Top 100 Cake Blog

Top 100 Cake Blog

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Rental House Chocolate Cake

Cooking in a rental house can be challenging, as in, why isn't there a ten-inch saute pan anywhere, but it can also be one of life's pleasures, involving creative compromise, enterprise and experimentation.*  On a recent family vacation to Orcas Island in Washington State, I upped the ante by not only cooking nearly all our meals, but also baking a chocolate cake.  The local vintage recipe, "Mrs. Mary Dow's Dark Cake," was in Faith, Food and Fond Memories, the Orcas Island Community Church Centennial Cookbook 1884-1984 that I purchased at the nearby town's only antique store.

I chose that recipe because its ingredient list included staples I'd already bought, including the most delicious fresh milk (see how the cream has risen to the top?) at Coffelt Farm and fresh eggs from Once in a Blue Moon Farm whose yolks were deep yellow.

Begin the recipe by "measuring" the butter so that it's the size of an egg.

Put the rest of the ingredients together.

And add the melted chocolate.

The recipes says to beat the batter well -- "The more it is beaten, the better it is."  I didn't do this, as overbeating usually results in a tough cake texture.  (But, in an attempt to follow the recipe instructions, I did beat it a bit more than normal.)  The batter will be very thick.  Spoon into the prepared pan (the closest you have to 9 x 13 inches) and smooth the top. Bake in a 350F oven.

Remove from the oven and, when cool, frost with any chocolate frosting.  (I used a modern chocolate buttercream I found on the internet, as the vintage cookbook didn't have any.)

Cake with some fresh Orcas Island berries.

Cake enjoying ocean view.

Our rental house, and some of its temporary occupants.

*For more about rental house cooking, read this great article by Melissa Clark in The New York Times.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Lemon Snowballs

When the summer heats up, there's nothing better than a fresh-baked batch of  lemon snowballs.  These delicious lemony cookies covered in confectioners sugar "snow" will make you forget that it's 95 F outside.

While the oven is preheating (and simultaneously heating your kitchen to scorching temperatures, all worth it, I can assure you) start the cookies.  Zest and juice the lemons.  I find a lemon reamer to be best for the juicing and a microplane ("helpfully"not pictured) for the zesting.

Chop the nuts fine; I used walnuts, but pecans would be great, too. You could use a food processor, but I did it old school, with a knife.

The batter will look curdled at the beginning, but soldier on.

Form the dough into ball the size of a "SMALL walnut" instructs the vintage recipe card.

This is best accomplished by dipping your hands in flour.

Bake until light brown on the bottom (but barely colored on top).  You can use a small spatula to lift the cookies to peek.

As soon as they're out of the oven, roll them in confectioners sugar.

Put them on a rack to set.  Or a plate would be fine.

And for those of you who have read to the end, here's a real snowball (three, actually) saved in our freezer from the NYC Blizzard of 1996.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Blueberry Cake

Finding myself with way too many blueberries from a recent berry picking adventure in Fishkill, New York, I set out in search of a blueberry muffin recipe among my thousands of vintage recipe cards.  I couldn't find a single one.  But then I remembered a stash of recipe cards from New Englander Olive Facey that I had set aside and voila, the first card in the pile was Blueberry Cake!  (If your heart is set on muffins, this recipe would work perfectly.)

This is a delicious cake; the nutmeg adds a really nice flavor note.

Although the recipe doesn't say to, it's best to coat the berries in a small amount of flour to prevent them from sinking to the bottom.

Alternate adding the dry ingredients and flour to the butter-sugar mixture.

Carefully fold in the blueberries at the end.

The batter is quite thick; you'll need to use the back of a spoon or offset spatula to spread it in the pan.

If you flour and grease the pan, the cake releases beautifully.

Like many of the recipe cards in my collection, this is little more than a list of ingredients.  The method I used is below.

Blueberry Cake
Preheat oven to 400F.  (I baked it at 350, but next time would raise the temperature or bake it a bit longer than the 30 minutes called for.)
Grease and flour an 8-inch pan.

