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Plum Almond Cake

I’ve been making the well-known plum cake from Marian Burros and the New York Times for years, but recently decided to try a similar one in Domenica Marchetti’s cookbook “Rustic Italian.” Her recipes are always winners and this was no exception. It incorporates a little almond flour in addition to all-purpose flour, but what really sets this apart is the sugary-almond topping nestled over the plums. The crunchy coating takes it over the top, although it loses its crispness when it sits overnight. No problem, because it’s so delicious, you’re not likely to have any leftovers the next day.

It uses Italian prune plums, and although Domenica’s recipe calls for nine of them, mine were smaller and I needed a lot more to fill the pan. It’s a cinch to remove the pits. Just slice down the middle, twist each half in the opposite direction, and pull out the pit. Lay the plums over the batter cut side up.

Top with the almond-butter-sugar coating and bake.

The crumb is really tender, the fruit is jammy and the topping is sugary and irresistible. I don’t know what took me so long to make this cake, but it’s now at the top of my list when I have a hankering for a slice of cake. I think this would taste great with apricots, peaches or other fruits too when Italian prune plums are hard to find. Grazie mille, cara Domenica.

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Plum Almond Cake
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • ½ cup sunflower or vegetable oil, plus more for greasing
  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • ½ cup almond meal or almond flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ cup half and half or whole milk
  • finely grated zest and juice of 1 large lemon
  • 1 cup sugar, plus 2 tablespoons
  • ¼ teaspoon pure almond extract
  • 9 Italian plums, halved and pitted (or more if they're small)
  • ¼ cup sliced almonds
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly oil an 8-inch springform pan. Dust tthe pan with flour and tap out the excess.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, almond meal, baking powder and salt.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine the oil, egg, half and half (or milk), lemon juice and zest, the 1 cup sugar, and almond extract.
  4. Whisk to blend thoroughly.
  5. Add the wet ingredients to the flour mixture and whisk until just combined.
  6. Pour the batter into tthe prepared pan.
  7. Arrange the plum halves, cut side up, on top of the batter.
  8. In a bowl, combine the almonds, the 2 tablespoons sugar and the butter and mix well.
  9. Dot the almond topping over the cake.
  10. Bake until the topping is golden brown and a cake tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, about 45 minutes.
  11. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool for 20 minutes.
  12. Remove the ring from the pan and place the cake on a serving platter.
  13. Cut into wedges and serve warm or at room temperature.
 

Lemon Blueberry Pound Cake

I’ve been overdosing on blueberries lately. It all started while I was in London and walked by a fruit vendor on a corner selling crates of blueberries for the equivalent of $4 U.S. I hit the mother lode, so how could I resist?  The vendor dumped the blueberries out of the crate into a plastic shopping bag, and it was heavy – nearly the same weight as my one-month old granddaughter that I’d been visiting. On my 20 minute walk home, I had to continually shift the bag from my left hand to my right to keep my shoulder from hurting.

At a certain point, I cradled the bag of blueberries in my arms, which wouldn’t have been so bad except I was wearing a stark white shirt. You know where this is going. Fast forward to a spray I found in my daughter’s laundry room that miraculously took out the blueberry stains and returned my shirt to its virgin glory. I later found out later however, that it was bathroom cleaner with bleach, not a spot remover for clothes! Well, at least now I have another tool in my arsenal for removing stains.

But I digress — back to blueberries. I used them all up (finally) to bake three blueberry cakes, two pies and a dozen and a half muffins. The first cake I made was Ottolenghi’s well-known and delicious blueberry almond and lemon cake, which I’ve made many times and the recipe is here. I wanted to try a different recipe for the second go-round, and decided on a lemon blueberry pound cake from Once Upon a Cake.  I made it, but substituted one cup almond flour for half the regular flour. It was good but it didn’t rise enough to create the attractive domed center that I was looking for. Moreover, after we each had eaten a slice of the cake, Trevor the cat found it on the kitchen counter and helped himself to a big chunk, causing us to toss the remaining cake, and wreaking havoc in Trevor’s “plumbing.”

photo credit: Ben Morse

When I got back home to the U.S., I decided to bake Once Upon A Cake’s recipe a second time, but this time exactly as it was written, eliminating the almond flour. The result was a perfectly domed center and a delicious pound cake.

I saved a few of the blueberries to cook down and tint the glaze, but you could keep the glaze white, or eliminate it entirely, dusting the top with only a sprinkling of powdered sugar.

