THE BEWITCHING KITCHEN TURNS TWELVE!

POST #1441

A PALINDROME!


Twelve years. Hard to believe. It’s been such a journey, I sometimes don’t recognize myself in earlier posts. Like those written when I was a certified cake-o-phobe and decorated cookies were not to be found in my virtual spot. Twelve years later, I turned into a passionate baker, so much so that I started a second site just devoted to cookies. How did that happen? I have no idea, but I am having a blast with it. First things first. What is a Birthday party without cake? To celebrate this special day, I made a cake that joins my Brazilian roots (brigadeiros) with the cookies that launched me into a more serious baking path: macarons. Raspberry is the flavor. Pink and gold the colors. Happy 12th, my dear Bewitching Kitchen!

CELEBRATION PINK AND GOLDEN RASPBERRY CAKE
(from the Bewitching Kitchen, cake slightly modified from My Cake School)

for one batch of cake:
(I made two batches to have 4 cake layers, used 3 in the cake)
350g) sugar
285g cake flour
1 teaspoon salt
15g baking powder
5 egg whites
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup (242g) buttermilk
1/3 cup (72g) vegetable oil
140g unsalted butter, slightly softened.

Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour two 8 x 2 inch round cake pans. Reserve.

In the bowl of your mixer add the dry ingredients, sugar, flour, salt and baking powder. Whisk to combine. Reserve. In a separate bowl, add the egg whites, buttermilk, vanilla and oil. Stir with a fork to combine.

With the mixer on low speed, add the slices of butter a few pieces at a time to the dry ingredients. Increase the mixer to medium speed and beat until the dry ingredients look crumbly and moistened by the butter. With the mixer on low speed, add half of the egg mixture, increase to medium speed and mix for 1 1/2 minutes, the batter will become thick and fluffy. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl. Add the remaining egg mixture in 2 pourings beating for 20 seconds after each addition. Divide the batter between the two pans.

Bake at 325 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean or with just a few crumbs attached. Let the cakes cool in the pans 10 minutes, then turn out.

for the raspberry filling:
2 cups ( 320g) raspberries
4 tbsp (60ml) water
1 cup ( 200g) sugar
25g cornstarch

Add the raspberries and water to a food processor and puree until smooth. If you’d like, you can strain the puree to remove the seeds, but in this case start from a bigger amount so you end up with 320g.

Combine the sugar and cornstarch in a medium saucepan. Stir in the raspberry puree. Cook over medium heat, stirring consistently until mixture thickens and comes to a boil, about 8-10 minutes.
Allow to boil for 1 minute, then remove from heat. Refrigerate and allow to cool completely.

for the frosting:
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup vegetable shortening
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 to 4 tablespoons milk
¼ teaspoon salt
2 pounds (approximately 8 cups) powdered sugar
food gel dye, Americolor Dusty Rose

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed (if you have a stand mixer, use the paddle attachment), beat together the butter, shortening, and extracts until smooth and creamy.

Add 2 tablespoons of the milk or water, the salt, and half the powdered sugar and mix just until combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. On low speed, gradually add in the remaining sugar. Add more milk or water as needed to achieve the desired consistency.

Divide the frosting in three bowls, and add increasing amounts of gel dye to get the ombre effect.

for decoration:
Raspberry Brigadeiros (recipe here)
Lemon Macarons (recipe here, but omit the blueberry jam)
Egyptian Gold luster powder
Everclear or vodka

Cake layers can be made a week in advance and frozen. Thaw still wrapped in plastic at room temperature. Assemble the cake by placing one layer on a rotating cake stand over a cardboard round base. A little buttercream on the cardboard helps it stay stable as you work on it.

Make a little dam with buttercream frosting (use the lighter color), then add the raspberry filling. Place the second layer on top, repeat the process and top with the third. Frost the cake first with a crumb coat, refrigerate for 30 minutes, then frost with the darkest tone at the bottom. If desired, add texture with a cake comb or spatula. Use the darker color to make rosettes on top, add the brigadeiros and macarons.

