Posts tagged with cake:

My First Dinner Party In Our New Home

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Moving to a new home especially when it is far from your old home brings with it many firsts.  And we recently had some new friends over for our first dinner party here. 

For me, setting the table for a special dinner is fun.  I love to mix and match and see how I can reinvent items by using them in a different way, sometimes with something new added to the mix.

My Provencal tablecloth designed with olive branches which I have had for years was perfect for my Greek themed dinner.

I had picked up the napkins on sale at Anthropology  recently, knowing one day they would come in handy.  I can’t resist a really good buy!

The salad plates were part of a very old set of dishes which belonged to my husband’s grandmother, and I love the contrast between those and my contemporary white everyday dishes.

I kept it simple with three small glass bud vases each filled with a couple of olive branches plucked from my newly planted olive shrub on the deck. 

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I lined them down the center of the table, and five clear glass votives holding white candles illuminated the table.

There is nothing that makes a table look prettier than candlelight, and I regret not taking a photo once they were lit.

The menu included some of my favorite Greek dishes.

We enjoyed appetizers on the deck.

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Homemade tabbouleh , a red pepper, eggplant and garlic spread from Trader Joe’s, assorted olives, and Marcona almonds kept us happy til dinner was ready.  Tabbouleh recipe to follow on an upcoming blog.

A delicious Greek salad was brought by one of our guests. 

After which we dined on my Greek Chicken and Potatoes, grilled lamb chops, Greek Style Green Beans with Tomatoes.  Homemade Tzatziki with grilled pita rounded out our meal. 

You can find most of these recipes on my Greek Dinner post, with the exception of the Tzatziki recipe so here it is…

Tzatziki- Cucumber Yogurt Dip (adapted from Lynn Livanos Athan, About.com Guide)

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Cool and creamy, this tangy cucumber dip flavored with garlic is the perfect complement to grilled meats and vegetables.  It can be served on the side with warm pita bread triangles for dipping, and is also used as a condiment for souvlaki.

Ingredients:

3 -4 garlic cloves, minced finely

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 cup Greek yogurt, strained

1 cup sour cream

2-3 cucumbers, peeled, seeded and diced (I prefer Persian cucumbers)

1 teaspoon chopped fresh dill

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

Preparation:

Combine olive oil, vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper in a bowl.  Mix well until combined.  Using a whisk, blend the yogurt with the sour cream.  Add the olive oil mixture to the yogurt mixture and mix well.  Finally, add the cucumber and chopped fresh dill. 

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Chill for at least 2 hours before serving.  Garnish with a sprig of fresh dill just before serving.

Recipe can be doubled or tripled if you wish.

For dessert, knowing that carrot cake was a favorite of some of our guests, I parted from the Greek theme, and baked a good old-fashioned Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting which was a real hit!

You can find the recipe here.

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When the evening was over everyone went home with a full belly,  a goody bag of Tzatziki , and an extra slice of cake.

I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Yom Kippur Eve Dinner for Two

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A couple nights ago was Yom Kippur Eve on the Jewish calendar.

Yom Kippur literally means “Day of Atonement.”  It is traditionally a day devoted to repenting and reflecting on one’s sins committed in the past year.

Yom Kippur marks the end of the 10 day period that begins with the Jewish New Year on Rosh Hashanah. It is a time of introspection and a day of fasting.

As a result the dinner the evening before has special significance and the meal usually consists of traditional holiday foods.

We were on the east coast this year during Rosh Hashanah so we were fortunate to have a holiday dinner with our aunt whose home we stayed at that evening before leaving for the wedding a few days later.

It was a lovely dinner and while we were happy and grateful to be among family, the holiday seems very different to us this year.

Having moved to the west coast, but still not settled in our home, and having been back on the east coast again, but not in the home we celebrated the holidays in for the past 25 years, was especially bittersweet.

For me, shopping and cooking for the Jewish holidays has always been an important part of the New Year.

The smells, sights and sounds that occur within those hallowed walls of the kitchen are part of me…from growing up watching my dear mother in her kitchen (my mom is always so close to my heart, but even more so at this time of the year), and then from a lifetime of preparing meals for the holidays in my own kitchen in our various homes.

So now that we were back in SLO for Yom Kippur, and challenging as my current kitchen is for preparing  a holiday meal, I couldn’t wait to begin.

