Tag Archives: Cake

A Bundt Cake for 2011

Happy New Year!  Well…almost.  Before I head out to ring in 2011, I’m putting up the first of several treats I whipped up today.  I wound up in charge of dessert for the party I’m going to, so I decided to do one “fruity” thing and one chocolatey one.  For the first, I put together a banana cake with caramel icing.  The recipe book in which I found this (my trust Southern Cook Book) suggests using a loaf or layer pan, but I love bundt cakes and I figured this dense banana-filled batter would cook well in a bundt pan.  I topped it off with a few caramelized bananas and some burnt sugar shards (I got the latter idea from Baked Explorations).  Yum!  See you next year, with more treats!

Banana Cake with Caramel Icing (Makes one bundt cake – 10 or so servings)
(The Southern Cook Book: “from Mrs. R.E. Donnell, from Home Tried Recipes, Americus, GA”)

1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. butter, room temperature
3 large ripe bananas, mashed
2 eggs, room temperature
1/2 c. buttermilk
1/2 tsp. soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
2 c. flour

For the caramel icing:
3/4 c. granulated sugar
3/4 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. cream
1 tbsp. butter

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.** Grease and flour a 12-cup bundt pan.
2. Cream butter, sugar, and bananas together (I used a paddle attachment on my mixer); add eggs one at a time.
3. Dissolve the soda in the buttermilk and blend into the butter-sugar-egg mixture.
4. Sift the flour and baking powder together and add gradually, with the mixer on low.
5. Bake for __ until a tester comes out clean. I know you’re impatient, but let the cake cool before unmoulding or it’ll fall apart when you’re removing it from the bundt pan.
6. Make the icing while the cake cools: Cook sugar and cream together until it forms a soft ball when dropped in cold water, remove from stove, add butter, and beat well before spreading on cake.

To caramelize bananas for decoration: Slice a banana.  Melt a pat of butter in a non-stick pan over medium heat and mix a couple of tablespoons brown sugar in with a spatula.  Add the bananas and cook for a minute or two on each side, until a tiny bit brown.

To make burnt sugar shards: Place 1/2 a cup of sugar in a small sauce pan and mix in 1 teaspoon water, so it takes on a sandy texture.  Melt the sugar over high heat until it reaches a medium-dark amber color, then cool on a Silpat and break into shards.

** The recipe book actually says “bake in a moderate oven.” I’m using my cake knowledge to infer here…


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Family Recipes: Fruit Cake

An easy, tasty yellow cake is essential to any home baker’s repertoire. An easy, tasty yellow cake with fruitis even better. My grandmother often made an amazing fruit cake – usually with plums – when we visited. This is the best kind of family recipe: there’s nothing really revolutionary, no proprietary secrets or weird ingredients – just a really, really good classic recipe that floored people every time my grandmother brought it out, and has done the same whenever I’ve made it. This recipe is the kind that I hope to rediscover every time I try something new out of one of my old cookbooks.

Grandma Viv’s Open Fruit Cake (Makes one 8″x8″ pan)

1/2 c. sugar
1 stick unsalted butter
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla (or other liquor)
1 c. flour
1 tsp. baking powder
Cinnamon sugar
Berries, apples, pears, or stone fruit**

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Sift the dry ingredients together.
3. Cream the butter and sugar, then add the eggs and vanilla and mix until smooth.
4. Add the flour and baking powder mixture and blend well. The batter will  be pretty thick.
5. Spread it into a buttered or sprayed pan (8×8 works, as does a 9″ pie plate).  The batter will probably be spread pretty thin, but don’t worry – it rises a lot.
6. Press fruit into the batter, leaving about a 1/2 an inch between pieces, and sprinkle the top of the cake with cinnamon sugar.
7. Bake 35 – 40 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.  Be warned – if you use especially juicy fruit (like plums), the cake might remain pretty moist in the center.  In that case, just try to gauge whether you’re pulling out more juice or batter on the toothpick, and watch the edges of your cake for over-browning.

**The cake pictured above is a double recipe, baked in a 9″x13″ pan. I used 2 pears, and I mixed 1/4 c. chopped candied ginger into the batter before putting it in the pan.

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Baking Double Header

I somehow volunteered to bake for a law school event today: the prospect of trying new recipes and having someone else foot the butter bill was simply irresistible. Prune dumplings are a little esoteric for the usual lecture attendee crowd, so I cast about for some more mainstream recipe and found two in “The Southern Cook Book.”

This book was one of my first acquisitions, and it’s still one of my favorites. It’s a small trade paperback, but is packed full (the print is pretty tiny) of recipes collected from all over the South. Though I know people who would be incredibly offended by this, I must admit I’m pretty happy that the author construed “the South” to include Texas and Louisiana: those states bring in some really fun flavors. Each recipe in the Book comes with an attribution: the brownie recipe I tried, for example, was from Mrs. Frank M. De Friese, of Knoxville, TN.

