Smitten Mom’s Apple Cake

At the end of last October, one of my all-time favourite food bloggers – Deb Perelman from Smitten Kitchen, released her first ever cookbook.

For those of you who know me personally, you’ll know that I am an avid reader have a slight intense obsession with the Smitten Kitchen blog. Deb’s writing has inspired me to roll up my sleeves and cook from scratch again and again. Plus her recipes have never failed me. Whenever I need a new, reliable thanksgiving entree or a delicious, foolproof birthday cake, I turn to Smitten Kitchen.

As soon as I picked up Deb’s cookbook from my local bookstore (literally hours after it was released in Canada), I read the entire thing cover to cover in one sitting. This humble apple cake was the 1st dessert that I tried out of her cookbook and just like all of Deb’s recipes – it turned out beautifully.

Smitten Kitchen Apple Cake.jpg

Deb said in her book that this apple cake by her mom is a showstopper. She promised that if I bake this cake once, I will bake it again. Sure enough, she was right. Even though her cookbook features 8 more cake recipes that all sound much more ‘higher-end’ with names such as Olive Oil Ricotta Cake with grape coulis and red wine velvet cake, I find myself not able to go past this apple cake. And I have absolutely no problem with that.

a dollop of soft butter or oil spray
6 MacIntosh Apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1/2 inch chunks
1 TBsp ground cinnamon
2 cups + 5 TBsp granulated sugar
2 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 TBsp baking powder
1 Tsp table salt
1 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup orange juice, not from concentrate
2 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
4 large eggs, free range & organic
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit. Grease bundt pan, or two 9-inch round cake pans with the dollop of butter or oil spray
  2. Toss the apple chucks with cinnamon and 5 tablespoons of sugar. Set aside
  3. Stir together the dry ingredients: flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl
  4. In a separate bowl, mix together the wet ingredients: oil, orange juice, sugar and vanilla
  5. Pour the wed ingredients into the bowl with the dry ingredients, and begin adding the eggs one at a time. Scraping down the bowl occasionally to make sure that everything is incorporated.
  6. Pour half of the cake mixture into the greased bundt pan. If using the round pans, divide half of the cake mixture in half again and pour into the 2 pans. Each round pan should have 1/4 of the batter.
  7. Top batter with half of the apples.
  8. Pour the remaining batter over the apples and arrange the remaining apples on top
  9. Bake cake for 1.25-1.5 hours. If you are using the round cake pans, then check the cake at around the 50 min mark. I found that the cake took about 1.5 hours regardless of what pan I used, but every oven is different so I don’t want to mislead you and have you end up with burnt cake. That would be tragic. Once cake is cooked through, transfer cake pan to a wired cooling rack
  10. Cool cake completely before flipping the cake out of the pan, dust with confectioners’ sugar before serving

 

Ferrero Rocher Cake

It was K’s 29th birthday a few Sundays ago, and we celebrated the big day together with a platter full of southern BBQ, a siphon coffee tasting and this epic cake.

My originally idea for K’s birthday cake was leaning more towards dark chocolate cupcakes, topped off with a Nutella-like icing, but that plan was quickly thrown out the window as I landed upon Marina‘s photo of her Ferrero Rocher cake.

This cake has K’s name written all over it. 2 Hazelnut cake layers, iced with Nutella and pure chocolate and topped off with crushed wafers? This is K’s dream cake, and what better time to make it for him than on his birthday?

What surprised me the most about this cake is that it was actually a fairly simple cake to bake and build, especially if you bake the cake layers the night before, then make the icing and asemble the cake on the actual day of when you want to serve it. It also does not call for too many ingredients and it’s almost gluten-free (only 3 TBsp flour, and you can leave out the wafers), as ground hazelnuts replaced a huge portion of the flour.

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Cake Layers

7 large eggs, room temperature
1/2 cups sugar
2 cups finely ground hazelnuts*
3 TBsp all purpose flour
3 TBsp cocoa powder
3 tsp baking powder

Icing

300 grams unsalted butter, room temperature
2 1/4 cups chopped chocolate (I used a mix of dark & semi-sweet)
1/2 cup Nutella
1/2-1 cup wafers, crushed

