Finally, I have an apricot dessert recipe to share. It has taken awhile, but from my research and inspiration, I found an apricot dessert that is not a galette, not that there is anything wrong with galettes, but I do like to have a variety. With some help from a recipe by Nigella Lawson, I developed a recipe for apricot streusel cake.
Apricots are my favorite fruit and when I find a perfectly ripe fresh apricot, it is hard for me to resist eating the whole basket. Until recently, getting a good and ripe apricot in New York is as rare as finding a four-leaf clover. You know they exist, but finding one takes a few years of constant searching. My fondness for apricots comes from a vivid childhood taste memory and growing up in Northern California. As a result, all apricots compare to that distinct and memorable flavor.
My parents had an apricot tree, along with a plum tree, a couple of apple trees and a cherry tree growing in their yard. I realize this collection of fruit trees gives the impression I lived on an orchard, or an expansive property, though that is not the case. These fruit trees are my dad’s romantic plantings for our suburban hillside home. Because I was not born when Dad planted these trees, I can only imagine his intent. In reality, once the trees were planted, they were left alone to fend for themselves. Rarely did I see Dad harvest the fruit from his trees, let alone prune a branch.
The fruit trees were my playground and fortresses, with a favored attachment to the apricot tree. I would climb up the tree and look for apricots that weren’t half eaten by the birds or bugs. The rejects were used as ammunition when I played war with two of my brothers. Perched up in my apricot tree I would attack the intruders with rotten apricots for the win. Chris and Andy would scramble about while picking up the fallen ammunition for their defense. It was all in good fun, but I was happy to have the apricot tree on my side.
Memorable Apricot Flavor
I considered the apricot tree as my turf and its’ fruit, mine. I did share with my younger brother as he was quite adventurous and never resisted the urge to climb anything that was taller than him. Together we secured our position either standing or straddling on a strong branch, then pluck off any ripe apricots within reach. If we got lucky and found apricots before the birds did, we brought inside a shirt-full of apricots for mom.
If the California sun has a flavor, it is apricot. The juicy saturated tang is lively and speaks of hours spent ripening in the dry heat, then cooled down from the evening fog. When I bite into an apricot, I can feel the heat of those summer days spent building forts and climbing trees. On those dry windless days, only something with strong flavor could tame down the arid heat. The bitter-sweet tang of ripe apricots did the job, almost as good as an orange Popsicle.
For me, all apricots compare to the ones I picked in my childhood backyard. It is not a fair comparison to the unsuspecting apricots that traveled 3000 miles to reach New York. It’s not their fault they traveled so far only to get bruised and battered along the way.
Fortunately, apricots are grown in the NY Hudson Valley and with the popularity of farmers markets, are now more available. I am so happy for this because since moving to NY and having many a disappointing and mealy apricot, I stopped buying them. It is just in the past couple of years I decided to give local apricots a try.
So now, my big adventure is seeking out reliable markets to get NY apricots that are ripe and full of flavor. I bought these apricots at a local farm stand in Yorktown, but the apricots are grown north of me and on the other side of the Hudson River in Marlborough NY. I have never been to Marlborough, but now that I know there is a winery and fruit farms there, I just might have to plan a visit.
Inspiration for Apricot Streusel Cake
A couple of weeks ago, I discovered a recipe for Strawberry Sour Cream Streusel Cake by Nigella Lawson. One night I needed to make a second dessert after my first dessert was an epic fail. I knew Nigella’s baking recipes are reliable, and her strawberry streusel cake recipe looked easy to make. Although it was my first time making her cake, I made some substitutions because I was pressed for time and could not go to the store. Because my jar of vanilla was almost empty, I used almond extract instead. Almond extract is strong, so I used less than the amount for the vanilla. As long as I kept the almond flavor within reason, I believed it would pair nicely with the cake and strawberries.
Additionally, I switched crème fraîche for the sour cream because that was all I had available. The result was a tender cake with a balanced flavor of strawberries and almonds. The almond flavor was especially a big hit, and it gave the cake an unexpected and memorable flavor.
Sour Cream vs Crème Fraîche
I don’t know what it is about crème fraîche, but when I use it in baking or in pancakes, the outcome is a remarkably tender cake. Ironically, despite the fact there is more fat in crème fraîche than sour cream, the cake tastes lighter. The results are magical. Crème fraîche is considered a specialty item and therefore is more expensive than sour cream. You find it in the specialty cheese section of your store. It has more fat than sour cream, but it does not have any additives and is less tangy. I made this streusel cake with both sour cream and crème fraîche and liked both results. Some stores do not carry crème fraîche, but please do not go driving all over town looking for it. It is just not that important, plus you can spend your time more wisely, like looking for good apricots.
Apricot Streusel Cake
Recently I bought a pound of fresh apricots and it occurred to me the recipe for strawberry streusel cake would work with apricots. Apricots are not as watery as strawberries, but I thought the fruit purée would still have the right consistency for the cake. It is not often you see an apricot cake, so it is a pleasant surprise.
Apricot streusel cake has many personalities as it is like a coffee cake but is equally at home as a dessert after a roast chicken dinner. It is similar to a peach cake but has a lot more butter and jammy flavor. Because there is so much butter in the cake batter a familiar aroma of an all-butter pie crust wafts out of the oven as it bakes.
It may smell like pie, but this is definitely a cake. A cake that is tender, moist and easily transportable. Serve it for breakfast or dessert as it is right at home for either course. It is a perfect cake to bring along for a summer weekend getaway, picnic, or brunch with friends. It also tastes great the second day. However, my real assurance came from Joe when after he took one bite said, “This is awesome.”
More Apricot Love
Substitute the peaches with apricots in Peaches and Berries with Bourbon Sabayon
Apricot Streusel Cake
Almond extract or bourbon are great complimentary flavors with apricots. I like to use either one with this cake or a combination of both instead of vanilla.
This recipe is adapted from Nigella Lawson’s Strawberry Sour Cream Streusel Cake.
