blizzard cake

February 1, 2011 § 4 Comments

I was out of town over the holidays when the massive snowstorm hit the northeast. At work they declared the first snow day in seven years and I missed it! Because I was in Canada! The irony was deeply irritating. I almost wanted to go back home just so I could take advantage of the snow day, but unsurprisingly, it was snowing in Canada too, so I stayed indoors instead.

A couple weeks ago, though, we got hit by blizzard #2, and I had the chance to hole up indoors, hiding from the harsh weather and feeling excessively cozy. I also was seized by the urge to make a snow-appropriate cake, but only on the condition that I didn’t have to go outside to buy any missing ingredients, which I was pretty sure would lead to a melodramatic death by snowstorm. Luckily, I always have butter and cream cheese in the fridge (healthy person that I am), so it wasn’t too hard to come up with a feasible recipe. I had to substitute the sour cream and reduce the orange peel, but really, who likes citrus that much anyhow? No one, that’s who.

This cake is perfect comfort food, and should ideally be eaten while drinking hot chocolate and feeling very smug about being indoors while it snows outside. Although the layers look fancy, it’s really not much work. Apparently it’s supposed to snow again tomorrow – although I personally don’t believe it because clearly all the snow is already in towering mountains on my driveway – and if so, I might just make it again.

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Spiced Layer Cake – adapted from Epicurious
I found that there was just barely enough frosting to coat the cake. I liked the ratio, but if you’re a frosting fanatic you might want to up the frosting recipe by a half.
Cake:

    2 cups all purpose flour
    1 teaspoon baking soda
    1 teaspoon baking powder
    1 teaspoon ground ginger
    1 teaspoon ground cardamom
    1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    2 cups sugar
    1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
    1 tablespoon grated orange peel ( I used 1/2 teaspoon)
    4 large eggs
    1 cup sour cream (or if it’s snowing, subsitute half creme fraiche and half yogurt)
    1/2 cup whole milk

Cream cheese frosting:

    2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
    1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
    2 cups powdered sugar
    1 teaspoon vanilla (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease three 9-inch-diameter cake pans and line bottom of pans with parchment paper. Butter and flour pans; tap out excess flour. Sift first 8 ingredients into medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat sugar, butter and orange peel in large bowl until fluffy. Beat in eggs 1 at a time. Stir flour mixture into butter mixture alternately with sour cream and milk. Divide batter among prepared pans.

Bake cakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Transfer pans to racks and cool 10 minutes. Turn cakes out onto racks and cool completely.

For frosting, beat cream cheese and butter together until smooth. Beat in sugar, then vanilla. Chill until ready to use.

Place 1 cake layer on platter. Spread 2/3 cup frosting over. Top with second cake layer. Spread 2/3 cup frosting over. Top with third cake layer. Cover top and sides of cake with remaining frosting.

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applesauce cake

January 16, 2011 § 1 Comment

Although I wasn’t particularly good this year, Christmas brought a heaping pile of shiny new kitchen gadgets. I wouldn’t have predicted a couple years ago that I would get excited about small appliances, but now the arrival of a stand mixer at my doorstep is thrilling! I’ve somehow become a kitchen dork. I immediately wanted to make towering cakes and extravagant meringues and all sorts of exhausting things, but then I remembered that I don’t really know how to use a stand mixer yet. So in an rare moment of wisdom, I decided to start small.

That turned out to be an extremely good idea. I picked a simple applesauce cake: one layer, cream cheese frosting. I spilled flour everywhere, and accidentally wildly overbeat the batter by my apparent inability to understand basic speed controls, and it was still delicious! I even somehow managed to leave an unmixed swirl of applesauce running through the cake, and this indestructible cake rose perfectly anyhow.

This recipe makes a gently spiced, moist and dense cake. You can cut it into breakfast squares if you’ve already abandoned your New Year’s resolutions, or save it for dessert – either way, it’s very welcome on a chilly January day. And apparently, impossible to mess up, so give it a try!

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Spiced Applesauce Cake with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting
– adapted from Gourmet

For the cake:

    2 cups all-purpose flour
    2 teaspoons baking powder
    1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
    1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
    1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
    1 stick unsalted butter, softened
    1 cup packed light brown sugar
    1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
    2 large eggs
    1 1/2 cups unsweetened applesauce
    1/2 cup walnuts, toasted, cooled, and chopped

For the frosting:

    5 oz cream cheese, softened
    3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
    1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
    1 cup confectioners sugar
    1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a 9-inch square cake pan.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices, and set aside.

In a large bowl, beat butter and brown sugar with an electric mixer at high speed until pale and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition, then beat in applesauce. At low speed, mix in flour mixture until just combined, then stir in walnuts.

Spread batter evenly in pan and bake until golden-brown and a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes. Cool in pan 15 minutes. Run a knife around edge of cake to loosen, then invert onto a plate. Reinvert cake onto a rack to cool completely.

Make frosting:

Beat cream cheese, butter, and vanilla with an electric mixer at high speed until fluffy. Sift confectioners sugar and cinnamon over cream cheese mixture, then beat at medium speed until incorporated. Spread frosting over top of cooled cake.

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