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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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 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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