Monthly Archives: July 2012

Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

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I don’t tend to bake cakes often, mainly because a cake generally has a large yield and is more of a celebratory dessert than something you would make just to have on hand. So, because one: I have a small family who already has trouble consuming everything I make, and two: birthdays, parties, and cake-occasions don’t arise too often, my opportunity to make cakes is limited.

So, when this opportunity does arise, I take out my bucket list of cakes and attempt to select one out of the ample, tempting choices.

Believe it or not, I insisted upon making my own birthday cake this year (which was actually towards the beginning of the year…) because of this very reason. Although this made my mom a bit sad since she’s always made my birthday cakes in the past, I explained my reasoning and she agreed.

I narrowed my cake bucket list down to three options and then finally settled on carrot cake. A spiced, moist cake that warmed your palette and soul in the wintery season. Except then I had to select one of the several carrot cake recipes I have been wanting to try. There was the one from the Flour Bakery cookbook, the typically flawless Baking Illustrated recipe, the healthy cookinglight recipe, and the bundt cake book recipe, which I think was the one I made once for my mom’s co-worker’s birthday and was so delectably delicious, but wasn’t positive and also had that urge to try something new.

I was almost positive I would choose the Flour recipe because of its bursting with carrots and super moist description, but then I realized the recipe only made an 8-inch round cake– which would be then cut in half to make two layers. However, despite the small dimensions, this cake contained very similar amounts of oil and even more carrots as the other recipes, which yielded much larger cakes.

So, I changed my mind at last minute to making the Baking Illustrated recipe, which had a just as promising description and their typical commentary describing how they figured out the perfect carrot cake formula.

I always have a hard time knowing when cakes are done because of their large surface area. My oven has also been a bit unreliable lately and seems to have an abnormally uneven distribution of heat. Sometimes with cakes, this results in the middle of the cake sinking a little after ten or so minutes of cooling. Because of this uncertainty, I was a bit nervous about how the cake’s consistency and texture would turn out, but unfortunately, I couldn’t taste it until we cut into it with everyone else later that night.

However, even though the cake was a bit sunken in the middle (which could be hidden by the frosting on top), this cake was absolutely delicious! Very moist, but not dense with lots of carrots and a spiced flavor, which made for a sweet end to my birthday!

 

Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Yield: one 9 x 13 inch cake, 10-12 servings

Ingredients for Cake:

2 1/2 cups (12 1/2 oz) unbleached all-purpose flour

1 1/4 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg or ground nutmeg

1/8 tsp ground cloves

scant 1/2 tsp salt

1 pound carrots (11 to 12 medium small carrots), peeled

1 1/2 cups (10 1/2 oz) granulated sugar

1/2 cup packed (3 1/2 oz) light brown sugar

4 large eggs

1 1/2 cups canola oil

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray a 13 x 9-inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Line the bottom of pan with parchment paper and spray parchment.

2. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices, and salt in a large bowl; set aside.

3. In a food processor fitted with the large shredding disk, shred carrots (you should have about 3 cups); mix in carrots with dry ingredients and set aside.

4. Wipe out food processor and switch to a metal blade. Process both sugars with eggs until frothy and thoroughly combined, about 20 seconds. With the machine running, add oil through the feed tube in a steady stream. Process until mixture is light in color and well combined, about 20 more seconds.

5. Scrape mixture into a large bowl; then stir in carrots and dry ingredients until incorporated and no streaks of flour remain. Pour into prepared pan.

 

6. Bake until a toothpick or skewer inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes, rotating pan from back to front half way through baking time. Cool cake to room temperature in pan on a wire rack, about 2 hours.

Cream Cheese Frosting

Ingredients:

3 ounces 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, chilled

1/2 TBP sour cream

1 tablespoon butter, softened

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Dash of salt

1/2 cup powdered sugar

Directions:

1. Beat together cream cheese, sour cream, butter, vanilla, and salt. Slowly add powdered sugar and beat until well combined and to desired consistency and sweetness. (Feel free to add more powdered sugar, if you like a thinner, sweeter frosting.)

