Spiced Yeast Cake

 

fullsizeoutput_3d57

As the season begins to change from winter to spring, I find myself wanting it to hold off a little longer. I feel like I have unfinished business to attend to before those long stalks of rhubarb beckon me. Crocuses are starting to peak out from the ground and I know it won’t be long before the city bursts into bloom. Yet, I haven’t made that turkey minestrone soup yet or the pecan sandies like I intended. This spiced yeast cake has also been on my mind these last couple months.

Parenthood is the same way right?  I feel the steady tick of the clock and I wonder if I’m ready for this season to end. I just got my feet under me. Nevertheless, I see the signs and know that we are headed into a new phase. Did we accomplish enough? The little one can tie his shoes and read chapter books. The older one can manage his school work and swim. I see them building friendships and managing their emotions. I see the signs and know that ready or not, here we come.

fullsizeoutput_3d5d
Buttered pan with almonds.
fullsizeoutput_3d59
This is the sponge before adding the rest of the cake ingredients.
fullsizeoutput_3d5b
The cake is fully risen when it is 1/2 inch or so under the rim.

Spiced Yeast Cake

About a year ago I read an article about the long tradition of yeast cakes. Prior to 1843 when baking powder came around to give us our lift, yeast was used instead. I’m intrigued by the depth of a cake that uses yeast instead of baking powder or baking soda. This cake is a cross between cinnamon raisin bread and spiced coffee cake. It makes you want to slow down and curl up with a cup of tea. The recipe below is adapted from an old recipe for Election Cake, which is the American version of a yeast cake. If you are interested, read this article by Greg Patent to learn more about this old American tradition. I’d say we could all use a little cake right now, so go ahead and give this one a try and tell me what you think.

Ingredients
Sponge:
3 1/3 teaspoons instant dry yeast
1 1/2 cups milk
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
Cake:
1/3 cup sliced almonds
¼ cup raisins
¼ cup dried cranberries
¼ cup orange juice
1 3/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature and cubed
1 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Icing:
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon orange juice (or as much as needed to get desired consistency)

Instructions
Sponge:
Warm milk in a small saucepan over medium until the milk is warm (around 110 degrees). Pour into a large bowl. Whisk in the remaining sponge ingredients and using a hand mixer, mix for 2 minutes on a medium speed. The sponge will thicken up. Cover and set aside to rise for 30 minutes.
Cake:
In a small bowl combine orange juice, raisons and dried cranberries. Microwave for 45 seconds and set aside.
Generously butter a 10-inch bundt pan. Sprinkle almonds over pan and gently press into the pan in a single layer. Set aside.
In a medium bowl whisk flour, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. Set aside.
Add butter and sugar to the bowl of your mixer and cream until light and fluffy (about 3 minutes). Reduce speed and incorporate eggs one at a time. Mix in vanilla extract. Add the sponge mixture and mix until well combined. Spoon in flour mixture in three additions. Mix on low after each addition to fully combine. The batter will be smooth and thick. Mix in dried fruit with their juices.
Using a spatula, distribute the batter evenly around pan and smooth top. Cover and let rise for a couple hours on a draft free counter. Resist the urge to rush this part. You can also stick this in the refrigerator and let it rise slowly over night and bake in the morning. The batter should fill about half the pan before rising.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Place oven rack in center of oven.
After the cake has risen, place pan on a baking sheet (in case of overflow) and bake 40 to 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the cakes comes out clean.
Remove from oven and let cool on a wire cooling rack for 30 minutes.  Remove from pan and let cool completely. Whisk together powdered sugar and orange juice in a small bowl and spoon over cooled cake. Serve at room temperature.

Flourless Chocolate Cake

Can emailing yourself links to recipes be considered a hobby? If so then I am an enthusiast. There is something magical about making a recipe for the first time. My heart beats a little faster and my mind narrows to a point of intense focus.  When I saw an online cookbook club, I knew it would be the perfect fit. A new cookbook every month? New recipe challenges? Count me in. The cookbook club is hosted by Deborah Balint (@rainydaybites) and this month’s cookbook is Diana Henry’s new book “Simple“. The recipe we were to make is the Bitter Flourless Chocolate Cake with Coffee Cream. Being that February is basically the month of chocolate, I was excited to give it a try. Like the cookbook’s name, this cake is simple. Melt, whip, whisk and bake.

fullsizeoutput_3bc4

The original recipe calls for an 8 inch springform cake pan, but since I don’t own one of those, I used an 8×3 pan and lined it with parchment on the bottom and sides. I was surprised when the recipe said to bake for 35 minutes. Usually recipes give a 5-10 minute range with some indication of what to look for when done. Nonetheless, the timing seemed perfect and I did appreciate the simplicity of the instructions. The result is a silky, smooth and deeply flavored cake.

img_1610This cake was perfect for Valentine’s Day : simple, classic and perfectly decadent.  I hope you give it a try!

Bitter Flourless Chocolate Cake with Coffee Cream

Take your time with the details of this cake. Buy the best chocolate and cream you can afford. Let your egg whites come to room temperature and stop mixing when your egg whites look like this. I have changed the wording a bit but the recipe is from “Simple” by Diana Henry.

Cake

  • 13 oz unsalted butter, cubed
  • 11 1/2 oz dark chocolate, 70% is the best (I used Theo’s)
  • 3/4 cup superfine sugar (I whirled granulated in my food processor instead of buying)
  • 5 large eggs, separated and brought to room temperature
  • 1/2 cup almond flour

Cream

  • 1 1/4 cup heavy cream (I use non homogenized because I think it tastes better)
  • 3 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar

Optional add-ins: I was kind enough to share this cake with the kiddos, so I only used half of this amount and kept the other half plain.

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons instant espresso dissolved in equal amounts boiling water (you could also use part of a shot of espresso if so desired. I would just let it cool slightly before using)
  • 2 tablespoons whiskey

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Fill a small pan with water and bring it to a simmer. Prepare your cake pan by covering with parchment on the bottom, as well as the sides (or use a springform pan). Here is a link if you need a visual guide. Put butter, sugar and chocolate in a heatproof bowl and set on top of pan with simmering water. I like to use my Kitchenaid metal mixing bowl for this since the sides are high, I don’t have to worry about water accidentally getting into the pan. Melt the mixture together and stir with a heatproof spatula. Once melted, let mixture cool for a few minutes (original recipe states 4 minutes) and then add the egg yolks one at a time. Incorporating each before adding the next.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites to form medium firm peaks. Stir almond flour into chocolate mixture and add half of the egg white mixture as well. Once this is incorporated, fold in the rest of the egg whites. Pour the batter into the pan and bake for 35 minutes. Cool completely. If using the regular cake pan, place a cutting board on top of the pan and hold tightly in place and then flip it over so that the cake comes out. Repeat so that the cake is face up. If using the springform pan, release the sides by unsnapping them and remove.

To make the cream use a hand mixer to whip the heavy cream. Add the powdered sugar and continue to mix until the cream is airy and holds a bit of shape. Incorporate bourbon and espresso and serve on top of the cake.

This cake is best at room temp and can be made ahead. It holds up well for a few days. Refrigerate any leftovers.