Category Archives: CAKES – see PATTI CAKES

IRISH CREAM AND PECAN BUNDT CAKE

Yesterday was my dear father-in-law John’s 98th birthday. My sister-in-law and brother-in-law came over from Winthrop, we drove up from Camano Island, and the 5 of us went out for dinner. Of course first we had appetizers and a drink at John’s home before venturing into the bustling town of La Conner to dine. And as usual the 5 of us had a grand time.

Previously I had decided that John needed a birthday cake. Of course he did! So in trying to keep my work to a minimum (getting lazy in my “full speed ahead” advancement into old age), I decided to work up a recipe for a Bundt cake that would be easy to prepare, a bit different, and easy to prepare. Did I mention I also wanted it to be easy to prepare? Anyway, this is the result.

Now, not to change the subject (and of course I am going to do just that), but I am pretty darned disgusted with manufacturers whose products used to be a standard weight that I could depend upon. Until yesterday, I was completely oblivious to the package weight change on cake mixes. I don’t even know why the weight verbiage caught my eye, but before I went any further with this recipe, I checked the weight on the other cake mixes in my pantry. They were all 15.25 ounces instead of the standard 18.25 ounces. That’s a 3 whole ounce reduction! What? Why? And when did this happen? And why didn’t they just ask me if I would be willing to spend a little extra money to keep the same number of ounces? I would have answered in the affirmative. It also registered on me that the change in ounces would make a significant impact on the final product when I used cake mixes as an ingredient. Then I got mad! Grrrrr! So I went on line and did some research on the subject.

Patti’s seat-of-the pants economic analysis: Companies live or die by their bottom line. Apparently manufacturers realized that their profit margin would increase significantly if they simply decreased the amount of product contained in any given package, but failed to adjust the price accordingly. Duh! In other words, consumers would continue to pay the same price for their product, but the content of the package would be much reduced. And consumers like myself, who don’t necessarily check package weight, but rather focus on the ingredient list don’t figure it out, sometimes for years. (Guilty as charged!) In my defense, I simply don’t use cake mixes that often, but I have several killer cake recipes on this site that call for an 18.25-oz. cake mix. As a result of finally realizing what has happened in the cake mix world, I plan to edit my blog recipes in the very near future to include extra cake mix as explained below.

My solution: Since cake mixes now all seem to come in 15.25-oz. packages rather than 18.25 ounce packages, I’m going to simply add about 1/3 cup yellow cake mix to all my recipes that call for an 18.25 ounce cake mix. (I’ll use yellow because it won’t add or detract from the flavor of the cake I’ll be baking.) And yes, I know it’s a pain to always have to add that little extra cake mix. But I frankly can’t think of any other way around the problem. I’m simply going to keep an extra open cake mix (stored in an airtight container) at the ready. One additional cake mix should last me through several recipes.

I’m sure many of you are way ahead of me on this new product challenge. But sometimes I’m just clueless. This was obviously one of those times. But I still know a good cake when I taste one. And this is one good cake!

  • 1 c. chopped pecans, divided
  • 1 package (15.25-oz.) yellow cake mix
  • 1/3 c. additional cake mix
  • 1 pkg. (3.4-oz.) instant vanilla pudding mix
  • 4 eggs
  • ¼ c. room temperature water
  • ½ c. vegetable oil
  • ¾ c. + 2 T. Irish cream liqueur, divided
  • 1 tsp. espresso powder
  • 2 T. hot water
  • 1-2 c. powdered sugar, or more as needed

Grease and flour a 10-inch Bundt pan. Sprinkle ½ of the chopped nuts evenly over bottom of pan. Reserve the rest of the chopped nuts for the cake batter.

In a large mixing bowl, beat cake mix and dry pudding mix together. Add the eggs, ¼ cup room temperature water, oil, the ¾ cup of Irish cream liqueur, and the remaining chopped nuts. Beat for 5 minutes at high speed. Pour batter over nuts in pan.

Bake in a preheated 325 degree oven for 52-57 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean. Do not overbake. Remove from oven. Cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then gently pry the cake away from the sides of the pan, and gently invert onto a serving dish. Cool completely before adding the glaze.

To make the glaze: In a small bowl, whisk together the espresso powder, hot water, the 2 tablespoons Irish Cream Liqueur, and enough powdered sugar to bring to desired consistency. When the cake is cool, drizzle glaze over the top letting it flow down the sides. Let the glaze set before serving.

To reiterate: – Adding an additional 1/3rd cup cake mix whenever you use a cake mix as an ingredient and the recipe calls for an 18.25-oz. cake mix and what you have in front of you is a 15.25-oz. cake mix, solves the weight problem and thus assures you a wonderful final product. But please note, if you are simply making the cake as is, and not using the cake mix as an ingredient, follow the instructions on the package.

 

GOOEY LEMON BUTTER CAKE

Now I know, there are those few (not mentioning any names here Paul) who love the flavor of lemon, but not in a dessert. But for many people, myself included, any type of lemon dessert is just about as good as it gets. I adore lemon meringue pie, lemon cookies (see Glazed Italian Lemon Cookies on this blog) and of course – lemon gelato. So for our last JazzVox pre-concert meal, I decided to give in to my lemon cravings and prepare a very unusual sweet for my guests. 

