Andes Chocolate Cake

I usually bring most of my weekend baking into work on Monday morning or share it with our neighbors.  On most weekends we don’t even cut into whatever I make.  Norman isn’t much of a sweet eater and if I cut into it that is a sure sign that I will eat the whole thing and my waistline doesn’t fare well when I do that so I try to get the stuff out of the house as soon as possible.

I bring so many baked goods to the office that when I don’t bring them in there is a steady stream of people through my office on Monday morning wanting to know what happened.  One of my co workers usually brings a slice of whatever I bring in home to his wife Julia.  A few weeks ago Julia requested that I make something chocolate.  While I have to admit that I am rather bored with chocolate desserts. I admit I have a special fondness for the often time consuming composed cakes, lately I have been spending alot of time exploring the easy bundt cake recipes that I avoided for so long.  I didn’t want to ignore Julias request so I found this interesting (and still easy) chocolate peppermint cake.  I hope she likes it.

The name Andes (referring to the Andes after dinner mints in the green wrappers) chocolate cake is a bit of a misnomer.  The cake itself has no mint in it at all, the Andes mints here are reserved just for the chocolate ganache the cake is frosted with.

The original recipe for this that I found called for a chocolate cake mix.  If that is your pleasure, certainly use one.  I prefer not to use them.  I had found a chocolate cake recipe a while bake that I decided to try here.  It is super easy.  Mix the dry ingredient together, mix the wet ingredients together.  Mix these together until combined.  Add a cup of hot coffee, mix to combine, pour into pans and bake.  It is that easy and produces a very light, moist chocolate cake.  It was a pleasure to find this simple recipes makes such a nice layer.  It is rather delicate.  While frosting I found that I was being a bit heavy handed and was tearing the edges of the cake, it is that moist.

The ganache here is made in the traditional way by pouring the hot cream over the chocolate, letting it stand and then stirring to blend.  Simple.

This cake is filled with a light peppermint buttercream simply made by beating together butter and confectioners sugar and adding a bit of peppermint extract.  It all comes together to make a rather nice, not too minty chocolate cake.

ANDES CHOCOLATE CAKE

Yield: 12 servings

Ingredients

devil’s food cake mix (My cake recipe below)

Peppermint Buttercream

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
4-5 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp. peppermint extract
4-6 drops green gel food coloring, optional

Chocolate Ganache

1 pt. heavy cream
24 oz. semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup Andes mints, plus more for garnish

Directions

  1. Bake two 9″ round layers of chocolate cake according to box instructions. Let cool completely.
  2. Make ganache. Make the Ganache: Pour heavy cream into a large saucepan over medium heat. Bring the heavy cream to a simmer, and once you see tiny bubbles form around the edges, remove from heat and add chocolate chips, whisking until combined. Let mixture chill until it reaches a spreadable consistency, at least 30 minutes, before frosting cake.
  3. Cream together all buttercream ingredients in a large bowl until light and fluffy, adding more powdered sugar if the frosting is too loose. Add food drops and stir until evenly combined. Add more until you reach your desired color.
  4. Top one round cake with peppermint buttercream, then place the second cake on top of it. Frost the top and sides of the with ganache. Garnish the bottom of the cake with Andes mints. Top with chopped mints. Serve.

Chocolate Layer Cake

2 cups sugar
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cocoa
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup piping hot coffee

  1. Preheat oven to 350F and grease two 9 inch round layer pans.
  2. Add all the dry cake ingredients to a bowl or stand mixer.
  3. Next add all the wet ingredients except for the coffee and mix until combined.
  4. Finally, pour in the HOT coffee and stir it in until fully incorporated.
  5. Pour batter evenly into the cake pans and bake 30-34 minutes.
  6. Remove from oven when done and allow to cool on a rack for 15 minutes then flip cakes out onto the rack and allow to cool completely.
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Almond-Amaretto Poundcake

I had a rather busy weekend with errands and household chores but I did want to bake a little something.  I found this wonderful variation on my favorite poundcake and decided to give it a quick try.