- 7 oz (200 g) fresh apricots about 5-6 small apricots
- 3 TB (72 g) apricot jam
- 1 ½ tsp (4 g) minced fresh ginger a small piece just over an inch long and a half-inch wide
- 1 ½ tsp (7.5 ml) fresh squeezed lemon juice *see notes
- ½ tsp (2 g) almond extract *see notes
- 2 tsp (6 g) cornstarch
- Smidgen pinch of Kosher salt if needed
- 2 cups (309 g) all-purpose flour
- ¾ cup (164 g) granulated sugar
- 1 tsp (4 g) baking powder
- ½ tsp (2 g) baking soda
- 12 TB (188 g) cold butter 1 ½ sticks cut into ½ inch pieces
- 1 cup (8 oz / 225 g) crème fraîche or sour cream
- 1 large egg
- 1 ½ tsp (8 g / 7.5 ml) almond extract or 1 TB (15 ml) Bourbon
- 2 tsp (13 g) Demerara sugar
- 8 g sliced almonds (small handful)
- 2 fresh small apricots
Preheat the oven to 375°F / 190°C / Gas Mark 5 with the rack in the middle position. Oil or butter a 9-inch (23 cm) springform pan. Reserve until later.
Make the apricot purée
Peel and cut up the apricots then place in the blender or container for an immersion blender. Add the apricot jam. Zest the lemon peel and grate the ginger over your container or blender to catch any of the lemon oils and juices from the ginger.
Make a slurry with the almond extract, lemon juice, and cornstarch then add to the blender or your container. Purée until smooth. Taste the purée and if it seems too bitter, add a smidgen pinch of Kosher salt. Taste again then set aside. The flavors will balance out when added to the cake.
Make the cake
In a large bowl add the flour, sugar, baking powder and baking soda. Use a small whisk and stir the mixture until evenly incorporated. Add the butter and use your fingers to smoosh the butter and mix in with the flour mixture. Do this until your flour looks like coarse sand, just like making a pie crust by hand. Measure a ½ cup (125 ml) of the flour mixture and add to a small bowl. Reserve for the streusel topping.
Add the crème fraîche or sour cream, egg, and almond extract (or bourbon) to the large bowl with the flour mixture and mix until thoroughly combined. This batter looks thick, but it should be smooth.
Add just over half the batter to the prepared pan and spread over the bottom and up the sides of the pan. You want to create a flat bottom well for the purée to rest. Try to get the batter about an inch up the sides. Do not worry about making the bottom level even. The batter is sticky, and I found wet hands helps move the cake batter into position.
Add the apricot purée in an even layer across the bottom and nestled inside the well. Make sure the rim of cake batter is taller than the height of the purée. Spoon the remaining cake batter on top and cover the purée being careful not to push the apricot purée up and over the rim.
Make the streusel topping
Add the sugar and almond slices to the small bowl with the reserved butter-flour mixture. Toss with a fork or your fingers until it is evenly combined. Sprinkle the streusel topping over the top of the cake.
Slice each apricot in half then each half into five wedges. Arrange the sliced apricots over the top of the cake in a haphazard pattern. Sprinkle with a few more sliced almonds.
Bake the cake until it is light golden brown, about 45 minutes. Insert a toothpick in the center of the cake to make sure it is cooked through. You will see some crumbs on the toothpick, but nothing should look wet or raw.
Completely cool the cake on a wire rack before you remove the springform pan and serve.
In the original recipe, Nigella added 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract to the fruit purée. I divided the liquid between the almond extract and lemon juice. Almond extract is strong, so I do not recommend using 2 teaspoons in the recipe. However, I have used anywhere from 1/2 tsp up to 1 tsp with good results. Feel free to divide the lemon juice and almond extract equally, or only use lemon juice. However, keep the total liquid at 2 teaspoons.
I peeled off the skin of my apricots, but I will leave that decision to your discretion. Apricot skins do not have that fuzzy offensive texture of peach skin, so I do not believe it is necessary to peel them. The apricots peels will purée thoroughly in a blender or with an immersion blender.
If you cannot get fresh apricots, use canned apricots packaged in their own juices as a substitute. Dry off the can juices from the apricots then weigh or guesstimate by size pairing the halves to make 5 apricots for the purée. There is no need to peel canned apricots.
Minced candied ginger is a nice addition to the streusel topping. Don’t go overboard with the candied ginger as the apricot is the star of the cake. Nutmeg is another spice that pairs well with this cake. Add about a half teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg in the cake batter to complement the apricots and almond flavor.
© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
Chocolate is a separate food group in my household and just like protein, I can’t live without it. Whenever I order a dessert in a restaurant, it is the chocolate desserts I gravitate to. However, I hesitate whenever I see a flourless chocolate cake on the menu because I do not know if it going to be fudge or cake. When it comes to flourless chocolate cake, I like them on the lighter side, not the ones that taste like dense fudge. It is not that I believe they taste bad, it is just they are very rich. The type of flourless chocolate cake I prefer, have a lighter airy texture, despite being moist and loaded with dark chocolate.
So far, I have come across two flourless chocolate cake recipes that satisfy my requirement of biting into a slice of cake, not a chunk of fudge. What makes them different from most flourless chocolate cake recipes out there is the use of finely ground nuts and whipped egg whites. The nuts act like a flour replacement and give the cake some texture and body. Also, because of the whipped egg whites, there is some air which gives the cake some lift and tastes light. Just like brownies, the cake is fudgy without being dense.
The only challenging aspect to making a flourless chocolate cake is how fragile they are. Especially the types of cakes I prefer. Without the gluten to hold it together, the cake can easily break and crack. Transferring the cake off the bottom of the springform pan onto a serving dish requires the strength of all the good karma, prayers and best wishes you can muster. As well as patience and your best problem-solving skills. It is a very moist cake, especially in the middle which makes it very delicate.