Finish the look with a few strokes of gold color on the edges of the buttercream roses and ridges on the sides of the cake. If you have golden sprinkles, put them to use…

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I should thank Tanya, my tent-baking friend, for the help and advice she gave me to make this cake. It turns out that I had not baked a cake in about 10 months and was feeling pretty rusty. But I am thrilled with the way it turned out, because I had this image in my mind, and the cake came pretty close to my goal. I loved making the ombre effect with the three tones of pink. Come to think of it, Dusty Rose from Americolor is a total must-have. Pink is tricky. Just a little more than you think you need will take you into bubblegum territory. Not what I wanted for my cake. Dusty Rose gives a nice pastel tone.

For the macarons, I painted one shell in solid gold, and added a brush of gold on the other side. I think the lemon of the macaron filling was a good match for the raspberry cake. As to the frosting, I went with a type of buttercream that stands well at room temperature for several hours. It is important to use a good quality shortening, and butter. I went with Spectrum and Kerrygold.

If you’ve been following me for a while or if you are new here, thank you for your support, and thanks for leaving comments and feedback on recipes you try. I step into the 13th year of this journey with the same enthusiasm I had on the second year. Or third. Or 10th. I’ve never set goals for my blog, it is a reflex of what goes on in my life as far as cooking and baking is concerned. I just try to keep it varied and interesting, and hope that it inspires others to cook and bake.

ONE YEAR AGO: The Bewitching Kitchen turns 11!

TWO YEARS AGO: The Bewitching Kitchen Turns 10, and a Giveaway…

THREE YEAR AGO: The Bewitching Kitchen turns 9!

FOUR YEAR AGO: The Bewitching Kitchen turns eight!

FIVE YEARS AGO: The Bewitching Kitchen Turns Seven!

SIX YEARS AGO: Bewitching Kitchen Turns Six!

SEVEN YEARS AGO: The Bewitching Kitchen turns Five!

EIGHT YEARS AGO: The Bewitching Kitchen turns Four!

NINE YEARS AGO: The Bewitching Kitchen Turns Three! 

TEN YEARS AGO:  The Bewitching Kitchen turns Two!

ELEVEN YEARS AGO:  Bewitching Birthday!

TWELVE YEARS AGO: Welcome to my blog!



VICTORIA SPONGE MINI-CAKES

I made these cakes in November 2019, if you can believe it… Sometimes things take their sweet time to go from a folder with pictures to the blog post. Victoria Sponge is a true classic from the UK, named after Queen Victoria, because it was her favorite sweet to enjoy during afternoon tea. It is a sandwich type cake with strawberry jam, often whipped cream, and usually not iced, the top and sides left naked. Many variations exist, I am sharing a version that makes them in individual format. I find them irresistibly cute.

VICTORIA SPONGE MINI-CAKES
(adapted from this article)

175g unsalted butter, at room temperature
175g granulated sugar
3 large eggs, beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
185g all-purpose flour
1 + 1/8 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt

whipped cream lightly sweetened
strawberry jam

Heat the oven to 350°F. Very lightly grease the molds of a mini-cake pan.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Reserve.

Cream the butter and caster sugar together until the mixture is pale and light. Gradually add the beaten eggs, mixing well between each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl from time to time. Add the vanilla extract and mix again.

Add the flour mixture to the batter, mixing gently until smooth. Fill the mini-cake mold, each cavity 3/4 full, no more than that. You should have enough for 12 mini-cakes. Bake on the middle shelf of the oven for 15 to 20 minutes until golden, well risen and a wooden skewer inserted into the middle of one of the cakes comes out clean.


