Poppy Seed Cake

I love retro things, and this poppy seed cake could not look more retro. Perched under the dome of my glass cake stand, it reminds me of something you’d see on the counter of a diner where waitresses dress in aqua-colored uniforms, coffee is fifty cents a cup, and regulars know each other by name.

Adapted from a recipe I found at Taste of Home, which apparently won grand champion at the North Dakota state fair, this cake has amazing texture and absolutely delicious flavor. It’s almost like a moist pound cake, but not as heavy as a pound cake, and flavor-wise the combination of vanilla, almond, and butter extracts is one I’ve never used before but definitely will again. And because it uses oil instead of butter, this cake is incredibly easy to make, requiring only that you mix the ingredients together with a whisk and spoon. It’s one I’ll make many more times in the future.

Ingredients

For the cake

  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract
  • 1 teaspoon butter extract
  • 1 tablespoon poppy seeds

For the icing

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon butter extract
  • 3-4 teaspoons orange juice

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 10-inch Bundt tin.

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt; set aside. In another large bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, vegetable oil, and extracts. Stir in flour in three batches, mixing to combine completely, then stir in poppy seeds.

Pour batter into prepared tin and bake for 50-60 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool in tin for about 15 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the icing, combine powdered sugar, vanilla extract, almond extract, butter extract, and 2 teaspoons orange juice; add enough additional juice to make a thick but pourable icing. Pour over cake and allow to drip down the sides. Allow icing to set before serving.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature for several days; this cake stays moist much longer than I expected.

King Cake

Every year around Mardi Gras, I plan to bake a king cake. Then I decide not to because they’re essentially bread, and I’m a bread amateur. But this year I bit the bullet and gave it a try, using a recipe from King Arthur Flour that I adapted only to use colored icing, rather than sprinkles, for my yellow, green, and purple decorations. And oh boy, what an experience it was.

Bread amateurs probably either under-work or over-work their dough, and I definitely over-worked mine. Then I baked it for a few minutes too long, so while it smells and tastes delicious, the texture is just all wrong. It’s far too dry, even with a slathering of icing on top. Alas, this can happen when you’re a bread amateur. But the only way to improve one’s bread-making skills is to try again, and so I shall. Just not any time soon!

Note: in addition to reading the recipe, I also read this very useful blog article on King Cake, but only after I’d over-worked my dough. Ah well. 

Ingredients

For the dough

  • 8 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup lukewarm milk (between 98 and 105 degrees)
  • 2 eggs and 1 egg yolk (reserve the white for later), at room temperature
  • 3 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup Baker’s Special Dry Milk
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon fiori di Sicilia

For the filling

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1 egg, at room temperature, lightly beaten
  • 1/8 teaspoon fiori di Sicilia

For the icing

  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 5-6 tablespoons milk
  • Yellow, green, and purple food coloring

Preparation

Place the dough ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on low speed to combine. Once the dough starts to come together, switch to your dough hook and mix on low for 4-5 minutes. Dough will be very soft and sticky.

Transfer to a lightly greased bowl and let rise for about 1 hour. It won’t grow much in size, but should look kind of puffy. Turn dough onto a lightly oiled work surface and stretch and pat it into a 6 x 24 rectangle. Let rest while you prepare the filling.

In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine cream cheese, sugar, and flour and beat until smooth. Add egg and fiori di Sicilia and beat to combine completely.

Spread filling on the dough, leaving about a 1/2 inch border around the edge. Roll up like you would cinnamon rolls, from the long edge, pinching the seam to seal it. Gently shape your log into a ring and transfer it to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Full disclosure: I had a few holes in my dough, but according to the blog above, this is okay. Cover with lightly greased plastic wrap and allow to rise for about 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove plastic wrap; combine egg white with 1 tablespoon water and brush over the top and sides of the cake. Bake for 20 minutes, then tent with foil and bake another 30 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool for about 30-40 minutes before icing.

To making icing, combine powdered sugar, vanilla, and 4 tablespoons water in a medium bowl; add enough additional water to make a thick drizzling icing. Divide in half and pour one half over the cake, allowing it to drip down the sides. Divide the remaining icing into three portions and tint yellow, green, and purple, then drizzle over the cake. Allow icing to set before serving.

Note: I stored my cake in the refrigerator because of the cream cheese filling, but I’m honestly not sure if this is necessary or not. I figured that baked cream cheese was still dairy, and likely needed to be kept in the fridge, but I’m actually going to write to the folks at King Arthur Flour to find out for sure. 

Bourbon Chocolate Bundt Cake

Sometimes I wonder how certain etiquette standards began. Like when someone passes away, family, friends, and neighbors bring food to the bereaved. Perhaps people wanted to support their loved ones and make the days following a loss easier, and not having to cook – or worry about refreshments to serve to visitors paying respects – was a kind way of doing that. And here we are, so many years later in human history, still doing that very same thing.

