Sour Cream Coffee Cake

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Today we are expecting the newest addition to our family.  Although given who his father is, it’s unlikely that he’ll be on time.  Nevertheless, while we wait, why don’t we have a cup of coffee and this lovely moist coffee Bundt cake?  This is a Sara Lee creation I got from What’s for Dinner?

Preheat your oven to 350°F and generously butter and flour a large Bundt pan.

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Mix together 1/3 cup brown sugar, 1/4 cup granulated sugar, 1 teaspoon cinnamon and 1 cup chopped nuts (I used pecans).  This is your streusel topping.  Set that aside for now.

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In a large bowl, mix together 1 cup softened butter and 1 cup sugar until fluffy.

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Add in 2 eggs, one at a time, and beat until well combined.

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Sift together 2 cups flour, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1 teaspoon baking powder, and 2 teaspoons cinnamon, and chuck those into the bowl as well.

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Stir in 1 cup sour cream and 2 teaspoons vanilla until the batter is fully mixed.

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I decided that I wanted my Bundt cake to be right side up so I layered half my streusel mix into the bottom of the Bundt before putting half the batter on top.

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Then you add the second half of the topping and more batter.  If you want to do it the other way it will be easier but your cake will be upside down, that’s all.  Doing it my way meant that the streusel on the top of the cake caramelized a bit.

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Bake the thing for about 40 minutes, until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.  Let it cool completely before tipping out onto a plate.

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Because my topping caramelized, it stuck a bit to the pan, and so to cover it up I made a bit of frosting to go on top out of butter, icing sugar, vanilla, and a bit of cream.   That’s it!

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Pie’s Nerdy Birthday Cake

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Yesterday the Pie turned 31, which he wasn’t really looking forward to, because now for the rest of the year he can’t tell everyone who will listen that I’m older than he is (BY FOUR MEASLY MONTHS).  Honestly, the next time someone calls me a “cradle robber” I’m going to punch him or her in the ear.  With my ring hand.

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I was originally just going to make him a wee cake (because it’s just the two of us and we’re moving shortly) but then Fussellette, who will use any excuse to have a barbecue, made an occasion of the thing and so a bunch of us went downstairs and ate grilled food and drank beverages and had cake — so obviously I had to make a slightly bigger cake.

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Gren also likes Nerds.

The Pie loves all things vanilla, so I decided on a sour cream pound cake, a traditional dish I hadn’t tried before.  I’m used to the regular ol’ normal pound cake.  Now, this recipe will yield two loaf pans’ worth of pound cake, or one ~10″ Bundt or tube pan worth.  I’m going with the loaf pan, so I can freeze the other half of this cake for when we celebrate with my parents in a few weeks (also, I packed my Bundt pans).  As always when making cakes, it’s a good idea to butter your pans and line them with parchment paper (if possible) to ensure that you don’t get anything stuck.  With a Bundt or tube pan it’s good practice to butter the thing and then dust it with flour.  Also, for a nice fluffy cake, allow all your ingredients to come to room temperature before you make this sucker.

So.  Butter and paper and butter your pans and preheat your oven to 325°F.

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Sift together 1/4 teaspoon baking soda with 3 cups cake and pastry flour (which I didn’t have, so I substituted 2 tablespoons flour in each cup with 2 tablespoons corn starch).

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And actually I didn’t sift this, either, because I packed my sifter.  Anyway, set that aside for now.

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Using an electric mixer (or very powerful and fast-moving arms), beat 1 cup butter together with 2 cups granulated sugar until the mixture is pale and fluffy.

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Add 6 eggs, one at a time, to the butter/sugar mixture, beating until each one is combined, and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add in 1 tablespoon vanilla extract.

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Now, tip in half your flour mixture and stir that until combined.

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Then dump in 1 cup (full fat) sour cream and stir that in, too.

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And now the rest of your flour.  Combine that carefully.

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Try not to flick batter everywhere.  Evidently, I failed.

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Spoon this very thick batter into your pan and smooth the top.  You’re going to want to bake this for at least an hour, probably more if you’ve done it in one pan.  Go for 60 minutes at first, and then check it every 5 minutes after that until a tester inserted in the centre comes out clean.

