Tag Archives: spice cake

One-Skillet Gooey Pumpkin Cookie Cake

Pale strands of my hair tangled into the mess of dusky flowers in my lap. Mike’s car sliced quietly through the lukewarm air of the countryside until a gravel drive slid into view. We turned into it with a crunch, parked, and began the arduous process of shuttling picnic supplies down a rocky path.

Some time later we sat alone by a still pond, the flowers now perched on a stack of books beside us. We’d just finished eating an elaborate lunch on my childhood patchwork quilt. The ground was hard and uneven — it always seemed so soft in movies — but at one point I lay down, the silk of my slip dress cool in the autumn breeze, and watched the highest leaves fluttering against the sky. Then I looked back to Mike’s ruddy, bespectacled face and smiled.

Sometimes you only realize how special a moment is once it’s passed, but every now and then, you get the gift of realizing in the moment itself. This was one of those times.

I’d never been on a legitimate blanket-on-the-ground picnic before, and living in different cities, Mike and I rarely got to just sit and enjoy each other’s company. Now here we were, grinning at each other, stuffed like turkeys in the middle of the woods and post-lunch euphoria. The streamer of hearts I’d hung from the trees around us whispered in the wind. The whole afternoon spread out before us.

That was last fall. In the dark days that followed, I remembered that picnic as a bright bit of joy to hold onto.

I love those unexpected moments that settle into your heart as significant — the ones that nestle like bookmarks into the very best folds of time. I remember so many of them:

Sitting by a fire in Gatlinburg with Mike, drinking hot chocolate in mugs we’d just bought from a Walgreens around the corner.

Dancing with a stranger on the sidewalk one night in San Francisco.

Pausing with Mike on the stairwell of my apartment building to watch the sunset.

Looking down at the fluffy mop in my lap while driving home from Carolina Poodle Rescue and realizing that Byrd was truly mine.

Embracing my new friend, 7-year-old Zoe, when she ran up to hug me after we’d been baptized together one Sunday morning.

Walking alone across the Georgia Tech campus one summer night in the middle of my teacher training, the golden skyline glowing above me.

Getting the phone call where my dad revealed that after years of dangerous treatments, he was cancer-free.

Running barefoot through the grass in La Jolla one warm night with my sister, Sarah, for no reason at all.

Sitting in traffic on i-85 to Raleigh with the sun illuminating the gorgeous fall leaves and little Byrd poking her nose out the open window.

And, most recently, sitting with Mike and eating gooey pumpkin cookie cake straight out of my cast iron skillet. I’d just pulled the cake from the oven and taken dozens of photos, and with my camera still propped up beside me, we dug in. No plates needed — just forks and some ice cream. There’s just nothing like the casual, sweet act of devouring forkfuls of a shared dessert without even an ounce of fuss.

And this cake! I made it twice to fiddle with proportions a bit. The first version (pictured throughout this post) was great, but the second version (see pictures below) was insane: a moist, gooey, comforting cake boasting surprise bites of caramel and toasted pecans.

Not only that, but you can make this cake in about half an hour with one skillet! Even if you choose to toast up some pecans and make some streusel to go with it (which I recommend!), you’ll have minimal dishes to wash. Especially if you skip the plates.


A slice of the final cake.

You have to make this thing as soon as possible. Make it tonight! Throw it together and eat it on the couch with someone sweet. Or take it to your Halloween parties. Or eat the entire thing alone while watching old episodes of Hoarders. No judgments. It’ll be amazing no matter what.

And in the meantime, share a beautiful moment that stands out in your memory.

One-Skillet Gooey Pumpkin Cookie Cake



Recipe by: Willow Bird Baking, inspired by Sophistimom and Food Network
Yield: about 8 servings

This melt-in-your-mouth pumpkin spice cake is warm, moist, and delicious. Gooey caramel and toasted pecans amp up the “mmm” factor. And to say it’s easy is an understatement — you can make it in one skillet in about 35 minutes! This is the perfect recipe to whip up on a whim and eat in your PJs on the couch. Devour it straight from the skillet with a pile of ice cream. (P.S. If you don’t care about the number of pots and pans and want to go a little crazy, cut down the sugar a little and try the cake with this amazing caramel sauce.)

Ingredients:
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 cup pureed pumpkin
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
2 1/8 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon allspice
some dulce de leche or 10-15 caramels
1/2 cup toasted pecans (optional, see note in directions)

Directions:
Note: The first time I made this cookie cake, I mixed in 1/2 cup of chopped pecans that I’d toasted (on a sheet pan at 350 degrees F for about 6 minutes or until fragrant, stirring a couple of times). The second time I made it, I mixed in this toasted pecan streusel — heavenly! These extra mix-ins will add a bowl and a sheet pan to your prep, but I highly recommend them.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a 10- or 12-inch cast iron skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. Stir in the vegetable oil, sugars, and vanilla and remove from heat. Let this mixture cool until the pan is no longer hot (about 5 minutes) so you won’t scramble your eggs.

Add both eggs to the butter mixture, whisking them well to combine. Whisk in the pumpkin. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice (Note: it’s kind of lame to use another bowl for this, and according to Sophistimom, you should be able to just dump all your dry ingredients on top and whisk them in well, but I was too chicken to try. So I guess this is technically “One-Skillet, One-Bowl” cake if you do it my way. If you just dump them in, please let me know how it goes!)

Stir in the toasted pecans or streusel if you’re using them. Place dollops of dulce de leche or caramel candies around the surface of the batter. Bake your skillet cookie for 15-25* minutes, or until the edges are getting golden and the center is still soft (a toothpick inserted into the center should come out with some moist crumbs, but no liquid batter). Eat immediately (preferably straight out of the skillet!) with heaps of vanilla ice cream (or a fun caramel flavor).

*Depending on your skillet, this cooking time can really vary. I’d start checking at 15 minutes and then check every couple of minutes after that with toothpicks. Make sure to look for moist crumbs, not a clean toothpick. If you overbake, it might be dry!


Recipe before and after tweaking to warm, gooey perfection.

Need a closer look at the final product?


Gooey, caramelly, streuselly, pumpkiny, amazing.

