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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Oh, Gum Drops!

Gum Drops!

I got this recipe from Inquiring Chef, who in turn modified it from Bakerella.  I think it’s awesome.  Challenge accepted.

Gum Drops!

Inquiring Chef came up with four batches of different flavours: blueberry, raspberry, lemon, and mint.  She tried kiwi but apparently it didn’t gel, so I left my kiwi purée in the freezer for the time being.  I did whip out my frozen fruit from Costco and came up with six different flavours: blueberry, mixed berry (raspberry, blackberry, blueberry), strawberry, mango, and raspberry.  I planned to turn whatever was left into a mélange and call that one “fruit salad”.  I left those to defrost in the sun while I made The Un-Cola.

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You only need 3 tablespoons of purée per flavour, but I wasn’t sure how much would be left over after I finished straining out the seeds and skins, so I kind of eyeballed it.

So, in a food processor, purée those fruits all up.

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Strain them to remove the seeds and skins and whatever else is in there.

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Push the stuff against the sides of the strainer with a spoon to get ’em to go. Some are easier than others.

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Some are downright lurid.

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Now we’re ready to go.  Five flavours here.

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And my “fruit salad” here.

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The recipe below will give you two flavours.  I obviously multiplied it by three to match my six flavours.

Grease or spray 2 5″x 6″ pans for the gelatinizing of them there gum drops.  I used 8″ pie plates and cake tins, because that was what I had on hand.

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So.  Plop 3 tablespoons purée of one flavour into the bottom of one large heat-proof bowl, and then another 3 tablespoons of another flavour into another.

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In a large pot, sprinkle 4 tablespoons unflavoured gelatin (sorry, this isn’t a vegetarian recipe) over 1 cup cold water.  Leave that to soften for 5 minutes.

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Pour 1 1/2 cups boiling water over the gelatin and stir to dissolve.

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Pour in 4 cups sugar and bring that to a boil over medium heat.  You will need to stir this constantly so it doesn’t boil over.  And you will need to do this for 25 minutes straight.  No, you can’t run to change the radio station or answer the phone.  I managed to do this while talking on Skype with my parents, but they’re an indulgent sort and Skype is hands-free after all.  They only stuck around for one batch of the stuff, though.  I had to do that three times.

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Pour half the boiling sugar-gelatin foam over the purée in one bowl and the rest into the other.  Working quickly, stir to mix the purée completely into the sugar syrup.

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Pour the mixtures into the sprayed pans.

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Shove those suckers in the refrigerator overnight (or up to 2 days).  See how nice and firm that is?

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Pour about a cup of sugar onto a baking sheet. Then run a knife around the edges of the nice firm gelatin and gently release it from the pan.

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This will take a bit of persuasion, and I found a metal spatula to be very handy here. Don’t worry about damaging the gelatin — it’s pretty resilient.

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Place it in the sugar. When I’d done this I almost felt like I’d done some sort of organ transplant, and this was the one waiting for donation.  It looks like a lung or something …

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Then flip it to coat both sides — this will keep things from getting super sticky. You’ll get sticky enough as it is.

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Put the gelatin on a cutting board and use a long knife to cut strips from it.

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I then used scissors to cut the strips into 3/4″ cubes, or close enough approximates.  You can use a knife for this if you want to get straighter lines, but seeing as I was making squares out of something that was originally a circle, I wasn’t that concerned.  Plus as things get stickier, scissors are way easier.

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Cut the strips into the sugar.

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Then get in there with your hands and toss them to coat.

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A just-tossed gum drop, up close and personal:

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Transfer the finished gumdrops to parchment paper and leave, at room temperature, for 2 days to crystallize and get all good. This is my dining room table, completely covered in candy.

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Then give them all away — or save a few for yourself!  It always amazes me how simple candy always turns out to be — and that’s probably why it’s so good!

You can see more pictures of the gum drop adventure on my Flickr page.

Gum Drops!
Clockwise from top left: Fruit Salad, Raspberry, Mixed Berry, Blueberry, Mango, Strawberry

Fruit Sauce

I spent 1990-1995 living on a relatively high security naval base in British Columbia.  As a shy girl with an overactive imagination, living in the relative isolation of that place was the best time of my life, despite the outbreak of the Persian Gulf War followed by a subsequent vicious and terrifying CUPE strike.  I went back to the base in February of 2002, and it just wasn’t the same.  For one thing, there were actual guards at the front gate now, with really big guns.  As an adult I was subject to quite a bit more scrutiny than I had been as a child.  But it was fantastic to visit the place where I used to have so much fun.

My front yard was twenty metres from the ocean and a rocky beach.  Helicopters would land in the field behind my house.  The admiral would let me pick roses from his garden.  Destroyers, frigates, and minesweepers would signal me in pseudo-morse code when I waved (well they would if my dad or someone I knew was on them).  Frogmen would magically appear next to me on the beach, having emerged from the ocean.  Things got exciting when nuclear submarines came to visit.  There were enormous cliffs to climb and fantastic old ruins to hide in.  And there were wild apple trees, cherry trees, and a blackberry bush the length of a football field.

It wasn’t uncommon to pass by this particular bush on any given day in the summer and find it full of not only bees and wasps but engineers, sailors, police officers, and anyone else who happened to be passing by and wanted a snack.

We ate a lot of blackberries in those summers.

My mother would stew the blackberries with a bit of water or juice, a spoonful or two of sugar, and a little dab of corn starch to thicken it.  We would eat this stuff on ice cream, cake, pie, pancakes, waffles … you name it.  It’s a multi-purpose sauce and can turn any dessert into an elegant treat in a flash.

Blackberries are obviously my favourite ingredient, but you can use any other kind of berry you want.   Living in Newfoundland I have discovered that partridge berries make a nice tart sauce.  Raspberries, blueberries, and halved strawberries work well.  Frozen berries work very well in this, as you don’t have to work on breaking them down as they cook.  I will try to quantify the amounts for you here.  If you’re cooking for a dinner party, make the full recipe below, but you can halve (or double) this recipe easily.

Take 2 cups fresh or frozen berries and bung them in a small pot.  I used blueberries this time.  Add in 1/2 cup of water or juice (I like to use cranberry juice to boost the flavour) and 1/4 cup of sugar.  You’ll need a little extra liquid if you are using fresh berries.

Heat on medium, stirring often, until all the berries are defrosted and broken up.

Suspend one tablespoon corn starch in three tablespoons water or juice and pop that in as well.

Bring to a boil, stirring frequently.

Remove from the heat and drizzle over the food of your choice.  

I recommend Pound Cake.