Leave the cakes to cool in the tin for 5 minutes and then ease out onto a wire cooling rack and leave until completely cool. Cut each cake in half, and pipe the whipped cream onto the bases, in dots. Drizzle the jam over the buttercream dots, place the sponge tops on and lightly dust the cakes with icing sugar.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I had to play around with the recipe a bit to get it right, adjusting the baking powder amount and not filling the mold to the top, so that the doming was just right. It was a huge hit with our departmental colleagues, I got several emails about it. The cake is tender and moist. The original recipe called for American buttercream for the filling, but I decided to go with whipped cream, stabilized with gelatin. Follow the recipe from this link. For the pan, I used this one. At the time I bought it on ebay, but could not find it available right now.

I think whipped cream is less sweet and makes the cake feel a bit lighter, but if you prefer to go with buttercream, follow the original recipe in the link I included.

ONE YEAR AGO: Red Beet Sourdough

TWO YEARS AGO: A Modern Take on Tarte Tatin

THREE YEARS AGO: Minnie-Macarons, a Fun Project with a Happy Ending

FOUR YEARS AGO: Nigella Lawson in the Bewitching Kitchen

FIVE YEARS AGO: Walnut-Raisin Bran Muffins

SIX YEARS AGO: Gingersnaps with White Chocolate Chips

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Turkey Chili with Almond Butter

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Secret Recipe Club: Leek and Cheese Tart

NINE YEARS AGO: Secret Recipe Club; Triple Chocolate Brownies

TEN YEARS AGO: Shaved Asparagus Salad

ELEVEN YEARS AGO: Indonesian Ginger Chicken

THE MYSTIFYING HURRICANE ROLL

Last month I was watching a video on youtube and on the side bar a little cake got my attention because it was so whimsical. I clicked on it and found out it was the so-called Hurricane Roll. I have no idea who “invented” it, but most are made by Oriental bakers with the patience of Buddha. Patience, I don’t have, but still decided I had to make one. To make a long story short, I confess that I made FIVE. Not because they were nice and easy, but because the first three attempts did not give me the desired hurricane effect. At most, I got a tropical storm.  I learned a lot during the process of trial and error, and will share with you the recipe and method that finally worked well for me.

RED HURRICANE ROLL WITH MORELLO CHERRY FILLING
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

for a 10 inch square cake

for the meringue:
110 g sugar
6 egg whites
pinch of cream of tartar

for the cake batter:
110 g milk
80 g butter, melted
85 g cake flour
15g dry milk powder
1/8 tsp vanilla paste
1/8 tsp salt
6 egg yolks
raspberry flavor from Amoretti (optional)
red gel food color
Morello cherry jam for filling (or any other filling you like)

Spray a 10-inch square pan with baking spray and cover it with parchment paper.

I use a handheld mixer to make the batter, so I start with the meringue.  Whisk the egg whites with cream of tartar until it gets foamy. Add the granulated sugar very slowly and whisk to soft peaks. Reserve.

No need to wash the beater, move on to make the egg yolk component. Whisk the milk with the melted butter and vanilla in a bowl. Sieve the dry ingredients on top, whisk gently until fully combined.  Add one egg yolk at a time, whisking well after each addition.  Remove 135g of this batter to another bowl, add 1 tsp raspberry flavor and red food dye to taste. To this  bowl, add 100g of the reserved meringue and fold gently. Place in a piping bag, no need for piping tip. Reserve.

Add what is left of the meringue to the white cake batter, and fold gently. Pour into the prepared pan – add gently the red batter on top  to cover it completely, you can use an offset spatula to help even the surface.

Now do the hurricane effect. I used the handle of a wooden spoon, making stripes all over the pan back and forth horizontally, with the handle all the way into the bottom of the batter. Move it slowly.  Then do the same thing in the other direction, perpendicular to the first. Bang the pan gently to release bubbles and even the surface.

