A Pile of Apple Cake – 24/67

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The problem with claiming you’re good at baking is that people expect you to be good at baking. Ugh. I’ve been setting expectations too high. Nothing good can come of that! 

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So okay, I admit, this cake did not come out of the bundt pan as I would have wished. But! It still tastes amazing. Amazing enough to publicly share on the internet and admit to my vast readership. So, as they’d say on the Great British Bake Off, flavors and texture wonderful, looks like absolute shite. (Do they say that? I haven’t watched it in a couple seasons, but it seems more or less right…)

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We brought this cake pile to a housewarming party. Daniel thought I should dump it into a bowl and call it a crumble, but I insisted on the cake carrying case, with a sad pile of cake roughly in the shape of a bundt. You could still see a couple layers of cake – apples – cake, after all. We definitely got some funny glances from passersby, who looked expectantly into our cake carrying thing (I feel like you have to be pretty proud of your cake to schlep it through the streets of New York usually), expecting to see a masterpiece. And they were instead greeted by a crumbling tower of artfully placed could-be-cake. I made Daniel carry the case. I was too embarrassed. 😦 

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However! The cake was delightfully consumed! And no needs for plates when it looks like this, everyone just dug in with forks or fingers, as if it was pull apart bread. And the hosts even wanted to keep leftovers! I had my leftovers the next day microwaved with ice cream. Could’ve been way worse. So! Make this. But grease TF outta that pan. 

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one night ago: the amazing pasta alla norma from vegetables illustrated was last night’s really really good dinner 
another thing I’ve been cooking: caramelize a shredded zucchini with garlic and olive oil, mix in parmesan, put on pumpernickel toast, top with a fried egg OMG SO GOOD
three years ago: soy-dashi simmered kabocha squash
four years ago: tomatillo peach salsa 

Apple Cake

from my lovely cousin (in-law?) Heidi. Sorry for messing up something beautiful!

6 apples, peeled, cored, and sliced ( a mix of varieties is nice)
5 tablespoons + 2 cups sugar
5 teaspoons cinnamon
3 cups flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup neutral oil
4 eggs
½ cup orange juice
1 tablespoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour (I used spray and IT DID NOT WORK!) a bundt pan. Use a non-decorative bundt pan, for gods sake. Or a tube pan, which I’ve never used, but I think would be perfect for this. Don’t skimp!!

In a big bowl, mix together apple slices, 5 tablespoons sugar, and the cinnamon. Set aside.

In another big bowl, mix together the flour, remaining 2 cups sugar, baking powder, and salt. Make a well in the middle and add the oil, eggs, OJ, and vanilla. Mix everything until well blended. A wooden spoon worked great for this task. 

Spoon ⅓ of the batter into your prepared pan. Add half the apples. Then another layer of batter, the rest of the apples, and finish with batter. (I couldn’t fit all the apples!)

Bake for an hour and a half. Cake should be brown but not dark. Let cool in pan for at least half an hour before removing from pan. Good luck. 

 
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Simple Lemon Berry Cake with Lemon Cream – 12/67

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The past weekend has felt approximately two weeks long. I feel like I just need to document it all so I remember in 20 years what a lazy “stay at home” long weekend was like right before I turned 30. Thanks for joining me for this xanga entry! 

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Friday – Went to grocery store, casually made this cake for tomorrow’s BBQ, meandered to local bookstore and ended up with a copy of Indian-ish which I cannot WAIT to cook from, met friends at a bar and bragged about my new cookbook. Then came home and made a riff on this soba tofu bowl for a dear friend who came over for dinner. After she left, friend from Boston arrived to stay the weekend. Late night catch-up ensued.

