The name ‘pound cake‘ comes from the fact that the original pound cake contained one pound each butter, sugar, eggs and flour. Originally, no leaveners were used in the cake except for the air whipped into the batter. It was only in the 1900’s that artificial leaveners like baking soda and baking powder were added to reduce the density of the cake. Other variations include the addition of flavoring extracts like vanilla and almond or dried fruits such as cranberries or currants. At times, some or all of the butter was substituted by a cooking or vegetable oil to obtain a moist cake.
One of the most popular variations is the sour cream pound cake. The butter is substituted by sour cream to moisten the cake and also get a tinge of a tangy flavor. Despite all these variations which alter the characteristics and the flavor of the cake drastically, the name pound cake is still used today.
Raspberry Swirl Pound Cake
Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly butter or line pan of choice with parchment paper. (loaf pan or a Bundt pan)).
In a bowl, cream butter & sugar with an electric mixer until pale & fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add salt, vanilla & sour cream.
In a small bowl, whisk together flour & baking powder. Combine wet & dry ingredients, then beat on low for about a minute.
Transfer about 1/3 of batter to another bowl. Add raspberry preserves & beat until combined. Add 2-3 drops red gel food color if desired. To remaining batter, add lemon juice & beat until combined.
To preferred baking pan, add a layer of white batter then alternate between pink & white batter. Use a knife to swirl the batters together but don't overdo it or you will end up without a marble effect.
Bake for 60-65 minutes or until a skewer inserted in center of cake comes out clean. If top browns too quickly, lightly cover with a piece of foil paper.
Allow cake to cool in pan for 15 minutes, then remove pan & finishing cooling on a wire rack.
In a small bowl, beat cream cheese for about 20 seconds on medium speed. Add powdered sugar & mix to combine well. Drizzle frosting over cooled cake, slice & serve.
- My choice of baking pans were some mini Bundt pans. I thought they made a nice individual presentation.
It’s summer and there’s nothing better than the simple sweetness of fresh fruit. Barbecues are the highlight of the season and no doubt you will be making numerous ‘cool’ desserts.
I realize fruit marinated in alcohol is not for just any barbecue, but if it fits the occasion, it adds a nice finishing touch. Marinating fruit in alcohol is nothing new. Many cuisines have special recipes that include dried fruits such as raisins, currants and prunes. You can create endless combinations using fresh fruit with wine, spirits or liqueurs. Of course, the added bonus is this dessert does not require you to turn on your oven.
Limoncello is a traditional digestif of southern Italy, where the lemon trees give an abundance of bright, yellow fruit. The drink concentrates the flavor of those fresh golden fruits, making it the perfect palate cleanser after a rich meal. If you wish, store it in the freezer and serve it over ice.
Fruit is thirsty stuff and will soak up basically any kind of wine or liqueur you chose to pour over it. Put together your own personal ‘magical’ concoction and enjoy!
Fruit Salad w/ Limoncello
In a bowl, whisk together yogurt, lemon curd, honey & vanilla; set aside at room temperature.
Prepare & carefully toss fruit together with sugar & limoncello. Allow them to stand at room temperature for about 5 minutes to let fruit macerate with sugar & liqueur.
Serve in dessert dishes with a dollop of lemon yogurt on top. Garnish with a sprig of mint.
- If limoncello isn't what you enjoy, other suggestions would be cognac, grand marnier, marsala or Kahlua.
HAPPY VALENTINES DAY!
Chocolate & strawberries not only add a touch of decadence but are the quintessential Valentine treat. These little chocolate lava cakes not only look and taste great, but they’re pretty quick and easy to make. You don’t need any special equipment, just a couple of bowls and a whisk and the recipe only makes two.
As always, I wondered about where the idea had originated. It seems the first known cake with a deliberately runny center is the ‘Tunnel of Fudge Cake’… the second place winner of a Pillsbury bake-off contest in 1966. Invented by Texan homemaker, Ella Helfrich, the cake is a walnut-flecked Bundt cake with a wet fudge center, which Ella achieved by the pretty ingenious inclusion of powdered frosting. The original recipe called for Pillsbury’s Double Dutch Dry Frosting Mix, which would, in the oven, cook into a runny, pudding like tunnel. The cake recipe became a cultural icon and put Bundt pans, (which had been created in the ’50s but were never particularly popular) in mass demand.