It is a nice firm textured poundcake with the added attraction of almond extract and wonderful amaretto liquer.  I am not a huge fan of almond extract as I feel it has a strange aftertaste but smoothed out with the butter, milk and amaretto it loses that medicinal taste and adds a mellow sweetness to this cake.

The cake is as easy as a regular pound cake.  Cream the butter and sugar, add the eggs and flavorings and then alternate the wet and dry ingredients and that’s it.  Into the oven for about an hour and then cool it in the pan and unmold the tastiness for all to enjoy.  I have included the recipe below but you can also find it on the Dixie Crystal website.

http://www.dixiecrystals.com/recipes/desserts/cakes/Almond-Amaretto-Poundcake

 

Almond Amaretto Pound Cake
INGREDIENTS
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour*
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 3/4 cup Granulated Sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons almond extract
  • 1/4 cup amaretto

Amaretto Sauce

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup packed Light Brown Sugar
  • 1/2 cup Granulated Sugar
  • 1/3 cup half & half
  • 3 tablespoons amaretto

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Grease a 10-inch bundt pan with baking spray or butter and flour it. Set aside.
  2. In small bowl, whisk together milk and vinegar. Set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
  3. In large bowl of stand mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time, then stir in vanilla and almond until well combined. Beat in flour mixture alternating with milk and amaretto.
  4. Pour batter into prepared bundt pan. Bake for 55 to 65 minutes, until center is set and a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Allow cake to cool completely (in bundt pan) before inverting onto cake plate.
  5. Amaretto Sauce: Combine the butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar in a small saucepan. Heat over medium heat, stirring often, until smooth. Add the cream and amaretto and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 5 minutes, stirring often. Remove from heat and let cool for 10 minutes.
  6. Serve pound cake warm drizzled with amaretto sauce.

Lemon Pistachio Bundt Cake

img_5830I had a whole package of pistachios left from last weeks Pistachio Layer Cake and being that they are so expensive I didn’t want them to go stale or rancid so I went on the hunt for something to use them in.  A few years ago I was on a food blog kick and I can’t tell you how many of them I started following.  Many were great, some not so much but I would actually spent about 3 hours every morning reading them.  A co-worker of mine was also on the same course and we would compare favorites and whittle down our lists.  I dumped a great many of them but there are still a handful that I follow.  I started there and then branched out to what my favorite bloggers were following and I came across a wonderful lifestyle blog called Inspired By Charm.  I really enjoyed all the articles and in the process came across this good and easy Pistachio Bundt cake.  I will post the recipe below for those who want to get right to it, but you can find it here if you would like to explore further. Lemon Pistachio Bundt Cake

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This is a very simple bundt cake that only takes a few minutes to whip up, it bakes for about an hour and then has a simple glaze and quick lemon icing drizzled over it.  You can use your prettiest bundt pan and have it on hand for tea or snacking.  A light lemony cake enhanced by lots of ground pistachios and a good dose of rum for good measure.  I imagine you could substitute almonds and bourbon or pecans and whiskey for other variations.  Do try it.

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LEMON PISTACHIO BUNDT CAKE
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups shelled, roasted pistachios
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 eggs
1/4 cup light rum
3 tablespoons pistachios, roughly chopped, for garnish

Lemon Glaze:
3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt

Lemon Icing:
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Begin by preheating your oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 12-cup Bundt pan and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt, set aside.

In a food processor, pulse the shelled pistachios until finely ground. (They should stick together when pinched.)

Beat the butter and sugar on medium speed with an electric mixer for 3-4 minutes until light and fluffy. Add the ground pistachios, lemon zest, and vanilla. Beat until incorporated. Then beat in the eggs, one at a time. Reduce the speed to low and beat in the flour mixture and rum alternately, ending with the flour until just incorporated. Add the batter to the prepared pan, leveling out the top with the spatula.

Bake for 60-65 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack for 15-20 minutes; then invert the cake onto the rack to cool completely.

In the meantime, prepare your lemon glaze. In a small saucepan simmer sugar, lemon juice, and salt over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved. This will take 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract. Allow to cool for 10 minutes and then brush the glaze evenly on the cake.

Finally, prepare the lemon icing by whisking together confectioner’s sugar, lemon juice, and vanilla extract. Add more lemon juice, 1 teaspoon at a time, to reach desired consistency. Drizzle over this icing over the Bundt cake and sprinkle it with chopped pistachios.

