Orange Poppy Seed Drizzle Cake

As an American, drizzle cakes weren’t part of my baking repertoire until I started watching the life-changing Great British Baking Show. They remind me a bit of pound cakes, but not exactly; their texture is a bit lighter, and they’re covered in a syrup while still warm to infuse the cake with moisture. As the cake cools, the syrup forms a delicious crunchy topping. The syrup should soak all the way to the bottom of the cake, but I’ve yet to discover exactly how this is possible. Is my cake too “close-textured,” as Mary and Paul would say? Perhaps. But regardless of that, this cake is absolutely delicious.

I adapted a recipe from Jo’s Kitchen Larder by adding poppy seeds to the batter and increasing the syrup liquid by half a blood orange. I also used the creaming method, rather than the all-in-one method, as the original recipe outlined. This is definitely a cake I’ll use as a go-to in the future.

Ingredients

For the cake

  • 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons self-rising flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons superfine sugar*
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • zest of 1 blood orange
  • 100 ml whole milk**
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons poppy seeds

For the drizzle

  • 1/2 cup superfine sugar
  • juice and zest from 1 1/2 blood oranges

*Superfine sugar, also known as caster sugar, can be made by pulsing granulated sugar in a food processor until it has a very fine, sandy texture.

**There is a 100 ml line on your average liquid measuring cup; it’s about 1/8 inch shy of the half-cup mark. As this recipe was written in grams and milliliters, I converted as much as I could into cups, but 100 ml doesn’t translate as well from metric to U.S. measurements. 

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9-inch loaf tin with parchment paper.

Sift self-rising flour and baking soda into a medium bowl; set aside.

In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add blood orange zest and eggs and beat to combine. Add flour mixture and milk alternatively, beginning and ending with the flour, beating to combine completely. Stir in poppy seeds.

Spoon batter into loaf tin and bake for 40-50 minutes, until the top is golden and a cake tester comes out clean. Check the cake around 30 minutes and cover with foil if necessary to prevent over-browning.

Just before the cake comes out of the oven, prepare the drizzle; combine superfine sugar, juice, and zest in a small bowl and stir well.

Remove the cake from the oven and immediately poke all over the top with a skewer. Spoon drizzle over the cake, allowing it to soak in completely. Cool cake completely before removing from the tin. Store well-wrapped at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Makes about 8 servings.

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Citrus Cake

This weekend’s theme seems to be “tastes delicious, but the texture needs work.” Yesterday afternoon I whipped up a foam/sponge cake, similar to what you’d use for a jelly roll but without the actual rolling. It’s too chewy, and I’m not really sure why. Did I over-mix it? Under-bake it? It’s not nearly as light and airy as my spice roll was at Thanksgiving, so I’m going to have to get back into the kitchen and see where things went wrong. I actually suspect I under-baked it and didn’t give the cake enough time to rise.

In any case, this creation is one that, had the texture turned out well, I think would have made the judges of the Great British Baking Show proud. My blood orange curd features in both the filling and the frosting, so flavor-wise this is a wonderful combination of citrus and vanilla.

Ingredients

For the cake

  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 eggs, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • zest from 1 blood orange

For the frosting & filling

  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 1/2 tablespoons blood orange curd, divided
  • 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Preparation

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a 10 x 15 x 1 pan with parchment.

In a small bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside. In a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat eggs until foamy, then slowly add the sugar, beating on medium speed until the mixture is thick and a light lemon color, about 5-7 minutes; add vanilla and zest just before you stop beating. When the batter is done, it will fall from the whisk in a ribbon, then mound on top of the batter before blending back in. Gently fold the flour mixture in (I used my whisk attachment for easy clean-up).

Pour batter into parchment-lined pan and bake for 12-14 minutes, until the top is golden brown and springs back when you touch it. Remove from the oven and flip onto a cooling rack, then gently peel the parchment away. Allow to cool completely before filling and frosting.

