Monday, September 6, 2010

Pina Colada Layer Cake

I was looking for a good end of summer desert to make and since we were having friends over for pork bbq I wanted something big enough to feed all of us. I had a couple of rum cakes in mind, but I decided to flip through my book Sky High -- Irresistible Triple Layer Cakes since I had not used it before even though I have owned it for several months now. The Pina Colada Cake struck me as perfect. Pineapple, coconut, and rum all in triple layer cake form.

There were a lot of steps to making this cake, but it wasn't difficult at all. The cakes themselves are a simple brown sugar cake recipe, although with one of the strangest mixing methods I have seen. The filling is a pineapple jam that you make using sugar, lime juice, canned pineapple and vanilla bean. It takes a while to cook down to the right consistency, but the process is easy enough. The original recipe called for a cooked buttercream frosting using coconut milk and coconut extract but I didn't want to deal with a finicky frosting, so I made a regular buttercream using butter, powdered sugar, a couple tablespoons of coconut milk, and a tsp of coconut extract. The trick to getting a butter/powdered sugar buttercream frosting silky and smooth is to sift the powdered sugar and add it to the butter slowly -- a tablespoon at a time. It's time consuming, but worth it.

Brown Sugar Cake:
3 3/4 cups cake flour
1 3/4 tsps baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/4 cups light brown sugar
2 sticks unsalted butter at room temp
1 3/4 cup buttermilk
5 eggs
2 tsps vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350. Spray 3 9-inch round cake pans with baking spray (or butter and sprinkle with flour).

Put the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in the bowl of a large mixer. Mix on low and then add the brown sugar, butter, and 1 1/2 cups of the buttermilk. Mix on low until everything is incorporated, then increase the speed to medium and mix until light and fluffy -- about 2 or 3 minutes.

Whisk the eggs with the remaining 1/4 cup buttermilk and the vanilla and add to the flour butter mixture in three additions, allowing the eggs to fully incorporate before adding the next addition. Divide the batter between the three pans.

Bake 25-28 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes in the pans and then turn our to cool completely. You may have to trim the tops of the cakes to level them off some.

Pineapple Filling
20 oz crushed pineapple in juice (no sugar added)
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1 one-inch vanilla bean, split in half

Combine the crushed pineapple, sugar, and lime juice in a large nonreactive skillet. With the top of a small knife scrape the vanilla seeds from the bean and add them and the bean itself to the pot. Warm over medium-low heat stirring to dissolve the sugar.

Raise the heat to medium and simmer, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching, until the juices have almost completely evaporated and the pineapple has a jam-like consistency Remove from heat and discard the vanilla pod. Let the filling cool completely before using.

Coconut Buttercream
2 sticks butter at room temp
3 1/2 -4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
2 tablespoons coconut milk (or heavy cream if you don't want to use coconut milk)
1/2 tsp coconut extract (you might use more extract if you don't use coconut milk -- basically just add 1/2 tsp and add more if you want a more assertive coconut flavor)

Put the butter in a large mixing bowl and beat on medium speed until the butter is smooth. Add the powdered sugar one spoonful at a time and let each spoonful fully incorporate before adding the next. It will take a long while to get through this process, but the resulting texture is worth it. Once all the sugar is mixed in add the coconut milk and coconut extract and mix completely. If the frosting looks runny at all add more powdered sugar slowly until you get a soft, silky frosting.

2/3 cup rum (dark, amber, light -- whatever you like best)
coconut flakes

To assemble the cake place one layer flat side up on a cake stand or serving platter. Brush the cake with 3 generous tablespoons of rum. Spread half the pineapple filling over the layer, leaving a 1/4 inch margin around the edge. Add the second layer, sprinkle with more rum and then the remaining pineapple jam. Top with the third layer, flat side up and sprinkle with the remaining rum. Frost the top and the sides of the cake with the coconut buttercream. Decorate the cake by pressing coconut flakes to the side. You can also toast the coconut for a more dramatic finish -- just spread the coconut on a baking sheet and put in a 350 degree oven. Watch it carefully because the coconut burns quickly. When some of it is brown it's ready.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cake

I don't have a picture for this recipe since I didn't intend to post the recipe. However, I had a request for the recipe and if I'm going to type the recipe into the computer I might as well put it on the blog where I can find it again easily.

This recipe came from a book in the stack of books I recently bought (scroll down for the pic) -- Cake Keepers Cakes. When I was looking for a recipe I wanted something quick and easy and I wanted chocolate. This recipe looked interesting since the description said it reminded her of her favorite oatmeal chocolate chip cookie recipe and I was definitely okay with that. The cake had an interesting texture from the cooked oatmeal and it was moist and flavorful. It also kept quite well. My husband had it on his desk for 3 days at work and it was still fine on day 3, in fact possibly a little better on day 3 than on day 1.

