Top 100 Cake Blog

Top 100 Cake Blog

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.



Sunday, February 11, 2018

Heart-Shaped Cakes



As a child, I adored Laura Ingalls Wilder's "Little House" books, her romanticized memoir of life on the western frontier in the late 19th century.  Just how romanticized these are I discovered in a wonderful new book, Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Carolyn Fraser. Let's just say it wasn't all Pa's joyful fiddling and endless fields of wildflowers. 

Wilder's books spawned many offshoots, a television series and a book of recipes among them. I've made Molasses on Snow Candy from The Little House Cookbook by Barbara M. Walter and, a few weeks ago, inspired by Prairie Fires, I baked Heart-Shaped Cakes, a recreated version of a confection made by Ma and placed in Laura's Christmas stocking to her utter delight.

Heart-Shaped Cakes are more like a shortbread or a scone than a cake, as Ma didn't have eggs or baking powder on hand.  They are simple to make and surprisingly good. (And would be a wonderful gift for your valentine!) White sugar was dear on the frontier, so gifts of cake, especially topped with sugar as these are, were an extra special treat.


The recipe calls for cutting the butter into the dry ingredients with cold fingers. That proved difficult, so I took a shortcut by using a pastry blender.  You can also use a food processor, but that seems a bit too modern.
  


Once the fat it cut into the dry ingredients, make a well and add the buttermilk.


The dough will look rather shaggy.


With your hands, form a ball.


Dust your work surface with a bit of flour and roll the dough into a circle.  Cut into six equal pieces.


Again, with your hands, shape each piece into hearts. I used a butter knife to make a small cut at the top and then formed them in the heart-ish shapes. (You won't get cookie cutter perfection using this method, but neither did Ma.) Place on a baking sheet and pop them in the oven.


I made these for my beautiful niece Dory who was visiting from Austin.  (She is not this red in real life; I have a new computer and new photo editing software which I obviously can't use properly yet.)



Here's the recipe, with my method below.

Heart-Shaped Cakes

1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/3 cup white sugar (extra for dusting)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 pinch ground nutmeg
1/4 cup cold unsalted butter
1/3 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 425F

Mix flour, sugar, baking soda and nutmeg in a bowl.
Using cold fingers, two knives or a pastry blender, rub the butter into the flour mixture.
Make a well in the center and add buttermilk.
Using your hand, work it into a dough.
Form into a ball.
Dust work surface with a bit of flour.
Roll the dough into an 8-inch circle.
Cut into eight pieces (cut in half, then halve again for uniformity)
Shape the top of each wedge into a heart. (I made a small cut with a butter knife to help this process.)
Place on a greased or parchment-lined baking sheet.
Bake for 15 minutes, or until the cakes are a bit puffy and the tops are slightly brown.
Remove from the oven and sprinkle generously with sugar.






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Sunday, January 7, 2018

Gingerbread Bundt Cake


Wednesday was a snow day in NYC and, while "working from home," I used my "lunch hour" to whip up this delicious gingerbread. It's not from a vintage recipe; you can find wonderful vintage gingerbread recipes here, here, here and here. It is modern but is thisclose to my favorite gingerbread, from a magazine recipe clipped 30 years ago, and long since misplaced. I wasn't planning to write about it, but when my children (who, ironically, don't care for sweets) declared it was the best thing I'd baked, I felt compelled to share.  

This gingerbread cake is very, very easy to make (you can even do it on your lunch hour!) and has a fine crumb. It is not the "damp" gingerbread preferred by some, yet the depth of flavor is superb. And it's plenty moist too. 


What makes it a close approximation to my long-lost beloved recipe is the inclusion of five spices. King Arthur, which published the recipe, sells such a spice blend. But you can easily make it yourself, as I did.


The mise en place, below. It's pretty straightforward.


Let the magic begin. Be sure that your butter is softened to room temperature; otherwise you will be late returning to work from "lunch."


Add the eggs one at at time, mixing well after each addition. I always (having learned the hard way), crack each egg into a separate bowl before adding to the batter. This way, you can detect any "off" eggs and also keep the errant pieces of shell from ruining your creation.


Add in the molasses. Spray your measuring cup with Pam so that the sticky molasses easuky slides out of the cup.


Pour/spoon the batter into your prepared pan. It is essential that you both grease AND flour the pan to avoid the heartbreak of the cake not releasing in one piece.


Let it cool for ten minutes.


Turn the cake out onto the baking rack.


As soon as the cake is in the oven, begin the glaze by mixing spice, water and sugar.  Combine and heat until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is clear. Let it sit to thicken up a bit. I use a silicone brush, but a spoon can be used to apply the glaze too.




Production notes:  The recipe is copied and pasted below, and you can find the link here. I followed it exactly, but made my own spice mixture, as directed. I also greased and floured the pan (don't skip this step! or you can use Pam for Baking).  The cake was done in about 40 minutes, so start checking it early.  (Note: The first time I made this, I baked it longer, and the top got stuck in the pan because I hadn't properly prepared the pan. However, the DH thought that version was better, as the longer bake caused the top to caramelize.) For the glaze, I mixed the ingredients and then heated them until the sugar was melted, i.e., the mixture was translucent.  I'd also advise making it early, so it can sit and thicken before being applied. (I did try substituting rum for water -- it tasted terrible, so I tossed that and went with water.)

Cake

  • 2 1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 2 tablespoons gingerbread spice; or 2 1/2 teaspoons ginger, 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon, 1 teaspoon nutmeg, 1/2 teaspoon cloves, and 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 cup (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups brown sugar, packed
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1 cup water

Glaze

  • 1/3 cup rum or water
  • 1/2 teaspoon gingerbread spice; or 1/4 teaspoon ginger and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 10- to 12-cup bundt-style pan.
  2. In a large bowl whisk together the flour, gingerbread spice, salt, baking soda, and baking powder. Set aside.
  3. In a separate bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until fluffy.
  4. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well and scraping the bottom and sides of the bowl after each addition. Stir in the molasses.
  5. Add the flour mixture in three additions alternately with the water, starting and ending with the flour. Mix just until smooth.
  6. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top.
  7. Bake the cake for 55 to 65 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean.
  8. While the cake is baking, make the glaze by stirring together the water spice and sugar. Set aside.
  9. Remove the cake from the oven, cool it in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn it out onto a rack.
  10. Brush the cake with the glaze, and allow it to cool completely before serving.