Tag-Archive for ◊ bundt ◊

30 Jan 2011 Drunken Monkey Cake

Drunken Monkey Cake: my third cake from “All Cakes Considered” by Melissa Gray.  The directions were bothersome again, but I (mostly) made it as directed the first time.  This resulted in a cake that was too “moist” (probably too many bananas) but the cake showed promise, so I committed to rebaking it.

The first thing to go was the showy process of flaming the cherries in rum.  The directions specified boiling dried cherries in ¾ cup water, then pouring ¾ cup rum over the cherries, and lighting the whole thing on fire.  Being English, I know a few things about lighting things on fire.  I’ve had flaming Christmas Pudding every Christmas and New Year’s Day of my life.  The flames are for show.  Why do I want to flame the cherries?  Who’s watching?  I boiled the cherries in the water, added the rum, and set the mixture aside. I know better than to burn up my rum.

The second big problem with the recipe was the ingredient list which called for “5 or 6 very ripe bananas”.  Come again?  How much banana? Small, medium or large bananas?  I had four small and two large bananas, so that’s what I used.  Not good.  The cake was way too moist.  Even with 20 minutes extra baking, it was still too “moist”.   Stop the madness!  Specify in cups or by weight how much mashed banana to use!  For the rebake I did a little research.  One banana should equal 1/3 to ½ cup of mashed pulp, a bit more helpful, but still an issue.  With “5 or 6 very ripe bananas” I was now dealing with 1 ½ cups, 1 2/3 cups, 2 cups, or 3 cups of mashed banana!  The higher quantity being double the lower quantity!  Isn’t this maddening?  Recipes directions should be written to ensure success. If I follow a recipe I should get a good result,  without having to do additional research or recipe reworking. The second Drunken Monkey cake was baked with 2 cups of mashed banana (which was 4 medium bananas).  Still too much banana.  1 2/3 cup of mashed banana is probably just about right.

The next issue with the recipe was to drain the drunken cherries, and to pour the thickened liquid into the bananas.  Once again, how much liquid was I to expect from the cherries.  What if I didn’t have enough, what if I had too much?  The amount of liquid is not so critical in a sauce, but for a cake it makes a big difference.  So with my second rebake, I changed the way of plumping the cherries, and measured the liquid before I added it to the bananas.  By this time I had also run out of rum, so I had to switch to brandy!  Now I know both rum and brandy taste fine!  Start soaking the fruit the night before baking the cake.

The next change I made to the recipe was to substitute chocolate chips for the nuts (think frozen, drunken, chocolate covered bananas!).  I don’t like nuts, so this was a good option for me, but if I were a nut lover, I think nuts would be awesome in this cake, with or without the addition of chocolate.

The picture above reflects all the changes I made.  Now there is one more issue, I had a piece for breakfast…, hic.  Maybe there was a point to burning off the rum…

Drunken Monkey Cake with Chocolate

Adapted from “All Cakes Considered” by Melissa Gray

  • 2 cups dried cherries (recipe did not specify what kind of dried cherries.  I used tart dried cherries)
  • 1 cup dark rum (brandy works, too)
  • 1 2/3 cups mashed very ripe banana (approx. 3 or 4 medium/large bananas)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 ¼ cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup butter (2 sticks)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 4 eggs (at room temperature)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts or chocolate chips
  1. The night before baking this cake, or early the morning of, pour the rum over the dried cherries, stir, and set aside to plump.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  3. Mash the bananas and measure 1 2/3 cup of pulp to use in the cake.
  4. Drain the rum from the cherries.  You should have approx 3 tablespoons of rum.  Stir this drained rum into the mashed bananas and set aside.
  5. Line the bottom of a 10 inch tube pan with parchment paper, then spray with Pam or spread with butter. (There is too much batter for a normal 12-cup bundt pan.  If you use a bundt pan, don’t line with parchment paper, but use Baker’s Joy! or Pam to well grease the pan–and you’ll probably have enough batter left over to also make 4 or 6 muffins.  Adjust baking times accordingly.)
  6. In a medium bowl combine the white and wheat flours, the salt, and the baking soda and set aside.
  7. With an electric mixer Beat the butter for a minute or so.  Then add in the white and brown sugars and beat for an additional 4 minutes.
  8. Add eggs, one at a time, to the butter-sugar mixture, beating well after each addition.
  9. Stir banana mixture into the butter-sugar-egg mixture. Stir in the vanilla.
  10. Slowly add the flour mixture to the banana batter.
  11. Stir the drained cherries, nuts and/or chocolate chips into the batter.
  12. Pour batter into prepared pan and place into a preheated 350 degree oven.  Bake for approx 1 hour or until cake tester comes out clean and sides start to pull away from the sides of the pan.
  13. Cool in pan for ten minutes, then loosen sides and turn out to a wire rack to cool completely.

