Mum’s Birthday Swirl Pound Cake

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It was my mother’s birthday yesterday, and so for the occasion I decided to try something a bit different.  I wanted to add a bit of fancy to a traditional sour cream pound cake, but with a different twist than the version I did last year for the Pie’s birthday.   I want to swirl it up.  So I’m going to make two cakes of two different flavours and mix it all up into one.  Here goes.

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Start by defrosting about 1 cup frozen berries, any kind.  This is one of those field berry combos from Costco.

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You’ll also want to zest and juice 2 lemons.

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I strain my juice, not to get rid of the pulp, but because those darned seeds are always sneaking their way out of the juicer.

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Purée the berries once they’re soft enough, too.

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Now, preheat your oven to 325°F and butter and flour a Bundt pan.

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Whisk together 3 cups cake/pastry flour (or replace 2 tablespoons per cup regular flour with 2 tablespoons cornstarch) and 1/4 teaspoon baking soda.  Set that aside.

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In another bowl, a largish one, beat together 1 cup butter and 2 cups granulated sugar.

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Add in 6 eggs, one at a time, beating the whole time and scraping down the sides of the bowl.

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Add in half your flour and stir until combined.

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Dump in 1 cup sour cream and mix that in as well, before adding in the second half of the flour and fully combining that too.

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Now, divide your batter in half (you can re-use the flour bowl) and tip the berry sauce into one bowl and the lemon juice and zest into the other.

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Mix that around until the colours are uniform.  This has made the previously thick batter much more liquidy.

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Place a line of one of the batters in the bottom of your prepared Bundt pan.  Add a line of the other batter on top, so it forces the stuff on the bottom to spread out.  Keep going, alternating your batters, until the whole thing is layered.

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Mine came out all lovely and swirly.

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Bake for about an hour, until the cake tests clean when stabbed viciously with a toothpick.

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Allow it to cool completely before tipping out onto a plate.

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While the cake is cooling, you can make your cream cheese frosting (is there any other kind? Nope). Beat together 1 cup room temperature butter and 1 250g package plain cream cheese, also room temperature.

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I added in a dollop of purple gel paste food colouring, just for fun.

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Start mixing in about 2-3 cups icing sugar.  I find it makes the icing a little more fluid if you add a few tablespoons cream as well.

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All smooth and ready to go.

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I also used one of the fancy zesters to get some nice long strings of lemon peel for garnish.

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Then I slathered the cooled cake in icing and sprinkled the tops with lemon peel.  It looks luscious!

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Here is what it looks like on the inside.  I took a slice out before icing it and slid it back in with enough icing to cover the cut lines …

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Smitten with Poppy Seed Lemon Cake

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I had eight egg yolks leftover from a previous recipe and I was originally going to make Momofuku’s crack pie (because the Pie had requested the same).  But then I realized that the recipe makes TWO pies, and I don’t really like the dish itself — it’s just too sweet for me. No way can I work through one of those pies, let alone two.  So I decided to make Smitten Kitchen’s Poppy Seed Lemon Cake instead.  Not to be mistaken for lemon poppy seed cake, this crumbly confection has a mere hint of citrus and a heckuva lot of crunchy seeds.

So if you want to go this route, get to it!  Preheat your oven to 325°F and then generously butter and flour a 8″ fluted Bundt or tube pan.

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Go ahead and butter the dull side of a 10″ piece of tin foil while you’re at it (helpful hint for North American readers, at least: foil comes in 12″ wide rolls, so if you tear off a near-perfect square you should be all right).

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Melt 2 sticks unsalted butter (1 cup, or 1/2lb) and set that aside to cool a bit.

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Scrub 2 large lemons and grate the zest from them.

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Now, in the bowl of your electric mixer, plop 1 whole egg, 8 egg yolks, and 2/3 cup granulated sugar.

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Beat that up on medium-high speed for about 8 minutes (I’m not even joking).  Watch how the mixture transforms to this pale and fluffy amazingness.  Beat in the lemon zest.

