Tag Archives: cake

latvian birthday cake (or: i verbally abuse creepy people in costumes.)

22 Aug


confession time: i am terrified of people wearing costumes. halloween makes me nervous. larpers freak me out. furries send me running & screaming.

in my opinion, people in costume act differently than when they are uncostumed.  they act like they are someone else and therefore in ways they usually would not. normal social rules seem not to apply.  and if their face or eyes are covered? all bets are off and you are more than likely going to be accosted by this crazy costumed psycho.

true story.

i have facts to back this up.

last halloween i celebrated (albeit hesitantly) at a pub down the street from my apartment and encountered two guys hovering on the edges dressed as if they had just walked out of “world of warcraft: the movie.” one was dressed in a way i can only think to describe as a giant human-sized thumb wearing a sheet and chain mail. i have no idea how else to describe it. the other was wearing some sort of demon-orc hybrid complete with retractable giant wiggly tongue and severed arm prop.  the thumb kept to himself, but the demon-orc took to licking random female passers-by or making a show of licking the severed arm in a, dare i say, “erotic” fashion.  i have absolutely no doubt that under that costume was a socially-awkward, skinny, pimpled man-child who spends his days and nights making internet cash by selling his high-level video game characters. uncostumed i have serious doubts that demon-orc would have spoken to a woman not to mention lick her.

all of that being said, i don’t mind disguised objects: they aren’t sentient and therefore won’t try to attack me out of a false sense of security.

kitchen utensils that look like animals? adorable.
bookshelves that double as doors to secret rooms? both fantastic and delightfully mysterious.
a cake pretending to be a pretzel? into it.

this seems like a good time to segue into my recipe: the latvian birthday cake. i was doing an internet search for “weird cake recipes” in honor of my friend’s self-created holiday devoted entirely to cake, aptly named “cake day.” when i came across the latvian birthday cake, i knew i had to give it a whirl. who in their right mind creates a birthday cake from yeast and saffron and shapes it like a pretzel? the latvians, that’s who.  i had a hard time deciding whether this was a cake or sweet bread or a pretzel. i still don’t know. but you know what, it tastes awesome, so i don’t care. and neither should you.

latvian birthday cake from global table adventure

what you’ll need:

2 tsp yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1/2 tsp saffron
1 cup sugar
1 cup heavy cream
2 eggs
2 tsp thin strips of lemon zest
2 tsp this strips of orange zest
1 tsp cardamom
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup (1 stick 0f butter, softened)
5 1/2- 6 cups flour
1 cup raisins

for the topping: 1 egg for egg wash, 1/4 cup thinly sliced almonds

1. dissolve yeast in warm water with the saffron and a pinch of sugar. (appx. 5 minutes).

2. meanwhile, since butter doesn’t come pre-softened (unless you count the sort in the tub i suppose), let’s soften your butter.  i don’t actually own a microwave… sooo desperate times lead to softening your butter on top of a toaster oven…

3. mix your yeast with the rest of your ingredients (except those for the topping) in the bowl of a standing mixer.  you may not need all of your flour–just enough to form a soft dough. so for goodness sakes, don’t just throw it all in like a heathen.

4. knead your dough for about 10 minutes. you will be, appropriately, using your dough hook for this. your dough may try to escape. just a warning.

look for your dough to come away from the sides of your bowl. it will look sticky, but won’t be super sticky. make sense? no? trial and error is a great teacher, i say.

5. let rise until doubled in size (about 1.5 hours).

6. we will now be shaping the dough into a pretzel shape.  roll out the dough into about a 3 foot long log, then tuck ends like one would for, a, you guessed it, pretzel. keep the holes about fist sized as they will close up while baking. allow to rise for another 30 mins.

7. brush your beautifully proofed pretzel-shaped latvian birthday cake with a beaten egg and then generously sprinkle with sliced almonds. the egg will give your pretzel/cake/thing a nice shine. the almonds will just be tasty.

8. bake at 350 degrees f for about 45 minutes or until golden brown. see above.

this cake is most happily enjoyed while still warm and with a nice dusting of confectioner’s sugar.  jam is also quite lovely as an accompaniment.

the verdict: i don’t know if i would necessarily call this a cake, but whatever it is–i am a huge, huge fan. i literally had to take to slapping my own hand to keep myself from grabbing more.  and please note that this recipe produced a big honkin’ cake, so there was a lot of hand slapping required.  the orange with the saffron and raisins gave it a wonderful flavor that i am having a challenging time figuring out how to describe (so just trust me), and upon reminiscing on this recipe (which i confess wasn’t baked yesterday or even in the past 2 months), my roommate declared it “so yummy.”

