Lemon Almond Butter Cake

A few weeks ago, I was an extra for a cake baking competition TV show, but sadly no cake was served during the shoot.  I was so disappointed that I went home and baked a Lemon Almond Butter Cake.  Disappointment turned into elation when the cake turned out to be one of the most amazing things I’ve baked.  The combination of rich, tart lemon curd nestled throughout a light fluffy almond cake makes this cake dangerously irresistible.  It takes a bit of extra time to make the lemon curd from scratch, but the cake itself comes together pretty quickly.

A few days later, I couldn’t stop thinking about how good the cake tasted, so I experimented with adding Nutella (instead of lemon curd) which made the Nutella fans in my life very happy.  Fast forward to a few days after that, I wanted to pull together a quick dessert and used strawberry jam as the add in.  Again, deliciousness ensued.  It appears you just can’t go wrong with this cake recipe.

Lemon Almond Butter Cake.  The globs of lemon curd make the flavors of this cake over the top in the best possible way.

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Lemon Almond Butter Cake.  My brother ate three slices of this.

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Nutella Almond Butter Cake.  How can you not get excited about a dessert that involves Nutella?

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Strawberry Jam Almond Butter Cake.  Another successful flavor pairing.

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Lemon Almond Butter Cake

Makes 8 servings
(adapted from NY Times Cooking)

Ingredients

Lemon Curd

Grated zest and juice of 2 medium or large lemons
¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
4 large eggs
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed
Cake
9 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon flour
3/4 to 1 cup plus 1 to 2 tablespoons sugar (I used 3/4 cup when I baked this with the Nutella topping)
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon kosher salt
2 large eggs
½ cup almond flour

Directions

Lemon Curd

  1. In a medium sized saucepan, beat together the lemon zest, lemon juice, sugar, and eggs.
  2. Add the butter, and place over a saucepan over low heat until the butter melts.
  3. Over low-medium heat, cook the mixture while stirring constantly with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, until it thickens into curd (I like to do this slowly over lower temperature so that the egg doesn’t cook too quickly.  Depending on the heat you use, it could take about 5-12 minutes to get the curd to the right consistency.  Do not let it boil!  For a visual of how to tell when your lemon curd is ready, check out this page.).
  4. Using a fine sieve, strain the lemon curd into a bowl (this will help get rid of any cooked egg whites and ensure the curd is smooth).
  5. Press plastic wrap onto the surface of the lemon curd to keep a skin from forming. Refrigerate the lemon curd until it is cool (at least 1 1/2 hours).

Cake

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Grease a 9-inch spring-form pan with 1 tablespoon of butter, and dust with 1 tablespoon of flour, shaking out the excess.  Or line an 8×8 inch pan with parchment (no buttering or flouring needed).
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together 8 tablespoons of butter and 3/4 (or 1 cup with you want your cake a little sweeter) cup of sugar until light and fluffy.
  4. In a small bowl, stir together 1 cup of flour, baking powder, and salt.
  5. Stir the dry ingredients into the butter-sugar mixture, and mix until combined (don’t overmix).
  6. In a small bowl, whisk the eggs until they start to foam. Do not overbeat or the cake will be tough.
  7. Add the eggs and the almond flour to batter, and mix until well combined.
  8. Scrape the cake batter into the prepared pan, and spread it evenly.
  • Drop 8 individual tablespoons of lemon curd (or whatever add-in you’re using) around the perimeter of the batter, leaving a 1-inch border, and space the drops evenly.  Drop 3 to 4 tablespoons of lemon curd into the center of the batter. (You will have leftover lemon curd which you can refrigerate for another use.  It’s also OK to use all of the lemon curd.).
  • Sprinkle the top of the cake with 1 tablespoon of sugar (optional.  I did this for the lemon curd version but not for the Nutella or strawberry jam add-in versions).
  • Bake the cake until it is toasty brown on top and a toothpick inserted into the cake (not the curd) comes out clean, about 30-40 minutes.
  • After letting the cake cool on a rack for 10 minutes, remove the sides of pan, and cool completely.  Or if you’re baking in an 8×8 inch pan, remove the cake by using the parchment paper.

