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.
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.
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.
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.
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
- 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
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.
Final thoughts on Cardamom-Pear Almond Cake:
- I might be warming up to cake mix.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
- 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
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
Eat your Veggies Cake
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
This week’s cake was something special. For 23 weeks, my number one cooking inspiration, and biggest cheerleader behind the project has watched the Sweet Sweet Love cakes progress from afar without tasting a single slice of anything. Ehn-ee-thing. Nada.
This person is my mom.
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.
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.
Over the weekend my boyfriend and I took a quick trip to Milwaukee to celebrate our birthdays together. As birthdays imply, it was a very indulgent weekend full of wine, dessert and so much other goodness!
To be honest, I enjoyed myself so much this weekend, I didn’t even think about what cake I was going to be making until Monday night. Oops.
Leading up to my 23rd birthday I received a lot of questions on what I was going to do about my own cake. Friends offered to take care of it for me, but I didn’t have the heart (or stomach) to forgo making my own cake right in the middle of this crazy challenge.
It can be incredibly overwhelming and challenging to come up with ideas that will photograph well, taste good and not throw me into a total sugar coma. While I do have a total sweet tooth, I try and keep it in check with healthier indulgences, i.e. date balls, dark chocolate and alternative sweeteners to regular old cane sugar.