Vanilla Cake with Sweet Cream Syrup & Butterscotch Frosting

This is a vanilla cake.  But it’s not just any old regular vanilla cake.  It’s a vanilla cake brushed with a sweet cream syrup, slathered with butterscotch frosting, and covered with nonpareils.  The recipe for this little beauty comes from Cake Magic: Mix & Match Your Way to 100 Amazing Combinations, a cookbook that provide so many combinations of cake flavors, syrups, and frostings that you could bake a cake every day for several months and never make the same thing.

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Vanilla Cake with Sweet Cream Syrup & Butterscotch Frosting

Makes one nine-inch, 2-layer cake
(from Cake Magic: Mix & Match Your Way to 100 Amazing Combinations)
My notes are in [  ] below.

Ingredients

Cake

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon table salt
3/4 cup full-fat plain yogurt (not Greek yogurt)
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled, or 1 cup vegetable oil [I prefer butter because it’s provides a richer flavor.]
3/4 cup water
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 large eggs, at room temperature

Sweet Cream Syrup

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup heavy (whipping) cream
Pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Butterscotch Frosting

[I only made half of this frosting recipe.  It was enough frosting for a thin layer between the two layers, and fully frosting the top of the cake. For me it kept the cake from being too sweet.] 
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup malted milk powder [I used dry milk powder, without the malt]
Pinch of salt
4 cups (about 16 ounces) confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon butterscotch flavor or to taste [I used Frontier Butterscotch Flavor.  You can use 2 tablespoons of vanilla extract if you want to make vanilla frosting]

Directions

Cake

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F.  Butter the bottom and the side of two 8 or 9 inch round cake pans [or a 10-inch Bundt cake pan, a 13×9 inch sheet cake pan, ).  Dust with flour to coat, then invert and tap out any excess.   24 cupcakes- use liners, no need for greasing and coating the tins.
  2. In a large bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt until well combined.
  3. Stir in the yogurt, butter, water, vanilla, and eggs until moistened and no lumps remain (be careful not to overmix).
  4. Divide the batter into the prepared pans.  Bake until the layers are domed and golden brown, and a few moist crumbs cling to a skewer interested in the center of the cake, 30-40 minutes (40-50 minutes for a Bundt, 25-30 minutes for a 13×9-inch cake, and 20-25 minutes for cupcakes).

Sweet Cream Syrup

  1. While the cake is baking, make the sweet cream syrup.
  2. Combine the sugar, cream, and salt in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Stir to dissolve the sugar.
  3. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla.  Set aside to cool.
  4. Use the syrup warm or let it stand covered, until it reaches room temperature.  Note: Sweet cream syrup will keep, in an airtight container in the refrigerator, for up to 1 week.  Reheat in a small saucepan over low heat before using.
  5. After removing the hot cake layers from the oven, pierce them, while still in their pans, at one-inch intervals with a skewer or a paring knife to create channels for the syrup to seep into the cakes.
  6. Pour or generously brush the syrup over the surface of the hot layers, dividing it between them as evenly as possible.
  7. Transfer the soaked layers (still in their pans) to a wire rack to cool completely (1 to 2 hours).  When they are cooled and no longer wet to touch, carefully turn them out of their pants and frost.

Butterscotch Frosting

  1. Make the frosting while the cake cools.
  2. Combine the butter, milk powder, salt, and two cups of the confectioners’ sugar in a large bowl, and beat with an electric mixer on low speed until incorporated, about 1 minute.
  3. Add the remaining confectioners’ sugar, and beat on medium speed until the frosting is pale and no longer grainy, about 2 minutes.
  4. Add the butterscotch flavor (or vanilla extract), and beat until frosting is very light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Note: the frosting will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for about 1 week.  Before using, bring it back to room temperature and stir vigorously or beat it again for best results.
  5. Frost the cooled cake layers.

Gingerbread Bundt Cake

It’s the middle of the holiday rush, so let’s keep this short and sweet. This gingerbread cake is 100% verified delicious.  It’s easy to make, super flavorful, and tender, and has a slightly crispy top due to the gingerbread glaze.   And you can make it look fancy by baking it in a bundt cake pan (my favorite bundt cake pan makes four mini cakes).  Go bake this!