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Lemon Blueberry Pound Cake
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest, packed
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 cups + 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour, spooned into measuring cup and leveled off with a knife
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup blueberries (if using frozen blueberries, do not defrost)
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1¼ cups gramulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • FOR THE GLAZE:
  • about six blueberries
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 cup confectioner's sugar
  • freshly squeezed lemon juice, (about ½ lemon, or as much as needed to get the right consistency)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
  2. Adjust an oven rack to middle position.
  3. Butter and flour a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan, shaking out excess flour.
  4. (Or butter the pan and line with parchment paper, then spray with nonstick spray)
  5. In a small bowl, whisk together the milk, lemon zest, and lemon juice.
  6. Let it sit for at least 10 minutes while you proceed with the recipe.
  7. It will curdle, but that's fine.
  8. In a medium bowl, whisk together 2 cups flour, baking soda and salt.
  9. In a small bowl, toss the blueberries with the remainign teaspoon of flour.
  10. Set both aside.
  11. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or beaters), cream the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes.
  12. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then beat in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  13. Scrape down the sides of the bowl again.
  14. With the mixer on low speed, beat in a third of the flour mixture, then half of the milk mixture.
  15. Beat in another third of the flour mixture, then the remaining milk mixture, followed by the remaining flour mixture, scraping the bowl as necessary.
  16. Add the flour-dusted blueberries to the batter and, using a spatula, fold until evenly combined.
  17. Transfer the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.
  18. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until the cake is golden brown and a tester comes out clean.
  19. Let the cake cool in the pan for about 10 minutes, then turn out onto a rack to cool completely.
  20. When the cake is cool, transfer to a serving platter.
  21. Make the glaze by cooking the six blueberries with the water, pressing down on the blueberries to release the color, and cooking for a couple of minutes.
  22. Strain the blueberries, retaining the liquid and tossing the squashed blueberries.
  23. Mix the liquid with the confectioner's sugar, adding lemon juice if it's too thick.
  24. It should be very thick, almost the consistency of molasses.
  25. Spread the glaze over the cake, allowing some to drip down the sides.
 

Dried Winter Fruit “Cakelets”

I’ve never counted how many cookbooks I own, but I do know that with many, I make one or two recipes and unfortunately, never revisit them for years because some other newcomer has captured my attention. I’ve got my tried and true cookbooks that I wouldn’t neglect for the world, but then there are some I’ve pushed to the back shelf over the years, including many that are written in Italian. Truth be told, it can be tedious to transcribe the quantities into the American measuring system when they’re written in metric. But the results are frequently worth the effort, like these little dried fruit “cakelets.” They’re from a cookbook called “Fantasie Da Forno” that I picked up in a Milan bookstore  years ago.

Winter is the perfect time for this recipe made with dried fruits. You can make it in small disposable paper cake pans, like these that I bought at a discount store, or make one larger cake in a round pan. There is a certain charm to these miniature cakelets though, and they are just the right serving for one person.

The small amount of cornmeal in the recipe gives the cake a darker look, but adds a bit of flavor and texture. If you want to eliminate the cornmeal, just substitute an equal amount of white all-purpose flour.

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From the Italian cookbook “Fantasie da forno”

Dried Winter Fruit Cakelets
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 7 tablespoons butter, softened (100 gr. di burro ammorbidito)
  • ½ cup (100 grams) sugar
  • 2 eggs, beaten (2 uova sbatute)
  • ⅓ cup (50 grams) flour
  • 1 teaspoon (un cucchiaino di lievito) baking powder
  • ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons cornmeal (100 gr. di farina di mais)
  • 1½ cups mixed dried fruit (225 gr. frutta secca mister
  • ¼ cup pine nuts, or other nuts (25 gr. di pinoli)
  • grated rind of a lemon (la scorza grattugiata di 1 limone)
  • 2 tablespoons milk (2 cucchiai di latte)
  • 4 tablespoons lemon juice (4 cucchiai di succo di limone)
Instructions
  1. Grease a 7" or 8" round pan (or use several small baking paper cake holders).
  2. Beat the butter and sugar together in a mixer.
  3. Add the beaten eggs, one a time, mixing each one thoroughly.
  4. Add the flour, baking powder and cornmeal and mix until incorporated.
  5. Add the dried fruits and nuts, the lemon peel, the lemon juice, and lastly the milk.
  6. Spread the mixture into the pan and bake in a preheated 300 degree oven for one hour, but if using the mini pans, check after 30 minutes.
  7. Test with a toothpick to see if it comes out clean.
  8. Remove from the oven, let it cool, then dust with powdered sugar.
 

Chocolate Buttermilk Cake

Have you got a celebration coming up? If not, consider this afternoon a good enough occasion for a celebration. Forget Norman Vincent Peale. If you want to win friends and influence people, chocolate is where you want to be and this is the route to take. This cake has great flavor and texture, and is the second best chocolate cake around. THE best chocolate cake I’ve ever eaten is a chocolate truffle cake from a local shop here in town (Olive’s) and the hubs is getting it for me for my birthday this week. (Yea!) Only fitting, since I made this cake for his birthday earlier this year.

