Gratitude, Day 30: This Is The End, Now With Cranberry Cake

NOTE: I am a fan of 30-day challenges, and November is traditionally a time of two: National Novel Writing Month, and 30 Days of Thanks. As I am not a fiction writer, this year I have chosen to publish a daily blog for the entire month, expressing my gratitude. This may not be entirely food-focused, but expect recipes aplenty. Feel free to join me in the comments below. What are you thankful for today?

I won’t lie: this month of blogging about gratitude has been a bit of a slog.

I have learned that combining gratitude, a food blog, and reflection on life is just one thing too many, so I am sticking to food as it relates to life.

It’s not that I am not grateful, and it was never that I couldn’t find something to write about.

Sometimes combining three elements is a little hectic. Next year, maybe it will just be 30 days of cookie recipes, or 30 days of sauces. Gratitude can stay in my journal or shared with those it involves.

Today, the final day of this month-long occasional forced march, I am grateful that I am done.

To celebrate, I made the first of what will certainly be multiple cranberry cakes.

You want this in your face. #Trust
You want this in your face. #Trust

Full disclosure: this could have done with a few more minutes in the oven, but rather than show you a slice that clearly indicates this, I thought I would snap what really matters – the craggy soft interior of a moist, delicious cake that was eaten with fingers before it was barely turned out on the board to take the picture.

This cake is sweet and studded with fresh cranberries that are completely unadulterated. No chopping, no sweetening, no cooking. Nothing.

So what happens is you take a bite and get this luscious, buttery, sweet vanilla cake, followed by a bright/tart burst of fresh cranberry.

So. Freaking. Good.

It’s a bit underdone because this is the first time I made it in a Bundt pan, and I was slightly pressed for time. It takes just 15 minutes to throw together but a solid 75 minutes in the oven.

The other unusual part of this recipe is that it has no leavening agent; eggs and sugar are beaten together until they double in volume and become a ribbony pale yellow.

I would love to claim this recipe as my very own, but it isn’t. I added a touch of orange zest, used my gluten-free flour mix, and didn’t measure the cranberries (just dumped a full bag of frozen cranberries in), but other than that, this recipe is perfection, as is.

Oh, and side note: you could add a ton of sugar and calories by making the pecan topping in the recipe, but that is completely unnecessary.

Today, this last day of November, what are you grateful for?

Gratitude, Day 12: Coconut Cake

NOTE: I am a fan of 30-day challenges, and November is traditionally a time of two: National Novel Writing Month, and 30 Days of Thanks. As I am not a fiction writer, this year I have chosen to publish a daily blog for the entire month, expressing my gratitude. This may not be entirely food-focused, but expect recipes aplenty. Feel free to join me in the comments below. What are you thankful for today?

I have been craving cake for two weeks.

If I was not gluten-free, this would be easy enough.

Gluten-filled cake is like pizza or sex: even when it’s not the best, it’s still pretty good. A cake craving can be easily handled with a quick Suzy-Q from the 7-11 or something from the bakery at Giant. They even hand that shit out for free sometimes, so I could have technically just gotten a couple of samples and have been done with it.

Gluten-free cake, on the other hand, can be a total waste of money and the time it takes to go buy it. Some are gritty, some taste heavily of the bean flours with which they are made, and some forgo things like sugar and butter and try to be healthy.

I am too lazy to go try to acquire a cake that tastes terrible, and I just didn’t feel like baking a cake that feeds 14 for just little old me.

Today, I am grateful that I made a cake.

This cake.

Imma eat the shit out of this cake.
Imma eat the shit out of this cake.

It’s a little bulgy in the middle (like I will be after eating it ALL GONE) because the frosting is a marshmallow creation that isn’t always up to, well, holding up a cake.

No matter. It does the job as long as it needs to, which isn’t very long because I may be sending this out to those lucky folks who ordered food this week. #Surprise

I used the white cake recipe from the piecaken experiment last year, subbing coconut milk for regular milk, and I covered the whole damn thing with coconut.

It’s delicious.

What are you grateful for?

Gratitude, Day 8: Democracy Now, Or How Cake Brings People Together

NOTE: I am a fan of 30-day challenges, and November is traditionally a time of two: National Novel Writing Month, and 30 Days of Thanks. As I am not a fiction writer, this year I have chosen to publish a daily blog for the entire month, expressing my gratitude. This may not be entirely food-focused, but expect recipes aplenty. Feel free to join me in the comments below. What are you thankful for today?

