almond cake

cake 4-

Last weekend, I made a valentine cake. And it was delicious. I was impressed with myself.

I don’t typically make layer cakes. Mostly because transporting a layer cake is a huge pain-in-the-you-know-what, but also because…I am missing whatever gene is necessary to be a rockstar at fancy cake decorating. I am better at what we’ll call “rustic” cake decorating.Β  My version of rustic cake decorating is 1 part legit creativity and 2 parts preschool-style artwork. I’m totally okay with it. I own it. And oddly, I’m a pretty baller cupcake decorator. It’s weird how that pans out, huh?

almond cake

See what I did there with my new alphabet cookie cutters? So cheesy.

A few things about this cake:

  • You should absolutely make your own almond paste. It is SO MUCH TASTIER than the store bought stuff.Β  All you need is almonds, honey, water, and sugar. Here’s a link on how to do it — you can half the recipe and have way more than enough for this cake.
  • If you want to have a chocolate-almond layer like I did, bake half your batter as stated in the recipe, and then fold 1/4 to 1/3 cup of cocoa powder into the remaining half before you bake. I actually ended up baking about 2/3 of the batter in round one (plain almond) and 1/3 of the batter in round 2 (chocolate-almond). My chocolate layer was much thinner. Which is fine, as I didn’t want to overpower the plain almond layers. If you want an even showing of chocolate-almond and plain almond cake, divide your batter in half.
  • I baked my cake layers in an 8×8 square pan, and cut the layers in half to make a cake that was 8″ x 4″. If you do this, you’ll need to keep an eye on your cakes as your baking time might be a bit shorter.
  • For chocolate hearts — melt chocolate in a double boiler or the microwave, put it in a piping bag or a ziploc bag with one of the corners snipped off, and pipe directly onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet. I put mine in the freezer to help them solidify faster.
  • I also made my own sprinkles. It was fun? But store bought ones are just fine, and probably won’t start disintegrating into the frosting 5 hours after you make it.
  • According toΒ  Molly, this cake is not to be made at any other time of year than Valentine’s Day, but I can’t say that I’ll abide by that rule. It’s too good to wait a full year before making it again!
  • I added a thin layer of blackberry jam between my layers (in addition to the frosting).
  • The “frosting” on this cake is actually just whipped cream. It balances the cake out perfectly. Make sure you whip your cream thoroughly enough that it is structurally sound. Also, this means you can’t just leave this cake sitting out for long periods of time, lest your dairy spoil (ew) and whipped cream start to melt/un-whip itself (double ew).

cake 5-

Almond Cake

recipe, adapted slightly,Β  from My Name Is Yeh

for the cake:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
8 oz almond paste
6 eggs, separated
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp almond extract
pinch of salt
1/2 c sugar

for the “frosting”:
1 1/2 cups whipping cream
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp almond extract
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
a few drops of food coloring, if you want to color your frosting (totally optional)

plus anything you want to use to decorate your cake! I used homemade sprinkles, edible glitter, and chocolate hearts.

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Prepare your cake pans and set aside.
  2. Combine flour and baking powder in a small bowl and set aside.
  3. Beat almond paste and egg yolks until well blended, mix in vanilla and almond extract, and set aside.
  4. In a separate large bowl, beat the egg whites and salt until soft peaks form. Beat in sugar one tablespoon at a time and continue beating until stiff peaks form.
  5. Gently fold the whites into the yolk mixture and then gradually fold in the flour mixture. pour batter into prepared pans and bake for about 30 minutes, until a tooth pick comes out clean.
  6. Let cool completely. Sticking them in the freezer helps, and makes them easier to level and frost.
  7. For the frosting, whip up the whipping cream and add the extracts and food coloring.
  8. Level your cake layers (so you don’t end up with a leaning cake…unless you totally dig that kind of thing, and then more power to ya).
  9. Frost and decorate your cake!

chocolate heart

baking basics: cream scones

cream and blueberry lemon scones

Surprise: it’s Valentine’s week and I’m NOT sharing a red velvet cake/cookie/cupcake/doughnut/whatever recipe with you. Because I don’t like red velvet. And I’m tired of seeing red velvet recipes.

Instead, let’s talk basics again. SCONES! Continue reading

banana bread

banana bread5-

Is banana bread seasonal? Or is it just one of those bread situations that randomly reappears every so often, whenever there are enough over-ripe bananas floating about your kitchen?

Banana bread is weird. It doesn’t feel summery, or fall-ish. It doesn’t identify with any specific occasion or holiday. It doesn’t have a particular vibe about it. It’s just one of those “whenever the time is right” kind of breads. I think of zucchini bread in the same way. Continue reading

baked buttermilk doughnuts

baked buttermilk doughnuts

You guys, I did something weird. Last weekend, I bought a doughnut pan.

I am generally against purchasing kitchen tools that serve such limited purpose (unitaskers, if you’re an Alton Brown fan). It just seems silly and wasteful. But then I started thinking about my relatively newly discovered love of doughnuts (but only ones that are made locally in relatively small batches, not the kind from Dunkin Donuts or Krispy Creme…yes, I’m picky). But then I decided that there was absolutely no way that baked doughnuts would be anywhere near as delicious as fried doughnuts. And then I decided it might be nice to, on occasion, be able to make baked doughnuts at home in order to save money and potential calories, which led to thinking about the various flavor combinations that might come out of homemade baked doughnuts, which then led to finding a doughnut pan that was only $5. So I bought it. Continue reading

baking basics: brownies

plain brownies-

I’ve decided to incorporate a little something new into this whole blog thang (yes, thang.) As a long-time reader of quite a few blogs out there, it has become more and more apparent by reading comments and such that sometimes, people don’t want super difficult, overly-fancy recipes. Sometimes, y’all just want some basics. Maybe you don’t cook or bake on the regular and are just trying to learn some easy stuff to impress yourself / your friends / your family / your partner / that person you think is cute, or maybe you just want a good solid base recipe for something, or you want to learn the method for something…and you should be able to find/do those things! It’s totally okay to be new to this whole baking/cooking thing. It’s okay to just want a plain old ____ recipe once in a while. It’s okay to not really know how to brown butter or make frosting or work with yeast. So, I’m going to start a series of basics, geared toward helping anyone who falls into those categories above.

Now, you should know: I am no authority. Everything I’ve learned, I’ve been taught by family/friends or have learned on my own with practice and experimentation. I don’t have a culinary school education backing me up, but I don’t think you need one to be good at any of this anyway. I read a lot of cookbooks and blogs and magazines, and I cook or bake several times a week. Really, the recipes and methods I share with you throughout this series are simply things that have worked with consistent results for me in the past. Recipes or methods I turn to regularly, and think you might find useful. Cool? Cool.

So, let’s start with brownies. Continue reading