Top 100 Cake Blog

Top 100 Cake Blog

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Vanilla Pound Cake with Steamed Rhubarb

My mother, who rarely talks about her childhood, recently told me about the sauce her mother used to make from the rhubarb that grew wild around their New Hampshire home. She told me this on Wednesday, after I mentioned that I had come from the farmer's market with a big handful of rhubarb.  And, by happy coincidence just a few minutes after we ended our phone call, I found a vintage recipe card in my collection for something called Steamed Rhubarb.

So I made this old-fashioned delicious sauce which is a little bit sweet and a little bit tart.  But I needed a foil upon which to showcase it and what's better than vanilla pound cake? (My mother's family used the sauce as a jam on bread, which sounds nice, but I didn't have the time to make bread.)

First, the sauce.  (Pound cake instructions are at the end of this post.)  Wash fresh rhubarb and cut into pieces.

Place in the top of a double-boiler -- I just stuck one saucepan on top of another.  Fill the bottom pan with water -- do not add water to the rhubarb -- and let it steam for about 20 minutes.

The natural moisture in the rhubarb will release, preventing it from burning.

Add a bit of sugar and baking soda and voila -- rhubarb sauce. Perfect for cake or bread or pancakes.

Production notes: I followed this exactly. I filled a four-cup measure with the cut rhubarb to equal one quart. Not stirring the rhubarb helps it to retain its shape and texture.

Now, on to the pound cake.  This is a moist and delicious (and rather dense: think Sara Lee) pound cake.  It uses but five ingredients: sugar, eggs, vanilla, butter and flour.

Its method is unusual, as the recipe calls for separating the eggs, and adding the yolks first and then the unbeaten whites.This will cause the batter to look curdled, but carry on as it will all smooth out when the flour is added.

Grease and flour a loaf pan and spoon the batter in, smoothing out the top.

Production notes:  Do not bake for two hours!  I baked this at 350 F for about an hour. Let it cool slightly in the pan before turning it out.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Pineapple Sandwich Bread

I come across a lot of unusual vintage recipes, but this Pineapple Sandwich Bread was so intriguing that I made it within hours of discovering the hand-written recipe card in my rather disorganized collection.

But instead of the perfect bread for a ham sandwich, what emerged from the oven was a cake-like confection.  Think banana bread, but with another tropical fruit, or as the DH said, it was like pound cake, with a hint of pineapple.  My tasters thought it was delicious, as did I, but being allergic to pineapple, part of it was the thrill of tasting the my forbidden fruit.

The "wet" ingredients below: egg, milk, melted butter and crushed pineapple.  (This is a great companion to Strawberry Lura Cake, as you can use the drained juice from the canned pineapple for that cake.)

This is a one bowl bread/cake.  Place the dry ingredients in the bowl, add the wet and mix gently.

Pour into a greased loaf pan and bake.

The loaf was perfect -- but I forgot to take a photo before slicing off the end.

I followed the recipe exactly, using melted butter instead of oil.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Strawberry Lura Cake

On the eve of strawberry season in the northeast and, in the never-ending quest to find yet another way to showcase this fruit, allow me to introduce Strawberry Lura Cake.  I've never heard of this cake (and apparently either has Google -- not one mention!), but I assure you that this is both a unique and delicious summer dessert.

Strawberry Lura Cake is basically a strawberry upside down cake, albeit an unusual one.  Unlike traditional versions, the fruit here transforms into a jam-like topping -- a delicious buttery topping with a depth of flavor that is greater than the sum of its ingredients.

This would be a lovely addition to a Memorial Day picnic. Start by crushing fresh strawberries. I did this by (gloved) hand, but you can also use a pastry blender or whatever you want to crush them.

Melt some butter in a cake pan, mix in brown sugar and add the crushed berries.  Then, turn your attention to the cake.

This is one of those cakes that call for separating eggs, adding the yolks to the batter and then beating the whites until stiff in a separate bowl before folding them in.

Pour the batter over the strawberry-butter-brown sugar mixture and place in the oven.

Let the cake cool in the pan for at least ten minutes, maybe longer.  Run a butter knife around the edge and turn out onto a cake plate.

The bottom of the cake becomes the top.

Plate it on a perfectly flat cake plate -- not one like I used.

Production notes:  I followed this exactly, except for saving crushed berries for decoration (because I couldn't image crushed berries being very decorative).
The instructions at the very end were typed incorrectly, so here's what you do:
Melt butter in shallow pan (I used a 9-inch cake pan). Add brown sugar and crushed strawberries.  Pour cake batter OVER this mixture and bake.


Sunday, May 18, 2014

Say "I Do" to Matrimony Cake

Matrimony Cake (as opposed to wedding cake) is a rather plebeian affair -- simple and unadorned -- and really yummy (unlike typical wedding cakes, created for visual appeal).  Its three layers -- cooked dates sandwiched between an oatmeal-flour base and topping -- are more reminiscent of fig newtons than something served at a celebration of love.