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Pistachio Cake

img_5821This is another cake that I found on Sweet Pauls blog.  This is actually the cake that got me started following his blog in the first place.  I happened to spot it on my Facebook feed and it look so appealing that I followed the link over to Sweet Paul and have been hooked ever since.  As it was yet another rainy weekend I thought it was a perfect time to stay in the kitchen and try some of his wonderful recipes.

img_5822This cake makes 4 eight in layers.  I was surprised and annoyed to find that once I dug into my pan cupboard I only had 3 eight inch rounds and as I didn’t feel like making a trip out to get another (and since I rarely make an 8 inch round) I just baked it in 4 nine inch rounds.  The finished layers looked exactly like the ones pictured on the blog and as the cake only bakes for a short time I just kept a close eye on the cakes to keep from over baking and it all worked out fine.

img_5825You will also notice that the recipe calls for green gel color but nowhere in the recipe does it tell you to use it.  Based on the picture on Pauls blog, both the cake layers and the buttercream are green so I just added it to both the cake batter and the buttercream frosting.  You can choose for yourself how you want to proceed with that.

img_5827It is a lovely, light textured cake with the wonderful taste of pistachios.  I am rather fond of pistachios (aside from the astronomical price you have to pay for them) so I leapt at the chance to try another cake using them.  It is well worth the effort.  The cake is very easy and the batter only takes a few minutes to put together and get into the oven.  Even the buttercream is very easy and the whole thing pays you in flavorful dividends for your efforts.  Try it on your next rainy weekend.

Pistachio Cake (from Sweet Paul)

Makes a 4-layer, 8-inch cake

Cake:

8 oz unsalted butter, room temperature
13 oz granulated sugar
4 eggs
6½ oz all purpose flour
5½ oz cake flour
1½ teaspoon baking soda
1½ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1⁄3 cup coarsely ground pistachios
10 oz buttermilk
green gel color

Pistachio Buttercream:

16 oz unsalted butter, room temperature
12 oz powdered sugar, sifted
¼ cup finely ground pistachios
1 tablespoon heavy cream
1⁄4 teaspoon vanilla extract

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Grease the bottoms and sides of 4 cake pans and line with round parchment paper. Grease the parchment too.
  3. In a large bowl, sift flours, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
  4. Stir in pistachios. Set aside.
  5. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream butter until lightened in color.
  6. Add sugar and beat on medium-high until fluffy and lightened in color, about 2 minutes. Scrape down sides of the bowl.
  7. Add eggs and continue beating on high until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Scrape down sides of bowl.
  8. In 3 parts, starting and ending with the dry ingredients, add the flour mixture and buttermilk into the mixer on low speed until incorporated.
  9. Turn mixer on high for 10 seconds to achieve a smooth and glossy batter.
  10. Pour batter evenly between baking pans. Rap pans on the counter to level batter.
  11. Bake for 28 minutes or until cake doesn’t jiggle when shaken.
  12. Allow cake to cool on a wire rack before removing from pans.
  13. Make pistachio buttercream by beating butter until smooth and lightened in color in the bowl of an electric mixer.
  14. Add sifted powdered sugar and mix until combined.
  15. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
  16. Add pistachios, cream, and vanilla extract and beat for an additional 2 minutes.
  17. Place 1 layer of cake on a serving tray and add a layer of frosting. Continue with 3 more layers of cake and frosting.
  18. Frost the rest of the cake with the remaining of frosting.

