Sunday, January 31, 2010

Individual Pineapple Upside-Down Cakes

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake is an easy standby dessert for just about any occasion. It's dependable, reliable and virtually guaranteed not to fail. No big surprises with this cake
that's been around forever.

Leave it to Rose to up the ante with her newest version of Individual Pineapple Upside-Down Cakes. These gems shine in a class all their own. Innocent looking little things packed with sun shine, perfect for January's cold, dreary weather.

Without fail, every single year my brother requested Pineapple Upside Down Cake or German Chocolate Cake on his birthday. I detested them both. Probably the only cakes in existence which I did not like. Even more sacrilegous is it was made from the 100 year old family Pineapple Upside Down Cake recipe.

Needless to say, I wasn't too terribly excited about this week's HCB choice. Okay, I admit, I might have needed the tiniest bit of an attitude adjustment, especially after reading the directions included making dreaded sugar syrup and the even more dreaded caramel, which tend to turn themselves into new atomic crystal formations under my spoon wielding hand.

Slicing the pineapple was a bit tedious and it wasn't quite as sweet as they normally are. Is it pineapple season? I don't know anything about pineapple season other than Jen from Hawaii, who is our physical therapist turned masseuse, has her mother air freight pineapples over because, she claims, they in no way resemble those in a supermarket. I thought a lot about Jen from Hawaii whilst slicing this subpar pineapple and pulling out those thorny little things, curiousity growing by the minute as to what a "real" pineapple tasted like in comparison. I started resenting my Dole Gold, wondering if it was up to task.

Despite my blunder in adding 1/2 cup sugar instead of 1/3 with the butter and lime juice for the top/bottom/no really the top, I am happy to report it caused no major catastrophe. This is the first time I've baked with Raw Sugar turbinado. The crystals are huge.

FYI-I have seven, that's SEVEN, kinds of sugar in my cupboard now.

Oddly enough the most difficult ingredient to find was a can of pitted sweet cherries. Canned cherry pie filling was on every store's shelf as was sour cherries. I must say, I get into the most interesting conversations while out searching for ingredients or pans for Rose's cakes. It surprises me A) how many people do not know about her new book B) how many people go absolutely over the moon excited about all of us scattered around the globe baking together.

Mixing the batter was easy enough and this is the first cake I've made which uses yogurt. I opted to use ramekins I received as a Christmas present three or four years ago.

While they baked, I made the pineapple caramel sauce, holding my breath it would not crystalize before my eyes. I was left with one cup exactly of pineapple juice after pureeing and straining the remaining pineapple bits. If it seized, I was out of luck.

Stirring a pot of sugar affords one a great deal of reflective time, or time to pull one's hair out, and then I heard the sweetest sound of a dove cooing. I couldn't believe the angelic aria lilting softly through the overhead stove vent. It was such an unexpected gift while watching for signs the bubbling brew had turned an appropriate shade of amber. I was horrified the instant read surpassed 140 degrees. Since I overlooked heating the remaining pineapple juice, it did not bubble up furiously when added to the sugar mixture. Luckily, it still turned into a delightful pineapple caramel sauce.

I heated orange marmalade and strained it for the glaze because I was not about to go back to the store for apricot preserves. Putting the little cakes together, I honestly didn't expect much.

It's always such a momentous occasion around here when a new HCB recipe is ready for tasting. I could barely hold them off for one lone picture, which surprised me, as no one in my house is particularly crazy about pineapple upside cake. Each taste tester proclaimed it was without a doubt the best pineapple upside down cake they ever had.

And I absolutely agreed, with or without just picked pineapples flown in from Hawaii. But I will make Jen from Hawaii an offer of she won't be able to refuse when her next crate of pineapples jet in.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Chocolate Tweed Angel Food Cake

Rose, the Queen of Cakes, has rescued the light and airy angel food cake, bringing it forth into a new century. Angel Food Cake used to reign supreme; luncheons, bridge parties, summer evenings. Somewhere along the line her popularity came to an end. Not even packaged boxed varieties make it into many shopping carts these days. So sad. It is among one of my earliest childhood memories; sitting on the kitchen counter watching my mother magically whip up an angel food cake.

Chocolate Tweed Angel Food Cake is about to change all that. If you are among the few who have made angel food cake, be prepared to be surprised, this is a change from the typically tasteless variety. For those of you who have never made an angel food cake, of which I was one, Rose's recipe is simple to follow.

The main thing to know is unlike other cakes, an angel food cake requires the pan to be ungreased, un-parchmant papered, un-anything. It needs the surface free which allows the batter to adhere to the pan, guaranteeing height.

Rose gives fair warning that a bottle with a long neck must be made ready for the moment the cake comes out of the oven. It must be secured upside down to cool.

Here's the thing about a cake balanced precariously on a bottle for an hour and half.......little fingers can't resist twirling it around hoping for a crumb or two to accidently fall off. And here's the thing about finally turning this cake right side up and having to let it set for another hour....little fingers absolutely suffer having to resist pulling off a wee bit of crumb or two. Add to all this misery a huge bowl of whipped cream and the suffering in my house has never known such bounds.