It was just a Yom Kippur Eve Dinner for Two, but as I was cooking that afternoon, all the holiday smells, sights and sounds that I remember were in full force, and as I prepared recipes from my mother, and my husband’s grandmother I felt the warmth and love that is tradition.

With the limited kitchen equipment in mind I chose the following menu:

Bottle of Chardonnay (complements of the owner of our rental, which we found in our fridge upon our return from our trip)

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Freshly baked challah (not by me, and thanks to my husband for finding one) drizzled with honey symbolic of our wish for a sweet year ahead

Store-bought gefilte fish with crudités
(Memories of my grandmother’s homemade gefilte fish… watching her chop the fish in her wooden bowl)

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Roast turkey breast for me (leftovers for sandwiches for the week) and 2 turkey drumsticks for my husband

Turkey Gravy

Mom’s Apple Noodle Kugel (instead of the regular egg noodles I substituted a package of TJ’s pappardelle egg noodles that I already had, and they worked perfectly)

Baby Carrots  in a Buttery Brown Sugar Glaze

Mom Min’s Farfel with Mushrooms and Onions (recipe below)

Jelled Cranberry Sauce

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And for dessert…

A variation of my Mom’s Passover Lemon Sponge Cake served with nectarine slices

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Mom Min’s Farfel with Mushrooms and Onions (my version of what we remember)

One 12 ounce package of Manischewitz Barley Shaped Egg Noodles

8 ounces fresh white button mushrooms, chopped

Half of a large sweet onion, diced

2- 3 tablespoons salted butter

About 2 cups chicken broth

Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste

Cook Farfel according to package directions, not more than 8 minutes.

In a medium skillet sauté diced onions in the butter till translucent.

Add the chopped  mushrooms, and cook til browned a bit.

Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Add chicken broth and stir well.

Add the mushroom and onion mixture to the drained Farfel.

Cover and keep warm on top of the stove or put in a buttered covered casserole in a 325 degree oven to keep warm.

When ready to serve add some gravy and stir to combine.

A few notes about the Lemon Sponge Cake…

Since  I didn’t have a tube pan here, but did have a layer cake pan that is what I used.

I also used flour instead of the potato starch I prefer.

Both of those changes produced a more dense cake than the lighter version baked in a 10 inch tube pan, but truly delicious nonetheless.

Without an electric mixer here I had to whip the egg whites, which are the only leavening agent in this batter,with a wire whisk.

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When I first came home from shopping I had to look around to see if there even was a whisk here.  There was, but far from a professional one so I knew I would have to be careful not to break it.

With all the desserts I have made over the years I had never whisked egg whites by hand… with the Kitchen Aid within easy reach, why would I?

All I can say is I have a new respect for chefs who seemingly can easily whip that gelatinous mixture into stiff peaks before your very eyes.

Those who know me know I will persevere when the going gets tough, and though my arms were telling me to stop I refused to quit until those snow white peaks surfaced.

And finally they did!  And I was never so proud!  And I did it with the handicap of a flimsy whisk and a plastic bowl!

So I pulled together a wonderful holiday meal for us, and at the same time was able to master a new culinary skill!

Happy and Healthy New Year to all!

Fluffy Peanut Butter Frosting

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I was especially excited this past Father’s Day to have my brother and his family from New York with us.  For dessert I made one of his favorites…

our Mom’s Banana Sour Cream  Cake with this Fluffy Peanut Butter Frosting which I discovered online searching for a better peanut butter frosting than what I usually make.

 And this was it…here’s the link to the  video on how to make it…

http://allrecipes.com/video/1141/fluffy-peanut-butter-frosting/detail.aspx?prop24=RD_VideoTipsTricks

It’s a keeper!

Fluffy Peanut Butter Frosting (allrecipes.com)

Original recipe makes 2 cups

1/2 cup butter, softened

1 cup creamy peanut butter

3 tablespoons milk, or as needed

2 cups confectioners’ sugar

Directions

Place the butter and peanut butter into a medium bowl, and beat with an electric mixer.  Gradually mix in the sugar, and when it starts to get thick, incorporate milk one tablespoon at a time until all of the sugar is mixed in and the frosting is thick and spreadable.  Beat for at least 3 minutes for it to get good and fluffy.

If you double the recipe any leftover frosting freezes well.

Strawberries and Cream Spectacular

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Strawberries and Cream Spectacular!  This recipe comes from the Time Life Series of Books called The Good Cook/Techniques and Recipes published in 1981.  I had the entire collection in those days,  and through the years I have donated many and  sold some at yard sales, but this particular one simply called Cakes remains on my shelf.  

