Week 41: Clementine & Almond Syrup Cake

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Throughout this entire project I’ve been asked, “Do you have a favorite?” While the answer certainly feels like I’m being forced to choose a favorite child, I do indeed have a favorite. Well really I had a favorite.

Up until this week I was stuck on week 8, a buttery citrus almond cake, laced with flecks of green pistachio and bubbling purple plums baked into the top. However, week 41 is a game changer.

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On a trip to a local bookstore, I made a stop at the cookbook section (as one does when they’re entrenched in a year long baking project) seeking inspiration for this week’s bake. My eyes were drawn to the cover of a book entitled “Sweet” depicting a cake covered in lush figs.

The book is by Yotam Ottolenghi, a name I’m familiar with. I couldn’t put it down. All the recipes were so intriguing… Neapolitan bundt cake, sumac and cardamom, little cakes baked in a can three ways. These are the kinds of things I get fired up about.

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Before I was chased out of the shop for reading and not purchasing, I filed away the author name and book title for further research. While I couldn’t find all of his recipes for cake from the book, I did find his recipe for Clementine and Almond Syrup Cake (tucked in chocolate ganache) on his website. Sold.

Like I said before, I have had a favorite cake throughout the challenge, but one bite of Ottolenghi’s delicious recipe and my mind was forever changed. The chocolate layer is so decadent and the cake beneath zings with citrus.

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The recipe instructs to brush the hot syrup all over the warm cake the moment you remove it from the oven. Texturally, this is revolutionary. This step makes the cake moist and creamy, while the cake itself has no trouble staying together. It’s almost as if the cake continues to bake as the syrup soaks in.

Unfortunately, when I was finally able to photograph the cake the sun was just setting. Natural light would have done a better job highlighting the sheen of the chocolate ganache, but I’ll give myself a pass this time… blame it on day light savings!

Final thoughts on Clementine and Almond Syrup Cake:

  • Number 42 in the challenge
  • Number 1 in my heart
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Week 39: Pumpkin Bundt Cake

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Pumpkin spice, and everything nice… that’s what week 39’s bundt cake is made of. Cheeky poems aside, I am majorly lagging on cakes for the last two months! Part of me is afraid to even pull out the calendar and figure out how many weeks I have left when I’m four cakes in the red.

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Despite my cake challenge deficit, I figured now is the perfect time to post week 39’s cake before we hit a whole new season. Admittedly, I’m not much of a Halloween fan. Dressing up in costumes and watching horror movies just isn’t my thing; however, I’m all about seasonal baking. And this week’s cake hits about all the fall bases.

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Spongey moist cake, with caramelized brown sugar notes and the perfect balance of real pumpkin flavor. No fake pumps of orange here. My initial plan was to drape the bundt in a brown butter glaze, but the quickly setting sun had me reaching for the jar powdered sugar and sifter. I’ve mentioned before that the lack of sun during my hours at home have really made this challenge even more challenging.

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Before the sun set, I was lucky to capture the perfectly baked cake. If you’ve been following along, you’d know the last time I baked a bundt cake it ended up in a pile of delicious crumbs that I repurposed into a no fuss ice cream cake (see week  31 and week 32). I  had my boyfriend around for moral support again this time and to witness my bundt cake comeback.

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I ended up bringing the cake in for a crowd of lucky coworkers to enjoy with their morning coffee. Brownie points! Everyone loved it and I got comments like “Wow this really tastes like REAL pumpkin!” Well folks, that’s because it is! Adding real pumpkin (and pumpkin spice mix) to your baking elicits all the fall feels and is a flavor I look forward to indulging in every year!

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You can find the recipe here but you definitely want to double it if your pan is 12 cups in volume.

Final thoughts on Week 39: Pumpkin Bundt Cake:

  • #blessed everything came out in one piece
  • Best served with hot coffee

Week 37: Walnut Plum Chocolate Chunk Cake

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Some weeks I have a recipe in mind, something cooking up in my brain before I make it in the kitchen; however, I’m usually forced to pivot once I get to the grocery store. Such was the case with this week’s cake.

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Inspired by the beautiful produce I noticed in the supermarkets a week prior, I planned on making a pistachio cake topped sliced figs and a drizzle of dark chocolate. Low and behold the grocery store I went to had neither unsalted pistachios or plump fresh figs. I even went to a second grocery store… and nada.

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Because I am no quitter, I did a quick survey of what I could work with to create something similar and just as delicious. Walnuts, great swap for pistachios! Plums, I can work with! Even though I was deviating from the initial plan, in not time, I was in my kitchen testing out week 37’s cake, Walnut Plum Chocolate Chunk Cake.

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I love using nut flours in cake, and if you have a food processor it’s super simple (and affordable!) to make your own. The alternative flour gives the cake a hefty kick, contributes a nutty delicate flavor, and ads a moist texture that doesn’t succumb to sogginess.

