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Posts Tagged ‘cake’

Pumpkin ginger pound cake

I think it’s safe to say that my recent move has changed my relationship to my stuff. In the weeks leading up to the big day, we had a yard sale and purged a ton of stuff. We dropped off loads of goods at the Goodwill. I even opened up the Boxes in the Basement. You know, the boxes full of lifetime detritus that you only ever look at when you’re packing up to move — and I sorted through them, culled some things, and made albums with old photos. I’m turning over a new leaf in my relationship with all the stuff I carry around with me, folks. I’m determined that if I’m going to have stuff in my life, I’m going to use it and enjoy it, not just resent it when it’s time to move.

All of this, in a roundabout way, was my motivation for making this cake.  (Well, that and a desire for cake.) I have this really cute jack o’lantern muffin tin, which of course only gets used at a particular time of year. This past weekend I realized that  it was the end of October and I hadn’t used it yet. And if the darned thing was going to get used this year, Sunday was the day. 

This recipe is adapted from a Fine Cooking recipe that came into my life many years ago, and its appeal stretches far beyond Halloween.

I normally bake it as a Bundt cake, but in honour of the season, and the pumpkin-shaped tin, I made cupcakes and baked the leftover batter in a small loaf pan. The original recipe is very nice, but since I am a lover of all things ginger I boosted the fresh ginger content a fair bit, and added some ground white pepper for a spicy kick.  

Also, the original recipe tells you to separate the eggs, whip the whites and add them at the end for maximum volume. This has some merit, and will make a lighter cake. But what cake-baking mother of a three-month-old has time for that, I ask you? We all draw our lines in the sand.

This cake is delicious with vanilla ice cream or some custard. It is also excellent on its own. If you have the willpower, it even ages well over a couple of days as the flavours develop. Just keep it at room temperature and wrapped in plastic or foil.

Pumpkin ginger pound cake
(batter will make one Bundt pan, 24 small-ish cupcakes, or 2 small loaves.)

1 cup unsalted butter, completely softened at room temperature; more for the pan
2 1/2 cups cake flour; more for the pan (I used all-purpose flour, and it turned out just fine.)
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. table salt
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground white pepper
1/4 tsp. ground allspice 
2 cups packed light brown sugar
1 1/2 tbsp. minced fresh ginger
1 tbsp. pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
1 cup unsweetened pumpkin purée ( I roasted my own pumpkin, but canned will work just fine, too.)
1/4 cup vegetable oil

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Prepare your pans by brushing them with butter, then dusting with flour.

Combine the dry ingredients: in a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt and spices; whisk to combine.

Make the wet mixture: in a large stand mixer, mix the butter at medium speed until smooth. With the mixer on low speed, gradually add the brown sugar. Bringing the mixer back up to medium, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffly. On low speed, add the eggs, mixing  just to combine. Add the vanilla, grated fresh ginger, pumpkin puree and vegetable oil, and mix until smooth.

Dry meets wet: With the mixer on low speed, mix in one-third of the flour mixture and stir just until the flour disappears. Repeat with the flour in two more passes, making sure to scrape down the sides of bowl thoroughly. Mix just until combined.

Bake: Spoon the batter into your prepared pan (or pans). Your baking time will vary: 40-50 minutes for a Bundt cake, 20-25 minutes for cupcakes, and 30-35 minutes for loaves. In any case, to test a cake for doneness, touch the top in the center with your fingertip. It should spring back when you take your hand away. Alternatively, you can insert a toothpick into the centre of the cake.  If it comes out mostly clean with a few moist crumbs clinging to it, it’s done.

Let cool about 10 minutes in the pan, then invert the cake pan onto a cooling rack to finish the job.  To serve, a light dusting of icing sugar will make it pretty. But really, you’ll already have impressed everyone just by making this cake.

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The joys of rhubarb

Alice Waters has called rhubarb the vegetable bridge between the hard fruits of fall and winter and the soft fruits of summer.

I love rhubarb. More than asparagus, wild leeks, fiddleheads or even morels, rhubarb is my favourite food of Spring. I love how its colour subtly varies from green to ruby red along its stem, I love how its flavour stays tart and sharp, even after you add tons of sugar to it.

I buy pale pink forced rhubarb in January, though I always find there’s something lackin about it. Come May, I become obsessed with getting my hands on as much rhubarb as I can. My sister-in-law has a huge rhubarb patch in her back forty, and I’ve been bugging her incessantly to bring me some. (She doesn’t use it, anyway.) She did bring me some last week, and I put it to use right away:

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Do you know the joys of rhubarb chutney? It is sweet, sour and aromatic. I learned this recipe years ago at a restaurant I worked at in Guelph. I eat it with pork chops, samosas, in grilled cheese sandwiches and it’s especially good with lamb.

Rhubarb Chutney

4 cups chopped rhubarb
1 large onion, minced
1 tsp. ground allspice
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
¾ cup cider vinegar
1 cup brown sugar

The method is simple: combine everything in a saucepan and simmer for at least an hour until the rhubarb is thoroughly cooked. You can eat it right away provided you have the right things to eat it with, but its flavour improves after a few days. It keeps well at least a month in the fridge.

That’s the savoury thing I do with rhubarb. For desserts, of course there is rhubarb crisp and just plain rhubarb compote that goes well with pancakes or pound cake.

But even with the harvest that my sis-in-law brought me, I still needed more. So I was happy to see a good supply at the grocery store today:

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I’m not sure how I’ll use it all, but this cake is at the top of the list. This cake is a favourite at my house. It’s not too sweet, but feels decadent all the same – maybe because it’s so pretty. The anise flavour perfectly complements the rhubarb. If you don’t have buttermilk you can use milk or yogurt, but buttermilk makes the cake super light.

photo courtesy of Epicurious

photo courtesy of Epicurious

Upside-Down Rhubarb Anise Cake

For topping:
¼ cup unsalted butter
¾ cup packed light brown sugar
3 cups rhubarb, chopped into 1 inch pieces

For cake:
1 teaspoon anise seeds, ground
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla
2 large eggs
¾ cup well-shaken buttermilk

Preheat your oven to 350°F.
Over moderate heat, melt butter in a 10-inch cast iron skillet and reduce heat to low. Sprinkle brown sugar evenly onto bottom of skillet and heat, undisturbed, 3 minutes (not all brown sugar will be melted). Remove skillet from heat and arrange rhubarb in one layer over the brown sugar, in a pretty pattern.

In a mixing bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, anise, flour, baking soda and salt. In another bowl, cream the butter and sugar together and add the vanilla.Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add flour mixture in batches alternating with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Make sure not to overbeat – mix just until combined.

Spoon batter over rhubarb in skillet, spreading evenly (be careful not to disturb rhubarb), and bake cake in middle of oven until golden, about 45 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean. Cool cake in skillet on a rack 15 minutes.
Run a thin knife around edge of skillet and invert a plate over skillet. Keeping plate and skillet firmly pressed together, invert cake onto plate. Carefully remove skillet and serve cake warm or at room temperature.

What are your favourite things to do with rhubarb? Please send them may way!

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