Banana and Toffee Cake

img_5812I have recently started following Sweet Paul’s blog and subscribed to his emagazine.  It is a wonderful site filled with great recipes, articles and decorating ideas.  I am especially drawn to his cake recipes and this one caught my eye.

img_5815Everyone knows I love banana cake so anytime I see any sort of cake recipe that uses bananas I have to try it.  It is a really easy cake to make.  I don’t think it even took me 20 minutes to prepare the batter and have it in the oven.  The nutty topping only takes a few minutes to put together and once it is baked onto the cake it forms the cakes homestyle decoration.  While walnuts are certainly my go to choice for a banana cake you can certainly vary the nuts to suit your own taste.  In the picture of the cake on Sweet Pauls blog, it looks to me like whole almonds were used even though the recipe calls for chopped nuts.  You could even add different flavorings to the topping such as rum, whiskey, bourbon.

img_5816This recipe calls for soft toffees which I have to admit I wasn’t really sure what they were.  I have always thought of toffee as a rather hard candy.  I didn’t have much luck finding anything online so I just substituted soft caramels. (when I read Pauls recipe, people who made this cake also commented that they just used caramels here).  The cake reminds me of a sticky toffee pudding.  In all honesty, you can skip the candies altogether and the cake will still be delicious.

Banana and Toffee Cake (from Sweet Paul)

Serves 12

You will need:
butter
flourFor the cake:
3 large ripe bananas
1 3/4 sticks butter, room temperature (this comes out to 7oz)
1 1/4 cups dark brown sugar
3 eggs
13⁄4 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
7 oz soft toffees, cubedFor the topping:
1 stick butter
3 1/2 oz chopped walnuts
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 tablespoons cream or milk
  1. Preheat the oven to 370°F.
  2. Butter and flour a 10” loose base cake tin.
  3. Mash the bananas using a fork. Beat the butter and sugar.
  4. Add the eggs 1 at a time, beating on high speed.
  5. Combine the dry ingredients and the toffees.
  6. Fold the flour mixture into the batter, alternating with the banana mash.
  7. Pour into the tin and bake on the lowest rack of the oven for about 45 minutes.
  8. For the topping, measure all ingredients into a pan and stir.
  9. Cook for a few minutes. Spoon the mixture onto the prebaked cake.
  10. Keep baking for about 10 minutes or until the cake is baked through.
  11. Check with a stick. If the top of the cake is brown but the cake is still underbaked, cover with tin foil.
  12. Before inverting it, let the cake rest for about 15 minutes in the tin.
  13. Leave the tin over the cake in order to keep the cake moist.
  14. Serve as such or with vanilla ice cream.

Chocolate Syrup Swirl Cake

img_5805Another little gem found in the Hershey’s Chocolate cookbook I found at the thrift store is this Chocolate Syrup Swirl cake.  This another of those easy to make, great to have on hand for snacking type cakes.  It can be made in a tube pan or a decorative bundt pan.

img_5793It is similar to a marble cake in that it has both vanilla and chocolate batters but it doesn’t require you to swirl the batters to form the marble layer.  The vanilla batter is enriched with the addition of sweetened coconut and poured into the pan, then the chocolate batter, which is flavored with Heryshey’s chocolate syrup is poured on top of the vanilla batter and then the cake is baked.  When its done the marbling just happens on its own.  And it gives you the thrill of slicing into the cake to see what type of marbling has happened.

img_5791The delicate vanilla batter gets an extra boost from the sweet coconut which also adds a slight crunch to the cake.  The chocolate batter gets its rich intensity from the chocolate syrup which makes it a bit smoother than if melted chocolate or cocoa were used.  All in all a very nice combination.

img_5792The cake can be left plain or dusted with cocoa or confectioners sugar or if you are feeling ambitious a multitude of chocolate glazes.

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Chocolate Syrup Swirl Cake

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda,  divided
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup HERSHEY’S Chocolate Syrup
1 cup Sweetened Coconut Flakes (optional)

  1. Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour a 12-cup fluted tube pan or 10- 12 inch tube pan.
  1. Beat butter, sugar and vanilla in large bowl until fluffy. Add eggs; beat well. Stir together flour, 1 teaspoon baking soda and salt; add alternately with buttermilk to butter mixture, beating until well blended.
  1. Measure 2 cups batter in small bowl; stir in syrup and remaining 1/2 teaspoon baking soda. Add coconut, if desired, to remaining vanilla batter; pour into prepared pan. Pour chocolate batter over vanilla batter in pan; do not mix.
  1. Bake 60 to 70 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean, cool is minutes; remove from pan to wire rack. Cool completely; glaze or frost as desired.