roasted banana cupcakes (or: what to feed a zombie)

27 Apr

for the majority of my teens, sleeping was easily considered one of my top extracurricular activities. my study-abroad flatmates were actually selected based on the fact that we all filled out our questionnaires with the same sleeping preferences–go to bed early, wake up late–and during my high school days, my mother was forced to devise an elaborate (and frankly, inhumane) wake-up process that has caused lingering trauma.  (you try not suffering permanent damage after waking up every morning to someone flicking on your lights, and then with a speed usually reserved for vampires, simultaneously blasting the radio, ripping off your sheets, tickling your feet, all while bellowing your name.)

this being said, my decision to attend culinary school for a baking and pastry arts degree came as rather shocking news to those who were acquainted with my sleeping patterns. the ungodly hours of baking professionals are no secret. the school  recruiter asked me, as did almost everyone else i told, “are you an early-riser?” after a good laugh and recounting of my mother’s antics (see above), we determined that seeing as how there are few jobs that will lend to a sleep schedule to my liking, save mattress-tester or professional sleep-study subject, waking up at 4 a.m. doesn’t seem that much worse than 7 a.m.  (ok, it is… but i was trying to gain admittance.)

fast-forward four incredibly intense months of schooling on top of my 9 to 5 job, and you will find that it had been a very, very long time since i had truly engaged in my most favorite of pastimes.  essentially, i spent those 16 weeks as a member of the living dead.  my body was covered in bruises from bumping half-unconsciously into walls and filing cabinets, my stomach lining had a gaping hole from the vast quantities of coffee i had ingested, and i seemed to have developed permanent circles under my eyes to the point where i felt confident that if i joined a football team, i would not have had to bother with blacking out my cheeks.  there were moments when i worried that the overzealous might consider picking up one of the many “how to survive a zombie apocalypse” books flooding the shelves in order to protect themselves when i ambled by.  please note that moaning “brainzzz” is only funny to others when they aren’t half-sure you might be serious.

during these long months of sleep deprivation, i had often felt that i deserved luxuries that i normally (when fully functioning) wouldn’t allow myself.  (the starbucks barista who now refers to me as “her friend” can vouch for me on this one.)  therefore, i felt no moral compunction and needed very little self-convincing when i decided that these cupcakes were quite clearly more of an icing-topped muffin than an actual cupcake…breakfast, definitely not dessert…calorie-free as opposed to adding new dimension to my growing backside…the addition of bananas was all the justification that i needed.

this recipe comes from martha stewart’s cupcake cookbook and produces a cupcake so mind-blowingly delicious that i made some pretty inappropriate sounds when inhaling them.  because it calls for cake flour and there is more sifting than seems sane, the end product will be super fluffy and moist (and i am serious when i say moan-inducing…though you should be careful about this if people are already concerned you might be a member of the undead as you may just be reinforcing their convictions). the cupcake is then paired with a honey-cinnamon frosting that is truly sensational.

roasted banana cupcakes from martha stewart’s cupcakes

what you’ll need (for the cake):
3 ripe bananas (plus 1 or 2 more for garnish should you feel fancy)
2 cups cake flour (not self-rising), sifted
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1 stick unsalted butter, room temp.
3/4 cup sugar
3 large eggs, separated
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tsp vanilla extract

1. preheat oven to 400 degrees f and line standard muffin tins with paper liners. place 3 whole unpeeled bananas on a baking sheet and roast for 15 mins.

2. while these are roasting, sift together cake flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. (cake flour has a high starch content, so make sure you don’t skip the sifting. i know, i know, but it will be worth it.)

3. remove your now blackened, roasted bananas from the oven and let them cool before peeling. unless you enjoy burning your fingers or need to build up heat tolerance, in which case, knock yourself out. reduce the oven temp to 350.

4. cream the butter and sugar on med-high speed until it is pale and fluffy. add the three egg yolks, one at a time, beating until each is fully incorporated. scrape down the sides as necessary.

add the peeled, roasted bananas and try not to gag. yeh, i think we can all agree on what this reminds us of…  alright, that being said, ahem, beat to combine.

4. add the flour mixture and sour cream, alternating back and forth. you will do three flour batches, alternating with two sour cream batches. beat until just combined after each addition. if you beat too long, your cake will lose its fluff. beat in vanilla.

5. in a separate bowl, whip your egg whites to soft peaks with a mixer on medium speed.

fold in 1/3 of whites into batter to lighten. this basically means that you will sacrifice some of your whites so that your dense batter won’t snuff it all out. gently fold in the remaining whites in two batches.

