blood orange olive oil cake

blood orange.oliveoil.cake-0648

Is anyone else ready for a vacation? I want pool time and cocktails and sleeping in. All at once. Oh, the things I would do for a break right now. Even just for a weekend. I think we need to do some prioritizing around here to make this happen. I’m ready to bust out the resort wear.         

blood orange.oliveoil.cake-0056

The good news is we have cake. And this cake, my friends, is a keeper. For the past three years, I’ve been on a search for the perfect blood orange cake. I’m not even exaggerating. It has taken me years and lots of experimenting to find one I really like. Every winter, during the small window of time that is blood orange season, I try at least one blood orange cake recipe. I’ve tried at least four recipes, possibly more,  some more than once. One recipe called for orange segments, one recipe called for whole oranges, skin and all. Another was a sort of chiffon cake. A few of them were pretty good. None of them were outstanding.

blood orange.oliveoil.cake-0124

I’m happy to report that the search has finally come to an end. I’d been hoping to find a recipe that incorporated both oranges and olive oil. And out of practically nowhere, I found exactly what I had been looking for.

blood orange.oliveoil.cake-0201

Here’s what I love about this cake:

It has a pronounced orange flavor, both in the cake and the icing. The cake has the essence of blood orange from the grated zest and juice. And the icing, with it’s tart, berry-ness is perfection.  

blood orange.oliveoil.cake-0255

Thanks to the olive oil, it is incredibly moist and has a very distinct, almost savory flavor. 

It’s such a pretty thang. I’ve got a secret weakness for pink frosting, and the bold color of the blood orange juice produces an electric pink icing when added to a scoop of powdered sugar.  And it’s totally natural. AND we’re just in time for Valentine’s Day. A pink glazed cake is the perfect alternative to chocolate on V-Day. xoxo.

blood orange.oliveoil.cake-0278

blood orange olive oil cake

adapted from Leite’s Culinaria

serves 12-14

2 tablespoons unsalted butter for pan 

6-8  blood oranges

3-1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pan

1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1-3/4 teaspoons kosher salt

5 large eggs

2-3/4 cups granulated sugar

1 -1/2 cups mild extra-virgin olive oil

 2 cups confectioners’ sugar

4 tablespoons blood orange juice 

Position a rack in the middle of the oven, remove any racks above, and preheat to 350°F (175°C). Coat a 12-cup Bundt or tube pan with butter and dust with flour.  Set aside.

Finely grate the zest of 4 of the oranges, then squeeze 6 of them. You should have 1-1/2 cups of juice; if not, squeeze another orange. Set aside.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a handheld mixer in a large bowl, beat the eggs on medium-high speed until well-combined, about 1 minute. Slowly pour in the granulated sugar and continue beating until thick and pale yellow, about 3 minutes. On low speed, alternate adding the flour mixture and oil, starting and ending with the flour, and beat until just a few wisps of flour remain. Pour in the orange juice and zest and whirl for a few seconds to bring the batter together.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake until a cake tester comes out with a few moist crumbs clinging to it, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. If the top is browning too much as the cake bakes, cover lightly with foil. Transfer to a wire rack and cool for 15 minutes.

Turn the cake out onto the rack and cool completely. Place it in a covered cake stand and let it sit overnight.

In a medium bowl, combine the powdered sugar and 4 tablespoons of blood orange juice. Whisk until completely smooth and has reached a thick but pourable consistency, similar to that of honey. Add more powdered sugar or juice if necessary. Pour the mixture over the cake and let set.

blood orange.oliveoil.cake-0726-2

bourbon pumpkin cheesecake

pumpkin.cheesecake-0538

I know what you’re thinking. A little late for the pumpkin desserts, right? And I absolutely agree with you. BUT, I have made this pumpkin cheesecake four times in the past three weeks – twice before Thanksgiving, and two more on Thanksgiving Day. The first cheesecake I made on Thanksgiving morning fell to its death in the oven as I was taking it out, so that’s why there were two. I experimented, I made adjustments. I burned my hand on the blistering hot rack of my oven. And I did way too much sampling. Therefore, I present to you… bourbon pumpkin cheesecake.

pumpkin.cheesecake-0479

I’ll be totally honest – I’ve never been much of a cheesecake fan. Only in the last five years have I come to appreciate cheesecake. But I never really go out of my way to eat it, and before three weeks ago, I had never made one. But since I’m convinced that pumpkin baked goods are almost always outstanding, and because I was bored with the idea of a traditional pumpkin pie, a pumpkin cheesecake sounded just delightful. And since I was racking my brain for desserts for this Thanksgiving, I set out for a recipe.

pumpkin.cheesecake-0625-3

This is a winner, dear friends. It’s pumpkin and spiced and rich in that cheesecake way, but not as heavy as traditional cheesecake. It has a nice, tangy sour cream top, also giving it a really stunning finish. The pecan-graham cracker crust is just off the hook good – it’s a little nutty but also slightly caramelized, two pluses in my book. And it’s spiked with bourbon, which is what drew me in initially. This beauty is definitely a contender for Christmas. I’m pretty sure you’ll thank me later.   

pumpkin.cheesecake-0338

bourbon pumpkin cheesecake 

adapted slightly from Gourmet

serves 12-14

for crust:

3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs (from about 6 or 7 graham crackers)

1/2 cup pecans (1-3/4 ounces), finely chopped

1/4 cup packed light brown sugar

1/4 cup granulated sugar 

1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, melted and cooled 

Invert bottom of a 9-inch springform pan (to create flat bottom, which will make it easier to remove cake from pan), then lock on side and butter pan.