It can sometimes be surprisingly tough to find vintage cookie recipes. There’s about one awesome cake recipe for every housewife, but flipping through old books really shows that most fancy cookies and bars are pretty recent inventions.

In Tennessee, though, they apparently got a little more creative. To whit: Mrs. De Friese came up with the absolutely awesome idea of melting marshmallows on top of brownies. Her recipe calls for another chocolate layer on top of the marshmallows – frosting or fudge (I’m sure fudge frosting would be perfect too), but I felt this might be too cloyingly sweet. So, I added my third layer at the bottom: I used a graham cracker crust under the brownie and the marshmallow topping to turn these into my very own S’Mores Brownies.

Because I was baking for a crowd I figured one pan of brownies (however rich and gooey) would not quite to it. So, I went in the complete opposite direction…and tried out a Scripture Cake. In a Scripture Cakes recipe, ingredients are set out by Bible verse references so, for example, “cake” is indicated by 1 Kings 19:6, which reads, “Behold, there was a cake baken on the coals.” I was incredibly confused when I saw a bunch of Bible verse citations in my cookbook, so of course I immediately resolved to try the recipe. The internet tells me that these cake recipes were used in the nineteenth century to simultaneously teach girls baking and Bible; the other versions I came across are of the same type as the one in my book – plain cake with dried fruit, nuts, and a little honey. Very Holy Land.

I think you can tell from this picture which bar is which:

S’Mores Brownies (nee Iced Fudge Cakes) (Makes 24 brownies)

1 c. ground graham crackers
6 tbsp. butter, melted
3 tbsp. sugar

1 1/2 sticks butter
4 oz. semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate
2 c. sugar
6 eggs
Pinch soda
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. bourbon*
1 1/2 c. flour
1 bag marshmallows

*(Tip: I always use bourbon in chocolate recipes instead of vanilla. I think it adds depth and is less cloying)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Spread the graham crumbs in the bottom of a 9 x 13 pan, pour in the 3 tbsp. sugar, and shake around to mix things up. Pour the melted butter over the crumbs, mush it all around to moisten all the crumbs, and pat the mixture evenly across the bottom of the pan. Bake for 8 minutes and set aside.
3. Melt the chocolate and butter together over low heat.
4. Add the sugar and eggs and stir until the mixture starts to lose some of its graininess.
5. Stir in the bourbon, soda, salt, and baking powder. Then add the flour and mix until smooth.
6. Pour the batter over the graham crust and bake for 15-20 minutes, until the outer edges of the brownie are set and crusted and just the middle is still fudgy.
7. Remove from the brownies from the oven and place marshmallows on top. Put the pan back in for about 3 minutes, until the marshmallows are puffed and starting to brown on top.
8. Take the pan out again and turn the oven up to broil. Spread the semi-melted marshmallows around as evenly as possible and put the pan back in the oven for another minute or two until the top gets nice and brown in places.
9. Let cool and enjoy! The topping will be a gooey mess, but if you didn’t know that already and don’t enjoy it, you need to take your inner child out to a campfire sometime really soon.

Now, let’s get Biblical…

Scripture Cake (Makes 24  2″x2″ pieces)

1 c. Judges 5:25 (butter)
2 c. Jeremiah 6:20 (sugar)
3 1/2 c. 1 Kings 4:22 (flour)
2 c. 1 Samuel 25:18 (raisins)*
2 c. chopped 1 Samuel 25:18 (figs)*
1 c. Genesis 43:11 (sliced almonds, toasted)
1 c. Judges 4:19 (milk)
6 Isaiah 10:14 (eggs)
A little Leviticus 2:13 (salt)
2 tbsp. Exodus 16:31 (honey)
1 Kings 10:2 (1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, 1 tsp. each cloves and ginger)
2 tsp. 1 Corinthians 5:6 (baking powder)

“Follow Solomon’s advice for making good boys, in first clause Proverbs 23:14 and you will have a good cake.”

I’m not kidding. The book actually says that. Here’s a little more specific guidance, though…

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Butter and flour a 9×13 pan. A tube or bundt pan would also probably work well.
3. Cream the butter and sugar until fluffy (about 2 minutes on high in a mixer). Add the eggs and beat until pale yellow and light in texture.
4. Add the honey, baking powder, and spices and mix well. Keep the mixer on low and alternate adding milk and flour (I usually do each in 3 batches). Mix just until blended.
5. Dump the nuts and fruit in and mix until evenly distributed.
6. Pour the batter into the pan, spread it evenly, and bake for about 40-50 minutes until the top of the cake is golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

*I substituted a few prunes and some chopped candied ginger with good results – just make sure you have 4 cups dried fruit.


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