Bake at 325F for 10 min, reduce temperature to 300F and bake for 25 minutes longer, but check the center of the cake so that it does not over-bake and gets dry.  Remove from oven, wait 2 minutes and invert the cake on a towel sprinkled with powdered sugar. Trim the edges that tend to get too dry and interfere with rolling. Roll while warm, let it cool. Unroll, spread jam (or any filling you like), and roll back again. Place in the fridge for a couple of hours before slicing.  If all went well, you should see a nice color effect due to the partial mixing of both colors.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: The recipes I tried before failed to mix properly. Still made delicious cakes, but I was left with a simple roll cake like this one, made with lemon flavor and pitaya powder (clearly did not use enough, there was barely any hint of color in the second batter after baking).

Another attempt produced what I called a “Tropical Storm” effect, in which the hurricane was almost there but not fully…  In this case I went with a classic vanilla/cocoa combination, and the filling was Chocolate Russian buttercream.

If you are familiar with Swiss roll cakes, you might find the method I used a bit strange, as the egg yolks are added in the end, without any intense whipping to generate more volume. There is actually a reason for it. If you do a regular batter, it will be denser, and the two colors will not mix properly. The other thing to keep in mind is that you need to be aggressive mixing the batters in that criss-cross pattern. Insert the handle all the way to the bottom (you can use a knife, chopsticks, a very small spatula also works), and work your way slowly as shown in the drawing above.


if you do that you will be rewarded with a nice effect that will become evident the moment you cut the edges. I’ve been playing quite a bit with this technique so expect a few more rolls coming on the blog soon. Apart from the hurricane effect, there is a lot you can do with two colors of cake batter.  I wish I had kids around, it’s the type of bake that they would love to play with.

Disclaimer: no, we did not eat five roll cakes. I often get asked how come we don’t weigh a ton with all the sweets around. Everything I bake is donated to Common Table on Fridays. Most things I try a little bite for quality control, but that is about it.
The last time I made a dessert for the two of us was…
Valentine’s Day!

Common Table of August 08th, 2020
(I bet you are you not surprised that I keep photo records of all my weekly bakes)

ONE YEAR AGO: Pop-Tarts with Strawberry Balsamic Jam

TWO YEARS AGO: Ptichye Moloko, a Russian Dessert

THREE YEARS AGO: Cheesy Low-Carb Zucchini Tarts

FOUR YEARS AGO: Blogging Hiatus

FIVE YEARS AGO: Apricots, Three Ways

SIX YEARS AGO: Up Close and Personal with Kale

SEVEN YEARS AGOBlack Berry Cherry Sorbet

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Asparagus Pesto

NINE YEARS AGO: Chocolate and Chestnut Terrine

TEN YEARS AGO: Under the spell of lemongrass

ELEVEN YEARS AGO: Greens + Grapefruit + Shrimp = Great Salad!

 

THE BEWITCHING KITCHEN TURNS 11!

Eleven years ago I hit “publish” on my very first post, got a huge thrill when I did it, and right after went through many bouts of anxiety as I waited and waited… how many people would read what I just wrote? Could I keep the blog going for 6 months? For a year? Well, eleven years have passed, I went from cake-o-phobe to tent-baker, met a ton of wonderful people through this site, and have absolutely no desire to stop writing. I never get tired of it, it is always exciting to share stuff I make. Like this Blog-Birthday cake. I wanted it to have tropical flavors. Passion fruit and coconut sounded good. And I also wanted it to be colorful and fun. Buttercream and sugar work to the rescue!