Note:  The lemon curd version of this cake should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.  The Nutella and strawberry jam versions can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for 3-4 days.

Strawberry Swirled Cream Cheese Pound Cake

After buying a ridiculous amount of strawberries during a recent trip to the Strawberry Festival and making endless jars of strawberry jam, I was still looking for ways to use up all the strawberries.  Enter this Strawberry Swirled Cream Cheese Pound Cake recipe.  It’s a mouthful to say and to eat.  Like pound cakes in general, this one is dense, tender, and buttery, but the strawberry swirl cuts through some of the richness by adding a slightly tart, luscious ribbon of flavor.  Since I had so much strawberry jam, I used that in my cake instead of using the strawberry swirl recipe below.

Jetta (golden retriever/Labrador mix) thinking, “Really?  You’re going to eat ALL of these strawberries?”
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I used my “fancy” bundt cake mold which made the cake kind of resemble something by MC Echer.
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I wish the strawberry swirl was a bit more bright red, but baking darkens the color.
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Strawberry Swirled Cream Cheese Pound Cake

Makes 1 bundt cake
(from Browneyedbaker.com)

Ingredients

Strawberry Swirl (I used homemade strawberry jam instead of making the strawberry swirl)

⅔ cup finely diced fresh strawberries
¼ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup water
1 tablespoon cornstarch

Pound Cake

1½ cups unsalted butter, at room temperature
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
3 cups granulated sugar
6 eggs, at room temperature
3 cups cake flour, sifted
1 tablespoon vanilla extract (the original recipe lists 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract, but I like to use a little bit extra, thus the 1 tablespoon listed here)
¼ teaspoon salt

Directions

Strawberry Swirl

  1. Combine the strawberries, sugar, water, and cornstarch in a small saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture becomes very thick.
  2. Set aside and allow to cool to room temperature before using.

This is very similar to homemade strawberry jam, which is what I used in my cake.

Pound Cake

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Grease and flour a standard-size Bundt pan.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the cake flour and salt, and set aside.
  3. Using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter on medium speed until combined and soft, about 2 minutes.
  4. Add the sugar and continue to beat on medium speed, scraping the bowl once or twice, until the mixture is very light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
  5. Add the vanilla extract and mix well.
  6. Add the eggs one at a time, beating until each one is completely incorporated before adding the next.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  7. Reduce the speed to low, gradually add the flour mixture until combined.  Make sure not to overmix the batter.  You can even finish incorporating the flour using a spatula to ensure that you don’t overmix.
  8. Spoon about ⅔ of the cake batter into the prepared Bundt pan. Top evenly with the strawberry filling, leaving a 1-inch border around the edge of the pan (Make sure the strawberry filling doesn’t touch the sides of the bundt pan or it will burn and leave a sticky mess.) Use a thin knife to gently swirl the strawberry filling with the cake batter a few times. Spoon the remainder of the cake batter on top of the filling and gently spread to the edges of the pan, covering the filling.
  9. Bake for 1¼ to 1½ hours, or until a skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out with only a few crumbs attached.
  10. Cool the cake to cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then turn it out onto a wire cooling rack and allow to cool completely before serving.

Note: Leftovers can be wrapped in plastic wrap or placed in an airtight container and stored at room temperature for up to 4 days, or in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Strawberry Jam – Throwback Thursday Edition

I baked and cooked a lot before I started blogging.  So, I’ll be using Thursdays (aka TBT or Throwback Thursday) and Fridays (aka Flashback Friday or FBF) to share some of my favorite baking and cooking projects from the past.

It’s hard to find affordable jams at the grocery store that don’t have a lot of preservatives, fillers, and high fructose corn syrup. So I took matters in my own hands and made strawberry jam with only three ingredients- fresh strawberries, sugar, and lemon juice.  While it does take some time to prep the jars for canning, the actual process for cooking the jam is really straight forward, and the steps are simple (This was the first time I had canned anything).  Plus, this jam is so delicious that it makes me never want to buy jam from the grocery store again. It tastes like jam should taste – sweet and fruity and nuthin’ else.