2. Invert cake onto wire rack and peel off parchment. Then invert on a serving platter. Using an offset spatula, spread frosting evenly over surface of the cake.

Adapted from Baking Illustrated 

Easy Little Bread

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If you’ve never tried making a yeast bread before or have had little experience with yeast, then this is a great recipe for you to try!

It’s simple, quick, versatile, and even delicious! You can eat it with dinner, for breakfast with some butter or jam, or use it as sandwich bread. Oaty with a hint of wheat and sweetness, this is a great staple bread to have around the house. Unlike most yeast breads, this one only rises for 30 minutes and doesn’t even require any kneading!

Thanks to Heidi Swanson and her terrific blog, 101cookbooks, for stumbling upon this recipe that she found in a classic cookbook titled, Gran’s Kitchen: Recipes from the Notebooks of Dulcie May Booker, a cookbook written by Natalie Oldfield compiled of recipes inspired by her grandmother.

Enjoy!

Easy Little Bread

Yield: one 9 x 5″ loaf

Ingredients:

1 1/4 cups / 300 ml warm water (105-115F)
2 teaspoons active dry yeast (about one packet)
1 tablespoon runny honey
1 cup / 4.5 oz / 125 g unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup / 5 oz / 140 g whole wheat flour
1 cup / 3.5 oz / 100 g old-fashioned rolled oats (not instant oats)
1 1/2 teaspoons fine grain sea salt
butter for greasing pan

Directions:

1. In a medium bowl, sprinkle the yeast onto the warm water and stir until the yeast dissolves. Stir in the honey and set aside for a few minutes, until the yeast blooms and swells a bit – 5 – 10 minutes. (You won’t see too much change though.)

2. In the meantime, mix the flours, oats, and salt in a large bowl. Add the wet mixture to the dry and stir very well until everything is incorporated.

3. Butter a 9 x 5″ or 8-cup loaf pan. Turn the dough into the tin, cover with a clean, slightly damp cloth, and set in a warm place for 30 minutes, to rise.

4. Preheat the oven to 350F / 180C, with a rack in the middle. When ready, bake the bread for 30-40 minutes, until golden and pulling away from the sides of the pan. Remove from oven, and turn the bread out of the pan quickly onto a wire rack. Let it cool on a rack so it doesn’t steam in the pan. Serve warm.

Adapted a bit from Gran’s Kitchen: Recipes from the NOtebooks of Dulcie May Booker, via 101cookbooks 

Raspberry Banana Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

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One of my all-time favorite cakes is a recipe I found in Cooking Light Magazine all the way back in 2003 called Raspberry Banana Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting. Although I tend not to return to most recipes after I give them a try, this one I couldn’t resist making again and again even with that voice in the back of my head saying “Make something new!”

It has a irresistibly moist, but light texture and delicious fresh banana flavor. The raspberries inserted in between the two cake layers go perfectly with the banana cake and the lemon cream cheese frosting compliments both of these flavors even further to create this sensational cake!

It’s perfect for birthdays, holiday celebrations, or really just a cake to have in the fridge to nibble on throughout the day. It can be made in any season, but personally, I think summer is the ideal time to make this cake, particularly in July when you can find local raspberries that are fresh and sweet!

When I realized we had some deeply ripe bananas lurking on the counter, I thought this cake would make the perfect July 4th dessert! It did indeed, and garnished with some fresh blueberries and additional raspberries on top of the cream cheese icing speckled with lemon zest, this cake definitely depicted Independence Day!

[The pictures on this blog post depict two different times that I made this cake (one of which was this past Wednesday, July 4th!)]

Raspberry Banana Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

Yield: two 8-inch round cakes

Ingredients:

Cake:

Cooking spray

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

scant 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar

1/4 cup salted butter, softened

3 large eggs

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 cup low-fat buttermilk *see note

1 cup mashed ripe banana (about 2 large bananas)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Frosting: *see note

3/4 cup (6 ounces) 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, chilled

2 tablespoons butter, softened

2 teaspoons grated lemon rind

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Dash of salt

1 cup powdered sugar

1 1/2 cups fresh raspberries, washed and halved (two 6 oz containers or one 12 oz container)

*Note: You can make your own buttermilk by placing 1 TBP white vinegar or lemon juice in a measuring cup and then pouring 1% milk up to the 1 cup line.

