Week 38: Cardamom-Pear Almond Cake

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There’s nothing I love more than opening up my pantry and having everything I need to make a cake. Of course, this is easily the case when you start from a box mix; however, the mix I used isn’t your ordinary box mix. Simple Mills cake mixes are gluten free, almond flour based and when baked up would make any Betty Crocker mix pale in comparison.

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Because this is a challenge, and I have yet to falter to using cake mix till now, I beefed up the recipe and gave it my own personal spin. Adding some of my own spices, a bit more flour for heft and topping with freshly picked fruit made me feel less guilty about taking the easy route this weekend, and it made for a satisfying treat I packed in my lunch all week.

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The inspiration behind week 38’s cake comes from the fall weather we are (finally!) experiencing in Chicago. Last year, around this time, I purchased a jar of cardamom spice on a whim. It was definitely a splurge, but offers a more delicate taste than your other fall spices. I love pairing it with fleshy fall fruits, which I happened to have on hand, and sneaking it into my baking during the colder months.

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When you live outside of the city, many of the neighborhood streets are lined with fruit and nut trees, making for a very abundant fall. Just the other day I saw two women foraging for fallen hazelnuts right outside my apartment, which is well within the city limits. On a recent stroll with my pup, a neighbor had set out bushels of pears for the taking. Without thinking twice, I snatched up a handful I knew would be topping my cake later in the week.

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For poking around my kitchen on a Sunday morning to see what I already had, I think this week’s cake turned out better than I could have anticipated! The pear complimented the subtle cardamom and the cake mix could have fooled the most seasoned of bakers. This is the perfect cake to snack on along side a hot cup of coffee or tuck away into your lunch throughout the week for a work day pick me up. Because I was so happy with how my adjustments turned out, I’m sharing with you the recipe below!

Cardamom-Pear Almond Cake

  • Servings: 8-10
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients:

  • 1 box Simple Mills vanilla cake mix
  • 1/2 c. oil
  • 1/2 c. water
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp. Cardamom
  • 3 small pears, thinly sliced
  • Coconut Sugar

Method:
Follow the preheating can cake pan prep directions on the box.

Pour the dry mix into a bowl. Whisk in the cardamom until fully combined. Add all the wet ingredients to the dry and mix till smooth.

Pour into prepared cake pan and top with slice pears. Sprinkle with coconut sugar for extra caramelization. Bake until a knife inserted comes out clean.

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Final thoughts on Cardamom-Pear Almond Cake:

  • might be warming up to cake mix.

 

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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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Week 29: Moosewood Cookbook Walnut Date Cake

I’ve made the comment time and time again, I come from a primarily female family who not only appreciates good eating, but loves, and quite possibly lives for, the careful preparation and serving to loved ones and friends alike.

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Last week, when I made a trip to my neighborhood library, I stopped  by the shelf containing all of the cookbooks. I say shelf, but it’s more like a sanctuary. Running my fingers along the cellophane spines, my eyes stopped on the Moosewood Cookbook.

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