Decorating

8 Ferrero Rocher Candies
3/4 cups wafers, crushed

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line the bottoms of two 8 inch round cake pans with parchment paper and grease the side walls.
  2. Sift flour, cocoa & baking powder. Stir in ground hazelnuts.
  3. In a stand mixer or using a hand mixer, whisk the eggs with sugar until they are three times in volume, light and fluffy.
  4. Using spatula, gently fold the dry ingredients into the eggs, in three additions.
  5. Divide the batter evenly between the 2 cake pans and bake until a toothpick inserted into the cake’s center comes out clean. About 20-25 mins.
  6. To make the icing, melt the chocolate in a double boiler and let it cool to room temperature
  7. Whip chocolate, butter & Nutella until thoroughly combined and a delicious icing is formed
  8. To assemble the cake, make sure the cake has cooled, then evenly spread a healthy dollop of icing on the 1st cake layer and sprinkle with crashed wafers.
  9. Place the other cake layer on top and use the rest of the icing (saving maybe 1/2 cup) to ice the sides and top of the entire cake.
  10. Press the remaining crushed wafers onto the sides of the cake, then with the remaining 1/2 cup of icing, pipe 8 circular mounts or stars on the cake.
  11. Place 1 Ferrero Rocher candy on top of each piped star and serve immediately
  12. This cakes will keep in the fridge, but the hazelnut cake layers do tends to dry out a little faster than a regular cake, so I would recommend finishing it within 24 hours. The icing will also harden in the fridge, so always bring the cake back to room temperature before serving so that the icing can soften a little bit.

*You can buy ground hazelnuts directly on from grocery stores, or you can ground the Hazelnut yourself using a high speed blender or food processor. It’s definitely an extra step, but in my opinion, freshly ground nuts are so much better than the pre-packaged ones.

**I actually had a lot of icing leftover after the cake was assembled, so you prefer a light icing on your cake, you can probably cut the icing recipe in half. Alternatively, you can place the leftover icing in mini mason jars and give it away to your friends and neighbors as a elevated version of Nutella spread. They will love you for it.

Recipe found on Let the Baking Begin Blog. Original Recipe from Lubię Gotować

Strawberry Cake

The past month was a crazy one.

K and I moved to Vancouver and his parents came for a visit. A really really really long visit.

Okay. By really really really long, I mean 1 month + 2 days + 11 hours +40 minutes.

It’s not like I was counting or anything…

Anyways, they had a great visit.  It was nice to be able to spend some quality time with K’s parents and learn a little bit more about them.

So what’s the reason for this cake photo? Well, it just so happens that my future mother in law’s birthday is in January. She’s always been asking about my cakes, so I figured that I should just bake her a birthday cake.  Maybe if I feed her enough butter… she will like me more?

After doing some digging around, I finally decided on the cake that I was going to bake. It was a recipe that I bookmarked in early 2010, but had completely forgotten about. Strawberries are one of K’s mom’s favorite fruits so I thought it would be fitting that her first homemade birthday cake is a strawberry one.

The original recipe is from The Pioneer Woman.  I changed it up slightly just to adjust the sweetness level.

For the Cake:

1-1/2 Cup Flour
3 TBsp Cornstarch
1/2 Tsp Salt
1 Tsp Baking Soda
½ Cup & 1 TBsp Unsalted Butter, Softened
1-1/4 Cup Sugar
3 Large Eggs
1/2 Cup Sour Cream, Room Temperature
1 Tsp Vanilla

For the Icing:

1/2 pound Cream Cheese, Room Temperature
1 Cup Unsalted Butter
1/2 – 1 pound Powdered Sugar, Sifted
1 teaspoon Vanilla
1 pound Strawberries

  1. Grease and flour an 8-inch cake pan that is at least 2 inches high. I used a 8′ spring-form
  2. Preheat oven to 350F or 325F if your oven runs hot like mine
  3. Sift together flour, salt, baking soda, and corn starch. Mix well
  4. Cream  1/2 cup + 1 tablespoons of butter with the sugar until light and fluffy. Add the 3 eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition
  5. Add sour cream and vanilla into the mixture and stir until combined. Add in the dry ingredients and mix on low speed until just barely combined
  6. Pour into cake batter in greased pan and bake for 45 to 50 minutes  until cake is golden brown and is no longer jiggly
  7. Remove from cake pan as soon as you pull it out from the oven (this is where a spring-form pan comes in handy), and place on a cooling rack.  The cake needs to cool completely before it is iced
  8. While the cake is baking, hull the strawberries and slice them into halves (or quarters if they are giant mutant strawberries). Place them into a bowl and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons sugar. Stir together and let it sit for about 1 hour
  9. Slice cake in half through the middle. Spread strawberries evenly over the bottom of the cake half (cut side up), pouring on all the juices. Place cake halves into the freezer for ~5 minutes to make icing easier
  10. While the cake is chilling, make the icing. Combine cream cheese, butter, sifted powdered sugar, vanilla, and dash of salt in a mixing bowl. Mix until very light and fluffy
  11. Remove cake from freezer. Use ~ 1/3 of the icing to spread over the top of the strawberries on the bottom layer, then place the second layer on top. Use the remaining icing to ice the entire cake (top and sides)
  12. If desired, garnish the cake with more strawberries

Brown Butter Pineapple Upside Down Cake

In my humble, totally non-objective opinion, the best way to kick off the new year is to bake up a storm.