Stir together crumbs, pecans, sugars, and butter in a bowl until combined well. Press crumb mixture evenly onto bottom and 1/2 inch up side of pan, then chill crust, 1 hour.

for the filling:

1-1/2 cups canned solid-pack pumpkin

3 large eggs

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar

2 tablespoons heavy cream

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 tablespoons bourbon (optional)

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 tablespoon cornstarch

2- 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves 

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, at room temperature

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F.

Whisk together pumpkin, eggs, brown sugar, cream, vanilla, and bourbon (if using) in a bowl until combined.

Stir together granulated sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and salt in large bowl. Add cream cheese and beat with an electric mixer at high speed until creamy and smooth, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to medium, then add pumpkin mixture and beat until smooth.

Pour filling into crust, smoothing top, then put springform pan in a shallow baking pan (in case springform leaks). Bake until center is just set, 50 to 60 minutes. Transfer to rack and cool 5 minutes. (Leave oven on.)

for the topping:

2 cups sour cream (20 ounces)

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 tablespoon bourbon (optional)

pecan halves (for garnish)

Whisk together sour cream, sugar, and bourbon (if using) in a bowl, then spread on top of cheesecake. Place cheesecake back in the oven and bake 3 minutes.

Turn off the oven, leaving cheesecake inside to cool for at least two hours, up to three to cool completely. This prevents the top from cracking.

Chill, covered, until cold, at least 4 hours. Remove side of pan and bring to room temperature before serving.

**Cooks’ Note: Baked cheesecake can be chilled, covered, up to 2 days.

 

concord grape cornmeal cake

concord.grape.cornmeal.cake-0418

October feels like crazytown. I’m not sure exactly what’s happening, but it feels like everything is happening all at once. There’s definitely something in the air right now. Even Susan Miller says so. Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy one.

concord.grape.cornmeal.cake-0237

On a lighter note, we have Concord grapes. I’m sure I’ve gone on and on about Concord grapes around here at some point. They’re one of the things I look most forward to when the fall produce hits the markets. They’re not much of an eating grape (too soft for my liking and too many seeds), but they are great for baking and cooking. And boy are they flavorful. I started making my own Concord grape jam a few years ago and never looked back. The scent of Concord grapes boiling away on the stove is seriously heavenly. There’s nothing like it.

concord.grape.cornmeal.cake-0218

I made this cake for the first time last year but never got around to sharing it. I made it again the other day and remembered exactly why I liked it so much. It’s a dressed up skillet cornbread, honey-kissed with a touch of lemon and a scattering of Concord grapes. Those jammy pockets of Concord grape really make it into something special. I especially like it served warm, with a cup of tea. It’s the perfect afternoon snack cake. It feels like fall.

concord.grape.cornmeal.cake-0460

concord grape cornmeal cake 

adapted just barely from Bon Appetit

serves 8-10

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, cooled slightly, plus more

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour; more for grapes

1/2 cup yellow cornmeal

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

2 large eggs

1/2 cup sugar

1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 cup vegetable oil

6 tablespoons buttermilk

2 tablespoons honey

3/4 pound Concord grapes (or black grapes), stemmed, seeds removed, divided 

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a 9-inch cast iron skillet (or an 8x8x2-inch baking dish). Whisk 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl; set aside. Whisk eggs, sugar, lemon zest, and vanilla in a large bowl to combine. Add oil and 2 tablespoons melted butter; whisk to blend. Whisk in flour mixture, then buttermilk. Stir in honey, being careful not to fully incorporate

Pour batter into prepared skillet. Toss about 2/3 of grapes with a large pinch of flour in a medium bowl until well coated. Scatter over cake batter.

Bake until cake turns light golden brown around the edges and starts to set, 15-17 minutes. Remove from oven and scatter remaining grapes over cake. Continue to bake until top is golden brown and cake springs back when pressed, 20-25 minutes longer. Transfer to a wire rack. Let cool slightly in pan. Serve warm or at room temperature.

chocolate mascarpone cake with berries

chocolate.mascarpone.cake-0125

This cake is for the summer babies. I’ve accumulated quite a few Leos in my life over the years, not to mention both of my siblings, so July and August are always full of birthday celebrations. And cake. If I love you, and it’s your birthday, I can almost guarantee there will be cake.

