Spice Cake and a New Bundt Pan

spice bundt cake
I’ve been sitting here, trying to think of a way to explain to you why I adore spice cake.

I’ve come up with about 25 different adjectives, but the truth doesn’t have anything to do with flowery language. The truth is pretty darn simple. I love spice cake because I can get away with eating it for breakfast.

Cake for breakfast. It’s my dream. Which is why I adore my grandmother’s sour cream coffee cake in muffin form – anything in a muffin tin qualifies as breakfast, right?

As I mentioned back when I shared that coffee cake muffin recipe with you all, for many years my kitchen has been lacking a bundt cake pan. I have more bakeware than any woman should reasonably own. In fact, Jeff had to build me an extra set of shelves in the basement to hold my mini doughnut pan, my Madeleine pan, my candy molds, my petit-fours kit, my mini tart pans… you get the idea. But for some reason, I never got around to buying the basic bundt pan.

I was at my aunt’s house for dinner a couple weeks ago, and after we were so thoroughly stuffed with brisket and potatoes we thought we would never eat again, she brought out two of the prettiest bundt cakes I had ever seen. Yes, two. She’s like that. At her table, I have never been served less than two desserts, and usually more.

Her cakes were beautiful, with their pretty fluted edges. And after one taste, I realized that the shape was not just for show – all those ridges (all that extra surface area) make for plenty of extra buttery crisp bits. I love that buttery crisp cake edge!

I oohed and ahhed over those cakes, bemoaning my lack of bundt pan, whining to my cousin even as I devoured a mega slice of each.

And a week later, when UPS delivered a beautiful bundt cake pan to my door, I was baffled for only about two seconds. My cousin is so thoughtful – and had been so shocked that my over-stocked kitchen could be lacking such a necessary staple – that she turned to Amazon that very night.

So I made spice cake. And I’m loving all those buttery crisp edges and intense flavors this morning with my cup of tea. This cake is wonderfully moist and lovely on its own, but also fantastic with some barely sweetened whipped cream. And if, like me, you save a slice for breakfast, a smear of cream cheese is pretty great too.

spice cake

Spice Cake
(adapted from this Spiced Applesauce Cake recipe)

3 cups sifted flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 2/3 cups brown sugar
2 eggs
2 1/4 cups applesauce
powdered sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a bundt pan. Stir together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, ginger, allspice, and nutmeg. In a separate bowl, beat the butter and brown sugar together until very fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time and beat well. Then stir in half of the flour mixture, all of the applesauce, and then the remaining flour mixture. The batter will be a bit stiff. Spread it into the bundt pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 50 minutes. Cool before removing from the pan.

Published in: on March 10, 2013 at 11:15 am  Comments (8)  
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Pumpkin Muffins/Cupcakes with Honey Walnut Cream Cheese Frosting

pumpkin cupcake

The cupcake versus muffin debate is as old as time.  Some say that frosting draws the line; cupcakes are frosted, muffins are not.  Others say it’s about the ratio of fat to flour. Still other folks claim it’s about using oil or melted butter (muffins) versus creamed sugar and butter (cupcakes).  I like this last one, I think, because fluffy creamed butter and sugar result in a more airy pastry. Which is why I’m having a hard time deciding if these pumpkin cuties are muffins or cupcakes. The frosting and soft crumb would indicate cupcakeness.  But the frosting could easily be served alongside as a spread, and the butter here is melted and moderate in amount, so I’m thinking it’s really more of a muffin.