Even though I voted early, I found this sticker a couple days ago and will be wearing it proudly today. #VOTE
Even though I voted early, I found this sticker a couple of days ago and will be wearing it proudly today. #VOTE

I have voted for president in three states in my lifetime: Maryland, Washington, and Georgia.

I vote in primaries.

I vote in mid-term elections.

I donate money on occasion to candidates.

Today, I am grateful that this shitshow of an election is over. #Gratitude

This blog is posting in the morning, so I don’t know how grateful I will be for the result of the election tomorrow, but if things proceed as they should, all campaigning and mudslinging and incivility will be over, at least until the next election.

(okay, that’s a bit naive, but allow me that indulgence for just this one moment)

Every presidential election since I can remember I have stayed up late, watching the election returns on TV. Even when I was a little kid we would huddle around the black and white TV, watching the percentages change. The first election I can actually remember is Jimmy Carter’s.

Ten days ago, in preparation for the ritual election returns watching, I baked an election cake. Election cakes date back to before the Revolutionary War when they were prepared for hundreds of people using nuts, dried fruit, wine, and whiskey.

A cake for many, many voters.
A cake for many, many voters.

Bakeries across the country are reviving the election cake tradition using the hashtag #MakeAmericaCakeAgain. When three people tagged me on an election cake post, I figured I would give it a shot.

Trouble is, I am no fan of yeast as it can be problematic in gluten-free baking, and traditional election cakes use yeast for their raising agent. Election cakes use yeast to create a live sponge, into which fruit, nuts, and additional flour are added.

In all other aspects, though, this shit is just a boozy fruitcake, which I happen to have on lock.

I made this cake ten days ago because it just gets better (and boozier) with age. It’s also very, very forgiving, so if you don’t have the particular dried fruits on hand you can make do with what you have. Just keep the total amount the same and you should be just fine.

Suzannah’s Modern-Day Election Cake

Ingredients

1 cup golden raisins (or regular)

1 cup currants

2 cups of any combination of the following: dried cherries, blueberries, cranberries, chopped apricots

Zest of one orange

Zest of one lemon

1/4 cup crystallized ginger, chopped

1 cup rum, bourbon, or brandy

1 cup sugar

10 tablespoons butter

1 cup apple cider

Teaspoon of each of the following: clove, ginger, cinnamon, allspice

1 1/4 cups gluten-free all-purpose flour (regular works here, too)

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

2 eggs

1/2 cup toasted pecans, roughly chopped

Brandy for basting (I used Laird’s Applejack because it’s what I had)

Method

THE NIGHT BEFORE: Combine dried fruits, citrus zest, chopped ginger, and booze in a glass container. Mix thoroughly and place overnight in the ‘fridge. This can be in the ‘fridge for two (or more) days, so if you get distracted, no problem.

It’s also delicious straight off the spoon, but that can be dangerous.

When you are ready to bake, place dried fruit, sugar, apple cider, and spices in a non-reactive saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring often, then turn heat down and simmer for ten minutes. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

Add to cooled fruit mixture and mix thoroughly. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well to incorporate each egg. Add chopped pecans.

Grease three disposable loaf pans (you are going to want to share these. Maybe). Divide batter evenly between the tins and bake for one hour. Test for doneness by inserting a paring knife. The knife should come out completely clean. If crumbs are sticking to the knife, bake for another five minutes and test again.

When the election (cake) is (finally) finished (over), remove from oven and baste liberally (yuk, yuk) with brandy. Cool completely in tin before turning out.

You are welcome at this point to try your cake. It will be spicy and fruity and nutty and delicious.

But this cake gets even better with age.

Wrap it tightly in plastic, store on the counter, and baste with brandy every couple days. In two weeks you will be eating a little slice of heaven, like we will be eating on election night.

I have heard that this cake last for a month or more. I may make it again on Thanksgiving and take it to Christmas to see how it goes. The booze and the sugar act as preservatives.

What are you grateful for today?

The Antidote: Salted Caramel Chocolate Cake

(no caption needed, is there?)
(no caption needed, is there?)

You deserve to treat yourself to something sweet.

#TreatYoSelf

Maybe it’s a Wednesday and things are a little crappy. Like maybe your teenager is having a meltdown and so are you because she is leaving for France for a year and hormones.

Or maybe it’s about to be 114 degrees and this might be the last time the oven gets used for the next week. #GlobalWarmingYall

Or maybe the circus that is the Republican National Convention makes you feel like grabbing a little sugar high. Or Rocky Mountain High because, seriously, #WhatTheFuck?

