Tag Archives: cake

Surrender

IMG_9050IMG_9029Despite Harry having just recovered from the flu, we pulled off a stellar 8th birthday party for Charlie last weekend. Our house was covered with squares and cubes to honor his Minecraft obsession. It was nice to have his party to prepare for on the heels of our news. It kept me focused on celebrating. I served Smitten Kitchen’s so-crazy-addictive-they-must-be-cocaine-infused rice crispy treats with a hint of green as “slime balls”, and her amazingly fudgy brownies as “coal” and “redstone”, along with savory bites like bell pepper “TNT.”

I thought we’d spend this week pushing through a few of the woes of unemployment, like finding health insurance, but it has been a doozy. I threw out my back Monday morning while lifting weights, Friday I got word that my SLP license is going to be held up for at least a month unless I can convince someone that their red tape makes absolutely zero sense, and last night Harry began a round of GI eruptions. This time food poisoning has him prostrate.

I wish we would raise white flags during times of need and our neighbors would take turns dropping off meals, watching the children, leaving good books on our doorstep or pulling a few weeds. While overwhelmed by a three year old and a newborn, I remember dreaming of a service that hooked up grandparents missing their grandbabies with moms of young children desperate for help. Maybe there should be a similar set-up for families dealing with illness, unemployment, death and other major life events. (What’s that you say? Move to Sweden or Holland? Ok!)

My jerry-rigged white flag system involves texts and emails. I’m getting better at this, quicker to fill people in. It still feels scary because I have voices in my head that tell me people won’t show up, are too busy, or really don’t want to hear about this Yet Again. But, here’s the deal. Just like I don’t care if someone’s sick repeatedly or needs a break from their crying baby, they understand our situation. They show up because they love us.

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Friends have been my rays of light. They have been the bright notes to counter the gray. One arrived at our door holding enormous bottles of beer and a bottle of wine. (She knows we stop buying alcohol when future income is unclear, so she became our party Jesus, turning our water into wine.) Another friend’s thrift store birthday party provided some serious belly laughs. I realized that even though I wasn’t buying clothes, I could still try them on. I found the most horrifically ugly outfits to model, an activity I can’t recommend enough. My BFF Anne Lamott retweeted one of my tweets. (!!!) Another friend sent a link to a blog post she “knew” I needed to read and, indeed, it contained words that powered me through the week.

I also savored an evening with my graduate school girlfriends. The plans were made long before Harry lost his job and I re-injured my back, but I kept them because I knew time with them would be therapeutic. We can laugh, be sarcastic, cry and be ridiculously silly within a ten minute window. I’ve known these women over a decade and we’ve walked each other through major piles. We know how to show up for each other, in celebration or consolation. I feed them chocolate, they bring wine. An additional bonus is that they don’t mind the obstacle course of Legos, crumbs, nerf darts and discarded crafts covering my floor.

There is an abundance of beauty in my life. I feel deeply loved. I feel cared for. I am excited about what opportunities may arise from this shift. I’m just equally scared they may not happen soon enough. That we might have to let go of a few dreams that made my heart flutter. My little control problem turns me into an unpredictable geyser during these periods, erupting in tears at the wrong look from a dog. Stability and predictability are my game. However, I don’t wave my white flag when I’m in control. And I receive the most amazingly rich food for my soul whenever it waves. So, I’ll keep surrendering. Again and again.

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The lone remaining slice when I decided I would blog this. Isn’t she pretty? Imagine an entire loaf!

Dressy Chocolate Loaf Cake

Yet another from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking. Yields 12 servings.

Cake batter

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup sour cream

Filling

  • 1/3 cup raspberry or cherry jam
  • 1 teaspoon water

Frosting

  • 5 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup sour cream, at room temperature

Preheat the oven to 350℉.  Butter a 9 1/2 x 5-inch loaf pan, dust the inside with flour and tap out the excess.  Place the pan on two stacked regular baking sheets or on one insulated baking sheet.

Whisk or sift together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

Using a mixer, beat the butter and sugar together at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs individually, beating each for about a minute. Reduce the mixer speed to low to add the sour cream. Still working on a low speed, add the dry ingredients but mix only until they have just disappeared into the batter. Stir one last time with a sturdy rubber spatula and scrape the very thick batter into the pan. Even it out using a spatula.

Bake for 60-70 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. After about 45 minutes if the cake looks as if it’s browning too quickly, loosely cover it with a foil tent. Let the cake cool on a rack for about 5 minutes before turning it out. Cool to room temperature upside down.

Bring the jam and water to a boil over low heat. (Or make your own and just don’t let it get too thick. No need for water. This step was fun for me because I had some raspberries in the freezer begging to be used up.)  Stir to smooth it.

If the loaf cake is extremely uneven on top, slice off the very top using a serrated knife so it will lay flat on a plate. It will serve as the base of the cake. Slice the loaf twice more, creating three layers. Put the first layer (originally the top of the cake) cut side up on a serving plate and spread half of the jam on it. Top this with the middle layer and the rest of the jam. Place the top layer cut side down. Use a small pastry brush or a gentle hand to remove any crumbs on the top or sides of the cake.