chocolate.mascarpone.cake-0016

Since I only see my friend Ash once or twice a year, I really wanted to do it right for his birthday. This man is my idol. I don’t know anyone who hosts a dinner party with more grace or whimsy. We’re talking proper place settings and multiple courses. And party favors. And the most glorious tablescapes ever (and not in that Sandra Lee kind of way). Anyway, a birthday cake was in order and I knew exactly what I wanted to do.

chocolate.mascarpone.cake-0049

This cake. Now this cake really takes the cake. I may be partial to chocolate cake, but I know a good one when I see one. First of all, who can say no to a chocolate mascarpone frosting? It’s an excellent alternative to your everyday buttercream, with just the perfect level of sweetness but still incredibly decadent. And then there’s all the gorgeous summer berries. I love the combination of rich, creamy, chocolatey and bright, juicy berries. Plus, they really make this little cake quite stunning.

chocolate.mascarpone.cake-0059

What really makes this cake a winner is how simple it is to throw together. It’s just a matter of layering and building. I ended up making this beauty two weekends in a row because it was such a hit. The first time I made it, I put my cake pans in the oven without realizing the oven had been turned off, sending me into a panic because I was due in the City in less than two hours. But by some miracle I was able to bake, cool, frost and finish this cake in record time and disaster was averted. I wasn’t even late to dinner.  That’s how quickly this cake comes together. Pretty and easy. Need I say more?

chocolate.mascarpone.cake-0420

chocolate mascarpone cake with berries 

adapted just barely from call me cupcake

makes 1 6-inch cake

for the cake: 

1 cup all-purpose flour 

1/4 cup cocoa powder 

1/4 teaspoon baking powder 

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt 

1/2 cup butter, softened 

3/4 cup light brown sugar 

1 large egg, plus 1 large egg yolk

3 ounces semisweet or bitter sweet chocolate, melted

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract 

1/2 cup whole milk 

Preheat oven to 350F. Butter two 6-inch cake pans, line the bottoms with parchment paper, and butter the parchment. Dust with cocoa powder, and knock out the excess. Set aside.

Whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and brown sugar on medium-high until light and fluffy. Add the egg and beat until incorporated. Repeat with the egg yolk. Add the melted chocolate and beat until smooth. Add the vanilla to the milk. Alternately add the flour mixture and the milk, beginning and ending with the flour.

Divide the batter between the prepared baking pans, smoothing the top with a spatula. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Remove from the oven and cool in the pans for 5 minutes, then invert on a cooling rack and continue to cool completely.

for the mascarpone frosting: 

8 ounces mascarpone cheese

1/3 cup cocoa powder

1/3 cup powdered sugar

1 cup heavy cream

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine all ingredients. Beat on low speed and slowly increase to medium, beating until the mixture just comes together. Keep an eye on the mixture and beat for just a few more seconds until the mixture begins to thicken. Be extremely careful not to over-beat as this will result in a grainy frosting.

to assemble:

12 ounces fresh berries, I chose a combination of red raspberries, blackberries, and sunburst raspberries 

2 tablespoons powdered sugar (optional)

Place the first cake layer on a cake board or serving plate. Add half of the mascarpone frosting to the center of the cake. Using a spatula, gently spread the frosting over the cake layer until it just reaches the edges. Scatter half of the berries over the frosting. Add a dusting of powdered sugar over the fruit. Place the second cake layer on top of the fruit and repeat.

chocolate.mascarpone.cake-0068

sweet and salty cake

chocolate.salted.caramel.cake-0089

This is how you end the year with a bang.

With your favorite people by your side. Sequined shorts. Deviled eggs. An obscene amount of Thai food. A lemon cream tart. Bourbon cocktails. Bottles poppin. Sparklers. Fireworks. And an impromptu living room dance party in the wee hours of the new year (New Order! Robyn! T.A. and Ryan!!!). It was perfect. I’m kind of in love with 2013.

chocolate.salted.caramel.cake-0030-2

This cake actually happened two days before the new year. We started celebrating early because all of the boys were in town from the East Coast and because a certain someone turned thirty-one. And since someone loves caramel, and because I have a thing for making tall layer cakes, a chocolate cake with salted caramel and chocolate-caramel frosting was just the thing.

chocolate.salted.caramel.cake-0039-2

This cake got around. It went from the East Bay to Pacific Heights, from Pacific Heights down to a restaurant in the Mission, from the Mission to the Castro, where the guys at our favorite late night pizza joint very graciously babysat our take-out boxes of leftover cake while we danced at the bars up the street. It got on two buses and went home with us at the end of the night. And then made it back to Pacific Heights the following morning, where we all ate it with our breakfast, and more later that afternoon when we woke from our naps.

I really appreciate that this is a cake with two personalities. Straight from the refrigerator, the chocolate-caramel frosting is dense and fudge-like. At room temp, it’s more like a chocolate mousse cake. It’s pretty fab either way. I can almost guarantee that you’ll get a few oohs and ahhhs upon unveiling. She’s a showstopper.