*Note: After always ending up with way too much icing, I began halving this recipe. However, it depends on how thick you like your layers of icing; I personally just like a very thin layer of icing so halving this recipe yields the perfect amount of icing to cover both layers of cake.

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. To prepare the cake, line 2 (8-inch) round cake pans with wax paper, then coat lightly with cooking spray; dust each pan with 1 1/2 teaspoons flour.
  3. Place granulated sugar and 1/4 cup butter in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended. Add eggs, beating well.
  4. Lightly spoon 1 3/4 cups flour into dry measuring cups, and level with a knife. Combine flour and baking powder, stirring well with a whisk.
  5. Combine buttermilk, banana, and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Add the flour mixture and buttermilk mixture alternately to the sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture (mix after each addition just until blended). Evenly divide batter between the two prepared pans.
  6. Bake cake at 350° for 20-25 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out with moist crumbs. Cool in pans 10 minutes on a wire rack; remove from pans. Peel off wax paper. Cool layers completely on wire rack.
  7. To prepare frosting, combine cream cheese, 2 tablespoons butter, rind, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, and dash of salt in a large bowl. Beat with a mixer at high speed until fluffy. Gradually add powdered sugar; beat at low speed just until blended (do not overbeat).
  8. Place 1 cake layer on a plate, and spread with 1/3 cup frosting. Arrange halved raspberries in a single layer over frosting, and top with remaining cake layer. Spread remaining frosting over top and sides of cake. Garnish with fresh raspberries (and blueberries). Store cake loosely covered in refrigerator.

Adapted from Cooking Light Magazine 

Zucchini Muffins/Bread

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I used to hate zucchini. When my grandpa brought us the occasional mini loaf of zucchini bread from the Emmaus Bakery, this vegetable tasted a little better masked by all the sugar, but I still hoped for the cinnamon bread with doughy crust and gooey swirls instead of this mediocre vegetable loaf.

As I matured into high school and beyond, my taste buds matured too. Suddenly, I loved tons of different vegetables that I never liked before. Zucchini was one of them and with that came a curiosity to retry zucchini bread too.

I decided that I might like it a lot better if I made it from scratch instead of purchasing it from a bakery. So I began my quest for the perfect zucchini bread recipe and after a couple disappointing ones, I stumbled upon one from the Baking Bites blog and decided this was pretty darn close to the one I had been searching for.

Moist and lightly spiced, I also enhanced this recipe by reducing the sugar (as usual), as well as adding in some toasted chopped pecans and some unsweetened coconut. The first time I made this, I added the suggested orange zest, but after not being able to detect it in the bread, I removed this ingredient the second time around.

This recipe makes two loaf breads, but is also wonderful turned into muffins. So choose whichever you like better, or a combination of both!

I also love how this recipe uses sour cream to substitute for some of the fat content (oil), and simultaneously helps moisten the texture, therefore producing a healthier bread.

This is the perfect breakfast item to make right now since we’re smack in the middle of zucchini season and they are abundant at local farmer’s markets. So you’re supporting your  local farmers while treating yourself to a delicious treat!

Zucchini Bread (and/or Muffins)

Yield: 2 loaf pans, or 1 loaf pan and 10 muffins, or 22 muffins

Ingredients:

2 1/4 C flour
2 t cinnamon
1/8 t ground cloves
scant 1/2 t salt
1 1/2 t baking soda
1/2 C canola oil
1/2 C granulated sugar
1/2 C brown sugar
3 eggs
2 t vanilla
1/2 C sour cream- light or regular both work
3 C grated zucchini with some of liquid squeezed out- about 2 medium zucchinis

Optional Ingredients:

grated zest from one large orange

generous 1/2 C chopped pecans, toasted

1/2 C unsweetened coconut

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 2 loaf pans and/or place paper liners in muffin cups and set aside.