What’s better than a house filled with the aroma of butter browning, flour rising and chocolates melting….

Absolutely nothing.

I found the recipe for this Brown Butter Pineapple Upside-Down Cake on 80 Breakfasts.  I have made pineapple upside down cakes before, but never with brown butter. This new brown butter addition makes quite a big difference and also fills the house with this ridiculously delicious scent.

Actually…Come to think of it…There should be brown butter perfumes out there.

I would wear it.

There should also be brown butter deodorants…

Can you imagine if your armpits smelled like a glorious French bakery?!?!

I’m just filled with brilliant ideas like these…

I’m just brilliant…

Anyways…

Here’s the recipe…

1/3 cup butter, softened not melted
1/3 cup brown sugar
6-8 pineapple rings
1/2 cup butter
2/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
5/8 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder

  1. Preheat oven to 350F
  2. Spread the softened butter on the base of an 8-inch cake pan.  Sprinkle the brown sugar evenly over the butter.  Arrange the pineapple on top of the sugar. Set aside and get on with your batter.
  3. Melt the butter in a skillet until browned, Strain (optional) and set aside to cool.
  4. Whisk the sugar with the egg. In another bowl, whisk your flour and baking powder together, then add to the egg mixture. Add the cooled brown butter and whisk until just combined. Pour the batter over the prepared pineapples in the pan.  Place the cake pan on a cookie sheet.
  5. Bake in oven for 40-50 minutes or until a pick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean.
  6. Remove the pan from the oven and loosen the sides of the cake with a small sharp knife.  Place a plate over the cake pan and flipped the pan over onto the plate. Remove pan and enjoy!

Recipe from 80 Breakfasts.

Petite Madeleine

Ahhh… Madeleine.

The perfect combination of butter, sugar, lemon and…some more butter.

Madeleines are one of K’s favorite desserts.  I have been meaning to make these for the last few months, but every time I walk into the store to buy Madeleine molds, I am always discouraged by how crazy expensive they are.  Every time, I walk away, empty handed.

Gaaaww, I am such a cheapo.  It’s a serious issue.  I need to talk to someone about this.

Did you know that I never buy clothes at full price? I am that crazy lady who waits and waits for their favorite dress to go on sale.  Then, I push out anyone who comes in my way, including children and senior citizens… I then sprint to the store, grab my dress and run to the cashier.

It’s a thrilling experience.  You should try it sometime.

Anyways, back to my original story.  I walked into the good old William Sonoma last week with the sole purpose of grabbing a dry brine for my Thanksgiving turkey, but I was so impressed by their impeccable service (they gave me a pumpkin pie sample!! A whole slice of pumpkin pie!!) that I overcame my thrifty self and finally bought myself a Madeleine pan!

And OHHH was it ever worth it.  Just look at these beauties.

Here’s what you’ll need:

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter (3/4 Cups)
3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour + 1 TBsp for dusting
4 large eggs
a pinch fine-grain sea salt
2/3 cups sugar
zest of one large lemon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Cooking spray
powdered sugar

  1. Preheat oven to 350F
  2. Melt the 1 1/2 sticks of butter in a small pot over medium heat until it’s brown and gives off a deliciously nutty aroma, roughly 20 minutes. Strain the melted butter to leave the solids behind and allow the butter to cool to room temperature
  3. While the melted butter is cooling, use cooking spray to thoroughly spray the Madeleine pan, then dust the pan with flour.  You can also use butter instead of cooking spray
  4. Put the eggs with the salt in the bowl of an electric mixer with a whisk attachment. Whip on high speed until thick and doubled in volume – approximately 3 minutes. Continuing to mix on high speed, slowly add the sugar in a steady stream. Whip for 2 minutes or until mixture is thick and ribbony. Now with a spatula fold in the lemon zest and vanilla (just until mixed).
  5. Sprinkle the flour on top of the egg batter, and gently fold in. Now fold in the melted butter. Only stirring enough to bring everything together
  6. Spoon the batter into the molds, filling each mold 2/3 -3/4 full
  7. Bake the Madeleines for 7-10 minutes, or until the edges of the madeleines are golden brown. Remove from oven and immediately pop them out of the molds. Cool on racks and dust with powdered sugar
  8. Consume ASAP

Recipe from Heidi at 101 Cookbooks

Double Layer Birthday Cake

My baby brother Brian turned 11 last month.