My recipe is adapted from Diana Henry’s Bitter Flourless Chocolate Cake recipe in her cookbook, Simple. She uses ground almonds which I love, but I could not bring myself to use almonds a day after I wrote a post about Earth Day Recipes and how growing almonds in California is depleting their water supply. I will not give up almonds altogether, but I should leave some time before I start using them again.
Flourless Chocolate Cake Variations
In my recipe I substitute almonds with ground walnuts and I added orange zest and Grand Marnier. Chocolate pairs well with many types of nuts, so you can’t go wrong using any type of nut. I do love walnuts and chocolate, especially with bitter orange flavors from orange zest and orange flavored liqueur. I kept all the proportions the same, but I also added Grand Marnier for an extra orange punch. There is just enough of the walnuts for a subtle nut flavor with the dark chocolate the focal point.
However, the addition of Grand Marnier makes the cake more fragile than without it. I believe this is because of the extra moisture in the cake batter. I don’t believe baking it longer will help. If you are concerned about the final show stopping appearance, then don’t add the Grand Marnier. The whipped cream has Grand Marnier in it, so the dessert will have the great chocolate and boozy orange flavor.
Removing the cake off the bottom of the spingform pan is challenging with this moist and delicate cake. If you don’t care, remove the sides of the pan and place the cake still on top of the pan’s bottom, on a serving plate. No one will care or notice while they are enjoying your delicious cake. Or, you can try lining the bottom of the pan with parchment paper to see if that helps. If your cake does break don’t despair, you can break it up and make ice cream sundaes with chocolate and vanilla ice cream, dark chocolate sauce, whipped cream with orange flavors and candied orange peel. Or, cut the cake up into bite size pieces for people to nibble on with their coffee or tea.
Orange Essence Flourless Chocolate Cake is worth making regardless of its delicate nature. Because the chocolate is the dominate flavor, use the best quality of chocolate you can buy with 70%- 72% cocoa butter. I have great success with Lindt chocolate and Ghirardelli Intense Dark Chocolate, twilight delight found in candy section of the grocery store. Here is a link for more information on the best chocolate bars for baking from Serious Eats.
Bitter Orange Flourless Chocolate Cake
An effortless flourless chocolate cake with intense dark chocolate flavor and a light and nutty texture. The cake is very moist and fudgy but not dense.
Serve with whipped cream
Flourless chocolate cake
- 6.75 oz (192 g) unsalted butter about 1 2/3 sticks
- 11.5 oz (328 g) good quality dark chocolate, broken into pieces 70% coco solids
- 3/4 cup (164 g) super fine sugar
- 5 large eggs, separated
- 1/2 cup (57 g) ground walnuts (see note)
- finely grated zest from half a navel orange
- 2 TB Grand Marnier Optional
- Confectioners' sugar for dusting the cake
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 1 TB confectioners' sugar or to taste
- Zest from half an orange
- 2 TB Ground Marnier or a 1/2 teaspoon of Orange Blossom Water
For the Cake
Preheat the oven to 350 °F (177°C /Gas Mark 4) oven. Butter an 8-inch (20 cm) springform pan. Set aside.
In a medium metal mixing bowl, add the broken-up chocolate, the butter and sugar to the bowl.
Add some water to a large 10-inch (25.5 cm) skillet just enough to cover the bottom of the pan. Set on a burner over medium heat. Bring the water to a gentle simmer and place the bowl with the chocolate, butter and sugar in the center of the skillet. Melt the chocolate and butter, stirring occasionally. Do not let the water get to a brisk boil. Keep it at a gentle simmer, being careful not to splash water into the chocolate.
Remove the bowl from the skillet just before all the butter has melted and stir until all the chocolate and butter has melted. Let the chocolate cool for four minutes.
Add the egg yolks one at a time to the chocolate, stirring between each addition until each yolk is incorporated.
In a separate bowl, with a stand mixer or hand-held mixer, beat the egg whites until stiff with soft peaks and still wet. Soft peaks will form when you lift out the beaters. Gently fold in the Grand Marnier if using.
Add the orange zest to the ground walnuts and mix together. Add the walnut mixture to the chocolate and half of the whipped egg whites. Fold into the chocolate. Then fold in the remaining egg whites.
Pour the batter into the prepared springform pan and place on a rimmed sheet pan in case it leaks. Place the cake in the oven and bake for 35 minutes.
Remove the cake from the oven and cool on a cake rack. Don't get upset if you see the cake deflate and crack as it cools. When the cake is completely cool, unlatch the pan and carefully remove the sides. Run an icing spatula, or thin sharp knife under the cake to loosen. It helps to clean off the spatula or knife every time you pull it out from under the cake. Carefully transfer the cake onto a serving plate.
Dust the cake with confectioners' sugar right before serving.
Right before serving, use a hand-held mixer and whip the heavy cream until it just holds its shape. Sprinkle in the confectioners' sugar and Grand Marnier, if using. Whip until combined soft peaks form. Taste and correct the whipped cream for sweetness and the Grand Marnier. Place in a small serving bowl.
Serve the whipped cream with the cake and extra fruit, like berries.
Before you start the cake, toast the walnuts in a preheated 350°F (177 °C / Gas Mark 4) oven. Spread a couple of handfuls (60 g) of the walnuts over a small rimmed baking sheet. Toast in the oven for 7 minutes. Spread the toasted walnuts over a clean lint free kitchen towel. Fold a portion of the towel over the nuts to cover and rub the towel with the walnuts back and forth to remove the walnut skin. No need to go crazy rubbing off all the skin. Rub back and forth a few times until no more skin comes off without scrubbing. Collect the walnuts leaving the loose skin behind and grind the walnuts in a food processor.
© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
A tribute to my father for his many gifts and love. Dad gave me my first photography lesson and encouraged me to continue with it along the way. Included with this tribute is a cake recipe for Nifty Cake. An updated version of the birthday cake I baked for him when I was a teenager. This cake recipe features his favorite fruits, strawberries and peaches. GS
Over the past few weeks my dad and his memory has filled my thoughts. His forward presence came around for no other reason than it is strawberry season. Dad loved strawberries, especially strawberries and cream. I can clearly see him sitting at the head of the table with a bowl of strawberries, pouring heavy cream all over them and then add a sprinkle of sugar. Whenever strawberries were in the house, this was his impromptu dessert.
I would watch his strawberry and cream routine with a raised eyebrow and a sideways smirk, “Really Dad? You’re drinking heavy cream.” I could not see how heavy cream, even adorned with strawberries, was worthy of such attention. Eating sweetened whipped cream I understood, but cream straight out of the container was gross. Ignoring my smirky adolescent attitude, Dad would dive into his bowl of strawberries and cream like a seasoned athlete, ever so focused and determined to savor every drop. Eventually, he would look up seeing my adolescent stare and say, “What? It’s great. Do you want some?” He was always eager to share the things that brought him joy.
It amazes me how random and small instances, or thoughts, can bring out strong emotions and memories. Once the strawberry trigger hit me, memories of my life with Dad filled me with his spirit, and it hasn’t left. I am not sad with these memories, it is nice to feel his presence since I can no longer see or talk with him. He gave me many gifts over our lifetime together, and I am grateful for the precious time we spent together.
One common interest we shared is still very prominent in my life. He gave me my first photography lesson. I can’t remember if I initiated it or not, but when I was around 12 years old he took me out to the dry grassy hills above Old St. Hilary Church and taught me how to use his Tele-Rolleiflex camera and his light meter. Tele-Rollei is a 120mm camera that required the photographer to look down into a viewing box to see the image. Also, a separate hand-held light meter was needed to determine the exposure. There was a lot to learn, and each photograph took extra time to set up and capture.
One of Dad’s favorite activities was taking pictures of wildflowers. So, on my first day I wandered along the Tiburon hills photographing wildflowers with apt attention and a new-found love. That day is as vivid to me like a bright California summer day. I wonder if Dad initiated this outing because the two of us were just sitting around the house and he thought we both needed something to do.
I recently found the photographs I took on our day together. Dad saved them filed with his slides as, “Jennifer’s Pictures.” Seeing my slides organized with his, made me feel that day was as important to him as it was to me. After all these years I never knew he had them. Ever since that day on the Tiburon hills, photography has been a significant part of my life. Thanks Dad.
Father’s Day BBQ recipe ideas to serve with Nifty Cake:
Nifty Cake Recipe for Dad
When I was in middle school I started making birthday cakes for my family. I would ask my brothers what cake they wanted and set out to bake it for them. For Dad’s birthday I did not ask him what he wanted, I knew. I created a cake overflowing with his favorite fruits: yellow butter cake (from a mix), layered with strawberries, peaches and whipped cream.
This was my first “original” cake recipe. I piled the middle layer with whipped cream and fruit, then frosted the entire cake with more whipped cream and decorated with strawberries and peaches. It was a miracle the cake did not topple over. This cake is a strawberry, peaches and cream lover’s dream come true, and I made it for him every year until I went away to college.
Dad often used the expression “nifty” when he described something fun. In his honor, I decided to recreate my cake recipe I made for dad and call it Nifty Cake. When I first developed this cake recipe for Dad I used a cake mix. Now, I make cakes from scratch and had a lot of fun figuring out the type of cake to make. After testing several cake recipes, I decided on a Buttermilk Cake from Rose Levy Beranbaum’s book, The Cake Bible. I slightly adapted her cake recipe and substituted all-purpose flour instead of cake flour, because it is an ingredient people can easily get.
This buttermilk cake recipe with strawberries, peaches and sweetened whipped cream can be dressed up or kept simply adorned. If you are a person who does not like frosting, this is the cake for you. This is a delicate cake with slight tang and prominent butter flavor. It is delicious all by itself, or covered with any type of frosting. This cake is a blank canvas for endless varieties of frosting and toppings. It is the perfect cake for the strawberries and cream lover in your life.
Love and miss you Dad.
Nifty Cake: Buttermilk Cake with Strawberries, Peaches and Whipped Cream
- 4 large egg yolks
- 2/3 cup / 5.5 oz / 160 g buttermilk
- 1/2 tea pure vanilla extract
- 1 3/4 cups plus 2 Tbls / 7 oz / 200 grams sifted all-purpose flour see note
- 1 cup / 7 oz / 200 g sugar
- 1 TB / 15 g baking powder
- 1/2 tea / 3.5 g Kosher salt
- 8 TBS/ 4 oz / 113 g unsalted butter - softened
- 8 oz / 225 g Fresh Strawberries
- 1/2 Fresh Peach
- 1/3 cup / 75 ml best quality strawberry or peach jam
Whipped Cream Frosting
- 2 cups / 16 oz / 500 ml heavy cream
- 1 1/2 tea pure vanilla extract
- 2-3 tea sugar
- Decorate the top of the cake with additional peach slices and strawberries.
You will have more success if all your ingredients are at room temperature when you begin mixing the cake batter.
Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit /175 degrees Celsius/ Gas Mark 4
Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch (23 cm) springform cake pan. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper, then butter the paper. Lightly flour the bottom and sides of the cake pan. Shake out excess flour.
In a medium bowl lightly mix together the egg yolks, 1/4 of the buttermilk, and vanilla.
In a mixing bowl of a stand mixer add the sifted flour, sugar, baking powder and salt and mix together for a few seconds on low speed so they are all fully blended. Add the butter, cut up in tablespoons pieces, and the remaining buttermilk to the mix. Mix the ingredients together on low speed until the dry ingredients are incorporated with the butter. Increase the speed to medium and beat for 1.5 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and scrape the batter off the
Add the buttermilk/egg mixture to the flour in 3 intervals, beating the batter for 20 seconds between each addition. After mixing the batter, scrape down the sides of the bowl and paddle attachment.
Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and smooth out the surface with an offset spatula. Bake the cake for 30-40 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean and dry.