BEWITCHING PASSION FRUIT AND COCONUT CAKE
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

for the cake:
280 g  all-purpose flour
300 g granulated sugar
2 + 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup full-fat milk + squirt of lemon juice
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 tsp Amoretti passion fruit flavor
½ cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
¼ cup grapeseed oil

For the buttercream:
340 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
750 g confectioners’ sugar, sifted (you might not use the full amount)
3 tablespoons heavy cream
1 teaspoon clear vanilla extract
pinch of salt

for the coconut pastry cream:
(adapted from a recipe from Martha Stewart)
2 cups whole milk
1/4 cup cream of coconut
1/2 cup sweetened shredded coconut
1/2 tsp vanilla paste
4 large egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
pinch of salt

for drip icing:
2 tbsp white chocolate chips
100 g candy melts
43 g tbsp heavy cream (about 3 tablespoons)

for the sugar decorations:
(following Kim-Joy’s youtube tutorial)
glucose
food gel dye, any color you like

Butter and flour three 6-inch cake pans. Melt the butter gently and reserve. Mix the milk with lemon juice and let it sit for a few minutes (congrats, you just made full-fat buttermilk). Sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl. In another bowl whisk together the buttermilk, eggs, vanilla, and passion fruit flavor. Pour the liquid mixture into the flour. Whisk the ingredients together to combine. Pour in the melted butter and oil. Stir everything together until the batter is smooth.

Divide the batter into the three prepared pans. Bake for about 30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of each cake comes out clean. Let the cakes cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes before removing from the pans. If making the cakes in advance, you can freeze them or keep in the fridge, they are easier to work with if completely cold.

Make the coconut pastry cream (preferably the day before assembling the cake). Bring milk, cream of coconut, coconut, and vanilla to a simmer in a medium pan over medium-high heat. Remove from heat. Cover and let it sit for 30 minutes at room temperature.

Put egg yolks, sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a bowl. Whisk with a hand-held blender until thick, about 5 minutes. Heat the coconut infused milk mixture until very hot. With mixer on medium-low speed, slowly pour in milk mixture. Transfer to saucepan. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until boiling, and boil for a couple of minutes. Strain through a sieve. Let cool completely and store in fridge until assembling the cake (cover surface with plastic to prevent a skin from forming).

Make the buttercream. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until smooth and creamy. With the mixer running on low, slowly add all but 1 cup (125 g) of the confectioners’ sugar, the heavy cream, vanilla, and salt. Once incorporated, turn the mixer up to medium-high and mix for 3 to 5 minutes, until the buttercream is white, fluffy, and smooth. Add the remaining cup of confectioners’ sugar as needed, a small amount at a time (I used about half of it), until it reaches good spreadable consistency.  Keep half of it white, divide the other half in four small bowls and use food dye to make four colors of your choice. Reserve.

Assemble the cake. Place one cake layer on a cake board over a turntable. Spread half of the coconut pastry cream. Top with a second cake layer and repeat. Place the final cake layer on top. Crumb coat the cake with white buttercream and chill in the refrigerator for 15 minutes. Add splashes of the different colors of buttercream and work them with a bench or cake scraper as you rotate the cake. Refrigerate for 1 hour.

Made the drip icing. Chop the chocolate chips into small pieces. Add the chips and candy melts to microwave safe bowl and pour heavy cream on top. Microwave for 20 second intervals, stirring in between each interval, until all the chocolate is melted. Let sit for 15-30 minutes, until it reaches 90 F. Pour over chilled cake, spreading towards the outside of the cake with the back of a spoon or small spatula so that it drips. Put back in the fridge to chill until ready to finish decorating. Transfer to a serving stand before adding the final sugar decorations on top.

Make the sugar decorations (can be made a couple of weeks in advance). Pour small amounts of glucose over a half-sheet lined with Silpat. Add drops of food gel dye, keep in mind a little goes a long way.  Bake at 300F for about 1 hour. Let it cool, break into pieces and use to decorate the cake.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Social isolation makes baking pretty tricky. I can still bake for homeless meals on Fridays but everything must be individually wrapped for take-out, so that limits a lot what I can make. No frostings, no mousse cakes, no mirror glazes… I wasn’t even sure I should bake a cake for the Bewitching anniversary because we eat at most one slice each, sometimes we just share a single slice and call it a day. Our departmental colleagues enjoy most of it. But at the present time, no sharing food is permitted in our building. Problem solved: our two graduate students agreed to do the sacrifice and help us with this pressing matter. It was my first time doing this type of watercolor design, so I kept the buttercream recipe simple. It is a fun technique and I intend to do it again in the future, perhaps with more pastel tones and using Swiss meringue buttercream. The real fun part was making the sugar decorations. Interestingly enough, the cake baking started with them. I subscribe to Kim-Joy’s youtube channel and on May 15th she uploaded that tutorial. I was so smitten by the whole idea, I made them later that same day.

