Dark, spicy gingerbread

December 26, 2010 at 3:28 pm (A (4 stars, love), Cake, Cook's Illustrated, Dessert, Fall recipes, Winter recipes)

I’ve been making this gingerbread recipe for years, but somehow I never got around to blogging about it.  But I made it last night to take to a holiday party, and someone explicitly asked me for the recipe.  It seemed a good time to finally add it to the blog.  I haven’t tried many different gingerbread recipes, so I can’t argue that this one is best.  But it makes a dark, moist, deeply flavored, very gingery cake. The recipe is from Cook’s Illustrated, but note that it’s no longer on their website.  They just published a new gingerbread recipe, which is totally different than this one.  It calls for stout, oil instead of butter, and omits the crystallized ginger, the buttermilk, and most of the spices.  The new recipe doesn’t even acknowledge the existence of the old one, and  the old one no longer seems to be available on their website. Read the rest of this entry »

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Pineapple upside down cake

February 24, 2010 at 11:47 pm (Cake, Derek's faves, Dessert, Mom’s recipes)

When I was a kid my mom used to make pineapple upside down cake quite frequently.  It was one of my brother’s favorite desserts, and he often asked for it for his birthday.  My mom made the cake in her cast iron pan, which fit exactly 6 pineapple rings around the circumference.  It was perfect, since we had 6 people in my family.  There was also one ring of pineapple in the center of the skillet–that ring always went to the birthday boy (or girl).  This recipe makes a short, fluffy cake with a hint of pineapple flavor.  But the cake is really just a carrier for  the real highlight–the caramelized pineapple rings and ooey-gooey butter/brown sugar mixture.  My mom made a vegan version of pineapple upside down cake, but below I’ve written up the non-vegan version.  Use your favorite egg and butter replacements to make it vegan. Read the rest of this entry »

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Passover apple nut cake

April 12, 2009 at 9:41 am (B_minus (2 stars, okay), Cake, Dessert, From a friend, Jewish)

A friend made this Passover apple nut cake many years ago, and I remember it being huge and fluffy and delicious.  I asked her for the recipe, but never got around to making it.  Finally, almost ten years later, I came across the recipe scribbled on a piece of paper, and decided to give it a try for Passover. Read the rest of this entry »

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Chocolate Stout Cake

February 28, 2009 at 4:51 pm (B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Cake, Dessert, Necessarily nonvegan, Website / blog)

My friends Kathy and Spoons made this chocolate stout cake a number of years ago at one of Spoon’s ten-course birthday extravaganzas.  It was such a perfect chocolate cake that it stuck in my memory all this time, and finally, last weekend, not quite five years later, I finally tried to make it myself.

I actually, for inexplicable reasons, ended up make 1.67 recipes, and it took a surprisingly long time.  Nothing was hard, but beating the batter took lots of time (and arm strength!).  Even once the batter is ready, this cake takes quite a while.  It takes 45 minutes to cook, 20 minutes to cool before glazing, then after you add the glaze the cake has to sit probably another hour at least so that the glaze sets and hardens slightly.

For the chocolate, I used a mixture of two brands.  About 2/3 was from a bar of dark baking chocolate I bought at the local biofrischmarkt.  The other 1/3 was a bar of unsweetened Scharffenberger chocolate.  For the glaze, I used about half Scharffenberger and the other half a cheap milk chocolate baking bar that we got at Rewe, the local German supermarket.  I don’t know the German word for “dutch processed” so I’m not sure whether or not I used the right kind of cocoa.  I disobeyed the instructions and used blackstrap molasses, but it wasn’t a particularly bitter brand.

I served the cake at a party and it was a big hit.  One friend said “This is the best chocolate cake I’ve had in a long, long time.”  I thought that the cake was tasty, but it wasn’t quite as good as I remembered it.  It was slightly less moist than I would have liked, even thought I cooked it for the lesser amount of time.  My oven isn’t very precise, however, so maybe the temperature was too hot.  Besides being slightly too dry, the texture was excellent, and the flavor was pretty good, but I could barely detect the beer.  The batter tasted super sweet, but the cake tasted like a not too sweet chocolate cake.  Without the glaze, it actually would have been not quite sweet enough, most people said.  Nonetheless, if I make it again I’m going to try using all unsweetened chocolate for the bar chocolate in the cake.  The glaze in particular was excellent, although I thought that the recipe made slightly too much glaze.  Unlike in the fine cooking photo, my glaze covered every square inch of cake.  Next time I’m going to cut the glaze recipe to 4 ounces of chocolate and 1/2 cup of cream.  For the second cake, I was out of sharffenberger, so I used only the Rewe milk baking chocolate, and the glaze was sickly sweet.

When I was making the glaze, I was really tempted to add a tsp. of minced jalepenos, or a little stout, or some crystallized ginger, or black pepper…. something to jazz it up a bit.  I didn’t have the nerve to experiment on so many people, but next time I’m going to be more adventurous.  If anyone else has ideas for interesting ways to jazz up the glaze, post a comment.

This recipe makes a big cake.  I forgot to count but it probably serves at least 12 people.

Update June 2011:  I made this cake to bring to a birthday party and for some reason the texture came out really strange.  The crumb was extremely fine.  Ahra said it reminded her of a cake made from rice flour.  I have no idea what caused the problem, but I didn’t care for it.  Maybe it was some difference between American and German ingredients?  Or maybe the cocoa I bought wasn’t the right kind?  (I had trouble finding a non-dutched cocoa powder and the one I ended up with said it was “lowfat.”  I thought all cocoa was lowfat (compared to chocolate), but maybe it was somehow even more lowfat than normal.

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Almond Torte with Sugared Fruit

June 14, 2008 at 10:59 am (C (1 star, edible), Cake, Dessert, My brain, Quick weeknight recipe, Website / blog)

Katrina picked a an Almond Torte with Sugared Apricots, from the blog Orangette, for our next cooking club recipe. I wasn’t too keen on the apricot idea, as they’re not my favorite fruit, and I’m trying to clean out my kitchen in preparation for my move. So instead of using apricots I decided to use frozen cranberries. Since cranberries and orange are one of my favorite combinations (I’ve been making a cranberry orange smoothie for breakfast every day this week), I also added 1 Tbs. of frozen orange juice concentrate to the batter, and drizzled another Tbs. of concentrate over the top of the cake along with the cranberries, then sprinkled with 1 Tbs. sugar. Read the rest of this entry »

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