apple rum-raisin spice cake

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Isn’t this cake pretty?

Heck … I think it’s gorgeous.

It looks so simple and elegant … but it’s flavourful, moist and simply delicious.

It wasn’t always that way.

The first time I made it … I found it a little bit dry.  The taste deepened and the cake actually got better as it sat overnight, but it still wasn’t exactly what I had hoped.

That got me thinking … how can I tweak this recipe to make it moist straight out of the oven?

The second attempt included increased raisins (the original recipe called for ½ cup raisins).  It helped a bit.

The following week I decided to try it out in a larger rectangular pan rather than the original 9-inch round pan.  It was ok … but it certainly didn’t help with the dryness level.  I also decided to add my own baking powder and salt rather than using self-rising flour.  I liked the result in the texture of the cake more.

Since my goal was to add moistness to the cake … I thought why not add another apple?  Only rather than slicing it, I would dice it and incorporate it into the batter.  With that addition my problems were solved.

I got exactly what I was looking for in the recipe … an excellent cake that I will happily eat morning, noon and night (believe me, I had a lot of test cake to go through).

Now for the part of the blog post were I sell you on this recipe.

1.  It’s delicious

2.  It’s easy to make

3.  It looks gorgeous

4.  It would be a great thing to bring as a holiday hostess gift.  Especially since it gets better overnight.

5.  Did I mention that it’s gosh darn delicious and easy to make?  Plus it sure is pretty!

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apple rum-raisin spice cake

Ingredients:

1 c. butter, room temperature

1 c. brown sugar

4 eggs, lightly beaten

1 ½ c. flour

1 tbsp baking powder

½ tsp salt

2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp ginger

½ tsp ground nutmeg

½ tsp allspice

½ tsp cloves

1 c. rum-soaked raisins

1 apple, peeled, cored & diced

3 apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced

2 tbsp brown sugar cinnamon sugar

Heat your oven to 350 F.  Grease a 9-inch round pan with non-stick spray.  Then line the base and sides with parchment paper (I know … it sounds like an unnecessary step – but it honestly does make a difference in your cake).  Spray the parchment paper with non-stick spray.  Set aside.

In the bowl of your stand-mixer, using the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and sugar, at medium-high speed, until light and fluffy – about 3 to 5 minutes.  Gradually add the beaten eggs to the mixture, lowering the speed of the mixer and then increasing it to fully incorporate the batter.  Remember to take the time to scrap the sides of the bowl with a spatula.  You want all of that butter, sugar, egg mixture well combined.

Bakers tip: to ensure that the rum-soaked raisins don’t sink to the bottom of your cake (and stay on the bottom of the pan), sprinkle them with about 2 tbsp of the flour (take it from the 1 ½ cup flour needed for this recipe) and coat them.  Sinking problem is resolved.

Meanwhile, in another bowl, mix together all the dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, and cloves.

Using a large spatula, gently fold the dry ingredients into the batter.  Add the diced apple and raisins.  Gently combine them into the batter.

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Spoon half the batter into the prepared pan and level the surface.

Place half the apple slices over the batter, layering them.

Add the remainder of the batter on top of the apple slices.

Place the left over apple slices on top.  Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.

Bake for 60 to 75 minutes – it depends on your oven and the thickness of your cake.  Allow to cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes.  Remove the cake from the pan (having it lined with parchment paper makes a huge difference – nothing sticks and the cake is easily removed!) and allow it to cool completely on the wire rack.

Don’t put this cake in the fridge.  It’ll dry out.   Keep it in a Tupperware container; air tight, for up to 5 days.  This is the cake that keeps on giving!

neapolitan pound loaf … actually it’s a cake.

Another week … another

baking crew challenge.

The theme: loaves.

I tend to think of a loaf as a *somewhat* healthy baked treat … chalk full of mashed bananas, grated zucchini, or even pumpkin purée, with an above average sprinkling of chocolate chips … a little sweetness in the belly.

Oh how I heart a good slice of *fresh out of the oven*, warm, gooey banana/zucchini/pumpkin loaf.

That’s why I was so excited about this challenge. Not only would I bake one of my favourite things … but I would also get to try a new recipe.

A neapolitan pound cake recipe to be exact.

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First off. I’m going to be honest. I decided to bake this because it looked good. And if something can look that good … it’s got to stand a chance of TASTING good right?

Well … it lived up to my pre-judgement.

Except.

This is no loaf. Nope. Don’t confuse this for a slightly savoury loaf: something warm and comforting to accompany your tea or coffee. It’s not the kind of thing you bake as your afternoon snack … or as a *quick,easy, and healthy* breakfast option.

Nope.

This is a committment. You must commit yourself to this intensely decadent and absolutely delightful dessert.

It’s based on neapolitan ice cream right … so vanilla, chocolate and strawberry all swirled together to create a party in your mouth.

It’s true. All those flavours are good things.

I decided to change it up a little. Rather than stick to the traditional strawberry flavour, I opted for a strawberry-rhubarb flavour. I actually couldn’t decide on cherry or raspberry … but then I spotted the strawberry-rhubarb jam on the shelf, I couldn’t resist adding a splash of tart rhubarb to the mix. Could you?