I made two batches, the first one definitely using more dye than needed, the second batch using a lot less. With less dye, you get the subtle effect shown on the right picture of the composite above.  You can play with colors and amounts, it is amazing to see the changes the whole thing goes through during baking. At first you will think it’s all going to be ruined. Just trust Kim-Joy, let the oven do its thing, it will all settle into a nice outcome. Make sure to watch her video to get a better idea of the whole method.

The sculpture was a gift from my sister Nyrma, during a trip to Brazil many years ago. I thought it matched the sugar decorations quite well…   And no, it was not intentional at all  😉

The sugar decorations change quite a bit depending on the light, which I find fascinating. And they hold so well! I made them without any precise goal about how or when to use them, but then realized that the blog would turn 11 soon, and a cake was needed. I hoped they would last long enough for that, and they did, just sitting at room temperature, in a single layer. Exposed to the air, not in a box or anything.  Keep that in mind if you want to include sugar decorations on cupcakes or other concoctions. You can make them way in advance.

I loved the cake, the flavor from Amoretti does a good job when you cannot have fresh passion fruit pulp to use. It paired well with the coconut pastry cream. I actually added back to the pastry cream some of the shredded coconut sieved out, just to add a bit of extra texture, but you don’t have to do that, as most of the flavor will have infused the milk anyway. Your call.

So here I am, at the beginning of the 12th  year of my blogging life. It does feel like yesterday, but it also feels it all started a lifetime ago. I don’t have any special plans for the future. This site is just a reflex of my daily life. I am sure year number 12 will continue with a lot of baking, but also regular cooking.  I’ve been exploring a bit more vegetarian and vegan options, not with intentions of changing my eating habits, but for the challenge they represent, particularly in baking.  I found out last year that one of the graduate students in our department is allergic to eggs. That means she could never enjoy any of the bakes I shared with our colleagues in the “Mondays with Sweetness.”  It made me so sad. At some point I will be able to bake again for the department, and intend to get some bakes especially for her. Who knows when it will be? But I am practicing and getting my baking mojo ready for it…

 


To my readers, thank you for being here, your support is truly what makes it all so special for me, it’s the fuel that keeps my blogging engine going…

 

ONE YEAR AGO: The Bewitching Kitchen Turns 10, and a Giveaway…

TWO YEAR AGO: The Bewitching Kitchen turns 9!

THREE YEAR AGO: The Bewitching Kitchen turns eight!

FOUR YEARS AGO: The Bewitching Kitchen Turns Seven!

FIVE YEARS AGO: Bewitching Kitchen Turns Six!

SIX YEARS AGO: The Bewitching Kitchen turns Five!

SEVEN YEARS AGO: The Bewitching Kitchen turns Four!

EIGHT YEARS AGO: The Bewitching Kitchen Turns Three! 

NINE YEARS AGO:  The Bewitching Kitchen turns Two!

TEN YEARS AGO:  Bewitching Birthday!

ELEVEN YEARS AGO: Welcome to my blog!

 

 

 

 

ORANGE STREUSEL CAKE & THE JOYS OF BAKING BOOK REVIEW

I will never write a cookbook. Having said that, IF I ever wrote one, I would like it to be along the lines of The Joys of Baking, by Samantha Seneviratne. As Dorie Greenspan writes in her endorsement: A sweet meditation on why we bake… the book is a delight.