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Mocha Fudge Torte

 

img_5798While rummaging through the second-hand store the other day, as always my last stop before leaving is to check out the book section.  As most of you know I am rather fanatical about cookbook collecting and while most of the thrift stores around here have abandoned their book sections there are still a few books out there to be found.  I happened upon this old Hersheys Chocolate recipe book.  It is one of those skinny magazine like books.  Ordinarily, I wouldn’t give this kind of thing a second glance but I have been missing my mother a lot ever since Christmas and I find myself being more and more sentimental over things that remind me of her.  This is exactly the kind of thing she would have liked.  My mom wasn’t much for reading cookbooks, other than her old 1950s version of Betty Crocker.  She was however very fond of church group cookbooks and jello and name brand types of books like this.  I picked it up and flipped though it and spotted this recipe.  It looked rather tempting and for the couple of dollars they wanted for this book it seemed worth it to me.  I could almost feel my mom smiling down on me as I tucked it under my arm and proceeded to the check out.

img_5795Now that I have made this cake I am rather glad I picked up this little book.  There are the usual throw away recipes but tucked in amongst them are a few gems worth trying and keeping.  This is one of them.  It is a rich and dense brownie type cake made all the more decadent by the use of Special dark cocoa.  The recipe calls for pecans but I substituted hazelnuts simply because I prefer them over pecans.  The cake batter goes together quickly and there are only a handful of ingredients.   Each 9 inch layer is only a scant 1 inch tall in the style of European cakes.  Don’t be alarmed when you take it out of the oven and find that it didn’t really rise very much.  It is more of a brownie than a cake layer.

img_5801The filling and frosting is really nothing more than a flavored whipped cream but the combination of the coffee and brown sugar here make it more than a match for the dense cake.  Definitely worth buying this little book.

img_5804Mocha Fudge Torte

1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 sticks) butter
3/4 cup HERSHEY’S SPECIAL DARK Cocoa
4 eggs
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup finely chopped pecans
CREAMY COFFEE FILLING (recipe follows)
Chocolate curls (optional)

  1. Heat oven to 350°F. Butter bottom and sides of two 9-inch round baking pans. Line bottoms with wax paper; butter paper.
  1. Melt butter in small saucepan; remove from heat. Add cocoa, stirring until blended; cool slightly. Beat eggs in large bowl until foamy; add salt and vanilla. Gradually add sugar, beating well. Add cooled chocolate mixture; blend thoroughly. Fold in flour. Stir in pecans. Pour mixture into prepared pans.
  1. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Do not over. Cool 5 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Carefully peel off paper. Cool completely. Spread CREAMY COFFEE FILLNG between layers, over top and sides. Garnish with chocolate curls. If desired. Refrigerate 1 hour or longer before serving.

CREAMY COFFEE FILLING

11/2 cups cold whipping cream
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
2 teaspoons powdered instant coffee
Combine all ingredients; stir until instant coffee is almost dissolved. Beat until stiff.

Makes about 3 cups filling.

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Rosemary Focaccia

img_5788I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like bread, and I certainly have never met an Italian who doesn’t like bread.  This focaccia has been my all time favorite for many years now and I make it at least once a month if not once a week.  I always make it with rosemary but any fresh or dried herb or combination of herbs can be used.  It can even be made plain with nothing but salt and pepper and it will still be delicious.

img_5780In my house when I was growing up this was never called focaccia, instead we always called it white pizza.  I don’t know where that came from.  I am assuming it was from my fraternal grandmother as i remember eating this more often on visits to her house than with my maternal grandmother.  At any rate, it is totally delicious and very easy to make.  A few ingredients, a bit of mixing in the stand mixer, a couple of quick kneads by hand and then a bit of  unattended rising and it’s in and out of the oven in 25 minutes and ready to be enjoyed.  There are countless recipes for it.  I list her my recipe for it.

img_5783ROSEMARY FOCACCIA

MAKES ONE 11 X 17-INCH FOCACCIA, 4 TO 6 SERVINGS

1 cup warm tap water (about 110 degrees)
2 1/2 teaspoons (1 envelope) active dry yeast
6 tablespoons olive oil
5 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary, or
1 tablespoon dried, plus rosemary sprigs (optional)
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon kosher or coarse salt