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Sift on top of that 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, 1/2 cup corn starch, and a pinch of salt.

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Use a rubber spatula to fold that in.  The corn starch will make the spatula catch against the edges of the bowl but you must persist.

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Put the mixer on medium speed and trickle in the butter.

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And then add in 1/2 cup poppy seeds.  I know, it’s a lot of poppy seeds.  Don’t worry, it’s not going to get you high.

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Pour that into your prepared pan.

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Use the buttered tin foil to tightly seal the top of the pan (this keeps the cake from drying out and allows its own steam to make it a little fluffier).

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Bake that sucker for 45 minutes, until the cake begins to pull away from the sides of the pan and a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.  Take the foil off and let the pan cool on a wire rack for about 15 minutes.

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Then invert the pan and let the cake fall out.  If you buttered the pan enough this won’t be a problem, but if it sticks, use a butter knife to gently pry it away from the sides of the pan.

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Let the cake cool for at least 30 minutes before serving (or it will fall apart on you).  Dust the top with icing sugar as decoration.

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Now, I didn’t feel right wasting the juice of those 2 lemons, so I heated up the juice, together with about 3 tablespoons of sugar, to make a wee glaze to go on top, to boost the lemony-ness of the cake, for those who were interested.

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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.

Strawberry-Glazed Angel Food Cake

Angel food is one of my favourite cakes, always has been, even since I was a child.  My mother would rarely make it because without a stand mixer it’s kind of a pain in the ass.  With my lovely Kitchenaid this whole shebang is a breeze.

This is one recipe where I follow the rules to the letter.  You really can’t mess with the science of this cake. Angel food is basically an enormous meringue with flour and sugar suspended in it, so you have to be pretty rigid with how you make it.  You also absolutely NEED a tube pan or bundt pan to make angel food cake.  The batter won’t cook evenly without that empty space in the middle.  Trust me, I’ve tried it.  Bad things happen.  Tube pans are generally better to use than bundt pans simply because the tube on the pan is generally taller than the rest of the pan to allow you to invert it, or the pan comes with legs on the top that let you do the same thing.

I got this recipe a few years ago from Cooking for Engineers, and I think it’s fantastic.  It’s a good way to fancy up an easy cake.  The only change I made to this recipe was to double the amount of stewed strawberries, as the last time I made it I didn’t feel like I had enough.

Preheat your oven to 375°F.

In a bowl, whisk together 1 1/2 cups cake flour or all purpose flour and 1/3 cup granulated sugar.  Then sift that stuff together with a sifter.  I like the handheld squeezy sifters because they make my life easier and they’re fun.  You want to sift your solids a couple times to make sure the sugar and flour are fully incorporated.

Now you need the whites of 12 eggs (about 1 1/2 cups).  You can either separate them yourself or buy them in a carton – the choice is yours.  Just make sure that if you separate them yourself you don’t get any yolks mixed in with the whites – whites don’t get all that fluffy when there is fat mixed in.  We’ll figure out something to do with the yolks another time, but until then you can wrap them tightly and put them in the freezer.  Bring the whites to room temperature.  You can do this quickly by putting the bowl of whites inside another bowl of warm water. Room temperature whites will make a bigger foam than cold whites.  FACT.

Put your whites in your mixer and let ‘er rip.  When the whites begin to look frothy, add in 1/4 tsp salt and 1 1/2 tsp cream of tartar.

When the whites have formed soft peaks, whisk in 1 1/2 tsp vanilla and then whisk in 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar, a little bit at a time.

Soft peaked meringue

When the whites have formed stiff peaks (ones that don’t droop), stop yer mixin’ and take the bowl out the mixer.

Stiff peaked meringue

Sift the flour mixture onto a thin layer on top of the whites, a bit at a time, and fold in gently with a wide spatula.  Be very gentle so you don’t disturb the millions of little bubbles.  Keep adding layers of flour until you’re out of stuff to sift, and keep folding until it’s all in there.

Fold gently - don't disturb the foam!