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Apple Cinnamon Cream Cupcakes: NOT Back-to-School Cupcakes!

It’s Cupcake Week on Willow Bird Baking! Cupcake Capers was a 5-day summer camp I conducted last week wherein 5 middle school girls learned to bake, fill, and frost cupcakes. We eschewed pedestrian cupcake flavors in favor of creative combinations that I now get to share with you! Every day this week I’ve been posting fun memories and recipes from Cupcake Camp.


No really, they’re not Back-to-School Cupcakes.

Like all good things, Cupcake Camp had to eventually come to an end. Day 5 arrived and so did the campers, eager to pack in one last day of cake pops and cupcakes. At the end of the day they would finally carry home their aprons, recipe notebooks, and colorful bakery boxes filled with the cupcakes we’d made all week (the ones they hadn’t already devoured, that is) to share with their families.

But first, we sat down to complete the cutest decorating job of the week: turning cupcakes into apples! We baked these apple cupcakes in bright red liners to begin creating the effect. Once they were cooled and frosted, we dipped the tops in red sanding sugar, used bits of pretzel for their “stems,” and cut “leaves” from green fruit roll-ups.

These cupcakes weren’t just adorable, though — they were also one of the girls’ favorite recipes all week long. The spice cake, creamy cinnamon mousse, and brown sugar buttercream frosting melded into a delicious preview of fall flavors. Bright smiles broke out all around as the campers first tasted one of their “apples.” Even though they had already ranked their favorite cupcakes, several of them went back and added Apple Cinnamon Cream Cupcakes right at the top of their lists!

After tasting, we sat back and admired our handiwork. Meticulous Mary Rood made the comment that these looked like Back-to-School cupcakes. She’s right, of course. Isn’t it funny how just as soon as August peeks around the corner, stores everywhere roll out the red plaid, apples, mini chalkboards, and school supplies in an array of primary colors? These cupcakes fit right in.

Her comment sunk in for a moment before our summer spirit rebelled. We still have a few weeks of freedom! The temperature still climbs to 100 degrees each day! We still have beach trips, pool trips, and sprints through the sprinkler planned!

I don’t care what the stores might have you believe, it’s still SUMMER! We’ll go back to school when our parents drag us, kicking and screaming, and not one second before!

(Okay, I guess I can’t quite wait until my parents drag me . . . )

So these may look like Back-to-School cupcakes. They may taste like Back-to-School cupcakes. I may have gotten carried away and photographed them surrounded by a bunch of the brightly colored school supplies I just made fun of.

But these are NOT Back-to-School cupcakes. These are IT’S-STILL-SUMMER-AND-I-DON’T-CARE-WHAT-YOU-SAY-LA-LA-LA cupcakes.

Now that we’re clear on that, you should go make them and eat about twenty.

What summer plans do you still have to accomplish before summer ends? Or, for readers on the tail end of winter, what exciting things do you have lined up for the spring?

Apple Cinnamon Cream Cupcakes



Recipe by: adapted from Baked Bree
Yields:about 24-28 cupcakes

Cupcake Ingredients:
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
2 sticks butter at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1/2 cups brown sugar
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups applesauce
1 cup toasted pecans, chopped (optional)

Cinnamon Mousse Ingredients:
1 cup milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 (4 serving) package vanilla Instant Pudding Mix (not Cook & Serve)
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Brown Sugar Buttercream Frosting Ingredients:
1 stick room temperature butter
1/4 cup shortening
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3 cups of powdered sugar (depends on consistency desired)
3 tablespoons of heavy cream (depends on consistency desired)

Directions:
*Note: This recipe makes twice as much mousse as you need for filling the cupcakes. If you want to use half the pudding pack and save the rest for later, just measure it out and do so. Or use the extra mousse for another project (you know, like eating it with a spoon).

Make cupcakes: Line two muffin tins with paper liners. Preheat oven to 350°F. In a medium bowl, whisk together dry ingredients. In a separate, large bowl, cream together butter, sugar, and brown sugar until light and fluffy (several minutes). Add the eggs in one at a time, beating after each addition, and then mix in the applesauce. Finally, mix in the dry ingredients until just combined.

Fill each cupcake liner about 3/4 full of batter. Bake for 15-20 minutes and let cool completely.

Make mousse: To make the cinnamon mousse, combine milk, cream, and pudding mix, and spices in a medium bowl. Beat with a mixer until you reach soft peaks, or a thick whipped cream consistency (this takes a few minutes). Refrigerate mousse until you’re ready to use it.

Make frosting: To make the frosting, beat butter and shortening together until light and fluffy. Add the brown sugar and cinnamon and mix. Gradually add the powdered sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, and alternately add the cream. Adjust these items until desired consistency is reached.

Assemble cupcakes: To fill the cupcakes, use the Cone Method: cut an upside-down cone out of the top of each one. Cut off the tip of the cone (and eat it, if you wish) leaving just the “lid.” Fill the cavity with mousse using a piping bag or zip-top bag with the corner cut off, and then replace the “lid” to give you a relatively smooth surface to frost. Don’t overfill these, or they’ll be hard to frost.

Use the back of a spoon, a knife, or an offset spatula to cover the cupcakes with a layer of frosting. To ensure you don’t accidentally shift your “lid,” use a pretty thick layer of frosting and just gently pull it out toward the sides of the cupcake to achieve full coverage — that way you’re never pulling your spoon/spatula straight up and pulling the lid off. Dip frosted cupcakes into a bowl of red sanding sugar or sprinkles. Add a piece of a pretzel stick for a stem. Add a leaf cut from a green fruit roll up (I made a little indentation in my frosting with the tip of a knife to stick the tip of the leaf into). Enjoy!

All Cupcake Week Recipes:
Day One: Chocolate Pistachio Cream Cupcakes
Day Two: Banana Split Cupcakes and Cake Pops
Day Three: Creamsicle Cupcakes
Day Four: Strawberry & Cream Cupcakes and Cake Pops
Day Five: Apple Cinnamon Cream Cupcakes

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Browned Butter Pumpkin Croquemcake with White Chocolate Chai Mousse (Project Food Blog Round 8!)