Here’s to a fabulous 2013!

chocolate.salted.caramel.cake-0067

sweet and salty cake 

from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito

makes one 8-inch cake

for the chocolate cake layers: 

3/4 cup dark unsweetened cocoa powder 

1-1/4 cups hot water 

2/3 cup sour cream 

2-2/3 cups all-purpose flour 

2 teaspoons baking powder 

1 teaspoon baking soda 

1/2 teaspoon salt 

3/4 cup (1-1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened 

1/2 cup vegetable shortening 

1-1/2 cups granulated sugar 

1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar 

3 large eggs, at room temperature 

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract 

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Butter three 8-inch round cake pans, line the bottoms with parchment paper, and butter the parchment. Dust with flour, and knock out the excess flour.

In a medium bowl, combine the cocoa powder, hot water, and sour cream and set aside to cool.

Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together into a medium bowl and set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and shortening on medium speed until ribbonlike, about 5 minutes. Add the sugars and beat until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition, then add the vanilla and beat until incorporated. Scrape down the bowl and mix again for 30 seconds.

Add the flour mixture, alternating with the cocoa mixture, in three additions, beginning and ending with the flour mixture.

Divide the batter among the prepared pans and smooth the tops. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through the baking time, until a toothpick inserted in the center of each cake comes out clean. Transfer the cakes to a wire rack and let cool for 20 minutes. Invert the cakes onto the rack, remove the pans, and let cool completely. Remove the parchment.

for the salted caramel: 

1/2 cup heavy cream 

1 teaspoon fleur de sel 

1 cup sugar 

2 tablespoons light corn syrup 

1/4 cup sour cream 

In a small saucepan, combine the cream and fleur de sel. Bring to a simmer over very low heat until the salt is dissolved.

Meanwhile, keeping a close eye on the cream mixture so it doesn’t burn, in a medium saucepan combine 1/4 cup water, the sugar, and corn syrup, stirring them together carefully so you don’t splash the sides of the pan. Cook over high heat until an instant-read thermometer reads 350°F, or until the mixture is dark amber in color, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool for 1 minute.

Add the cream mixture to the sugar mixture. Whisk in the sour cream. Let the caramel cool to room temperature, then transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate until you are ready to assemble the cake.

for the whipped caramel ganache frosting: 

1 pound dark chocolate (60 to 70%cacao), chopped

1-1/2 cups heavy cream

1 cup sugar

2 tablespoons light corn syrup

2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, soft but cool, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

Put the chocolate in a large heatproof bowl and set aside.

In a small saucepan, bring the cream to a simmer over very low heat.

Meanwhile, keeping a close eye on the cream so it doesn’t burn, in a medium saucepan combine 1/4 cup water, the sugar, and corn syrup, stirring them together carefully so you don’t splash the sides of the pan. Cook over high heat until an instant read thermometer read 350°F, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from heat and let the caramel cool for 1 minute.

Add the cream to the caramel and stir to combine. Stir slowly for 2 minutes, then pour the caramel over the chocolate. Let the caramel and chocolate sit for 1 minute, then, starting at the center of the bowl, and working your way out to the edges, slowly stir the chocolate and caramel mixture in a circle until the chocolate is completely melted. Let the mixture cool, then transfer it to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.

Mix on low speed until the bowl feels cool to the touch. Increase the speed to medium-high and gradually add the butter, beating until thoroughly incorporated. Scrape down the bowl and beat until the mixture is fluffy.

to assemble the cake:

2 teaspoons of fleur de sel, plus more for sprinkling  

Place one cake layer on a serving platter or cake board. Spread 1/4 cup of the caramel over the top. Let the caramel soak into the cake, then spread 3/4 cup of the ganache frosting over the caramel. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of the fleur de sel over the frosting, then top with the second cake layer. Spread with 1/4 cup caramel, then spread 3/4 cup of the frosting and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of fleur de sel. Top with the third cake layer. Spread with caramel. Crumb coat the cake and put the cake in the refrigerator for 15 minutes to firm up the frosting. Frost the sides and top with the remaining frosting. Garnish with a sprinkle of fleur de sel.

The cake will keep beautifully in a cake server at cool room temperature for up to 3 days. If your room is not cool, place in the refrigerator. Remove the cake from the refrigerator and let sit at room temperature for at least 2 hours before serving (or not).

chocolate.salted.caramel.cake-0108

pear cranberry bundt cake

This year, I’m going to make a serious effort to have a relaxing Thanksgiving. I’m going to prep the night before, maybe even two nights before because it’s that serious. I’m going to stick to the plan, and not decide to make a different dessert the morning of or make an extra dessert just for the hell of it. I’m going to arrive to dinner on time, my pies will not still be in the oven when I’m already supposed to be at my aunt’s place with the rest of the family. I’m going to be rested and put together AND I will still have energy to see friends after dinner (and maybe even go out dancing to burn off some of that turkey). My mind is made up.

If you’re still looking for a dessert to make for Thanksgiving, I have something for you. This gem comes from the final issue of Gourmet. It’s been three years and I am still mourning the loss of Gourmet. Because it was the Thanksgiving issue, I find myself  thumbing through the pages every holiday season, flagging recipes that I want to add to my repertoire. I’m finally getting around to trying one of them.

