering water and you whisk until it has thickened.   The tricky part is not making lemon flavoured scrambled eggs.  You have to know just when to take it off.  After whisking for10 minutes it has thickened a little bit.  After 20 minutes it is perfect.

Time to assemble the cake.

Here’s a neat trick for getting the coconut onto the cake.

Pam’s Carrot Cake

 Carrot cake

 2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups vegetable oil
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs
2 cups grated carrots

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Butter the inside of two 9-inch round cake pans.  Line bottom of each pan with a circle of parchment paper. 

2    Sift together flour, powder, soda, cinnamon and salt.  In an electric mixer, cream together the oil and sugar for about 5 minutes.  Add eggs, one at a time.  Mix in dry ingredients and carrots.  Do not over mix or cake will be heavy.  Pour batter into parchment lined pans.  Bake in oven for 40 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean.  Remove from oven and allow to cool completely in the pan, set on a wire cooling rack.  Turn out and remove paper before filling with lemon cream.  Cake layers can be made a day ahead. Wrap well in plastic wrap and store at room temperature.

 Lemon Cream

2 large eggs
½ cup sugar
Zest of 1 lemon
1/3 cup lemon juice (about 2 small lemons)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

  1.  In an electric mixer, whisk together the eggs and sugar until doubled in volume and very light in colour.  Mix in lemon zest and juice.

 2.  Transfer mixture to the top of a double boiler and cook over high heat until very thick, about 20 minutes.  Once the mixture has begun to thicken, stir occasionally with a wire whisk to help the eggs cook evenly.  Remove from heat.  Cut butter into small pieces and add to lemon mixture.  Stir until melted.  Set aside to cool.  Can be made a day ahead and refrigerated.

 Cream Cheese Frosting

 8 ounces cream cheese
¼ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon salt
3-4 cups icing sugar

  1. In an electric mixer, cream together the cream cheese and butter. Mix in vanilla and salt.  Mix in icing sugar and cream until smooth.

 Coconut

1 cup shredded sweetened coconut
1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut

  1. Place both types of coconut on a baking sheet and toast in a 350 degree F preheated oven for about 8 minutes until the edges are lightly golden brown.  Let cool.

 To assemble carrot cake

   1.  Set one layer on a serving platter and spread the lemon cream evenly over the cake.  Cut 4 small strips of waxed paper and slide them under each side of the cake to keep platter clean while icing.  

   2.  Cover the lemon cream with the second cake layer.  Ice the sides and then the top of the cake with the cream cheese icing.  Cover the sides of the cake with the toasted coconut; pressing gently to make sure it adheres well.  Refrigerate until serving time.