Gingerbread Bundt Cake

Makes one 9-cup bundt cake or four mini bundt cakes
(from King Arthur Flour)

Ingredients

Cake

2 1/2 cups (10 1/2 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
2 tablespoons (1/2 ounce) 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; 6 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups (11 1/4 ounces) brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs
1/2 cup (6 ounces) molasses
1 cup (8 ounces) water

Glaze

1/3 cup (2 5/8 ounces) rum or water
1/2 teaspoon gingerbread spice; or 1/4 teaspoon ginger and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 cup (5 1/4 ounces) granulated sugar

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Lightly grease a 10- to 12-cup bundt-style pan or a 9-cup quartet bundt cake pan.
  3. In a large bowl whisk together the flour, gingerbread spice, salt, baking soda, and baking powder. Set aside.
  4. In a separate bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until fluffy.
  5. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well and scraping the bottom and sides of the bowl after each addition.
  6. Stir in the molasses.
  7. Add the flour mixture in three additions alternately with the water, starting and ending with the flour. Mix just until smooth.
  8. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top.
  9. Bake the cake for 55 to 65 minutes if using a 10-12 cup Bundt pan, or 30 minutes if using a quartet Bundt pan, or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean.
  10. While the cake is baking, make the glaze.  Whisk together the water, spice, and sugar, and cook over medium-low heat until the sugar melts and the mixture thickens a little. Set aside.
  11. Remove the cake from the oven, cool it in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn it out onto a rack.
  12. Brush the cake with the glaze, and allow it to cool completely before serving.

Sticky Cranberry Gingerbread

I’m on the cranberry train this holiday season.  Here’s another recipe that does a great job of contrasting tart cranberries with spicy, sweet gingerbread.  The addition of molasses and maple syrup make this cake a little sticky and give the cake a shiny top.  Because this cake is a bit sweet,  a little goes a long way, and if you need to cut the sweetness a bit, it’s delicious served with whipped cream.   img_72481

Sticky Cranberry Gingerbread

Makes one 9 inch cake
(from New York Times Cooking)
My notes are in [  ] below.

Ingredients

2 cups (8 ounces; 266 grams) fresh or frozen cranberries
1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
1 stick (4 ounces; 113 grams) unsalted butter
cup (133 grams) dark brown sugar
½ cup (120 milliliters) whole milk
½ cup (120 milliliters) maple syrup
¼ cup (60 milliliters) molasses
1 ½ cups (185 grams) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon (5 grams) ground ginger
½ teaspoon (1 gram) ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon (3 grams) baking powder
½ teaspoon (3 grams) kosher salt
¼ teaspoon (1 gram) baking soda
¼ teaspoon black pepper
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon (14 grams) grated fresh ginger (from 1-inch piece) [I didn’t have fresh ginger so I left it out]

Directions

  1. Heat oven to 350° degrees.
  2. Line a 9-inch square or round baking pan with parchment.  [Don’t skip this step as the cake is really sticky and will stick to the bottom of the pan after it’s baked.]
  3. In a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan, stir together cranberries, granulated sugar and 1 tablespoon water. Stir the cranberries over medium heat until the sugar is completely dissolved and cranberries form a sauce that is syrupy and bubbling thickly, about 10 minutes. Aim to have about half the cranberries broken down, with the remainder more or less whole.
  4. In a separate saucepan, stir together the butter, brown sugar, milk, maple syrup and molasses over medium heat. Bring it to just barely a simmer and then remove it from the heat. Do not let it come to a boil, or the mixture may curdle.
  5. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, ginger, cinnamon, baking powder, salt, baking soda and black pepper. Beat in the butter-maple syrup mixture and then beat in the eggs. Stir in the ginger.
  6. Scrape the batter into the pan. Drop fat dollops of cranberry sauce onto the surface of the cake batter. Drag a long, slender knife through the batter in a swirly design, as if you are marbling a cake.
  7. Transfer the cake to the oven and bake it until the top is firm and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 50 minutes. [I baked mine for 45 minutes and it was almost overbaked, so keep an eye on it while it’s in the oven.]
  8. Transfer the pan to a wire baking rack, and let the cake cool completely before eating it.