I was pretty set on making my usual pie and gallette for Thanksgiving this year. But this pear cranberry cake really grabbed my attention. It just screams “happy holidays.” So I decided to give it a whirl last weekend and was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked it. I was also surprised by how much I consumed. I’ve test driven it twice in the past week and it has gotten the thumbs up from my most discerning tasters.

This cake is the perfect ending to your Turkey Day feast, especially if you’re not a pie person. But even the most die-hard pie lovers will swoon over this cake. You can make it in a bundt or tube pan. It’s studded with tart, fresh cranberries and diced pear, and finished off with a generous coating of brown sugar caramel sauce, which is to die for. And since it’s the easiest thing to throw together, you can have yourself a cocktail (or three) and take it easy this Thanksgiving.

pear cranberry bundt cake

adapted from Gourmet, November 2009

serves 8-12

for the cake:

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground allspice

1 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg

1-3/4 cups sugar

1-1/4 cups vegetable oil

4 large eggs

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

2 tablespoons rum (optional)

3 Bosc pears (1 1/2 pounds), cut into 1/2-inch pieces

2 cups cranberries (thawed if frozen)

for the glaze:

1 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar

1 tablespoon light corn syrup

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

3 (3-inch-long) cinnamon sticks

special equipment: 10-by 4-inch angel food cake pan or 15- cup Bundt pan

Make cake:

Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Butter cake pan.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and spices.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together sugar and oil at low speed. Continue mixing and add the eggs, one at a time, beating until incorporated before adding the next. Add the vanilla and rum and beat on low until combined well.

At low speed, mix in the pears and cranberries, then mix in the flour until incorporated.

Spoon the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake until a wooden pick inserted into center of cake comes out clean, 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours.

Cool in pan 30 minutes, then turn out onto a rack and cool completely.

Make glaze: 
Bring cream, brown sugar, corn syrup, vanilla, cinnamon sticks, and a pinch of salt to a boil in a small heavy saucepan, stirring occasionally, then simmer until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes.

Cool glaze 5-10 minutes, until it is the consistency of a medium-bodied caramel sauce. Discard cinnamon sticks, then pour glaze over cake, letting some drip down sides.

baked pumpkin doughnuts with ginger-caramel glaze

October! October has been so! much! fun! Warm nights! Dancing! Birthday parties! Baseball (Sweep! Go Giants!)! Doughnuts!

I’d been daydreaming about pumpkin doughnuts because all of the pumpkins I’d been seeing were telling me that they wanted me to make doughnuts. Doughnuts? Or donuts? Either way, I do what I’m told. Plus, I had bought a doughnut pan a few months ago that had just been waiting to be put to use.

I thought a gingery pumpkin doughnut would really bring down the house. So I chopped up some fresh ginger and threw it in the batter along with cinnamon, fresh grated nutmeg, and Chinese five spice. Then I remembered Bi-rite Creamery’s ginger caramel swirl, and couldn’t help but wonder if it would make an amazing doughnut glaze.

The answer is yes. Yes, with the addition of powdered sugar, that ginger-spiked caramel does make an insane glaze for pumpkin doughnuts. You’ll be licking your fingers. And a little bit of toasted pecan is optional, but really takes things to the next level. Or if you’re feeling festive, a little black and orange sprinkle action is also very acceptable.

baked pumpkin doughnuts with ginger-caramel glaze 

makes about 12-16 doughnuts

for the doughnuts: 

adapted from King Arthur Flour

1/2 cup vegetable oil

3 large eggs

1-1/2 cups granulated sugar

1-1/2 cups pumpkin purée (canned pumpkin)

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 teaspoon Chinese five spice (optional)

1 tablespoon fresh minced ginger

1-1/2 teaspoons salt

1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1- 3/4 cups + 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour\

2/3 cup pecans, toasted and roughly chopped (optional)

sprinkles (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease two standard doughnut pans. If you don’t have doughnut pans, you can bake these in a standard muffin tin; they just won’t be doughnuts.

Beat together the oil, eggs, sugar, pumpkin, spices, ginger, salt, and baking powder until smooth.

Add the flour, stirring just until smooth.

Fill the wells of the doughnut pans about 3/4 full; use a scant 1/4 cup of batter in each well. If you’re making muffins, fill each well about 3/4 full; the recipe makes about 15, so you’ll need to bake in two batches (unless you have two muffin pans).

Bake the doughnuts for 15 to 18 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center of one comes out clean. If you’re making muffins, they’ll need to bake for 23 to 25 minutes.

Remove the doughnuts from the oven, and after about 5 minutes, loosen their edges, and transfer them to a rack to cool.

for the ginger caramel:

adapted from Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones by Kris Hoogerhyde and Anne Walker

makes about 1-1/4 cups

3/4 cup heavy whipping cream

1 cup granulated sugar 

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt 

1 teaspoon ginger spread (check here for store locations)

Set the cream by the stove so it’s at hand when you need it. Put 2 tablespoons of the sugar in a heavy nonreactive saucepan  and put the pan over medium-high heat. When the sugar is melted around the edges and starts to turn amber in places (about 2 minutes), stir the mixture gently and add another 2 tablespoons sugar to the pan.