It is a great resource for anyone who loves baking cakes as I do.  This particular cake is one that I love and continue to make today. I have made it for many special occasions, including a bridal shower for my best friend’s daughter a few years after we had moved here.

It is a great springtime cake and I served it at the brunch we had a week ago. 

Now I’ll confess I use a pastry bag and tip to decorate occasionally, but my skills are from from that of a professional. 

Somehow with this cake even if you stray as I do from using 3 different tips as the recipe suggests, this cake always ends up looking yummy and tasting yummier.

And, if you don’t run out of whipped cream as I did this time, you can also pipe rosettes around the bottom edge of the cake for a more finished look.

But you know what,  nobody said, “Hey, where are the rosettes?”

The cake itself is light as a feather with just enough lemon flavoring that complements the ripe strawberries and vanilla flavored whipped cream.

May is around the corner and with it strawberry season, so find an occasion and do make this delicious spectacular cake.

Strawberries and Cream Spectacular

(The Good Cook, Cakes from the Time Life series, Elise W. Manning, Farm Journal’s complete home Baking Book)

 To make one 9-inch cake

2 and 1/2 cups cake flour

1 and 2/3 cups sugar

4 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup vegetable shortening

1 and 1/4 cup milk

1 teaspoon lemon extract

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

5 egg yolks

4 cups strawberries

2 cups heavy cream, whipped with 1/4 cup sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3/4 cup red currant jelly

Sift together the cake flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into a mixing bowl.  Add the shortening and half of the milk.  Beat with an electric mixer at medium speed for two minutes, scraping the bowl occasionally.

Add the remaining milk, the lemon extract, the vanilla extract and the egg yolks.  Beat with the electric mixer for another two minutes.

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Pour the batter into two buttered layer-cake pans that have been lined with parchment paper.

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Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the centers of the layers comes out clean.

Cool the layers in their pan for 10 minutes, then turn them out onto wire racks.

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While the cake is cooling, wash and hull the strawberries.  Chop enough strawberries to make one cup; reserve the remaining berries.  Fold the chopped strawberries into one cup of the whipped cream. 

Place one cake layer, top side down, on a serving plate.  Spread it with the strawberry-cream filling.

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Top with the second cake layer, top side up.

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Slice the reserved strawberries lengthwise.  Arrange the sliced strawberries on top of the cake, starting at the outer edge and placing the slices with their pointed ends toward the edge of the cake.

After the first circle of berries is completed, continue placing the strawberries in this manner until the top is covered.

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Refrigerate the cake for 10 minutes.

Melt the red currant jelly in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly.  Carefully spoon or brush the hot jelly over the strawberries

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Spread some of the remaining whipped cream around the sides of the cake.

Spoon the rest of the whipped cream into a pastry bag fitted with a No. 190 drop flower tube.  Pipe rosettes between the strawberry points around the rim of the cake.  then change to a No.24 star tube and fill in the spaces.  Finally, change to a No. 71 leaf tube, and piupe a border around the bottom edge of the cake.

If you do not wish to decorate the cake with  decorating tips, spoon the remaining cream in small puffs on the top of the cake between the strawberries. 

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Refrigerate the cake until time to serve it.

Passover Chocolate Sponge Cake Roll with Raspberries and Cream

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In addition to the Passover Lemon Cheesecake which I made this year I also took this Chocolate Sponge Cake Roll with Raspberries and Cream to the seder at our aunt’s home.

I am not a chocoholic by any means ( I usually prefer desserts without chocolate with a few exceptions), but i know that for many people it is not dessert if it’s not chocolate. So I always like to include something with chocolate when there are several desserts at a holiday meal.

This recipe is an adaptation of a lemon sponge cake roll I have made numerous times at Passover. (See the post from April 2011) .  

Instead of the lemon juice and zest I added cocoa powder and vanilla extract, filled it with some fresh raspberries and whipped cream, and covered it in with a chocolate frosting.

Passover Chocolate Sponge Cake Roll with Raspberries and Cream

(serves 8 to 10)

For the cake roll

1/2 cup sifted Passover cake meal

1/2 cup potato starch

6 eggs, separated

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Line a 10”x 15” rimmed baking sheet with buttered parchment paper.

Sift together cake meal, potato starch, and cocoa powder and set aside.