Most of you don’t live within a quick drive to my town and that shop, so I’ve giving you the next best thing. It’s almost the same recipe as Hershey’s “Perfectly Chocolate Cake” but since I had buttermilk in the house from another recipe, I decided to use that instead of regular milk. Buttermilk adds a bit of a tang, and makes a big difference in the tenderness of cakes. Even if you don’t have buttermilk in your refrigerator, you can create it by squeezing a little lemon juice into regular milk and letting it sit for five to ten minutes.

This ratio of chocolate frosting to cake is crucial, in my humble opinion, but then again, I’m a pushover for chocolate frosting (well, any kind of buttercream frosting, actually).

I melted a little chocolate for the decoration, and also shaved some chocolate to press into the sides of the cake.

If that’s too much chocolate for you (you’re kidding, right?), it tastes delicious with a plain buttercream frosting too, as my granddaughter demonstrates in the video below.

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Chocolate Buttermilk Cake
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • CAKE:
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1¾ cups flour
  • ¾ cup dark cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup hot coffee, cooled (I use espresso, and add more water to bring to one cup)
  • CHOCOLATE BUTTERCREAM FROSTING:
  • 1 cup butter softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup dark cocoa powder
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • ¼ cup heavy whipping cream
Instructions
  1. MAKE THE CAKE:
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  3. Grease and flour two 8" cake pans, and line the bottoms with parchment paper for easy removal later.
  4. Whisk together in a large bowl of a standing mixer (or use a hand mixer) the sugar, flour. cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
  5. In a separate mixing bowl, add the buttermilk, vegetable oil, eggs and vanilla, and whisk to combine.
  6. Beat at a low speed, then and slowly pour in the wet ingredients until just combined, scraping sides of the mixing bowl if necessary.
  7. Keeping the mixer at a slow speed, carefully pour in the coffee. Mix until just combined, scraping the sides of bowl as needed.
  8. Pour batter into the prepared pans and bake for 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  9. Remove cakes from oven.
  10. Let cool in the pans for 15 minutes, then flip gently onto cooling racks to continue cooling.
  11. Remove the parchment paper and cool completely before frosting.
  12. MAKE THE FROSTING:
  13. Beat the butter, vanilla and salt together until smooth and creamy.
  14. Whisk together the cocoa powder and powdered sugar, then add the mix and the whipping cream to the butter mixture, a little at a time until mixed together.
  15. Continue beating for 3 or 4 minutes until the frosting is light and fluffy.
  16. Frost the cake, using about ⅓ for the inside of the cake and the rest for the tops and sides.
  17. If you want to decorate as I did, shave some chocolate using a vegetable peeler and press on the sides (It can be messy)
  18. For the top, microwave an ounce or two of dark chocolate with a 3-4 tablespoons of cream.
  19. You may need to add more cream to get to a pourable consistency.
  20. Stir until it is liquid enough to pour, then drizzle in lines across the top.
  21. Using a toothpick or butterknife, swipe across the opposite directions of the chocolate lines, first in one direction, then the other, to get the wave pattern.
 

Ottolenghi’s Blueberry, Almond and Lemon Cake

There are infinite cake recipes and infinite GOOD cake recipes. Then there are GREAT cake recipes. This one, from Yotam Ottolenghi, is one of those. It may not be the biggest cake out there — it doesn’t serve a ton of people. But it’s one you’ll want to make again and again. It has a really tender and moist texture, a lively lemon flavor and blueberries too. I love this cake so much I’ll be making this without the fruit when blueberry season is long gone. Many of the blueberries will sink to the bottom (sorry, even if you coat them first in flour, which I did) but if you follow the directions and reserve some to place on the top after the cake’s been baking for 15 minutes, they won’t sink. Scout’s honor.

Make sure to leave the cake in the oven for the entire time mentioned in the recipe to allow it to rise properly and not sink in the middle. Just cover with a tented piece of aluminum foil if it starts to get too browned. Let it cool and drizzle with a lemon glaze. You’ll find it hard to stop eating slice after slice, I promise.