Because of YOU, Willow Bird Baking is one of only 24 blogs in Project Food Blog Round 8! I am so beyond grateful for your support and love throughout this process. Challenge #8 was to create a baked good using pumpkin. VOTING IS NOW OPEN! (Thank you for voting! Voting is now closed.) I’d love it if you’d pop over to cast a vote for me by clicking “Vote for this Entry” here. Thank you all!!

I am basically an architect. I know some folks who worked through countless hours of pesky schoolwork to call themselves architects and may disagree with me. But I think I have enough experience to go ahead and claim the title.

See, in 6th grade, my classmates and I were divided into teams and charged with a task of monumental proportions. We were to engineer a bridge out of toothpicks, string, and glue. Each of these “resources” was assigned a cost, and we were given a budget of imaginary money with which to purchase supplies. The team whose bridge could hold the most weight at the end of the competition would win epic bragging rights.


Moist, amazing Browned Butter Pumpkin Cake!

We must have been hyped up on marshmallowy breakfast cereal or something, because as soon as the teachers said GO, it was on.

We were ruthless. We pasted, chopped, measured, quarreled, budgeted, collaborated, and in a move that I’m still not sure was entirely legal, pilfered cast-off supplies from the trash can. Hey, we were just being green, right? Nowadays we’d obtain a high L.E.E.D. certification and get a pat on the back. I’m sure my teachers would’ve seen it that way . . .

I remember waxing intellectual about the structural integrity of domes, lecturing a classmate on how strong the ends of an egg were for this reason. Another peer gave an impromptu diatribe on the virtues of suspension bridges. We ended up with some sort of Frankesteinian hybrid, a bridge held up by suspension and bulky domes underneath. We were still furiously glopping on excess glue in hopes of bolstering the bridge’s integrity when the teachers called time.

We watched breathlessly as the teacher judging the competition picked up a thin book and placed it on our bridge. It held. Another volume was snapped up into her fingers and laid gingerly on our opponents’ bridge. It held.

One by one, she stacked books on top of our lopsided, aesthetically wreck-tastic but apparently strong-as-an-ox toothpick bridge. Every book our bridge held was matched by one on our opponent’s bridge — until the teacher picked up two textbooks. Ours held under the weight. Our opponents’ bridge collapsed — and so did we: we collapsed into cheers and giggles, inebriated with victory. We had done it! We were brilliant engineers! We had won!


Pumpkin profiteroles — with pumpkin in the choux dough itself — were filled alternately with White Chocolate Chai Mousse and ganache.

As the crowd thinned, we stood around and stared in wonder at our messy little Golden Gate. My friend Ashley was not yet satisfied. Sure, our bridge was stronger than the other team’s, but just how strong? With her hands on teammates’ shoulders for balance, Ashley stepped — first one foot, and then the other — onto the bridge.

It held.

I’ll never forget that moment standing in front of my elementary school, seeing Ashley’s huge grin, relishing the easy pulse of victory through our already-marshmallow-filled veins. So, yeah, I’m basically an architect. Right?

At least, it was this (misguided?) confidence that led me to believe that I could construct what I’ve officially dubbed the croquemcake.

I wanted to pull out all the stops for Project Food Blog Round 8 (do I say that every round? It’s definitely true every round!) The challenge was to create a baked good using pumpkin, and I was torn between building pumpkin profiteroles (made from pâte à choux) into a lovely croquembouche (mounted cream puff tower) or baking a pumpkin chai cake. Suddenly, it hit me. When in doubt, do both.


I may or may not have tweeted my desire to bathe in luxurious Swiss buttercream.

Thus, the croquemcake was born: a browned butter pumpkin cake filled with a comforting white chocolate chai mousse heart, frosted with velveteen Swiss buttercream frosting, and topped with a croquembouche of pumpkin profiteroles filled with chai mousse and ganache. The cake is served in slices accompanied by a few plucked cream puffs, and is essentially the embodiment of all things autumn.

At first I was panicky about trying to stack a tall, leany thing on top of a tall, frosted thing, but it turned out to be super easy, and it produced a ravishing effect.


The White Chocolate Chai Mousse is incredamazing, y’all. Even if you put off making the whole shebang until Christmas, you should make some bowls o’ mousse ASAP!

. . . oh, and it just might be my new favorite dessert ever. Every bite had an insanely satisfying combination of textures and flavors. This beautiful croquemcake would be the rockstar of any holiday table.

Don’t be scared of the length of the recipe. True to Willow Bird Baking’s mission, this dessert is also surprisingly easy to make. Let me qualify that: it takes three days and has tons of steps, but the steps themselves are simple and manageable. Use my note below on timing to space out the recipe steps into manageable chunks. It is so worth the effort.

What’s your favorite childhood memory?

Browned Butter Pumpkin CroquemCAKE with White Chocolate Chai Mousse



Recipe by: Willow Bird Baking, compiled and adapted from sources including Fine Cooking, Annie’s Eats, America’s Test Kitchen, Cookin’ Canuck, Martha Stewart, Gina DePalma, Alone and Unobserved
Yields: 15-20 servings, depending on your size o’ cake slices. You’ll have the topping croquembouche plus about 30 other cream puffs to serve alongside.

Pumpkin Puree Ingredients: (or use canned pumpkin puree)
about 7 pounds worth of sugar pumpkins (or pie pumpkins)
2-3 cups water

Browned Butter Pumpkin Cake Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups of your pumpkin puree
3/4 cup unsalted butter; more for the pans
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour; more for the pans
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
3/4 teaspoon table salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/3 cup buttermilk

White Chocolate Chai Mousse Ingredients: (I had a lot of leftover mousse; you could probably get by with 2/3 of this recipe)
2 1/4 teaspoons powdered gelatin
3 tablespoons water
18 ounces white chocolate chips (see note)
4 1/2 cups cold heavy cream
heaping 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
heaping 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper (white or black)
dash cayenne powder

Swiss Buttercream Frosting Ingredients:
1 cup sugar
4 large egg whites , at room temperature
24 tablespoons (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Profiterole (Cream Puff) Ingredients:
1 1/8 cups water
9 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/8 teaspoons salt
1.5 tablespoons sugar
1.5 cups all-purpose flour
6 large eggs
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
Egg wash (1 egg yolk and 1/2 cup heavy cream, lightly beaten)

Ganache Ingredients:
10 ounces bittersweet and semisweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream


Directions:
Note on timing: This dessert is easy to create, but involves many steps. For this reason, I divided the work over three days. On day 1, I roasted and pureed my pumpkins (you can nix this day if you use canned pumpkin). On day 2, I baked my cake and froze it, baked my profiteroles and froze them, and made my chai mousse. I also piped out white chocolate snowflake decorations to dry overnight. On day 3, I made my frosting, assembled and frosted my cake, made ganache, filled my profiteroles, and constructed my croquembouche.