I couldn’t have said it better, Dorie summarized it all. I contacted Samantha and she gave me permission to publish one recipe on the blog. I had quite a hard time choosing which one to share, but decided to go with her Orange Streusel Cake, because its preparation is quite unusual and the cake turned out absolutely perfect for my taste.  But I will also show you pictures of another recipe from the book, Samantha’s  Mascarpone Gingerbread Bars. Because… ginger…

ORANGE STREUSEL CAKE
(from The Joys of Baking, published with permission from Samantha Seneviratne)

For the streusel:
½ cup (65g) all-purpose flour
½ cup (110g) packed light brown sugar
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
4 tablespoons (57g) unsalted butter, melted (I used half the butter)
1/2 cup (15g) sliced almonds

for the cake:
6 tablespoons (85 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 entire navel orange (about 280 g), seeded, cut into large chunks
¼ cup (60g) sour cream, at room temperature
1 +1/2 cups (195g) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¾ cup (200g) granulated sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature

for the glaze:
3 to 4 teaspoons freshly squeezed orange juice
¾ cup (90g) powdered sugar

Heat the oven to 350°F.

Prepare the streusel: In a medium bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, and salt. Drizzle the melted butter over the mixture and stir to incorporate. The mixture should clump together when squeezed. Toss in the almonds. Prepare the cake: Butter an 8-inch square baking pan. Line the pan with parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on 2 opposite sides. Butter the parchment.

Place the orange in a blender and process until it is the texture of applesauce. It’s okay if you have a few larger pieces. You should have about 1 cup of orange purée. Add the sour cream and stir to combine.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. In a large bowl, with an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the butter and granulated sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, scraping down the bowl as necessary. Add half of the flour mixture and beat on low speed until just combined. Beat in the orange mixture, then beat in the remaining half of the flour mixture.

Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and smooth the top. Top with the streusel mixture. Squeeze the streusel to form a range of differently sized clumps. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out with moist crumbs attached, 40 to 45 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool for 20 minutes. Then, using the parchment overhang as handles, transfer the cake to a wire rack to cool completely.

Prepare the glaze (if using): In a small bowl, whisk the orange juice into the confectioners’ sugar, adding a little less juice for a thicker glaze that will look lovely on top of the cake, or a little more for a thinner glaze that will soak in. Drizzle the glaze over the cooled cake.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I am very fond of marinades that use a whole lemon instead of its juice or zest, so the moment I saw that the cake called for a full orange turned into a pulp in the food processor, I knew I had to give it a try. You cannot get much more orange-y than that. And the drizzle of icing sugar/orange juice beautifully seals the deal. The cake is moist, feels rich but light at the same time, if at all possible.

Do you notice the little bits of orange throughout the crumb?
Absolute yumminess.

Now let me share with you a little teaser of a recipe. Originally I was going to focus the blog post on this one, because it was a huge hit when I took it to the Common Table meal (meals for homeless in our town). Mascarpone Gingerbread Bars…

It starts as a very smooth batter, pretty much like a brownie, a one-bowl deal.

Then you swirl a mascarpone cream into it, and marvel at the way it looks.

The crumb is tight, full of gingerbread flavor, and you get that delicious sharp contrast of the mascarpone every now and then. This will please anyone.

Now, a virtual tour of Samantha’s book.

From her introductory chapter, I cut and paste her words…

Cooking is a necessity. Everyone needs to eat. Preparing a special meal can be a joy, of course, but often it feels like a chore, just another item on an endless list of things that must get done. Baking is different. Baking is a choice. Baking is never a necessity. No one needs a chocolate cake to survive. Except, sometimes, a chocolate cake is exactly what you need to survive. Sometimes, a chocolate cake is the only thing you need in the world. This is a book about and for those times.

I was touched by this paragraph, it really echoes with the way I view baking. She then moved to talk about the tragic life story of Irma Rombauer,  the woman behind the most classic American cookbook of all times, The Joy of Cooking. I was unaware of it, and once again Samantha’s words touched me.