Take the cake out of the oven and let it cool for 10 minutes in its pan on a cooling rack. Run a knife around the edge of the pan to loosen the cake from the sides. Turn the cake out of the pan and remove the parchment paper from the bottom of the cake. Turn the cake over, right side up, and place on the cooling rack. The cake should be completely cooled before frosting and serving.
This cake is best eaten the same day it is made, but will last wrapped airtight in plastic wrap, for 3 days on the counter, 5 days in the refrigerator, and for 2 months in the freezer.
Clean and remove the stems from the strawberries. Dry with paper towels. Cut the strawberries into bite size pieces and put into a small bowl.
Peal the skin off the peach, then slice into thin segments. Cut each segment into bite size pieces and add to the bowl with the strawberries. Gently mix the fruit together until well combined. Set aside.
Chill the bowl you will use to make whipped cream and the beaters in the freezer for 10 to 15 minutes.
Take the bowl and beaters out of the freezer and add cold heavy cream and vanilla to the chilled bowl. Beat the cream mixture on high speed until the cream forms soft peaks. Add the sugar and beat on high until stiff peaks are formed when the beaters are lifted from the cream. Be careful not to over mix and turn the cream into butter. If you are planning to frost the cake with the cream, you will want the stiff peaks. If you are planning to have the whipped cream only for the middle and top cake layers the whipped cream can be softer and not whipped as stiff.
Putting the cake together
Divide the cake in half horizontally to make two layers. (See Note) Put the bottom layer on a serving plate and the top layer on another plate or rimless pan or tray. (Cardboard cake rounds are perfect if you have them)
Evenly spread the strawberry or peach jam across the top of the bottom cake layer. Spread 1 cup of the whipped cream evenly across the jam.
Add the mixed fruit then spread the fruit. Press the fruit evenly into the cream so that there is a flat and smooth fruit/cream layer.
Slide the top cake layer on top of the bottom cake layer, lining up the notches on the side, (see note). Add the remaining whipped cream and spread it over the top of the cake. Decorate the cake with additional peaches and strawberries as you wish.
The cake is best served the same day it is made. Add the fruit and whipped cream to the cake as close to serving time as comfortable. Store the cake in the refrigerator, loosely wrapped with plastic wrap until ready to serve. Take the cake out of the refrigerator 15 minutes before serving.
After 24 hours the cake will get soggy and the whipped cream will loosen.
Nifty Cake is a buttermilk cake with strawberries, peaches and sweetened whipped cream. It is a delicious and simple cake that is appropriate for any occasion. The buttermilk cake can easily be eaten plain, topped with whipped cream and fruit on the side. It is the perfect cake for those who do not like frosting, as well as served with any variety of frosting you wish.
The buttermilk cake recipe was slightly adapted from Rose Levy Beranbaum recipe, "Buttermilk Country Cake" in "The Cake Bible Cookbook".
© 2017 – 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
It turns out for the past half century I missed out on a special dessert. I recently learned this dessert originated in Oregon in the 60’s, then variations developed all over California. I was there. How did I, or anyone in my family or friends, not know about this? If it was hot in Eureka, it was hot in San Francisco. Despite the gravitational pull of anything pink had on me then, this popular and pink dessert slipped by unnoticed. Pink Champagne Cake was a popular dessert in the 60’s but I believe a resurgence is in order. It is a beautiful tower of pale pink cake and buttercream, flavored with pink champagne.
I first discovered it in a cookbook, American Cake by Anne Byrn. My thoughtful sister gave me this book because she knows how much I like to research the history and story behind the food I make. It is a great cookbook about the history of cakes in America with recipes from the 17th century to present time. Pictured right on the cover is a beautiful pink cake garnished with white chocolate and bright pink rose petals. It is a true sight of beauty and elegance. Apparently, as Anne Byrn explained, pink champagne was a popular drink in the 60’s among hip California women. It also became a popular color from jewelry to shag carpets. This cake was created to ride the Pink Champagne trend. I love seeing how food culture and popular culture connect and influence each other.
Pink champagne cake is the first recipe I have made from this book and it is an unexpected winner. I was not sure how it would taste, but the subtle flavors balance with the light texture. The cake is moist and made with egg whites, like a chiffon cake, but is slightly denser because of the butter. The frosting is very sweet, and even though it is a buttercream Confectioners sugar is the dominant ingredient. There are several types of buttercreams and this recipe I consider is an American buttercream. They usually are not as smooth as European buttercreams and have a lot more sugar.
I made pink champagne cake twice, first as written, and the second time with a different buttercream. American buttercream is not my favorite frosting. They tend to be too sweet and slightly gritty from all the powdered sugar. Instead, I used a recipe from Rose Levy Beranbaum cookbook, The Cake Bible. Her buttercream recipe is light, silky smooth, not as sweet, and very buttery. I thought the texture of this mousseline buttercream matched the light texture of the cake. I also added some strawberry purée because strawberry adds a little more depth to the pink champagne buttercream. This is an American cake, but the European buttercream is a lot nicer and more elegant than the American one. Anne Byrn shared her recipe on Food 52 if you want to see her original.
One downside, the mousseline buttercream is not an easy frosting for a beginner to make. It helps to have a confident eye and hand that experience develops. There is always a first time. Be patient and give yourself plenty of time to make this. You will also need a candy thermometer, or a good instant read thermometer that goes up to 255˚F (124˚C). My version is somewhat of a production between the strawberry purée, buttercream, the cake, and all the layers. The original frosting is a lot easier to make.
If you want to bake this cake, but are unsure about making a European buttercream, make the original frosting from the recipe provided in the Food 52 link. However, taste as you add the sugar. The frosting is very sweet. When I made it, I cut back on the amount of sugar by two cups and I still thought it was too sweet. I added lemon juice and lemon zest to cut the sweetness.
