Valentine’s Day was a Friday this year, and I couldn’t bear the thought of going out to dinner with hordes of other people. I had no inspiration for dinner (we ended up buying steak and appetizers at Trader Joe’s), but I had decided earlier that I absolutely had to make this Almond Macaroon Torte with Chocolate Frosting. I love baking and I love sweets, but decorative desserts usually aren’t my thing. I don’t like having to focus on presentation. But for this dessert, I made an exception.
I’ve tried making almond macaroons once or twice, and they haven’t turned out perfectly. I simply don’t whip egg whites often enough to have them turn out well every time. But this time, everything turned out just fine.
I got the urge to take cupcakes to a potluck recently. With frosting. And heart sprinkles for Valentine’s Day.
Luckily, I recently bought a gluten-free baking book, Gluten-Free Baking Classics. It had great reviews on Goodreads (where I check out ratings on any book before I purchase), so I looked forward to using it. I enjoy reading cookbooks from cover to cover – in fact, I do that on my phone while I ride the train each morning – but I skipped forward to see what cupcake recipes the book had. It had several cake recipes, but only one recipe for cupcakes. I didn’t mind, because it was exactly the recipe that I wanted – basic yellow cake that I could top with chocolate frosting.
Last weekend I decided to use up the remainder of my bag of fresh cranberries by making breakfast – specifically this Cranberry Vanilla Coffee Cake recipe. I’m glad that I did. It wasn’t difficult to make. The coffee cake was a delicious breakfast and made a great snack for us during the week, too.
I love cake. I love raspberries. And I love lemon. It’s only natural that I would be drawn to the combination of the three. However, not all variations of lemon raspberry cake are equal. This is a tale of a very complex cake with delicious buttercream, and of very simple and delicious muffins.
I told myself in late June that I was going to stop buying strawberries until next spring. But then, earlier this week, Trader Joe’s had a great price on a 4-pound carton of strawberries. I couldn’t help myself. I had to buy them.
It was the last day of July, after all, so they weren’t the best strawberries ever. However, neither were they the worst! I thought they’d work well in a baked good. So this morning I decided to make this Strawberry Coffee Cake recipe, with a few adjustments.
Some people have a love of peanut butter. I am not one of those people. My interest in it waxes and wanes. I enjoy peanut butter when I have it, but I will almost never choose it over a good, pure vanilla or dark chocolate or cinnamon or lemon or berry. I feel sorry for Alex when we share a dessert, because peanut butter is usually in his top three choices of desserts/ice cream/what-have-you to order, and I veto it 9 times out of 10 in favor of something else.
However, today is Alex’s birthday. (Happy birthday, Alex!) He knew I was going to make him a cake, but I kept the flavor a surprise. I let it leak that it was chocolate when I debated buying a replacement bar of baking chocolate at Trader Joe’s, and I even made the chocolate layer cakes while he watched TV on Saturday morning. But when it was time to make the peanut butter cream cheese frosting, and chocolate peanut butter ganache, I banished him to the basement, where he willingly went to listen to music and do some organizing he’d wanted to do for a while. I covered my tracks relatively successfully by making a curried Chex Mix to mask the rich smell of peanut butter in the kitchen, and stored the cake in the fridge, which Alex avoided to keep the flavor of the cake a surprise.
The Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake was a hit. It was incredibly easy to make, and well worth the time spent making it. Half of this cake fed 8 people, and could have fed even more if I could have cut slices smaller.
This year I decided I wanted to make a King Cake for Mardi Gras. Not that Alex and I do anything to celebrate Mardi Gras or give anything up afterward – it’s just a fun excuse to bake something delicious.
Cooking during 2013 started off slowly. Alex and I traveled in December and early January, and ate (a little too) well while we did. When we were back, Alex generously cooked dinner for us while I worked late at work a few times since work wasn’t stopping without me. After several days without personally cooking anything fun (and trying to eat healthily), my deprived self desperately wanted to bake a cake. Thus, my first new recipe of 2013 was Tres Leches Cake.
Literally three-milk cake, I’ve been intrigued by this dessert for a while, but I’d never even eaten it. Of course, it was an episode of Good Eats that gave me the idea of making it – and soon.
The dominant flavor in Tres Leches Cake, aside from milk, is vanilla, which goes into both the cake and the whipped cream which frosts it. (It probably helps that my vanilla is extra-strength!) The cake itself takes 5 eggs, which provides structure for the cake so it can soak up and stand up to the cups of milk (sweetened condensed, evaporated, and half-and-half) that you pour over it.
Every Christmas for the past eight or so years, I make fruitcake to gift to some of my relatives. (They like it! I promise!) I myself am not a fan of fruitcake, but the past two or three years I’ve made a point of sampling what I make to see if I can make one that I like. What have I learned from my attempts?
Don’t use too raisins – I simply don’t like them
Only use relatively fresh dried fruit – this should be obvious, but it bears reminding (myself)
Don’t make the fruitcake too clovey – subtle spice is better
Don’t make the fruitcake too boozy – that is, as long as you want to actually eat it
This year I made my best fruitcake to date. Continuing on my Good Eats kick, I tried Alton Brown’s Fruitcake recipe. What makes this fruitcake special? It’s lightly spiced, for one – not too many cloves. I only used fruit I liked – sure, I used some raisins, but I also used cranberries, cherries, mixed berries, apricots, and candied ginger. It also includes some apple juice (or cider, as I used), and a not overwhelming amount of rum.
My friend Jen loves apples, and knows I love recipes. One day during the fall, she sent me a recipe for Apple Cider Donut Cake. I looked for a reason to make it all autumn, but lacked either the ingredients or the time. I finally had the apples, the cider, and a reason to make it and share it this weekend. I took it to a party celebrating the end of National Novel Writing Month. Continue reading Apple Cider Donut Cake→