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 Beat the egg yolks with the sugar until thick and lemon colored. 

Gradually add the dry ingredients, stirring to make a thick batter.

Add the vanilla extract and mix well.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites with the salt until stiff but not dry.  Fold very gently into the batter.

Turn into the prepared pan and bake in a preheated 325 degree oven for about 20 minutes.  Test with cake tester, or press gently with finger to see if cake bounces back.

Remove from then oven and turn onto a lightly sugared towel.  Gently remove parchment paper. image

Roll up with the towel while warm and let cool completely on a rack.

When cool, carefully unroll and spread the whipped cream, dot with the raspberries.  Reroll and place onto serving plate.

Cover with the chocolate frosting.  Garnish with extra raspberries.

Whipped cream filling

1/2 cup heavy cream for whipping

1 tablespoon confectioners sugar

Whip cream and sugar with whisk attachment in an electric mixer until stiff peaks form. 

3/4 cup fresh raspberries, (sweetened with 1 tablespoon sugar, optional)

Chocolate frosting

1/3 cup butter, melted

2 cups sifted confectioners sugar

1 and 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 to 4 Tablespoons hot water

2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled

Blend sugar with melted butter, vanilla, and chocolate.  Stir in hot water 1 tablespoon at a time until proper consistency.

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The Best Coffee Cake. Ever.

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I wake up early every day, whether I need to or not.  That’s just my body clock. 

But I can’t really start the day until I’ve had my second cup of coffee.  I love my coffee, and have since I began drinking it in college.

(I’m so thrilled that the recent health pundits have been touting the benefits of caffeine!  Whew!!!)

Although I do love croissants, muffins, scones, danish pastries (especially cheese), and all kinds of coffee cakes along with a cup of coffee I really try to avoid them and have something healthier for breakfast.  

Although I may cave later in the day I can get through breakfast most days without succumbing to those high carb sugary cravings.

Not so this past Sunday morning.  For some time now I have had visions of sugarplums in the form of coffeecakes dancing in my head. 

And this Sunday I adamantly announced to my husband that I was making a coffee cake for breakfast! That’s it…just coffee cake, my coffee, and the Sunday paper, and I would savor it guilt free.

I found the perfect coffee cake to accomplish this.  It is from Ree Drummond aka The Pioneer Woman’s blog.

It is called The Best Coffee Cake.  Ever.
And it is.        

See for yourself.

Just don’t make a habit of it.

The Best Coffee Cake.  Ever.  (from The Pioneer Woman’s Blog)

(16 servings)

Ingredients

For the Cake:

1 and 1/2 stick butter, softened (I used unsalted)

2 cups scant sugar

3 cups, flour, sifted

4 teaspoons powder

1 teaspoon salt  (I used kosher salt)

1 and 1 and 1/4 cup whole milk  (didn’t have whole milk so I used 1 cup non-fat milk and 1/4 cup half and half.  It worked)

3 whole egg whites, beaten until stiff

For the Topping:

1 and 1/2 stick butter, softened (unsalted, again)

3/4 cups flour

1 and 1/2 cups brown sugar ( I used light brown, dark brown would be okay, too)

2 tablespoons cinnamon

1 and 1/2 cups pecans, chopped

Instructions:

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Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Beat egg whites and set aside.

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Cream butter and sugar.  Add flour mixture and milk alternately until combined.  Don’t overbeat.

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Fold in beaten egg whites with a rubber spatula.

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Spread in a well-greased 9x13 baking pan.  A cake pan with higher sides would be best.

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In a separate bowl, combine topping ingredients with a pastry cutter until  crumbly. 

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Sprinkle all over the top.

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Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until no longer jiggly.  Serve warm.  Delicious!

                                                                                             

A Gluten Free Chocolate Birthday Cake

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Our good friends from our “Chicago Days” who now live in Rhode Island spent the night with us on their way down to Florida yesterday.  It was so wonderful to spend some time with them. 

They were a  part of a close knit group of friends we had who, like us, were all transplanted to the Windy City from the east coast in the 70’s. We were all beginning our own families at this time, and before long we became family to each other filling the void that living far from one’s roots can create.

So we celebrated holidays and birthdays together, formed a gourmet club, had play dates for our kids, went apple picking, pumpkin picking, and strawberry picking, and the dads even took the kids on camping trips (without the moms).