Mix 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) room temperature unsalted butter with 1/2 cup sugar until light and fluffy.
Add one egg and combine well.
Combine 2 cups flour, 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg in a bowl.
Add the dry mixture and 3/4 cups milk, alternately to the butter-sugar mixture, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.
Fold in the blueberries.  (I used about two cups.)
Pour into pan, and spread to the edges.
(I topped the cake with some brown sugar.)
Bake until a cake tester comes out clean.
Cool and serve.  Enjoy!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Fresh Raspberry Pie

Some people favor winter, others summer.  My favorite time of year is raspberry season which occurs twice in the northeast -- right now, and in the fall.  The DH and I were lucky enough to spend July 4th with friends in Beacon, New York, and equally lucky to visit nearby Fishkill Farms where we picked cherries, blueberries and red, black and white raspberries.  This was my first encounter with white raspberries; they are not as sweet as the red or black (and much whiter in real life than they appear in the photo).

Anyone who has succumbed to the zen of berry picking knows that it's very easy to pick more than one can possibly eat and since raspberries begin to decompose the moment they're picked, there was but one thing to do: make a fresh raspberry pie.

I quickly put together a pie crust (recipe below) and, following a vintage berry pie recipe, prepared the pie.  It's really, really easy.  Just roll out the bottom crust, gently fold the berries into some flour, sugar and salt, and pour into the shell. Dot with a generous amount of butter. Roll out the top crust and you're good to go.

It's difficult to know how much thickener (flour, cornstarch or tapioca) to add to absorb the liquid from the berries without turning the filling into a gloppy gelatin substance.  I followed the recipe exactly (and even cheated by adding a bit of small pearl tapioca to the bottom of the pie) but still too much liquid was released.   Not a huge problem, and I didn't hear any complaints.

Some production notes:  I added more raspberries than called for, because I had them, and dotted with about three tablespoons of unsalted butter (not two).

Pie Crust

3 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
3 t. sugar
1 1/2 t. kosher salt
1 1/2 sticks cold unsalted butter (12 tablespoons) in pieces
9 T. cold Crisco in pieces
ice water

Place flour, sugar and salt in a food processor and mix until combined. Add the butter and shortening and mix until the size of small peas, or smaller.  Add ice water, one or two tablespoons at a time until the dough holds together.  Check this by removing the top and pressing the dough between your fingers. Divide in two pieces and refrigerate until firm.  Roll out to line and top pie pan.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Chocolate Chip Cup Cakes

This all-American vintage recipe (perfect for your July 4th picnic) features a white cake studded with chunks of chocolate.  It was probably created before 1939 (when chocolate chips became commercially available) because it calls for breaking up a bar of chocolate to create "chips."

This is an easy-to-make and delicious confection. Although the recipe didn't call for frosting, and these really could be breakfast muffins, I couldn't imagine an unfrosted cupcake so I topped these with a vanilla coconut buttercream and a bit of shaved sweet chocolate for decoration.

It's essential to use an excellent semi- or bittersweet chocolate.  I got a couple of bars of Lindt and coarsely chopped it.

Mix up the batter and simply add the chocolate chunks in at the end.

Spoon into lined cupcake tins (the batter is very thick), filling about 3/4 full.

Recipe card below, and following is the method I used, as this card is simply a list of ingredients.

Chocolate Chip Cup Cakes

Preheat oven to 350.

Chop up the chocolate.  (Use bittersweet or semi-sweet -- not unsweetened)
Mix shortening (I used unsalted butter) and sugar until light and fluffy.
Add eggs and mix well.
Combine dry ingredients and add alternately to the batter with the milk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.  Add in the chocolate and combine well.
Spoon into prepared cupcake tins.
Bake about 20 minutes.

For the frosting, I used the Magnolia Bakery's vanilla buttercream but added some coconut extract for an additional flavor note.  Top with sprinkles or grated chocolate.