To make pumpkin puree: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cut the tops off of above 7 pounds worth of sugar pumpkins (also called pie pumpkins). Cut the pumpkins in half and scrape out the seeds and innards. Place the pumpkin halves peel-up, cut-side-down in a baking dish and fill the dish 1/4 inch deep with water (about 2-3 cups). Roast pumpkins for 60-90 minutes, or until flesh is fork tender. Allow them to cool for a bit before scooping all flesh out of the peel and placing it in a food processor. Puree for 2-3 minutes until completely pureed, then drain in a paper towel-lined colander for about an hour. Store your pumpkin puree in the fridge for up to 5 days or freeze it in 1-cup increments for later use. Alternatively, you can use canned pumpkin puree for this recipe.

To make browned butter pumpkin cake: I baked my cake in a pan that allows you to fill your cake with a heart-shaped tunnel of mousse (please comment if you’d like the details). If you don’t have one of these pans, you can still create the tunnel effect! You can use this technique by the fabulous Amanda, or this tunnel technique featured previously on my blog.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour two cake pans (either the heart-tunnel pan or regular 9-inch cake pans) very thoroughly. Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat and cook it, swirling occasionally, until it’s golden brown with a nutty aroma, around 4 minutes. Remove it from heat and pour it into a bowl to cool for about 15 minutes.
Whisk or sift together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, salt, and cloves in a small bowl. In a separate, large bowl, whisk together 1 1/2 cups of pumpkin puree, granulated sugar, brown sugar, eggs, and buttermilk until well combined. Use a spatula to stir in the dry ingredients until just combined, and then whisk in the browned butter. Pour batter evenly into prepared cake pans.

Bake the cakes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with just a few moist crumbs, around 28 minutes. Let cakes cool in their pans until mostly cool before turning them out onto wax paper to wrap and freeze. Freeze at least 30 minutes or until firm.

To make white chocolate chai mousse: Mix spices (cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, allspice, ginger, pepper, cayenne) together in a small bowl. Set aside.
Place 3 tablespoons of water in a small bowl and sprinkle the gelatin over top to dissolve and soften for at least 5 minutes. Place white chocolate in a medium bowl. Combine 1 1/2 cups of cream and spice mixture in a saucepan over medium heat and cook until simmering. Remove from heat, add gelatin, and stir to dissolve. Pour gelatin mixture over white chocolate and whisk in small circles until smooth. Cool completely to room temperature, stirring occasionally, around 5 to 8 minutes.

In a separate bowl, beat remaining cream to soft peaks. Use a whisk to fold about 1/3 of the whipped cream into white chocolate mixture to lighten. Then fold the rest of the whipped cream in until no streaks remain. Refrigerate your mousse until set, then stir slightly to break up before using.

To make profiteroles: Combine water, butter, salt and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil and stir occasionally. At boil, remove from heat and sift in the flour, stirring to combine completely.

Return to heat and cook, stirring constantly until the batter dries slightly and begins to pull away from the sides of the pan. Transfer to a bowl and stir with a wooden spoon 1 minute to cool slightly.

Add 1 egg. The batter will appear loose and shiny. As you stir, the batter will become dry-looking like lightly buttered mashed potatoes. It is at this point that you will add in the next egg. Repeat until you have incorporated all the eggs. Stir in pumpkin puree.

Pipe the batter using a pastry bag and a plain tip. Pipe choux about 1 inch-part in the baking sheets. Choux should be about 1 inch high about 1 inch wide. Using a clean finger dipped in hot water, gently press down on any tips that have formed on the top of choux when piping. You want them to retain their ball shape, but be smoothly curved on top. Brush tops with egg wash while trying not to drip the wash down the puffs onto the pan (which could somewhat inhibit rise).

Bake the choux at 425 degrees F until well-puffed and turning lightly golden in color, about 10 minutes. Lower the temperature to 350 degrees F and continue baking until well-colored and dry, about 20 minutes more. Remove to a rack and cool (tip from a pro: poke each puff with a toothpick while cooling to release the steam inside. It shouldn’t cause your cream to leak, but will help the puffs stay crisp). Can be stored in a airtight box overnight, but I recommend, if you aren’t using them right away to create your croquembouche, that you freeze them. When you’re ready to use them, bake them at 350 degrees F for 5-6 minutes to refresh and recrisp them.

To make ganache: Bring the cream to a simmer in a medium saucepan (or just stick it in the microwave for 2 minutes in a microwave-safe bowl). Place the chocolate in a medium bowl. Once the cream reaches a simmer, pour the cream over the chocolate and let stand 1-2 minutes. Whisk in small circles until a smooth ganache has formed. Let ganache stand at room temperature until fully cooled, then whip to frosting-like consistency for piping into cooled profiteroles.

To make Swiss buttercream frosting: Combine sugar and 1/2 cup water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Boil without stirring until syrup reaches 240° on a digital thermometer, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a stand mixer with whisk attachment, beat egg whites on medium-high speed until soft peaks form. With mixer on medium speed, gradually pour in hot syrup in a thin stream; avoid pouring syrup on whisk. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until stiff peaks form and mixture is cool, about 8 minutes. Reduce speed to medium and add butter 1 tablespoon at a time, beating after each addition. (If at any time buttercream appears curdled, beat on high until smooth, then reduce speed to medium and continue beating in butter.) Once all butter is added, beat on high speed until buttercream is smooth and fluffy, about 1 minute. Beat in vanilla extract.

