Top 100 Cake Blog

Top 100 Cake Blog

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Amish Chocolate Flat Cake



About a decade ago, I was asked to bring a birthday cake to my dear (and now sadly departed) friend Suzanne Wasserman's 50th birthday party at the Bridge Cafe. So I baked a nine-inch red velvet layer cake. Imagine my dismay when I arrived at the party and realized that this single cake would need to feed about 40 guests.  (I had another frosted cake at home -- I was selling them at the time and always made two -- but couldn't convince my teenage son to bring it to the restaurant.) Throughout the dinner I fretted about the scarcity of dessert but by some absolute miracle the staff managed to carve out enough slices of decent size.

Not that I should have substituted this large flat cake (for Suzanne and her husband David loved red velvet), but I would have had a much more relaxed dinner.

This vintage recipe is from an Amish collection I purchased years ago. It's baked in an 11 x 17 inch jelly roll pan and, when baked and frosted, it's just 1/2 inch tall, hence its name. Both the cake and its frosting couldn't be easier to make and will certainly feed a large crowd.

Upon hearing the name "flat cake," the DH said I should pair it with #FlatLillian, an initiative at Henry Street Settlement, to spread the word and work of it's founder Lillian Wald by photographing her against all sorts of backdrops. Suzanne, a filmmaker and historian, studied the Lower East Side and was one of Lillian's biggest fans.


#Flat Lillian with the frosted chocolate flat cake.


This is a very, very simple cake to make done on the stovetop and in a bowl. No heavy machinery needed.  Melt the butter, water, and cocoa in a saucepan.


Pour the mixture into a bowl and add in the dry ingredients. Stir or whisk to combine.



Add in the eggs, buttermilk, vanilla and baking soda, whisking them together them first.



Pour the cake into a greased jelly roll pan. I sprayed the pan with Pam, then laid a sheet of parchment over to ensure an easy release.



The unfrosted cake.



While the cake is in the oven, begin the frosting. Boil butter, cocoa and buttermilk, then add in confectioner's sugar, nuts, vanilla and salt.



Frost the cake while it's still warm. You'll need an offset spatula or butter knife to spread the frosting over the cake.



Henry Street's Executive Director David Garza, a real #FlatLillian champion, eating the cake (even though he's not supposed to, so don't tell anyone).


Production notes: I followed the recipe exactly, except I substituted butter for the Crisco.  The Amish, rather thrifty folk, probably wanted to save some money.  I wasn't sure if the cake should be warm, or just the frosting, so I made sure both were warm when I frosted it.  You'd be fine with a cool cake and warm frosting. If you don't have buttermilk, you can make your own by mixing some white vinegar in regular milk and having it stand for a few minutes.  The amount of salt in the frosting should be a pinch -- it won't taste salty, but will add a depth of flavor.  Chop the nuts on the finer side.




Sunday, September 23, 2018

Ozark Pie



Are you watching season two of Netflix's Ozark?  I am, sort of. It's so contrived and crazy, but hard to get off the rollercoaster. The lives of Marty (Jason Bateman) and Wendy (Laura Linney) are so frenetic and stressful, one wonders why criminals (most of whom are very smart) just don't get regular jobs.

Ozark Pie (probably named for the geographic region of its origin) is a simple apple confection, and not really a pie at all. It's just that it's baked in a pie plate.  It is more than the sum of its parts. Favorite son-in-law loved the brown sugar -- but there's no brown sugar. It's just that the white sugar caramelizes so beautifully. It is really delicious, uses ingredients you probably already have and so easy to make. I'll bet it's something that Ozark's Ruth (or more likely her grandmother -- this is a vintage recipe ) would whip up in a minute.



The mis en place is below.  Cinnamon, egg, vanilla, flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, nuts and apples.



I love recipes where one is instructed to dump everything in a bowl and mix. Not only is it easy, but clean up is a snap.  For this, first beat the egg in the bowl, and add all the other ingredients (save the nuts and apples).



The mixture will be very thick.



Add the nuts and apples. It will seem that there's insufficient batter to cover these, but worry not.



See? Everything is beautifully coated.



Dump the entire mixture into a pie pan. I didn't grease the pan but you can give it a spray of PAM, mostly to aid clean up.  I used an 8-inch pie plate.



Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, depending on your oven.  As you can see below, the "slices" are removed from the pan like pie, but will not hold their shape when plated.



Vintage recipe card below. I followed the instructions exactly. I used two large Cortland apples, and about a cut of walnuts, and one teaspoon of cinnamon.  But you can add more or less of these, depending on taste. I baked it for 35 minutes.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Apple Fritters



Until a few days ago, I was an apple fritter virgin. Seriously, I'd never tasted one, always pointing to Boston creme or glazed donuts at the donut shop.  But looking to turn my surplus of new crop apples into something yummy, I decided to try my hand at these treats. I was delighted to discover how easy and delicious they are -- the gratification is nearly instant!

These are old-fashioned, modest fritters. There is but one tablespoon of sugar in the entire recipe; the sweetness is derived from the apples.

The DH, an apple fritter lover from way back, prefers the supersized and frosted apple fritters that gained popularity in America along with so many "over the top" versions of almost everything.  (Note: you can make these larger and frost them, but I wanted to prepare the recipe in the spirit in which it was intended.)

This is a very simple c. 1940s recipe, part of a collection I purchased at a stoop sale in Park Slope. It uses ingredients you probably already have (see the mis en place below) and take just minutes to prepare.



Mix the ingredients together in a single bowl.



Add the sliced apples.



Mix them in thoroughly. It will seem like there's not enough batter to cover the apples (there is) but that's the point -- the apples are the stars in this confection.



Drop by tablespoon into hot vegetable or canola oil, turning a few times until the fritters are golden brown.



Drain on paper towels...



...and, using a sieve, sprinkle them with confectioner's sugar.



What's inside



The Executive Record and Travel Guide in which the recipe author (Grace Johnson, a woman who lived on 10th Street) recorded all of her recipes. You can read the story of Grace and her neighbor Jackie, who hosted the stoop sale, here.



The original recipe. Below the image, I've written out the steps more clearly.




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Apple Fritters

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon sugar
Pinch of salt
1/3 cup milk
1 well-beaten egg
Two medium apples, pared, cored and cut into slices

Mix all ingredients except the apples. Combine well.  Add the apples, stirring into the batter. 

Heat oil in a large (I used a 12-inch frying pan, and about 1.5 inches of oil) until hot. Temperature, if you want to measure, should be about 370 degrees.  If you don’t have a thermometer, that’s fine. Just put a small amount of batter into the oil to test.

Drop the batter into the hot oil using a regular tablespoon.  I turned them over with a fork, and when golden brown, removed them to paper towels using a slotted spoon.

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Sprinkle them with confectioner’s sugar.  Enjoy!


Saturday, September 8, 2018

A Honey of a Honey Cake




I'm back! After a really long hiatus (insert life-got-in-the-way excuses here), I'm thrilled to present the easiest, most delicious honey cake ever. And just in time for Rosh Hashanah. Honey cake, the traditional holiday dessert to symbolize a sweet new year, has a deservedly bad reputation. It's often dry and dense. Even my grandmother's version was nearly inedible without a gallon of milk to wash it down.  And she was a fabulous baker. 

This recipe, however, is a winner.  It is one of hundreds of recipes gifted to me a few years ago by the legendary Arthur Schwartz, and was sent to him by a listener who wrote: Now this is a honey cake! He'd given me a number of honey cake recipes, but I chose this one for its utter simplicity.




Start by beating the eggs and sugar until very, very light.  Add in the honey and oil, then alternate adding the flour mixture and coffee. Begin and end with the dry ingredients.



The batter is very thin. Pour into a greased loaf pan.  I just sprayed mine with Pam. It released pretty well, except for one small spot which, after I "repaired" it, was unnoticeable.  You could line the greased pan with parchment if you want to ensure a complete release.



Bake for about an hour. The edges will look a bit well done, but test with a skewer to ensure the center is cooked.



Let it cool, then slice and serve. It's even better the second day!



Some of my tasters, Cheryl and Alex. Baby Stellan is too young to enjoy the cake, though he's trying to grab it! Cheryl declared he cake moist and delicious and Alex finished off the loaf. The DH especially enjoyed the caramelized edges.



The recipe, below. I followed it exactly. The nuts I used were blanched slivered almonds, a tribute to my grandmother who always decorated her cake with whole almonds across the top of the loaf, like buttons running the length of the cake.