The original recipe is a three layer cake. It is a beauty to look at, but I thought making six layers with strawberry mousseline buttercream would be a nice way to add more strawberry flavor throughout the cake. I am a little embarrassed by how uneven my layers came out. I have not had this issue before. In the past my measure and marking technique has been successful in creating even layers. I believe the cakes were more domed shaped than I realized. I do work hard to be consistent. However, wouldn’t you know the one time I am documenting my work for reference and prosperity, it does not turn out the way I want it to. As I always say, “This is how you know it is homemade. It is perfect in its’ imperfections.”
Springtime is the beginning of a lot of special occasions, and Spring is one of them. After a long winter who doesn’t want to come out and celebrate the new season’s emerging life. No more dormancy and short days. Life is blooming all around and that alone is worth celebrating. It is also the beginning of Easter, Passover, more birthdays, graduations, bridal showers, baby showers, bachelorette parties, weddings, and anniversaries. Pink Champagne Cake is the perfect cake to make for these momentous occasions.
Pink Champagne Cake
- Butter and flour for preparing three 8-inch cake pans
- 3 cups / 348g cake flour*
- 1 Tbs / 16g baking powder
- ½ tsp Kosher salt
- 6 large egg whites room temperature
- 1 cup / 250ml pink champagne room temperature
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 Tbs vegetable oil
- 2 cups / 447g granulated sugar
- 1 cup 2 sticks / 226g unsalted butter, at room temperature
- Pink food coloring*
- 20 oz / 567g frozen strawberries with no added sugar
- 2 tsp lemon juice
- 2-3 tsp granulated sugar optional
Pink Champagne Mousseline Buttercream
- 3 cups 6 sticks 1 ½ lb / 680g unsalted butter, soften but still cool
- 1 ½ cups / 332g granulated sugar divided
- ⅓ cup / 75 ml water
- 7 large egg whites room temperature
- ¾ tsp + ⅛ tsp cream of tartar
- 3 fl oz / 90 ml / 5-7 Tbs pink champagne room temperature
- Finely grated zest from one lemon
- Pink food coloring*
- ½ cup / 125 ml strawberry purée
- Decorate with shaved white chocolate or sliced strawberries, or grated coconut, or edible rose petals, or other candy garnishes
Strawberry Purée -Takes about 20 - 30 minutes to make, not including the defrosting time.
Start defrosting the strawberries the day before or first thing in the morning. They will take several hours for the strawberries to defrost and release their juice. Suspend a colander over a large mixing bowl. Add the frozen strawberries to the colander and let the strawberries thaw out and release their own juices. Occasionally press down on the strawberries to encourage the juices to release. You should get close to 1 1/4 cup juice.
In a small saucepan, pour in the strawberry juice and turn the heat to medium high. Reduce the juice to about 1/4 cup.
Purée the strawberry pulp in a food processor until smooth. There will be some texture because of the seeds, but you want it as smooth as you can.
When the strawberry juice is reduced add the strawberry puree and stir. Add the lemon juice and taste the strawberries. Depending on how tart or sweet the strawberries taste, add about 2 -3 teaspoons of granulated sugar. You will not want it very sweet because the buttercream will be sweet. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Pour the strawberry purée into a heat proof glass measuring cup. You should have about 1 ¼ cup. The purée can be stored in an airtight container for 10 days in the refrigerator, or frozen for up to one year.
Cake - Takes about 20 minutes to mix, about 25 minutes to bake, 40 minutes - 1 hour to cool
Place the oven rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350˚F/ 175˚C / Gas Mark 4
Prepare 3, 8-inch cake pans. Cut a circle of parchment paper for each pan, large enough to fit inside your cake tins. Lightly butter the bottom and sides of each pan, then coat with a light dusting of cake flour around the sides and bottom. Tap the pan against the counter to release any excess flour. Discard the excess flour. Place the parchment paper circles inside each cake tin. Set aside.
Place the flour, baking powder, and Kosher salt inside a medium size bowl. Mix the flour mixture with a wire whisk to get all the ingredients thoroughly mixed together. Set aside.
Place the egg whites, champagne, vanilla and oil in a medium mixing bowl and whisk together until thoroughly mixed through. Set aside.
Put granulated sugar and butter in a bowl of a stand mixer, or large bowl if using a handheld mixer. Mix on medium speed until lighter and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes.
Scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl with a rubber spatula.
Turn the speed on low and add a portion of the flour to the butter, and mix. Then add a portion of the egg whites to the bowl and mix. With the beater on, alternate adding the flour and the egg whites to the butter, ending with the flour.
Turn off the mixer and stir in one tiny drop of pink food coloring. Stir by hand until all mixed through.
Divide the batter evenly between the three prepared cake pans.
Place all three pans in the oven on the center rack and bake until the cake is lightly golden brown, the cake has pulled away from the sides of the pans, and a cake tester comes out clean when poked in the center of each cake. About 23-27 minutes. Be careful not to overbake the cakes. The cakes will taste dry if they are overbaked.
Place the cakes in the pan on cooling racks and cool for 10 minutes. After the cakes have cooled for 10 minutes, run a knife around the edge of each cake pan to loosen the cakes. Turn the cake upside down resting the top of the cake in one hand, and pull the pan away. Carefully peel off the parchment paper and place the cake right side up on the cooling rack. Repeat for the remaining cakes. Cool completely before frosting. Can be made in advance. Wrap each cake tightly with plastic wrap and store on the counter for 1 day.
Pink Champagne Buttercream- Takes about 20 to 30 minutes to make.
In a large mixing bowl beat the butter with a hand-held mixer until smooth. Set aside away from any heat source.
Place a heatproof glass measuring cup to the side next to the stove where you will be working. In a small heavy saucepan heat 1 cup plus 3 Tbs sugar and 3/8 of a cup (90 ml) of water over medium high heat. Stir the sugar in the water until it is completely dissolved and the liquid is bubbly. Reduce the heat to the lowest setting. (If using an electric range turn off the heat and set the saucepan aside).