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Blueberry, Almond and Lemon Cake
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • ½ cup (1 stick) plus 3 tablespoons/150 grams unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus extra for greasing the pan
  • 1 scant cup/190 grams granulated or superfine sugar (caster sugar)
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest, plus 1 tablespoon lemon juice (or more juice as needed)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (vanilla essence)
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • ⅔ cup/90 grams all-purpose flour (plain flour), sifted
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup/110 grams almond flour (ground almonds)
  • 1 ½ cups/200 grams fresh blueberries
  • ⅔ cup/70 grams confectioners’ sugar (icing sugar)
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit/200 degrees Celsius.
  2. Grease a 9- or 8-inch/21-centimeter loaf pan with butter, line it with a parchment paper sling and butter the paper. (I didn't use the parchment paper but just buttered and floured the pan.)
  3. Set the pan aside.
  4. Place butter, sugar, lemon zest and vanilla extract in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.
  5. Beat on high speed for 3 to 4 minutes, until light, then lower speed to medium.
  6. Add eggs in three additions, scraping down the sides of the bowl a few times as necessary.
  7. The mix may split a little but don’t worry: It’ll come back together once you add the dry ingredients.
  8. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and almond flour.
  9. With the stand mixer on low, add the dry ingredients in three additions, mixing just until no white specks remain.
  10. Fold in about ¾ of the blueberries by hand, then scoop batter into the prepared loaf pan.
  11. Bake for 15 minutes, then sprinkle the remaining blueberries over the top of the cake.
  12. Return to the oven for another 15 to 20 minutes, until cake is golden brown but still uncooked.
  13. Cover loosely with foil and continue to cook for another 25 to 30 minutes (less for a 9-inch pan, more for an 8-inch pan), or until risen and cooked, and a knife inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.
  14. Remove from oven and set aside in its pan to cool for 10 minutes before removing cake from pan and placing on a wire rack to cool completely.
  15. When cake is cool, make the icing: Add lemon juice and icing sugar to a bowl and whisk together until smooth, adding a bit more juice if necessary, just until the icing moves when you tilt the bowl. Pour over the cake and gently spread out.
  16. The blueberries on the top of the cake may bleed into the icing a little, but this will add to the look. Let icing set (about 30 minutes), slice and serve.
 

 

 

Orange Chiffon Cake

Mother’s Day is coming up soon and I can’t think of a nicer treat to bake and decorate for your mamma (or for yourself) than this fluffy orange chiffon cake. This cake makes me think of my own mother, who used to bake angel food and chiffon cakes when I was a little girl (back when dinosaurs roamed the earth). By the way, if you’re wondering if a chiffon cake is the same as a sponge cake, it’s related, but not the same. Sponge cakes have lots of separated and beaten eggs, as do chiffon cakes, but no added fat or baking powder, while chiffon cakes do contain both oil and a leavening agent. I haven’t made a chiffon cake in decades, but I pulled out my ancient tube pan for this and it was well worth it. The cake was light and with a soft texture that provides a perfect foil for the glaze and pressed flower decoration. You can choose to simply dust the cake with powdered sugar, but the orange glaze really adds a pretty finishing touch. I picked edible flowers and leaves for the decoration – pansies, lemon balm leaves and the flowers of wild winter cress — and pressed them for a couple of days until they were dried and flattened. You could use fresh flowers or omit them entirely. If you do use fresh flowers, do an internet search to make sure they’re edible, since so many have toxic qualities (like buttercups).

The preparation takes a bit of time, but if you follow the directions carefully, you’ll have no trouble. I found a lot of recipes for chiffon cakes online, and ultimately culled what I thought to be the best of a few recipes, cutting out some of the excess sugar and adding a bit of orange blossom water I had bought in Italy a few years ago to give it a little extra orange umph.

Make sure you DO NOT grease the pan. This is to allow the cake batter to grip the sides of the pan and allow for a higher rise. I did place a piece of parchment paper on the bottom portion of the cake and it allowed for an easy release.

This is how it looked as it came from the oven.

You need to immediately flip it over onto something like an inverted funnel to let it cool upside down. Otherwise, the cake might sink in the center.

After it is completely cooled, run a long knife around the sides and along the inner tube of the cake, then flip it onto a rack, releasing the metal piece and removing the parchment paper from the base.

I poured the glaze over the top and spread it on the sides. As you can see, the sides are quite bumpy, but if you let the glaze dry slightly (an hour or two should do it), you can spread another layer of glaze on the sides to get a smoother look. Or you could just pour the glaze on the top and let it fall down in large “drips” on the side, another way to get a decorative look.

But since I wanted to use the dried flowers on the sides, I added the second layer of glaze. It’s not as smooth as glass, but much smoother than just leaving the one layer of glaze (and it sure tastes good.)

Decorate with the pressed, dried flowers.

You don’t even have to use pressed flowers. You could just choose freshly picked, unpressed flowers instead.

The cake serves a lot of people, so if you’re not having a crowd anytime soon (and who is, in this Covid-19 environment?),spread a bit of good cheer and leave some at your neighbors’ or friends’ front porch. Happy Mother’s Day!

