White Cake with Blueberries

This is kind of a mish-mash cake I made for Rusty (the man loves his cake), and it turned out pretty well, all things considered.  The cake recipe comes from Epicurious.com and the icing is a modified version of the one I used in the Pie’s vanilla birthday cake.

Preheat your oven to 350°F and butter and flour a 9″ x 9″ square cake pan (or, in this case, a 10″ round springform pan).

Cream together 1 cup granulated sugar and 1/2 cup softened butter.  Then add in 2 eggs and 2 teaspoons vanilla extract.

Combine 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour with 1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder and add that to the butter/egg mixture.

Finally, stir in 1/2 cup milk until the batter is smooth.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and level the top.

Bake for 30-40 minutes, until the cake springs back to the touch and a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.

Remove to a rack to cool completely.

I was a little disappointed at how flat this cake turned out.  I suppose if I were to do it again I would separate the eggs and whip the whites to boost the volume.  You can gently fold the whites into your mixed batter to make your cake much fluffier.

While the cake is cooling, prepare your icing.  In a double boiler, melt 4 oz white chocolate.

Cream together 1 package (250g) softened cream cheese, 1/2 cup milk, 4 cups icing sugar, and 2 teaspoons vanilla.  If you use heavy cream instead of milk you will need less icing sugar.

Add in the melted chocolate and blend until smooth.  Put that gooey goodness in the fridge to cool.

I decided to add a fruity boost to the cake with 1 cup blueberry fruit sauce (you can see the basic recipe here).  Make sure your sauce is cool before you put it on your cake or it will melt your icing.
When the cake is cool, carefully slice it in half horizontally so you have two layers.
Slather some white chocolate icing on the top of the bottom slice and cool that in the fridge for a few minutes.
Plop about three quarters of your fruit sauce on top of that icing layer and smooth it out.  I may have licked the spoon.  But everyone who ate it was related to me.
Plop the second cake layer on top and ice the whole cake with your icing.  Mine was pretty gooey and so oozed down the sides, but it worked out for me.
Pour the remaining fruit sauce on top of the cake.
Swirl with a knife for a marbled effect and then cool in the refrigerator until set.
EAT!
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Cranberry Orange Cookies

These cookies garnered the approval of Il Principe and his mother.  And the Pie.  And they were really easy.  Which might be why I adapted them from EasyCookies.com.  But I’m just guessing here. In changing the recipe, I left out the salt, as usual, and accidentally added twice the amount of butter I should have, which ended up giving the cookies a lovely crunch I think they needed.  I also added zest to boost the orange aspect of what would otherwise be a pretty plain cookie.

There is nothing more cheery than citrus in the winter, and my mother will tell you that any time you wave an orange at her at any point between November and April.  But she’s right.  Citrus is a remarkably happy-making thing.  Orange being the Pie’s favourite colour, I made these citrus-y cookies with all our citrus-y implements.

So first you want to preheat your oven to 375°F and line some baking sheets with parchment paper.

Next, gather yourself the juice and rind from 2 oranges and set that aside.  You should have about 1/2 cup orange juice and about 2 tablespoons rind to show for your efforts.   While you’re at making things to set aside, whisk together, in a measuring cup or small bowl, 3 cups all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon baking soda.  And, well, set that aside too.

In a large bowl, cream together 1 cup butter, softened, with 1 cup granulated sugar and 1 cup packed brown sugar

Add in 2 eggs.

Pour in your reserved juice and rind.  Mix ’em.

Slowly add your dry ingredients, mixing the whole while.

Stir in 2 cups dried cranberries.

It won’t look like you’ve produced a lot of dough, but trust me, this will make you a whole whack of cookies.  And I MEAN a WHOLE WHACK.  Like 6 or 7 dozen maybe?Drop the sticky dough in heaping teaspoons (not tablespoons, mind you, these cookies are meant to be small) onto the parchment-lined baking sheets.

Bake for 10-12 minutes, rotating your sheets halfway through, until lightly golden and firm on top.  Let the cookies sit on the sheets outside the oven for a little bit, then remove the crunchy wonders to a rack to cool completely.

If you end up having any left, you should store them in an airtight container so they don’t go stale.  I also froze some dough for later.  Because it’s so sticky, I couldn’t pre-form the cookies before freezing, so I will have to defrost the whole batch of dough before baking.  Alas.