To make the frosting, use a double boiler or fit a heatproof bowl into a pan of gently simmering water. Add the chocolate and stir it occasionally until it has melted. Continue working over the hot water and stir in the sour cream. The cream may tighten up, but just continue to stir gently and the frosting will become smooth enough to spread. Once it’s ready, remove the frosting from the heat and cover the sides and top of the cake with the warm frosting.

You may serve immediately or wait a bit. It will last covered and at room temperature overnight, otherwise it is best to refrigerate it. Just bring it to room temperature prior to serving. Serve with pretty much any sort of cream and you won’t regret it.

Upside down rhubarb cake with almond streusel

In April we were swimming in pink. The original owner of this house must have adored that color because she planted raspberry rhododendrons, neon-bright fuchsia azaleas, a cotton candy ornamental cherry tree, and a bubble gum flowering dogwood. (We took down pink drapes when we moved in, and while painting we discovered that the living room walls were once pink. Even the marble around the fireplace is a pinkish purple.)

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The hue that I desperately want to see in my garden but keep failing to produce is rhubarb’s deep crimson. My second planting attempt was this February. March rains were excessive and I think the root base might have rotted. For awhile I thought there was hope, as the world’s tiniest rhubarb stalk possibly poked out, but as it grew I realized it was just a sprouting acorn, courtesy of a squirrel. So, maybe it was to blame. Either way, I’m buying rhubarb these days.

If you are lucky enough to have a free supply of rhubarb, this cake should be just your first stop among many (crisps, chutneys, bars, etc..). If your supply is limited, this would be the first sweet treat I’d make. The rhubarb’s tartness combines with the lemon’s brightness to sing of summer’s dawning. The creamy richness of the cake contrasted with the crunchy streusel makes for nice textural balance. Basically, I felt like I was simultaneously eating super moist cake and a shortbread cookie. That is truly enough for me to sing. And dance. (Again.)

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Being the recipe tweaker that I am, I took down the sugar content and doubled the streusel in this Martha Stewart cake the first time I made it. I wanted to rework the streusel before sharing here, so I made it again. It’s not that I was disappointed with the first version. In fact, I stuffed my face with several pieces of it in one day and longed for it regularly until round two. I just wanted the streusel to be a little nuttier, a little crunchier. (Similar to the streusel on my favorite carrot bread.) I settled upon Thomas Keller’s almond streusel from The Bouchon Bakery cookbook. This recipe makes enough streusel for two portions. Extras will store it in the fridge or freezer. They make a mean muffin top. After you taste the streusel, you will not be sad about having leftovers, but you could always halve the recipe.

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Upside down rhubarb cake with almond streusel

Cake adapted from Martha Stewart, streusel from Thomas Keller. Easily serves 12  (It’s very rich so pieces can be small. Then again, you may also eat two pieces in one day. Leftovers will hold nicely a day or two if your crowd is small.)

Cake

  • 6 ounces (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, divided
  • 1 pound rhubarb (about 8 thin stalks, sliced 1/2 inch thick at sharp diagonal)
  • 150 grams (1 1/2 cups) granulated sugar, divided
  • 6 3/4 ounces (1 1/2 cups) all-purpose flour, feel free to substitute up to one third with a whole grain flour. Barley worked really nicely for me.
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup sour cream (or plain yogurt), full fat

Almond streusel

  • 120 grams (3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons) all-purpose flour
  • 120 grams (1 cup + 1 tablespoon) almond flour (also known as almond meal)
  • 120 grams (1/2 cup + 1 1/2 tablespoons) granulated sugar
  • 0.6 grams (1/4 teaspoon) kosher salt
  • 120 grams (4.2 ounces) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4 inch pieces

Preheat oven to 350℉. Let the sliced rhubarb macerate with 50 grams (1/2 cup) sugar for at least a few minutes. Butter a 9-inch round cake pan (~2-inches deep) and dot the bottom of the pan with 2 ounces (4 tablespoons) butter cut into pieces. Place the rhubarb evenly throughout the pan (on top of the pieces of butter).

To make the cake batter, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Beat the remaining stick of butter (4 ounces) with 100 grams (1 cup) of sugar until pale and fluffy. Beat in the lemon zest and juice. Beat in one egg at a time until it’s incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Alternate beating in the dry flour mixture and the sour cream, mixing until just incorporated. Spread this evenly over the rhubarb.

Make the streusel by whisking together the almond and all-purpose flours, sugar, and salt. Add the pieces of butter and toss them to coat the pieces. Then, rub/cut them in with your fingertips until the pieces are about pea sized. Work quickly to keep the butter cold, trying not to overwork it. Sprinkle the streusel (half of it unless you halved the recipe) over the cake batter.

Bake for about one hour, or until a tester comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for about ten minutes, then run a knife around the edges and quickly and carefully invert it onto a cake platter (or plate) to cool and serve.