2. Combine flour, cinnamon, cloves, salt, and baking soda in a bowl and whisk to combine. Set aside.

3. Beat eggs, oil, sugars, and vanilla for about 30 seconds. Add sour cream and optional orange zest and beat to combine. Mix in zucchini.

4. Add dry ingredients and mix just until combined. Then, gently add pecans and coconut if using.

5. Divide batter between pans. Bake loaves for 30 minutes or until a knife comes out clean (this time could vary A LOT because in the original recipe it said to bake loaves for 50 to 60 minutes, so it really depends on your oven; just check it periodically and cover with tin foil and poke hole if uneven baking occurs). Muffins are done in about 15 minutes (in my oven).

6. Cool for at least 10 minutes in loaf pans on wire rack before turning out on a wire rack to cool completely. Muffins can be removed right away and be placed on wire rack to cool.

Adapted from Our Best Bites

Lemon Sponge Pudding Recipe

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One flavor of summer is lemon. Always lending a bright, tart freshness to basically any dish, lemons can easily be the star ingredient or a quiet enhancer. In this particular recipe, they are the star.

Lemon Sponge Pudding.

I love moist textures, so this recipe especially caught my eye. While the top layer is like a light and airy sponge cake, dig in and you will discover a pudding-like lemon sauce, which meshes so well with the top cake layer.

Interestingly, this dessert is popular in many different countries, each which have a different name for it such as Lemon Souffle Pudding or Lemon Surprise Pudding.

This is a light, but decadent summery dessert and looks very elegant when presented to guests, but actually is quite easy to make. If they are lemon fans, your guests will surely ask you for the recipe. Enjoy

Lemon Sponge Pudding

Ingredients:

1 cup (200 grams) granulated white sugar, divided

3 tablespoons (40 grams) unsalted butter,room temperature

3 large eggs, separated

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 tablespoon (4 grams) lemon zest

1/3 cup (40 grams) all purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup (80 ml) fresh lemon juice

1 cup (240 ml) whole milk

1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C) and place rack in the center of the oven. Butter six – 1 cup (240 ml) ramekins or other heatproof bowls. (You can also use different sizes that will add up to 6 cups and adjust the baking time.)

2. Set aside 2 tablespoons (28 grams) of the sugar to use when whipping the egg whites. Then, in the bowl of your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, cream the remaining sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Add the three egg yolks, one at a time, and beat until incorporated. Beat in the vanilla extract and lemon zest. Add the flour and salt and beat until combined. With the mixer on low speed, gradually pour in the lemon juice and milk. Set aside while you beat the egg whites.

3. In a clean bowl of your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, beat the egg whites until frothy. Add the cream of tartar and continue to beat until soft peaks form. Gradually add the remaining 2 tablespoons (28 grams) of sugar and beat until stiff peaks form. Gently FOLD the egg whites into the batter, in three additions, mixing only until incorporated.

4. Carefully pour (or use a ladle) the batter into the prepared ramekins. (The batter does not rise much during baking so you can fill the ramekins almost to the rim.) Place the ramekins in a larger baking pan (or any size pan that will fit the ramekins and leave about 1 inch (2.54 cm) around the edges).

5. Prepare a water bath. Carefully pour in enough hot water so that the water is halfway up the sides of the ramekins. (Will take a lot of water especially if using large pans, so prepare plenty of water, so you don’t have to heat up more to fill the pan to the desirable level).

6. Bake for about 40 – 45 minutes or until the sponge cakes are light brown and a toothpick inserted into the cake portion comes out clean. Be careful not to insert the toothpick into the lemon sauce at the bottom of the ramekins. Remove the ramekins from the water bath and cool slightly before serving.

*This dessert can be served warm or at room temperature. Dust with confectioners sugar and top with a dollop of whipped cream and fresh fruit if desired.

Makes 6 servings.

From Joy of Baking