One 11 x 17-inch jelly-roll pan

Measure the water into a bowl and whisk in the yeast, then 3 tablespoons of the oil. Measure the flour, 2 teaspoons salt, and chopped or dried rosemary into a mixing bowl and stir well to combine. With a spatula or wooden spoon, stir the yeast mixture and the milk into the flour mixture until all the flour is evenly moistened, then beat vigorously for a minute. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow the dough to rise until it has doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

You can also do this in a stand mixer with a dough hook.  Mix in the order listed above with the dough hook and the mixer on low speed until all the dry ingredients are moistened.  Then mix on medium speed for 5 – 8 minutes or until the dough is smooth and elastic.  Knead by hand about 10 times and proceed with the rise as directed above.

Spread 1 1/2 teaspoons of the oil on the baking pan. Turn the dough out of the bowl onto the pan and pat and press it to fill the pan completely. If the dough resists, let it rest for a few minutes before continuing. Dimple the surface of the focaccia by using a fingertip to poke cavities in the dough at 2-inch intervals. Drizzle with the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons of oil and sprinkle with the kosher or coarse salt and the rosemary sprigs. Allow the dough to rise again until doubled in bulk, about an hour.

About 20 minutes before baking, set a rack at the lower third of the oven and preheat to 450 degrees.

Bake the focaccia for about 25 minutes, until deep golden. Lift the side of the focaccia with a spatula or pancake turner to check the bottom about halfway through the baking time. If it is coloring too quickly, slide the pan onto another pan to insulate the bottom.

If you are serving immediately, slide the focaccia from the pan onto a cutting board. If you will be serving later, slide the focaccia off the pan to a rack to cool.

SERVING: Cut narrow slices, or squares to split horizontally for sandwiches.

STORAGE: Keep the focaccia loosely covered at room temperature if it will be served on the day it is made. For longer storage, wrap in plastic and freeze. Unwrap and reheat the focaccia on the pan used to bake it for about 7 minutes at 375 degrees.

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Hummingbird Cake

img_5769I have always associated this cake with the south and indeed it is an all time southern favorite.  I was surprised to find that it didn’t get its start in the south but as a promotional idea for Jamaica Airlines back in the 1960s.  The cake, with its bananas and pineapple was supposed to conjure up images of tropical destinations.  It so happened that the tail logo for Jamaica Airlines was a hummingbird.  When promotional parties were held to promote Jamaica as a destination, the cake was also promoted and called the hummingbird.  The recipe was shared with readers of various newspapers and it eventually made its way through the south were it became and remains a favorite.

img_5771I always associate the hummingbird with the south but more specifically with the late 1960’s as that is when I first heard about it and my young palette was just beginning to branch away from Little Debbie cakes.  I have several recipes for hummingbird cake and they are all basically the same.  I prefer this one simply because I love banana cake and this recipe uses more bananas than any other recipe I have for it.

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Hummingbird Cake

Vegetable shortening or butter and flour for prepping the pans
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs, slightly beaten
1 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2  teaspoons vanilla extract
1 can (8 ounces) crushed pineapple packed in juice, drained
1 cup finely chopped pecans, if desired
2 cups mashed ripe bananas (about 4 medium)
1/2 cup chopped toasted pecans for garnish
Cream Cheese Frosting

Place a rack in the center of the oven, and preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour three 9″ round cake pans. Shake out the excess flour, and set the pans aside.

Place the flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl, and whisk to combine well. Add the eggs, oil, and vanilla, and blend with a wooden spoon or an electric mixer on low speed. Increase the speed to medium and blend until well combined, (1 minute), or stir more briskly until well combined. Fold in the pineapple, pecans, if desired, and the bananas. Divide the batter between the prepared pans, and place the pans in the oven.

Bake until the cake just pulls away from the edges of the pans, 18 to 22 minutes. Remove to wire racks to cool for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the edges of the pans, and give them a gentle shake to loosen the cakes. Invert the cakes once and then again onto the racks. Let the layers cool to room temperature, at least 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the frosting. If using the pecans as a garnish, toast them in a 350°F oven for 4 to 5 minutes.