In reality, it doesn’t matter.  They are delicious.  Whatever we call them, they are filled with fall flavor and pumpkin goodness, and I have no qualms about eating them any time of day.  They would be great for Halloween – for breakfast or dessert!

muffin with honey walnut cream cheese

While these Muffins/Cupcakes are lovely on their own, I think it’s the cream cheese icing that really makes them spectacular.  My mother-in-law and I share an obsesion for honey walnut cream cheese.  She came over for breakfast last week and I bought bagels and honey walnut cream cheese from our local bagel shop.  And then I ate up the rest of that cream cheese on graham crackers as a fabulous evening snack through the rest of the week.  And when I finished that tub of cream cheese, it occurred to me that I could easily make my own.  Just whip some cream cheese, a bit of honey, and a few toasted walnuts together and that’s it!  It’s fantastic on toast, on a banana, on waffles, and, of course, on pumpkin Muffins/Cupcakes.

pumpkin muffin with cream cheese

Pumpkin Muffins/Cupcakes With Honey Walnut Cream Cheese Frosting

makes 24

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

pinch of salt

2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup applesauce

1/2 cup melted butter, cooled

4 eggs, beaten

1 can (15 oz) pumpkin puree

16 oz cream cheese, softened at room temperature

1/3 cup honey

1/4 cup chopped toasted walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Grease two 12-cup muffin tins. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and pumpkin pie spice. In a separate bowl, wisk together the sugars, applesauce, butter, eggs, and pumpkin.  Add the dry ingredients and mix until well combined. Divide the batter among the muffin tins and bake 20-25 minutes until set.  Cool.

While the muffins/cupcakes cool, make the frosting. Beat the cream cheese with an electric mixer until fluffy.  Add in the honey to combine, and then the nuts.

Frost the cupcakes (or serve alongside the muffins!) and enjoy.

Published in: on October 28, 2011 at 6:25 pm  Comments (9)  
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Coffee Cake Muffins

coffee cake

My grandmother’s coffee cake was iconic, a symbol of her vigilant hospitality. Nannie never failed to have a sweet treat available, fresh from the oven, any time of day. She would bake, not just because she loved to bake, but just in case a friend, a grandchild, or one of her sisters just happened to stop by. Like a boy scout, she was always prepared! And more often than not, it was her famed sour cream coffee cake that sat, cooling, on her kitchen counter.

I loved sitting at Nannie’s sunny kitchen table, my legs sticking to her white vinyl chairs as I sipped instant French vanilla cafe coffee and munched on cake.   Nannie usually served coffee cake as an afternoon treat; a little something to nibble while socializing with the ladies, an afterschool snack or a bribe for a juicy tidbit of good gossip.

sour cream coffee cake

But I haven’t made coffee cake in years.  Putting aside for a moment the fact that I don’t actually own a bunt pan, how often am I free midafternoon for a coffee and cake break anyway?  When was the last time I sat down at 4:00 p.m. to enjoy a cup of coffee, a slice of cake, and a bit of gossip?  I just put “invite girlfriends over for coffee and cake” on my to-do list, but the reality is that most of my mid-afternoon snacks are a granola bars scarfed down at my desk in between conference calls. 

And while coffee cake makes a lovely breakfast, the guilt associated with eating “cake” for breakfast is usually more than I can handle.  A big old slice of cake with my morning coffee doesn’t actually make for a greater sugar high than that muffin I bought yesterday morning, but it’s a mental block. So I stuck Nannie’s sour cream coffee cake batter in some muffin tins and the guilt disappeared! 

You could certainly add a cup of blueberries or a few chocolate chips to this batter.  But I like the pure, sweet simplicity of the naked cake and the texture of the nutty topping.

coffee cake muffin with nuts

Nannie’s Coffee Cake Muffins

Makes 12 large muffins


1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, soft

3/4 cup sugar

3 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

21/2 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

pinch of salt

1 cup sour cream

1 cup chopped walnuts


1 cup chopped walnuts

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold and cut in cubes

3/4 cup brown sugar

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy.  Add the eggs and vanilla extract and mix to combine. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt (don’t skip the sifting step, Nannie was big on sifting for a nice light crumb!) Stir half of the dry mixture into the wet mixture, add in the sour cream, and then the rest of the dry mixture.  Combine well. 