Delta Caramel Cake

Sigh… it’s been one of those baking days when nothing seems to turn out how I’d like it too.  I  took advantage of the extra hour from Daylight Savings by baking a super rich, delicious, chocolate stout cake, and the cake was out of the oven and cooling, all before 10am.  But disaster struck when I discovered that the cake was glued to my Bundt cake pan, and in my attempt to turned it out of the pan, it became a pile of crumbled chocolate cake rubble.  Unwilling to submit to cake failure, I turned to my second choice recipe to try, Delta Caramel Cake.  It’s basically a rich, tender yellow cake slathered with a thick caramel icing.  The cake was quick and easy to bake, but the caramel icing was another story.  I like to think of myself as a bit of a caramel making expert so I didn’t hesitate when I read in the recipe introduction that “it’s a labor of love to make”.  Sigh… I think it all started going downhill when I added the caramelized sugar to the evaporated milk mixture and everything got lumpy, no matter how much I stirred and coaxed it to meld together.  Still I forged ahead, unwilling to submit to two cake disasters in one day.  I picked out the especially big chunks of sugar from the icing and half heartedly frosted the cake.  I held my breath as I cut a small slice of cake to test it out (at this point, I wouldn’t have been surprised if this cake tasted terrible given the day’s baking mishaps), but to my relief and delight, this cake is so delicious that it has helped soothe my bruised baking ego.  I’m not posting the caramel icing recipe because I don’t trust it.  BUT this cake recipe makes one of the tastiest yellow cakes I’ve had, so it makes a great base for any of your favorite toppings, icings, frostings, etc.

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Delta Caramel Cake 

Makes one 2-layer 9-inch round cake, serves 12
(from Anne Byrn’s American Cake)

Ingredients

Shortening/butter and flour, or non stick baking spray for prepping the cake pans
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup whole milk, warmed

Directions

  1. Place a rack in the center of the oven, and preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Lightly grease and flour the bottom of two 9-inch round or square pans.  I like using a non stick baking spray with flour.
  3. In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until the mixtures is combined and lightens in color, about 2 minutes.
  4. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition, and scraping down the bowl as needed.
  5. Mix in the vanilla extract, and set aside.
  6. In a medium size bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
  7. Alternately add the flour mixture and the milk to the batter, beginning and ending with the flour mixture.  Blend on low speed until just incorporated, about 1 minute more.
  8. Divide the batter between the two prepared pans.  Smooth out the top of the batter with a spatula.
  9. Bake the cake until it’s golden brown and the top springs back when lightly pressed with a finger, about 25-30 minutes.
  10. Remove the pans from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes.  Run a knife around the edges of the pans, and turn out the cakes.  Then flip the cakes one more time so they can cool right side up.
  11. Since I’m not recommending the caramel icing recipe that I used, feel free to frost the cake however you want when the layers have cooled.

Cranberry Streusel Shortbread Bars

Overlooked, underappreciated, and not very appetizing looking, cranberries seem to linger on produce shelves, biding their time until the winter holiday season passes and they can be mercifully banished back to the land of long forgotten fruits.  Yet, when you cook cranberries with some sugar, spread the tart cranberry mixture over rich, buttery shortbread, and top everything off with a crunchy streusel, you will think about these Cranberry Streusel Shortbread Bars all year long.  Not only are these bars easy to make using basic ingredients, they also look bake shop worthy.  So, no excuses; get to baking!