This cake is en route to Maryland with Mike today, as he travels to Annapolis to celebrate the life of his Uncle Haysie, who passed away earlier this week. Haysie was married for 45 years to Mike’s very dear Aunt Wendy, one of my absolute favorite in-laws. They were a wonderful couple, and I’m hoping this bourbon chocolate cake with make her smile.

Ingredients

For the cake

  • 3 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate, chopped
  • 2 ounces sweetened baking chocolate, chopped
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup instant coffee crystals
  • 2 tablespoons boiling water
  • About 1 1/2 cups cold water
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons bourbon, divided

For the glaze

  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1 1/4 cups powdered sugar
  • 2-3 tablespoons warm water
  • 1/2 tablespoon bourbon

Preparation

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Thoroughly butter a 10-inch Bundt pan and dust with cocoa powder, tapping out the excess.

In a microwave-safe bowl, combine chopped unsweetened and sweet baking chocolate. Microwave, uncovered, for 1 minute, then stir; continue microwaving in 15-30 second intervals and stirring until chocolate is completely melted. Set aside to cool slightly.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating and scraping down the sides of the bowl between each addition. Beat in melted chocolate and vanilla extract.

In a 2-cup glass measuring cup, combine coffee crystals and boiling water; add enough cold water to bring the total liquid to 1 1/2 cups, then stir in the 1/2 cup bourbon.

Add flour mixture and coffee mixture to chocolate mixture in alternate batches, beginning and ending with the flour, and beating until just combined after each addition. You’ll want to scrape down your bowl a few times during the process.

Pour batter into prepared Bundt pan and bake for 55-60 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean; I covered my cake around 45 minutes of baking to prevent over-browning. Remove from oven and allow to cool in the pan for about 15 minutes.

Turn cake out onto a wire rack and brush the top and sides with 2 tablespoons bourbon. Allow to cool completely before glazing.

To make the glaze, combine melted butter, cocoa powder, powdered sugar, and 2 tablespoons water in a bowl and stir until smooth; add bourbon and stir completely to combine. If your glaze is too thick, you can add one more tablespoon of water; I wanted a thicker glaze so I just used 2. Using a spoon, drizzle glaze over the cake; allow to set.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days.

Honey Almond Cake

I bought myself Mary Berry’s Fast Cakes: Easy Bakes in Minutes cookbook for my birthday last summer, and I’m working my way through the British baking queen’s many recipes. I’ve made several adjustments based on ingredients we have available here in the U.S., tweaked the preparation to accommodate those changes, and also swapped out a few ingredients to better suit my tastes.

For example, most of the cakes in this book call for margarine and use the all-in-one method, where you toss all of the ingredients into the mixer and blend it all at once. For this cake, I chose to use butter, and therefore also the creaming method, for this cake because I simply prefer the taste of butter-based cakes to margarine-based ones. The end result is delicious, not too sweet, and a great size for a small dinner party or get-together. It’s the kind of cake you could make if you want a cake, but not a standard-sized, what-am-I-going-to-do-with-all-the-left-overs kind of treat. Note: I found the deep, 7-inch round baking tin on Amazon.

Ingredients

For the cake

  • 10 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups self-rising flour
  • 3/4 cup almond flour
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract

For the frosting and topping

  • 8 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 4 tablespoons honey
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons almond extract
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted and cooled

Preparation

Preheat oven to 320 degrees. Lightly grease a deep, 7-inch round cake tin and line the base with parchment paper.

In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter and light brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add honey and blend to combine, then add eggs, one at a time, beating well and scraping the sides of the bowl between each addition. Add self-rising flour and almond flour, then milk and almond extract, and beat to combine until you have a smooth batter.

Pour batter into prepared tin and bake for 40-45 minutes, until well risen and the top of the cake springs back when lightly pressed with your finger.

Remove from oven and allow to cool for about 10 minutes, then turn onto a wire rack and cool completely. Once cake has cooled, slice in half horizontally.

To make the frosting, combine butter and powdered sugar in a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix until the sugar has been fully incorporated into the butter. Add honey and almond extract and beat until smooth and fully combined.

Spread frosting on bottom layer of cake and top with the second layer; frost the top and sides of the cake, then top with toasted slivered almonds.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature for 2-3 days. Makes about 8 servings.