In a small bowl, mix together the topping ingredients with your fingers, rubbing the butter until it comes together and becomes crumbly. 

Spray a muffin tin with nonstick spray. Fill each muffin cup to almost half way, then  add about a tablespoon of the topping mixture, and then add more batter to fill each cup 3/4 full. Top the muffins with the remaining topping mixture.  Bake until a toothpick inserted in the cake comes out clean, about 30 minutes.

Published in: on September 18, 2011 at 6:39 pm  Comments (15)  
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Baking for Passover

chocolate meringue cookies

I suppose that for some folks Passover is a miserable stretch of deprivation.  But Passover has always been my favorite holiday. and while I am one of the few nuts out there who actually enjoys matzoh, it’s not just because of the crackers.  Well, ok, it’s partially because of the matzoh (egg matzoh spread with good butter and a sprinkle of salt).

fresh mangoEvery year I tell myself that I’ll lose a few pounds at Passover, what with skipping all that leavened goodness.  But that never seems to happen, in fact quite the opposite. I adore Passover food.  Jeff and I have a running joke that all Jews eat is bagels and fish (Jeff even made up a song about bagels and fish – no joke).  But even Jeff has to admit that with no bagels allowed, we pull out all the stops and put out a pretty irresistable spread. I can’t say no to brisket or potato kugel. And my mom’s matzoh brei (matzoh dipped in egg and fried in chicken fat) is the stuff of dreams – well, my kind of crazy food-obsessed dreams, anyway.  Given that flour is off-limits you might think that Passover desserts are not an issue, but you’d be wrong.  Oh, I’ve had my share of icky matzoh-meal brownies and sandy angel food cakes.  But then there are the fabulous flourless chocolate cakes, and the coconut macaroons, and the matzoh brittles, and the cheesecakes.  And, of course these lovely egg-white concoctions. 

mango pavlovas

I don’t know why I don’t make meringue cookies more often.  They are light and  delicious, and in the grand scheme of cookies, relatively healthy.  And these mini pavlovas are so easy and yet so impressive that they would be the perfect dessert for a back-yard garden party.  If you have never made pavlovas, they are truly heaven.  Pillowy meringue topped with creamy goodness and sweet fruit.  What’s not to love? The key with both the cookies and the pavlovas is quality.  With so few ingredients, each one really counts.  Use great chocolate for the meringue cookies (you all know my fondness for Green & Blacks) and be sure you have a perfectly ripe mango for the pavlovas.  You won’t be sorry.


chocolate meringue cookies

Chocolate Meringue Cookies

Makes 2 dozen

cooking spray

2 teaspoons matzoh meal (or all-purpose flour)

3 egg whites

1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

3/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup finely chopped dark chocolate

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.  Coat two baking sheets with spray, sprinkle with matzoh meal and shake off the excess.  In a very clean bowl, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar with an electric mixer until soft peaks form.  Add in the sugar and continue to beat until glossy.  Fold in the chocolate and vanilla.  Drop tablespoonfuls of the batter on prepared cookie sheets. Bake for one hour and then turn off the oven and let sit for another hour.  Cookies will keep a couple of days in an airtight container.

mango pavlovas

Lemon-Mango Pavlovas

Serves 6

2 egg whites

1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar

1/2 cup sugar

2 teaspoons potato starch (or corn starch)

1 tablespoon lemon zest

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup sour cream

1 large mango, diced

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar until soft peaks form.  Add the sugar and beat until glossy.  Sprinkle the potato starch over the egg whites, add the lemon zest and juice and the vanilla and fold gently to incorporate.  Spoon the egg whites into six mounds on the parchment, creating a slight indentation in the middle of each mound.  Bake 50-60 minutes, until slightly golden, and then carefully transfer to a rack to cool.  Once fully cooled top each meringue base with a dollop of sour cream and some of the chopped mango.  Serve with plenty of napkins as these can get messy!