Kumquat Marmalade

This recipe was so STUPID.  SO STUPID, in fact, that it took me two tries to get it right, and I only got it right after ignoring all the previous instructions.  So in fact I will not even link you to this stupid recipe that I used for fear of it tainting me with its idiocy.  I take full credit for this, seeing as I had to fix it.  MANY TIMES.  What I present below is the CORRECT way to do it, and should produce about 4 pints of marmalade.

If you’ve never had a kumquat, you should try one.  Sweet and bitter at the same time, it’s definitely an experience.  I like to think of them as tasty breath-fresheners.  Your first bite will be sweet, then as you crunch through the skin, the citrus oils will clear out your palette.  Quite refreshing, actually.Make sure you pick kumquats that are firm and don’t have any squishy spots.  Use them soon after you buy them because they go quickly.

Wash and remove the stems from 24 fresh kumquats

Slice them thinly across the middle, and remove the seeds.

Make sure you keep the seeds.

This is where all the pectin-y goodness is. 

There’s pectin in the pith as well, but not as much.

Slice 2 oranges across the middle as well. 

I used Navel oranges.  This seedless fruit is neat because it reproduces by growing a new orange in its belly button (or navel), which is that thing you see at the opposite end to the stem.

This orange reproduced another whole orange inside.  How cool.  I bet it would have been confusing to eat had I peeled it normally.

I found it was easier to can the marmalade if you make cuts in the orange peel so it breaks apart and is therefore smaller.

Toss the orange slices and the kumquat slices together in a measuring cup and see how much you have.

Chuck them in a large bowl and add 3 cups of water for every cup of fruit you measured.  I had 5 cups of fruit so I added 15 cups of water.  Leave that to sit overnight.

The next day, pour your fruit and water into a large saucepan (this is why I love our maslin pan so much).  You may find some jelly-like stuff at the bottom of the bowl.  I’m not sure what it is but I think it’s important, so scrape that stuff off and put it in the pan as well.

Bring the stuff in the pan to a boil and then lower the heat and simmer it until the rinds are very tender and you can squish them with your spoon.

Juice 2 lemons.

Pour that lemon juice, together with 9 cups granulated sugar, into the maslin pan.

Tie up your seeds in a bit of cheesecloth and add that to the pot as well.

Bring the mixture to a boil again, then simmer on low for a couple of hours.

The mixture will cook down, reducing in size, getting thicker and darker.  Keep an eye on it so it doesn’t burn, and keep stirring it.  When it starts to foam, you are nearing your gel point.

You can tell if your mixture is ready to gel by putting a plate in the freezer for a few minutes.  Remove the plate and drip some of the liquid across the plate.  Once it has cooled, give it a push with your finger.  If it wrinkles up, your marmalade is ready to go into the jar.

When you have reached the stage where your foamy marmalade goo is wrinkling on your cold plate, you can can it according to your canner’s instructions.  Check out our tips here.

Espresso Brownies

Would you like another life-changing experience?

You should make these brownies.  I mean it.

I made about three hundred.  Every single one of them was eaten.  They’re even good stale.  The recipe for these babies comes with thanks from the folks at my mother’s physiotherapy place.  Not that they need any more caffeine.

Preheat your oven to 350°F and grease a 15″x10″x1″ baking pan (or whatever you can find that will fit the brownie goodness.

In a large saucepan, plop yourself in 1/4 cup water and 2 tablespoons instant espresso powder.

Add to that 1 cup butter (oh yes) and 1 1/2 cups chopped chocolate pieces (your choice).

Melt that pot of loveliness until it’s smooth and then remove from heat. 

Now this next part you are supposed to do in the saucepan but because I tripled the recipe I had to expand to a bowl.

Crack four eggs into a large bowl (I know there are more than four there, but just roll with it) and beat them up.

Add 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla.  Beat it up.

Pour in your lovely chocolate goo and beat until just combined.

Stir in 1/2 cup chopped walnuts.

Stir in 2 cups all-purpose flour.

Spread your batter evenly in the pan.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean.  Cool in the pan on a wire rack.

I love that crackly-shiny top on a brownie.

While the brownies are baking and cooling you can whip together 3 cups icing sugar, 1/4 cup softened butter, 2 tablespoons boiling water, 2 teaspoons instant espresso powder, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, and, if you wish, 2 tablespoons of a coffee liqueur.

Spread the frosting evenly over the cooled brownies and dust with more espresso powder.

Cut into pieces.

LOVE.