Cake

Baking a cake is not a big deal.  Really.  If you can bake a cake from a mix, you can bake a much more delicious chocolate cake by using this recipe for everyday cocoa cake.  You don’t even have to frost it — just sprinkle with some confectioner’s sugar and serve with a beverage.

One of the problems in my view with American desserts is that they are too sweet.  Think: pecan pie.  One or two bites and your palate is weary from all that sugar.  If you use less sugar, you can actually taste the flavors.  From a cake mix box, there is no natural flavor to appreciate, so sugar is dominant.

Next time you need/want to bake a cake, check out of the library Rose Levy Beranbaum’s Cake Bible or Rose’s Heavenly Cakes and bake a simple yellow cake.  You will be happy.  Here’s a good one to start.

In the meantime, if you want a project that will reward you, try this Donauwelle recipe (pictured) when you have part of two days.  It’s not difficult, just has several steps.  And it will reward you not just in taste — which is superb, like the best Vienna pastry — but in confidence as well.

Late Summer Fruit Salad

Let’s say you want to try to watch your calories/waistline after months of saying “yes” to every ice cream opportunity. Try fruit salad! Fruit is still fresh, local and flavorful in the Northeast. From poaching fruit for apple and pear tarts, I happened to use the reduced poaching liquid for an impromptu fruit salad. Sublime.

Here’s a re-creation:

105 g water (approx 1/3 c.)

15 g sugar (approx 1 T)

juice of ½ lemon, divided

2” piece vanilla bean, cut in half lengthwise, seeds scraped into pot with water, then pod thrown in too

 

  1. Heat water and sugar in small pot to dissolve. Stir with wooden spoon. Add ½ of the lemon juice and all of the vanilla beans and pod, and cook for about 6 mins. Let sit out to steep or put into refrigerator to cool quicker.
  2. Cut up:

½ melon, cut into large chunks

½ pt strawberries, hulled and cut in half

½ pt blueberries

one apple, quartered, cored, peeled and cut into medium chunks.

  1. Mix sugar syrup, fruit and squeeze lemon onto apple, and mix.
  2. Refrigerate for at least an hour to allow flavors to blend. Take out at least ½ hour before serving to warm up a bit; though cooler than room temp is desirable.

 

Other options to explore:

Omit vanilla; use lemon verbena and/or mint

Try stronger flavoring such as cinnamon stick (& star anise?) with or without vanilla bean

Strawberry Shortcake

Strawberry shortcake is a classic summer dessert when berries are in season.  It is often somewhat disappointing with not-full-flavor strawberries.  Here, I added Rose Levy Beranbaum’s brilliant idea of creating a concentrated frozen strawberry purée to the cake-strawberry-cream combo.  The cake is sweet but not overly so.  It is a rich, sturdy platform for the strawberry menagerie.  The fresh strawberries are only lightly sweetened to bring out their juice and flavor.  The puree is sweet, but not cloyingly, same with whipped cream.  Together you get a strawberry delight that is like fresh strawberries to the max!  Even more flavorful in my view than a plain berry.

There are often delicious organic strawberries from California available late April to early May, perfect for this early foray into summertime treats, especially with the flavor boost of the purée.  A treat, indeed!

There are four parts to this dessert:

Golden yellow layer cake – 1 9” cake, prepared day before

Frozen strawberry purée

Sliced fresh strawberries with a bit of sugar

Whipped cream with confectioners sugar

 

Strawberry purée:

Ingredients:

1 5-oz bag of organic frozen strawberries

1-2 T sugar

2 t lemon juice

  1. Put strawberries in a colander, and set over deep bowl. Leave on counter for several hours, allowing juice to drip down. Press on fruit to extract juice.
  2. Reduce juice by boiling until reduced to ¼ c.
  3. Put strawberries in food processor, and puré
  4. Put into bowl and mix in sugar and lemon juice.
  5. It should be very delicious. Adjust sugar and lemon as needed. Refrigerate.

 

Fresh Strawberries: Rinse and hull 1-1/2 # organic strawberries. Slice thickly and put in bowl. Stir in gently 1-2 T sugar. Refrigerate until needed, removing from refrigerator in advance to warm to room temp. Best sugared less than one hour before assembling/eating.

 

Cake:

Rose Levy Beranbaum’s Golden Butter Cream Cake, from The Cake Bible (p. 34)

This is best made one day ahead, wrapped in aluminum foil and held at room temperature. Keeps for up to 3 days this way, or 2 months frozen.

Ingredients:

150 g cake flour, sifted

150 g sugar

6 g baking powder

¼ t salt

 

Butter, softened 150 g and cut up

 

3 egg yolks

116 g heavy cream (1/2 c)

3 g vanilla (3/4 t)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare 9” round baking pan: Grease pan, add paper liner and spray with pan spray with flour.
  2. Sift flour into mixing bowl. Add sugar, baking powder and salt. Mix on low speed for 30 seconds to blend.
  3. Mix together gently: yolks, 2 T cream and vanilla.
  4. Add butter to flour mixture with remainder of cream (6 T). Mix on low speed until moistened, then increase to medium for 1-1/2 minutes.
  5. Scrape down bowl and add egg mixture in 3 batches, beating 20 secs after each addition. Scrape down sides of bowl.
  6. Put batter into pan, and even out with spatula.
  7. Bake for 25-35 minutes until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cake will spring back when pressed lightly in center; should just be starting to shrink from sides.

 

Whipped cream: Whip 2 c heavy cream on medium speed. Add couple T confectioners sugar, and increase speed to high. You want just lightly sweetened. Whip to soft peaks. Cover and refrigerate until needed.