I didn’t think so.

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The richness in this cake comes from the 5 ounces of mascarpone cheese … added to another 2 ounces of cream cheese … plus 1 cup of butter … and 6 eggs.

Mother of pearl. You just know that this is going to be one rich and delicious slice of cake!

So while I was busy whipping mini loaf and bundt cake versions of this recipe … my friends were busy baking their own loaves. Tom & Aimée baked a beautiful cardamom loaf, Meredith brought a tangy lemon blueberry loaf, and Cory baked a family favourite, walnut sour cream loaf.

I’m going to say … each and every one of the loaves were delicious … but so completely different.

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The cardamom loaf was beautiful … an exquisite crumb and shape … and then when you bit into it, the pungent flavour of the cardamom perefectly accompanied a cup of coffee. It was a spicy addition to the challenge.

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The walnut sour cream loaf is one of Cory’s favourite family holiday treats. Who can fault a loaf that’s chalk full of walnuts and then topped with a brown sugar crumble? Although Cory’s recipe was a tad oily (even after Cory adjusted his mother’s original recipe – and he agreed with us) … I still gladly took a mini loaf home with me … and very happily devoured it.

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We all know that I heart lemons … so it probably won’t come as a surprise that I’m going to annouce that Meredith’s lemon blueberry loaf was my favourite. I loved how light it was. I loved the fresh blueberries. I loved the tang of the lemons. It’s the perfect afternoon tea snack. You don’t actually need to drink tea … you can just grab a slice of this loaf and savour it … that’s what I did.

Compared to the cardamom loaf, walnut sour cream loaf, and lemon blueberry loaf, my neapolitan pound loaf really stuck out as a cake. It was denser and sweeter and richer and more of a dessert. I’m not saying it wasn’t good … but it certainly shouldn’t quality as a loaf. Needless to say … if you’re looking to make something that will wow your friends, family, neighbours, co-workers … maybe you want to give this recipe a try. It certainly put a smile on many a face and satisfied many a craving for a treat in the middle of the day.

neapolitan pound loaf cake

ingredients:

3 oz cream cheese, at room temperature

5 oz, mascarpone cheese, at room temperature

1 ½ c. unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 tsp vanilla extract

6 eggs

2 c. sugar

1 c. powdered sugar

3 c. cake flour

pinch of salt

flavours

6 tbsp strawberry-rhubarb jam

3 tbsp cocoa

1 tsp vanilla

1/8 tsp pink food colouring (I use Wilton’s colour gels … less is more – I went a little overboard!)

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Number one rule … don’t preheat your oven.

Time to get started.

In a medium bowl sift together the granulated and powdered sugars. Set aside.

Cream together the mascapone, cream cheese and butter together in your stand-mixer: medium-high speed using your paddle attachment for about 3 minutes. Add the vanilla and beat for a further 30 seconds.

This batter isn’t a simple “add dry ingredients to wet ingredients” batter … there are steps to follow. But they are TOTALLY worth it.

Ok .. here goes.

  • Add two of the eggs to the cheese / butter mixture.
  • Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.
  • Add 1 cup of the sugar mixture.
  • Beat at medium speed until combined.
  • Add 1 cup flour plus the pinch of salt.
  • Beat until combined.
  • Repeat until all of the eggs, sugars, and flour are used.

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Divide the batter equally between three bowls.

In one bowl combine the batter with the strawberry-rhubarb jam. Add the food colouring gel.

In another bowl combine the batter with the cocoa powder.

And the vanilla to the remaining batter. Stir to combine.

Time to bake.

You have some options here. You can bake a regular sized loaf… or a regular bundt cake. You can go the mini loaf / mini bundt option. I decided that since I wanted to bake these quickly, the mini loaf and mini bundt cakes were the way to go. Whichever option you pick, spray the pan with non-stick spray and set aside.

I scooped a spoonful of each flavour of batter into each mini loaf tin and bundt cake (I dozen of each). Then I took a toothpick and swirled the different flavours into one another.

Place the loaf / bundt cake tin in oven.

Turn oven on to 300F.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes for the mini loaves / mini bundts. Obviously longer for a regular sized loaf or bundt cake. The original recipe recommended 2 hours … I would probably check it out after 75 minutes.

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Serve with a scoop of ice cream and a drizzle of hot fudge sauce.

Go big or go home right?

apologies & the muffin challenge

I’d first like to start off this post with an apology.

I’m sorry.  I feel like I’ve abandoned my blog … but I haven’t.  I PROMISE!

I’ve just been ridiculously … insanely … exhaustingly … busy.

In the last month and a half I have …

must love food

  • celebrated my grandfather’s 90th birthday (extra-amazing & super special).

grandpa

snippets of the party

  • moved in with the manfriend (happy dance).
  • packed and unpacked boxes and boxes of books, kitchen equipment, clothing, shoes … books. More books. So many … hardcover books (aka über heavy to carry).
  • Oh! And I baked for these pretty awesome pop-ups in Magpie’s three Ottawa locations … you not only got to look at some stellar jewellery … and clothing (from Victoire) BUT you also got to nibble on some mini lemon and mini chocolate tarts.