In 1987, a chef in New York city, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, was credited with ‘inventing’ the lava cake but this has been disputed as Jacques Torres, a French chef & chocolatier, says that the lava cake already existed in France before that time. As time has passed there have been many versions adapted to the original idea which mostly include the variations on the fillings. Instead of the chocolate fillings, other flavors like lemon, caramel, strawberry and orange can be found.
I think these White Chocolate Strawberry Lava Cakes will make the perfect ending for our Valentines supper.
White Chocolate Strawberry Lava Cakes
In a blender, process strawberries then press mixture through a fine mesh sieve over a bowl; discard seeds. In a saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Pour in strained strawberry puree. Allow mixture to come to a boil & bubble until slightly thickened, about 6 minutes.
Melt white chocolate with butter. You can do it in the microwave with 30 second breaks or over a double boiler. Blend well.
Preheat oven to 375 F. Butter & flour 2 - 6 oz ramekins; set aside.
In a bowl, whisk together eggs, egg white, sugar, salt, vanilla, lemon juice & zest.
Add chocolate/butter mixture then flour; combine. Add strawberry puree & coloring (if using); blend.
Divide batter between the 2 ramekins & bake for about 15-20 minutes. Make sure not to OVERBAKE or you won't have the lava effect.
Sprinkle with powdered sugar & serve with any extra puree if you wish. For an extra treat, top with some dipped strawberries.
Recently we purchased a bag of apples that turned out to be a bit too mealy to eat fresh. Making them into applesauce seemed like the best solution to the problem. One thing for sure, there’s no shortage of ways to make use it it, from an oatmeal stir-in to a pork meat accompaniment.
Baking with applesauce to replace some or all of the fat adds fiber and reduces calories in cakes, muffins and breads. Because of its water content, it will also help keep baked goods moist and fresh longer. Applesauce acts like the fat because it keeps the flour protein from mixing completely with the wet ingredients and forming a rubbery texture. I’ve noticed that sometimes you need to lengthen your baking time a bit when using applesauce.
Over the years there have been countless recipes for various pudding cakes. While baking, the cake portion rises to the top and a creamy pudding-like sauce forms on the bottom. This fall version does not disappoint.
Carrot Pudding Cake
Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray a 9 x 9-inch baking dish with baking spray.
Using a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, sugar & spices.
In a medium bowl, whisk together applesauce, milk, melted butter, vanilla & grated carrots. Gradually whisk the wet ingredients into dry ingredients; scrape batter into baking dish.
In a small bowl, whisk together white & brown sugar & either chopped walnuts or whole pepita seeds. Sprinkle over batter. Carefully pour the hot water over the top.
Bake for 45-55 minutes or until middle is set. After removing from oven, allow to cool for 10 before serving with ice cream or whipped cream.
If you can’t have a tropical vacation at this time, why not enjoy some of the tropics in the form of dessert!
You may never have thought fruits were destined for you’re roasting pan. Although it does demand a bit of time and work, the return is worth it. Try it once and you will do it over and over again.
Fruit is a highly versatile item and its uses go far beyond a mere snack. During the summer months, grilled fruit is often a tasty end to a barbeque. Grilling caramelizes the fruits natural sugars and brings out the sweetness. During winter or colder months, continue the same process indoors by roasting and broiling fruit in the oven.
For the tarts on this blog, I roasted the fruit in the oven with a bit of extra butter and brown sugar as well as some spices to enhance the flavor. Another idea would be to arrange fruit slices on the filled tarts and sprinkle them with a bit of sugar. Then place tarts under the broiler until sugar bubbles and browns …. your choice!
Roasted Tropical Fruit Tarts
In a bowl combine butter & sugar, beat until light & fluffy. In another bowl whisk together flour & baking powder & add to butter/sugar mixture. Blend together.
Divide pastry between 6 individual tart pans. Using your fingertips, evenly press the dough into pans. Place on a baking sheet & blind bake for 10 minutes or until golden. Remove from oven & prepare custard & fruit.
Vanilla Cream Custard
In a small saucepan, bring milk to a simmer. In a bowl, whisk together sugar, cornstarch & salt. Add egg; whisk until blended.
Gradually whisk hot milk mixture into egg mixture. Return to same saucepan; whisk over medium heat until sauce thickens & boils, about 5 minutes. Whisk in vanilla & remove from heat to cool.
Roasted Tropical Fruit
Preheat oven to 450 F. Peel & thinly slice fruit.
In a small saucepan, melt butter & add brown sugar, salt, ginger, cinnamon, cardamom & vanilla; mix well.
Line a baking sheet with foil paper. Place sliced fruit on it & pour butter/sugar mixture over it. Gently turn fruit over to make sure all is evenly coated.