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The cake was so delicious! I enjoyed half of it over the weekend with my boyfriend as breakfast and dessert, then ended up bring the second half into work to share several days later. With coffee this cake is amazing! The plums get so juicy when baked and chocolate drizzle compliments all the flavors. This cake is a must bake! Try it for yourself below.

Walnut Plum Chocolate Chunk Cake

  • Servings: 10-14
  • Difficulty: medium
  • Print

Ingredients:

  • 13 tbsp. butter
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 1/4 c. almond flour
  • 1 c. walnuts finely ground
  • 3/4 c. all purpose flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 4 plums halved and pealed
  • 1 dark chocolate bar
  • 3 tablespoons (or more) whole milk

Method:
Preheat oven to 350 and line and grease a 10″ spring form pan with parchment paper. Peal and halve plums, set aside. Chop up half the bar of chocolate into a coarse crumble and reserve the other half for the drizzle.

Grind walnuts into a fine meal in the food processor. Add the almond meal, spelt flour, salt and baking powder to the food processor. Pulse until combined.

In a separate bowl, with a hand mixer, cream the sugar and butter for several minutes until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time. Add the vanilla, beat until combined.

Fold the dry ingredients to the wet until no streaks show. Fold in the chopped chocolate. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a spatula. Top with sliced plums and bake for 35-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Transfer to a cooling rack.

One the cake has cooled, remove it from the spring pan and allow to rest on the cooling rack. To create the chocolate drizzle, chop the rest of chocolate bar and place in a small bowl. Heat up the milk in the microwave or over the oven. Once simmering, pour over the chocolate chips and use a whisk to mix until smooth. Drizzle mixture all over cake and allow to set before serving.

Final thoughts on Week 37 Walnut Plum Chocolate Chunk Cake:

  • Coffee, Coffee, Coffee
  • Must be served with coffee.

Weeks 35 and 36: Virgo Birthday Cake

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There’s no sugar coating it, or maybe there is given the nature of the challenge, but I’ve fallen behind. Not in actually baking the cakes, but in sharing with the interwebs my progress and commitment to insanity.

Because I’m so far behind I’m going to combine the past two weeks of cake and talk about the very deserving people and occasions I made them for.

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I don’t know what it is about Virgos, but there happens to be a lot of them in my life. For weeks 35 and 36 I made birthday cakes for my dad and one of my dearest friends from college. Here’s where it gets ironic, they both happen to be born on the same day along with another very important friend who I made multiple goodbye party cakes (see week 17 and week 18) for this spring (shout out to you Laurens).

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Anyway, back to my astrological connections. According to a very credible article about Virgos and their food preferences, those born between August 23 and September 22 are “sensuous eaters and relish every morsel”. My challenge was written in the stars, find and recreate a cake that would appeal to the Virgo taste.

I’ve been getting back into cookbooks, trying to grow my collection despite having zero space left on my diy floating shelves I had my SO screw into the minimal wall space in my already small studio. Despite having the space to put any new books, I’ve acquired two new cookbooks that I’ve been enjoying. (One is actually a loner from my mom’s library so I won’t be keeping it long term 😉 ).

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For week 35 I set out to celebrate my dad (several days ahead of his actual birthday) by selecting the most perfect cake to send off summer over Labor Day weekend, Chocolate Chip, Raspberry and Almond Cake. The recipe comes from Izy Hossack’s new book, The Savvy Cook.

I ended up doubling the recipe because after I poured the first round of cake batter into the pan I was very worried that there wouldn’t be much cake. I’m so happy I listened to my intuition because if I hadn’t I’m not sure this recipe would have worked out. I’ve actually found myself in this same situation when baking recipes written by British bakers, which Izy happens to be. I think it might have something to do with their use of weighing ingredients versus our use of volume of ingredients for cakes and other baked goods. No big deal, but something to keep in mind!

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Even though I had a minor hiccup, the cake turned out perfectly. Ooey gooey raspberries, melted bittersweet chocolate (make sure to use a high quality bar!). We had no problem dolloping whipped cream over every slice and licking our plates clean.

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For week 36 I shifted gears and looked to Pati Jinich’s Pati’s Mexican Table for some Latin inspiration, after all, my friend was throwing a fiesta party with a nacho bar and flowing margaritas. I took it upon myself to recreate Pati’s delectable Tres Leche cake to help carry the theme through out.

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The cake was well received and every square inch devoured; however, I want to take a moment to point out that one year ago I made the cake for this same exact friend’s birthday. It was a chocolate orange cake with orange curd filling and a decadent robe of chocolate ganache for panache. Looking back through my files of baking memories it was this cake that became the catalyst for more baking projects leading me to the idea for the sweet-sweet-love.com 52 cake challenge.