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Cranberry Streusel Shortbread Bars

Makes approximately thirty-five 1 3/4-inch-square bars
(from Fine Cooking)

Ingredients

Crust and Streusel

10 1/2 ounces (1 cup plus 5 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled to just warm
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon table salt
2 large egg yolks
14 1/4 ounces (3 cups plus 3 tablespoons) unbleached all-purpose flour

Cranberry Topping

12 ounce bag fresh or frozen cranberries, picked over, rinsed, and drained (I prefer fresh)
1 cup granulated sugar

Directions

Crust

  1. Line a straight-sided 13×9-inch metal baking pan with foil, letting the ends create an overhanging edge for easy removal from the pan.
  2. In a medium bowl, stir together the butter, 3/4 cup of sugar, and salt.
  3. Whisk in the egg yolks.
  4. Stir in the flour to make a stiff dough.
  5. Transfer about 2 cups of the dough to the prepared pan, and press the mixture evenly into the bottom. Prick the dough all over with a fork (this keeps the crust from bubbling up too much when it bakes).
  6. Refrigerate the pan for 30 minutes (or freeze for 5 to 7 minutes), until the dough is firm.
  7. Position a rack near the center of the oven and another near the top. Heat the oven to 325°F.
  8. Bake the dough until the crust begins to set but does not brown at all on the edges (the center will not be firm yet), about 20 minutes. While the crust bakes, prepare the streusel and the topping.

Streusel

  1. With your fingers, combine the remaining 1/4 cup granulated sugar with the reserved dough until crumbly. The mixture should hold together when pressed, but readily break into smaller pieces.  Set aside.

Cranberry Topping

  1. In a medium saucepan, bring the cranberries, sugar, and 1/4 cup water to a boil over high heat.
  2. Reduce the heat to medium high, and continue to boil until the liquid is reduced to a thick syrup, 5 to 8 minutes.
  3. Remove the pan from the heat, and let the mixture cool 5 to 10 minutes—the syrup will continue to thicken as the mixture cools.

Assembling the Bars

  1. Spread the cranberry mixture evenly over the hot crust.
  2. Scatter the streusel over the cranberries (don’t crumble the streusel too much or the texture will be too sandy).
  3. Increase the oven temperature to 350°F and bake the bars near the top of the oven until the streusel is golden and set, about 25 minutes. (Baking these bars at the top of the oven helps the streusel brown faster without overbrowning the crust.)
  4. Place the pan on a metal rack to cool until the crust is completely firm, at least 1 hour. (For faster cooling, put the bars in the fridge once the pan is no longer piping hot.)
  5. When the bottom of the pan is cool, carefully lift the bars from the pan using the foil sides and transfer them to a cutting board.
  6. Separate the foil from the bars by sliding a spatula between them. Cut the bars into 1-3/4-inch squares.

Note:  Store the bars in an airtight container at room temperature for up to one week (but the shortbread will soften quite a bit after the first three days).

Rocky Road Bars

If you’re craving something rich and decadent but don’t want to exert too much effort, these Rocky Road Bars are made for you. A buttery shortbread cookie is slathered with dark chocolate ganache, and toasted pecans and marshmallows are piled high on top.

Even with just the shortbread and chocolate ganache, this is looking pretty delicious.
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Toasted pecans and mini marshmallows leave no surface uncovered.IMG_6519[1]

A close up of a Rocky Road Bar because it tastes as good as it looks. IMG_6521[1]

Rocky Road Bars

Makes 2 dozen bars
(from King Arthur Flour)

Ingredients

Crust

1 cup (16 tablespoons; 8 ounces; 2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (5 1/4 ounces) sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/3 cups (9 3/4 ounces) All-Purpose Flour

Topping

3 cups (18 ounces) chopped semisweet or dark chocolate or chocolate chips
3/4 cup (6 ounces) heavy cream
1 cup (3 3/4 ounces) toasted diced pecans
3 cups (5 1/4 ounces; half a 10.5-ounce package) mini marshmallows

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 300°F.
  2. Lightly grease a 9″ x 13″ pan, or line with parchment and grease the parchment.