To assemble your cake: Line up cake layers and trim sides as needed with a long serrated knife. No need to thaw before you do this — it’s actually easier with frozen layers. Spoon white chocolate chai mousse into heart-shaped wells in your cake layers (if applicable — or spoon it into whatever shaped cavity you’re using). Carefully position the top layer on the bottom. Apply a thin coating of frosting all over as a “crumb coat” and refrigerate the cake for a half hour or so. Then frost the cake generously with the remaining frosting.

To assemble your croquembouche: Fill cooled profiteroles with leftover chai mousse and ganache as desired. Melt white chocolate bark and dip tops of each profiterole into the chocolate, lining up on wax paper to dry. Cover a plate with wax paper — this is where you’ll build your croquembouche. Start with bigger, broader profiteroles and use the white chocolate as “glue” to piece together a sturdy base. I refrigerate my croquembouche after the construction of each new layer, to harden the chocolate and avoid any toppling incidents! Continue building a cone, fitting the profiteroles together according to their shape. Use white chocolate to pipe snowflakes on wax paper, and to “glue” them onto your croquembouche once they’re dry. Refrigerate your croquembouche until you’re ready to assemble your final product.

To assemble your final croquemCAKE: Carefully ensure that your croquembouche isn’t sticking to your wax paper. Gently lift it onto the center of your cake. Surround your cake with leftover cream puffs for serving. Enjoy!


Roasting pumpkins! While there’s not a huge taste difference from using this process versus the canned stuff, it’s a fun, satisfying thing to try!

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Honeybun Cake with Caramel Sauce

Willow Bird Baking is a contestant in Project Food Blog, a contest comprised of a series of challenges to find the next food blog star. Today is the last day to vote for me in Round 2! To vote, register for a Foodbuzz account. Once you’re registered, sign in and go here. To vote, click the heart next to the words “Vote for this Entry.” I am so grateful for your support!

Willow Bird Bakers, I have one thing to say to you:

You’re my honeybun, sugarplum,
Pumpy-umpy-umpkin; you’re my sweetie pie.
You’re my cuppycake, gumdrop,
snoogums-boogums; you’re the apple of my eye!
And I love you so and I want you to know
That I’ll always be right here,
And I love to sing sweet songs to you,
Because you are so dear!

Mike thinks this song is annoying, but we’ll ignore him for a moment — because it’s too true to resist. I got an email today from a stranger-turned-fast-friend that reminded me (again!) how special the opportunity to share with you really is.

This now-friend, J, said that she’s been experiencing some hard times, and that something she found here — on a food blog of all things — comforted her on a difficult day.

Little did she know that I was also having a difficult day: Byrd’s tummy has been upset and after all her knee surgery woes, this feels like the proverbial camel’s back-breaking straw. Mike and I are struggling with the distance between us, among other things. A confluence of so many issues has been forming a river of worry in my heart.

Her note letting me know that she had found comfort here was, so fittingly, a huge comfort to me. Apart from just the reminder that the food community is an army of friends and supporters, her email calmed the river of worry and helped me listen to the living waters inside of me. The main points of a sermon I heard just this past Sunday while visiting Mike in Raleigh flooded into my mind: God is in control, He is faithful, and I can rest in Him in my time of need.

Indeed, Jesus said, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

With how you’ve supported me, no wonder I can’t help but call you my honeybuns — and give you some honeybun cake.

This cake is a simple, fuss-free dessert to make and serve. More importantly, though, it’s dynamite! The buttery cake base with the deep cinnamon swirl reminds me of the best sort of coffee cake, and the buttery caramel drizzle makes it gooey, just like a real honeybun. Each bite is a revelation of different flavors, since the swirl ensures you get a different proportion of cinnamon to butter cake with each forkful. In short: YUM.

Regarding the recipe, it calls for a box cake mix. I’m not a box mix snob — I’m of the camp that says use a box mix if you feel like it, and don’t use one if you don’t feel like it. Frankly, box mixes taste great. The only argument against them that resonates with me is the fact that they contain preservatives and artificial flavorings, but really, y’all, we’re making a honeybun cake — exactly how healthy do you think you could make this thing? (answer: not very.) We eat dessert in moderation anyway (ahem).

That being said, I prefer to make things from scratch. One reason is because I feel like people are too far removed lately from the raw ingredients of their meals, and have decided that baking or cooking from scratch is intimidating. A primary message of my blog is that cooking from scratch isn’t scary — that anyone can do it. Another reason I cook from scratch is just because I like to. Simple!


from-scratch version

For this cake, I tried it two ways. I didn’t set out to try it two ways, mind you, but that’s how it ended up happening! First, I tried baking it with a homemade cake mix. Turns out that recipe’s proportions were off somehow. The cake overflowed a bit, and was gooey in the center while done on the sides. Disappointed and in need of a dish for a school potluck, I grabbed my roommate’s box of butter cake mix and hastily remade the cake.

When my second cake was in the oven, though, I realized that my first cake was actually lookin’ pretty delicious despite being wonky. If anything, the slightly undercooked middle was appealingly moist. Just like that, I had two cakes — and the perfect setup for a box mix versus homemade comparison!


box mix version – note the yellow!

So which did I like better? Honestly, it was a very close call. The box mix has a more pronounced butter flavor that was delicious, but did taste artificial. The homemade cake had a deeper from-scratch flavor, but wasn’t as buttery. In the end, I think I preferred the homemade version, but with such close results, you can feel comfortable going either way. If you do use the homemade cake mix, though, be prepared for the wonky manner in which is bakes — and maybe line your oven with foil to guard against spills.

What about you – do you use box cake mixes? Why or why not?