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Orange Chiffon Cake
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • FOR THE CAKE:
  • 2¼ cups cake flour
  • 1¼ cups sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 7 large egg yolks
  • ¾ cup fresh orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated orange zest
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • ¼ teaspoon orange flower water
  • 8 large egg whites
  • FOR THE GLAZE:
  • 3 cups confectioner's sugar
  • 4 tablespoons orange juice (or more as needed)
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • edible flowers
Instructions
  1. FOR THE CAKE:
  2. Sift together the flour, ¾ cup of the sugar, the baking powder, and the salt.
  3. In the large bowl of an electric mixer beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until they are foamy, then add the cream of tartar and beat the whites until they hold stiff peaks.
  4. Add the remaining ½ cup sugar, a little at a time, and beat the whites until they hold stiff glossy peaks.
  5. In a separate bowl, whisk together the oil, the egg yolks, the orange juice, the zest, the orange blossom water and the vanilla.
  6. Whisk the mixture into the flour mixture, mixing until the batter is smooth.
  7. Stir one third of the whites into the batter to lighten it and fold in the remaining whites gently but thoroughly.
  8. Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit the bottom of an ungreased 10-inch angel food pan, with a removable bottom.
  9. Spoon the batter into the pan and bake the cake in the middle of a preheated 325°F. oven for 1 hour, and five to ten minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  10. Invert the pan immediately onto a funnel and let it cool completely.
  11. Run a long thin knife around the outer and inner tube edges of the pan and turn the cake out of the pan onto a cake rack.
  12. Remove the parchment paper.
  13. FOR THE GLAZE:
  14. Mix the confectioner's sugar with the orange juice until smooth, glossy and thick.
  15. Pour the glaze over the top of cake and spread over the sides as a first layer.
  16. Let the glaze dry, at least an hour or two, and spread a second layer of glaze over the sides to smooth out the first layer.
  17. Decorate with pressed, dried edible flowers.
 

 

 

Delizia al Limone

Delizia al limone is one of those desserts I can’t resist when I see it on a menu. Occasionally, I’ll spot it at the pastry counter of D’Angelo’s — an Italian specialty food store here in Princeton, N.J. But otherwise, it’s not easy to find, even at Italian restaurants in New York City. It’s such a regional dessert that even in Italy, you’re not likely to see it unless you’re in Naples or other towns in the Campania region of Italy, where lemon trees are as commonplace as a handsome ragazzo on a Vespa. I’ve been wanting to try for years to make it home but never got around to it until recently. Once you try it, you’ll see why it’s such a beloved dessert in Southern Italy — a sponge cake soaked with a limoncello syrup, stuffed with a lemon cream, then covered with a thinned-out drizzle of lemon cream. It’s so lemony and irresistible, but to be frank, it’s very laborious to make.

I followed a recipe on Manu’s Menu. You need to have these semi-spherical molds to achieve the proper look of the Delizie. This recipe made only enough for eight little “cakelets” — not nearly enough for all the work required, in my opinion. If I make it again (a big “if”), I would double the recipe for the sponge cakes.

I would also take a few shortcuts – like buying lemon curd rather than making it from scratch. Same goes for the lemon crema pasticcera. So much can go wrong as you’re making either of these two ingredients, including curdling (which didn’t happen to me, since I stood over the pot stirring constantly, but easily could have.) Instead, I would use a package of instant vanilla pudding, flavored with lemon juice and lemon peel, and add some homemade whipped cream to the pudding to create the lemon crema pasticcera.

There were so many steps to follow, so many bowls and pots to wash, that this recipe became a half-day project. Have I discouraged you completely? Well, I hope not, especially if you take the short cuts I suggested.

My friends in the weekly Italian chit-chat group loved these little lemon delights. If you’re like me and love lemon desserts, maybe you’ll give it a try. You’ll feel like you’re back in Capri – before the Coronavirus hit. Wash your hands and stay safe everyone.