Whatever your issue. Whatever is happening.

Make THIS.

This surely is not legal in some states. There is a pound of butter in the frosting, and more sugar than you probably have in your kitchen right now in the whole cake. It takes a couple hours to make, what with the three layers (which I had to make in two pans and then one because I only have two pans, but that’s what being flexible is all about) and the filling and crumb coat  (which I will always do from now on) and the cooling and then the final frosting.

In the words of my very lucky neighbor: “This is legit.”

#YoureWelcome

Salted Caramel Chocolate Cake

Note: Mad love to Baker By Nature from whom this recipe was adapted. I made changes to the flours, the levening agents, and added some coffee, but other than that, it’s genius all on its own. 

Ingredients

Cake:

2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
2  3/4 cups gluten-free all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
2 teaspoons baking soda
3 teaspoons baking powder
1  1/4 teaspoons salt
3 large eggs + 2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
1  1/2 cups full-fat sour cream
1/3 cup whole milk
3/4 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups hot, strong brewed coffee (essential for deep chocolate flavor)

Salted caramel chocolate frosting:
2 cups unsalted butter (4 sticks, 16 ounces), completely soft
4 and 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons milk, half-n-half, or heavy cream (it seriously does not matter which)
2 tablespoons salted caramel sauce (I bought a jar of Smucker’s salted caramel sauce, but you could DIY)
Assembly:
1 and 1/4 cups salted caramel sauce (please see post for more on this)
Flaky sea salt

Method

Preheat oven to 350°(F).

Grease three 9-inch cakepans (or spray with cooking spray) and line bottom with rounds of parchment paper. Grease the rounds and set pans aside. As noted above, I had to bake two layers then bake the third due to lack of a third cake pan.

In the bowl of a stand mixer (I used the whisk attachment), or in a large bowl using a handheld electric mixer, combine both sugars, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt; mix on low until dry ingredients are thoroughly combined (or just whisk well to combine, breaking up large clumps).

In a separate bowl combine the eggs, egg yolks, sour cream, milk, oil, and vanilla extract; mix until completely combined.

Pour wet mixture into the dry ingredients and beat on low until just incorporated. Pour in hot coffee and continue mixing until completely combined (about one minute).

Divide batter evenly among prepared pans.

Baking times:

  • 30 minutes for regular oven
  • 25 for convection (I used convection; more even heat for baking)

Test with a wooden toothpick. Insert toothpick into the center of the cake. It should come out clean or with just a few crumbs attached.

Cool cakes for 10 minutes in the pan before removing from pans and transferring to a cooling rack. Cool cakes completely before frosting.

For the chocolate frosting:
In a stand mixer with the whisk attachment (or again using a hand mixer), cream the softened butter until completely smooth.

Turn the mixer off and sift the powdered sugar and cocoa into the mixing bowl. Use a spatula to gently stir in the chocolate/sugar mixture before turning the mixer back on or you will have a fine layer of chocolate/sugar dust coating all of the surfaces of your kitchen. #LearnFromExperience

Turn the mixer on the lowest speed and mix until the chocolate/sugar has been absorbed by the butter.

Increase mixer speed to medium; add in vanilla extract, salt, whatever dairy you are using, and salted caramel. Beat for three minutes. If your frosting appears a little too thin, add a little more confectioners’ sugar. If your frosting needs to be thinner, add more dairy, one tablespoon at a time.

Assembly:
If your cake does not have a lovely flat surface, you can use a serrated knife to trim whatever is sticking up, OR you can make the top the bottom. Place one layer on a large plate or cake stand. Spread a thin layer of frosting on top, then add a 1/4 to 1/2 cup of caramel and spread over the layer. Top with another cake layer, and thinly spread it with a layer of frosting, then adding 1/4 to 1/2 cup of caramel. Place final cake layer on top.

At this point, if your cake is listing due to the slippery nature of caramel, inserting dowels into the cake can help.

If you are using a crumb coat, do that now.

Chill cake in the ‘fridge for one hour, then remove to finish the frosting. Sprinkle with best-quality sea salt.

Keeps in the ‘fridge for five days. It won’t last that long, but that’s the theory anyway.

 

 

Taking The Day Off…With Cake

Cake
#Proper. Cake is the only remedy for busy.

What’s that you say? How could I possibly be taking the day off when I have not published a recipe since April 1st?