Crust

  1. In a medium-sized bowl, beat together the butter, salt, sugar, and vanilla.
  2. Mix in the flour. The dough will seem very dry, and won’t seem to want to become cohesive at first. Just keep mixing it, and it’ll eventually come together.
  3. Press the dough into the prepared pan, smoothing the surface with your fingers or a mini rolling pin (pastry roller). The dough will feel stiff, but just keep pressing on it until you’ve covered the bottom of the pan.
  4. Prick the dough all over with a fork; this will keep it from bubbling up as it bakes.
  5. Bake the crust for 30 to 40 minutes, until it’s golden brown around the edges and beginning to brown on the top. Remove it from the oven, and loosen the edges with a heat-resistant plastic knife or a table knife.

Topping

  1. Make the topping while the shortbread begins to cool.
  2. Place the chocolate and cream in a microwave-safe bowl, or in a saucepan. Heat in the microwave, or over low heat on a burner, until the cream is steaming and barely beginning to form bubbles.  Remove from the heat, and stir. The chocolate will gradually form a lump in the center of the bowl, then will start to expand as it absorbs the cream. Eventually the chocolate and cream will become one; keep stirring until it’s very smooth. If all the chocolate doesn’t seem melted, reheat very briefly, and keep stirring.
  3. Using and offset spatula, spread the warm chocolate on top of the cookie crust.
  4. Sprinkle the marshmallows and then the pecans over the chocolate. Lightly press down so that they stick to the chocolate.
  5. Cover the pan, and place the bars in the refrigerator for about 15 to 20 minutes, to set the chocolate a bit.
  6. Using a sharp knife or baker’s bench knife, cut 2″ bars.

Note: Leftovers can be stored at room temperature in an airtight container for up to a week. Freeze for longer storage; but these bars are tastier fresh than frozen and thawed.

Chocolate Oatmeal Crunch Bars

I have a 528 page cookbook devoted solely to cookies (and their derivatives).  So, when it comes to choosing one recipe to make on busy a weeknight, the recipe has to meet a few strict criteria including having high impact (i.e., being extremely tasty and looking especially fetching) and being easy to make (no fancy equipment or ingredients needed).  These Chocolate Oatmeal Crunch Bars fit the bill perfectly with their chewy, brown sugary oatmeal bottom topped with semi-sweet chocolate and a sprinkle of pecans.  They taste a little like a candy bar version of a granola bar.

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Chocolate Oatmeal Crunch Bars

Makes about 48 one-and-a-half-inch squares
(from The King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion- The Essential Cookie Cookbook)
My notes are in [  ] below.

Ingredients

Crust

4 1/2 cups (15 3/4 ounces) rolled oats
1 cup (8 ounces) brown sugar
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks, 6 ounces) unsalted butter, melted
3/4 cup (8 1/4 ounces) light corn syrup
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt

Topping

2 cups (12 ounces) chocolate chips
2 tablespoons (3/4 ounces) vegetable shortening
2/3 cup (about 3 ounces) chopped nuts [I like pecans]

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F.
  2. Lightly grease or line with parchment paper a 10×15 inch jelly roll pan or a 14-inch round deep-dish pizza pan. [I didn’t have a pan this size, so I used an 11×17 inch pan, BUT I didn’t spread the crust all the way to the edges of the pan because it would have been too thin.  Instead, I lined the pan with parchment paper (making sure the parchment went up the sides of the pan), spread the crust to approximately 10×15 inches, and used dried beans (that I usually use for pie weights) to fill in the empty space in the pan so that the crust would not spread too much.]

Crust

  1. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, stir together the oats, sugar, butter, corn syrup, vanilla, and salt.
  2. Press the mixture into the prepared pan, using lightly greased hands (or the greased bottom of a loaf pan).
  3. Bake the crust for 10 to 14 minutes, or until it’s a light golden brown.  The crust will bubble up as it bakes.
  4. Remove from the oven, and cool completely on a rack.

Topping

  1. In a medium-sized saucepan set over low heat, or in a microwave, melt the chocolate chips and shortening together, stirring until smooth.
  2. Spread the chocolate mixture evenly over the cooled crust, and sprinkle on the nuts.
  3. Cover and loosely chill the bars in the refrigerator, and cut into squares.