Bake for about 20-25 minutes, flipping over about half way through. The fruit is done when it turns a rich golden & begins to brown BEFORE it starts to blacken.
Place pastry shells on a serving platter. Divide vanilla custard between tart shells. Top with roasted tropical fruit & serve. Any extra fruit can be enjoyed just as a dish of fruit or with yogurt.
‘Speculaas‘ is actually not just a flavor that’s known in the Netherlands. In Germany & Austria its called ‘spekulatius’ and in Belgium & France it s called ‘speculoos’.
I love spices and everything about them …. their history, their applications and how they can add such a depth of flavor to cooking and baking. I first became aware of this Dutch spice mix (speculaaskruiden) some years ago. It isn’t the same as British Mixed Spice or American Pumpkin Pie Spice but they are similar as they share many of the same ingredients. The smell of speculaaskruiden is amazing …. a deliciously warm and woody aroma. Making your own is not difficult but it does require about nine different spices.
In the mid 18th century, the recipe for ‘spekulatius’ made its way to Germany from Holland. The origin of the cookies name may have derived from the Latin word ‘spekulum’, signifying ‘mirror image’, which alludes to the wooden mold whose mirror image appears on the cookie.
In the course of time, many recipes using speculaas spices have been created. For many German folk, spekulatius are as much a part of Christmas as are Christmas trees. Sometimes bakers make dough three months in advance so the flavor will permeate the dough thoroughly.
As the holiday season approaches, I thought it would be nice to try incorporating the speculaas spice into some breakfast scones. I didn’t have any wooden molds so I baked them in those little sandbakkel tins I had spoke of in a blog at the end of November (Fig, Pear & Gorgonzola Tartlets). The flavor and tenderness of the scones is just amazing.
German Spekulatius Scones
Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, combine orange zest, sugar & spice mix. Set aside 1 Tbsp. of sugar mixture reserving it for the tops.
To the remaining orange/sugar, add flour, oat flour, baking powder, baking soda & salt; mix well. Add butter, cutting in until mixture forms fine crumbs.
In a small bowl, whisk together sour cream, eggs & vanilla, blending well. Add to flour mixture; stir ONLY until soft dough forms.
Drop by heaping 1/4 cupful's, 2-inches apart on to baking sheet. Sprinkle with reserved sugar mixture & sprinkle with almonds. Alternately you can use some baking tins as I did in which case only use a couple of Tbsp per scone.
Bake 15-20 minutes (for the larger size) or until scones are golden on top. Remove to wire rack to cool. Serve warm or at room temperature.
HOMEMADE SPECULAAS SPICE MIX: (yield: 6 Tbsp)
- 5 Tbsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp EACH nutmeg & cloves
- 1/2 tsp EACH ground aniseed, white pepper, ground coriander, ginger, cardamom & mace
- Mix spices together & either use right away or store in an airtight jar.
- This recipe can easily be incorporated into many recipes or just make the amount you need.
Baking Christmas cookies is a customary activity of the season around the world. The tradition itself, can be sourced all the way back to the monasteries of the Middle Ages, when monks baked different sweets and breads in observance of this anticipated religious season.
Germany being a religious country, often the baking begins at the start of Advent (November 29th/20), or around the time of St. Nickolas Day and continues in preparation for Christmas. Many families still observe recipe traditions that go back several generations.
Germany’s ‘Weihnachtsplatzchen‘ is actually an umbrella term referring to authentic German Christmas biscuits more broadly and it encapsulates a number of festive treats. An all time favorite, the ‘melt-in-your-mouth’ cookie being one of them.
Twelve years ago (2008), Oreo cookies were all but unknown to Germany. The beloved black (or deep brown) and white, twistable sandwich cookies have been a staple in North American pantries for a century, but now have made inroads in Europe.
These German Oreo (melt-in-your-mouth) Shortbread cookies are a unique spin on the classic version.
German Oreo Shortbread Cookies
In a bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch, Oreo crumbs (or cookies) & cardamom. Set aside.
In a large bowl, cream butter with powdered sugar; add vanilla & mix well. Add Oreo/flour mixture; mix only enough to blend. DO NOT overmix.
Between two sheets of parchment paper, roll dough into a 12-inch circle. Crimp edges by pressing edge of pastry with finger & then pinching together.