Honeybun Cake with Caramel Sauce



Recipe by: My friend Lora and Martha Stewart (caramel sauce)
Yield: one 9 x 13 inch cake; serves about 12-15 depending on size of pieces

Cake Ingredients:
1 box butter recipe yellow cake mix (or 1 recipe homemade cake mix, below)
4 eggs
1 cup milk
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cinnamon
1 cup brown sugar

Caramel Sauce Ingredients:*
3/4 cups sugar
1/8 cup water
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/8 cup creme fraiche or sour cream
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Pinch of coarse salt

Directions:
Make caramel sauce first. Prepare a bowl set in an ice-water bath. Place sugar and water in a saucepan and heat over medium-high heat until it boils and the sugar is dissolved. Throughout this process, use a wet pastry brush to wash down the sides of your saucepan often to prevent crystal formation. Reduce the heat to medium and cook until the mixture reaches 345 degrees on a candy thermometer (begin swirling gently when you see hints of amber, so the sugar cooks evenly), about 5-7 minutes. Immediately remove from the heat and add cream carefully (the mixture will bubble up) while whisking constantly. Return mixture to medium heat until it boils and sugar melts.

Remove from heat, and pour into the bowl set in your ice-water bath. Let the caramel cool, whisking often, for 10 minutes before whisking in creme fraiche, vanilla, and salt. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving over heated honeybun cake. Can store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

To make honeybun cake, preheat oven to 200 degrees F. Mix together homemade or store-bought cake mix, eggs, milk, sugar, and oil. Pour this mixture into a greased 9 x 13 inch baking pan. Mix cinnamon and brown sugar together and sprinkle this mixture over the batter. Use a fork to swirl the batter over the entire cake, going to the bottom of the pan, until it is well-swirled. Bake cake at 200 degrees F for 20 minutes before increasing the temperature to 300 degrees F and baking for an additional 30 minutes. Drizzle caramel sauce over hot pieces of cake.

*(Alternate glaze, if you’re not a caramel fan (though that is some phenomenal caramel, y’all, and very easy to make with a candy thermometer! Glaze: mix 1 cup powdered sugar, 2 tablespoons milk, 1 teaspoons vanilla and pour over hot cake.)

Homemade Cake Mix



Recipe by: My Kitchen Cafe
Yield: one box mix worth

NOTE: as mentioned in the post above, this recipe bakes wonkily in a 9 x 13 in. pan. Visit My Kitchen Cafe to read her note about it. I still think it’s worth making, since mine turned out delicious, but do line your oven with foil and watch that the sides of the cake don’t burn while you’re waiting for the middle to finish cooking.

Yellow “Cake Mix” Cake Ingredients:
2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups cake flour
1/2 cup nonfat dry milk powder
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
16 tablespoons butter (2 sticks), cut into 1/2-inch pieces and chilled
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons imitation butter flavor

Directions:
Pulse sugar, flours, milk powder, baking powder, and salt in a food processor for 15 seconds to combine. Add butter, vanilla, and butter flavor and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal (much finer than, say, a pie crust). Freeze the dry mixture in a zipper-lock bag for up to 2 months or use immediately in recipe above.

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Secret Garden Recipe: Pink Ice Petit Fours

Want to have a tea party?

We’re going to find a garden enclosed in cool, moss-covered stone walls. We’ll lay out delicate china on a wrought-iron table with ivy growing up each leg. Arrayed in sweet sundresses and sandals, we’ll carry in platefuls of hot buttered scones, pitchers of raspberry and strawberry lemonade, and pots of fragrant orange tea. Every sip will be accompanied by a staunch pinky point. Twilight will find us still laughing, unwilling to let the summer daylight slip away.

Oh, and of course there’ll be petit fours. The dainty, sweet little cake squares will be the jewels of the tea table.

What a fantasy. In actuality, I’ve just finished my first week of teacher meetings. The past few days have been filled with book shelving, furniture moving, copy making, curriculum planning, sweet student meeting, and lots of teacher giggling. I’ve left with a headache nearly every day, relieved that headache with a nap nearly every day, and even still . . . gotten a ton of work done nearly every day!

We can still have petit fours, though, right? Petit fours are sweet little tea time desserts that seem to specialize in being adorable. Any number of miniature desserts can be classified as petit fours (literally “small ovens” in French), but for my sister’s surprise garden party earlier this summer, I knew I wanted dense, fruity cake squares. Petit fours are sometimes filled with jams, and then are covered in poured fondant or chocolate.

Now, before I gush, these bite-sized cakes were not perfect. More specifically, the poured fondant was not perfect. In fact, instead of “poured,” let’s call it glopped fondant. Shall we?

The thing is, fondant is going to be super sweet. There’s a cavity-inducing amount of confectioner’s sugar in it, not to mention the corn syrup. The only hope of this stuff covering your petit fours and not ending up with a cloying mess is making sure the poured fondant is heated enough to be very thin, so only a thin layer sticks to the outside of the cake square. This proved to be impossible with the recipe I used. It was warmed in a double boiler for gentle heating, but as soon as I started to pour, I was only able to cover a couple of cake squares before it was glop. Even when it was fully heated, it never really got thin enough to cover the squares in a reasonable way. As a result, they were too sweet.

Oh, and that color? That was not the color I was going for. I had a pale, rose petal pink in mind. Um, that’s all I’ll say about that.

While the petit fours weren’t perfect, the taste itself (beyond the fondant) was so wonderful. The cake was deliciously moist, cool, and dense with a gorgeous buttery almond flavor. The raspberry jam covering was the perfect complement to the almond (one of my favorite flavor combinations!) and was simple to brush on, though it never dried completely. Really, if you use poured white chocolate or a different poured fondant recipe (how about trying this one, which looks great?), these would be fantastic (and they’d probably look a little less “gloppy” as well). Even in their overly sweet state, I ate a ton of them due to their brilliant flavorings.

This is also one of those recipes that ends up looking fancy despite being relatively easy to make — and you know I love those. A few key steps (like freezing the cake before cutting it up and making sure your fruit glaze is very thin) ensure that the process is relatively simple.

Go have a tea party!

Pink Ice Petit fours



Recipe by: Adapted from Diana’s Desserts
Yield: 60 1-inch petit fours, or about 16 2-inch petit fours

NOTE: This recipe does not include the poured fondant recipe or instructions due to the aforementioned difficulties. If you want to try poured fondant, I’d recommend looking at this post on Cakes and Cupboards, which looks promising. Nevertheless, poured fondant might still be too sweet for you. Another option is a poured chocolate. You’ll probably need two coats if you use white chocolate. If you want completely smooth petit fours, I recommend using a thin layer of rolled marzipan under your icing, or the buttercream procedure outlined on Cakes and Cupboards, above.

