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Tag: cake (page 1 of 2)

Saying Bon Voyage: Coconut Mango Cake

As I was saying last week, there are few of life’s circumstances that aren’t improved by cake. Even the kind of crappy things can be made less so with the judicious application of, you guessed it, cake.

Last weekend I again found myself deploying cake to make a bittersweet goodbye a little less bitter and a little more sweet. On Saturday, we bid a fond farewell to a friend moving to Chicago. I’m very sad to see them go, of course, even though it’s for an excellent new job in an exciting new city. Obviously, a cake was necessary. And, while the savories focused primarily on their new home (mini deep dish pizzas, Chicago dogs, etc.), I looked to our friend’s Filipino origins to inspire the bon voyage cake.

With that “tropical” memo in mind, I started with two layers of coconut cake–replacing the milk with coconut milk and folding in some shredded coconut–then sandwiched them around a layer of mango pastry cream. A marshmallow-y seven-minute frosting got coated in more coconut and topped with thinly sliced mango. It looked very pretty and was quite a hit with everyone, even those that got the leftovers the day after!

While the cake itself was pretty rad, with a moist, bouncy crumb and a distinct but not overpowering coconutty-ness, I was not super thrilled with the mango pastry cream. It was a lot of work for not a lot of payoff. Mango just seems like one of those flavors whose potency wanes dramatically the further you get from the raw fruit. Maybe steeping the peels in the milk would impart some of their sharp, jungly funk, but I’m going to recommend a passionfruit curd filling instead. That’s a flavor that holds up, and would be really great with the cake and fresh mango topping.

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The Skeptical Yankee Bakes: Red Velvet Cake

Confession time: I have always looked very much askance at red velvet cake, particularly the modern version currently en vogue, like, everywhere. You see, what had historically been a tribute to the creativity and good taste of Southern bakers challenged with stretching their ingredients as far as they would go–deliciously–has now largely become a red-dyed monstrosity that’s purely an excuse to eat poorly made cream cheese frosting… with confectioner’s sugar. *CAKERAGE*

Whew, ok, breathing… Ahem.

Right, but as I was making preparations for our aforementioned Southern vegetarian new year’s day dinner, my original plan to make pies got tossed RIGHT out the window when I realized that we were expecting 25-30 guests. I only had a day to bake and so needed something delicious and monumental that would take less time that sixty-badillion pies. So… cake. And Southern. Red Velvet was the obvious choice. Adored. Emblematic. Problematic. Frig.

If I was going to make it, I was going to make it right, and it was going to be good. How fortunate, then, that I found the perfect recipe courtesy of Julie Richardson. A northerner like myself, she’d shared my skepticism over the edibility of red velvet cakes as well but included a recipe in her new book, Vintage Cakes.

And, fiiiine, it’s a good cake. Rich and moist, with a bouncy, even crumb and a nice lactic tang from the buttermilk that enhances the cocoa flavor. The latter is of particular importance because red velvet cakes were originally CHOCOLATE cakes, with the redness emerging from the ph reactions in the batter. So, hooray for a cake that tastes like something other than, you know, red 40. That said, I did feel compelled to add the requisite food coloring, not wanting to rain on anyone else’s parade. Hrmph.

For the party, I doubled the recipe and baked it in two 9″ x 13″ pans (slightly decreasing the baking powder to prevent cratering). The version below hews to the original proportions and will produce two 9″ rounds. I also swapped in my standard–and AWESOME–white chocolate cream cheese frosting for Richardson’s mascarpone version. The combo was pretty awesome, and there was veeeery little cake left. Always a good sign, even for this skeptical Yankee.

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PF Investigates a Louisiana Treasure: Morganza Cake

Every so often, when the river of life tosses you up on some strange, foreign shore, it then has the kindness to ensure that you’ve washed up near the best sort of locals (the ones that’ll point you to the best bar in town). And so it was several years ago that I was lucky enough to make the delightful acquaintance of some lovely ladies from Baton Rouge. Entrusted to make sure that my industry’s major annual conference went off without a hitch, they managed that task with aplomb and with plenty of energy to spare… which is a good thing since the Ladies know how to par-tay.

I have since had the good fortune  to see the Ladies once a year or so, but thanks to the miracles of modern technology (aka Facebook) I get regular updates on their excitingly exotic (for me, at least) goings on down in Cajun country. There always seems to be a celebration or a bake sale or a huuuuge pot of pastalaya a-stir for one cause or another. It was in a post about a bake sale that mentioned a Morganza cake, and how someone should make one as it always sells out.

A cake, you say? That always sells out at Louisiana bake sales? Color me VERY interested. After a little Google-fu, I’d learned that Morganza cake, named after the town (and/or spillway) in Pointe Coupee Parish from whence it came, is a devil’s food cake with a just as devilish praline frosting. Clearly something worth further, immediate investigation. I only turned up one recipe, courtesy of the Baton Rouge Advocate, but that was enough.

Directions in my hot little hands, I made for the kitchen with all due haste. The recipe, though, did leave a few things to be desired, I thought. It called for a cake mix chocolate cake. Oh no, I think not. Pecans were “optional” and I ended up sticking a good 3c in. There was no salt either, an omission that I rectified right quick and really makes the praline sing–even if it’s not strictly traditional. Finally, I tossed a little bourbon into the mix as well… because, well, BOURBON. Duh.

Not wanting to have anything to do with a boxed mix, I turned to Dorie Greenspan for a nicely textured, well-flavored devil’s food cake. Hers gets dotted with chips and split in four before getting frosted with a marshmallow icing, but the moist, tender crumb and deeply chocolate flavor is a perfect foil for the slightly more robust but just as sweet praline frosting.

