this one takes the cake!

This cake is AWESOME. My uncle Phil’s birthday is today (Happy Birthday Phil!) and I was asked to bake a cake. An upside-down cake to be exact. Can I let you in on a secret? I have eaten and (thoroughly) enjoyed many pineapple upside-down cakes (all thanks to my wonderful grandmother) in my lifetime, but have never, ever baked one.

I was really eager to find a really good recipe – something that would knock every one’s socks off…and that didn’t seem too complicated for my first attempt. Rather than delve into my recipe books; I decided to cyber-surf my favourite blogs and ended up @ Smitten Kitchen riveted by her gingerbread apple upside-down cake recipe.

First off, the pictures looked so appealing – a rumble in my tummy sort of appealing. And then the recipe looked simple and uncomplicated; hitting all the right notes of a warm and wintry cake that also met the requirement of being upside-down. All in all, it looked perfect… once I tweaked it a bit.

Smitten Kitchen‘s recipe included honey – I swapped in additional molasses and then added some allspice to the recipe so that it wasn’t overly cinnamoney (Phil finds that cinnamon can often overpower a recipe, so I did my best to balance that out for him). I was super thrilled with the result. I even baked a second cake… I can smell it baking in my oven as I type…

Because of the gingerbread based cake I think it’s perfectly suited for this time of year. I hope these pictures and this recipe inspire you as much as I was inspired by Smitten Kitchen‘s blog… ;0)

Gingerbread Apple Upside-Down Cake

Apple Upside-Down Topping

4 tbsp butter
1/2 c. brown sugar
pinch of salt
4 apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1/4-inch wedges

Preheat your oven to 325 F. Grease your cake pan with some butter. Set aside.

Over medium heat, melt the butter in a small saucepan. Once it’s completely melted, add the brown sugar. Whisk the two together (nonstop) for about 4 minutes… this will create that caramel-base for the apples to rest on. Take the caramel off the heat and swirl in pinch of salt.

Pour the mixture into your greased pan, and use a spatula to spread it evenly all over the surface of the pan. Make circles of overlapping apple slices on top of the caramel. Chop any of the remaining slices and place them in any gaps you might have.

Set aside and start on the cake.

Gingerbread Cake
1/2 c. butter, at room temperature
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 egg
2/3 c. molasses
1 c. buttermilk
2 1/4 c. flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground ginger (or 1 tbsp fresh minced ginger)
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp allspice

In your mixer, cream together the sugar and butter on a medium-low speed, increasing the speed as it blends to create that light and fluffy result.

While that is being mixed together, whisk together the egg, molasses and buttermilk together in a small bowl. Set aside.

Combine the flour, baking soda and spices together in a separate bowl.

Once the butter has become fluffy, lower the speed and add the remaining ingredients. You want to alternate between mixing in the flour and the molasses mixtures (start with the flour); I added each mixture in 3rds, waiting for the previous one to be incorporated before adding the next one.

Pour the batter into the pan over the caramel and apples. Use your spatula to spread it evenly around the pan.

Bake for between 55 – 65 minutes (depending on your oven, I actually increase the temperature to 350 for the final 15 minutes of baking) – you’ll know it’s ready once a wooden tester comes out clean when inserted in the centre of the cake.

Let cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the pan to loosen it and turn the cake out onto a platter that is larger than the cake itself (when you cut it some of the caramel will run down).

Et voilĂ  – a gorgeous gingerbread cake that is topped with an apple caramel. Beautiful and delicious. Baking perfection!

butter and scotch… well kinda, sorta….

Last week was all about getting myself into the holiday spirit. What better way than by baking cookies? Cookies are the ultimate in holiday goodies. There’s nothing better than making the perfect cookie and sharing it with friends and loved ones.

Deciding on cookies was the easy part. Then I starting thinking about what flavour combination I wanted to play around with. Butterscotch reminds me of the holidays. So I decided to tweak a tried and true recipe (Chocolate Damnation Cookies) and swap out the pecans and dried cranberries in that recipe with butterscotch chips for this one.

With the recipe sorted out I then had to remember another key component of baking cookies; it’s all about that perfect bite.

With these cookies it really is all about under cooking them just a wee bit… a gooey centre to bite your teeth into is always a good thing! These are already being handed out to friends and loved ones… my friend Jeff is a real fan (so is his office).