As is life, eventually we all found ourselves relocating, many of us back to the east coast, but all to different cities.

But those were days we cherish, and no doubt the memories of those good times for our children (now adults, and some with their own children), have impacted their lives.

As luck would have it,  it was also my husband’s birthday yesterday, and what better way to spend it than with good friends!

I made a birthday dinner of Greek Chicken and Potatoes, Greek Style Green Beans and Tomatoes, and a Greek Salad, all of which was gluten free as our friend must adhere to this diet. 

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While dinner was not challenging at all, I was not so confident about making my husband’s favorite chocolate birthday cake with a gluten free twist. 

I confess I have never made a gluten free cake other than the sponge cakes I make at Passover which are gluten free by nature since I only use potato starch in them, and an occasional flourless chocolate cake.

But I wanted this to be a real birthday cake, 2 layers with a special filling between the layers, and a decadently rich chocolate glaze. 

When I found a bag of gluten free flour at Trader Joe’s I thought I just might be able to pull off a gluten free birthday cake worth celebrating.

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  I decided to follow the recipe for my chocolate cake, substituting the gluten free flour for the cake flour called for. 

A Chocolate Cake That’s Got It All

Butter, for coating cake pans

2 cups sugar

1 and 3/4 cups cake flour      1 and 3/4 cups gluten free flour

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon salt

2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa, preferably Dutch process

1 teaspoon instant coffee ( I used instant espresso powder)

3/4 cup boiling water

1/2 cup sour cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

4 large egg whites, at room temperature

14 tablespoons (13/4 sticks) unsalted butter, melted, but not hot

2 (8-inch) cake pans

Directions

Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees F.  Generously grease the cake pans with butter and dust with flour.  (I prefer to line the bottom of the pans with buttered parchment as well to prevent any sticking).

Whisk sugar, flour, cornstarch, baking soda and salt in a large bowl; set aside.

Place cocoa and coffee in a medium bowl.  Whisk in 3/4 cup boiling water to form a smooth paste.  Stir in sour cream and vanilla and set aside.

With a hand  or electric mixer in  medium bowl, beat egg whites to soft peaks.  Without cleaning the beaters, mix melted butter into dry ingredients until mixture is smooth.  Immediately add cocoa mixture, and beat until batter is smooth, 2-3 minutes.  Carefully fold egg whites into batter until just incorporated.

Divide batter evenly between pans and bake until a skewer inserted into center comes out with wet crumbs, 30-35 minutes.  Remove from oven, and let cakes sit in pans to cool slightly, about 5 minutes.  Invert each cake onto a plate, then onto a cooling rack. 

For the filling I whipped up some heavy cream into which  I folded some frozen (partially thawed) raspberries, making it a pretty shade of pink, and then covered the whole cake with a rich chocolate glaze.

Chocolate Fudge Glaze

1/4 cup (60ml) water

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

6 ounces (170g) sweet cooking chocolate, broken into pieces

1/2 cup confectioners, sugar (2 ounces, 55g)

1 and 1/2 tablespoons dark rum (or Chambord Liqueur)

Pinch of salt

Bring water and butter to boil in a small saucepan.  Keep at simmer until needed.

Metal Blade:  Pulse the chocolate with confectioners’ sugar 5 times, then process continuously until chocolate is as fine as sugar.  With machine running, pour water and butter through the feed tube and process until chocolate is melted, stopping once to scrape the work bowl.  Add the rum or Chambord and salt and process for 5 seconds.

With the remaining glaze (I made 1 and 1/2 x the recipe) I decorated the top of the cake with a pastry tip.  Allow the glaze to chill a bit to thicken it enough to do this.

Some raspberries for the finishing touch, and I would say it was a delicious success!

And by what was left I think you might agree.

I’m now a believer that gluten free doesn’t have to be taste free!

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White Fruitcake

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The classic fruitcake has been the brunt of many jokes.  The often ridiculed cake popular at Christmas is typically a heavy, dense, overly sweet cake laden with artificially colored candied green and red cherries as well as other fruits and nuts.  It has usually been soaked in rum or some other liqueur.

Supposedly, Johnny Carson poked fun at this holiday dessert on the Tonight Show years ago  when he said that there really is only one fruitcake that gets passed from family to family!

I must say I’m not a fan, and don’t know many who are except for my father-in-law who always seemed to enjoy a piece of fruitcake.  To this day I’m fairly certain it was the rum he really liked, and the cake was just the vehicle!