Using a 3-inch round cookie cutter, cut a circle in the center of dough. Cut round into 12-14 wedges, from circle to outer edges. Prick shortbread in a pattern with a fork. Slide a cookie sheet under the parchment that the cookie round is on & refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Remove from refrigerator & decorate if you wish. Bake for about 18-22 minutes. When baked, recut wedges if necessary & cool on a wire rack before storing in an airtight container.
When most people mention biscotti, they actually mean a specific type of Italian cookie called ‘cantuccini’. Italians use the term biscotti to refer to any type of crunchy cookie, round, square and otherwise as the British use the word biscuit. Here in North America, biscotti refers to a specific type of Italian cookie, derived from the ‘Tuscan cantuccini‘, which is a hard, almond flavored cookie that is baked twice and usually served with the sweet Italian dessert wine, Vino Santo. This wine is loved for its intense flavors of hazelnut and caramel. When paired with biscotti, Vino Santo is inarguably Italy’s most famous welcoming tradition. What makes this wine truly special is the natural winemaking process which gives it a unique taste.
The word biscotti derives from ‘bis’, Latin for twice, and ‘coctum’ or baked (which became ‘cotto’, or cooked).
The original biscotti was created by a bakery in Prato, Italy. Cantuccini became a staple in the Tuscan cities of Florence and Prato then spread throughout the Italian peninsula. Tuscan biscotti are flavored with almonds from the plentiful almond groves of Prato. From the original recipe it expanded to lemon flavored dough as well as other flavors and spices with additions such as raisins, dried fruits and peels to chocolate morsels and nuts.
Biscotti have been baked for centuries and its iconic texture was the perfect for for sailors who were at sea for months. In modern times, biscotti range in texture from very hard to somewhat spongy and more cake-like. First, the sticky dough is shaped into a log and baked until firm. After a short cooling period, the log is sliced into diagonal pieces and baked again to cook out the moisture and produce the crisp, dry-textured cookie with a longer shelf life. The classic recipe has no butter or oil, using only eggs to bind the ingredients together. They are typically made in a 3, 5 or 7-inch size.
I have to be honest, biscotti has never been one of my ‘go-to’ cookie recipes. But, for something quick and easy, I decided to make a small recipe using two of my favorite ingredients …. anise seed & citron peel. Brion & I tried dipping them in wine and we realized we have been missing out on something real good!!
Anise Citron Biscotti
In a bowl, combine oil & sugar followed by vanilla & eggs.
In another bowl, combine flour, salt, baking powder & anise seed then gradually stir this mixture into the egg mixture. Lastly, fold in citron peel.
Divide dough in half & form into two logs (about 6"x 2"). Place logs on a parchment lined baking sheet.
Bake for about 30-35 minutes; remove from oven & set aside to cool for about 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 275 F.
Cut logs on the diagonal into 3/4-inch thick slices. Lay the slices on their sides on lined baking sheet.
Bake for another 20-25 minutes, turning halfway through baking time.
Cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes, then carefully transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling. Store in an airtight container.
We are now officially into fall, so its time to think in terms of a bit of pumpkin. I had not considered pumpkin as part of a sandwich cookie before, but oatmeal with pumpkin and cream cheese makes good sense to me. There’s more to oatmeal cookies than the recipe on the Quaker Oats box. In fact there’s a lot of amazing combinations out there but first a bit of food history.
Oatmeal cookies evolved from oatcakes, a type of plain flatbread made centuries ago by the British and the Scots. Raisins and nuts were added to the mix somewhere around the Middle Ages to make them tastier. When oatmeal cookies became elevated to the ranks of ‘health food’, a recipe for them appeared on containers of Quaker Oats. These recipes were circulated widely and oatmeal cookies were soon common in households throughout North America.
An important part of these cookies lies in the spices. Rather than using a pre-made ‘pumpkin pie spice’, I like to give them a personal touch by using my own combination. This way, you can control the flavor better. Feel free to adjust the spice mix to suit your taste or just simply go with cinnamon.
Oatmeal Pumpkin Sandwich Cookies
In a small bowl, whisk together spice mix combination from recipe notes & set aside.
In a bowl, beat together cream cheese & butter until smooth. Add in pumpkin & mix until fully incorporated. Add remaining spice mixture & powdered sugar about 1/4 cup at a time, allowing each prior amount to fully mix into the filling before adding more.
Spread or pipe filling on half of the cooled cookies & top with remaining cookies. This recipe makes 5 dozen filled cookies so you may want to freeze some.
- Spice Mixture Recipe (2 1/8 tsp):
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp EACH nutmeg & cloves
- 1/8 tsp EACH ginger, cardamom & white pepper
- 1/4 tsp ground star anise