Now I had baked gooey butter cakes before, so I knew that they were not only delicious, but different. So with lemon in mind, I went on line and found this marvelous recipe for a lemon gooey butter cake on the “go bold with butter” site.  So last weekend I made a double batch of this cake for our JazzVox guests.

All thoughts of lemon gelato and even lemon meringue pie disappeared after my first bite. The crust was crisp and slightly chewy, and the filling super gooey, lemony, and heavenly.   

Now something you should know. Gooey butter cakes are about as much like a standard cake as tap water is to vodka! A regular cake (let’s take a homemade white cake as an example) usually has a rich, moist, fine crumb (the individual particles of cake), and a “melt in your mouth” sensation when you eat it. This cake is much more like a lemon bar on steroids! But since this dessert is classified as a “cake”, who am I to rock the apple cart and call it anything but its given name?!?!

Ease of preparation and availability of ingredients are also aspects of this recipe which make it a pleasure to prepare and serve to your family and friends.

So next time you want to build a unique dessert that absolutely everyone will love (except Paul, of course), bake this butter cake. As I always say – vive la différence. And never more so than with this “cake” which is really more of a bar/pudding with crust/whatever!! Enjoy

  • 2 c. cake flour
  • 1½ c. granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • ¼ tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 small egg, room temperature
  • ½ c. (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 T. whole milk
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • ½ tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp. lemon zest
  • 4 T. fresh lemon juice
  • 3¾ c. powdered sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
  • ½ c. (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

Blend the cake flour, sugar, baking powder, and kosher salt together with an electric mixer. Add the small egg, ½ cup melted butter, and milk. Beat on low speed for 2 minutes. After 2 minutes, scrape down the bowl with a rubber spatula. The batter should come together into a loose ball. Pat the batter evenly into the bottom of an ungreased 9×13 pan. (Use glass if possible.) Set the pan aside.

Using the same mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Add the 3 large eggs, and beat until smooth. Pour in vanilla extract, lemon zest, and lemon juice, beating until combined. Add the powdered sugar and beat well. Finally, slowly add the last ½ cup of melted butter, mixing well to combine.

Pour the batter on top of the bottom layer and spread evenly over the entire crust.

Bake in a pre-heated 325 degree oven (glass) or 350 degree (metal) for 50-60 minutes, or just until set. Do not over-bake. The outer edges of the cake should be brown, but the center should still jiggle when the pan is shaken.

Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool before cutting into serving sized pieces. Before serving, lightly sprinkle powdered sugar on each piece. (To sprinkle, place powdered sugar in a fine mesh wire strainer. Then gently shake the strainer until desired amount is achieved.)

Please note: This cake can be made a day or two ahead. The crust stays crisp and the filling does not get watery even after 2 or 3 days. Perfect.

My “muse” Miles –  sleeping on the job! Again!

 

CARIBBEAN BLACK FRUITCAKE

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OK, since I started 2017 by cancelling a brunch because of icy condition on the fair isle of Camano, I might as well go the whole way and offer up a fruitcake recipe to start 2017.

Now some people might see this as a bad sign for the coming year. But those of you who know me well, or don’t know me personally, but trust me none-the-less, realize that it is not in my nature to steer you wrong!

So, if you are one of the lucky people who have experienced a truly great fruitcake in your past, let me tell you without even a quarter ounce of equivocation, that this is a fruitcake not to be missed. It is full of flavor, with a lovely moist, dense, and tender crumb. Hints of orange and the taste of exotic spices fills your mouth, while the occasional crunch from the nuts is a pleasant offset to the soft texture of the cakey part. And the best thing about this fruitcake – you can make it yourself! You don’t ever again have to pay $39.95 plus tax and shipping to enjoy a high quality, fantastic tasting holiday treat. You can do it all fairly easily in your very own kitchen.

All you need is a modicum of planning, a few interesting ingredients, a visit to a grocery store for bulk dried fruits and nuts, an internet search for burnt sugar syrup (it’s what makes the fruitcake black), and an adventurous spirit! Put it all in the oven (not the planning, internet search, or adventurous spirit, of course, but all the rest) and share this little bit of heaven with your family and friends.

And in case you were wondering where I learned to make this delightful creation, it was during our vacation to Belize. My friend Vicki and I took a class from a local chef and this recipe is as close to her recipe as was reasonable. (You had to be there to understand why I couldn’t quite match her recipe ingredient for ingredient.) (If you want to know more about our adventure while in Belize, search under “Belize” and all will be revealed.)

So faithful readers, when you are planning your holiday goodies at the end of this year, please consider making fruitcake. I know some of your family will make jokes about receiving fruitcake, like – great, we can use a slice to balance our wobbly kitchen table, or it will work as a sandbag during flooding season, or my personal favorite – we can use it as a speed bump to slow down the drag racers in our neighborhood. But their verbal lampoon will swiftly disappear with their first bite. I’ve actually known grown men (not mentioning any names here Willie) who love fruitcake so much that they will actually hide or eat most of it themselves, thus preventing their wives (Eden – one of my daughters) from partaking of this treat meant for BOTH of them! But I digress…..

So please don’t hesitate to make this recipe or the Holiday Fruitcake recipe at the bottom of this post. Both are absolutely delicious. Even the most jaded connoisseur will become a devoted fan of fruitcake if given a chance. Sandbag, indeed!