I made this for our Mother's Day get-together last weekend, in honor of the upcoming nuptials of the DD and her longtime boyfriend who are tying the knot in a couple of weeks.  To my surprise, everyone loved it. Josh, my future son-in-law, thought this would make great energy bars for those (like him) who spend hours biking racing.

Matrimony cake requires just six ingredients; four are pictured below.

Start by making the date filling (basically dates, sugar and water cooked until it forms a paste).

Mix up the batter and put half in a round or square cake pan.  Then spread it out into a single layer.  I donned non-latex gloves to do this -- reminded me of working with play dough.

Bottom layer in the pan.

Spread the date filling on the bottom layer.  I used the back of a spoon and an offset spatula.

Next, place the top layer on the date filling.  This is a bit tricky to smooth over the filling, but it need not be perfect (see below).


Production notes:  Grease the pan. I used butter instead of shortening and a round pan.  Next time, I'd use an 8-inch square pan and cut the cake into bars.  Because the only oatmeal I had on hand was the quick cooking kind, that's what I used -- it was fine.  And there are no eggs in this batter!
For the date filling, used 8 ounces of dates and a bit less sugar. I neglected to chop the dates which slowed the cooking time.  I also kept adding water; the 1/4 cup was not nearly enough.  If you add too much water, you can just cook the mixture down until it's of spreading consistency.

Friday, May 16, 2014

And the Winning Cakes Are....

It seems like ancient history, but just a few weeks ago Henry Street Settlement hosted "Party Like It's 1899," a big block party to celebrate both the birthday of its founder Lillian Wald (she just turned 147) and the first-ever Lower East Side History Month. One of the highlights was a birthday cake contest.

Luckily, it was a glorious spring day for party-goers and our esteemed panel of judges who had the daunting task of tasting all the entries, which were evaluated on taste, creativity, appearance and adherence to the birthday party theme.

The winning cake, pictured at the top, was the ultra-creative Lillian's House Dress, baked by Lower East Side resident Jael Wagener.  Second prize, pictured below, was awarded to Henry Street's own Larry Williams who baked a beautifully decorated (note the basket weave buttercream) red velvet cake.

Third place went to this gorgeous three-layer cake, called the Angel of Henry Street, baked by East Villager Carolyn Lim.

 There were a number of beautiful and delicious cakes entered, including this strawberry cream cake that came all the way from Connecticut (thanks, Karen!), and a lovely chocolate-glazed angel food cake by very local resident Jeanie Tung.

Our very good-looking crew of judges, from left, were Serena Solomon (DNAinfo); Jake Dell (Katz's Deli); Tara Bench (The Ladies Home Journal); and Traven Rice and Ed Litvak (TheLoDown).

One entry, a pineapple upside down cake, looked suspiciously like those sold at the nearby Fine Fare Supermarket, but whatever.

Curious about what's beneath the petticoat cake?
All photos graciously shot by the DH, Paul LaRosa.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Lemon Queen's Cake

My friend Jay turned 50 last week and insisted on a surprise birthday party adventure.  His saintly partner Stephen more than rose to his demand  the task, orchestrating a chauffeured limousine journey through Manhattan and Brooklyn, stopping to pick up gift-bearing friends at locations meaningful to Jay. i.e, theaters, churches and restaurants. When the ginormous white car pulled up in front of my place, I had just finished frosting (badly, as you can see) a birthday cake.

I chose this vintage Lemon Queen's Cake recipe for its age (50+) and name, of course, but also because it had a coconut frosting and the recipe card had a "very good" notation on it.  This cake is "very good," but also complicated -- it has a cake component, a lemon curd filling and a frosting.

The first order of business is to make the lemon filling because it needs time to chill. For some reason, it never thickened properly.  (If you make this cake, I'd recommend using a more modern recipe for lemon curd from Martha Stewart, David Lebovitz or Rose Levy Berenbaum.)

The cake itself is a true white cake, i.e., it contains no egg yolks. (The four yolks are used in the lemon curd, typical of the 1940s waste-not want-not culture.) The method calls for mixing the batter, beating the egg whites separately and folding them in carefully.

You'll have to smooth out the batter with the back of a spoon or offset spatula before baking.

Let the layers cool completely before filling and frosting.

Using a serrated knife held horizontally, you can slice the "dome" off of each layer, making it easier to fill and stack them.

This cake does not travel well, especially in the back of a stretch limousine filled with champagne swilling passengers.  At the party, the photographer (yes, there was photographer who documented the entire day), called me aside to alert me to the condition of the cake below.  No worries -- I just took a couple of forks and re-positioned the layers.  It helps to have several glasses of wine before attempting this maneuver.

I thought it looked ok until Diane, another guest, said, I see you made a three-layer cake.  Well, friends, the number of layers should not be obvious -- the frosting should be smooth enough so as not to reveal the cake's structure.

In any case, the party caterers did an excellent job slicing this eight-inch cake to serve a lot of guests.

Below are some of the celebrants with the birthday boy.

Production notes: Grease and flour the pans (don't just grease them).  Choose another proven and tested lemon curd recipe.And always use butter, not shortening, for the butter cream. The frosting has a raw egg, so use a fresh farm one, not one from the supermarket.