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Gracious Goodness: Cake Keeper Cakes

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Written by Peggy Fallon   
Wednesday, 02 December 2009

Image
Photo by Alexandra Grablewski © 2009
If you search through the abandoned kitchenware and serving pieces usually available at estate sales and antique shops, you'll often come across remnants of more civilized times. Some items are valued merely as kitsch, while others make such perfect sense you wonder why they ever went out of fashion.

Author Lauren Chattman was charmed by the variety of vintage glass-domed cake pedestals used for display at her neighborhood gourmet shop. She must have dropped some rather specific hints at home, for the following Mother's Day her husband and children presented her with a stately cake keeper of her very own. Thus began the inspiration for this book.

The gleaming glass dome proudly displayed on her kitchen counter was stunning on its own, but transformed into a work of art whenever it held a cake. Not some buttercream-laden extravaganza from a big-time bakery, but a comforting old-fashioned cake-unfilled and unfrosted. The kind of cake it probably held when it was brand new. The kind of cake people used to bake routinely, before Madison Avenue convinced us that boxed cake mixes are a good idea.

Determined to keep a continual parade of home-baked creations under the dome for an entire year, the author set about testing dozens of recipes that hearken back to simpler times, often giving them her own 21st century twist. More than just stylish props, these baked goods nourished her family and friends in ways she had never imagined. (In fact, she's convinced "drop-in" traffic to her kitchen increased substantially, once word spread that there was always free cake at her house.)

Image
Photo by Alexandra Grablewski © 2009
This cake-baking spree was not the project of some frustrated home economist in a frilly apron. Although the author enjoys street cred as a busy wife and mother, Chattman is also an accomplished pastry chef with some very impressive credentials; and has written over ten cookbooks and numerous magazine articles. Her wealth of knowledge is evident throughout the book, as she provides clear advice on pantry essentials and equipment (including the pitfalls of using the wrong size pan), and plenty of tricks of the trade and fresh ideas (like "Dressing Up Plain Round Cakes") that will make your baking experience uncomplicated and foolproof, with a result that is a joy to behold.

Flipping through the pages, you'll never confuse homey with homely. The book begins with easy Snacking Cake recipes like Chocolate Gingerbread and Apricot Jam Cake; and moves on to stunners like Pear Cake with Sea Salt-Caramel Sauce; Mango Upside-Down Cake; Nutella Swirl Pound Cake; Dulce de Leche Coffee Cake; Pineapple and Toasted Coconut Cake; Cherry-Almond Crumb Cake; Coffee Angel Food Cake with Hazelnut-Coffee Glaze; and Banana-Macadamia Nut Chiffon Cake. As testament to her decidedly eclectic taste, Chatmann takes us on a flour-dusted odyssey from Coca-Cola Chocolate Cake to a very modern Red Grape, Polenta, and Olive Oil Cake. No snobbishness here…it's all about flavor.

The cranberry cake below goes together in just a few minutes and bakes in only 35. I'll admit I'm not a big fan of ground cloves…or, at least I didn't think I was. The mere 1/4 teaspoon mixed into this batter was a revelation-a subtle spiciness that I probably never could have identified without knowing the ingredients. I am now a clove convert. This is a small example of how the refined palate of a pastry chef can elevate a grandma-style cake into to something that is both timely and timeless.

The next time you think about baking a batch of cookies, instead consider whipping up a one-bowl cake. Once you learn that moist, tender cakes are quickly made with everyday ingredients, you'll never be tempted to load up your grocery cart with chemically-enhanced cake mixes and boxes of pudding mix and all the other crazy stuff people mindlessly stir together in search of flavor. With or without a vintage glass cake dome in your kitchen, this book is definitely a keeper.

 

Spiced Orange and Cranberry Snacking Cake

From Cake Keeper Cakes by Lauren Chattman, Taunton Press (2009).

Serves 9

  • 1 1/2 cups cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon grated orange zest
  • 1 cup dried sweetened cranberries

1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Grease an 8-inch square baking pan and dust it with flour, knocking out any extra.  Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cloves in a medium mixing bowl. Combine the sour cream,  eggs, orange juice, and vanilla in a large glass measuring cup and lightly beat.

2. Combine the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl and cream with an electric mixer on medium-high speed  until fluffy, about 3 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl once or twice as necessary. Stir in the orange  zest.

3. With the mixer on medium-low speed, pour the egg mixture into the bowl in a slow stream, stopping the mixer once or twice to scrape down the sides.

4. Turn the mixer to low speed and add the flour mixture, 1/2 cup at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition. After the last addition, mix for 30 seconds on medium speed. Stir in the cranberries.

5. Bake until the cake is golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Let the cake cool in the pan for 15 minutes, invert it onto a wire rack, and then turn it right side up again to cool completely.  Cut into 9 squares and serve.

6. Store uneaten squares in a cake keeper or wrap in plastic and store at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Peanut Butter-Sour Cream Bundt Cake with Butterfinger Ganache Glaze

From Cake Keeper Cakes by Lauren Chattman, Taunton Press (2009).

Serves 10 to 12

For the cake
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup smooth peanut butter
  • 1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
  • For the glaze
  • 8 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 Butterfinger bar (60 grams), chopped


Make the Cake

1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Grease a 12-cup Bundt pan and dust with flour. Whisk together the sour cream, eggs, and vanilla in a large glass measuring cup. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.

2. Combine the butter, peanut butter, and brown sugar in a large mixing bowl and cream with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl once or twice as necessary.

3. With the mixer on low, add 1/3 of the flour mixture and beat until incorporated. Add 1/2 of the sour cream mixture. Repeat, alternating flour and sour cream mixtures and ending with the flour mixture, scraping down the  sides of the bowl between additions. Turn the mixer to medium-high speed and beat for 1 minute.

4. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 40 to 45  minutes. Let the cake cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then invert it onto a wire rack to cool completely.
 
Make the Glaze

1. Place the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl. Heat the cream in a small saucepan over medium-high heat until it comes to a boil. Pour the cream over the chocolate and butter and let stand for 5 minutes. Whisk until smooth.

2. Pour the warm glaze over the cake, letting it drop down the sides. Sprinkle the chopped Butterfinger bar over the glaze. Let stand until the glaze is set, about 1/2 hour. Slice and serve. Store uneaten cake in a cake keeper or wrap in plastic and store at room temperature for up to 3 days.

About Cake Keeper Cakes

ImageFew things are as satisfying as a sweet snack that's mouthwateringly moist. So skip the cookie jar and head for the cake keeper. In Cake Keeper Cakes, Lauren Chattman, the author of Dessert Express, presents simple and delicious recipes that stand up to everyday eating. Made from only the most wholesome ingredients, Lauren's heavenly creations include Espresso-Hazelnut Bundt Cake, Banana and Bittersweet Chocolate Cake, Citrus Pound Cake, Raspberry Yellow Cake Squares, and Mississippi Mud Cake. Designed with the busy baker in mind, this intoxicating cookbook shows how to make long-lasting cakes like mom used to, in a lot less time.

Available from Amazon.com
Disclosure: Review copies of books discussed in this post may have been provided to Project Foodie by publicists and/or publishers.

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