Well, friends, there is a reason for that.

I wrote a book. A whole book, with 80+ recipes and essays, in 30 days.

I write a lot in general about motivation and procrastination. This is very real to me, as the keeper of my own schedule and boss of me. So when I need to get something done, I set myself a close deadline and make the task huge.

This is often why I throw a party at least once or twice a year. It makes me clean the house at least once or twice a year. Sort of like going to the dentist every six months. When my dentist asks me how often I floss, I tell him, “At least twice a year.”

But I digress.

This book writing in 30 days is a spin-off on National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo, to use the vernacular), which occurs every November, the other 30-day month. As I write execrable fiction, I decided that April would become NaNoFiWriMo: National Non-Fiction Writing Month. This is how I wrote my first book, and since it worked out so well, I thought I’d try it again.

Plus, last year I published a list of writing goals and didn’t meet them. This was a little bit of a punishment for myself.

So I told my kid, my therapist, and another freelancing friend, and off I went.

40,028 words later, I am done. It’s rough as hell, and I don’t know exactly what I am going to do with it.

But the food is fucking incredible, if I do say so myself. Some recipes from this blog, some new stuff, some family recipes or recipes from friends (I’m looking at you, Nancy Allen and Bonnie King!!). I am pleased that it’s done and ready to cook. I took a week off from thinking about it, sending it off to a writing friend to look through it before I make any substantial edits.

But I cannot seem to stay away from it.

I find myself clicking on a recipe here or there, tweaking formats and finding typos.

I have started homemade kimchi for kimchi fries, and as I write this a cake from the book (sort of) is cooling on the counter, waiting for chocolate mousse filling and marshmallow frosting.

If you have nothing to do this rainy, rainy weekend, and the world of bullshit politics is making you want to poke your eye out with a spoon, take a step back and make this cake first. You may be able to face the world again.

Best White Cake With Chocolate Mousse Filling And Marshmallow Frosting

Ingredients

350 grams (about 2 1/2 c.) gluten-free all-purpose flour mix (or cake flour if gluten isn’t an issue)

1 T. baking powder

1/4 t. salt

1/2 c. butter (one stick), softened

1 t. vanilla extract

330 grams (about 1 1/2 c.) sugar

2 eggs

1 c. milk

Chocolate mousse filling (recipe below)

Marshmallow frosting (recipe below)

Method

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare pan: butter bottom of  two 9-inch cake pans, line with parchment circle, butter the entire pan and dust with flour. If you skimp on this step, your cake will stick and all your hard work will be for naught.

In a small bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt.

In the bowl of a stand mixer (or a large bowl with hand mixer), cream butter with sugar and vanilla extract. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until smooth. Add dry ingredients and milk, starting and ending with dry (flour, milk, flour, milk, flour).

Pour approximately 1/2″ of batter into each pan. Bake until a toothpick comes out clean (test on the sides and in the middle until it hits the cheesecake crust), between 30 and 40 minutes. While the cake is baking, make your chocolate mousse filling (recipe below).

Cool in the pan for ten minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely. You can cool on the rack in the ‘fridge. While it’s cooling, start on the marshmallow frosting.

Chocolate Mousse Filling

Ingredients

8 ounces semisweet chocolate, melted

2 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream

2 T sugar

Method

Melt chocolate over a double boiler or in the microwave (careful not to burn). Cool.

In a large, clean bowl with chilled beaters, whip the cream until it stands in soft peaks. Add sugar and continue to whip until it stands in firm peaks.

Add 1/4 of the whipped cream to the melted chocolate and whisk to combine. Add the chocolate mixture to the remaining whipped cream and fold with a spatula until fully combine. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Marshmallow Frosting

Ingredients

250 grams (approximately 2 c) powdered sugar

1/4 t. cream of tartar

2 t. light corn syrup

2 egg whites

1/4 c. water

1 t. vanilla extract

Method

Combine ingredients in a metal bowl and whisk to combine. Place metal bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and beat with a hand mixer on medium until the mixture begins to thicken (like marshmallow Fluff). Continue to beat on high until mixture stiffens (stiff peaks). This whole process takes 10-15 minutes.

Remove from heat and continue to beat the frosting until it is completely cool.

Assembly

A cake stand (thanks, Kerry!!!) and an offset spatula make life a lot easier here. Fill cake with a generous amount of mousse, then frosting with marshmallow frosting. Then eat A TON while you take a break from whatever big project has been making you busier than you perhaps ought to be.