1 cup rolled oats (not quick-cooking)
3/4 cup boiling water
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsps baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup finely chopped walnuts or pecans

Place the oats in a heatproof bowl. Pour the boiling water over the oatmeal. Let stand until cool. (I stuck mine in the fridge for 15-20 minutes)

Preheat the oven to 350. Grease an 8-inch square baking pan and dust with flour. (I used the pam baking spray).

Combine te flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt in a medium mixing bowl.

Combine the butter and sugars in a large mixing bowl and cream with an electric mixer on medium high speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl once or twice as necessary. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat until smooth. Stir in the oats.

With the mixer on low speed add the flour mixture 1/2 cup at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition. Stir in the chocolate chips and nuts.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a rubber spatula. Bake the cakes until it's golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean about 50 to 55 minutes. Let the cake cool in the pan for about 10 minutes. You can turn it out of the pan after that and dust it with powdered sugar, or serve from the pan which is what I did.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Chocolate Chip Almond Chunk Cookies

Do you ever get focused on a flavor combination and you just can't get it out of your head? I was flipping through my new David Lebovitz book (My Best Desserts) and I saw an awesome looking recipe for almond chocolate chunk biscotti. However, it was the middle of the work week and biscotti, no matter how awesome looking, just seemed like too much work. But by then I had that flavor combo stuck in my head (kind of like that Kylie Minogue song... "can't get you out of my head.")

So I decided to make some chocolate chip cookies to take care of the problem. I considered several different versions of chocolate chip cookies, but finally opted for one that seems to consistently come out perfect -- the Carole Walter's Great Cookie book version where you grind oatmeal up in the food processor along with the sugars. I usually opt for an easier version than these since I hate washing the food processor, but I had already talked myself out of the biscotti out of laziness so I figured washing the food processor was something I (or the dishwasher) could handle.

The original recipe called for 1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts, but since I had almonds on the brain I chopped up whole roasted almonds and used them instead. Since I had almonds on the brain, I added a 1/4 tsp of almond extract and made sure to leave plenty of nice big chunks of almonds so that the almond flavor would come through. The almonds I had were the unsalted variety, but I think the salted ones would make awesome cookies too with that salty/sweet combination that was so popular last year.

3/4 cup lightly packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup oatmeal
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 3/4 cup all purpose flour, spooned in and leveled
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, slightly firm
2 tbsps corn syrup
1 lage egg
2 tsps vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips (I used a whole bag of ghiradelli 60% chips)
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped almonds

Preheat oven to 350.

Place the sugars and the oatmeal in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the oatmeal is ground fine.

In a small bowl stir together the flour, baking soda, and salt.

In the bowl of an electric mixer cream the sugar with the corn syrup until smooth and creamy. Add the sugar/oatmeal mixture and mix cream until fluffy -- about 2 minutes. Add the egg and extracts, scraping down the bowl as needed until everything is mixed together. Add the dry ingredients and mix until they just disappear. Finally add the nuts and chips and mix until they are blended in.

Drop mounds of dough (I use a small cookie scoop) on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper, and bake for 10-11 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through. Let them cool on the pan until they are firm enough to handle, then move to cooling racks and let them finish cooling completely.

Sour Cream-Blueberry Crumb Cake

When we had our housewarming party a few weeks ago a couple of our friends gave us a coupon for a Costco membership. Before we bought the new house we simply didn't have room for bulk items that we would be buying at Costco, but in the new house we had plenty of room. We had talked off and on about getting a card for ourselves, but kept putting it off since with just the two of us in the house it seemed kind of pointless and we always had something better to spend $50 on. But since the membership was a gift it was perfect. Something we kind of wanted, but didn't want to spring for ourselves.

Of course once we got sucked into the world of Costco we quickly found things to spend all sorts of money on. One thing that jumped out at me of course was berries. The only big problem was the size of the packages. I love to eat blueberries, but that container still contains a whole lot of blueberries for one girl to try to eat in a week. Luckily, that what baking books are for. :)

Even though I had a ton of blueberries to use up, I didn't want to make a recipe that called for more than a cup or so since I actually wanted to eat most of them as a snack at work. So I hit the books and came up with this recipe from my Tish Boyle cake book. The only difference I made was to add pecans to the crumb topping -- really, a crumb topping without nuts of some sort? Not for me. So I added 2/3 of a cup -- why such an odd measurement? Because that's what was left in the bottom of the open bag I had.

I had a piece of this cake and I have to say it was quite good. Sweet and moist with tart bursts of berries and a nice crunchy spicy crumb topping. Chris brought it to his office to share with his coworkers and he said it was met with universal approval.