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When the cake is done, let it cool completely on a wire rack before tipping it out of the pan.  Tipping out a hot cake is a good way to get yourself a broken cake.

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So there’s your cake.  If you wish, you can leave it at that.  But this is a birthday cake! I took one of them and wrapped it up for freezing.

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So we’re going to make some icing.  Our standard cream cheese frosting is a perennial favourite, and it’s very simple.

Beat together 1 cup butter with 1 250g (8oz) package plain cream cheese (room temperature) until fully combined.

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Beat in as well 1 tablespoon vanilla (or any other flavouring you wish). Then carefully stir in at least 2 cups icing sugar (you will probably want a bit more to get the consistency you like).

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Then I sliced the cake in half horizontally.

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I filled the gap with a raspberry jam.

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Then I iced it, but only the sides at first.  Why?  Because I was going to do THIS.  But instead of sprinkles, because sprinkles are gross, I’m going to use Nerds.

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If you’ve never heard of Nerds, they’re basically small crystals of sugar coated with a sour neon candy crust.  They come in wee rectangular boxes and are a childhood favourite of pretty much everyone in my generation, because you used to be able to buy two boxes for fifty cents at the corner store.

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Fortunately for us, in the Super Size Me generation, you can now buy Nerds in giant boxes.  I wasn’t sure how many Nerds I would need for this, so I bought two boxes.  I can always rot my teeth on the other box if it isn’t needed.

So.  Spread your Nerds out in a flat rimmed dish (like a baking sheet or a dinner plate) with enough room to lay your whole cake.

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Pick your cake up and hold it by the bottom and the top (the unfrosted ends) and, working one side at a time, press the sides into the Nerds to make them stick to the frosting.

Set the cake back down and frost the top, being careful not to disturb the sides. Now I should have refrigerated my cake between frosting it and nerdifying it, so that’s why it’s all squishy and demented. Make sure you do that. Also, I discovered that my wee hands were no match for the size of this cake, so that may have added to the dementedness.

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Sprinkle the top with Nerds until it’s evenly coated.  Press them down a bit to make sure they stick.

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Chill the cake until serving. Even slightly demented, it was still mighty tasty!

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Root Beer Bundt Cake

Potluck
Potluck insanity. Too many tall friends.

Every year during the winter holidays we get together with our Ottawa friends and have a potluck.  We started doing this when we were all students because it was the one day we could guarantee that we were all in town at the same time and we could spend some time together.  We even get fancy with the planning, starting with a Doodle scheduler to pick the right date (if you’ve never used their free software to make an appointment, check it out).  Then we set up a Google spreadsheet to figure out who is bringing what, to ensure that not everyone arrives with chips and dip and that the people who are bringing appetizers don’t show up just as we’re starting dessert.  Inevitably the spreadsheet gets hacked by someone (or everyone) and chaos ensues.  Graphs and pie charts and graffiti abound.  It’s madness.  But fun.  This year the Pie and I decided to host, and as each person brings a dish, this was the Pie’s contribution to the festivities: Baked’s Root Beer Bundt Cake.

Root Beer Bundt Cake

He’s made it before, for my birthday, and it’s always a favourite.  Anything Baked does is a favourite with us.  The problem is that because I was busy doing my own thing and making a superb leek and leftover turkey pie (which I will save as a post until the next turkey-related holiday), I didn’t actually get a chance to photograph the finished product.  So you’ll just have to guess as to what it looked like.  Sorry.

Now, the recipe calls for 2 cups root beer to go into the batter.  Don’t you dare use diet root beer — you’ll regret it enormously.  Use a stronger-tasting brew like Dad’s or Stewart’s or even Barq’s to get the best flavour, and feel free to replace some of the liquid with a root beer schnapps or even a tablespoon or two of root beer extract.  Not having any of these things, however, the Pie decided to make himself a root beer concentrate.

Root Beer Bundt Cake

He started by pouring two cans of root beer into a pot. Then he simmered it for about half an hour to boil off the water and reduce the liquid.

Root Beer Bundt Cake

The resulting fluid is dark and opaque, and we hoped it would enhance the flavour of the cake when added to the regular root beer.