To assemble the cake, place 1 layer on a serving plate. Spread with about 2/3 cup of frosting. Top with a second layer and repeat with the frosting. Top with the third layer and frost the top and sides of the cake with smooth strokes. Garnish the top of the cake with pecans. Slice and serve. Or chill for 1 hour uncovered for easier slicing.

Cream Cheese Frosting

12 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
Pinch of salt
5 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract or 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest

Place the cream cheese and butter in a large mixing bowl, and beat with an electric mixer on low speed until combined, 30 seconds. Add the pinch of salt and half of the confectioners’ sugar. Blend until smooth. Add the vanilla and the rest of the confectioners’ sugar, and blend until smooth. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat the frosting until fluffy, about 1 minute more.

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Texas Sheet Cake

img_5764One of the cookbooks my sister bought me for Christmas is a little tome called “Vintage Cakes” by Julie Richardson.  It is a wonderful book and for me it is almost the story of my childhood and teenage years told in cake.  So many of the recipes in this book are old friends that I grew up with and still enjoy, others I haven’t tasted for years but remind me of simpler times.  This one however just jumped off the page.  It was almost as if I was transported back to my moms kitchen on any given weekend.  There I was at the kitchen table watching my mom take a big pan of this cake out of the oven, ready to be cooled and taken to any number of events.

img_5764I feel as though I have always known this cake.  It was certainly one of my moms most made recipes.  In the summer when I was growing up we would almost always have cook outs and get togethers in our back yard or at one of my parents friends house.  They were always great fun.  My favorite of all the weekend outing was going to Farmer Jims.   Farmer Jims  was one of those places where there was an enormous grassy area with pavillions where someone in the group would get there early, stake out a good spot and then everyone else would arrive after church and unload coolers, barbeques, water floats, cases of beer and soda and all sorts of food.  This cake was always there.  I can hardly think of a time when this cake wasn’t at one of these events or when it wasn’t sitting on the counter of our kitchen ready to be snacked on.  I haven’t had this cake since I left home in the 1970s but just the smell of it baking made me feel like a kid again and I could almost feel my moms presence in my kitchen while I made it.

It isn’t at all fancy, you don’t even take it out of the pan, just slice it in squares and serve it right out of the baking pan, but it is old fashioned and delicious.  Give it a try.

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CAKE
1 cup (8 ounces) unsalted butter
1/2 cup (13/4 ounces) lightly packed premium unsweetened natural cocoa
3 tablespoons canola oil
1 cup water
2 cups (10 ounces) all-purpose flour
2 cups (14 ounces) sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

FROSTING
1/2 cup (4 ounces) unsalted butter
1/4 cup (1 ounce) lightly packed premium unsweetened cocoa, preferably Dutch-processed
1/3 cup whole milk
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 cups (12 ounces) sifted confectioners’ sugar
1/2 cup (2 1/2 ounces) toasted chopped nuts (such as walnuts, pecans,
or hazelnuts)

15 X 10 X 2 inch baking pan, greased

Center an oven rack and preheat the oven to 375’F.

To make the cake, melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the cocoa. Add the oil and water and bring to a rolling boil for 30 seconds. Remove the pan from the heat and set it aside to cool
slightly.

Meanwhile, sift together the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl, then whisk the ingredients by hand to ensure they are well mixed. Pour the warm cocoa mixture into the sifted ingredients and whisk until just combined.

In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, buttermilk, and vanilla. With a rubber spatula, stir the buttermilk mixture into the batter. Pour the batter into the greased pan and place in the center of the oven. Bake until the top is firm and a wooden skewer inserted in the middle of the cake comes out with moist crumbs, 22 to 25 minutes.

While the cake is in the oven, make the frosting: melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the cocoa and bring the mixture to a rolling boil; boil for 30 seconds. Remove from heat and whisk in the milk and vanilla. Add the confectioners’ sugar 1 cup at a time while whisking continuously.

Immediately after the cake comes out of the oven, pour the frosting over the hot cake and sprinkle with the nuts. Try not to jiggle the cake before it sets or you’ll leave waves in the frosting. Allow to cool before cutting into squares.

Well wrapped and stored at room temperature, this cake keeps for up to
5 days.