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I’d made a handful of cakes before but after serving the chocolate cake a year ago and getting great feedback from my friends I kept going–leading me to where I am today; 36 cakes in and two weeks behind on posting.

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It’s kind of crazy looking back on how many cakes I’ve made and realizing I only have a handful left to wrap up the year. I’ve been asked what I’m going to do next with this project. For now, its TBD, but I can say that I won’t be going anywhere too far and I’ll still be baking.

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Final thoughts on weeks 35 and 36 (might actually be 36):

  • Happy birthday to my favorite Virgos!
  • (Plus the Virgo I made goodbye cakes for.)

 

Week 34: Eat Your Veggies Cake

In the beginning of the challenge, I knew I was crazy. 52 cakes in a year? Ambitious, yes. Certifiable, after this week… maybe. I say this because my inspiration for week 34’s recipe and cake was vegetables. Early in the week, I got it in my mind that I wanted to make a zucchini cake, reminiscent of everyones favorite speckled green tea cake. To my disappointment, a recipe didn’t exist!

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Several days of recipe research later, I decided I would adapt the ingredients for carrot cake to emulate soft, moist and carmely sweet zucchini bread in the form of a sheet cake. The recipe creation ended up being simpler than I thought (shared below) and I swapped out carrot shreds for zucchini and removed the typical nuts and dried fruit as well as spicy flavors.

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Because zucchini bread is usually made sweeter with the addition of chocolate chips, I decided to top it with creamy thick chocolate frosting featuring an unlikely main ingredient. Sweet potatoes!

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After using this frosting for the chocolate vegan cake I made during week 12, I knew it needed to make another appearance during the challenge. When I was developing the recipe for the zucchini cake, I immediately thought to top it with this frosting to up the vegetable ante. I ended up bringing the cake into work and having people guess what was in the frosting. Few had good luck, but everyone was shocked to find out it was only two ingredients, one of them being a vegetable! It’s that good. Creamy, rich, chocolatey, decadent, if you’re feeling sneaky, no one will ever know.

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I’m telling you, this frosting is the best kept secret for those who enjoy alternative less refined baking methods. The only ingredients are chocolate chips and sweet potatoes and if you have a high power blender or food process it’s easy to make. I first saw it made on Food52, but I’ve shared the recipe below.

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Eat your Veggies Cake

  • Servings: 30-35
  • Difficulty: medium
  • Print

Ingredients For Cake:

  • 2 2/3 c. all purpose flour (I like King Arthur)
  • 1 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 1/2 c. flavorless oil (I use vegetable oil)
  • 2 2/3 c. sugar
  • 5 eggs
  • 4 cups of grated zucchini

Ingredients For Frosting:

  • 1 sweet potato
  • 1 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips

Method:
Preheat oven to 350 and line and grease a rectangular sheet cake pan with parchment paper. Prick your sweet potato with a fork (keep the skin on), wrap in foil and place in oven to roast.

Sift or whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Set aside. If using a food processor, attach the grating blade and run your zucchini through the processor. If you have a Cuisinart, use it. If you don’t, get one. Save the grated zucchini to fold in as the final step.

In a separate large bowl, mix the sugar and oil together with a hand mixer on medium speed. Once combined, turn the speed down, and add the eggs one at a time. Then add the vanilla and continue beating until combined.

Fold the dry ingredients to the wet until no streaks show. I ended up using the hand mixer to help combine the mixture. Once the dry and wet are thoroughly mixed, fold in the zucchini, ensuring equal distribution through out the batter.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a spatula. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Transfer to a cooling rack.

At this point the sweet potato should be soft and cooked through. Remove from oven, carefully peal off skin and save until the cake has cooled. Once the cake is cooled, puree the sweet potato flesh in the food processor. Transfer the puree to a sauce pan to reheat. Add the chocolate chips. Once melted, return to the food processor and puree until thick and creamy. Spread the frosting all over the cooled cake, using an offset spatula to create swirl patterns.

Final thoughts on Eat your Veggies Cake:

  • Vegetables as a dessert ingredient…
  • Highly underrated.

Week 33: Cashew Cheese Cake (with a side of personal thoughts)

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I’ve never been much of a journaler, and I’m responsible for more than my fair share of abandoned notebooks with 1 to 2 pages of my personal thoughts and/or travel details; however, now that I’m over half way through the project I’ve come to notice that each week’s post has offered a quick glimpse into my personal life and thoughts during the given week.

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Week 32: Ice-Cream Cake

I believe the saying goes, “When life gives you a pile of crumbs, make ice-cream cake.”

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Because this is exactly what I did with last week’s disaster. If you’ve been following along, you would know that my plans to make Smitten Kitchen‘s triple berry summer buttermilk bundt cake did not go exactly as planned. I moved to a new kitchen a few weeks ago, so I’m still getting used to the subtleties of my less than professional oven.

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