CARRIBEAN BLACK FRUITCAKE    

  • 1 c. pecans, coarsely chopped
  • ¾ c. whole raw almonds, coarsely chopped
  • 3 c. dried fruit* (apricots, cherries, blueberries, pineapple, etc.), coarsely chopped
  • ½ c. pitted dates, coarsely chopped
  • ½ c. currants
  • 4 oz. container candied orange peel
  • 4 oz. container candied red or green cherries, halved
  • 2½ c. dark rum (I used half Cruzan Aged Rum and half Myer’s Original Dark Rum)
  • ½ c. Crème Sherry

Mix together all ingredients in a 3-quart glass container with a tightfitting lid. Cover and store in a cool, dark place for 1 week.

*I used ¾ cup golden raisins, ½ cup candied pineapple pieces, ½ cup dried blueberries, ½ cup chopped candied papaya, ½ cup chopped dried apricots, and ¼ cup chopped dried cherries

For the cake batter:

  • 3 c. all-purpose flour
  • ½ tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 T. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. espresso powder
  • 1 T. ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1½ tsp. ground allspice
  • 1 tsp. ground clove
  • 1 lb. (4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2¼ c. packed light brown sugar
  • 6 lg. eggs, room temperature
  • zest of lg. orange
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • ¾ c. burnt sugar syrup (Blue Mountain Country is best) (it’s what makes the cake black)

Whisk flour, salt, baking powder, espresso powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and cloves together in a large bowl. Set aside.

Place butter and brown sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, and beat on medium speed until light, fluffy, and pale yellow. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, and return the mixer to medium speed. Add eggs one at a time, letting each mix in fully before adding the next. Add orange zest and vanilla. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and return the mixer to low speed.

Drain macerated fruit and nuts. Set aside. Do not discard the left over liquid!

Add flour mixture, any unabsorbed booze from macerating the fruit, and burnt sugar to butter mixture; mix until just combined. Let the batter rest for about 2 hours. Add the drained fruit and nut mixture to the batter. Divide batter evenly between 3 buttered 9 x 5-inch or 5 buttered 8 x 3 7/8-inch loaf pans. (I personally prefer the smaller pans.)

Place a large shallow pan of water on the lowest rack in your oven.

Bake fruitcakes on a rack in the middle of a pre-heated 300 degree oven until a cake tester comes out clean, about 2 hours for 9 X 5 loaf pans or 90 minutes for 8 x 3 7/8-inch loaf pans.  (The cake centers will be moist but not wet.)

Let cool completely. If you have baked the cakes in aluminum pans to give away, don’t remove the cakes from the pans. If you have baked them for your own consumption, you can leave the fruitcake in the pans or turn out of the pans and wrap in plastic wrap and then aluminum foil. Best if aged for a couple of weeks.

To age, store each cooled cake in a re-sealable plastic bag or covered with aluminum foil at room temperature for up to 2 months. A dark cupboard or pantry is ideal, but do not refrigerate, as the moisture level will change the texture.

HOLIDAY FRUITCAKE

  • 1 lb. dried fruit medley (peaches, pears, apricots, apples, and golden raisins or currents)
  • ½ lb. dried Bing cherries
  • 1 lb. chopped dates
  • 1 lb. candied/glazed pineapple, coarsely chopped
  • 21-oz. container red candied/glazed cherries, coarsely chopped
  • 1 lb. coarsely chopped pecans
  • 3 c. spiced rum
  • 1 c. unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 c. brown sugar
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1½ tsp. ground allspice
  • 1½ tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 5 lg. eggs
  • 2 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. salt

Combine fruit, nuts, and rum in a covered glass container for 3 to 7 days. 7 days is best.

Cream butter, sugar, and spices until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time. In a separate bowl whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together. Stir into butter mixture along with the macerated fruit, nuts, and any remaining liquid.

Place a large shallow pan of water on the bottom rack of your oven to prevent the cakes from baking too dry.

Line 3 greased 9×5-inch loaf pans or 1 greased 9×5-inch and 5 greased 7×4-inch loaf pans with parchment paper and grease paper lightly. Divide the batter evenly and bake in the middle of your pre-heated 275 degree oven for 2-2½ hours or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool on racks for one hour. Remove cakes from pan, and carefully peel off the parchment paper. When completely cool, wrap in foil and store for at least 1 month.

 

GF CARROT CAKE WITH CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

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In an effort to include recipes for everyone, young and old, sober or otherwise, vegetarians, gluten avoiders, spicy lovers, and even those poor souls who only eat meat and potatoes, I offer up this adaptation of a Bette Hagman GF recipe for all of my readers who are gluten intolerant. (Usually I can’t abide intolerance, but for gluten, I make an exception!)
And if ever there was a cake that almost everyone loves and should be able to enjoy, it’s carrot cake. My feeling is, if there’s a way around a problem like gluten flour, then let’s go for it. And Bette Hagman, one of the pioneers in GF cooking, did just that.
Now of course, I couldn’t leave even a Bette Hagman recipe alone! (I’d apologize to Bette, but she now resides with the angels, and my direct line to heaven seems to have been severed.) But even if I could apologize I would argue in my own defense. I simply like a spicier base cake, and I happen to think toasted coconut in a carrot cake is essential.
So if you and/or yours happen to be gluten intolerant or simply want to try giving gluten a rest, give this lovely cake a try. It’s moist and delicious, and I promise you, no one will miss the gluten. And really, when you think about it, who knows what gluten tastes like anyway? No one I know walks into my home and begs to be fed a soup spoon full of wheat flour. Or runs up to me, grabs me by the arm, leads me to the pantry screaming “give me flour, or give me death”! So who really gives a buttery French croissant if there is or is not a spec of gluten in a recipe? As long as the end result is delicious, which incidentally is the goal of everyone who spends any time in the kitchen, then life is good. So experiment my friends. And if you have a favorite GF recipe you would like to share with the world, please write it down and send it to my email address www.chezcarrcuisine@wavecable.com. I will gladly prepare the recipe and if it meets the exacting standards of Mr. C., I will post it and take all the credit. Just kidding. The glory and recognition will be all yours. And of course, the undying thanks from my GF readers.