The one thing about these cookies… the batter needs to chill at least 60 minutes (or up to 3 days) in the fridge before you can shape the dough and bake them. Just factor in that extra “prep” time… and you’re good to go! Oh, and by using the salted butter you don’t need to add any additional salt to this recipe ;0)

Chocolate Butterscotch-Chip Cookies
10 squares of semi-sweet chocolate
1/2 c. salted butter, room temperature
1 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. white sugar
4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 c. dark chocolate chips
1 1/2 c. butterscotch-chips

Melt the chocolate in a saucepan (small pot) over medium-low heat, stirring continuously (so that the chocolate doesn’t burn). Once completely melted, set the pot aside and start on the rest of the batter.

In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and baking soda.

With your mixer, cream together the butter and sugars together (paddle attachment) – start at a lower speed (2) and then increase to a medium speed (4 or 6) to create that pale, fluffy look. Lower the speed and beat in the eggs (one at a time) and then the vanilla until everything is very blended. Beat in the melted chocolate.

Stop your mixer and add the flour mixture to the batter. Turn your mixer to the stir speed and slowly incorporate all the flour into the chocolate. Toss in the chocolate chips and butterscotch chips and turn on the mixer so that they distribute evenly into the batter (about 30 seconds). Cover the bowl and allow to chill for at least 60 minutes in your fridge (it will firm up). Easy eh?

When you’re just about ready to bake these babies… preheat your oven to 350 F. Line your cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Shape the dough into golf sized-balls – it’s easiest to form them with your hands; pull up your sleeves and get your hands a little dirty, it’s fun!

Place them about 2 inches apart – I got about 8 cookies per cookie sheet; and bake for 13 minutes – you want them to just set; soft cookies are good. Leave them on the cookie sheet for an extra two minutes (once out of the oven) and they will firm up a bit without getting too hard. Cool completely on a wire rack.

I got 25 cookies. If you decided to make small cookies (using a mini ice-cream scooper) you’ll get 4 dozen cookies and you should bake them for about 7-8 minutes.

Whichever size you decide on, you’ll end up with lots to share and even more people with huge smiles on their faces (oh, and a great smelling kitchen)!

Enjoy… and happy beginning of the season! :0)

a little tartness is a good thing…

I baked more scones. Yes, I know. More scones. Please don’t be bored. Because these are really really delightful and perfect for the holiday season. A combination of tart dried cherries and mini dark chocolate chips… pop one of these mini scones into your mouth and you will be reaching for the next one.

I was a little apprehensive about trying this because it meant using a new recipe. You see, I really heart my other recipe – which is basically my base for scone making, but… you have to live a little and try new things – so this is me living on the edge ;0) I set my apprehension aside and pulled out my excitement… after all, new flavour combo! Whoot Whoot!!!

Since I’m blogging about this I guess you’ve gathered that I liked this result. Not only did I like it, but I’m committing myself to adding these to my holiday gift basket (aka Christmas brunch with the family repertoire).

Be forewarned, you need to actually really enjoy eating dried cherries… if you don’t, check out some of my other scone recipes. There is something there for everyone :0)

Mini Dark Chocolate Cherry Scones
2 c. all-purpose flour
1/3 c. brown sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 c. cold butter, grated and chilled in the freezer for at least 5 minutes
1 egg
2/3 c. heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
1 c. dried cherries, coarsely chopped
3/4 c. mini dark chocolate chips

Preheat your oven to 375 F. Line your cookie sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

note: wax paper will burn… I learnt that at 3 am… parchment paper will not burn… there is a difference

In the bowl of your stand mixer, combine your flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Use your paddle attachment to mix everything together.

Add in the cold grated butter and mix for about 90 seconds at the STIR speed. You want the flour to start clumping up just a little bit.

Turn off the mixer. In a small bowl whisk together the egg, heavy cream, vanilla and almond extracts.

Make a small well in the middle of the flour mixture and pour the heavy cream into it. Mix everything (again, at the STIR speed) until the dough looks a little moistened. Add in the chopped cherries and mini chocolate chips. Turn on the mixer a final time and incorporate them into the batter.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead it gently. Shape the dough into a log, grab a sharp knife and cut into 10 pieces – then cut those again in half. This creates the “mini scones” – if you leave them be, you’ll get regular sized scones (I actually made two batches, one of each and both bake really well).

Line your cookie sheets with the scones (either 10 regular or 20 mini scones) and return to the freezer for at least 30 minutes.

Once the dough has chilled, brush the tops with an egg wash (lightly beaten egg) and then sprinkle sugar on top.

Bake in the oven – 15 minutes for the minis, 25 minutes for the regular ones.

Once golden on top, remove them from the heat and allow to cool on a wire rack for about 15 minutes… or just grab one and enjoy… ;0)