Makes a lot of cake; depending on how you slice it, you’ll probably have 16-20 slices.  Call the neighbors! Just one warning…, no, two warnings.  It’s probably best not to serve this cake for breakfast! Hic. Hic.  This is definitely not a good cake for children.

Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today, you drunken monkey, you… hic!

22 Jan 2011 Ina Garten’s Sour Cream Coffee Cake

I buy a lot of cookbooks and a lot of cooking magazines.  It’s a big problem.  One time I tried to cook my way through one cookbook (which is how this blog got started) so I would have to stop buying new cookbooks.  I probably made it through half the cookbook, but I kept buying magazines and “Special Interest Publications” anyway.  It’s a big, big problem…

Over time I’ve found that I usually make three recipes from each publication, sometimes more and sometimes less, and then make a judgment about the book.  Not all books pass the three recipe test, and this infuriates me.  WHY publish so-so recipes? Just in case someone might like it?  I want to yell at all cookbook authors, editors, and publishers, “Stop publishing and republishing so-so, mediocre and bad recipes!”   Just because you have a recipe with a cute name or a pretty picture doesn’t mean it has to be published!  Where’s the quality control? If a recipe is so-so, dump it and move onto the next one, or if it has potential, remake it until it’s fabulous.  Stop publishing so-so, mediocre and bad recipes!

I understand differences in tastes, I don’t make recipes I know I won’t like.   I have nothing against publishing hot and spicy recipes.  Many people like those, I’m just not going to try them.  I make recipes that sound good to me, and I expect the recipe to work and I want the recipe to taste good.  No, more than good.  I want the recipe to be fabulous, but I will settle for one step up from mediocre.  One step up from mediocre wouldn’t make me angry.  It would be an improvement! I received a huge cookbook for Christmas, which shall remain nameless.  I made three recipes.  Three bombs. Well, not bombs exactly. The recipes worked, but they weren’t as great as the descriptions made them out to be.  I had taste testers for all these recipes.  All said the food was “OK, but not great” and then started giving suggestions for improvements!  You’d think the author would have done this.  If the recipe is not GREAT, don’t publish it, even if there is a good story or a fabulous picture to go with it. The stories and the pictures are supposed to be backup for a good recipes, not to compensate for them.

I have taste testers for ALL my recipes.  I know I have pretty high standards, so I check my expectations with my friends, family, Dining For Women members, book club members, clay class classmates, quilt group friends, massage night friends, neighbors, workmen… If I don’t like something, I check to see what others think.  Most often they agree with me.  If my testers like something I don’t, I remake it and test it again on myself, and some more testers, to see what I missed.  If I rave about something, but my testers give it so-so marks, I don’t publish the recipe.  I only publish recipes I love, and recipes my taste testers love, too.

I understand differences in preferences. Not everyone likes a particular texture. Not everyone likes the same kind of brownie or spaghetti sauce, I know this. I know not everyone is going to like the same thing, but still, there are recipes published that are just NOT good.  This needs to stop.  It’s no wonder some people think they are horrible cooks.  Chances are they’ve made some attempts over the years, have tried some some fantastic sounding recipes, only to be defeated by them.  It’s not always the cook. There are just too many bad, so-so, and mediocre recipes published.  I want to tell self proclaimed bad cooks, “It’s probably not you, it’s probably the recipe”.  To be a GREAT cook, you have to have a GREAT recipe…, and there are few cookbooks out there you can trust to give you a great recipe on every page.