  • 16 oz. crushed pineapple
  • 1 c. golden raisins
  • 2 c. granulated sugar
  • 4 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 c. mayonnaise (yes – mayonnaise)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 3 c. grated carrots
  • 1½ c. toasted chopped walnuts, divided
  • 1½ c. toasted coconut, divided
  • 1½ c. white rice flour
  • ½ c. soy flour
  • ½ c. potato starch
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. ground mace
  • ¼ tsp. ground cloves
  • ¼ tsp. ground nutmeg

Pour the pineapple plus juice into a small saucepan. Add the raisins and simmer over low heat until the raisins are plump and juicy. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

In a large mixing bowl cream the sugar, eggs, and mayonnaise together. Add the vanilla, carrots, 1 cup of the toasted walnuts, 1 cup of the toasted coconut, and the cooled pineapple/raisin combination.

In another bowl, whisk together the flours, soda, salt, cinnamon, mace, cloves, and nutmeg. Stir the flour mixture into the carrot mixture until well blended.

Pour into a lightly buttered and rice floured 10×16-inch glass baking dish*. Smooth top with an offset spatula or table knife. Bake in a pre-heated 325 degree oven* for approximately 40-45 minutes. If already getting brown after 20 minutes or so, gently tent with aluminum foil to prevent further browning. Remove from the oven when a pick stuck in the middle of the cake comes out clean. Place pan on a wire rack. Cool completely before topping with Cream Cheese Frosting (recipe below). Garnish with remaining half cup of toasted coconut and half cup of toasted walnuts.

Please note: Most of the time when I bake cakes or breads that contain veggies or fruit, I freeze them for a couple of days before I frost and serve them. But with this cake, because I am a novice at working with flours other than wheat, I have not frozen the cake before serving. If any of you are GF experts, I would welcome your thoughts on the subject. Thank you.

*If using a metal baking pan, increase heat to 350 degrees and check if done after 35 minutes.

CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

  • ½ c. (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • pinch salt
  • 3½ c. powdered sugar or more if needed

Cream butter and powdered sugar together until well blended. Add the vanilla and salt and enough powdered sugar to make a firm but not stiff consistency. Beat until smooth and easy to spread.

CARROT CAKE WITH CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

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So I know, every good cook has a recipe for carrot cake. But does every good cook have a “killer” recipe for carrot cake. (There is a difference you know!) I consider this recipe, which I have been preparing since a few of you were only glimmers in your father’s eyes, the most moist and delicious vegetative cake that I have ever had the pleasure of taking out of my oven. But one thing I must warn you about, besides of course the tendency to become addicted to it, is that this cake only reaches its full potential after it has been frozen. It really needs to spend a short time in your freezer to attain the moist consistency all of us treasure in a truly wonderful carrot cake.

Now I know that statement sounds preposterous. But if you have read any of my other recipes for cakes or breads that contain fruit or veggies, I almost always recommend a short resting period in your freezer as the best way to ensure perfection. (And no, I didn’t learn this trick from my many years studying at Le Cordon Bleu. I learned it from my dear friend Linda’s mother Rhoda. And to the best of my knowledge, Rhoda didn’t learn this trick from her years at Le Cordon Bleu either! (Like either of us ever attended any cooking school, much less Le Condon Bleu!) We both perfected our culinary skills in the school of “what’s for dinner, mom”?

But you truly can’t appreciate this cake until you have sunk a fork down through the not-too-sweet frosting and into the moist and tender crumb of this cake. When it reaches your mouth, you not only have the wonderful mouth feel, you have the depth of flavor from the spices, golden raisins that have simmered in pineapple juice, the toasted coconut, and the lovely tasty crunch from the toasted walnuts.

I am not going to tell you that this cake comes together in 30 minutes, because it absolutely does not. You have to simmer the raisins, toast the coconut and walnuts, grate the carrots, and mix the batter, etc. But, if you want to create a cake that has all the characteristics of that perfect carrot cake that you long for every time you see it on a menu, you have to spend the time and do it right. Of course you can always go to your favorite restaurant or bakery and pay through the teeth for just one piece. Or you can set aside a bit of time and make yourself a treat that can be shared with your family and friends for a fraction of the cost. Of course the advantage of making this cake rather than just buying a piece, is that you get to have seconds. And who in their right mind doesn’t want a second piece of carrot cake, especially around midnight or with their morning coffee?

