Sunday, August 23, 2009

A Cavalcade of Cakes!

I know I was delinquent in not posting last week so I will make it up to you this week by supplying not one, not two, but three fabulous cake recipes! By the way, because one cannot live by cake alone (so they tell me), right now I am happily munching on a BearNaked Grain-ola Bar. Have you tried these? My local Costco has the fruit & nut (raisins, cranberries, almonds, and pecans) variety; it's quite good and will tide me over until dinner.

Last Saturday/Sunday, I baked the luscious Lemon Yogurt Cake from Ina Garten and the delicious Dimply Plum Cake from Dorie Greenspan (two of my favorite bakers). I wasn't really planning on two cakes last weekend, but when I went to the farmer's market in Paterson (currently celebrating 75 years in operation - the surrounding areas taking advantage of "farm to table" years before it was trendy), one of the farmers had baskets of gorgeous purple plums and I just had to have them. And today, I made Nectarine Golden Cake from the September issue of Gourmet. These cakes were all very different but all wonderful (there are very few cakes I would not find wonderful).

The nectarine cake is cooling right now and a little later this evening, I'll be savoring it. Let me know what you're baking this weekend. Bake on, my friends!

Lemon Yogurt Cake
Barefoot Contessa at Home

1-1/2 C all-purpose flour
2 t baking powder
1/2 t kosher salt
1 C plain whole-milk yogurt
1-1/3 C sugar, divided
3 extra-large eggs
2 t grated lemon zest (2 lemons)
1/2 t pure vanilla extract
1/2 C vegetable oil
1/3 C freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 C confectioner's sugar
2 TB freshly squeezed lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350. Grease 8-1/2 x 4-1/4 x 2-1/2 loaf pan. Line bottom with parchment paper. Grease and flour pan.

Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt into 1 bowl. In another bowl, whisk together the yogurt, 1 C sugar, eggs, lemon zest, and vanilla. Slowly whisk dry ingredients into the wet. With rubber spatula, fold vegetable oil into the batter, making sure it's all incorporated. Pour the batter into prepared pan and bake for about 50 minutes, or until a cake tester placed in center of loaf comes out clean.

Meanwhile, cook the 1/3 C lemon juice and remaining 1/3 C sugar in small pan until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is clear. Set aside.

When the cake is done, allow it to cool in pan for 10 minutes. Carefully place on a baking rack over a sheet pan. While the cake is still warm, pour the lemon-sugar mixture over the cake and allow to soak in. Cool.

For the glaze, combine confectioner's sugar and lemon juice and pour over cake.

Dimply Plum Cake
Dorie Greenspan, Baking From My Home to Yours

1-1/2 C all-purpose flour
1 t baking powder
1/4 t salt
Scant 1/4 t ground cardamom (optional)
5 TB unsalted butter at room temp
3/4 C packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/3 C flavorless oil such as canola or safflower
Grated zest of 1 orange
1-1/2 t pure vanilla extract
8 purple or red plums (in the Fall, use Italian prune plums), halved and pitted

Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 350. Butter an 8 inch square baking pan, dust the inside with flour, tape out the excess and put the pan on a baking sheet.

Whisk the flour, baking powder, salt, and cardamom, if you're using it, together.

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter at medium speed until soft and creamy, about 3 minutes. Add the sugar and beat for another 2 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for one minute after each addition. On medium speed, beat in the oil, orange zest, and vanilla. The batter will look very light and smooth, almost satiny. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing only until they are incorporated.

Run a spatula around the bowl and under the batter, just to make sure there are no dry spots, then scrape the batter into the pan and smooth the top. Arrange the plums cut side up in the batter - I usually make 4 rows of 4 plum halves each - jiggling the plums a tad just so they settle comfortably into the batter.

Bake for about 40 minutes, or until the top is honey brown and puffed around the plums and a thin knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Transfer the cake to a rack and cool for 15 minutes - during which time the plums' juice will return to the fruit - then run a knife around the sides of the pan and un-mold the cake. Invert and cool right side up.

Nectarine Golden Cake
Gourmet, September 2009
1 C all-purpose flour
2 t baking powder
Rounded 1/4 t salt
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
3/4 C plus 1/2 T sugar, divided
2 large eggs
1 t pure vanilla extract
1/8 t pure almond extract
2 nectarines, pitted and cut into 1/2-inch-thick wedges
1/2 t grated nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350 with rack in middle. Lightly butter 9 inch springform pan.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Beat butter and 3/4 C sugar with electric mixer until pale and fluffy. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition, then beat in extracts. At low speed, mix in flour mixture until just combined.

Spread batter evenly in pan, then scatter nectarines over top. Stir together nutmeg and remaining 1/2 T sugar and sprinkle over top. Bake until cake is golden-brown and top is firm but tender when lightly touched (cake will rise over fruit), 45-50 minutes. Cool in pan 10 minutes. Remove sides of pan and cool to warm.

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