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.

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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

 

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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

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

The weather has been pretty wet and gloomy over the last few week.

With K and I both still on crutches and not able to leave the house much, the best thing for us to do on a rainy day is to whip up a batch of warm, gooey cookies from scratch.

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There’s something so comforting about the smell of cookies baking in the oven, especially when it’s coupled with the sound of raindrops falling outside. I especially love testing out different cookie dough mixtures during rainy days, it’s very therapeutic for me to cream the butter, mix in the eggs and fold in the chocolate.  The cookies that I’m sharing with you today are some of the tastiest and best looking ones that I’ve baked this year, so far.

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A solid recipe from Joy the Baker, I only adjusted a few very minor things to better suit our tastes. You can easily just go by the original recipe and you’ll end up with a batch of phenomenal cookies. However, if you like your treats a tad less sweet, then feel free to give my very slightly adapted recipe a quick try.

2  1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
A pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup smooth peanut butter*
1 packed cup light brown sugar
½ cup, plus 1 TBsp granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/3 cup granulated sugar for rolling cookies
A few sprinkles of sea salt

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F
  2. Move the oven racks to divide the oven into thirds and line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats. Alternatively, if you are only using 1 large baking sheet, move the oven rack that you plan to use to the center of the oven.
  3. Whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and nutmeg.
  4. Working with a stand mixer that’s fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter on medium speed until smooth and creamy. Add the peanut butter and beat for another minute.
  5. Add both the brown and granulated sugar and beat for 3 minutes more.
  6. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for 1 minute after each addition. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and, on low speed, add the dry ingredients, mixing only until everything is incorporated.
  7. Fold in the chocolate chips to complete the cookie dough
  8. Pour the 1/3 cup sugar that you had set aside for rolling the cookies into a small bowl. Working with a tablespoonful of dough for each cookie, roll the dough between your palms to form balls and place them on the baking sheet, leaving 2″ spaces them. **
  9. Dip the tines of a fork in the sugar and press the tines against each ball first in one direction and then, dip the fork again, and press the cookie ball in a perpendicular direction- you should have a flattened dough ball with crisscross indentations. A great photo showing this step can be found here, by Nourish, Preserve & Flourish, who made a GF Vegan version of this cookie)
  10. Bake the cookies for 12 minutes, rotating the 2 baking sheets from top to bottom and from front to back at the 6 minute mark. If you are only using 1 baking sheet, then simply rotate the pan 180 degrees at the midway mark.
  11. When done, the cookies will be lightly coloured and a little soft. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for a minute before transferring them to a cooling rack.
  12. While the cookies are still warm, sprinkle a few flakes of sea salt onto each cookie
  13. Repeat with the remaining dough, making sure to cool the baking sheets between batches.

*Joy’s recipe says that crunchy peanut butter also works. I did not personally test it out in my kitchen so have left it out here. If you try it, I would love to know how it turns out! I suspect that it will be even more delicious!

** You may have noticed that in Joy’s recipe, she rolled the dough balls in the granulated sugar before placing it onto the baking sheet. I took out that step here because I wanted to avoid the extra sweetness from the rolled-on sugar.  By dipping my fork into the sugar every time before using them to press the cookies, I found that it was enough to keep the cookies from sticking to the fork and they flatten to the desired shape.

Banana Bread 2.0

Comfort food to me usually means an extra large bag of Ruffles chips with a side of bacon. It means no veggies and excessive amounts of butter. It means Paula’s Deans deep fried cheesecakes and a McDonald’s Big Mac (I am only half joking). It also means freshly baked banana bread, still warm from the oven.

So why banana bread 2.0? For my dedicated readers who have been following this blog since 2008, you may recall that one of my very first successes in the kitchen was baking banana bread. It was a quick and simple recipe from Elise, and it kick started my baking obsession.

