Category: cake (page 1 of 7)

Hungarian chocolate cake — the third time’s the charm

Table Matters Hungarian Chocolate Cake

My most recent article for Table Matters had me taking on my grandma Betty’s Hungarian chocolate cake again.

I was a bit trepidatious, but I knew I had a wonderful story to tell and I wanted to master that cake. Or at least finish it to completion. And I did. I followed her recipe exactly, with a couple small tweaks here and there, and I did it.

It might not look like the fanciest cake. Sure, there are no layers swathed in pretty buttercream or sprinkles or whatever else. But it’s rich and flavorful and perfect in so many ways.

And I did it. I baked my grandma’s Hungarian Chocolate cake and I couldn’t be more proud.

Sugary, crackily Bundt cake crust tip

Lemon lady grey bundt cake with lemon icing

Who needs a glaze when you can have a crackily, sugary crust on your Bundtcake?

I’m a big fan of America’s Test Kitchen and enjoy The Well-Equipped Cook weekly e-newsletter that lands in my inbox. This week’s subject line caught my eye: “Let’s Make Beautiful Baked Goods” and the Test Kitchen Quick Tip is genius.

We wanted to come up with a way to give Bundt cakes a crackly, sugary crust while they bake, saving the need to make a frosting or glaze. First, we tried coating the pan with a hefty amount of vegetable oil spray before dusting it with granulated sugar, but the spray’s coating was too thin, and the cakes almost always stuck. Next, we tried brushing the pan with melted butter and then dusting it with sugar. These cakes released easily, but there was no crunchy coating (the sugar had dissolved in the water in the butter). In the end, we landed on brushing the pan with 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil before coating it with 1/3 cup of sugar. It provided a thick coating of pure fat that was easy to brush on and guaranteed that the cake released with ease. What’s more, the sugar turned into just the lacy, sweet coating on the cake that we were looking for.

Strawberry shortcake 3 ways

Table Matters Strawberry Shortcake piece

Strawberry shortcake is one of those desserts that I have a strong memory link to … I always think of summer and the long drive up to LaFayette, NY when shortcake season hits.

Lucky for me, I’m able to share this memory, as well as the whole debate of Team Biscuit vs. Team Cake in my very first article for Table Matters! I had a lot of fun writing for them (and should be doing so regularly now), and crafting 3 recipes:

  • My traditional strawberry shortcake using biscuits
  • Strawberry shortcake with vanilla pound cake (confession: this was the first pound cake recipe I’ve written and baked)
  • Strawberry shortcake cookies (for when you need a portable shortcake)

So pop over to Table Matters, give my article a read, check out the rest of this wonderful site, and then make yourself some shortcake!

Kraken-soaked Caribbean rum cake

Kraken-soaked Caribbean rum cake

We just got back from JoCoCruise Crazy IV … yes, the 4th edition of the cruise that inspired me to take my awesomeness and create everything you see here. We visited a couple familiar islands, including a second trip for us to Georgetown, Grand Cayman.

In the Caribbean, and especially the Cayman Islands, rum cakes are popular, with the most well-known brand being Tortuga Rum Cakes. While I didn’t sample any of the Tortuga cakes, Ray and I found a little rum cake stand in Georgetown and tried a few of their offerings (the coconut rum cake was divine!) And from there, I knew I wanted to bring a little piece of the Caribbean to all my taste testers.

I hunted around the Internet looking for a good recipe, and found a variety. I was a bit dismayed to see how many had you combining yellow cake mix and instant pudding (blech!), but I went with Brown Eyed Baker’s cake recipe—adapting it to include whole milk yogurt instead of pudding, and using almond meal instead of walnuts. As for the syrup, I found her recipe made a thick paste, so I went with King Arthur Flour’s rum syrup recipe, which yielded a syrup with a good pourable consistency.

This is an interesting cake, because so much of the process seems like it’s wrong. Leave the cake in the pan overnight? Pour tons of syrup on it? But it works … with the gentle help of a small offset spatula, I was able to free the cake from the pan without any rips or chunks pulled out.

To call this cake moist is an understatement … the crumb is so saturated with syrup that it looks completely solid. Yet, when you slice into it with your fork, it’s like slicing into warm butter—effortless.

Along with the main cake, I’ve made mini rum bundt cakes for a food swap I’m attending on Saturday (I’ll also be making mini gimlet cakes). I’ll be interested to see what other people think of them!

Kraken-soaked Caribbean rum cake

Yields: 1 Bundt cake, 12 servings

  • Rum Cake Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 3/4 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup plus 3 tbsp canola oil, divided
  • 1 cup plain whole milk yogurt
  • 4 eggs
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 3/4 cup black spiced rum, such as Kraken
  • 1 tbsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup almond meal
  • Rum Soak Ingredients
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 1/4 cup black spiced rum
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla

Heat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit, and make sure the rack is centered in the oven.

Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer until light and fluffy, approximately 3 minutes.

Whisk the dry ingredients into a separate mixing bowl. Set aside.

Add 3 tbsp of oil to the butter and sugar, mixing to combine.