In a large mixing bowl of a stand mixer, beat the egg whites until foamy. Add the cream of tartar and beat until the egg whites form soft peaks. Add the remaining sugar, one tablespoon at a time to the egg whites, and beat on high speed until stiff peaks form. Turn off the mixer and return your attention back to the sugar syrup.
Turn the heat up to high and boil the sugar syrup until it reaches the temperature of 248˚F - 250˚F (120˚C) using a candy thermometer or an instant read thermometer. Pour the syrup into the heatproof glass measuring cup to stop the cooking.
Return to the egg whites and turn the speed up to high speed. If using a handheld mixer, slowly drizzle the syrup into the egg whites without the syrup touching the beaters. If you are using a stand mixer, turn the speed off, add a little of the syrup, then turn the speed up to high and beat for 5 seconds and stop. Repeat the process until the syrup is added into the egg whites, scraping the clinging syrup with a rubber spatula to get every drop. If you get the syrup on the whisk or beaters, the syrup will just spray over the sides of the bowl and not mix into the egg whites. Once all the syrup is added, turn the speed down to medium and beat for a couple of minutes to cool the whipped egg whites.
On low speed, beat in the whipped butter into the cool egg whites, one tablespoon at a time. The buttercream will look thin at first, but it will eventually thicken up. If at any time the buttercream starts to look curdled, stop adding butter and turn the speed up a little. Beat until smooth. Once smooth, continue to add the butter one tablespoon at a time until done.
Lower the speed and add in the pink champagne and lemon zest, and beat in. Add one tiny drop of pink food coloring and mix until thoroughly mixed through. (Can be made in advance up to this point, keep in the refrigerator for 2 days or freeze).
Measure in a dry measuring cup, 2 ¾ cup (685 ml) buttercream and place in a medium mixing bowl. Set the remaining buttercream aside. Add ½ cup (125ml) cooled strawberry purée to the buttercream and beat by hand until mixed together. Cover both bowls of buttercream and keep on the counter away from any heat until you are ready to assemble the cake.
Putting it all together- About 30 minutes to assemble.
For a 6-layer cake, measure with a ruler the height of each cake and mark the center with a toothpick. Measure and mark the center point around the circumference of each cake. The toothpicks are your guide to cut each cake in half through the middle. With a long serrated knife, rest the serrated edge up against the side of a cake and on top of the toothpicks. With a gently sawing motion cut through the cake, paying attention to your markers and turning the cake as you work your way around the circumference, and then through the middle of the cake. Repeat for each cake. Keep the pairs together. Select which cake layer is going to be your top layer and set aside.
Take apart one divided cake and place the bottom portion of the cake on your cake plate.
Spread ½ cup (125ml) of the strawberry buttercream over the top of the cake. Make a smooth and level layer of buttercream. Place the top portion of the cake on top of your frosted layer and spread ½ cup (125 ml) of strawberry buttercream evenly and smoothly across the top.
Continue to stack and frost the tops of each layer with ½ cup (125ml) strawberry buttercream until you get to the top layer. The strawberry buttercream is to be used only for the middle layers of frosting. While you are stacking your cake layers, try to get them as level as possible. Trim off the top of each layer if they are uneven, before you frost the layers.
For a three layer cake frost each layer with 3/4 cup pink champagne buttercream or strawberry pink champagne buttercream.
Once the layers are assembled, spread a thin "crumb" layer of pink champagne buttercream around the top and sides of the cake. This is to get the cake frosted with a thin protective layer so the crumbs won't show through the frosting. Once done, spread more buttercream all over the top and working down the sides of the cake for a nice finishing layer of buttercream. Frost as much as wanted or needed.
Decorate the cake with shaved white chocolate over the top of the cake and extra strawberries for decoration.
Keep the cake in a cool spot loosely covered with aluminum foil up to 2 days unrefrigerated. Best if eaten the day it is assembled.
Cake flour has less gluten and produces a more delicate cake than with all-purpose flour. If you like to bake cakes, cake flour is nice to have around. Swans Down and Softasilk are two brands that sell cake flour. Do not buy self-rising cake flour. If you do not want to buy cake flour, or cannot get some, substitute 1 cup of all-purpose flour, plus 2 Tbs all-purpose flour, plus 2 Tbs cornstarch for every cup of cake flour. Recipe from The Kitchn
Ingredient amounts for buttercream if you want to make a 3-layer cake:
Unsalted butter - 1 lb / 454g (4 sticks),
Sugar - 1 cup / 200 g,
Water - ¼ cup / 2oz 60 ml,
5 large egg whites,
Cream of tartar - ½ + ⅛ teaspoon,
Pink Champagne - up to 3 fl oz or 90 ml, Tiny drop of pink food coloring.
Use 3/4 cup of buttercream between the three layers, instead of 1/2 cup.
I used Wilton Liquid food coloring - Base Pink. Wilton also makes a gel food coloring in pink.
© 2017 – 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
There is no occasion too ordinary that does not deserve recognition and celebration. For any reason, be it a birthday, anniversary, honor your national heritage, a promotion, or simply because the whole family is together, a celebratory acknowledgement is welcome and cake is the perfect finale.
If you are partial to chocolate cake, then chocolate stout cake is a terrific stand in. This is a very moist cake with deep dark chocolate flavor. Guinness Stout enriches the chocolate without any boozy aftertaste. Adding the Guinness to the cake makes a moist cake with deep malty and dark chocolate flavor. The extra bonuses are, it is simple to make, baked in one pan, and does not require fancy cake decorating skills. Chocolate Stout Cake is perfect in its simplicity as well as flavor.
I believe chocolate stout cake would taste delicious by itself without frosting, or just simply topped with whipped cream. Yet, it is nice to give cake more pizzazz and a creamy rich frosting will compliment the dark chocolate. Also, adding white frosting creates a cake that resembles a pint of stout. Many recipes frost chocolate stout cake with dark chocolate ganache, or cream cheese frosting. Fortunately, I discovered one made with white chocolate and cream cheese frosting and that sealed the deal for me. Normally, cream cheese frosting does not excite me, but add some white chocolate to it, I just knew it would be spectacular.