Root Beer Bundt Cake

While you’re doing that, preheat your oven to 325°F.  Generously butter a large bundt cake pan.  Dust the inside with flour and knock out the excess.  If you don’t have a bundt pan you can make this in an angel food pan.  If you have to make it in a pan that doesn’t have a hole in the middle you will need to cook it a bit longer and keep an eye on it so the bottom doesn’t burn.

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In a small saucepan, melt together 2 cups root beer, 1 cup cocoa, and 1/2 cup butter and stir until the mixture is smooth.

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Add in 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar and 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar and whisk that until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is smooth.

Root Beer Bundt Cake

Root Beer Bundt Cake

Remove that from the heat and allow to cool a little bit. You want it to cool a bit (enough that you can poke your finger in it and it will be nice and warm but not hot) because you’re about to add in 2 lightly beaten eggs. And if you add the eggs in while it’s still hot they will cook on their own and that will be super gross.

Root Beer Bundt Cake

Add the eggs in and whisk thoroughly.

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In a big bowl, whisk together 2 cups flour with 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda.

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Gently pour the chocolate mixture into the flour mixture and fold with a spatula until just combined.

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You don’t want pockets of flour or anything but you want the batter to still be a mite lumpy.

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Pour that into your prepared bundt pan and bake for 35-40 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through, until you can stick a skewer into it and it comes out clean.

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Set that puppy on a rack to cool completely.

Root Beer Bundt Cake

In the meantime, you can make your root beer fudge frosting. In another bowl, whisk together 2oz melted dark chocolate and 1/2 cup room temperature butter. Add in as well 1/4 cup root beer, 2/3 cup cocoa, and 2 1/2 cups confectioner’s (icing) sugar and beat until smooth.

Root Beer Bundt Cake

When you cake is cooled, plaster on that icing in a haphazardly charming manner and eat it all up. Cover what’s left over in plastic wrap and keep up to a week at room temperature.  Sorry again that I have no pictures.  It disappeared! Instead you can have a picture of Gren in the Christmas hat that he hates.

Gren on Couch

Toffee Bundt Cake

I got tired of making cookies and squares for my research participants, so one weekend I pulled out this toffee cake, also from January’s Canadian Living magazine.

It’s moist and rich and sweet and satisfying, and for all that is pretty easy to concoct. It’s really good warm, but keeps up to three days.

So let’s begin, shall we?

Take yourself a 12oz/375g package of dried, pitted dates and plop them in a saucepan with 2 1/2 cups water

Bring the water to a boil and stir it around a bit, then let it cool.

Mash up the dates until smooth.  I found this was easiest in a food processor.

Preheat your oven to 350°F.  Grease a 10″ or 3L Bundt pan (you know, the one with the fluted sides and a hole in the middle).

In a large bowl, beat together 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar, 1/2 cup softened butter, and 1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated lemon rind until light and fluffy. 

One at a time, beat in 4 eggs, then add 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract.

In another bowl or measuring cup, whisk together 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, and 2 teaspoons baking soda.

Stir the flour mixture into the butter mixture.

Stir in the dates as well. It’s funny how it’s the dates that give it that lovely toffee taste.

Scrape the batter into your greased Bundt pan.

Bake in the bottom third of your oven for about 55 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.  Let the cake cool in the pan on a rack for about 15 minutes, then tip it out onto a plate.

While the cake is cooking and cooling, you can work on your toffee sauce.  Mine didn’t turn out toffee coloured, but still tasted fantastic. 

In a saucepan over medium heat, melt 3/4 cup butter.  Whisk in 1 cup granulated sugar until dissolved, and cook, whisking the whole time, for about 5 minutes or until the mixture is caramel-coloured.  Whisk in 3/4 cup whipping cream and 2 tablespoons lemon juice (be careful to avert your face, as adding cream can make it explosive — I’m serious).

Bring the mixture to a boil and cook until thickened, about 3-5 minutes.  Whisk in 2 tablespoons brandy or cognac.

Pour about 3/4 cup of the toffee sauce over your cake and let it stand to absorb. 

When you are ready to serve, drizzle it with the reserved warm sauce, slice and serve.