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Delizia al Limone
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • SPONGE (CAKE)
  • 150 gms – 3 large eggs divided
  • 90 gms – ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 40 gms – 1 ½ oz. all-purpose flour
  • 25 gms – 8 tsp cornstarch
  • 25 gms – ¼ cup almond meal
  • ½ lemon peel grated
  • ½ vanilla pod
  • 1 pinch salt
  • LEMON CREAM
  • 40 gms – 2 egg yolks
  • 40 gms – 1 ½ oz. sugar
  • 1 or 2 lemons
  • 40 gms – 1 ½ oz. butter
  • LEMON CREMA PASTICCERA
  • 180 gms – ¾ cup milk
  • 80 gms + 30 gms – 3 oz. + 1 oz. cream
  • 80 gms – 4 egg yolks
  • 60 gms – ⅓ cup granulated sugar
  • 15 gms – 5 tsp cornstarch
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 lemon
  • ⅓ vanilla pod
  • LIMONCELLO SYRUP
  • 30 gms – 1 oz.water
  • 30 gms – 1 oz. granulated sugar
  • 50 gms – 1 ¾ oz. Limoncello
  • ½ lemon
  • GLAZE
  • Remaining Lemon Cream
  • Remaining Lemon Crema Pasticcera
  • 60 gms – ⅓ cup milk
  • 125 gms– ½ cup cream whipped and lightly sweetned
  • 30 gms – 1 oz. Limoncello
Instructions
  1. SPONGE (cake)
  2. Beat the egg yolks with 40 gms – 1 ½ oz. of the sugar, grated lemon peel and scraped vanilla until pale and fluffy.
  3. Add the almond meal and mix well.
  4. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites with the remaining sugar and a pinch of salt.
  5. Mix together the cornstarch and flour and then sift it into the egg yolk mixture, alternating with additions of the beaten egg whites.
  6. Make sure to fold these in gently, so as not to deflate them.
  7. Grease and coat with flour some semisphere tins and fill them till ¾ with the batter.
  8. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 170°C – 340°F for 15 minutes, or until cooked through.
  9. When ready, unmould them and keep them on a wire rack to cool down.
  10. LEMON CREAM
  11. Grate the peel of the lemon and then juice it.
  12. Put the grated peel in a bowl with the lemon juice and keep it to infuse for 20 minutes.
  13. Beat the egg yolks and sugar until pale and then add 40 gms – 1 ½ oz. of the lemon juice and grated peel.
  14. Keep mixing.
  15. Put this mixture on a slow flame and cook it, while continuously stirring, until it reaches 80°C – 176°F.
  16. Then remove from the fire and put the pot in a double boiler filled with cold water. Blend it with a stick mixer until smooth.
  17. Let it cool down to 50°C – 122°F, then add the chopped butter and keep blending until smooth.
  18. Cover it with cling wrap (make sure that the cling wrap touches the surface of the cream so a skin doesn’t form) and refrigerate it until completely cold.
  19. LEMON CREMA PASTICCERA
  20. In a pot put the milk, cream, lemon peel, and scraped vanilla bean and bring to a boil.
  21. Then put the fire off, let it infuse for 1 hour and then filter it.
  22. Beat the egg yolks with the sugar, cornstach and salt until pale.
  23. Then slowly add the filtered milk.
  24. Cook this mixture until it reaches 82°C – 180°F, then cover the cream with cling wrap (make sure that the cling wrap touches the surface of the cream so a skin doesn’t form) and refrigerate it until completely cold.
  25. LIMONCELLO SYRUP
  26. Dissolve the sugar in the water and add the lemon peel.
  27. Bring to a boil and simmer for 1 minute. Put the fire off and let it get back to room temperature. Then filter it and add the Limoncello.
  28. ASSEMBLING
  29. Mix together the Lemon Cream and the Lemon Crema Pasticcera (make sure they are both cold). Add 30 gms – 1 oz. of Limoncello and 30 gms – 1 oz. of sweetened whipped cream and mix well.
  30. Put this cream in a piping bag and fill the sponge cakes by making a little hole at the bottom (you can use a knife to make the hole and then pipe in the cream).
  31. Try and fill them as much as possible. Reserve the remaining cream.
  32. Using a toothpick, prick the sponges on all sides and brush them with the Limoncello syrup.
  33. To the remaining cream, add 125 gms – ½ cup of sweetend whipped cream and 60 gms – ⅓ cup of milk to make the thick glaze.
  34. Cover the delizie with the glaze and refrigerate for a couple of hours.
  35. When ready to serve, decorate with some whipped cream and lemon zests.
 

 

Black Forest Cake with Birchbark Decoration

I confess. I went off my diet to enjoy two — no, make that three —  slices of this cake. And there’s still a quarter of the cake left. I’ve made it twice now — once for Christmas, when we had a big crowd that consumed all of it. And I made it again last week, when it was just the two of us. But don’t judge – I sliced off a quarter of this cake and took it to my 90+ year-old neighbors to help them celebrate Valentine’s Day. Studded with cherries and hugged by a white chocolate birch bark, this cake would also be perfect to celebrate the upcoming birthday of George Washington – the first president of the U.S.A. who legend says chopped down a cherry tree as a young boy.  You don’t have to embellish it with the chocolate birch bark if you want to make it easy on yourself. Just serve it with the whipped cream frosting and everyone will love it just the same. The cake recipe is from “Alice’s Tea Cup” cookbook, but it’s practically the same as the Hershey’s recipe I’ve been using for decades. Alice’s Tea Cup recipe calls for 1/4 cup sour cream, and I didn’t have it on hand, so substituted plain Greek yogurt instead. The cake is very forgiving and even without the sour cream or yogurt, it’s a delicious cake with a beautiful crumb.

Just a word of caution before baking however. The first time I made this, I put all three cake pans in the oven at once — not a good idea since they came out lopsided. The next time, I baked each cake layer one at a time and it was much more even. When you’re assembling the cake, you could eliminate the liqueur soaking each layer if you’re serving it to young children. But in my opinion, the liqueur adds so much flavor and it’s dispersed enough even for children to handle. I used about 1/2 cup of Cherry Marnier for the three layers, but next time, I’ll increase it to 3/4 cup. If you don’t have Cherry Marnier (I finally finished the bottle I’ve had for more than 40 years), substitute with kirsch or brandy.

The first time I made this, I used amarena cherries from Italy (my favorite), but they are a bit expensive to use in such quantity. This time I bought some jarred pitted cherries that were just fine. After you’ve soaked the layer in liqueur, spread the whipped cream in abundance and dot it with the cherries. Repeat with the second layer, then top with the third layer.

