Tag Archive for cake

Beet & Chocolate

beet chocolate cake IMG_1699

I am firmly in the beet lover camp: a well grown garden beetroot  tastes of clean sweet earth. And that’s a good taste, intense, earthy, crunchy when raw, silky when cooked, deep garnet. But I know that the beet is as fervently disliked as it is loved. As much for taste as for its uncanny ability to color everything sanguine.

But that perceived flaw is also a strength. One can turn beets into a natural food coloring. Years ago, I made preserved cherries from a Greek recipe that called for dropping a chunk of beet-root in the jar of preserve to enhance its color. The cherries tastes faintly of beet – fine with me since I like beets.

Then, a few days ago, at breakfast, leaving through an older issue of Saveur magazine, I stopped turning the page at the gorgeous photo of icing in the most lovely shades of pink. Colored by beet powder! According to the article, beetroot powder has some earthy sweetness but  does not have a strong taste. I was intrigued.

I made beet root powder. Because right now we have beets. The recipe for DIY beetroot powder is here. A mandoline is helpful to slice the beet paper-thin. After drying the beet slices in my yard-sale food dehydrator (they looked like rose petals!), I pulverized the dehydrated slices in my Vitamix. Worked like a charm!

beet powder IMG_1679 beet powder IMG_1684

Then I wanted to make icing. And use it. Read more

End of Summer Cake

Nectarine & Almond Cake cooling on the window sill












You only need to know a few cake formulas to be able to look smart in the kitchen. Because once you understand the recipe, you can tweak it ad infinitum to vary the result: change the fruit, change the flour, change the flavoring or spice, change the filling, change the icing, change the pan shape… and suddenly the three or four basic cake recipes that you can do (almost) in your sleep become 40 different desserts. That’s why I call them “formulas”.

Witness this recipe for Italian plum cake.

In the spring, use cherries or apricots. In summer, replace the plums with slices of yellow peaches or nectarine. Or slices of sauteed apples or roasted quince or pears in early fall. Or a mixture of fruit. In winter, use rehydrated dry fruit or halved bananas. I more and more use less refined flours like whole wheat or spelt – they accentuate the rustic aspect of the cake. I bet any flour would work! When using stone fruit like peach, I also like to add a little cornmeal (or corn flour) as well as a few nuts. Almonds are great but so are pine nuts if you have them or chopped pecans. Or whatever you’ve got! (or none if you don’t have any).

It’s not a sophisticated looking cake, like, oh say, a Reine de Saba, but is a satisfying not-too-filling dessert, moist, with a little crunch and lots of fruit – great for breakfast too. Best of all,  it’s an easy recipe to memorize, and by playing with it, it will look like you know 10 different recipes!

End of Summer Cake (with nectarine & almonds) Read more

Pineapple Upside Down Cake for 150

pineapple upside down cake

Note: Recipe has been updated on February 11, 2009 to clarify some instructions and correct a typo.

When we moved to the country, we decided to join the local Volunteer Fire and Rescue Company. It took us a while to actually do it, but both Keith & I became members early this year. My role is strictly support and fund raising. For instance, I build our web site, I help with putting together flyers, brochures, with setting up fund-raiser dinners, breakfast, bake sales etc. Those activities are more critical than ever this year, as we are buying a much needed new fire tanker. Joining a volunteer fire company is a sure way to become more engaged in a new community and it allows you to give your time and your skills to your local community in a way that makes a difference: we help neighbors in emergencies.

This past week-end, WVFR offered an-all you can eat ham & oyster dinner as part of its continued efforts to raise money for our new tanker fund. I was working that night, cooking a 5-course dinner for 11 on a lovely hilltop house, I would not be able to participate. So I said I would bake one of my specialties: a pineapple upside-down cake.

I have a soft spot for upside-down cakes (something easily verifiable by looking at the list of cake recipes I posted so far); I love pineapple, one of the fruit growing at my childhood home; and I love the uncomplicated unsophisticated sheer goodness of a good pineapple upside down cake. Don’t get me wrong, I have eaten my share of unpalatable ones – generally too dry. But this cake is moist and flavorful.

I have found that it’s a popular cake at gathering (I rarely have any left over to take home); people of a certain age (over 40) reminiscence fondly about it (how their mom used to make one for their birthdays for example), and yet – not many people make it today. You can be pretty sure to see multiple plates of brownies at a pot-luck, but I have never seen another pineapple upside-down cake (as a matter of fact, a young 18-year old at that dinner had never seen one). It does take a little time to make, but really, not that much. Is this the butter in it that people are afraid of? Is this that there were too many poor versions that were made? For me, it’s one of those ideal, comforting, utterly delicious and homey cake that can be made in advance and is good at any time of the day, like a real homemade pound cake, as a matter of fact. And it’s so good for breakfast with a cup of strong coffee made stove-top in the percolator. Read more