When I saw this recipe for a White Fruitcake in the Washington Post last week I decided this was a fruitcake I could love.

It is a recipe from the southern cook Nathalie Dupree.

One of her editors at Atlanta Magazine gave her this recipe years ago, after she revealed herself to be anti-fruitcake.  She fell in love with it.  “This one will be eaten, not re-gifted, ” she says.

I wholeheartedly agree.

This is a light cake loaded with dried apricots, crystallized ginger, golden raisins, toasted pecans and the zest of fresh orange and lemon.  I added some dried pineapple to the fruits called for, and was happy with the results.

Flavored with vanilla, almond and lemon extract the batter has a heavenly scent signalling the yumminess to come. 

Besides tasting delicious, it’s also pretty to look at…here’s the recipe…

White Fruitcake

(adapted from “Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking,” by Nathalie Dupree and Cynthia Graubart)

MAKE AHEAD:  The cakes  can be tightly wrapped and stored at room temperature for 3 days or frozen for up to 4 months. 

Ingredients

2 and 1/2 cups golden raisins (I used only 2 cups of raisins)

1 cup dried apricots, cut into quarters (about 7 ounces)

1 cup chopped crystallized ginger

1/2 cup dried pineapple, cut into small pieces

2 and 3/4 cups all-purpose or cake flour (I used cake flour)

16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 cup sugar

5 large eggs

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

1 teaspoon pure almond extract

1 teaspoon pure lemon extract

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest

2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest

2 cups chopped pecans, toasted and cooled (see Note)

Steps

Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 250 degrees.  Spray two 4 and 1/2 -by-8 and 1/2-inch loaf pans with nonstick oil-and-flour spray.  Line with 2 pieces of parchment or waxed paper, one cut to the width of the pan and the other to the length of the pan plus 4 inches of overhang to use as handles to lift the loaf from the pan.

Toss the raisins, apricots, pineapple and ginger in 1/4 cup of flour until evenly coated.

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Cut the butter into 1-inch pieces, add them to the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on low speed until soft, about 3 minutes.  Increase the speed to medium and beat for 1 or 2 minutes, until the mixture looks like lightly whipped cream.

Reduce the speed to low and add the sugar 1 tablespoon at a time, gradually increasing the speed and beating until well whipped, 5 or 6 minutes. 

Combine the eggs and extracts in a small bowl, then add to the butter mixture in four additions, beating for 1 minute on medium-low speed after each addition. 

The mixture might look curdled, but all will be well.

Sift the remaining 2 and 1/2 cups of flour with the baking powder and salt onto a piece of waxed paper.  With the mixer on low speed, add half of the flour mixture to the batter, beat well, then add the remaining flour mixture and beat.

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Once the flour is incorporated, use a flexible spatula to fold in the grated zests,

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then the nuts, and dried fruit.

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Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans.  Tap each pan once against the counter to remove any air bubbles, and smooth the tops.

Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes to 1 and 1/2 hours or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.  (The cakes will be white and might give the appearance of being underbaked even though they are not.)

Transfer the pans to a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes.  image

Carefully run a knife around the inside of the pans to loosen the cakes.  Use the parchment paper handles to remove the cakes from the pans and transfer them to the wire rack.  Remove the parchment or waxed paper and cool the cakes thoroughly.

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Note:  to toast pecans, spread them on a baking sheet and place in a 350 degree oven, shaking the sheet occasionally, for 8 to 10 minutes.  Watch carefully; nuts burn quickly.


Chocolate Chip Coffee Cake

If you are looking for a simple coffee cake recipe that will also satisfy your chocolate cravings this one’s for you.

The recipe comes from a book I purchased from a good friend and co-worker years ago when I was working at The Chef’s Catalog store in suburban Chicago.

The book called “Specialties of the House…And More” was compiled by the North Suburban Guild of Children’s Memorial Medical Center, of which my friend was an active member, and all proceeds from the sales went to the hospital.

I have many books of this sort in my cookbook collection, all fund raising tools from worthwhile groups or organizations sharing recipes while at the same time promoting a good cause.

These books, usually soft cover, are comprised of favorite recipes from home cooks that are simple, use relatively few ingredients, and are easily followed even by the novice cook. I contributed a few of my recipes to this book as I recall.

Anyway, this coffee cake is the first cake I baked after we moved to Maryland from Chicago in 1988 while we were staying in a small apartment waiting for our new house to be completed.