Continue to add the remaining sugar 2 tablespoons at a time, stirring frequently and allowing most of the sugar to melt before you add more. Watch carefully as the sugar darkens, stirring gently to help it melt evenly.

When the caramel becomes a dark mahogany color, remove the pan from the heat and immediately but slowly pour the cream into the pan. (The mixture will steam and bubble up, so wear oven mitts and be very careful to avoid splatters and steam burns.) When the bubbling subsides, gently stir to completely blend the cream into the caramel. If you have lumps of hardened caramel in your pan, simply put the pan over low heat and stir until the caramel is melted.

Stir in the ginger paste and salt and let cool.

for the ginger-caramel glaze: 

1/2 cup ginger caramel, room temperature  

1 cup powdered sugar

heavy whipping cream 

Pour the ginger caramel in small bowl. Add the powdered sugar and stir until completely incorporated. If the glaze seems too thick, add a small amount of heavy cream and stir. Repeat until you have reached the desired consistency. You want your glaze to be fluid enough to work with, but thick enough so that you get a nice coating that will set.

to assemble: 

Place a doughnut face down in the glaze, then carefully lift and let excess glaze drip from the doughnut back into the bowl. Place on a cooling rack with a parchment-lined baking sheet underneath. Repeat with the remaining doughnuts. Top with chopped toasted pecans or sprinkles. Best eaten same day, but can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to three days.

miette’s tomboy cake

Hi. I’ve missed you. It’s been a while since I last checked in, which makes me feel a little nutty. I’m telling you, there’s just something about September. I’ve been very bad.

Since I was here last, I’ve had a birthday and a few revelations. Turning thirty-one was a breeze; there were no meltdowns, no disasters. Unlike some of the birthdays of years past, this one was very mellow, and exactly what I wanted – a good dinner, a few strong cocktails, and my nearest and dearests. It was a perfect birthday from start to finish. I have the greatest people in my life and I feel extremely lucky.

Because September is my favorite and it’s birthday month, we’re having cake. All day, every day. Or something like that. Haaaaay!

This is Miette’s signature cake, the Tomboy. It can be filed under favorite chocolate cakes, prettiest layer cakes, and even famous San Francisco cakes. Miette has the cutest bake shops in the Bay Area. Sweet and picture perfect, that’s Miette in a nutshell. Their Hayes Valley shop is like a candy-coated dream, like the prettier, girlier, modern version of the candy shop in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. If you have an appreciation for beautiful, sweet things, such as macarons, cupcakes, and imported candies, you must pay them a visit.

I actually made a few variations of this chocolate cake over the summer (there were quite a few birthdays in July and August). The double chocolate cake is the base for three cakes in the Miette cookbook, and I gave each of them a spin. I’ll probably share the others with you at some point, but I had to start with the Tomboy. It’s hard to say no to silky Italian buttercream and rich layers of moist, chocolatey cake. Plus, I think it’s such an understated beauty. I love those exposed layers of ruffled buttercream. It’s a cake worthy of any celebration.

miette’s tomboy cake

from Miette: Recipes from San Francisco’s Most Charming Pastry Shop by Meg Ray

makes 1 6-inch layer cake

*Rose Levy Beranbaum included a recipe for Miette’s Tomboy in Rose’s Heavenly Cakes. I tried the recipe from both books and ultimately preferred Rose’s technique, which was a bit less labor intensive a still produced a dense, moist cake. The buttercream and assembly technique are from Miette.

double chocolate cake

from Rose’s Heavenly Cakes by Rose Levy Beranbaum

1/2 cup boiling water

1 ounce dark chocolate, 70% cacao, chopped 

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup sugar

3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

3/4 cup plus 1-1/2 tablespoons unsweetened natural cocoa powder

1-1/4 teaspoons baking powder 

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 large egg, at room temperature

1/4 cup canola oil

1/2 cup buttermilk

1 icing rose (optional), available here

Twenty minutes before baking, set an oven rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 350°F.

Thoroughly butter one 6 by 3-inch round cake pan. Place a parchment round in the bottom of the buttered pan, then butter the parchment. Dust with cocoa powder. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, pour the boiling water over the chocolate. Stir occasionally until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Cover with plastic wrap to prevent evaporation and cool until it is no longer warm to the touch but is still fluid. Stir in the vanilla.

In a medium bowl, sift together the sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitter with the whisk attachment, beat the egg on high speed until thickened and light in color, about 3 minutes. Lower the speed to medium and slowly add the oil to emulsify the egg. Beat in the buttermilk and melted chocolate mixture until well combined.

Add the flour mixture and beat on low speed for a few seconds until the dry ingredients are moistened. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Raise the speed to medium-high and beat for 2 minutes. The batter will be thick and shiny. Using a silicone spatula, Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the surfaces with a small offset spatula.