Smear whipped cream all over the sides and top. If you plan to decorate with the white chocolate birch bark, (and I do encourage you to do so. It makes quite a statement.) the perimeter doesn’t have to be perfect since it will be completely covered. Just make sure you have enough whipped cream to help the chocolate pieces adhere.

Making the birch bark is simple. First use a paint brush to “paint” melted dark chocolate marks across a piece of parchment paper. The area you cover in chocolate should be as tall as the finished cake with all the layers and frosting, and slightly wider than the circumference of the cake. After you’ve made the dark chocolate marks, let the chocolate harden. Then melt the white chocolate and let it cool before spreading over the dark chocolate with an offset spatula (I dripped some over the dark chocolate first before spreading with the spatula). This part can be tricky if the temperature isn’t just right. If you spread the white chocolate while it’s warm, or worse yet, while it’s hot, it will melt the dark chocolate and smear it. A little smearing is fine, but you don’t want to lose the characteristic look of the birch bark. If you wait until it’s too cold, the white chocolate will harden and you’ll have a hard time spreading it. I got the idea from “The Cake Girls” – and you might want to check out these directions before trying.

Let the white chocolate bark cool completely. Put it in the refrigerator if your room is too hot. Then slice or break off pieces to use for the decoration. Don’t worry if some of them break in two or three pieces. You can always patch some together on the cake.

I finished it off by piping some whipped cream rosettes on the top. But even that is not necessary if you don’t have the right equipment. Everyone will love it just the same.

Including my husband, who by now has shown remarkable (and uncharacteristic) self-restraint by eating only one slice a day of this cake. As for me, don’t ask. Because unlike George Washington, I may have to tell a lie.

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Black Forest Cake with Birchbark Decoration
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspooon kosher salt
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • ½ cup canola oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ¾ cup hot brewed coffee
  • FOR THE FILLING AND FROSTING:
  • 2½ cups whipping cream
  • ½ cup powdered sugar
  • a jar of sour cherries in liquid (drained), or amarena cherries in syrup (use as many as you like. I didn't measure but I think I used about 1 cup total)
  • ¾ cup liqueur (Kirsch, or cherry marnier, or brandy)
  • FOR THE BIRCH BARK DECORATION:
  • 12 ounces white chocolate
  • a couple of ounces of dark or milk chocolate
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour three 8-inch round baking pans.
  2. Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl.
  3. Add eggs (one at a time), sour cream, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer 2 minutes.
  4. Slowly drizzle in hot coffee, mixing until the batter is blended. Batter will be thin.
  5. Pour batter into prepared pans.
  6. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of cake comes out clean.
  7. Cool completely before removing from pan and frosting.
  8. FOR THE FILLING AND FROSTING:
  9. Whip the cream with the confectioner's sugar, adding a little at a time, until peaks form.
  10. Be careful not to whip too much or you'll end up with butter!
  11. Take one layer of the cakes and sprinkle generously with the syrup.
  12. Spread some of the whipped cream on top, and dot throughout with the cherries.
  13. Repeat with the second layer.
  14. Add the top layer and spread the remaining whipped cream on the top and sides.
  15. FOR THE BIRCH BARK DECORATION:
  16. Melt the dark chocolate, either at low heat in a double boiler or in the microwave.
  17. Using a paint brush, brush marks on a long piece of parchment paper, using a measurement that's slightly taller than the three cakes would be with the frosting, and a bit wider than the circumference of the cakes.
  18. Let the dark chocolate cool, then melt the white chocolate, being careful not to overheat, or will "seize" on you. If this happens, try adding more white chocolate, off the heat, and stir vigorously.
  19. Alternately, add a small amount of boiling water, one teaspoon at a time, stirring into the white chocolate.
  20. Let the white chocolate cool, then spread over the dark chocolate.
  21. This can be tricky because if you spread it while it's still warm, it will melt the dark chocolate and you'll lose the characteristic marks of the birch tree. But if you let it cool too much, it will harden and be difficult to spread.
  22. Let the white chocolate cool completely (I put mine in the refrigerator), then cut large chunks of it, and press them against the sides of the cake.
  23. If some of the pieces break off, just patch them by pressing into the sides of the cake.
 

Cherry Almond Skillet Cake

Quick, before cherries are still in season (not much longer here in the northeastern U.S.), run out and buy some to make this cake. It’s easy to put together, assuming you don’t mind spending 10 minutes pitting cherries.

