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 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 22: Summer Pavlova with Fresh Grilled Berries

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For Memorial Day Weekend I took a little road trip to Michigan to visit my boyfriend’s family. And by little I mean approximately one hour and 45 minutes away. After living in the city, this seems like quite a distance in the car… anyways, after long car rides I typically find myself in the exact same place. The bathroom.

(They didn’t call me little tank on spring break for nothing).

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Week 21: Rhubarb, Candied-Hazelnut and Buckwheat Cake

I’ve mentioned or alluded to my favorite cake of the project so far several times. Very early on, week 8, I made the most divine plum pistachio and lemon cake from what’s become one of my favorite food blogs, The Brick Kitchen. I loved this cake so much, I’ve made my own adaptations and continued the unconventional trend of topping my cakes with fruit rather than frosting.

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This week’s cake gave week 8 a run for it’s money. Ok, ok week 8 still might be my favorite but this week’s rhubarb, candied-hazelnut and buckwheat cake was so so good.

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Week 18: Driscoll’s Strawberry Shortcake

I knew there would come a week in this project where I felt thoroughly unmotivated and unexcited about making cake. This week might have been one of those weeks.

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It’s not that I didn’t want to bake or spend time in the kitchen, it’s that I didn’t really want to bake cake. I found myself day dreaming about other types of projects, scones, biscotti, I even procrastinated the weekly task by spatchcocking a chicken (which I do not recommend unless you have a very very sharp kitchen knife and an iron stomach).

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