I’ve  found a “post worthy” recipe in the newest cookbook I bought, “All Cakes Considered” by Melissa Gray.  Melissa works at NPR, and every Monday for a year she brought a cake into the NPR office in New York. If she didn’t get good feedback, she “re-baked” the recipe until it worked! (A woman after my own heart!)  Her cookbook is the compilation of the best cakes from that one year experiment.  The first cake I baked from this book was “The Barefoot Contessa’s Sour Cream Coffee Cake” (the recipe was originally published in “Barefoot Contessa: Parties!“).  Winner, winner, winner! My son likes the two-day old leftovers so much he’s taking them back to his dorm with him, and texting his friends to expect it!

This weekend I am going to bake to more cakes from the book and then test them out on my Dining For Women group.  Stay tuned!  But until then, bake this!  It’s yummy.  Not too sweet. Classic coffee cake. Goes well with coffee.  Very well.  A nice Sunday breakfast or mid-morning snack.  Every one of my taste testers liked it. Liked it a lot. We need more recipes like this to be published and republished.

The Barefoot Contessa’s Sour Cream Coffee Cake

For Cake

  • ¾ cup unsalted butter (1 ½ sticks), at room temperature
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 ¼ cups sour cream
  • 2 ½ cups cake flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoons baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt

For Streusel

  • ¼ cup light brown sugar
  • ½ cup all purpose flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
  • ¾ cup chopped walnuts (optional)

For the Glaze

  • ½ cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons real maple syrup
  1. Preheat oven to 325º.  Grease and flour a 10 inch bundt pan (or spray with Pam for Baking)
  2. Cream butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, 4 or 5 minutes.
  3. Add the eggs to the butter-sugar mixture one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  4. Stir in the sour cream and vanilla.
  5. In another bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  6. With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, stirring until just combined.
  7. Make the streusel…combine the brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, salt and butter in a medium bowl.  Cut in the butter.  Mix until mixture resembles fine crumbs.  Stir in walnuts. Set aside.
  8. Spoon 1 cup of cake batter into bottom of prepared bundt pan.  Sprinkle with half of the streusel mix.  Pour in half of remaining cake batter, top with remaining streusel, and then last half of cake batter.
  9. Bake cake in preheated 325 degree oven for 50-60 minutes.
  10. Let cake cool in pan for 5 minutes, then invert onto a wire rack to cool.  Let cake cool for at least 30 minutes, and as long as overnight.
  11. In a small bowl stir the maple syrup and powdered sugar together with a fork.
  12. Drizzle glaze over top of cake.
  13. Serve.  You’ll get about 16 slices of cake.

Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today!  My apologies for being a bit hot winded before I got to the recipe but I do feel strongly about NOT passing on bad, so-so, or mediocre recipes. I promise only to send you GREAT recipes! Make them! Then DEFINITELY tell me what you think!

29 Oct 2010 Rum-Pum Pumpkin Bundt Cake

It’s Fall!  The goal is to eat a pumpkin rich food every day, right?  Today, Rum-Pum Pumpkin Cake!  I’ve been making this cake since I cut the recipe out of a newspaper in the nineteen-eighties.  The cake is moist, pumpkin rich, studded with 2 cups of dried fruit and nuts, with a splash o’ rum, a hearty heap o’ cinnamon and topped with an orange-cinnamon glaze.  What’s not to like?

Bundt cakes serve a lot of people, so invite the neighbors over for coffee and cake.  It’s a fun thing to do, and there’s no stress if you do it on-the-spur-of-the-moment.  While the cake is baking, send this email,  “Hi Neighbors, I’ve baked a cake, and we can’t eat it all ourselves.  Soooo, we’d like to invite you to drop by our house for coffee and a slice of pumpkin cake between 3 and 4 PM this afternoon.  Stay for 10 minutes, or stay for 30…just come on by! Come as you are, of course. We’ll see you soon.”  See how easy that is?  Now, no one would blame you if you wanted to close the blinds, encircle the cake, and eat it all yourself…the choice is yours!