Published in: on March 26, 2010 at 8:23 pm  Comments (26)  
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Gluten Free Baking Extravaganza

gluten free cake

I am a terrible listener.  I pretend to listen, I nod and say ‘mmm-hmm’ at the right moments, but really my mind is whirring away down the road.  It’s not that I don’t care – I really do care very much. It’s just that the moment I hear the mention of a problem, a crisis, or a situation, my very goal-oriented brain rushes off to find a solution.  But so many problems have no solution, particularly relationship-related problems. 

So when my best friend called last week with an entirely different sort of problem, I was secretly thrilled.  OK, ok, not thrilled that she HAD a problem, but thrilled that in this case I could actually DO something.  I had braced myself to feel utterly useless in discussing romantic woes, but instead she (exhausted and cranky from a day of medical tests) quickly blurted “gluten is my enemy.”  This I could work with.  Yes, it is miserable to be forced to cut out the foods we love.  And since gluten is in just about everything (seriously, start reading labels – you’ll be shocked), this is most assuredly one of the toughest special diets. But that doesn’t mean that spectacular gluten-free goodies don’t exist.

And since I’m on a mission to find these goodies, I started baking. I have to admit, despite my mother’s wheat sensitivity, I have had pretty limited experience with gluten-free baking.  So the first few tries were awful, as you can probably imagine. I quickly learned that you really can’t just substitute gluten-free flours for wheat flour and expect a palatable texture. But most gluten-free baked goods seem to call for about a million different kinds of flours and stabilizers, and since I had just about none of those ingredients in the house, I needed to create something simple.  

These little tea cakes are about as simple as it gets.  Filled with bits of dark chocolate, they are so wonderful with a cup of cocoa (I know that I’m calling them tea cakes, but seriously, trust me and go for cocoa).  I made mine in shaped tiny tart pans, but you can certainly bake them in mini muffin tins and they would still be adorable.  Part cookie, part cake, these totally satisfy the craving for a treat.bitter orange cake

Once I had mastered these little tea cakes, my confidence was restored and I was ready to experiment.  I remembered an old Sephardic recipe for orange cake, rind and all, and figured this might make a moist base for a more sophisticated gluten-free dessert.  This cake strikes just the right balance between bitter and sweet.  It would be wonderful with some whipped cream, but being the addict that I am, I’d probably go for a drizzle of dark chocolate instead.  Not that there is anything wrong with doing both.  I have to say that it’s a good thing that this cake is no longer in my house.  The flavor is simply so interesting that I just had to have taste after taste.

gluten free orange cake

Chocolate Chunk Tea Cakes (Gluten-Free)

1 egg, beaten

1/4 cup milk

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 cup rice flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

pinch of salt

1/4 cup chopped dark chocolate

2 tablespoons turbinado sugar

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Wisk together the egg, milk, oil and sugar in a medium bowl.  Stir in the rice flour, baking powder and salt until combined.  Fold in the chocolate chunks. Divide the batter into greased tartlette pans or mini muffin tins and sprinkle with the turbinado sugar.  Bake 18-20 minutes until slightly browned.  Cool before unmolding.

Bitter Orange Cake (Gluten-Free)

2 oranges

3 cups water

4 eggs, beaten

1/2 cup honey

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup sesame tahini

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 cups chickpea flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Bring the oranges and water to a boil in a large pot.  Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook for an hour until oranges are soft.  Remove oranges from the water and cut into quarters.  Remove any visible seeds and transfer the orange segments, rind and all, to a food processor.  Pulse until pureed.  Transfer to a large bowl and mix in eggs, honey, sugar, tahini and oil.  Add in the chickpea flour and baking powder and mix well.  Transfer the batter to a greased cake pan.  Bake 40-50 minutes until firm and browned on top.  Cool slightly in the pan and serve with whipped cream or melted dark chocolate.

gluten free tea cakes

Published in: on February 16, 2010 at 7:52 pm  Comments (7)  
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