While the cake cools, make the frosting: in a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and cream cheese until completely smooth. Add 1 cup powdered sugar and 1 tablespoon curd, beating until smooth; add remaining powdered sugar and curd, then beat until totally smooth.

Place frosting in a piping bag and remaining 1/2 cup curd in another piping bag; set aside.

Trim edges of the cake to create three equal rectangles (you can save the scraps and have them as a snack with some curd later). Place bottom layer on a platter and pipe a border of frosting around the edge, then fill the inside with curd. Repeat with the second layer, then top with the third layer. Pipe remaining frosting on the top.

Store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Makes about 8 servings.

Spice Cake with Maple Buttercream and Pecans

Just in case my pear and frangipane tart turned out to be a disaster, I needed a backup Christmas dessert. Enter this delicious spice cake, with maple buttercream frosting and a ring of toasted chopped pecans. Fortunately the tart was great, so we had plenty of tasty desserts around the house last week.

I’d made this spice cake before as cupcakes with a maple cream cheese frosting, but decided on a maple buttercream this time. The chopped toasted pecans add a nice dimension of flavor, as well as some crunch. The recipe below made one 8-inch layer, but you could easily double it for a fancier two-layer cake.

Ingredients

For the cake

  • 1 cup flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • heaping 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
  • heaping 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • heaping 1/8 teaspoon ginger
  • heaping 1/8 teaspoon cloves
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons shortening
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 6 ounces sour milk*

*Place 1/2 tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice in a glass measuring cup and add enough milk to equal a total of 6 ounces. Stir, then let sit for 5 minutes before using. 

For the frosting

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3-4 tablespoons maple syrup
  • About 2/3 cup chopped toasted pecans

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spray an 8-inch round cake pan with baking spray and line the bottom with a parchment circle.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves. You’ll note that the measurements for the spices are heaping, so seriously, don’t hold back.

In a mixing bowl, beat butter and shortening on medium speed for about 1 minute. Add sugar and vanilla and cream together until well-combined, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary.

Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Add flour mixture and sour milk alternatively, beginning and ending with the flour and beating until just combined after each addition.

Pour batter into cake pan and bake for 25 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan for about 1 hour, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the frosting, in a mixing bowl, beat butter on medium speed for about 2 minutes. Scrape down the bowl and add the powdered sugar, all at once, then beat on low speed until the sugar is fully incorporated into the butter; this will take several minutes.

Add vanilla and 2 tablespoons maple syrup, then beat on medium speed for about 3-4 minutes, until very light and fluffy, scraping the sides of the bowl very well at least a few times. Taste; add 1 to 2 more tablespoons syrup to reach your desired flavor.

Place the cooled cake on a serving platter and frost the top only, then sprinkle toasted pecans around the edge.

Makes about 8 servings.

Lemon Almond Yule Log

A traditional Yule log, or buche de noel, is a chocolate sponge cake with chocolate or vanilla filling. As migraine life doesn’t give me the option of chocolate, I decided to make one with my favorite flavors – almond and lemon – and jazz it up with some pine bough piping and almond pine cones.

While the flavors in this cake were delicious, my sponge wasn’t quite as light and airy as I’d like. The best sponge I’ve ever made was the spice roll with caramel sauce from Thanksgiving, so I’ll keep practicing this cake until I get the texture I want. That’s one of the many benefits of baking; you can keep working on something in order to perfect it, and still have tasty treats along the way.

Ingredients

For the cake

  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 eggs, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the filling and frosting

  • About 2/3 to 3/4 cup lemon curd
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 3/4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon almond extract
  • 1/2 to 1 tablespoon milk
  • Brown food coloring
  • Moss green food coloring
  • Flaked almonds, for pine cones

Preparation

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a 10 x 15 x 1 pan with parchment. Place a lint-free tea towel on a heatproof surface (I use a cutting board) near your oven and dust it with powdered sugar.