Bake the cake for 55 to 65 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean and the cake springs back when pressed lightly in the center.

Let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Run a small metal spatula between the sides of the cake and the pan, and invert the cake onto a wire rack. Remove the parchment and immediately reinvert the cake so that the top side is up. Cover the top with a piece of plastic wrap to keep the upper crust soft. Cool completely.

vanilla buttercream

from Miette: Recipes from San Francisco’s Most Charming Pastry Shop by Meg Ray

makes about 6 cups, enough to frost two 6-inch cakes

2 cups sugar

1/3 cup water

5 large egg whites

1 teaspoon cream of tartar

3 cups unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 tablespoons vanilla extract

In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the sugar and water. Clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pan. Cook the mixture until it reaches 248°F, 5 to 10 minutes, keeping a constant eye on it.

Meanwhile, combine the egg whites and cream of tartar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. When the sugar syrup reaches 240°F, turn the mixer on and whisk the egg whites on medium-low speed until soft peaks form.

When the sugar syrup reaches 248°F, reduce the mixer speed to low and very carefully drizzle the hot syrup into the mixer bowl, away from the whisk so that it doesn’t spatter. Be very careful when working with the hot syrup. When you have added all of the syrup, raise the speed to high and beat until the mixture is cool to the touch, 5-10 minutes.

When the meringue is cool, reduce the speed to medium. With the mixer running, drop in the butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, waiting until each piece is incorporated before adding another. The mixture may deflate and look curdled. Raise the speed to high and continue to add tablespoon-size pieces of butter. When all of the butter has been added, the frosting should be smooth and thick. Add the vanilla and mix to combine.

to assemble:

Using a serrated knife, cut the cake into three equal layers. Using your hands, tap off and brush away excess crumbs. Place the bottom layer of cake in the center of a cake board.

Fit a pastry bag with a medium (1/2 or 5/8-inch) star tip and fill about halfway with buttercream. Holding the bag at a 90-degree angle, pipe a ring of frosting around the outer edge of the cake, keeping a 1/8-inch border at the very edge. Starting at the inner edge of the border, spiral inward filling in the center of the ring to make an even layer of buttercream. Using an offset spatula, smooth the inside of the ring, leaving the piped edges untouched.

Place the second cake layer on top of the buttercream layer. Using your fingertips, gently center the cake on top. Repeat with another layer of buttercream just like you did on the first layer.

Place the third cake layer on top of the buttercream. Using your fingertips, gently press down in the center of the cake. Pipe a ring of buttercream around the edge, leaving a 1/8-inch margin. Fill in the center with slightly more frosting than the inner layers. Using a small offset spatula, smooth the center, pushing the frosting out very slightly.

If desired, scoop out a little hole in the frosting in the center of the cake to make  a setting for the rose. Nestle the rose in the hole and arrange the leaf next to it at a 45-degree angle.

Serve the cake at room temperature. Serve at once or hold at room temp for up to 4 hours. The cake will keep refrigerated for up to 3 days.

apricot almond breakfast cake

Apricots are in the house! Is anyone else excited? A good apricot is one of my favorite treats. And there is such a small window of time between late spring and early summer when the apricots are just perfect – fragrant and quietly sweet and juicy. I know I’m late to the party, but I’ve just discovered Blenheim apricots and I am smitten. I haven’t had a bad one yet. They are so pleasant (and pretty!). I can’t stop thinking about them.

The original plan was to make jam. But what I really wanted was an apricot cake. Actually, what I really, really wanted was an almond apricot cake. So I tried the first recipe I found. It was fine, but if I’m being completely honest, it wasn’t anything to write home about. Then a few days later, while working on a scone experiment, I came across another recipe that totally fit the bill.

This beauty comes from Tartine. It’s an almond breakfast cake, which is essentially a coffee cake, made with almond paste and almond meal and welcomes any seasonal fruit to be scattered over the batter, my choice of course being apricots, though I am certain that blueberries would be another fantastic choice. This is a very decadent cake, dense and buttery in the best possible way. I love the richness and the almond flavor of the cake paired with the jammy, sweet-tart pockets of fresh apricot. The almond crumble is excellent and adds a nice contrast in texture. I plan to use it on other streusel-topped goodies in the future. I also plan on making this cake again and again. I’ve already made it twice.

apricot almond breakfast cake

from Tartine by Elisabeth Prueitt and Chad Robertson

makes one 9-inch cake

crumble topping

1/2 cup unsalted butter

3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2/3 cup natural almond meal

1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon sugar

pinch of salt

cake

1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon (6 ounces) almond paste

1 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar

3/4 cup unsalted butter

1-1/2 cups + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 large eggs

8-10 apricots, depending on size, pitted and halved

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 9-inch round cake pan, preferably with a removable bottom or a springform pan. Set aside.

for the crumble topping:

Place the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium-high speed until creamy. Add the flour, almond meal, sugar, and salt and mix only until all the ingredients are evenly incorporated. You do not want a smooth mixture; it should have a crumbly appearance. Transfer the crumble topping to another bowl, making sure to scrape the mixing bowl clean. Set aside.

for the cake:

Place the almond paste in the same mixing bowl used for the crumble topping (no need to wash the bowl first). Mix on low speed until the paste is broken up. Add the sugar and gradually increase the speed to medium. Continue to mix until the sugar breaks up the almond paste fully and there are no more lumps. Add the butter and mix until creamy, about 1 minute. Stop the mixer as needed to scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl with a spatula. On low speed, add the flour, baking powder, salt, and eggs all at once, then increase the speed to medium and mix just until everything is combined. Do not overmix.