I have to admit though, that despite the fact that I faithfully wrote out the directions as they were written in the cake, when I made it I took a few shortcuts -- mainly because I didn't want to wash so many dishes. Instead of mixing the flour and dry ingredients in one bowl and the sour cream and vanilla in yet another bowl then alternating them into the creamed sugar and egg mixture --I added the vanilla to the creamed mixture, then dumped the dry ingredients into the bowl. Finally I started the mixer on low and threw the sour cream mix in as it started. Lazy I know, but it seemed to work.


Crumb Topping:
1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp salt
7 tablespoons butter, melted
2/3 cup (or more) nuts of your choice (not in the original recipe, but essential as far as I'm concerned)

Sour Cream Blueberry Cake
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/4 tsps baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup fresh or unthawed frozen blueberries
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 tsps vanilla extract
10 tbsps unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs

Make the Topping: In a medium bowl, stir the flour, sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt until well blended. Add the nuts if you are using them. Add the melted butter and mix with a fork, stirring until the butter is absorbed and the dry ingredients are uniformly moistened. Set aside.

Make the cake: Preheat the oven to 350. Butter and flour the bottom and sides of a 9-inch square baking pan.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt until well blended.

In a medium bowl, toss the blueberries with 1 tablespoon of the flour mixture until the berries are coated; set aside. In a small bowl, whisk together the sour cream and vanilla extract, set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, using the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and granulated sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy, 4 to 5 minutes. Beat in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. At low speed, beat in the flour mixture in three additions, alternating it with the sour cream in two additions. Using a rubber spatula fold in the blueberries. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a spatula. Sprinkle the crumb topping evenly over the batter, breaking up any large lumps with your fingers.

Bake the cake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 45 minutes. place the pan on a cooling rack and let cool completely. Serve from the pan.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Peanut Butter Fingers

Tomorrow is Friday and that seemed as good a reason as any to bake something. However, since it was already 5 pm when I had this idea, I wanted something quick and easy. I very nearly went with yet another bundt cake, just because I love them, but in the end I decided to vary things up a bit and started looking for another option. However, since I also wanted to use one of my new books I was still a bit limited in my options. In the end,after considering and rejecting several options, I ended up coming back once again to the book All Cakes Considered. In the back of the book she has a short section of recipes other than cakes, including a super simple option for peanut butter bars. At first I nearly dismissed them as yet another variation on peanut butter blondies, but then I noticed that the recipe also called for oatmeal which really intrigued me. Plus did I mention they were super simple and easy? Because they are. You can't get much more basic than this actually.

And, as an added bonus, the batter tasted like the innards of a butterfinger. Yum. I did change the recipe a touch though since I added 1/2 cup of mini chocolate chips to the recipe. I just really like chocolate with my peanut butter. And since I'm the one doing the baking I figure it's my prerogative to add whatever I want. So I did.

In the end these are pretty darn good. Especially considering the simplicity of the recipe. Do they make me swoon? No. But they will satisfy your sweet tooth on short notice, especially if you are craving peanut butter. And of course chocolate improves most things. :)

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter at room temp
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 large egg
1/3 cup crunchy peanut butter
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup old fashioned oats
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips (optional -- not in the original recipe, but I always like chocolate with my peanut butter)

Grease a 9 inch square pan with baking spray. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

With a mixer, cream the butter and the two sugars until light and fluffy. Add the egg and beat well. Add the peanut butter, then the vanilla extract and beat until well combined.

In a small bowl mix the flour, baking soda, and salt. Pour the mix into the peanut butter mix and beat until the flour disappears. Mix in the oatmeal (and chocolate chips if you are using them).

Bake for 20 minutes or until they look set in the middle. Cool for 10 minutes in the pan before attempting to unmold them.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Paula Deen's Almond Sour Cream Pound Cake

When I left my job where I worked 12-hour shifts, the team of people I worked with gave me two very generous gift cards. One was for Ann Taylor where I buy most of my clothes, and the other was for Amazon. The gifts from them were particularly generous in part because for the 20 months I worked with all of them I baked something for each and every shift (well... except that one which they never let me forget.) Therefore, when I got the Amazon card I decided to spend every single penny on baking books. Because I could. And I wanted to. And here is what I bought:

I also inscribed each of them with the team motto on the inner cover (Team 3: We build no egos) just so I would always remember where those particular books came from. I have been excited about all of the books, but by far my favorite so far is one I had never heard of: All Cakes Considered by Melissa Gray. In fact, since buying that beautiful stack of books, I haven't used any of the other books -- I keep coming back to that one.

This recipe came from that book, but was attributed (as the title shows) to Paula Deen. Most of the time when I make a Paula Deen recipe I feel like should refer to her as "she who shall not be named" since my friend Burkie, who frequently partakes of my baking, just can't stand the woman. His hatred of Paula Deen is pretty much as complete and thorough as my hatred of Martha Stewart. At least Paula's recipes work most of the time and taste good, which is why I'm usually willing to give them a try, despite Burkie's hatred. (Unlike Martha who I have banned from the house with only a few far and in between exceptions.)