I’ve been using Elise’s recipe for years now, but just last week, I discovered a beautiful new blog called Alexandra’s Kitchen. Alexandra’s blog is filled with ridiculously delectable photos of food and her photos of banana bread are no different. This new banana bread recipe calls for buttermilk and more eggs, which results in a richer, denser loaf.

Both Elise and Alexandra’s recipes are great. It just depends on what you have handy in your fridge and what you prefer in taste. Either way, just make sure that you send me a slice when you make a loaf in your kitchen and I will love you for life.

Here’s what you need:

3/4 to 1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sifted flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp table salt
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup buttermilk
4 ripe bananas, mashed

  1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Generously butter the loaf pan.
  2. In a stand mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. About 5-8 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt.
  4. With the mixer on low, add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Add the vanilla, buttermilk and bananas.
  5. Add the flour mixture and mix until just combined. Pour batter into the prepared loaf pan. Bake for approximately 1 hour.
  6. Remove from oven and turn the loaf out onto cooling rack immediately.

Recipe adapted from Alexandra’s Kitchen.

Double Chocolate Cookies

What’s better than chocolate cookies? Double chocolate cookies.

So theoretically speaking, quadruple chocolate cookies would be even better, but people, I have my limits. Even when it comes to chocolate.

These cookies are the perfect little treats for a rainy day week. They are also great for sharing, especially with your new co-workers, so that’s why I made an extra batch for K to take to work so that he can make new friends through the power of chocolate.

I made all of my friends through chocolate. Well, chocolate and bacon, either will work.

Here’s what you’ll need:

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
125 grams (4 oz) dark chocolate, melted
1 cup dark chocolate chips
1/2 – 1 cup walnuts, chopped

  1. Preheat oven to 315F.
  2. Beat butter and sugar in a mixer until light and creamy for about 8-10 minutes.
  3. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until fully incorporated.
  4. In a separate bowl, mix together flour, cocoa, baking soda, then add the dry ingredients into the butter mixture.
  5. To that, add in the melted chocolate, the chocolate chips and walnuts. Stirring by hand until just combined.
  6. Roll tablespoons of the mixture into balls, place them on a lined cookie sheet, and bake cookies for 10-12 minutes.
  7. Cool on wire racks or just consume them immediately with a big glass of milk.
Recipe adapted (slightly) from 80 Breakfasts.

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

Maple Butter Cookies

Nothing cures the winter blues like cookies fresh from the oven.

A few weeks ago, I saw a recipe for these nutmeg maple butter cookies on Smitten Kitchen, and I knew that I had to make them immediately.

We rang out of nutmeg at home and it was -20C outside…

I didn’t want to venture out into the cold just to get nutmeg…

Sorry nutmeg.  I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings. It was really cold outside and I just wanted some cookies.

I love nutmeg. I really do.

Nutmeg, you are an important part of my life. I swear. I know I sometime replace you with cinnamon (like in this instance)… but, I really think you’re special.

Nutmeg? Nutmeg! Nut…

Sigh…

Okay, here’s the recipe.

Use nutmeg. Do not replace it with cinnamon like I did. Even though cinnamon maple cookies were also delicious, nutmeg is irreplaceable.

As you can see. I was also too lazy to get my camera… so I used the Instagram app on my iPhone.

Sorry, Camera…

Camera? Camera?!?! Camera?…

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter or margarine, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup Grade B maple syrup
1 large egg yolk
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg or 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon table salt

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper
  2. Using an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. With mixer running, add yolk and slowly drizzle in maple syrup
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, nutmeg and salt. Add to butter mixture and mix until just combined. The dough will be in loose clumps. Gather them together into a tight packet with a large piece of plastic wrap and chill dough for at least two hours until firm
  4. Roll out a quarter to half the dough at a time, leaving the rest in the fridge. On a floured counter, roll dough to 1/8-inch thickness and cut into desired shapes.
  5. Arrange cookies on baking sheets and bake for 8 to 11 minutes each, or until lightly golden at the edges. Transfer to racks to cool.

Recipe from Deb at Smitten Kitchen