The Joys of Baking is inspired by the book that Irma Rombauer could have written. It’s the story of baking my way through my own heartbreak—of what happened when the parts of my life I thought would be the best turned out to be the worst, and when the things I thought would make me happy almost wrecked me, and why they didn’t.

The book is divided in chapters that have nothing to do with baking categories. They are: Courage, Grace, Bliss, Love, and Wisdom.  Each chapter and each recipe starts with a small paragraph that is like a tiny little window into Samantha’s soul. The window might be tiny, but the image it shows is very bright. 

From this chapter, many recipes tempted me to get into the kitchen and start baking. Coconut and Passion Fruit Pound Cake, a breathtakingly gorgeous Chocolate Cardamon Babka, Earl Grey Pain au Chocolat, the Mascarpone Gingerbread Bars (photo included in this post), and a Sweet Potato Cinnamon Bun with Browned Butter Cream Cheese Glaze (wow!).

The chapter opens with Salted Chocolate-Covered Chocolate Caramels. Of course, when a person wears braces, she will be fiercely drawn towards caramels, brittles, and nougats, even if before having braces those items were rarely part of her life. Anyway, I will make these babies the moment I get rid of my torture devices. Coffee Creme Bundt Cake, is beautiful and preceded by a heart-warming bit about her Dad. As always, just a little paragraph, just enough to make you smile and wonder if you haven’t been too narrow-minded about your thoughts about food.  Next comes a recipe I really wanted to feature in the blog, but did not have a chance to make yet. Ready to dream? Creme Brulle Tart with Pears and Chocolate. Yes, this will be in our kitchen at some point in the near future.  Danish Sugar Cookies with Currants and LemonPistachio and Praline PuffsSunshine Wreath (a thing of beauty!).

From this chapter the first thing that caught my eye was a shortbread, a recent weakness of mine. Her version is a Chocolate Almond Spelt Shortbread. Looks really tasty. Brownie Cake with Candied Hazelnuts and Whipped Cream...  Coconut BunsGingered Cashew Nut Brittle (blame it on the braces)…  Graham Cupcakes with Milk Chocolate Frosting (just adorable)…  Another heavy contender to be featured is We are Nuts About Nuts Cookies. Little sugar cookie rectangles dipped in chocolate and sprinkled with ground pistachio nuts. Just lovely. Orange Streusel Cake, featured today, is also in this chapter.


The chapter opens with my favorite little story of her book. Just a few thoughts about JFK Airport in New York City. More specifically about the arrivals gate.  “Where shopping and dining isn’t the point. It’s all about the crowd along the barriers.”  Just perfect.

From this final chapter, I would gladly try her Apple Snack Cake...  Barley Oat BiscuitsCinnamon Raisin Soft Pretzels (the picture is enough to make your heart missed a few beats)… Lemon Lime Earl Grey Sables...  Maple Cream Pie…  Orange Pistachio BunsSaffron and Chocolate Tea Cake…  and the very last recipe of the book, Unorthodox Challah with Dates and Cocoa.

I hope you enjoyed my little review and consider inviting this gem of a cookbook into your home. Samantha, thank you for allowing me to share a recipe with my readers. I look forward to baking more goodies from your book, and reading again and again your stories behind each one.

ONE YEAR AGO: Pink Praline Brioche

TWO YEARS AGO: A Spinach Salad to Write Home About

THREE YEARS AGO: Karen’s Four Hour French Country Bread

FOUR YEARS AGO: The Siren’s Song of the Royal Icing

FIVE YEARS AGO: Blog-worthy Roasted Butternut Squash

SIX YEARS AGO: Chocolate Currant Sourdough Loaf & Roasted Beet Hummus

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Sesame and Flax Seed Sourdough

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Spanakopita Meatballs

NINE YEARS AGO: Saturday Morning Scones

TEN YEARS AGO: Pain de Mie au Levain