So do yourself and your family a favor. Make one of these cakes for your next birthday celebration, or as a treat for your family and guests after your next dinner party. Remember, you really need to bake the cake ahead of time, freeze it, and then frost it the day you plan to serve it for dessert. So the hard work is all done ahead of time. That leaves you with plenty of time the day of your get-together to concentrate on the other dishes you are planning to serve. And isn’t that a plus?

So enjoy my friends. And always remember to eat your veggies!

  • 8 oz. crushed pineapple
  • 1 c. golden raisins
  • 2 c. granulated sugar
  • 3 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 c. vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 c. grated carrots
  • 1½ c. toasted chopped walnuts, divided
  • 1½ c. toasted coconut, divided
  • 2 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. ground mace
  • ¼ tsp. ground cloves
  • ¼ tsp. ground nutmeg

Drain the pineapple juice into a small saucepan. Set pineapple aside. Add raisins to the juice and bring to a simmer over low heat. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.   

In a large mixing bowl cream the sugar, eggs, and oil together with a whisk. (No mixer needed for this recipe.) Add the vanilla, carrots, 1 cup of the toasted walnuts, 1 cup of the toasted coconut, the reserved pineapple, and the cooled raisins.

In another bowl whisk together the flour, soda, salt, cinnamon, mace, cloves, and nutmeg. Stir flour mixture into the carrot mixture just until thoroughly blended.  

Pour into a lightly buttered and floured 9×13-inch glass baking dish. Bake in a pre-heated 325 degree oven for approximately 45 minutes or until a pick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Remove from oven and place pan on a wire rack. Cool completely before covering with plastic wrap and placing in the freezer for no shorter time than 2 days. (I warned you in my introduction!)

The day you plan to serve the cake, remove from freezer and allow to come to room temperature.

Frost with Cream Cheese Frosting (recipe below) and garnish with remaining half cup of coconut and half cup of walnuts.

CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

  • ½ c. (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • pinch salt
  • 3½ c. powdered sugar or more if needed

Cream butter and powdered sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla, salt, and enough powdered sugar to make a firm but not stiff consistency. Beat until smooth and easy to spread. Spread evenly over cake. Garnish with remaining half cup coconut and half cup walnuts.

 

CHOCOLATE CHERRY CAKE

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A long time ago, in a world far away, I used to be a mother. Well, actually I’m still a mother, but I’m no longer a “mommy”. Mommies cook meals for their children, do their laundry, and make sure they take a bath at least every other night. Mommies also read bed time stories, tuck their children in with a kiss, as well as chauffer the little darlings all over God’s creation. While, of course, at all times remaining positive, cheerful, understanding, and loving. (My children say I was all those things, but frankly I have no recollection. It’s all just one big happy blur. Not really, but some of it is!)   

But alas, those days are over. My 4 grown children, all amazing BTW, are potty-trained, know how to say please and thank you, and I’m reassured by their partners that they take showers without being cajoled. In other words – my job with them is done!

But while I was still wearing my “mommy” hat, I used to fix this cake periodically because not only was it delicious, it was flat out easy to prepare. And as a working mother of 4, I needed all the help I could get in the kitchen. And especially when I went completely crazy and invited friends over for dinner after a long day working around the house.

It was nothing to clean the house on Saturday morning, run a couple loads of laundry, work in the yard until 3:00 pm and then decide I wanted to have friends over for dinner. Oh the energy in those days!

But life was easier in the 60s, 70s, and 80s. I didn’t have to research a new and improved spaghetti sauce recipe on the computer; I just consulted my Betty Crocker cookbook. I didn’t have to grate the Parmesan; it came all nicely fine crumbled in a big green can. And salad dressing – it came from the grocery store, as did the bread if it was a last minute get-together. All that was needed was a simple call to my friends. They were either home and I got an immediate response, or they weren’t home and we didn’t see them that evening. No leaving a message, then spending time checking the voice mail on my land line or text on my cell phone. No checking my email, and while I’m at it, making certain nothing new had been posted on Facebook! Just a simple, personal phone call that said, “Sorry for the late notice, but I miss you, and can you come for dinner tonight?” Terribly simple and for me, terribly nostalgic – just like this cake.

So next time you need a quick and easy cake perfect for any occasion, whip up one of these babies. This recipe may have been around as long as the Beatles, but just like the Beatles, it has endured the test of time. (Now if only I could say the same thing about myself! Sigh…..)

  • 2 eggs
  • 21 oz. can cherry pie filling
  • 1 tsp. almond extract
  • 1 chocolate fudge cake mix
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 5 T. butter
  • 1/3 c. milk
  • 6 oz. (1 cup) chocolate chips

In a large bowl lightly beat the eggs. Add the cherry pie filling and almond extract. Stir until well combined. Add the cake mix and stir just until combined. Pour into a buttered and floured 9×13-inch glass* baking pan. Bake in a pre-heated 325 degree oven for 35-45 minutes or until a toothpick stuck into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Don’t overbake. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack.

Meanwhile, combine the sugar, butter, and milk in a sauce pan. Boil for one minute, remove from heat, and stir in the chocolate chips until the frosting is smooth. Pour on cooled cake and allow to harden before serving. (The frosting will be soft but will harden as it cools.)

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*If using a metal pan, increase the temperature to 350 degrees and bake for 25-30 minutes.