IMG_036586F1A670-F948-441E-A6A3-98C406F06CD6Saturday – Coffee and bagels, then a yoga class. Don’t recommend that order. Took ferry(!) to Astoria for lovely rooftop soiree. Brought cake, with frosting in its own refrigerator bag. Not the easiest cake to travel with, but definitely not the worst. Ate my weight in salads and dips and veggie burger (just one, to the chagrin of the hosting couple who are now left with three mediocre frozen patties). Left BBQ early to rush to BAM for a DanceAfrica performance that blew my mind. Home for frozen watermelon drinks and another late night.

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Sunday – brunch and omg this weekend is killing me. How do people maintain this lifestyle? Ask questions later! Let’s go into the city! For Chinatown noodles, a crowded salsa bar, and cocktails around the corner. Another late night.

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Monady – byyye friend, have a safe drive, and oh shit we’re supposed to bring things to a BBQ. I didn’t prepare cake in advance, dang. Whipped together this really delicious artichoke white bean dip (but parsley instead of basil because I thought it went better) and Ottolenghi’s gingery cucumber salad from Plenty, which I thought would complement the various izakaya-style organ meats being grilled. (I cannot attest to its success in doing that, but it was mostly consumed, so I’ll consider it a success.) Then I fell into a stupor on our couch.

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I’m exhausted. And now I go to work. xo, gossip girl.

IMG_2118IMG_2120A couple things about this cake — this is a really easy and really delicious cake to whip together at the last moment if you know someone is coming over. The only tricky ingredient it has is pre-made lemon curd. I bought the Bonne Maman variety, which I’ve been eating with a spoon ever since. It makes a surprisingly luscious topping when beat with fresh whipped cream. Also, I didn’t feel like splurging on fresh berries, as I knew we had a bunch of frozen ones in the fridge. I ended up with half a cup of frozen blueberries, then picked the other half cup out of a bag of mixed frozen berries. A couple blackberries made it in too. They were also delicious. No need to be picky about your fruits. I forgot the demerera sugar on top, but don’t think I missed it.

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I talked about a different blueberry lemon cake recipe on here some years ago. That one is a decadent layer birthday cake, not to be confused with this delicate, weekday-afternoon-appropriate version. Both are hella delicious.

Simple Blueberry Lemon Cake with Lemon Cream aka the Best Psuedo-Frosting

from my friend Liz!

1 cup flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
⅔ cup sugar
zest of one lemon (about 1 ½ teaspoons)
½ stick (4 tablespoons) butter, room temp
½ teaspoon (or a bit more) pure vanilla extract
1 large egg
¼ cup plain Greek yogurt (whole or 2%)
¼ cup milk
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries (no need to thaw)
1 ½ tablespoons turbinado sugar (I forgot this…)
fresh berries to serve (optional)

Lemon Cream

I doubled the original recipe and did not regret it. This is the ratio I used —

½ cup heavy whipping cream
4 tablespoons store-bought lemon curd

Preheat oven to 400F. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch cake pan (I used springform but it isn’t necessary). Cut out a circle of parchment paper for the bottom of the pan.

Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.

Put the sugar and lemon zest in a big bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix together with your fingertips to combine, until the mixture is sand-like and smells like lemon candy. Add the butter and beat for 3ish minutes on medium-high speed, until light and fluffy. (I used my Kitchenaid but hand mixer should work fine.) Beat in vanilla and the egg until combined. Add yogurt and beat well.

At low speed, beat in half the flour. Then add milk and beat until just combined. Add rest of the flour and mix until just combined.

Pour batter evenly into prepared cake pan. Scatter berries on top and sprinkle with the turbinado sugar. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until cake is golden-brown and a tester comes out clean.

Let cool for 10 minutes in pan, then invert onto a rack. Peel off parchment and let cool all the way. Invert again onto a nice plate.

Meanwhile, back with your mixer, beat together the whipped cream and the lemon curd until creamy and thick. This took 3ish minutes for me. Texture should be the consistency of yogurt. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

Dollop lemon cream on top of completely cooled cake. Top with fresh berries, if you’d like. Let your guests gush over how good this simple cake is.

