Cranberry Kuchen

DSC_0306aMy blogging has suffered, as of late, as has my cooking, due to a constellation of issues – a remodel, a heavy workload, and a short-term food-writing project, which has occupied much of my evenings, and which I think I’ll be able to talk about soon. The longer I go between posting recipes, the guiltier I feel, and the more I convince myself that I need to burst back with something truly awesome. With this recipe, I’ve leant more toward the prosaic, but in a friendly holiday-cooking type of way. Kuchen, the German word for cake, is generally used to describe coffee cakes made from sweet yeast dough.  For me, sweet yeast cakes are classic holiday food.  Later this winter, I’ll wrest from my mother her recipe for Polish poppy seed cake, which she used to make at Christmas time and send to family; for now, I offer this old-fashioned kuchen. Continue reading

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Peach Upside-Down Cake

DSC_0115aThe last of the peaches. Parental scoffing notwithstanding, I found using up 25 pounds of peaches a formidable task. Despite making six quarts of canned peaches, four jars of peach jam, peach salsa, grilled peaches, and freezing a sack of peeled, sliced peaches for future use (a cop-out, I know), last week several bruised, wrinkly peaches, the remnants from my haul, still regarded me forlornly from the dry sink. Continue reading

Rhubarb and Custard Victoria Sponge

DSC_0476bMany apologies for the long hiatus between blog posts. I have been travelling, eating, playing, and of course cooking. I’ve got fun posts coming up, including my new favorite restaurant in Paris and my foodie adventures in Istanbul. But for now I bring you this lovely cake.

I was unfamiliar with that wonderful British classic, the Victoria sponge, until I moved to London. As with many traditional English sweets, this cake is a keeper. In its simplest form, Victoria sponge is just two vanilla sponge cakes, sandwiched around jam and clotted cream, or whipped cream and fresh berries, and dusted with powdered sugar.  But of course this formula can be tweaked in numerous delicious ways. Continue reading

Chocolate Almond Lime Semolina Cake

DSC_0373aThis cake is the happy result of an experiment in gluten-free baking* for my Lovely Flatmate, who is gluten-intolerant, but lacks the willpower to resist my baked goods. It’s based loosely on a Greek cake called Revani, which traditionally is made of a mixture of semolina and almond flour, and sweetened with a sticky orange syrup. My version substitutes lime for the orange and adds plenty of cocoa. It’s a delightful crumbly-but-moist tea cake, with a hint of crunch from the semolina. It meets my ‘specialty diet’ test, meaning that I would bake this cake again for people without dietary restrictions. Lovely Flatmate consumed the entire cake in two days (hurrah! Also, slightly alarming). Continue reading

Dark Chocolate Blood Orange Cake with Blood Orange Buttercream

DSC_0266aThere is something that feels literally magical about the start of blood orange season. A few weeks after the excitement of Christmas and New Year’s has died, when we’ve glumly settled into the January doldrums, being beset by cold toes precludes us from wearing anything but big clumpy shoes, and slushy snow feels rather less than miraculous, the blood oranges suddenly … appear. There they are at the greengrocer’s, putting clementines, humdrum navel oranges and even Sevilla oranges to shame. They’re like visitors from a superior planet. Blood oranges would be irresistible even if they weren’t so glorious-looking, but slicing open a blood orange to reveal its saturated pomegranate-red flesh gives me an almost voyeuristic thrill. So beautiful, so delicious. Continue reading

Lemon Almond Poppy Seed Cake with Lemon Crème Fraiche Glaze

DSC_0855aHappy New Year everyone! Here’s a sweet treat to send you into 2013, a virtual hug from me to you. This is a very easy, very delicious cake. My oven’s finally been repaired (hurrah!) and I wanted to test it with something fairly forgiving. It’s the perfect “I want cake right now!” or “Crap! I’ve got company coming and nothing to feed them!” cake, since it’s ready in 75 minutes or less. Continue reading

Cranberry-Plum Coffee Cake with Ginger and Macadamia Streusel

I’m back in Seattle in the fall, which is one of my favorite times of the year here. Since I arrived last week, at least four separate people have told me that I just missed one of the most spectacular summers in Seattle, but I don’t mind; the skies are dramatic, the leaves are turning, and the Puget Sound and lakes reflect the changeable light so beautifully. I am also house-sitting for a co-worker who has a GORGEOUS home, with incredible views, and a newly remodelled kitchen. Sometimes I love my life.

A friend visited me from Portland this weekend, and on Friday night she tipsily said, “Let’s bake something tomorrow.” (When my friends drink they fantasize about cooking.) Saturday was properly chilly. We went to the farmers market in the morning in search of inspiration and found it in just-picked greengages, damsons, and cranberries. And – in the most beautiful fresh ginger, which was green, rose-pink, and bone-white, and looked like living coral. I’ve never seen anything like it. Continue reading

Apricot Caramel Upside-Down Cake

I’m one of those people who is chronically unable to accept compliments regarding my cooking. I can go further: I am a chronic apologist for my own food. This is such a consistent issue that I made a New Year’s resolution to apologize less and say thank you more.

Resolutions are great in theory but difficult to implement. Last Saturday I baked an apricot caramel upside-down cake for a party. Lovely friend Sophie helped herself to a slice and sat down beside me. “It’s a weird color because I used brown sugar,” I said. Sophie said nothing, and placed a small morsel in her mouth. “It looks dense, but that’s because the caramel soaked into the cake a little. I think I flipped it too early,” I said. With great concentration, Sophie continued to eat her cake. “I was hungover when I baked this cake, so I’m not sure if it’s my best effort,” I said. Sophie said nothing. She delicately took a bit of soft caramelized apricot on her fork and ate it. “Do you think it’s too sweet? I’m worried that it’s too sweet,” I said.

Sophie turned to me. “Let’s start this conversation again. This time, you will only praise your cake,” she said. I thought for a moment. “This is a beautiful cake,” I said. “The apricots are like a sunset over a South Pacific island, turning the water gold. The cake is like a perfumed Spring breeze, like happy memories of childhood,” I said. Sophie looked at me and laughed. She said, “Maybe you should say nothing at all. Then, when someone compliments your cake, you can say, ‘Thank you.’” Continue reading

Blood Orange Olive Oil Cake with Rhubarb-Blood Orange Compote and Creme Anglaise

Olive oil cake is a baking miracle. Those of us (like me) who are used to classic French baking techniques reflexively think of olive oil as a savoury ingredient only. But when olive oil is substituted for butter in cakes, it produces a moist cake with a dense crumb and an incredibly light, fluffy texture, almost like an Asian sponge cake. It’s cake perfection. Since I started baking olive oil cakes, I’ve been playing with various combinations of flavours and ratios of olive oil and flour and eggs and sugar, and this cake is unquestionably my favourite: it’s the lightest and most delicate. Continue reading

Tamarind-Apricot Semolina Cake

It’s National Baking Week! Having dumbly watched National Chocolate Week and National Cupcake Week whizz by without making a thing, I figured it was time to get off my arse and show some, er, British home cook spirit. I have a nascent obsession with tamarind and have been fantasising lately about incorporating tamarind into baking. This cake shows WHY MY HUNCH WAS RIGHT. Continue reading