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Almond cakes, such as financiers (which are technically tiny cakes, but I made a big one), are a tradition in my family.  Our familial almond cake is denser than the above cake, with larger almond chunks, and less sweetness.  It’s baked for birthdays and has a hint of icing on it.  Growing up, I requested pies and cheesecakes as my birthday cakes – I had something against the austerity of our cake.  But now, with my more refined palate, I have grown to love almond cakes in any form.  And this cake competes with our familial cake as my favorite cake for celebrations.

I’ve made this cake before.  In fact, I’ve chronicled making it before on this blog, when I tried to make a gluten free version of it.  It didn’t work.

This time, I accepted the gluten (I love gluten) and also added two new elements to the cake.  The first was a hint of rosewater, added at the end, to round out the flavors in the cake.  The second was some blackberries, added to the cake just before it baked.  The result?  One of the best cakes I’ve made in recent years.

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That’s some rosewater whipped cream on the side – a tasty accompaniement

This cake has always been one of my favorites.  Why?  Well for one, the flavors in this cake are always outstanding.  The browned butter, the warm spice (you can use anyone you like best, I normally go for cardamom), the rich almonds, all combine perfectly to form a moist and not too sweet cake.

And secondly (or for two?), I love that it’s adaptable to any circumstance.  For a special occasion, you can serve it with whipped cream or ice cream or perhaps a fruit compote.  For something more simple, you can turn it into mini muffins for people to grab at and graze on throughout the day.  It’s a tea cake, it’s the perfect accompaniment to a glass of port or sherry, it transports well, and it’s good for up to 4 days after baking.  Have I mentioned it’s also not that hard to make?

So here’s what I recommend – make this cake.  Make it often and use it often.  Maybe it will now become your family’s go to bday cake.  I know they’d be happy with it.

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“Make it” says Persephone, Queen of the Underworld, Esq., Cat

Cardamom Brown Butter Financier

Adapted from The Sweet Life: Desserts from Chanterelle

5 ounces almond meal or flour (from 1 cup/ 5 ounces blanched almonds)

70 g Flour or 1/2 cup plus 1 T flour

225 g butter or 16 T butter (preferably Kerrygold)

1/4 teaspoon cardamom seeds smashed, or 12 cardamom pods, smashed

7 liquid ounces egg whites (from 6-7 eggs)

140 g powdered sugar

100 g granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon rosewater

1/2 cup blackberries or raspberries, fresh or frozen (optional)

1/4 cup toasted almond slices

Preheat the oven to 350˚F and position the rack in the center of the oven.  Butter a 9 or 10 inch springform pan

Place the crushed cardamom seeds into a medium sized saucepan over medium heat.  Add the butter and cook over medium heat until the butter turns a deep golden brown and emits a nutty flavor.

Over a double boiler (or in the bowl of a bain marie) whisk together the egg whites and the two sugars until just warm to the touch – this may take 5-10 minutes.  Remove from the heat.

Whisk together the dry ingredients and then slowly whisk into the egg white mixture.  Smooth it out with a few turn of the whisk.

The next part to this cake is key – you need to slowly add the browned butter to the cake batter.  Add it in about a quarter of a cup at a time, whisking thoroughly between each addition.  Repeat this process until all of the butter is incorporated.  Really do go slowly, otherwise the butter melts out of the cake during baking and produces a greasy mess.   After the butter is added, whisk in the rosewater.  At this point, you can refrigerate the batter for up to 4 days.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and arrange berries in cake batter.  Bake for 45 minutes to an hour.  You want the cake to be a deep golden brown when it comes out.

The cake is best served slightly warm, but it keeps for up to 4 days, well wrapped at room temperature.  Top it with the toasted sliced almonds and powdered sugar, and serve with either more fruit or rosewater whipped cream.

Ah and so it begins.  The cold is descending upon us, smothering our dreams of spaghetti straps and tan lines with parkas and functional scarves.  Many are fearful this means the end of our fun for the year.  From now on, we must stay inside, forever apart and wrapped in blankets.

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Persephone, wondering if she can leave her cat fort when the temperature dips below 70

I, being from New England, strongly disagree with this sentiment.  I am excited to welcome in fall in the next few weeks and then winter in the coming months.  I am a winter baby and I intend to enjoy the heck out of tights, woolen sweaters, and wintery baked goods.