Liz’s notes:

  • You can substitute ½ cup buttermilk for the yogurt and milk
  • This cake bakes quickly. (true!) Start checking it at 20 minutes.
  • Cake can be made one day in advance — just wrap it well in saran wrap overnight. Lemon curd can be made 8 hours in advance and stored in an airtight container in the fridge.

Blueberry Lemon Buttermilk Cake with Ginger Cream Cheese Frosting

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You know, I’ve always been averse to baking professionally because, well, I’ve already tried to turn one of my passions into a career and I’m not sure I’m the better for it (sarcastic thanks to high school theater teachers who gave me too much encouragement).  Also I like having a stress reliever which doesn’t keep me up at night, memorizing lines and reevaluating life choices. AND which tastes delicious and makes people happy. Seriously, everyone likes being made a cake. Not everyone likes sitting through experimental clowning meditations on life and Brecht.

Daniel had a birthday and so of course I made a cake (also we’re going to a knife skills class today that I couldn’t be more excited about!). Mmm. The flavor combination came from a blueberry-ginger-almond biscotti we were selling at work and that everyone raved about. But alas, as I am almond-digesting deficient, I had to translate the flavor combo to an acceptable alternative. And hence was born the blueberry (and lemon) buttermilk cake with ginger (cream cheese) frosting. The parts in parenthesis were not part of the original plan but I’m glad they finagled their way in to the final picture.

I did no innovating here, just combined recipes scourged from across the vast blogosphere. Thank you, baking blog ladies, for creating such lovely recipes! I got the layer cake recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction (it stayed moist for DAYS!), and the fresh ginger frosting from blahnik baker.  No need for me to post their already-perfect recipes, but I urge you to check them out and then combine them! And then cover the result with crystallized ginger and invite a bunch of friends over.

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And while I’m at it, here’s the lovely cake I made myself for my birthday last August — Joy the Baker’s oreo-strawberry bonanza piled high with slightly-too-sweet oreo buttercream frosting. Everyone needs cake on their birthdays, even (especially) if you make it yourself. Even my dentist agrees, who gave me a slice of cake after my 9 am birthday dental session! I think he felt really, really bad.

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I think I’ll stay an amateur cake maker for now, but I have a pretty good photo collection going on if I change my mind someday, right??

10 Summer Foodie Moments

1. My birthday: always deep in August, when summer is winding down. This year spent on Fire Island, grilling everything possible, going to the beach every day, and winning the local trivia bar night. Which led to free beer koozies, fire ball shots, and maybe some inappropriate ocean usage. Shh.

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2. My roommate had a thriving roof top garden! We ate so many fresh tomatoes and herbs in everything. Herbs make the world go ’round.

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3. My uncle turned 60 and had a surprise birthday! I was commissioned to make a cake, and you can never go wrong with a smitten kitchen classic. 

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4. Daniel and I spent the Fourth of July with his family in Texas. We went to a real bonafide Texan Rib-B-Q! This Northerner Jewish vegetarian was out of her comfort zone. (But I did consume a “cowboy cauldron” rib and enjoy it thoroughly.) (Also please note Daniel’s impressive plate.) We also went on a road trip for kolaches! Aka Czech/Texan baked donuts, either savory or sweet. (Get a really good version in NY at Brooklyn Kolache Company.)

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IMG_12995. Yesterday I ate a pretty awesome bagel, just because. From Black Seed Bagels, a trendy new Lower East Side place. It was after a pretty terrifying audition for a Chase Bank commercial, which happened accidentally by being scouted at my current employment bakery. Everyone else there was a 6′ sexy European model, so I would say my bagel was justified.

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6. In other cooking news, my CSA made me pretty darn proficient at cooking Swiss Chard. Especially here, as part of a complete breakfast. And also rhubarb! As a crucial part of this stewed honey rhubarb and fresh mint ice cream experience.