Cake Ingredients:
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
1-1/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup milk
3 egg whites

Fruit Glaze:
12 ounces raspberry preserves (or heated jelly)
3 tablespoons water

Directions:
Prepare the cake. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9-inch baking pan, or use Wilton’s Cake Release.

Cream butter, shortening, and sugar together in a large bowl. Beat in vanilla and almond extracts. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Add dry ingredients to the creamed mixture alternately with the milk. In another bowl, beat egg whites to soft peaks. Gently fold the egg whites into the batter.

Pour the batter into the cake pan and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool in pan for 10 minutes. Turn cake out onto a cooling rack. When cooled, chill cake in refrigerator for a bit before freezing it for at least 1 hour.

Right before removing the cake from the freezer, prepare fruit glaze. In a medium saucepan, heat preserves with the 3 tablespoons water on low heat. If using jelly, judge whether or not you need any of the water to make it a thin consistency.

Remove cake from freezer. Using a long, serrated knife, cut a thin slice off each side of chilled cake. Cut cake into squares of desired size (for me, about 1.5-inch squares). Place squares 1/2 inch apart on a cooling rack over a sheet pan. Use a pastry brush to spread a thin layer of heated preserves over tops and sides of petit fours before icing. Allow excess to drip off. Let dry (I put them in the fridge and let them set up a bit — they never really “dry”). Repeat if necessary to thoroughly coat squares.

Prepare your desired poured fondant or chocolate and pour over the petit fours. Decorate the tops with different frostings, chocolates, sprinkles, candy, sugar flowers, etc. as you wish. Refrigerate until ready to eat — eat within a day or two.

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Carrot Cake Waffles

Wouldn’t it be cool if bakers got to choose flashy names like WWF Wrestlers? You could be the Vanilla Villain, the Meat Tenderizer, the Mighty Masher, the Blender Blade, the Sweaty Spatula.

Ew. Nevermind that last one.

Today, my flashy baking name is the Waffle Wrangler. See, I finally acquired a waffle iron. Or . . . okay, actually I acquired it months ago. You’ll forgive me for not having tried it out yet, right? Especially since I happen to know for a fact your waffle iron is sitting under a coat of dust in a dark cabinet somewhere? It’s okay! No shame! You just need a reason to lug it out, wipe it off, and heat it up. I think I can help.

Despite appearances, I have been anxious to try this baby out. Waffles seem especially apt for one of my favorite culinary tricks: combining two well-known dishes into one. For instance, the recipes for Peach Cobbler Cupcakes, Peach Crisp Pie, and Blueberry Lemon Cheesecake Cupcakes each combine two desserts into a super-dessert.

So of course, I’ve spent the last few weeks pondering what sort of waffles to create. I could’ve taken a cue from this breakfast and made Pecan Maple Bacon Waffles (yum), but I had an urge to try something new. Apple or peach crisp waffles? Chocolate cake waffles? A bacon, egg, and cheese waffle sandwich? Peanut butter and jelly waffles? And then, as if Mike were sending me telepathic messages reminding me about his favorite dessert, it dawned on me . . .

CARROT CAKE WAFFLES! I’ve actually been trying to think of some recipe to add carrot cake flavors to after seeing this amazing Carrot Cake Ice Cream over on Not Quite Nigella. This was my chance!

The foundation of the recipe I’ve spliced together is a simple but delicious buttermilk waffle recipe. To it, I’ve added the spice cake flavors of cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg, bloomed in brown butter according to America’s Test Kitchen’s recommendation. I also added the lovely hunks you’d find in any carrot cake: raisins, chopped walnuts, and grated carrots. Finally, the waffles were topped with a schmear of Maple Nut Cream Cheese spread, which merges the main component of traditional carrot cake frosting with the familiar breakfast flavor of maple.

I was nervous the entire time I was mixing this batter: would it be the right consistency? Would the raisins and carrots burn? But it worked out perfectly! I did a little dance of joy (inwardly — mustn’t alarm the roommate!) with each waffle I successfully wrangled off of my waffle iron.

And how did they taste? Delicious, and exactly like you might expect: like the convergence of a hunky carrot cake and a fluffy waffle! The spices were warm and aromatic, and the nuts, raisins, and carrots made for a hearty texture. And I can’t forget one of the best parts: the Maple Nut Cream Cheese spread.

This Maple Nut Spread is ridiculous! If your cream cheese isn’t already softening to mix some up, you should grab it out of the fridge right now. It’s rich, creamy, and perfectly sweet, with the satisfying crunch of chopped walnuts. I want to spread this stuff on bagels, toast, waffles, you name it. The photos you see here (in which I tried to build a “layer cake” out of the waffles — ha ha, get it? Carrot Cake Waffles?) are only a slight exaggeration of how much Maple Nut Cream Cheese I ate with my breakfast. I’m too embarrassed to tell you how much of it I ate straight from the spoon, so just take my word for it: you’re going to love it.

Okay, you have your reason — now go dust off your waffle irons! Have your cake and eat it for breakfast, too!

Carrot Cake Waffles



Recipe by: Adapted using the following recipes:

-Rich Buttermilk Waffles: Smitten Kitchen’s adaptation of Mark Bittman.
-Maple Cream Cheese Spread by Carolyn R. Shaw.
-Spice blooming technique by America’s Test Kitchen

Yields: about 7 waffles (using 1/2 cup batter for each)

Waffle Ingredients:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon allspice
1 3/4 cups buttermilk* or 1 1/2 cups sour cream or plain yogurt thinned with 1/4 cup milk
2 eggs, separated
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick butter)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup raisins
1 cup walnuts, chopped
1 1/2 cup finely grated carrots
Cooking spray for waffle iron

Maple Nut Cream Cheese Spread Ingredients:
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
3-4 tablespoons maple syrup
1/8 cup chopped walnuts

Directions:
1. Bloom the spices in butter**: Heat 4 tablespoons butter in skillet over medium heat until melted, 1 to 2 minutes. Continue to cook, swirling pan constantly, until butter is light brown and has faint nutty aroma, 2 to 4 minutes. Add spices and continue to cook, stirring constantly, 15 seconds. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes.