 

  

 

GERMAN CHOCOLATE SHEET CAKE

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Contrary to popular belief, German chocolate cake did not originate in Germany. Its roots can be traced back to 1852 when American chocolatier, Samuel German, developed a type of sweet baking chocolate for the Baker’s Chocolate Company. The brand name of the product, Baker’s German’s Sweet Chocolate, was named in Mr. German’s honor.

And this delicious cake, which I prefer to serve as a sheet cake, is the ultimate result of Mr. German’s hard work. (And we all thank him to this day.)

And yes, I prefer sheet cakes to layer cakes. Why you ask?  Very simple. We entertain large groups of quests in our home, and sheet cakes are simply easier to build and easier to serve than a layer cake.  (Since entering “the golden years”, I’ve started pulling the “I’m not getting any younger” card to give myself permission to take a few steps here and there to make life easier for myself. And one of those “steps” is to mainly serve only sheet cakes and reserve time consuming layer cakes for very special occasions.)

Now I don’t want you to think that just because this recipe doesn’t call for 3 layers, each frosted with the wonderful caramel pecan and coconut frosting we have all come to love over the years that you will somehow feel cheated. Not going to happen. You are still going to get plenty of that fantastic frosting. So no need to worry. And truly, if you just can’t abide the thought of German Chocolate cake as a sheet cake, by all means, knock yourself out and make a layer cake. (3 – 8-inch pans should work just fine.)

But whatever shape you decide upon, be it the lazy person’s way (mine) or the traditionalist’s way (someone younger with more stamina), you are going to love serving this cake to your family and friends. You know the term “oldie but goodie”, well whoever coined that phrase must have had this enduring cake in mind. Because this cake has been around since I was a kid, and as everyone knows, that was a long time ago.

Actually, the first published recipe for German’s chocolate cake appeared in the Dallas Morning Star newspaper on June 13, 1957 as their “recipe of the day”. It was created by a Texas homemaker, Mrs. George Calay. The recipe was so delicious that it quickly spread to other newspapers and cookbooks, and soon became everyone’s “special” cake for birthdays, anniversaries, etc. And just so you know, June 11th is National German Chocolate Cake Day in America. (The things you learn on this site. Amazing, huh?)

And I know, everyone already has a recipe for German Chocolate Cake. But mine is a tad different. (Now there’s a surprise I bet you hadn’t thought possible.) Chuckle chuckle!

Cake:

  • 4 oz. German sweet chocolate, chopped
  • ½ c. water
  • 1 c. unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 c. granulated sugar
  • 4 eggs, room temperature, separated
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2½ c. cake flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 c. buttermilk

 Frosting:

  • 4 lg. egg yolks
  • 1 (12-oz.) can evaporated milk
  • 1½ c. granulated sugar
  • ¾ c. unsalted butter
  • pinch salt
  • 1½ tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 T. dark rum, opt.
  • 2 c. sweetened flaked coconut, toasted
  • 2 c. toasted pecans, chopped

Cake:

In your microwave oven, melt the chocolate with water; stir until smooth. Set aside to cool. In the bowl of your mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the chocolate mixture and vanilla. Whisk the cake flour, baking soda, and salt together in a small bowl. Add to the creamed mixture alternately with buttermilk, beating well after each addition. Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form; fold into batter.

Spread batter evenly in a buttered and floured 9 x13-inch baking pan. Bake in a pre-heated 325 degree oven (if using a glass baking pan) or a 350 degree oven (if using a metal pan) for 35-40 or until a toothpick inserted near the center of the cake comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool completely on a wire rack before frosting. When the cake is cool and the frosting is ready, carefully spread the frosting over the surface of the cake. Let sit for a few hours before cutting into desired sized pieces.

Frosting:

Whisk the egg yolks and evaporated milk together in a large heavy saucepan. Add the sugar, butter, and pinch of salt; cook over medium heat for about 12 minutes or until thickened and golden brown, stirring constantly. (170 to 180 degrees on a candy thermometer.) Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla, rum, coconut, and toasted pecans.  Let stand, stirring occasionally, for 45 minutes or until cooled and the mixture is a good spreading consistency.

 

AMARULA AND BRANDY MALVA PUDDING

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We discovered this amazing dessert, basically South Africa’s answer to Latin America’s Tres Leche Cake (recipe on this site BTW), on our recent trip to South Africa. It is one dessert that a diner can almost always find on the menu. And there is a very good reason why it is featured so often. It’s absolutely delicious. And like apple pie, there appear to be as many variations of this popular dessert as there are pastry chefs or home bakers.

This variation was given to me by the owner/chef of the Soeterus Guest Farm in Calizdorp, South Africa. One of the two nights we stayed on the farm, Hannelie and her husband Jamesly fixed a wonderful dinner for all of us who were staying with them that night. We had marinated ostrich steaks that Jamesly grilled on the Braai (BBQ). Hannelie made three salads – a green salad with an amazing vinaigrette, a shredded raw carrot salad with fresh pineapple, and a fresh green bean and feta salad. Along with the grilled ostrich and salads, she also served tiny buttered new potatoes. All of the dishes were wonderful and we ate until we were totally full. Then she served dessert. OMG. Big squares of this amazing concoction with vanilla ice cream on the side.

Now I don’t normally eat sweets. Not because I don’t like them, but because as I have gathered a few post Medicare years under my belt, my stomach has decided that it will no longer tolerate refined sugar. And as much as I try and reason with my stomach, it usually wins and I forgo dessert. But not this evening! There are just times when you have to fly in the face of sagacity. And oh am I glad I did. The malva was so very wonderful. Soft, delicious, and actually quite light. Perfect after a heavy, rich meal.