Rum-Pum Pumpkin Cake

1 15 oz. can pumpkin puree
1 ½ cup vegetable oil OR 3/4 cup applesauce plus 3/4 cup  veg. oil
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
2 tablespoons dark rum (The rum flavor is not very pronounced.  If you want a stronger rum flavor, use rum extract for part of the rum)
3 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons cinnamon (yes, 2 tablespoons–it works, and is not overpowering)
2 teaspoons grated orange peel (optional)
2 cups dried fruit (Last time I used 1 cup dark raisins, 1/2 cup cherries, and 1/2 cup apricots. Use any dried fruit that appeals to you, or that you have on hand.  I think golden raisins and snipped apricots are especially good. Dried cranberries are also good)
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (I substitute 1 cup diced chopped and peeled Granny Smith apple)

Preheat oven to 350º.  Spray a 10-inch bundt pan with a baking spray or butter and flour.

Mix pumpkin, oil, applesauce and sugar together with an electric mixer.

Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition.  Stir in rum.

In another bowl whisk together flour, cinnamon, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and optional grated orange peel.

In a third bowl combine the dried fruit, and the nuts or chopped apple.  Sprinkle 1 tablespoonful of the flour mixture over the dried fruit mixture and stir to combine.  Set aside.

Add remaining flour mixture to pumpkin mixture and beat well.

Stir flour dusted dried fruit and nuts/chopped apple into pumpkin-flour mixture.

Pour batter into prepared bundt pan and bake in preheated 350 degree oven for approx. 1 hour.  (Original recipe said 1 hour and 25 minutes, but I have never had to cook the cake for that long.

Remove cake from oven when done, cool for 3 – 5 minutes, then turn out to a baking rack to cool completely.

When cool, drizzle with cinnamon-orange glaze.

Cinnamon-Orange Glaze

1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon orange extract OR grated rind of one orange
2 tablespoons dark rum

Beat all ingredients together until smooth.  Drizzle over cooled cake.

Now invite some friends over (or close the blinds).  Enjoy your impromptu party to welcome Fall! Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today.

19 Feb 2010 Lemon Bundt Cake
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It’s the start of citrus season here in sunny California. Let’s all celebrate with a homey, yummy Lemon Bundt Cake! I picked three lemons off my neighbor’s tree (which I have spent 20 years training to grow over my fence) to make this cake. The cake is barely even yellow but it tastes quite lemony and has a softly dense texture. Look at the short list of ingredients. All good stuff! This is the sort of cake that has your family thinking, “Dang, no one makes cakes like Mom (or Dad)”. I found this recipe in the book, “Under the Tuscan Sun” by Frances Mayes, so I have probably been making this cake since 1998 or 1999…, with no end it sight! This is one of my favorite Bundt cakes.

Lemon Bundt Cake

For Cake
2 cups sugar
1 cup softened butter
3 eggs
3 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup buttermilk (or milk, or cream, sour soured milk or cream)
3 T freshly squeezed lemon juice (don’t use that stuff from the plastic lemon!)
4 tsp grated lemon zest (I use a microplane)

For Frosting

1/4 cup softened butter
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
3 T. lemon juice

grated zest of one lemon (optional)

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Prepare a 12-cup Bundt pan for baking. (Pam for Baking is great, so is using the wrappers from the butter cubes and then adding a small sprinkle of flour). Cream butter and sugar, beating until light and creamy, about 5 minutes total. Beat in eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. In another bowl combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Add 1/3 of the flour mixture to the butter mixture, then add 1/2 of the buttermilk, then 1/3 of the flour mixture, then 1/2 of the buttermilk, then 1/3 of the flour, beating after each addition. Add lemon juice and the grated zest to the cake batter, stir just to combine. Pour mixture into a prepared Bundt pan. Bake in preheated 300 degree oven for 50 – 70 minutes (original recipe said 50 minutes, but I always have to bake mine for 60-70 minutes). Remove cake from oven and let cool on a rack for a few minutes. Then invert cake and let cool completely on rack. When cake has cooled combine softened butter, powdered sugar, lemon juice, and optional zest. Casually glop the frosting on top of the cake, spreading to allow glaze to drip attractively down the sides. If desired, garnish cake top with curls of lemon rind.

Invite some friends over.  Have a nice little chat.  This cake is meant for casual sharing. Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today.  I’ll put the kettle on in preparation for our next visit.