There was nothing difficult about putting this cake together, other than going through two dozen eggs hoping for the requisite 18 whites to separate unscathed.

I didn't frost the sides with the whipped cream, opting for a more rustic look. My taste testers' verdicts split down the middle. Everyone agreed the cake was delicious, especially since this is the first homemade angel food they've had. The light, airy texture is such a contrast to a ready made bought for summer strawberries.

The difference was in the chocolate preference. My only conclusion is some are more sensitive to the bitterness of unsweetened chocolate. Next time I will use 85%-90%. I am definitely going to try the vanilla bean version with maybe butterscotch or cinnamon chips "pelted" on top. Really, this recipe alleviated any trepidation I had about making angel food cake.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Seville Oranges

If anyone does not have access to Seville oranges for the True Orange Genoise , I am happy to report the following web site does-

I also happen to have a few extras out of a forty pound box from the local fruit exchange.
Should any of you like some, email your address and I'll send some to you. They are touchy things and ripening quickly.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Torta de las Tres Leches with a bit of Spice

Experimenting with leftover Torta de las Tres Leches, I sprinkled cardamom on cut slices.
If you are a fan of cardamom, it takes this cake to an entirely new level, very reminiscent of the Indian rice pudding Kheer. This spice complements the cooked milk flavor well which is not surprising as several Indian desserts use cooked milk producing the most exquisite sweets.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Torta de las Tres Leches meets Los Tres Caballeros

Patience is the main ingredient in making Torta de las Tres Leches. It is a cake which requires loads of stirring; eggs, sugar and vanilla over simmering water, milk and sugar over direct heat and gentle stirring/folding of flour into the batter. Otherwise it was fairly simple and straight forward.

After reading Heavenly Cake Baker reviews of the strong eggy flavor, I upped the vanilla to a full teaspoon. I was really itching to pop in a bit of Muscavado sugar as well but refrained.

The cake started to form a crack and did not dome; neither did it sink. Trimming the top, I saved the cake and one fourth cup of milk mixture, deciding to see how it faired punched up with amaretto. Remembering the little recipe booklet that came with the Christmas bottle, I found a tasty sounding drink called Disarrono Latte consisting of amaretto, coffee liquer and half n half. Having all these on hand from Rose's previous cakes, in they went producing a mini triffle with a pinch of muscavado. I couldn't resist.

I topped the main cake with sweetened whipped cream but spiked a little with bourban for the trifle. I then blindly taste tested the two on unsuspecting family. The boozy torta won hands down. This cake takes well to alcohol, developing a macho personna that screams "Badges, we don't need no stinkin' badges"!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Chocolate Streusel Coffee Cake

This week's Heavenly Cake Baker choice was Chocolate Streusel Coffee Cake. It's a lovely cake that was easy to make. The most difficult thing was finding Muscavdo sugar, which was surprising because there are many grocery stores and specialty markets in my city. I located two sources and chose the closest; a health food store with Muscavado on sale vs an Italian market that I can get lost in for hours. The lesson of the day was beware of muscavado on sale. It resembled a brick. Microwaved with a bit of water softened it enough for the food processor to pulverize it back into a crumbly state. Honestly, I nearly resorted to wacking it with a hammer.

A quick trip to the grocery store for bleached flour turned up a surprise find, a cute NordicWare six cup bundt pan, on sale no less! I figured it was destiny. Instead of baking the extra batter into cupcakes, I made a miniature dolly cake.

The one thing I am irritated about is the uneven crust coloring. I never know how much non stick flour spray to use and the bubbles wreak havoc.

Sadly, I do have a confession to make. My habit of using dried spaghetti instead of toothpicks or an actual cake tester has come to an end. This cake attacked the unsuspecting pasta and two pieces broke off. Eating it requires a warning lest the pieces impale an unsuspecting guest. As compensation, there is a prize for whoever finds them.

Judging by how fast this cake is disappearing, it seems to be a new favorite.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Whipped Cream Cake

I loved this cake! Everyone loved this cake! It was light and delicate, the perfect foil for New Year's champagne or sparkling cranberry cider, topped with Ben and Jerry's Strawberry Cheesecake ice cream.

It was easy and fun to make, which I very much appreciated. Mustering through holiday celebrations this year has been more than challenging. The only step that made me wonder if I followed directions correctly was folding in the flour. It took quite a long time and just when I thought it was fully incorporated another puff of flour would appear. The flour explosions finally ceased and desisted, into the oven it went without, horror of horrors, any protective cake strip.

Is it just me or did this cause extreme anxiety to anyone else? How funny that a few short months ago I'd never before used a cake strip and now it seems inconceivable to send a cake unprotected into an inferno. And more shocking is that I actually think a bundt pan could benefit from a cake strip.

This is definitely a cake that will be made again and again, topped with summer strawberries, infused with cardamon, laced with amaretto or a flower vase in the middle.

"Bonk? Bonnnn-k-uh? Bun-tuh?....Oh, it's a cake!"

.....whispering...."there's a hole in this cake....."

( infamous scene in My Big Fat Greek Wedding)