Now don’t be put off after you read this recipe by the fact that this is a “5 steps to heaven” dessert. The “5 step” plan may seem onerous at first glance, but really the dessert goes together very quickly, and is SO worth the effort.

So next time you want to serve a dessert that is different and that is actually better if it is prepared a day or two ahead, give this South African classic a try. You will not be disappointed. In fact, you will probably thank me after you try this recipe. And I will respond like a true South African – “pleasure”!

Step 1 – Pudding:

  • 1 c. cake flour
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 2 T. cocoa
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 1½ tsp. baking powder
  • ½ c. vegetable oil
  • ½ c. boiling water
  • 4 eggs, room temperature, separated
  • 1 tsp. vanilla

Whisk together the cake flour, sugar, cocoa, salt, and baking powder. Set aside. Whisk together the vegetable oil and boiling water and gently mix with the dry ingredients. Separate the 4 eggs. Beat the yolks and vanilla together and stir in with the other ingredients. Whip the egg whites until soft peaks form. Fold into batter. Pour into a lightly buttered 9×13-inch pan. Bake in a pre-heated 325 degree oven for 30-35 minutes if using a glass pan, or 350 degree oven for about 25-30 minutes if using metal. Remove from oven when the pudding is set and immediately pour the Sauce evenly over the top. Cool completely and frost with Dulce de Leche. Refrigerate. When ready to serve, cut into pieces and dollop with Whipped Cream or vanilla ice cream. Sprinkle lightly with Cocoa powder.

Step 2 – Sauce:

  • 1 c. sugar
  • 1 c. water
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 T. brandy
  • 2 T. Amarula Cream Liqueur* (look for an elephant on the label)
  • 1 tsp. espresso powder

Combine all the ingredients, bring to a boil, and while still hot, pour over the just out of the oven pudding.

Step 3 – Topping:

  • 1 can Dulce de Leche (to make your own, see instructions below)

Step 4 – Whipped Cream:

  • 1 pint whipping cream
  • 3 T. powdered sugar
  • 1 T. Amarula Cream Liqueur

Whip the cream to stiff peaks. Add the powdered sugar and Amarula and continue whipping until thoroughly combined.

Step 5 – Garnish:

  • Cocoa, for dusting

Homemade Dulce de Leche

  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk (solid cans without tab lids preferred)

Peel the label off the can of sweetened condensed milk. Place the can upright in a pan tall enough to allow water to cover the can by at least 2 inches. Add water. Bring the water to a very gentle boil, reduce the heat to low, and gently simmer for 3 hours, carefully turning the can (using tongs works best) halfway through the cooking process.

VERY IMPORTANT: Watch the water level carefully. Never allow the water level to fall below the top of the can. So add water as necessary and keep a careful eye on the simmering process.

After the simmering time, turn off the heat and allow the can to come to room temperature. Never open the can while it is still hot. It must reach room temperature before opening. After opening the can, stir and pour over the cooled pudding. Homemade Dulce de Leche can be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator.

*Amarula Cream (per the label on the bottle), “is a pure blend of nature’s fresh cream and the mysterious taste of the wild marula fruit. Africa’s majestic elephants walk for miles to feast on the sun-ripened marula fruit which is indigenous to the region’s vast subequatorial plains”.

Note about elephants: Elephants love citrus fruit. Upon entering a nature reserve, guests are always asked if they have any citrus fruit with them. If so, they are persuaded to leave it behind because elephants can smell it from miles away. Who knew? Good thing the fine rangers and other qualified nature reserve people are watching out for us poor uneducated tourists. I mean really, who wants to have their rental car turned over by an elephant in search of a lemon anyway?

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(Just one of the many darling “little” fellows we encountered while visiting nature reserves.)

 

 

 

 

 

TRES LECHE (THREE MILKS) CAKE

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So for years I have been hearing about this cake. But there was just something about the whole concept that never really appealed to me. But because I was fixing a Southwestern meal for last Sunday’s JazzVox pre-concert meal, I decided what-the-heck, give it a try. Well, you know, sometimes I can be a real dummy! If this cake is beloved throughout Latin America, which is literally millions of people, why in the world did I hesitate? Like I said – sometimes I can be a real dummy! Because ladies and gentlemen, this is one of the best desserts you will ever sink a fork into. It is incredibly easy to prepare, beautiful to look at, needs no special ingredients, and has to be prepared ahead of time so that it can spend some quality time in a cold environment. What can be better than that?

And you want compliments? Holy cow, I had people coming at me from all sides telling me how amazing it was. Everyone absolutely loved it!

So next time you want to impress the pickles out of your family or guests, make this dessert. The texture is somewhere between cake and pudding; so very soft and delightful on the tongue. (Just don’t forget the whipped cream. It is an absolutely mandatory part of the whole experience.) And I say “experience”, because that’s what eating a piece of this cake is. It’s a taste treat unlike any other and definitely one not to be missed.

And to those of you who for years told me about this cake to no avail, I offer my sincere apologies. I was so very wrong not to try this delicacy when it was first brought to my attention. But I’m a smart girl. I can learn. Next time someone waxes poetic about a favorite dish, I will try to be more receptive. I still draw the line at pickled pig’s feet and certain innards, but I will endeavor to keep a more open mind to other new taste adventures.