Gradually add the dry ingredients, then add the yogurt, mixing until combined.

In a large measuring cup (or mixing bowl), whisk the eggs, milk, rum, remaining oil and vanilla together.

With the mixer on low, slowly pour the wet mixture in.

Mix for an additional 2-3 minutes, and scrape down the bowl if necessary.

Spray the bundt pan with cooking spray and coat evenly with almond meal (if using).

Pour in the cake batter into the pan and bake for 65-70 minutes, until the cake is fragrant and springy to the touch.

When the cake has 10 minutes left to bake, make the rum soak.

Melt the butter in a small sauce pan over medium heat. Once melted, add the sugar and water. Stir to combine.

Simmer for 5 minutes, constantly stirring. Then add the rum and simmer for 3-5 more minutes.

Remove from the heat and add the vanilla. Set aside until you take the cake out of the oven.

Once the cake has finished baking, place it on a cooling rack and let it cool for 5 minutes before spooning the rum soak slowly over the cake (while still in the pan).

Once you've used up the rum, cover the bundt pan with plastic wrap and let it cool overnight.

When you're ready to remove the cake from the pan, use an offset spatula or butter knife gently around the edges. Place a plate over the top of the pan, then gently flip everything over, so the cake rests on the plate.

Slice and enjoy. Wrap up and refrigerate any leftover cake.

Remembering my gramma with Hungarian chocolate cake

Hungarian Chocolate Cake

My Gramma Betty came from Hungary to the US in 1930 at the age of 6. And while I don’t remember growing up with many traditions from her home country, I will never forget her Hungarian chocolate cake, which is known as Rigó Jancsi.

The funny thing about this memory is I did NOT like the cake. Why? Because it’s not the typical sweet chocolate cake and I was probably between 8-10 years old. What kid really likes bittersweet chocolate and coffee? Not this kid.

But this kid has grown up and learned how delightful dark, bittersweet chocolate can be.

Last night I took the plunge and made an attempt at this cake for the second time (my first attempt, years ago, ended in tears and a cake that shredded as it stuck to parchment paper).

My gramma lost her battle with Parkinson’s in December 2001, right around Christmas. As I’ve mentioned before, she was the hand that guided me to make my first chocolate chip cookies, roll snickerdoodle dough into cinnamon sugar, and bake a beautiful lemon meringue pie (though I’m pretty sure I watched on that one). And because of this, the fear of failing to make this cake a second time weighed heavily on me. But after some encouragement, I stopped stalling.

Did it turn out the way she made it those 20+ summers ago? No. The cake was too thin and delicate to roll correctly, and I didn’t think it would look good as quarters. But instead of throwing it away, I decided to make this cake my own.

I divided the cake base into 3, trimming the slightly dried-out edges. I made my gramma’s coffee filling, only to realize that by following her recipe the filling was as thick as buttercream. So I gradually added more cream until I achieved a fluffier result. As for the glaze, her instructions are minimal, and I balked at the idea of adding water to the lovely 72% Belgian chocolate I got from Mueller’s at Reading Terminal Market. Instead, I cracked open my copy of The Cuisine of Hungary and followed its chocolate glaze recipe.

Then, I looked to my pantry and found a lovely jar of apricot jam my sriracha-loving friend Randy had sent me and decided my cake deserved a touch of fruity sweetness, even though my gramma’s recipe did not call for it (the jam is a traditional, yet optional, spread for the cake).

By 8:30, I assembled the cake, drizzled the glaze over the top, and learned the glaze recipe does indeed make too much (that can be fixed later). I left it to set in a cabinet as I waited for Ray to come home, and once he did, I cut each of us a 1/2-inch slice.

My first bite brought tears to my eyes … not because I hadn’t made my Gramma Betty’s Hungarian Chocolate Cake exactly, but because it reminded me of her, and that summer she made the cake, and the summers that followed in her kitchen. I may have only eaten the chocolate glaze scraped off the cake that day, quietly complaining to one of my uncles that the cake didn’t taste right, but what I had spent 2 hours making and what sat on my plate in front of me still formed a connection for me.

Ray’s first bite, and following bites until the plate was clean, was full of oohs and ahhs and thoughtful comments about the true flavor of the chocolate. According to him, he had never experienced something like this cake before. And he loved it.

Below is the photo of my gramma’s recipe, written down by my mom. I do not suggest using it, though, because I think it needs to be updated and improved upon for a modern kitchen. Just add that to my list of things to accomplish in 2014. But for now, I’m going to enjoy my own iteration of Hungarian Chocolate Cake and take heart in knowing that, if she were alive, my Gramma Betty would be pleased with my dessert.

Betty Ward's Chocolate Hungarian Cake

Maple pecan cake with honey custard filling and brown butter frosting

Maple pecan cake

Today is Ray’s birthday, and this past Sunday I made him a little dinner feast, complete with duck confit, duck fat smashed potatoes, and of course, a birthday cake. During the planning process, I asked Ray if he had any requests for dessert. He did:

• 4-inch tiny cake
• No chocolate

I smiled at his request for one of my tiny cakes, which just barely provide 4 servings (the good thing: not too many leftovers!) I thought and I thought about what to do. I eventually pulled out my copy of Vintage Cakes and found some points of inspiration with the maple pecan chiffon cake (which I tweaked to fit with my non-chiffon style base recipe) and the blitz torte’s honey custard filling (which I scaled down).