Strawberry jam
The basic peanut or almond butter sandwich becomes so much more luxurious when it’s made with homemade strawberry jam.
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Strawberry Jam

(Adapted from Canning for a New Generation – Bold, Fresh Flavors for the Modern Pantry by Liana Krissoff)
Makes about 4 half-pint glass jars

NOTE: It’s useful to prep your ingredients and lay out your equipment, bowls, and colander ahead of time.  It’s also helpful to have some basic canning tools like a jar funnel (placed in the mouth of a jar to fill  the jar without spilling), a jar lifter (helps safely lift jars out of hot water while canning), a lid lifter (lifts lids out of hot water using a magnetic end), and a ladle (used for for transferring the jam into jars).  I’ve included a list of equipment I use for jam making at the end of this post.

Ingredients

3 pounds rinsed & hulled strawberries, diced (about 9 cups) – this is equivalent to about 4 pint baskets of strawberries
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 tablespoons strained fresh lemon juice (a medium sized lemon)
Grated zest of 2 lemons (optional)

Directions

Prepare for water-bath canning

  1. Sterilize the jars (Wash jars and submerge them in a large pot of water.  Heat the water to a full boil, making sure the water covering the jars has been at a full boil for at least 10 minutes to ensure proper sterilization).  Keep the jars hot in the canning pot.
  2. Put a small plate in the freezer.  This will be used to test whether the jam has been cooked long enough.
  3. Put the flat lids in a heat-proof bowl.

Cooking the Jam

  1. Put the strawberries and sugar in a wide, 6-8 qt preserving pan or a large flat saucepan. Bring the berries and sugar to a simmer, stirring frequently, and continue to cook for 5 minutes.
  2. Pour the berry mixture into a colander set over a large bowl, and stir the berries gently to drain off the juice.  Transfer the berries to a bowl and set aside.
  3. Return the berry juice to the pan and bring to a boil over high heat. Boil, stirring occasionally, until the syrup is reduced to about 1 1/2 cups.  This can take between 10 to 20 minutes.  Use a large spoon to skim foam from the syrup as needed.
  4. Return the strawberries and any accumulated juice to the pan, along with the lemon juice and the zest (if using), and bring to a simmer.
  5. Simmer the jam, stirring frequently, until a small dab of the jam spooned onto the chilled plate and returned to the freezer for a minute becomes somewhat firm (it will not gel), about 10 to 15 minutes. Skim off as much foam as you can, then remove from the jam from the heat, and stir gently for a few seconds to distribute the fruit in the liquid.

Canning the Jam

  1. Ladle boiling water from the canning pot into the bowl with the lids.  Set aside and let the rubber on jar lids soften.
  2. Using a jar lifter, remove the sterilized jars from the canning pot, carefully pouring the water from each jar back into the pot.  Place the jars upright on a folded towel.
  3. Ladle the hot jam into the jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace at the top.
  4. Use a damp paper towel to wipe the rims of the jars.
  5. Drain the water off the jar lids, then put a flat lid and ring on each jar, adjusting the ring so that it’s just finger-tight.
  6. Return the filled jars to the hot water in the canning pot, making sure the water covers the jars by at least 1 inch. Bring to a boil, and boil for 5 minutes to process.
  7. Place the jars on a folded towel, and do not disturb for 12 hours. After 1 hour, check to see if the jars have been vacuum sealed. This is often indicated by the lid “popping”.  You can also test to see if the lids have sealed by pressing down on the center of each lid.  If the center of the lid can be pushed down, it has NOT sealed properly, and the jar should be refrigerated immediately. If the jar lid is indented downward, then the jar has sealed properly.  Label the sealed jars, and store in a cool, dark area for several months..

Equipment Used for Jam Making
The following is a list of equipment and tools I use for making jam.

  • A very large pot for sterilizing jars
  • A big saucepan for cooking the berries
  • A large stainless steel bowl to drain the berry juices in
  • A medium stainless steel for holding the berries after the juices have been drained from them
  • A small stainles steel bowl for stermiling the jar lids
  • A small plate to put in the freezer
  • A funnel, ladle, jar lifter, and lid lifter
  • A big spoon to scoop the foam
  • Clean jars and new lids