2. Combine the flour, salt, sugar, baking soda.

3. Mix together the buttermilk (or buttermilk substitute) and the egg yolks. Stir in the spiced butter and vanilla. Spray the waffle iron well and preheat it. Stir the wet into the dry ingredients.

4. Beat the egg whites in a separate bowl with a whisk or electric mixer (make sure bowl and mixer are spotlessly clean) until they hold soft peaks. Stir them gently into the batter. Add carrots, walnuts, and raisins. Stir gently to combine.

5. Spread a ladleful or so of batter onto the waffle iron and bake until the waffle is done, usually 3 to 5 minutes, depending on your iron. Spray iron with cooking spray between waffles as needed.

6. To make Maple Cream Cheese spread, simply combine nuts, syrup, and cream cheese and mix well. Serve waffles immediately with a schmear of Maple Cream Cheese spread (which will get lovely and melty), or keep them warm for a few minutes in a low oven.***

Notes:
* The buttermilk can be substituted with 1 1/4 cups of milk at room temperature, mixed with two tablespoons white vinegar, left to clabber for 10 minutes.
**If you prefer a quicker breakfast, you can melt and cool the butter plain instead of browning it and blooming the spices in it — but doing so does add flavor. If you do skip the spice blooming, simply add the spices to the dry ingredients in step 2. Add your plain melted, cooled butter instead of the spiced butter in step 3.
*** Waffles also freeze well. You can make a big batch, allow them to cool, and freeze them for a homemade alternative to preservative-laden commercial frozen waffles.




Breakfast for dessert-lovers!

P.S. — Stay tuned for another fun waffle recipe coming up soon!!


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A&P Spanish Bar Cake

In case you were wondering: No, I cannot eat all these desserts by myself. First of all, I’d rather not weigh 400 pounds — I just don’t think that’d be a very fun way to live. Secondly, even if I developed some wonderful condition that kept me trim regardless of how much pie I ate, baking is no fun unless you can share it with people you love. For me, one of the most rewarding parts of being a food blogger is watching people enjoy the things I’ve made (that sounds creepy, like I sit and stare at them as they eat, but I’m sure you know what I mean).

One group of folks I love to bake for is Mike’s family. Each Sunday evening we gather at their house for dinner and I bring whatever dessert I’ve whipped up. His mom is a fantastic cook, so the meal is always devoured enthusiastically. Many times I almost don’t think I have room for dessert! I say almost, because y’all know that there is always room for dessert.

Yay, SPRING!!

One reason I love to bake for Mike’s family is because they’re always encouraging — even if the results of my culinary efforts that week are not perfect! Don’t you love the people in your life who take one look at your runny pie and say, “Nevermind, it tastes delicious!” My own family deserves this praise as well, since they were served Coconut Cream Soup for Thanksgiving and ate it with cheerful smiles and compliments. Yep, those kind of folks are the keepers!

Because Mike’s family has been so supportive of my baking, I jumped at the chance this past weekend to create something a little special for them. A couple Sundays ago, Mike’s dad mentioned a cake his dad used to bring home from the old A&P store. The cake was called Spanish Bar Cake, and he described it as a dark brown cake with raisins and a creamy white frosting. I was so excited to recreate the memory that I started googling around that night.

What did I find? Well, first off, Mike’s dad is not the only one by far who wants to recreate the cake! Many online forums had pages of nostalgic posters describing their childhood experiences with the cake. They discussed every facet of their vivid Spanish Bar Cake memories : the color, the texture, the pattern on the frosting, the shape, the packaging . . . ! I also found many copycat recipes that boasted an identical taste and appearance to the original.

Not having tasted Spanish Bar Cake myself, I found it difficult to settle on a recipe! There were a few key disparities I had to evaluate. First, some recipes used cocoa powder, while some were a more traditional spice cake. After asking Mike’s dad to describe the color again, I decided to use the recipe that included the cocoa.

Another difference in the recipes I viewed was the frosting. Some used a standard cream cheese frosting, while others used white buttercream. I chose the latter, though I love cream cheese frosting. I reasoned that if the cakes were not refrigerated and had groove marks in the frosting, chances are the frosting would need to be safe when stored at room temperature and relatively stiff. Hence, buttercream. There were other, smaller decisions to make — things like nuts or no nuts (I chose no nuts), one layer or two (I chose one) — and then I was ready to bake!

One bonus of this cake is how simple it is to make! I must be on an easy cake kick. It’s a two-bowl process (one for the cake and one for the frosting). In a nutshell, you mix the dry ingredients, add the wet, bake, cool, mix the frosting, frost. No fuss.

If you have fond memories of this old A&P cake, bake one up for yourself and enjoy a blast from the past. I’ll add a note tomorrow to let you know how close to the original this recipe is, based on Mike’s dad’s reaction!

UPDATE: Score! Mike’s dad said as soon as it touched his tongue, the memories came flooding back! Apparently this is it, folks! He even said it seemed a bit moister than the original. Hurray!

Spanish Bar Cake



Recipe by: compiled from various internet sources
Yields: one 9 x 13 in. cake

Cake Ingredients:
2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 tablespoon cocoa (I used Dutch process)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon allspice
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 cups applesauce
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups raisins, soaked in warm water until plump and drained

Buttercream Frosting Ingredients:
1 cup white shortening
1 cup butter, softened
8 cups confectioner’s sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (can use clear if you want the frosting to be snow white)
4-6 tablespoons milk for thinning to desired consistency

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare a 9 x 13 in. baking pan with cooking spray (or butter and flour). Plump the raisins in warm water (I do this in a measuring cup that I’ll use for wet ingredients later — one less dish to clean).

In a large bowl, whisk all dry ingredients together. Add oil, applesauce, and eggs. Mix well. Add in raisins and stir to combine. Pour batter into prepared pan, rapping 3-4 times on a counter to release trapped air bubbles. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with only a few moist crumbs. Let cake cool completely before frosting.

To prepare frosting, mix all ingredients until well combined. Add more milk if needed for consistency. Frost completely cool cake. Use a fork to rake grooves into the frosting to resemble A&P’s cake presentation.


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