Citrus “Traybake” Cake

“Traybake” isn’t really part of the American baker’s vocabulary…unless she watches the Great British Baking Show, of course. Visitors to this blog know very well of my GBBS obsession, which lives on in full force

A traybake can be a cake, brownie, or other dessert baked in a rectangular pan. Ranging from the simple to the complex, traybakes are apparently a staple of family baking in Britain. This recipe is adapted from Mary Berry’s Fast Cakes: Easy Bakes in Minutes; I subbed oranges for limes because that’s what I had on hand. I suspect that I slightly over-baked my cake, but Mike’s coworkers registered no complaints. I also made the mistake of zesting my lemon and orange in advance, then trying to sprinkle the chilled zest over my icing; next time, I’ll zest the fruit straight onto the icing so it falls more evenly, rather than in clumps.

Ingredients

For the cake

  • 1 cup margarine* straight out of the fridge
  • 1 cup superfine sugar
  • 2 1/2 cups self-rising flour
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons lemon curd
  • zest of 1/2 lemon
  • zest of 1/2 orange

For the icing

  • 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 3-4 tablespoons lemon and orange juice
  • zest from 1/2 lemon
  • zest from 1/2 orange

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9 x 13 (or 9 x 12, if that’s what you have) baking tin and line it with parchment.

Place all cake ingredients in a mixer and beat well to combine, until batter is light and fluffy. Pour into prepared tin and bake for 30-35 minutes, until well risen and the top springs back slightly when gently pressed.

Remove from oven and cool completely before icing.

To make icing, place powdered sugar in a bowl and add 1 tablespoon lemon and orange juice at a time to make a smooth, thick drizzle icing. Pour over cake; spread with an offset spatula to cover completely. Top with lemon and orange zest.

Allow icing to set, then cut into 16 pieces. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for 2-3 days.

Madeira Cake

How many recipes do I want to bake? All of them, I suppose…but some more than others. To stay on track and ensure that I try (and ideally, master) as many intriguing treats as possible, I’ve set monthly baking goals. September includes Madeira cake, which seems to be more common in Britain than here in the States.

Contrary to its name, Madeira cake contains no wine. Victorians enjoyed this pound cake-like treat with Madeira, and today it’s served with tea or liqueur. Traditional Madeira cake has a crack in the top, and I’m proud to say that mine did, too. The recipe comes from The Kitchn, and mine yielded a well-flavored but slightly dry cake, likely because I had to bake it for longer than I’d planned. Next time I’ll bake it in a 9 x 5 loaf tin, rather than an 8 x 4, to cut down on baking time.

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
  • Zest of 1 medium lemon
  • 3 eggs, at room temperature
  • Juice of 1 medium lemon

Preparation

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease an 8 x 4 loaf tin with butter, then line the tin with parchment.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside. In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter, sugar, and lemon zest until light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes, scraping the bowl well at least a few times.

Add the first egg and one spoonful of flour mixture, beating to combine. Scrape down the bowl, then repeat with remaining eggs and one spoonful of flour mixture for each egg, scraping the bowl between each. Add remaining flour and lemon juice and mix until combined; batter will be quite thick.

Spoon batter into the pan and smooth out the top, then sprinkle the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar over the top. Bake for about 60-70 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan completely, then lift out by the parchment and store, well wrapped, at room temperature. Makes about 10 servings.

At left, you get a nice view of the crack down the side of the top. 

Little Lemon Almond Cake

Last week, my mom turned 73, and she and our nephew Roman, who was in town visiting for the week, came over for dinner. Roman got his own batch of chocolate cupcakes, but since Genny isn’t a chocolate fan, I decided to whip up this little, four-serving lemon almond cake for her. I’m pleased to say she really enjoyed it.

This makes one single-layer, 6-inch cake, so you could easily double the recipe for a two-layer cake. The cake itself is a denser cake that is better paired with drizzle-style icing than a buttercream frosting, but you could still frost it with buttercream if you prefer. This cake would also be great with some whipped cream and fresh berries.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • dash of salt
  • 4 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract
  • Zest of 1/2 one medium lemon
  • About 1 1/3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 4-5 teaspoons lemon juice
  • Toasted flaked almonds, for decorating

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 6-inch round cake pan, line with a parchment circle, and lightly grease the parchment.

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 egg, almond extract, and lemon zest and beat well to combine, scraping the sides of your bowl a few times.

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

Pour batter into prepared pans and bake for 18-22 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow cakes to cool in the pan for about 5 minutes, then carefully turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the drizzle icing, combine powdered sugar, almond extract, and 2 teaspoons lemon juice in a small bowl. Mix until smooth, adding more lemon juice as necessary to reach a thick but pourable drizzling consistency. Pour over cake and spread with an offset spatula so drizzle just starts to drip down the sides of the cake. Add toasted flaked almonds, if desired.

Store, covered, at room temperature for 2-3 days. Makes 4 servings.