Maybe you already own a cherry pitter, and in that case, go ahead and use it. But you don’t need one. I owned one many moons ago, given to me by my son after he spent a week helping a friend’s grandmother harvest and pit cherries from her orchard in upstate New York. But I didn’t use it often, so I gave it away. Now when I pit cherries, I just use the “smush-them-under-a-can” method. Just make sure you have a flat surface you don’t mind getting soiled, and place a cherry on the surface. Press down with a can (I used a can of baked beans) but don’t bang on it, or you’ll get juice splattered all over you too. Lift the can and remove the stem and the pit with your hands. The cherry will come apart in two pieces with a little tug. You’ll want it to come apart in two pieces for this recipe, because if left whole, they’re heavier and more likely to sink to the bottom of the cake.

This recipe comes to you via fellow blogger and friend, Stacey, who made it with pistachios instead of almonds. I love pistachios but had more almonds in the house, so decided to use them both times I made it this week (yes, I made it both Monday and Tuesday!). I ramped up the almond flavor a little with more almond extract, but you can use vanilla extract if you prefer. After you’ve spread the batter in the skillet, lightly press the cherry halves into the batter, and sprinkle with the almonds.

Let it cool slightly, then serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, or a simple dusting of confectioners’ sugar.

It’s got a delicious almond flavor and a very tender crumb, punctuated with those delicious cherries.

As one of my grandsons said as I was serving the cake earlier this week – “I want a grandpop-size slice.” After trying this cake, I think you will too.

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Cherry Almond Skillet Cake
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus extra for greasing the pan.
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup of almond flour
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ¾ teaspoon salt (I USED ½ TSP.)
  • 1 cup sugar (I USED ¾ CUP)
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ cup buttermilk (or milk mixed with a teaspoon of lemon juice)
  • ½ tsp almond extract (I USED 1 TEASPOON)
  • 1 pound cherries, pitted (I USED ABOUT 2 DOZEN CHERRIES, PITTED AND CUT IN HALF)
  • slivered almonds to sprinkle on top
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350F and butter a 10" cast iron skillet (You could use a cake pan too.)
  2. Cream together the butter, extract, lemon zest, sugar and egg until nice and light.
  3. Mix in the flour, salt, baking powder and almond flour.
  4. Pour in buttermilk and mix together.
  5. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and dot with the cherries, pressing the fruit lightly into the batter.
  6. Sprinkle the top with the almonds and bake in the oven for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean.
  7. Serve warm with ice cream, or sprinkle with confectioner's sugar before serving.
 

 

Chocolate Chip Bundt Cake

When you want a cake that’s not fussy and sure to be a crowdpleaser with adults and kids (alright so some of you who are from another planet may not like chocolate), this is the cake to turn to. Made with mini chocolate chips, that are less likely to fall to the bottom the way regular-sized chips do, this cake has a nice crumb and a delicious flavor, even without the chocolate glaze. So if you’re inclined to serve it without the glaze, at least give it a dusting of powdered sugar to elevate its plain Jane looks.

BUT, I highly recommend the chocolate glaze. I mean, come on, don’t you just want to stick your fingers onto that plate and lick those drizzles cascading down the cake? By the way, for baking, I almost always use Hershey’s Special Dark chocolate bars. You can buy them at the supermarket at a fraction of the cost of the more expensive brands, and years ago on a blind taste testing at America’s Test Kitchen tv show, Hershey’s Special Dark came out as the number one favorite. It’s delicious just for snacking straight from the wrapper too.

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Chocolate Chip Bundt Cake
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Serves: 12
Ingredients
  • ¾ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons. vanilla extract
  • 2½ cups all purpose flour
  • 1¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ tsp. baking soda
  • ¾ tsp. salt
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt (I used sour cream)
  • 1¼ cups mini semi sweet chocolate chips
  • FOR THE TOPPING:
  • four ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • ½ cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup (optional)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer of a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugars together on medium speed until well combined and fluffy, about two minutes.
  3. Scrape the sides of the bowl and add the eggs and vanilla, and continue to beat.
  4. Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a small bowl.
  5. Add half of the dry ingredients into the butter mixture and beat on low until combined.
  6. Add the Greek yogurt (or sour cream) and beat to combine.
  7. Add the remaining half of dry ingredients and stir just until combined.
  8. Fold in the chocolate chips.
  9. Do not overmix.
  10. Spray a small, 10 cup bundt pan with a baking spray with flour or use a light spray of baking spray and dust the inside of the pan with flour. (I smeared butter inside, then sprayed with a cooking spray, then dusted with flour.)
  11. Spoon the batter evenly into the pan and smooth the top of the batter. It will be thick.
  12. Bake in a preheated oven for about 55-60 minutes or until the top of the cake is set, with no jiggling.
  13. Allow to cool in the pan for about 20 minutes, then invert the cake onto a cooling rack or serving platter until completely cool.
  14. When ready to ice, add the chocolate to a small bowl and heat the cream until almost bubbling.
  15. Add the warmed cream to the chocolate, cover the bowl with a piece of plastic wrap, and allow to sit undisturbed for five minutes.
  16. Stir to combine and add in the corn syrup, if desired.
  17. Pour over the cake.