One thing about this recipe is that the mixing instructions for this cake are very odd. Instead of creaming the sugar and butter and then adding the eggs one at a time, followed by the extracts, and then alternating the dry mixture and sour cream -- which is standard -- you cream the butter and sugar, then add all the sour cream, and then alternate the flour with the eggs, and ending with the extracts. Weird. I'm so used to making cakes the first way I listed, that I very nearly didn't even read the instructions before I started adding the eggs.

I'm not quite sure what exactly happened to this cake in the oven, but I suspect the mixing technique had something to do with it. When I pulled the cake from the oven I started laughing because the center of the cake had risen quite a lot more than the outer edges. The good news is that something like that does not affect flavor at all. In fact, it gave it a bit of a crispy shell along those parts and I do love me some crispy cake shell. Overall, strange middle aside, the cake was moist with a nice almond crunch and flavor, and I can see repeating it in the future. However, while I would make this cake again, I actually have a similar recipe from my Tish Boyle Cake Book that I liked a bit more -- her Cherry-Almond Cream Cheese Pound Cake. However, I have not blogged about that particular cake so I suppose I now have an excuse to make it again.

1 cup sliced almonds, toasted
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter at room temp
3 cups sugar
1 cup sour cream
3 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
6 large eggs
1/2 tsp orange extract
1/2 tsp almond extract

Preheat the oven to 325. Put the almonds on a rimmed baking sheet while the oven is pre-heating and toast for 3 minutes. Pull them out and toss them around a bit, then put them back in the oven for 3 more minutes until aromatic and slightly golden. Spray a 12-cup bundt pan or 10-cup tube pan with baking spray.

Cream the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer and slowly add the sugar. Add the sour cream and beat until smooth.

In a separate bowl mix the flour and the baking soda together.

Add 1/2 cup of the flour mixture to the creamed mixture and beat until blended. Add 1 egg, then beat until blended. Repeat until all the flour and eggs are mixed in.

Add the orange extract and the almond extract and beat until blended into the batter.

Using a wooden spoon or spatula fold in the toasted almonds.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 1 hour 20 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.

Cool the cake in the pan for 10 minutes. Carefully unmold it and allow it to cool completely on a cake rack.

Dust lightly with powdered sugar.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Brown Sugar Bundt Cake

It has been a really long time since I have blogged regularly... and I'm not sure it's going to stick this time around. But I am back to working regular 8-hour shifts, Monday through Friday, rather than rotating 12-hour shifts so I figured I would give it a try.

I chose this particular recipe to get started with for a couple of reasons. The big reason was that I had two sorry looking pears sitting on my counters and I really needed to use them up. I looked over several cake recipes that called for pears but this one won the day because it called for exactly two pears (which is what I had) and it made a bundt cake which is sturdy enough to transport to work via bicycle. It also didn't hurt any that it was a Dorie Greenspan recipe from Baking From My Home To Yours that I haven't actually made before.

As for flavor... all I can say is... "oh wow that is good. holy crap! I can't believe how moist and flavorful and wonderful it is ! Why oh why did I ever wait so long to make this recipe? So good." And I don't even like hazelnuts. One thing that probably makes this such a winner for me is the ground nuts in the recipe. I really, really like the texture difference in a cake with ground nuts in it. In fact, probably one of my favorite recipes of all time is a rum glazed walnut torte that I have made several times now. So despite the fact that hazelnuts don't do much for me, the texture that the ground nuts added to cake more than made up for the fact that hazelnuts are not something I actually like all that much.

2 1/4 all purpose flour
1/2 cup ground hazelnuts or walnuts
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 sticks unsalted butter at room temp
2 cups packed light brown sugar
3 large eggs at room temp
1 1/2 tsps vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract
1 cup buttermilk at room temp
2 medium pears, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/4 inch dice
1/2 cup moist, plump prunes, snipped into 1/4 inch pieces

powdered sugar for dusting

Preheat the oven to 350. Spray a bundt pan with baking spray, or coat with butter and dust with flour.

In a small bowl stir together the flour, ground nuts, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

With a mixer, cream together the butter and the brown sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes on medium speed. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the extracts. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add half the flour, then half the buttermilk. Let it mix for just a few beat, then add the rest of the flour, then the rest of the buttermilk. Once the flour has all disappeared, stop the mixer. Fold in the pears and the prunes with a spatula.

Pour the cake batter into the prepared cake pan and bade for 60 minutes. If the top is getting too brown cover it with foil. It is done when it has begun to pull away from the sides of the pan and a cake tester comes out clean. Transfer to a rack and cool for 10 minutes, then unmold and let cool to room temperature.

When you are ready to serve dust with powdered sugar.