Pour the cake batter into the prepared pan. Use an offset spatula to spread the batter evenly in the pan. Place the apricot halves over the batter, cut side up. Distribute the almond crumble evenly over the entire cake. (At this point you can cover the assembled cake loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. The next morning, remove the cake from the fridge and leave it out at room temperature for about 45 minutes before baking.)

Bake the cake until the crumble topping is golden brown and the fruit is bubbling, about 1 hour and 20 minutes (the book says 40 minutes, but my cake took much longer, possibly because of the amount of liquid from the apricots). Start checking the cake after 1 hour, and then every 10 minutes going forward. It is difficult to test the doneness of the cake with a cake tester, as the fruit is moist and the tester wont come out clean. Don’t worry about overbaking – the fruit and almond paste will prevent the cake from becoming dry. If you are not sure if the cake is done, insert a small knife into the center and gently push some of the cake aside to see if it is cooked. Let the cake cool on a wire rack for at least 15 minutes before releasing it from the pan and serving.

pumpkin layer cake with caramel cream cheese frosting

It’s really starting to feel like November around here. Just the other day I was musing about how sunny and glorious it was as I crossed the Bay Bridge on my way home from work. And now I’m wearing leg warmers in bed.

November. Goodbye, daylight. Hello, scarves and coats and extra layers. Goodbye, stone fruit and tomatoes. Hey there, pumpkin recipes.

This one caught my attention as I was flipping through the pages of Bon Appetit Desserts, in search of a cake to bake for Rodney’s birthday. It sounded promising – pumpkin and spices and a caramel cream cheese frosting. And it was good. But it needed a little bit of a boost. So I made it a second time and doubled up on the spice and added an extra spoonful of sugar, which seemed to do the trick.

I wish I could tell you that this cake is full of pumpkin flavor. But it’s not. It’s a subtle pumpkin cake, which makes it an excellent platform for this insane caramel cream cheese frosting. And candied orange. Seriously, the caramel cream cheese frosting is a winner on its own; it’s like your favorite cream cheese frosting, but with a deepness and complexity that only caramel can provide. And the candied orange adds a bit of brightness and texture that really ties it all together. Something about this cake just screams autumn. It’s here. Get used to it.

pumpkin layer cake with caramel cream cheese frosting

adapted from Bon Appetit Desserts by Barbara Fairchild

serves 8-10

for the frosting:

4 cups powdered sugar, divided

1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon heavy whipping cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 8-ounce package cream cheese, room temperature

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature

for the cake:

3 cups all purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

1 15-ounce can pure pumpkin

1-1/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon sugar

1-1/4 cups vegetable oil

4 large eggs

2 teaspoons finely grated orange peel

for the garnish:

candied orange peel*

*Candied orange peel is available seasonally at most grocery stores or year round at specialty shops. Or you can make it yourself. (I’ll post a recipe soon. Promise!)

For the frosting:

Sprinkle 1/2 cup powdered sugar over bottom of small nonstick skillet. Cook over medium heat until sugar melts (do not stir). Continue cooking until sugar turns deep amber, stirring occasionally, about 2 minutes. Carefully stir in 1/2 cup cream, vanilla, and salt (mixture will bubble vigorously). Stir until any caramel bits dissolve. Stir in remaining 1 tablespoon cream. Strain into small bowl. Cool caramel to room temperature.

Sift remaining powdered sugar into medium bowl. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat cream cheese and butter. Gradually beat in powdered sugar. Beat in cooled caramel. Cover and chill frosting until firm enough to spread, about 2 hours.

For the cake:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour two 9-inch cake pans with 1 1/2-inch-high sides, tapping out any excess flour. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and spices. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the pumpkin, sugar, and oil. Add eggs, one at a time, beating to incorporate between additions. Mix in orange peel. Add flour mixture; beat on low speed just to blend. Divide batter between the prepared pans.

Bake cakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 33 minutes. Cool in pans 10 minutes. Invert onto rack, then turn top side up and cool completely.

Using long serrated knife, trim rounded tops from cakes. Place 1 cake layer on cake plate, cut side up. Spread 3/4 cup frosting over the bottom layer. Place second cake layer, cut side down, atop frosting. Cover top and sides of cake with remaining frosting, creating a smooth surface.

Sprinkle candied orange peel over top of cake. Cut into wedges and serve.

If you plan to make the cake in advance, cover with cake dome or large bowl and chill. Let stand at cool room temperature for 2 hours before serving. Can be made up to two days in advance.