In a small bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside. In a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat eggs until foamy, then slowly add the sugar, beating on medium speed until the mixture is thick and a light lemon color, about 5-7 minutes; add vanilla and almond extracts just before you stop beating. When the batter is done, it will fall from the whisk in a ribbon, then mound on top of the batter before blending back in. Gently fold the flour mixture in (I used my whisk attachment for easy clean-up).

Pour batter into prepared pan, spreading with a spatula to create an even layer. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until the top is golden brown and you hear a crackling from the surface of the cake. Remove from oven, then quickly and carefully flip your cake onto the powdered sugar-sprinkled tea towel. Gently peel the parchment away, then starting at one of the short ends, roll the cake up in a tight spiral and allow to cool on a wire rack completely before filling.

To make the buttercream, in a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter on medium speed for about 1 minute. Add powdered sugar and beat on low speed until the sugar is fully incorporated into the butter, about 3-5 minutes. Add vanilla and almond extracts and milk; continue to beat on medium-high speed for another 1-2 minutes. You can add a bit more milk, 1 teaspoon at a time, if necessary to thin your frosting.

To fill, frost, and decorate: unroll the cake and spread with lemon curd; re-roll and place in the refrigerator for about 20-30 minutes for it to set.

Frost the cake to cover it completely, then use your spatula to make long bark-like markings along the top and sides and swirls on the ends. Tint a small portion of frosting brown and place in a piping bag fitted with a large plain tip, then pipe pine branches. Tint another portion of frosting moss green and place in a piping bag fitted with a medium plain tip, then pipe needles.

To make almond pine cones, pipe blobs of frosting, then place flaked almonds in rows to create the cone shape.

Carefully cover your log with foil and place it back in the refrigerator until about 20 minutes before you’re ready to serve it. Store leftover cake in the fridge.

Makes about 10 servings.

 

Spice Roll with Caramel Sauce

The Great British Baking Show has made me a more creative – and adventurous – baker. I’m on vacation this week, and between errands, cleaning, and yoga, I’ve spent some time checking out the latest season. Inspired by various treats, I made this spice roll and caramel sauce.

While the contestants on the GBBS don’t roll their cakes in towels, choosing instead to cool them, then roll them, this method works best for me. I’ve come a long way from my very first pumpkin roll, achieving a nice spiral (see below). In hindsight, the maple cream cheese filling could have used a bit more maple syrup – it’s not as strong a maple flavor next to the rather strong spices in my cake. The entire treat is still delicious, though.

Ingredients

For the cake

  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon apple pie spice
  • 4 eggs, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the filling

  • 4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup

For serving

Preparation

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a 10 x 15 x 1 pan with parchment. Place a lint-free tea towel on a heatproof surface (I use a cutting board) near your oven and dust it with powdered sugar.

In a small bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, salt, and apple pie spice; set aside. In a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat eggs until foamy, then slowly add the sugar, beating on medium speed until the mixture is thick and a light lemon color, about 5-7 minutes; add vanilla just before you stop beating. When the batter is done, it will fall from the whisk in a ribbon, then mound on top of the batter before blending back in. Gently fold the flour mixture in (I used my whisk attachment for easy clean-up).

Pour batter into prepared pan, spreading with a spatula to create an even layer. Bake for 12-14 minutes, until the top springs back when you touch it. Remove from oven, then quickly and carefully flip your cake onto the powdered sugar-sprinkled tea towel. Gently peel the parchment away – I needed to use an offset spatula to prevent some of the cake from sticking to the parchment. Starting at one of the short ends, roll the cake up in a tight spiral and allow to cool on a wire rack completely before filling.

To make the filling, beat cream cheese and butter on medium speed for about 2 minutes. Add powdered sugar and beat on low, then medium speed, until completely combined. Add maple syrup and beat to combine.

Carefully unroll the cake and add filling, then re-roll and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate for about 1 hour before serving; serve with caramel sauce. Store in the refrigerator.

Behold, a lovely spiral!

