Friday, April 30, 2010

Sweet Farewell to Winter

My favorite sweet potato recipe is a quick bread.  The recipe is from The Sustainable Kitchen, and I use it whenever there are left-over sweet potatoes.  I love it because it's really more of a savory bread.  There's hardly any sugar in it at all, and it is a great accompaniment to turkey or pork. 

I just tried it with the last of our Halloween pumpkin, which we pureed and froze.  The results were equally as pleasing.  The pumpkin flavor really starred, more so than the sweet potato does.

I had a loaf left-over, and decided to use it for bread pudding.  To accompany it I made a brown butter caramel sauce.  The two paired perfectly.  The depth of the caramel sauce toned down the pumpkin flavor, and sweetened it up just enough to put it in the dessert category.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Loving Lemon

Spring may be my favorite time of year.  There's such hope.  Everything is blossoming, and life begins anew.  I have been craving, no, more obsessed with desserts as fresh as spring.  That means fruit.  This time lemon.  Citrus is so refreshing, and so successfully lightens desserts.   I love it.
It might not look like much, but this lemon cake is killer.  The recipe is my mom's, and comes from the Art Museum cookbook.  The original is for lemon "bread," though it's really a cake.  Chopped walnuts are on the ingredient list.  I always omit them.  To me they interrupt the flavor and texture.  Sweetened lemon need no distraction.

I poked holes on the cake and poured a lemon glaze on top.  The glaze seeped into the cake.  Adding a little crunch and lots of lemon flavor.  Next time I want to serve it with blueberries and whipped cream. 

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Lane Cake: A Southern Tradition?

Once my dad mentioned how much he loved Lane Cake.  I had never heard of it before.  I made a mental note, and decided to make it for his recent visit/birthday celebration.  My research showed it to be a Southern tradition, though I live in the South and no one I've talked to has ever heard of it.

I did a little research, made some adjustments, and ended up with a delicious final product.  The cake is three layers, and heavy on the egg whites.  It's not quite an angel food, it's denser than that, but lighter than most cakes. 

The filling is what sets it apart (and what you see on the top of the cake).  It is a mixture of pecans, raisins, dried figs coconut, sherry, and orange zest held together by egg yolk and sugar cooked to cover the spoon.  A quick note here to say that the figs and sherry aren't traditional to lane cakes; candied cherries and bourbon are.

The sides are iced with a sherry Italian butter cream. I am still a HUGE fan of the Italian butter cream.  I'll take it any day of an American one, especially laced with sherry.

The overall effect: the beauty of a layer cake and the flavor of a fruit cake.  A damn good fruit cake at that.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Oh So Peachy

I have this great layer cake cookbook, Sky High.  Slowly I’ve been trying out some of the recipes.  It is my favorite cake cookbook, I’ve just decided.

The latest cake I tried was peach melba.  Are you ready for this?  It is a cream cake, brushed with a peach schnapps simple syrup, layered with peach mousse, and iced with raspberry cream.  The whole thing is then served a raspberry-peach sauce. 

The thing I love about this cookbook is the cakes are so creative and innovative.

First off I can’t begin to describe how delicious just the cream cake is.  It has no butter, only heavy cream.  It is airy like angel food and rich like a pound; moist and delicious.  The peach mousse is, well, peachy.  Think peaches and cream with just the texture of cream.  The raspberry cream icing has all the delicacy of raspberries without those pesky seeds. 

The three together were heavenly.  Not to mention the stunning colors represented in one slice.  It is one of my favorite cakes.  Perfect for a special occasion on a sunny spring day.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Giving Cream Cheese Icing a Run for its Money

Carrot cake is such a classic.  My favorite carrot cake recipe, from the Silver Palate, uses pureed carrots which are first boiled.  I am convinced the cooking concentrates the sweet carrot flavor because it consistently delivers a cake far superior to those with fresh shredded carrots.

I have found this to be a perfect method for using left-over carrots, puree them and make carrot cake.  Lately I have started using brown butter instead of vegetable oil.  The resulting cake is so tender with deep, rich flavor. 

This last time I topped it off with a brown butter icing: brown butter, sea salt, vanilla, and confectioner's sugar.  Dare I say it's better than cream cheese?  I haven't decided yet.  But it definitely complements the cake well.  The salt brings out the nuttiness of the brown butter, and tames the sweetness.

I believe another taste is in order before deciding it beats cream cheese.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Cobbler of All Cobblers

The picture says it best.

So I will keep this short.  I love fruit desserts.  I had a real yen for peaches, broke down and bought some frozen, deciding to make a my fiance's tried and true cobbler recipe.  It is the best I've ever had--delicious.  The only change I made was to cut in half the amount of sugar mixed with fruit.  The ratio of fruit to cakey-crust was perfect as was the sweetness.  I can't wait to try it again this summer with fresh peaches.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Peanut Butter and Banana, Anyone?

Banana cake is comfort, tender, moist, and familiar, it is always a crowd-pleaser.  For me it takes me back to my Minnie Mouse birthday party.  It was probably my fifth or sixth birthday so I don't remember much about the party.  But I do remember the banana cake made in the shape of Minnie, and decorated to complement.  The cake was so delicious that in my ravenous I dropped some on the dining rug, the stain is there to this day to prove it.

It is that cake I've been trying to replicate.  I think I've finally got it.  Instead of vegetable oil I use browned butter which adds richness and depth of flavor.  The other trick is plenty of bananas and brown sugar.  It is, in my opinion, the best banana cake.  Too tender to be layered.

This time I decided to play with the classic peanut butter and banana combination, and topped the cake with peanut butter icing.  Mostly butter and peanut butter with a little confectioner's sugar, the icing was airy yet rich.  The peanut butter played nicely with the nuttiness of the brown butter, and was perfectly reminiscent of the sandwich.  The ultimate in banana cake cum comfort food.