Baking with stout is not a novel idea. According to Anne Byrn in her book American Cake, people across the globe have baked with ale, porters and cider for ages. Centuries ago people used to make their own ale or cider. This common ingredient was often included in baked goods to keep cakes moist and add extra flavor. During that time, cakes were cooked inside a cast iron pot with a lid and placed directly on top the hot embers of the home fire. These were not like the delicate cakes that we now know and love, but hearty ones with preserved and fermented ingredients.
Traditional Irish Stout Cake is more like a spice cake with raisins and citrus. The origin of this type of cake could date back several hundred years. I am not sure when chocolate stout cake became popular in Ireland, or the US, yet I believe it was an inevitable pairing. Chocolate and stout are perfect mates.
My recipe for Chocolate Stout Cake is a combination of three recipes. From my research, I discovered Chocolate Stout Cake is not for the faint at heart. One recipe I found uses a pound of butter for one cake. That is more like a pound cake with all that butter. I was hoping for something not so heavy, and kept searching for a “lighter” version. Nigella Lawson’s recipe from the New York Times came through. Her recipe for Chocolate Guinness Cake uses only 10 tablespoons of butter, and another bonus includes 1 cup of Guinness. The other recipes I found used a half cup of stout. This was an easy decision to make, less butter… more stout. I believe that is a fair trade.
I was thrilled when I discovered Donal Skehan’s recipe for White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting. His Chocolate Guinness Cake recipe is like the other ones I researched, but his idea of adding white chocolate to the cream cheese frosting is brilliant. The past few times I made frosting with white chocolate has been nothing but extraordinary.
Additionally, I discovered a recipe for stout simple syrup from Steve McDonagh and Dan Smith. I added chili powder to the syrup then drizzled it over the frosting. I thought the stout syrup would resemble the amber stout making its way up through the white foam in a pint. Honestly, I could drizzle this stuff on anything. Right now, I am wondering how it would work in whipped cream, ice cream, or espresso martinis.
I am sure there are many potential adaptations for my pieced together cake. Most recipes for Stout cake select Guinness as the stout of choice. Fortunately, there are so many stouts to choose from, why not have some fun with it? I may try a stout from a local microbrewery the next time I make Chocolate Stout Cake.
Chocolate Stout Cake is a perfect cake to celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day. Yet, it is too delicious to serve only once a year. I know I will want to make it for any time good cheer is on the menu.
Chocolate Stout Cake with White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting
- Chocolate Stout Cake
- 1 cup / 8oz / 250ml Guinness Stout or your favorite stout
- 10 Tbs / 5oz / 132g of unsalted butter plus more for greasing the pan
- 3/4 cup / 2 ½ oz / 70g unsweetened cocoa powder
- 2 cups / 1 lb / 450g sugar
- 2 cups / 10oz / 291g all-purpose flour
- 2 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 3/4 cup / 6oz / 200ml sour cream
- 2 large eggs
- 1 Tb vanilla extract
White Chocolate and Cream Cheese Frosting
- 7 oz / 200g good quality white chocolate 30% cocoa butter
- 4 oz / 125g unsalted butter at room temperature
- 1- 225 g package cream cheese
- 1½ cups / 225g confectioners sugar
Stout Syrup (optional)
- 1 cup / 225g granulated sugar
- 1-12 oz / 355 ml bottle Guinness Stout
Preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Butter the sides and bottom of a 9 inch / 23cm springform pan. Add a parchment paper liner to the bottom of the pan. Set aside.
In a medium sauce pan add the butter and stout. Turn the heat to medium low and stir occasionally until the butter has melted. Once the butter is melted, remove from the heat and add the sugar and cocoa powder. Whisk together until well combined. Let cool for 10 minutes.
In a large mixing bowl add the flour and baking soda and whisk together to get the baking soda evenly mixed through. Make a well in the flour and add the slightly cooled chocolate mixture, the sour cream, eggs, and vanilla. Mix together until thoroughly combined.
Pour the batter in the prepared cake pan and bake in the preheated oven for 45 min - 1 hr, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Place on a wire rack and cool the cake in the pan.
Stout Syrup (optional)
If using make the stout syrup while the cake is baking.
Pour the stout and sugar in a medium saucepan and turn the heat up to medium high. Bring the liquid to a boil. Reduce the heat then simmer the liquid until it becomes thick and syrupy, about 15 minutes or more. Let the syrup cool before using.
White chocolate and Cream Cheese Frosting
Melt the white chocolate in the microwave or in a double boiler. As soon as it is melted remove from the heat and let cool for 10 minutes.
In a bowl of a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, or large mixing bowl with a hand held mixer, cream together the cream cheese and butter until smooth and light. This will take awhile. Periodically stop beating and scrape down the sides of the bowl so it mixes evenly.
Add the cooled white chocolate to the cream cheese and butter, and mix together at medium speed.
Sift the confectioners sugar, then gradually add it into the white chocolate and cream cheese. Mix on low speed between each addition of confectioners sugar. Once all the confectioners sugar is added, beat the frosting until smooth.
Putting it all together
Run a knife around the edge of the cake pan to loosen the cake from the sides of the pan. Release the latch from the springform pan and lift the rim away from the cake. Loosen the bottom of the cake from the pan with an icing spatula or knife, then remove the bottom of the pan. Holding the cake upside down, carefully peel off the parchment paper. Place the cake on a serving plate.
Spread the frosting across the top of the cake. The cake will look like a pint of stout with the dark bottom and the white cloudy top.
(optional) Drizzle the stout syrup randomly across the top of the frosting on the cake. Swirl a knife through the stout syrup drizzle to create a random pattern.
Serve and enjoy. The cake tastes best at room temperature and eaten the day it is made.
© 2017 – 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.