6. divide the batter evenly among the lined cups. they should be about 3/4 full. bake for about 20 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. make sure you rotate your tins once half way through. once baked, transfer the tins to a wire rack to cool.

the cupcakes can be stored in air-tight containers at room temp up to 3 days, or frozen up to 2 months.

now for the honey-cinnamon frosting:

what you’ll need:
2.5 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temp
2 tbsp honey
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

1. on med speed, beat all ingredients until smooth.

2. wipe off your brow, whew, that was tough.

use immediately or refrigerate up to 5 days in an air-tight container. if you refrigerate, make sure you bring it back to room temp and beat it smooth before using.

they can also conveniently be made baby tiny size as a nice post-brain snack.

l’opera! (cake)

28 May

this is it folks.  my very first daring bakers challenge. and um, seriously, they were not kidding.  this was both incredibly daring and a challenge.  i mean, holy crap.  the recipe is about 4 miles long, involves jelly roll pans (which i didnt know existed until this challenge), and lots and lots and lots of layers and syrupy bits.  it is totally worth it though, let me tell you.  my coworkers kind of think i’m awesome now.  so, bonus!

this opera cake of doom was the devious idea of daring baker co-founders lis (la mia cucina) and ivonne (cream puffs in venice) with the help of fran (apples peaches pumpkin pie) and shea (whiskful).  i like to imagine them coming together (dragging a lame/club foot behind them), fingers rubbing creepily together, and nasally whispering, “how best to try these so-called daring bakers?”  “ah ha! an opera cake! and not just any opera cake, but one that can only be light in color.  no chocolate! or darkness!” (i know, no darkness seems out of character for this evil story i am spinning) 

weird story segue aside… because it is spring/summer (too bad no one has informed boston yet), our co-hosts (who i am sure are all very sweet and not igor-like at all) decided to go with an opera cake that is light in flavor and color.  that being the case, i decided to use an orange zest buttercream and orange blossom water glaze.  i have been racking my brain/the internet for things to do with my orange blossom water, which has been sitting in my cupboards since a previous baking experiment, and came to the conclusion that now was the time.  granted, i still have pretty much the entire bottle left despite using it for this recipe.  (note to readers… any orange blossom water baking ideas?) 

now… on to the baking.  get ready.  you might want to take a deep breath.

the joconde:

what you’ll need:

6 large egg whites, at room temperature
2 tbsp. white sugar
2 cups almond meal                                                                                                                                          2 cups icing sugar, sifted
6 large eggs
½ cup all-purpose flour
3 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1. divide the oven into thirds by positioning a rack in the upper third of the oven and the lower third of the oven.  preheat the oven to 425◦f.

3. line two 12½ x 15½- inch (31 x 39-cm) jelly-roll pans with parchment paper and brush with melted butter.  (i couldn’t find any pans that size so i used two 12×17.  it just makes the cake a bit thinner… and you have to cut things down later when assembling.)

4. beat the egg whites with a hand-held mixer (with whisk attachment) until they form soft peaks. add the granulated sugar and beat until the peaks are stiff and glossy.

(loooookin’ good!)

(why, what adorable little peaks you have.)

5. grab a second bowl. attach the paddle attachment to the mixer and beat the almonds, icing sugar and eggs on medium speed until light and voluminous, about 3 minutes. (i don’t have a paddle attachment, and don’t even know where to find one… so i used the whisks, then grabbed my own paddle thingamajig (aka a spatula) and just pretended it was a paddle attachment…  i know, awful.)

6. add the flour and beat on low speed until the flour is just combined (be very careful not to overmix here!!!).

7. using a rubber spatula, gently fold the meringue into the almond mixture and then fold in the melted butter.

divide the batter between the pans and spread it evenly to cover the entire surface of each pan.

8. bake the cake layers until they are lightly browned and just springy to the touch. this could take anywhere from 5 to 9 minutes depending on your oven. place one jelly-roll pan in the middle of the oven and the second jelly-roll pan in the bottom third of the oven.

9. put the pans on a heatproof counter and run a sharp knife along the edges of the cake to loosen it from the pan. cover each with a sheet of parchment or wax paper, turn the pans over, and unmold.

10. carefully peel away the parchment, then turn the parchment over and use it to cover the cakes. let the cakes cool to room temperature.

on to the syrup!

what you’ll need:

½ cup (125 grams) water
⅓ cup (65 grams) granulated sugar
1 to 2 tbsp. vanilla extract

1. stir all the syrup ingredients together in the saucepan and bring to a boil.

2. remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature.

that was easy enough…  now, the buttercream:

what you’ll need:

1 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
¼ cup (60 grams) water
1 tbsp. pure vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1¾ sticks (7 ounces; 200 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 of medium orange zest

1. combine the sugar, water and extract in a small saucepan and warm over medium heat just until the sugar dissolves.