Meringue Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

Imagine a chocolate chip cookie sitting under a rich layer of chocolate with a light, crunchy meringue topping it all off and you have Meringue Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars.  It’s a multi-textured (and taste) extravaganza.  It’s also a multi step prep process as you need to make a batch of cookie dough and make the meringue.  So, if you’re not ready to work hard, then don’t attempt this recipe.  But if you’re feeling a little ambitious, this may be just the weekend project you’re looking for.     Meringue Chocolate Chip Bars-kitchn1

Meringue Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

(from the kitchn)
Makes 25 Bars

Ingredients

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups brown sugar, separated
2 large eggs, separated
1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon vanilla
12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips or chunks
1 large egg white, optional if you’d like a thicker meringue layer

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Cut 2 pieces of aluminum foil, and fold them to match the width of the pan. Press one piece into the pan lengthwise and the other into the pan crosswise with the ends hanging over the sides of the pan, like this. This makes it easy to lift the bars out of the pan once they’re cooled. Spray the foil with nonstick coating.
  3. Whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder in a small bowl and set aside.
  4. Using a stand mixer, a hand mixer, or by hand, cream together the butter,  granulated sugar, and 1/2 cup of the brown sugar until it looks like smooth frosting.
  5. Separate the eggs, reserving the whites.
  6. Mix the egg yolks into the butter-sugar mixture one at a time until they are completely absorbed.
  7. Stir in the water and vanilla.
  8. With the mixer at a low speed, add the flour mixture and beat gently until all the flour has been absorbed and the dough looks crumbly.
  9. Press the cookie dough gently into the pan with your hands, making sure the surface is even.
  10. Sprinkle the chocolate chips on top of the cookie dough and use your palms to press them slightly into the dough. This will help keep them from moving when you add the meringue.
  11. Using a stand or hand mixer with a clean bowl and a clean whisk attachment, start whisking the egg whites. (Use 3 egg whites if you’d like a thicker meringue layer.)
  12. Gradually increase your speed to medium-high. When the egg whites are very frothy and look like loose foam, start adding the remaining cup of brown sugar a little at a time. Continue increasing your speed to the highest setting. When all the sugar has been added, continue whipping the meringue until it holds a soft peak. It should look like glossy, soft-serve ice cream.
  13. Scoop the meringue down the middle of the pan. It will be very sticky! Use a spatula to gently spread the meringue from the middle to the edges. It’s helpful to skim meringue from the top and gradually push it outward.
  14. Lightly press a piece of parchment or wax paper on the top of the meringue (this makes an even layer and protects the meringue from scorching). Bake for 20 minutes, then remove the parchment. Continue baking for an additional 5 to 10 minutes, until the edges look toasted and are pulling away from the sides of the pan.
  15. Wait until the pan is completely cool before lifting out the bars and cutting them into pieces.

Flourless Chocolate Cake

This Flourless Chocolate Cake is the overlord of all chocolate cakes.  With a chocolate trifecta of chocolate chips, cocoa powder, and espresso powder in the cake plus a hearty slathering of chocolate ganache on top, this is the richest, most decadent chocolate cake you will ever eat.  There’s no flour in this cake to take up any space from the chocolate, so gluten-free people rejoice!

Flourless Chocolate Cake

Makes one 8 inch cake, 8 to 12 servings
(from King Arthur Flour)

Ingredients

Cake

1 cup (6 ounces) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup (8 tablespoons, 4 ounces) unsalted butter
3/4 cup (5 1/4 ounces) granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 to 2 teaspoons espresso powder, optional
1 teaspoon vanilla extract, optional
3 large eggs
1/2 cup (1 1/2 ounces) unsweetened cocoa powder, Dutch-process cocoa preferred

Glaze

1 cup (6 ounces) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup (4 ounces) heavy cream