He knows who Enrique Iglesias is.  He knows how to use an iPad. He know about puberty.

Every year for my brother’s birthday, I ask him what he wants as his birthday cake. And then… once I’ve gather all the necessary information from him, I start my annual experimentation of various cake recipes, right here in my teeny-tiny kitchen.

Two years ago, the birthday cake was a triple layered chocolate cake.

Last year, it was a hazelnut chocolate cake.

And this year… Brian’s request was a simple yellow cake.  With chocolate icing of course.

This entire cake only took about 3 hours to make.  From scratch.

I was under a huge time restraint that day and didn’t start the cake until about noon.  But…the cake arrived at the 4pm birthday party.  On time.

In my opinion, the yellow cake layers were pretty standard – Dense.  Moist.  Golden. Delicious.

The thing that made this cake so special, was the frosting.  Instead of making a frosting with cocoa and sugar.  This frosting was made from ounces of rich dark chocolate.

And guess what.  The frosting was the easiest thing I’ve ever made.  Ever.

If you don’t include the time that it takes to melt the chocolate, the time it took to make the frosting was ~5 minutes.

Both the cake and the frosting recipe came from Deb at Smitten Kitchen.  The standard yellow cake recipe is from this post and the frosting recipe is from this one.

One note on the frosting:

I only used about 1/2 the amount of icing sugar in the frosting, and my frosting ended up tasting more like dark chocolate than an actual sugary frosting.  I thought the cake tasted delicious with the dark chocolate frosting, but the amount of sugar is completely up to you.  Just mix in the sugar in small amounts and taste as you go 🙂

One of my besties Pearl was in town during the weekend of my brother’s birthday (her brother’s birthday is the same day!), and she helped me build this cake from scratch.  Nothing beats baking a cake with friends.

Well.. maybe eating cake with friends.

Thanks Pearl for being my cake baking partner.  I love you.

Mini Strawberry Swirl Cheesecakes

It was my baby brother’s birthday yesterday.

he turned 11 years old.

*Denial* … quickly followed by… *Mass Panic*

I love him. A. Lot.

I just want him to be 7.

The age where Facebook, Twitter, and Rap Music did not exist.  Is that too much to ask?

Anyways, as per usual, I was the designated cake baker. But, being the crazy/radical/mentally deranged sister that I am.  A simple birthday cake is just not enough.

Nope.

And that’s why I made these…

These mini strawberry cheesecakes are “take-home treats” for all of the birthday party attendees.

Yep.  I am just that hardcore.  Because a simple sugar high is just unacceptable at my brother’s birthday party.  kids should be leaving the party with handfuls of goodies that will continue the buzz for days on end.

I grabbed this recipe off of Annie’s Eats.  I switched the raspberry swirl to strawberry because there aren’t any fresh, local raspberries around, but that’s pretty much all that I changed because the rest of the recipe is already perfect.

Here is the recipe.

For the crust:

1½ cups graham cracker crumbs
4 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
3 tbsp. sugar

For the topping:

6 oz. fresh strawberries
1 tbsp. sugar

For the filling:

2 lbs. cream cheese (I used 2 blocks minus ~1/4 cup), at room temp
1½ cups sugar
Pinch of salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
4 large eggs, at room temp

  1. Preheat the oven to 325˚ F.
  2. Line cupcake pans with paper liners.  In a small bowl, combine all of the crust ingredients.  Stir together with a fork until all the dry ingredients are well blended and moistened.
  3. Press 1 tablespoon of the mixture into the bottom of each cupcake liner and evenly press the crumbs down. I used the bottom of my Worcestershire Sauce bottle. Bake until just set, ~5 minutes.
  4. To make the strawberry puree, combine the berries and sugar in a food processor.  blend until smooth, then strain puree through a fine mesh sieve.
  5. To make the cheesecake, beat the cream cheese on medium-high speed in the bowl of an electric mixer until fluffy.  Blend in the sugar until smooth.  Mix in the salt and vanilla.  Beat in the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.
  6. To assemble, spoon 3 tablespoons of the cheesecake batter over the crust in each cupcake liner. Dot a ½ teaspoon of the berry puree in a few dots over the cheesecake filling.  Use a toothpick to swirl the puree. (See Annie’s Eats pictures)
  7. Bake until the filling is set, about 22 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking.
  8. Transfer cakes to a wire cooling rack and let cool to room temperature.  Transfer to the refrigerator and let chill for at least 4 hours before serving.

Oh.  And here is a sneak peek of the birthday cake:

Cake recipe to come!