So, to welcome to new season and to prepare myself for the onslaught of baking that will soon be upon me, I made an apple spiced cake.  It was vaguely reminiscent of the apple cakes my grandmother always used to have freshly made, but with a lot more bourbon.  Although it does remind me to get Gummy’s apple cake recipe from her in short order…

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so bundty

Persephone, being a teetotaler, regarded my cake with disdain, preferring the catnip in her scratch lounge.  But then again, she is the goddess of spring and has a certain distaste for fall weather.

It’s a good cake and easy to make to boot.  If you’ve got some extra bourbon on hand and want to try this baby, I highly recommend it.

Apple Bourbon Bundt Cake

Adapted from Melissa Clark for the NYTimes

Serves 8-12

2 sticks unsalted butter 225 grams, at room temperature, plus more to grease pan

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour 315 grams, plus more to dust the pan

3 tablespoons (30 grams) plus 1/2 cup (80 grams) bourbon or rye whiskey

½ cup (90 grams) candied ginger, chopped

1 ¾ cup (330 grams) light brown sugar

4 large eggs, at room temperature

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon fine sea salt

½ teaspoon grated nutmeg

1 cup (227 grams) sour cream

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 ½ teaspoon finely gratedlemon zest

2 medium Granny Smith applesabout a pound, peeled, cored, and coarsely grated

1 cup (120 grams) finely chopped, toasted pecans

½ cup (100 grams) granulated sugar

Juice of 1/2 lemon

Pre-heat the oven to 325 degrees.  If you haven’t toasted your pecans yet, now is a good time to do so.

Grease and flour a 12-cup bundt pan. In a small bowl, combine 3 tablespoons bourbon and the candied ginger. Let stand 10 minutes.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the brown sugar and remaining butter on medium-high speed, until light and fluffy, 5-7 minutes, scraping once. Beat in the eggs, 1 at a time, until incorporated and the batter is smooth and glossy.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the remaining flour with the baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt and nutmeg. In a separate bowl, whisk together the sour cream and vanilla. Pour bourbon from the ginger mixture (reserve ginger) in with the sour cream mixture and whisk until smooth. Stir in zest.

With the mixer on medium speed, add half the dry mixture, then all of the wet mixture, and the rest of the dry mixture until fully incorporated. Fold in the ginger, apples and pecans. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Bake until the cake is golden brown and a skewer inserted into the cake comes out dry, about 1 hour 10 minutes.

Cool in the pan 20 minutes, then run a paring knife around the sides of the pan to release the cake, but do not remove from the pan.

While the cake cools, combine the 1/2 cup granulated sugar and 1/2 cup whiskey in a small saucepan. Over low heat, gently stir until the sugar dissolves. Stir in the lemon juice and take off the heat.

While the cake cools, make 10 slits on top with a paring knife and pour half the bourbon-sugar mixture on the still-warm cake. When the cake is fully cool, flip it and pour the rest of the glaze on the other side.  Be sure to keep the cake on a plate when pouring over the syrup, so any syrup that falls off will be still be soaked into the cake.

The cake will keep well wrapped, at room temperature, for about a week.

With some ice cream of course.

I’ve recently moved into a new apartment, brought my ice cream maker back from the dusty depths of Rhode Island, and I’m excited to start sharing baking stories once more.

This time around, I made a summer berry pudding from Melissa Clark and a variation of David Lebovitz’ ricotta ice cream. Everything, of course, turned out wonderful. I’m so awesome.

I served the berry pudding to a group of my friends the day I procured a new cat. Her name is Persephone and she is filled with personality. We refer to her as the Goddess of Sprung.

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Sultry, yet terrifying

You can see how cute she is in the photos of course, although she always looks a little evil. Curse of the tortoiseshell!

The dessert, however, did not photograph as well. I blame the two glasses of wine I had before I served it for the terrible photography.

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Yum bread and ice cream

That being said, it was a really good dessert. Easy to make, fed a crowd, and had leftovers for myself and my roommate to share the next day. Was it exciting? Not especially. Would I make it again? Probably, but with some riffs. I would add cardamom, cinnamon, or ginger to the berry pudding, and I would like to try a crème fraîche ice cream instead of the ricotta.

This dessert, while it takes time to make, isn’t hard at all and I highly recommend it if you’ll be having a dinner party in the next few weeks and want to take advantage of end of summer berry sales (that’s a thing right??).