I used honey we brought back from Colorado a few years ago, and wow. This filling does not disappoint at all! While a simple vanilla buttercream would have gone nicely with this cake and filling, I decided to go with brown butter frosting to finish the cake off with a more adult appeal.

This cake was also the first time I substituted maple syrup completely for the sugar, and while the batter looked a little rough at first, the end result was remarkable! The cake had such a fantastic maple flavor and aroma! And the chopped pecans added a perfect touch of crunch.

Ray and his birthday cake

Suffice to say, Ray was thrilled with his birthday meal, and really loved his tiny birthday cake.

Maple pecan cake with honey custard filling and brown butter frosting

Yields: 4-inch cake (or 7 cupcakes)

  • Maple Pecan Cake Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup plus 3 tbsp (2.75 oz) cake flour
  • 5/8 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp cinnamon
  • 5 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/4 maple syrup
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tbsp milk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 3 tbsp toasted chopped pecans, divided
  • Honey Custard Ingredients
  • 2 oz honey
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp cornstarch
  • 6 tbsp milk
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • Brown Butter Frosting Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 2 cups confectioners sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 3 tbsp heavy cream

Make the honey custard first so that it has time to cool.

Combine the honey, egg yolk and salt in a medium mixing bowl and whisk to combine (this will take a moment ... depending on your honey, it might be a sticky glob first, but keep whisking!)

Add the corn starch to the honey mixture and whisk in. Set aside.

Heat the milk over medium heat until it's barely simmering--don't let it boil.

While whisking the honey mixture, add about 1/3 of the milk. Whisk for a few moment before pouring the honey/milk mixture into the remaining milk in the pan and whisking without stopping.

Keeping the heat on medium, whisk until the custard thickens. Remove from heat and press through a sieve.

Add the butter to the strained custard and whisk to combine.

Place a piece of plastic wrap onto the surface of the custard to keep a skin from forming and place in the fridge to cool for at least an hour.

For the cake, heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and position the racks toward the center.

Lightly grease and flour (or use Baker's Joy spray) two 4-inch round cake pans. Set aside.

Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon together. Set aside.

Beat the butter until light and fluffy in the bowl of your standmixer. Add the maple syrup.

The mixture might look curdled, but it's fine. Add the egg and vanilla and continue to mix.

Alternate between adding the dry ingredients and milk, scraping down the bowl as needed.

Measure out 2 tbsp of the toasted pecans into a small bowl and add about 1 tsp of flour. Toss to coat (this will help keep the pecans from sinking to the bottom). Set bowl aside.

If your cake batter still looks a bit lumpy, remove the bowl from the mixer and hand whisk it for about a minute--the batter will come together quickly.

Add the pecans tossed in flour and whisk lightly to combine.

Divide the batter between the 2 cake pans evenly and bake for 20-25 minutes.

When finished baking, cool in the pan for 20-30 minutes (if the pan is cool to touch, it's safe to turn the cakes out).

Remove the cake layers from the pans and finish cooling them on the wire racks.

For the frosting, cut the butter into even pieces. Place in a sauce pan that does not have a dark colored bottom (you need to be able to see the color change).

Heat over medium and melt the butter. Do not leave the butter unattended, because the butter's milk solids can burn, and then you'll need to start over.

Continue cooking until the butter smells nutty and the milk solids have dropped to the bottom of the pan and are light brown. Remove from the heat immediately and set aside to cool.

Once cooled, add the brown butter and vanilla in the bowl of your stand mixer with a 1/2 cup of confectioners sugar, mixing to combine. Gradually add the remaining sugar in 1/2 cup increments, as well as the heavy cream in single tablespoon increments.

The frosting will look gritty before it looks smooth, but don't worry. It will come together. Once you've added all the sugar and all the cream, whip on high for a few minutes.

To assemble, place the bottom layer on a cake round. Trim the top off to make an even layer.

Using some of the brown butter frosting, pipe a border to keep the honey custard in, around the top edge of the first layer.

Add the honey custard within the frosting border; you will have extra, so don't overfill.

Trim the top off the second layer, turn it cut-side down and place on top of the filling. Place in the freezer to chill for about 20 minutes.

Apply a crumb coating of brown butter frosting. Chill for 20-30 minutes in the freezer.

Reserve approximately a 1/2 cup of the frosting to pipe a border along the top and bottom of the cake, using a small French tip. Then, use the remaining frosting to cover the cake, evenly coating the sides and top. Smooth the frosting, though it doesn't need to be perfect.

Spoon on some of the extra honey custard on top and spread it gently, but don't let it run down the sides.

Sprinkle the reserved pecans onto the custard, covering evenly.

Pipe a border around the top of the cake and the bottom.

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