  • 1 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1½ tsp. baking powder
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 5 large eggs, room temperature, separated
  • 1 c. granulated sugar, divided
  • 1/3 c. whole milk
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 (14-oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 (12-oz.) can evaporated milk
  • 1 pint heavy cream, divided
  • ¼ c. powdered sugar
  • 2 c. sliced fresh strawberries (or berry of choice)

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Beat the egg yolks with 3/4 cup of the sugar on high speed until the yolks are pale yellow. Stir in the whole milk and the vanilla. Pour the egg yolk mixture over the flour mixture and stir very gently until combined.

Beat the egg whites on high until soft peaks form. With the mixer on, add the remaining ¼ cup sugar and beat until the egg whites are stiff but not dry. Gently fold the egg white mixture into the flour mixture until just combined. Spoon the batter into a lightly buttered 9×13-inch glass pan and even out the surface. Bake on the middle rack in a pre-heated 325 degree oven until the cake is lightly golden and reaches an internal temperature of 200 degrees, 30-35 minutes. Remove the cake to a cooling rack. Cool completely before proceeding. (While the cake is cooling, I kind of push down the edges so the top is of even thickness.)

Meanwhile whisk together the sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, and ¼ cup of the heavy cream in a small bowl. Poke the top of the cake all over with a fork. Gradually pour the milk mixture over the top of the cake, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.

Place the remaining heavy cream into the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the whisk attachment, whisk until stiff peaks form. Change to medium speed and whisk in the powdered sugar. Spread the whipped cream topping over the cake and allow to chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve topped with strawberries.

BROWN SUGAR BUNDT CAKE WITH BOURBON CARAMEL CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

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Now, who do you know that doesn’t like caramel? Personally I don’t know anyone who doesn’t go all gaga at the mere mention of the word. So when I recently combined my homemade bourbon caramel sauce with rich cream cheese frosting, and slathered said combination all over my new recipe for brown sugar Bundt cake; with just one bite I knew my quest for a really good caramel cake was over.

A little history: For years I had been trying to perfect a caramel flavored cake, but had never been able to achieve the flavor I desired. So recently I decided, what the heck, let’s give it one more try.

So while in the planning stages for this recipe I remembered that brown sugar was the base for my favorite caramel sauce. (It was a true “light bulb” moment!) So I went on line and looked for Bundt cake recipes that contained brown sugar. I found several that looked wonderful. So I took a bit from “this” recipe and a bit from “that” recipe”, and came up with “the other” recipe – mine.

So then I decided to serve this cake at a recent JazzVox concert. It was a smashing success. And I’m telling you true, the wonderful people who attend these concerts are a tough audience. They not only expect to hear amazing vocal jazz artists; they want their jazz served up with darn good food. (Our guests are true connoisseurs of the arts; both the art of jazz music and the culinary arts. And believe me, Mr. JazzVox himself (Nich) and my husband, the resident sommelier, and I could not agree more about striving to bring our guests the best possible jazz artists with a side of really great mashed potatoes!)

So if you too love to provide your family and friends with great food, bake them this cake in the near future. They are not only going to love you all the more, they might even start singing your praises. And if they happen to sound like Ella, all the better. Cheers!

  • 1 box yellow cake mix
  • 1 (3.4 oz.) box instant vanilla pudding and pie filling
  • 4 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 c. vegetable oil
  • ¾ c. water
  • 1½ c. brown sugar, divided
  • ½ c. (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature, divided
  • ¼ c. whipping cream
  • 2 T. good bourbon
  • 3 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • pinch kosher salt
  • 2½ – 3 c. powdered sugar
  • 1 T. milk

Butter and flour a 10-inch Bundt pan. Set aside. Mix the cake mix, pudding mix, eggs, oil, water, and 1 cup of the brown sugar in mixer; beat on medium speed for about 4 minutes. Pour batter into the prepared Bundt pan and bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 1 hour or until cake tester comes out clean.

Meanwhile whisk ¼ cup of the butter and the remaining ½ cup brown sugar together over medium heat in a small heavy saucepan until brown sugar has dissolved completely. (This happens after the mixture comes to a boil and is allowed to burble for a couple of minutes or until it turns kind of shiny. Continue whisking the entire time the mixture is on the heat.) Remove from heat and carefully whisk in the whipping cream and bourbon. Allow caramel to cool completely before adding to the other frosting ingredients. (You won’t need all the caramel sauce for the frosting, but never fear; it makes a wonderful ice cream sauce or a delicious additive for your morning coffee!)

While the cake is baking and the caramel is cooling, whip the remaining ¼ cup butter, cream cheese, vanilla, and salt together until smooth and creamy. Gradually add the powdered sugar alternately with milk, beating at low speed until smooth. (You want a fairly stiff mixture at this point.) Next, stir about a quarter cup of the cooled caramel sauce into the mixture.

When the cake comes out of the oven, place the hot pan on a wire rack and cool for 15 minutes. Carefully loosen the edges of the cake from the pan and invert the cake onto a serving plate; let cool completely before frosting all sides with the icing. After the icing has set for about 30 minutes, drizzle the top and sides of the cake with some of the remaining caramel sauce. Store the cake covered and at room temperature. Can be prepared up to 2 days in advance.