My husband’s aunt and uncle who were our only family living somewhat near us (they were in Virginia), and whom we were especially close with had come over for brunch.

That apartment kitchen was extremely tiny, but I wasn’t going to let that stop me from entertaining.  As I recall it was a brunch of bagels and lox, fresh veggies and fruit, but hey, it isn’t brunch without some kind of coffee cake or sweet rolls, right?

So with my limited resources at the time (most of our things were in storage),  I found this recipe in one of the few cookbooks I had decided to keep handy.

It turned out to be really good, and of course quick and easy.

For some reason the other day I came across this book and looked up the recipe and there it was.  With a bag of chocolate chips in my freezer with only about a cup remaining that’s all the motivation I needed to bake this cake.

It is a deliciously moist  cake complete with a chocolatey marbleized streak and a nutty, chocolatey crunch on top.  But I actually believe it tastes even better because of the sweet memories I have attached to it.

Chocolate Chip Coffee Cake

(contributor, Evelyn Sugarman, The Best Specialties of the House…And More, by The North Suburban Guild of Children’s Memorial Medical Center in Chicago)

1/4 pound of butter, softened (I used unsalted)

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup sour cream

1 teaspoon vanilla

Filling

1/2 cup nuts (I used walnuts)

1/2-3/4 cup chocolate chips

1/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa

Cream butter and sugar.  Add eggs.  Sift flour with baking powder and baking soda.  Add alternately with sour cream.  Stir in vanilla.

Pour 1/2 of batter into greased 10-inch tube pan.  Add half of the filling and marbleize with a knife.  Cover with the rest of the batter and top with remaining filling.  Marbleize slightly.  Bake at 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes.  Cool; sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar if you like.

Crunchy-Topped Whole Wheat Plum Cake

The Jewish New Year or Rosh Hashanah begins tomorrow evening at sunset.  As is traditional we usher in the new year with a delicious meal abundant with all kinds of sweet dishes symbolizing our wish for a sweet year ahead.

As I’ve been busily preparing all week for this special dinner I realized that much of the menu I will be serving  I have already blogged in previous posts over the past couple years since I began Dinner at Sheila’s.

It is the food of my youth, the food my mother cooked and baked for the many New Year dinners she hosted while I was growing up.

And it has been the food I’ve continued to make at the holidays since I first hosted the New Year dinners at my home many years ago.

It is the food everyone expects and wants to eat.  The nostalgia we feel and the memories we share of such past holiday meals only serve to whet our appetites for those familiar tastes once again.

Although I try to add something new each year there are some things that never change.  So this year again we will have..chopped liver, chicken soup, matzoh balls, brisket, apple noodle kugel, honey cakes, and apple cake.

I’ll break with tradition and serve roasted fingerling potatoes with carrots, fennel, and onions, and this delightful plum cake pictured above.

This Crunchy-Topped Whole Wheat Plum Cake is a recipe from Melissa Clark which had been featured in the New York Times a couple of years ago that I recently spotted online.

It’s in keeping with serving sweets for a sweet new year, but with the addition of whole wheat flour it reinforces that familiar greeting at this time of year to not only have a sweet year, but a healthy and happy one as well.

Who knows, this could become a new tradition!

Crunchy-Topped Whole Wheat Plum Cake (Melissa Clark)

1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more to grease the pan

1 and 1/2 pounds plums, (several varieties if you want), pitted and sliced

1 and 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons whole-wheat flour

1/2 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons Cognac or brandy

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 large egg

1/2 cup milk

2 tablespoons Demerara or Turbinado sugar, for sprinkling

Whipped cream, for serving (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Grease a 9-by-13-inch baking pan.

Place the plum slices in a bowl and gently toss with 2 tablespoons whole-wheat flour. 

In a separate bowl, combine the remaining whole-wheat flour with the baking powder and kosher salt.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together 1/2 cup butter, sugar, Cognac or brandy and vanilla until light and fluffy.  Add the egg and beat until thoroughly combined.

Add half the flour mixture and beat until just combined.  Pour in the milk and continue beating, scraping down the bowl as necessary.  Add the remaining flour mixture and beat until just combined.

Scrape the dough into the pan, smoothing the top with a spatula.

Scatter on the plums in an even layer.  Sprinkle the sugar on top.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the top is golden brown.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before serving, with whipped cream if you like.  Yield:8 servings