Summer Berry Pudding
Adapted from Melissa Clark, the NY Times
Serves 8-10

Ingredients:
6 cups mixed berries (blackberries, raspberries, blueberries)
1/2 cup sugar (to taste)
1 T lemon juice (to taste)
Few drops rosewater
10-12 slices white bread, crusts removed

Instructions:
Combine berries, sugar and 1/3 cup water in a medium saucepan. Simmer over medium heat until sugar is completely dissolved and berries release their juices, 7 to 10 minutes. Stir in lemon juice. Sauce should be sweet, with a hint of tartness, although I found a bit more tart than sweet was preferred. Adjust with more sugar or lemon juice as needed. Stir in rosewater if using – I recommend using.

Spoon an even layer of berry syrup (not the berries themselves) in the bottom of an 8-inch loaf pan or a medium-size bowl. Line bottom of pan or bowl with a single layer of bread; cut bread into pieces to make it fit.

Spoon 1/3 of the fruit on top of bread, making sure bread is completely coated; top with a layer of bread. Repeat two more times, alternating layers of fruit with layers of bread, with bread as the top layer. Let mixture cool completely, then wrap pan tightly with plastic wrap. Place a light weight on top of the pudding. Refrigerate at least 6 hours or overnight.

Run a knife around sides of summer pudding, then turn it over onto a plate to unmold.

Ricotta Ice Cream
Adapted from David Lebovitz
Serves 8-10

Ingredients:

1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar
pinch of salt
5 large egg yolks
1/4 cup honey
2 cups whole-milk ricotta cheese
1 teaspoon lemon juice

Warm the cream with the sugar and salt in a small saucepan until it just begins to steam and the sugar dissolves. In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. Make an ice bath.

4. When the cream is very warm, slowly add it to the yolks, stirring constantly with a whisk as you pour so that you don’t scramble the eggs. Scrape the mixture back into the saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a heatproof spatula, just until the custard thickens and coats the spatula. Do not let boil.

Once it has thickened, immediately strain the custard into the bowl in the ice bath and stir until cool. Once cool, pour the custard into a blender and add the honey. Let cool overnight in your fridge.

Take out the custard and add the lemon juice, then churn the ice cream in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Store in your freezer until ready to serve (duh).

I am not a warm, ooey gooey, holiday person.  I mean, I like the holidays because I get to go home and sleep in my massive bed and have real closets and space in my room to walk around.  But I’m not into gifts, I’m not into festive cheer, although I am into aggressively spiked eggnog.

All that being said, Thanksgiving is my favorite day of the year.  I like that it’s the beginning of the feasting season, wherein we gorge ourselves on as much food as possible and then take a nap till the snow all melts.  I like that before Thanksgiving, it is still fall, and after Thanksgiving, we’re so much closer to winter. Mainly, I like the foods of Thanksgiving.  Rich, hearty, autumnal foods.  And of course, pumpkin pie.

Pie for breakfast. Also, pie plate matching shirt.

Pie for breakfast. Also, pie plate matching shirt.

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It’s strange because I never eat that many pears in the fall.  I really love them, but they’re only good for so long and apples last much longer which works better with my current lifestyle.  And also apples go great with peanut butter which, again, works well with my current lifestyle.  But nothing beats a pear so plump and luscious that you slurp the juices with every bite, although plenty run down your chin instead of making their way into your mouth.

Pears poachin'

Pears poachin’

Last week I decided to make poached pears for a team dinner with some people from my work.  I’m going to just secretly admit that I really wanted to eat pears and didn’t care too much what everyone else wanted for dessert… sorry chocolate lovers.  Also, I took the chance to get eight pears rather than the require six because an extra pear or two never hurt if they’re expense-able. Of course, I saved the extra pears for myself to enjoy at my leisure.  Or more immediately once they became ripe.

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Sometimes, you just want to make a cake.  And so you do, and the cake is so easy to make, you want to write a blog post about it.  So I made a cake, a simple cake, a tasty cake, a cake for a Sunday when you don’t want to leave your apartment and just want to watch tennis in bed.

couldn't stop myself from taking a few pieces before taking photos...

couldn’t stop myself from taking a few pieces before taking photos…

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All photos taken by Zoe Bell, my sister, not the famed stunt woman.

Ahh the holidays.  A time for me to be a complete and total scrooge and say humbug quite frequently.  I also get to bake a lot which is nice but stressful.

My mother and I stayed up until past midnight one night baking cookies.  The next day I spent 40 minutes over a hot stove, grilling brussel sprouts to perfection.

But the pièce de résistance came on new years eve, when I decided to make two fancy, multilayered cakes.  One was a coconut layer cake (my favorite and almost no one else’s), while the other was a white chocolate cake with a lemon curd filling and a grand marnier buttercream.

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