2. continue to cook, without stirring, until the syrup reaches 225◦F (107◦C) on a candy or instant-read thermometer. once it reaches that temperature, remove the syrup from the heat.

3. while the syrup is heating, begin whisking the egg and egg yolk at high speed in the bowl of your mixer using the whisk attachment. whisk them until they are pale and foamy.

4. when the sugar syrup reaches the correct temperature and you remove it from the heat, reduce the mixer speed to low speed and begin slowly (very slowly) pouring the syrup down the side of the bowl being very careful not to splatter the syrup into the path of the whisk attachment.  some of the syrup will spin onto the sides of the bowl but don’t worry about this and don’t try to stir it into the mixture as it will harden!

5. raise the speed to medium-high and continue beating until the eggs are thick and satiny and the mixture is cool to the touch (about 5 minutes or so).

6. while the egg mixture is beating, place the softened butter in a bowl and mash it with a spatula until you have a soft creamy mass.

7. with the mixer on medium speed, begin adding in two-tablespoon chunks. when all the butter has been incorporated, raise the mixer speed to high and beat until the buttercream is thick and shiny.

8. at this point add in the orange zest and beat for an additional minute or so.

9. refrigerate the buttercream, stirring it often, until it’s set enough (firm enough) to spread when topped with a layer of cake (about 20 minutes).   rather than sit around and wait… i decided to go to the movies with my roommate..in our pajamas.  because we are cool like that.  and then stuck my other lamer roommate (kidding, love you m!) on stirring duty.

(i couldn’t quite figure out how to wrap up my joconde due to its long thin shape… so seran wrapping the entire table seemed like my best bet.)

once i returned, after having a good cry at made of honor, (le sigh patty d. patrick dempsey and i are so chummy i can call him patty d.) i began the glaze. usually there is also a mousse or ganache involved.  but i opted out since i couldn’t quite figure out how to do it without using white chocolate. and i haaaaate white chocolate. plus, i was already putting forth a lot of effort on this challenge.  i didn’t want to explode or anything.

what you’ll need:

1/4 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons milk
1 tsp. orange blossom water (pretty much just do it to taste)

1. combine ingredients, mix until smooth.

2. let stand for 5 minutes. (but you want to make this right before you glaze the cake.  i let it sit over night and it came out all wuckawucka.  don’t be like me.  listen to the insturction masters.)

the assembly! (finally!!)

gather the troops…

1. line a baking sheet with parchment or wax paper. (i totally forgot to do this.  typical.  i recommend that you do remember.)

2. working with one sheet of cake at a time, cut and trim each sheet so that you have two pieces (from each cake so you’ll have four pieces in total):  one 10-inch (25-cm) square and one 10 x 5-inch (25 x 12½-cm) rectangle.

3. place one square of cake on the baking sheet and moisten it gently with the flavoured syrup.

(also, just so you know, it’s pretty tricky to photograph and moisten at the same time.)

4. spread about one-third of the buttercream over this layer.

5. top with the two rectangular pieces of cake, placing them side by side to form a square. moisten these pieces with the flavoured syrup.

(woops.  definitely didn’t trim it to size.  don’t tell anyone.  got that internet?)

6. spread another third of the buttercream on the cake and then top with the third square of joconde. use the remaining syrup to wet the joconde. spread the remaining buttercream on top of the final layer of joconde and then refrigerate until very firm (at least half an hour).

7. at this point i decided that the cake seemed a little short… i didn’t want it to get a complex, so i cut the cake in half and put one on top of the other.  so now it has 6 lovely layers and feels tall and pretty.

8. make the glaze (cough, pull it out of the fridge from the night before) and after it has cooled, pour/spread it over the top of the chilled cake. refrigerate the cake again to set the glaze.

serve the cake slightly chilled.

the verdict:  you still with me??  to make a long story short, it turned out great with minimal injury to myself.  it was super challenging, but definitely worth it if you are feeling like a… daring baker!

since i am silly, and did not halve this recipe like i should have considering my small boston family, i took half to work…
the buzz around the water cooler:

“did you make this? no you didnt. did you really? really? you made this?”

“wow. your talents are wasted here.”

“ah! this is so gourmet! and pretty!”  (impressive statement considering that the cake began its life as a gloopy blob cake.)

not to toot my own horn or anything… but yay!! 

(ps- very special thanks to nic and j for their seran wrapping advice, company keeping, and oohs and aahs throughout this entire ordeal!)

(pps- make sure you check out the other daring baker creations!)