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A-MAZ-ING?!

Holy heck ya! But also super tiring … especially when you add my regular 40 hour a week job into the mix.

I’m pretty darn exhausted.

But that doesn’t mean that I haven’t been baking, taking pictures, editing them and then working on a post. It just means … it takes me a while to get it all done.

I think sharing my banana chocolate – peanut butter chip coffee cake muffin recipe might make it all ok though.

I mean … think about it. Bananas. Chocolate chips. Peanut butter chips. Tossed together and lovingly baked. A total winner … plus perhaps one of my favourite things.

banana chocolate - peanut butter chip coffee cake muffins

These muffins rock it something fierce.  I’m so glad that I decided to give this recipe a go for last month’s baking crew challenge.  When Tom & Aimée, Cory, Meredith and I decided to bake muffins for our March gathering … I think we all kinda thought “muffins!?  seriously.  how exciting” (insert sarcastic voice).

But I’m actually really glad that’s what we baked.

First off … I got to make something new … and something that I think will remain a staple in my baking roster … because frankly … these are divine.

Secondly … Meredith made these perfectly delightful rhubarb & ginger muffins (originally Jamie Oliver’s mother’s day muffin recipe).

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She sourced out some fresh rhubarb and the result was a muffin packed full of rhubarb and a generous amount of ginger.  I loved it.  I actually meant to make a batch of these for my grandfather’s party … (I ran out of time!).  Huge winner.  It’d be great with some strawberry curd stuck in the centre … maybe I’m just getting a little too fancy though?

Tom & Aimée decided to make one of my personal favourite recipes (and it was actually from my blog!) – pumpkin chocolate chip loaf became muffins.

tom & aimee's pumpkin chocolate chip muffin

This is a classic recipe for a number of reasons:

1.  It’s good.  It packs a punch of pumpkin.  Which really means it tastes like the absolute best thing in the world.

2.  Because you add chocolate chips to the mix … it doesn’t taste too healthy.  Or boring.  Nope.  These muffins are good.

3.  Pumpkin chocolate chip loaf is still the most popular recipe on my blog.  There’s a reason for it.

4.  It was the first thing I baked for the manfriend and I after our move.  New kitchen = must test the oven = pumpking chocolate chip muffins.

All in all, this was a successful, and super tasty baking crew challenge.  Everyone gets into a muffin making rut, and by challenging ourselves, we were able to present some tried and true classic recipes … but also added a few new ones to the mix.

I’d like to think that my banana chocolate – peanut butter chip coffee cake muffins are one of those new classics.

I’m also tempted to change it up a little the next time I make them.  I was thinking of drizzling caramel sauce in the centres and then only using the coffee cake topping for the top of the muffin (rather than layering it in the centre as well).  Thoughts?  Am I going too far?

Oh … one important note to make … don’t eat too many of these all at once.  You’ll probably want to.  The first one will taste so good that you’ll think … what the heck! why not?  Well … it just might make you feel a little ill … they are jam-packed with bananas (I used 7 in the recipe) … they also have a handful of chocolate chips and peanut butter chips.  And cinnamon-brown sugar.  These are intense.

banana chocolate – peanut butter chip coffee cake muffins

ingredients:

3 c. flour

2 tsp baking powder

2 tsp baking soda

1 c. butter, room temp

2 c. sugar

2 eggs

2 1/2 c. mashed fully ripe bananas (6 or 7)

1 tsp vanilla

1 c. sour cream

coffee cake topping:

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Heat your oven to 350 F.  Spray your muffin pans with non-stick spray.  I don’t use liners for muffins … I don’t know why … it’s just not something I do.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and baking soda together.  Set aside.

In the bowl of your stand-mixer, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  About 5 minutes at medium speed.  Scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed.  Add the eggs, one at a time, and continue to beat everything until incorporated.

Add the bananas and vanilla, mixing well.

Add the flour mixture and the sour cream to the batter: alternating between each addition, starting and ending with the flour.  Mix well.

Fill each muffin tin with a tablespoon of batter.  Sprinkle the top of each muffin with the coffee cake topping.  Cover with more batter.  Sprinkle with the rest of the coffee cake topping.

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Bake for 22 minutes … or until the top of the muffins bounce back when gently touched / or your toothpick comes out clean.

Allow to sit in the pans on a wire rack for 5 minutes.  Then remove and allow them to cool completely.  Or seriously … just dig right it.  These are too good to wait.  PLUS this recipe is a winner because you get over 3 dozen regular sized muffins AND 1 dozen large muffins.  Think of the amount of mini muffins you could get?!

Oh … and on another note.  Although Cory didn’t participate in the baking crew muffin challenge … we did have another guest.

Tom & Aimée recently got FENTON the cutest little fella ever … and so after eating muffins, we all sat down and hung out with him.

Isn’t he adorable?

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