Directions

Cake

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  2. Lightly grease an 8″ round cake pan; cut a piece of parchment or waxed paper to fit, grease it, and lay it in the bottom of the pan.
  3. Put the chocolate and butter in a microwave-safe bowl, and heat until the butter is melted and the chips are soft. Stir until the chips melt, reheating briefly if necessary. You can also do this over a burner set at very low heat. Transfer the melted chocolate/butter to a mixing bowl.
  4. Stir in the sugar, salt, espresso powder, and vanilla. Espresso enhances chocolate’s flavor much as vanilla does; using 1 teaspoon will simply enhance the flavor, while 2 teaspoons will lend a hint of mocha to the cake.
  5. Add the eggs, beating briefly until smooth.
  6. Add the cocoa powder, and mix just to combine.
  7. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan.
  8. Bake the cake for 25 minutes; the top will have formed a thin crust, and it should register at least 200°F on an instant-read thermometer inserted into its center.  Note: The original recipe recommends inserting a thermometer, but I didn’t do that.  Remove it from the oven, and cool it in the pan for 5 minutes.
  9. Loosen the edges of the pan with a table knife or nylon spreader, and turn it out onto a serving plate. The top will now be on the bottom; that’s fine. Also, the edges will crumble a bit, which is also fine. Allow the cake to cool completely before glazing.

Glaze

  1. Combine the chocolate and cream in a microwave-safe bowl, and heat until the cream is very hot, but not simmering. Remove from the microwave, and stir until the chocolate melts and the mixture is completely smooth.  Or you can melt the chocolate and cream over a double boiler. 
  2. Spoon the glaze over the cake, spreading it to drip over the sides a bit. Allow the glaze to set for several hours before serving the cake. 

 

Fig and Almond Cake

The summer of 2016 is the summer when I learned to love figs.  Thanks to some friends who have a huge fig tree that produces the sweetest fruits, I’ve been lucky to have an abundance of figs to eat on their own and to use in baked goods. The latest fig-themed dessert to come out of my oven is a Fig and Almond Cake.  This hearty but delicate cake perfumed with almond extract is nutty, tender, and barely sweet.  Figs are scattered on top of the cake batter and sprinkled with a bit of sugar to caramelize in the oven.  The cake is best eaten the day that it’s baked as it tends to get mushy pretty quickly because of the moisture from the figs.

If you want to learn a little more about figs, check out this article on how figs get pollinated.  A bit of a warning though, the details are a bit of a horror movie, and depending on how easily grossed out your are, you may never want to eat a fig again.  So remember, you’ve been warned.

Gorgeous figs from a friend’s treeIMG_6642[1]

The cake comes out looking beautiful with figs scattered over the top of the cake batter [even though I put my figs “wrong side” (cut side down ) up].
IMG_6643[1]

Fig and Almond Cake

Makes one 9-inch cake
(from NYT Cooking)

Ingredients

4 tablespoons butter, melted, plus butter for greasing pan
1 cup natural raw almonds (not blanched)
¼ cup sugar, plus 2 tablespoons for sprinkling
¼ cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
teaspoon cinnamon
teaspoon salt
3 eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons honey
½ teaspoon almond extract
12 to 14 ripe figs

Directions

  1. Heat the oven to 375° F.
  2. Butter or spray a 9-inch fluted tart pan or pie pan (I used one with a removable bottom, and that helped ensure that the cake stayed intact when I removed the outside of the pan); set aside.
  3. Put almonds and 1/4 cup sugar in a food processor and grind to a coarse powder.  The finer you ground the almonds, the less crunchy the cake will be.
  4. Add flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt; pulse to combine.
  5. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together eggs, melted butter, honey, and almond extract.
  6. Add the dry ingredients (the almond mixture) to the wet ingredients, and stir together until batter is just mixed (don’t overmix).
  7. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
  8. Remove the stem from each fig, and cut the fig in half.
  9. Arrange the fig halves cut-side up over the batter. Don’t leave a large space between figs as they will shrink when they bake.  It’s OK if the figs are touching each other.
  10. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of sugar over the figs.
  11. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the cake is golden outside and dry at center when probed with a cake tester.
  12. Cool before serving.

Note:  This cake is best when eaten on the day that it’s baked.