Gently scoop the mixture into a spotlessly clean and un-greased tube pan (grease + meringues = not so good).  Level the top with a spatula and ease it into the oven for 35 minutes, until the top is a lovely golden brown.

Remove the cake from the oven and immediately invert the pan.  I like the old wine bottle trick, where you invert the pan and stand it on the neck of a full bottle of wine.  Inverting the pan prevents the very fragile cake from collapsing on itself as it cools, and putting it on a wine bottle allows for sufficient air flow underneath to speed the cooling process.  Don’t touch the cake for a couple of hours until it is completely cool.  Not to fret – the cake will not fall out on its own – you didn’t grease the pan, remember?

The old wine bottle trick

While the cake is baking/cooling, you can make your strawberry goo.  You can also do this the day before, which is handy if you’re having a dinner party.

In a pot, combine 1/3 cup granulated sugar, 1/2 cup water, 1 tbsp lemon juice, and 8 oz frozen strawberries.  Now, the last time I made this recipe I didn’t have enough strawberries, so I decided to up the amount.  Therefore, I dumped in an entire package of frozen strawberries, which was 600g, or about 21 oz.  This was a goodly amount for my purposes, but it does end up leaving you with a lot of extra glaze.  I froze my extra glaze for some invention at a later date.

Anyway, stir your pot mixture to dissolve the sugar while you bring it to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for about ten minutes.  I don’t recommend covering the pot and walking away.  Bad things happen.  My house still smells like burnt sugar.  Keep an eye on that sucker.

The strawberries should be super gooshy at this point.  Remove the pot from the heat and strain your solids from your liquids by pouring the mixture through a sieve into a measuring cup.  Make sure to get as much liquid as possible from your solids and set them aside.

Mmmmetric . . .

Return the liquid to the pot and bring it to a simmer again.  Whisk 1 tbsp corn starch into 3 tbsp water and pour the suspension into the syrup.  Bring the syrup to a boil again, stirring often.  This will activate the starch and cause the syrup to thicken.  When it does, remove it from the heat.   Set the syrup aside to cool, then refrigerate for a while until cold.

Cooling the goo.

Now back to the cake.  Once it is completely cool you can set it upright again.  Run a thin knife between the cake and the pan to loosen it.  Make sure to run the knife around the tube as well.  If your tube pan has a separating bottom, you can now just lift out the bottom panel and run your knife around that to free the cake.  If not, jimmying the knife around and jiggling the cake itself generally helps to get it out of the pan.

Knife that sucker.

Put the cake on a clean surface, and using a long serrated knife, cut the cake equally in half horizontally.  Try to keep your lines straight.

Cut it in half horizontally.

Remove the top half of the cake and set it aside.  In the bottom half, use a spoon or your fingers to scoop a shallow trough in the cake all the way around, like a wee moat.  You can eat the bits that you scoop out, mmmm.  Fill the moat with your strawberry solids, all the way around.

Fill the trough with solid goo. I mean strawberries.

Put the top half of the cake back on and pretend that you never cut it at all.

Take your chilled glaze and, using a spatula, silicone brush, spoon, or whatever is easiest, coat the entire cake, even in the little hole, with the glaze.

Blazing Glaze!

Put the glazed cake aside until you are ready to serve it.  A little bit of time also allows the glaze to set a bit.  Right before serving, whip yourself up some cream, about 1 1/2 to 2 cups whipping cream, with 1 tbsp granulated sugar and 1 tsp vanilla.  Over-whip the cream a bit so it’s stiffer and maintains its shape.

Slather the whipped cream all over the cake, even in the hole in the middle, until it’s evenly covered.  You can go for the smooth-looking approach by using a long knife, or you can go crazy with whorls and cowlicks and whatever.  I like to dump about 2-3 cups of fresh sliced strawberries all over the top and into the hole before serving. Oh man, oh man . . .

Slather with whipped cream and strawberries right before serving.

Cover left-over cake (hah, as if that’s even possible) with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to a week, if it lasts that long.

Wrap the cake with plastic wrap and it will keep for a few days, though it will sag a bit.