 

Turkey Cupcakes

My nephew Roman loves chocolate cake with chocolate frosting, and these adorable little turkeys are on their way to North Carolina, along with my mom, for his Thanksgiving. I cannot get over how cute they are.

There are plenty of turkey cupcake decorating ideas out there, but I chose the M&M version for ease of completion. You can create their beaks, wattles, and feathers with the same candy, though I recommend buying a larger bag so you have enough for the whole batch. I used several different designs for their feathers, as you can see in the photo below, but I think the stand-up version – where you place the candies vertically instead of pressing them flat into the frosting – yields the best look.

Ingredients

Preparation

Bake cupcakes and allow to cool completely before frosting and decorating.

Make frosting and hand-frost the tops of the cupcakes. Fit a piping bag with a large plain tip and pipe a blob for the face, then pipe additional frosting around the top edge of the cupcake to make it easier to place the candies.

Add candy eyeballs, then use a yellow M&M for the beak, red for the wattle, and the colors of your choice for the feathers. I used two different methods for the feathers; I pressed some directly into the frosting flat, while I stood others up vertically, using the frosting as sort of a bolster. I prefer the second method, as the candies look more feather-like that way.

Store in an airtight container and serve within a few days. The moisture from the cupcakes and frosting will affect the candies after a while.

Makes 13. Below is a look at the flock for Roman!

Dracula’s Favorite Cupckes

October went by in a blur, and I never got a chance to post these fun, Halloween-themed cupcakes. They’re a basic almond cupcake filled with blood-red raspberry filling, topped with a little bat. I like to think Dracula would have enjoyed them.

I initially planned to poke holes in the tops and have some of the filling ooze out vampire-bite-style, but that didn’t quite work. Fortunately, I had some bat sprinkles, so that worked well. To make your raspberry filling appear a bit more bloody, simply add red food coloring once it’s cooled. You could also go with a cherry filling if you wanted to, as cherry and almond are good flavor friends as well.

Ingredients

For the cupcakes

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • dash of salt
  • 8 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons almond extract
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 recipe raspberry filling
  • Red food coloring

For the frosting

  • 12 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 2 3/4 to 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon almond extract
  • 1-2 tablespoons milk
  • Bat sprinkles

Preparation

Prepare raspberry filling and allow to cool; add several drops of red food coloring, stirring well until you reach your desired color.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a cupcake tin with paper liners.

In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar until very well-blended. Add eggs, vanilla, and almond and beat until combined.

Add flour and milk alternatively in two batches, beginning and ending with the flour and beating until completely combined.

Using a 2-inch cookie scoop, drop scoops of batter into each cupcake well.

Bake for 18-22 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Remove from oven and immediately place cupcakes on a wire rack to cool completely before filling and frosting.

Once cupcakes are cool, prepare frosting: in a mixing bowl, beat butter for about 1 minute. Add powdered sugar and beat on low speed until all of the sugar is fully incorporated into the butter; this will take a few minutes.

Add vanilla extract and almond extract, beating well to combine. Add 1 tablespoon milk and beat well; add additional milk if necessary to achieve a smooth consistency that will be easy to pipe and spread.

To fill and frost: using a melon baller, scoop out the center of each cupcake. From the core, cut away all but the top 1/4 inch, leaving a small disc of cake. Reserve the scraps for a trifle or other treat.

Place raspberry filling in a zip-top bag and carefully snip one corner; pipe filling into each cupcake, then top with cake discs. This will help the raspberry filling from getting into your frosting, although I suppose for a vampire-themed cupcake, that wouldn’t be the worst thing.

Fill a piping bag with frosting and pipe onto each cupcake; using an offset spatula, flatted the swirls just slightly. You can also just frost the cupcakes by hand if you prefer.

Top each cupcake with one bat.

Store at room temperature for up to 3 days; you’ll have some filling left over, which you can combine with the cupcake scraps for a delicious mini trifle.

Makes 12 cupcakes. Below, you’ll see the blood-red raspberry filling.