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7. My mom and sister came to town! A highlight was our dinner at Fat Radish, followed by amazing strange dessert at Mango Mango Dessert (probably the worst website I’ve come across recently and by that I mean BEST). I love nothing more that sticky sweet fruity ricey desserts in the middle of summer. Mmm.

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8. Many mid-day World Cup watching sessions turned into mid-day snack quests. Enter: the macaroni and cheese pizza. Aka the baked ziti pizza. Aka maccheeziti pizza. Yup, that entire slice happened.

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9. At the beginning of the summer, Daniel’s brother and sister-in-law joined us for a week of eating, climbing, and exploring. One highlight was mac and cheese night–we used our favorite recipe from Homeroom in Oakland as the base, and made it our own with smoked gouda, fontina, cheddar, and parmesan. Love any excuse to make mac.

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10. For recent birthday celebrations, my awesome friends joined me for a park picnic. Daniel, (at my request), popped his layer cake virginity with this beautiful creation. We had to even out the bottom layer, and so it became a cake cookie. I made Ottolenghi’s carrot salad, and my amazing friends made tomato quinoa salad, potato salad, nectarine & mozzarella salad, deviled eggs, sangria, etc. I’m a lucky lady. photo 1photo 1

Here’s to hoping fall is just as delicious! Apple-everything: I’m ready for you.

 

 

Mostly-Rhubarb, Really Easy, Cake

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When your college best friend moves to Chicago and becomes part of a traveling puppet company, the least you can do is make the whole lot of them dinner when they and their giant van come rolling through Brooklyn. The play, which was a beautiful, shadow-puppet-filled ode to eccentric friendships, impossible ambitions, and unexpected loneliness, filled me with admiration for this roving band of puppeteers and their realized vision. They had ravenous appetites, but I guess hours in a van with bell pepper and beef jerky sandwiches *ew* can do that you. We had a delicious and quickly cobbled together meal of pasta, homemade sauce, CSA salad, focaccia, and beer.

This recipe is not at all related to that meal.

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Except for, too-long after the fact, I discovered a forgotten bowl of strawberries in the nether region of the fridge that had been intended for dessert that night. It was discovered when I had already embarked upon a late-night rhubarb cake endeavor, to find I was half-a-cup short on fruit. And then, lo and behold, somehow Fridge God came through with these miraculously still-intact berries, who were begging me to hang out with their edgier counterparts. And obviously I acquiesced, since the smell of buttery rhubarb and strawberries having a juice cleanse in a sauna at midnight thirty is the stuff of which dreams are made.

…as are, apparently, giant spiders in a forgotten mansion haunting the prince of England, who is courting my sister…

….or, if you’re Daniel, an amputated hand of a salsa dancing acquaintance…

Dreams. Weird.

rhubarbcake ingredients

Mostly Rhubarb Cake
barely adapted from The Seaside Baker

1 cup plus 2 tbsp flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
2/3 cup granulated sugar, plus 2 tbsp for top of rhubarb
3 eggs
3 tbsp butter, melted
2 tbsp buttermilk, but I used Mexican sour cream because that’s what was in the fridge, and it totally worked!
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups diced rhubarb and strawberries, mostly rhubarb
zest from 1 lemon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix together diced rhubarb, strawberries, and lemon zest. Let sit.

Mix eggs and 2/3 cup of sugar with a fork until frothy. Add melted butter, vanilla, and buttermilk. Stir in flour, baking powder and salt and mix to combine.

Cut out a parchment paper circle to fit either a 8 or 9 inch cake pan (use whatever you have!). Pour batter into the prepared pan and sprinkle fruit over the top. Then sprinkle 2 tbsp sugar evenly atop the fruit. Don’t scrimp on or skip this step! The sugar helps the fruit becomes all jammy and delicious during baking.

Bake for 35-45 minutes, or until a knife comes out clean. Eat warm and swoon.

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I baked this cake on a Monday night. Came back Wednesday morning and found an empty pan in the drain board and this in the fridge:

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Awww how sweet, the roommates saved me the last piece!