Having made this twice–once for a crowd of 50 and once for a much more reasonable potluck of eight, I can say that this one is indubitably a keeper. The refrain at the big party went something along these lines: “WHAT is this?!” in very rewardingly awed tones.

Cheers to the Ladies, and I’ll look forward to cutting them a slice real soon.

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Art Cakes Mark 90th Birthday of the Phillips Collection

Hooray for knowing talented people that do really cool things! Over the weekend some friends and I hit the Phillips Collection. While it’s a lovely museum, famed for its classily eclectic collection of fine arts–particularly its Renoir and Rothkos–I will admit that I was there for the cakes. Cakes produced at the behest of the PC by local restaurant pastry chefs in honor of the Collection’s 90th birthday and the reopening of the mansion after a fire last year.

Some of the cakes were lovely, others less so (he sniffed judgmentally). Some drew inspiration from the Collection, some… clearly didn’t? Of course, it’s at this point I realize that I haven’t even pretended to be a journalist since college, so I don’t really have the facts I should have. And, since I am still working towards a cordial relationship with my camera, I didn’t manage to capture that many decent photos either. (In my defense, the gallery was optimized for the art on the walls, not the cakes. Yeah, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.) Nevertheless, here’s what I managed to salvage from our very lovely little adventure… next time I promise to take both notes AND decent photos.

More important (if less expertly captured) than the two above images is the cake and inspirational painting of our friend Kevin Boxx, pastry chef at Domaso in Rosslyn. Gorgeous. I love the Rothko-y base cakes, and the white chocolate topper echoes the sitter’s lacy ruffle perfectly. In short, *squeeee* Even had I not been partisan, this would most likely have been my favorite, as it managed to be elegantly and evocatively linked to pieces from the collection in addition to being quite stunning on its own. If you saw some of the OTHER cakes, you’d be even more impressed.

Operation Birthday: Chocolate Malted Milk Ball Cake

Why heeeello there, Elphie! (Don’t ask; I don’t even get it…) It’s been rawther a while, yes, but I’ve been busy adjusting to single-bloggerdom and trying to get my snazzy new camera to take photos–a total failure so far, but more on that later.  In addition to the aforementioned tasks and, you know, WORK, I’ve also been pumping out a broad array of baked goods and cocktail nibbles for all and sundry for what seems like a very busy few months.  And I’ve not written about ANY of them. I am a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad blogger–particularly since some of this stuff has been goooooood.

This birthday cake in particular. Made for a dear friend fresh off a grueling summer of Arabic study in Damascus, she was in dire need of friends, booze, and cake–all things slightly hard to come by in Syria.  I was more than happy to oblige on all counts. Though, it must be said that Charles Shaw and I are no longer on speaking terms… that perfidious bastard. ANYWAY, the cake. Super, super delicious if I do say so myself.  And I do.

The cake: chocolate stout cake–richly chocolate with a moist, open crumb and a subtle depth from the stout. There’s a reason this is one of epicurious’ most-searched recipes. The filling: my go-to white chocolate cream cheese frosting, spiked with malt and crushed milk balls–first crunchy, then gooey, it’s good no matter when you eat it. The frosting: Rose‘s awesome milk chocolate buttercream. It’s fabulous on it’s own, but with a little malt, amazing. And since it doesn’t have a sugar syrup like most buttercreams, it’s pretty easy too.

The secret ingredient: Asian-spec Ovaltine. The “plain malt” version of U.S. Ovaltine isn’t right–too diluted with other crap (sugar, questionable chocolate, ech…). We just want the malt here, please. The unadulterated kind can be found most easily in larger Asian markets. I got mine at HMart. It’s not diluted with cocoa or anything, packs a powerful malty punch on its own, and adds an authentically Malteaser-y flavor to both the filling and the frosting.

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Resisting Lemon Verbena…

LemonVerbenaIs impossible. One whiff of its beautiful scent and you know immediately you must do something with it. But what?

Make a simple syrup and go from there. You could drizzle it on pound cake or make a lovely gin/vodka fizzy drink for the warmer months. Here’s a nice Pear-Lemon Fizz recipe from The Stewart.

Random thought: I’ve always hated the name, “pound cake.” Seriously, doesn’t it sound like “great, big, fat person” food?

Yeah, back to Verbena. It is too gorgeous of a scent to pass up as I found the other day at the farmers market.  Again, Must. Do. Something.

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Operation Birthday Cake: White Chocolate Cheesecake

whitechoccheesecake2This is one of those things that I make that I don’t actually eat. Sure, I’ve licked a spatula on its way to the sink, but I’ve never had a piece myself. Regular cheesecake is on my list of “Will Cause Ugly Death” food items so this version, with its chocolate cookie crust, impossibly rich white chocolate center, and deep dark ganache top is DEFINITELY verboten. But, I continue to make it as it is quite the show stopper.

And, in offering to bake the cake for a good friend celebrating his birthday with a brunch at the Tabard Inn this past weekend, I definitely needed a showstopper. A man of distinguished tastes, big ambitions, and prodigious appetites, his birthday cake would have to be something hardcore decadent. Initially, the word was “chocolate”. Good to go. But he got extra points for amending that to “WHITE chocolate” in deference to his lovely wife. And with that, I knew this was it, THE birthday cake for Big Daddy. Perfect.

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That Cake…


Hi there. I know we’ve been “baking happy” this week but I thought I’d add to the bounty and post the cardamom-vanilla pound cake recipe I made for Easter that many of you have asked about. It’s been on my mind as my mom called yesterday and asked for the recipe. It’s here, courtesy of the late Gourmet magazine (sniff. sob. wail. moan), below the fold.

A few things to keep in mind to really make this a remarkable cake.

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