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A cake for summer

This summer has treated me very kindly. We began with three weeks in Colorado, spoiled by friends and family hosting us, sharing meals, playing with the boys, and even gifting Harry and I our first two night getaway since becoming parents. I read five books during that vacation. FIVE! I’ve also been virus-free, exercising pretty regularly, curbing some habits that have not been beneficial, adding a few positive ones back into the mix. I have been finding more space and some peace.

One of the books I read was Eat, Pray, Love. I’m sure you haven’t heard of it because it’s so recent and all, so just google it. Anywho, I really identified with Liz’s journey through Italy, during which she ate gelato for breakfast, pizza for lunch, and pasta for dinner. She was finally happy. I can totally relate. I am trying to indulge more, and not just with food. Welcoming the idea of a regular babysitter even though it feels luxurious. Embracing my desire to eat a pint of berries. Disciplining myself to an earlier bedtime. (This doesn’t always feel indulgent when it’s 9:30pm, but it does at 6am.) Exercising in the morning. Eating cake.

I have also savored a few days by myself this summer. One day I wandered through Pike Place Market and happened upon Alm Hill farms, whose particular raspberries were so divine when I tasted them last year that I later contacted them to find out the variety so I could plant it. Tulameen! As of February I have their canes in my garden, but we’ll have to wait until next year for their fruit. Alm Hill had rows of berries at their booth, and BEHOLD, they were Tulameen!

In the name of nurturing myself, I bought a flat right then and there. Because of the berries. Because of cake. My friend and former neighbor posted this beautiful raspberry cake recipe on her blog several years ago. I’ve made it two summers in a row, making it an official summer tradition for us. I love it. I love the cream for dipping, I love the tartness of the raspberries against the sweetness of the citrus-kissed cake. I was going to bake the cake regardless, but we were treated to a surprise visit with dear friends that night so they got to share in the fun. I converted them into Tulameen raspberry lovers, too.

IMG_7444 One week later, I still had Marsala. And orange juice. And sour cream. And I wanted more cake. This time I experimented, though, because it’s also boysenberry season and I can’t pass by a flat of them without serious regret. Since we have stonefruit coming out of our ears, the sweetness of the white nectarines seemed like it could be a good balance to the tartness of the boysenberries. I also like the depth of flavor whole grain flours lend baked goods and I thought this cake could handle that extra nuttiness. If you don’t have any whole grain flours, don’t let that stop you from enjoying this cake! Just use all-purpose. I think most whole grain flours would work well, though, including barley, spelt, rye, buckwheat or good ol’ wheat, as long as you keep the ratio 2:1. If I were, ahem, to make this cake again this summer, I’d try barley flour with blackberries and donut peaches next.

Anyways, I was so pleased with the results that I thought I’d share the recipe with you. IMG_7450

Boysenberry White Nectarine Marsala Cake

Inspired by Dana’s Raspberry Cake with Marsala

Makes one 10-inch cake

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup graham flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt (I prefer Diamond Crystal kosher salt)

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

A sprinkling of cinnamon (~1/8 teaspoon)

1/2 cup Marsala

1/4 cup fresh orange juice

14 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature (12 T for the batter, 2 T reserved for mid-way baking)

1 cup sugar plus 1 T for the sour cream and more for a mid-way sprinkling

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon grated lemon peel

3 cups fresh boysenberries (1.5 cups for the cake, the rest for serving)

2 white nectarines (1 for the cake, one for serving)

1 cup sour cream IMG_7452

Preheat your oven to 400℉ and make sure the oven rack is centered. Butter a 10-inch springform pan. Whisk the first seven ingredients in a bowl to blend. Combine the Marsala and orange juice.

Cream together 12 tablespoons butter and 1 cup sugar. Beat in the eggs, vanilla, and lemon peel. Starting with the flour mixture, add it to the batter alternating with the Marsala mixture twice, until the flour is just mixed in. Pour the batter in your prepared pan. Place the berries and nectarines on top, ensuring that each slice will get several tastes of the fruit. (I had a six year old helper with the “decorating” so today’s placement was especially creative.)

Bake until the cake is gently set, approximately 20-minutes. It will still jiggle and wiggle a bit and that’s fine. Reduce the temperature to 375℉. Take the remaining two tablespoons of butter and dot the cake with it. I used my hands to break it into little pieces and place them evenly around the cake. Sprinkle the cake with a tablespoon or two of sugar. (I thought one was plenty, you may not!) Continue baking until the cake is cooked through (tester comes out clean), approximately another 15-minutes.

Cool the cake in it’s pan on a rack. Once it’s cool, release the pan sides and transfer the cake to a plate. Allow it to cool to room temperature. (Ha! Who can wait that long?! Only if company is coming…) Mix one cup of sour cream with one tablespoon of sugar (or another sweetener of choice. I think maple syrup would be tasty here, too.). Cut cake into wedges and serve garnished with sweetened sour cream and fresh fruit.

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This cake pairs well with coffee. I bet most Rieslings wouldn’t be bad, either. Or rosé. But I’m definitely no sommelier. Either way, there will be cake!