Swedish Visiting Cake

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This is a simple yet delicious cake that tastes like almond paste without actually using any.  I recommend baking it in a cast-iron skillet, because it gives the cake deliciously crispy edges.  If you don’t have a 9″ skillet, you can use a 10″ skillet and check the cake after  15-20 minutes.

 

Swedish Visiting Cake
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours

Yield: 8 servings

  • 3/4-1 cup sugar (depending on how sweet you want it)
  • Grated zest of one lemon
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • About 1/4 cup sliced almonds (blanched or not)

 

  1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350°F.  Butter a 9″ seasoned cast-iron skillet, round cake pan, or even a pie tin.
  2. In a medium bowl, add the lemon zest to the sugar.  Use your fingers to rub the zest into the sugar, until the sugar is moist and fragrant.  The mixture will resemble damp sand.
  3. Add the eggs, one at a time, whisking to combine.
  4. Add the salt and extracts and whisk to combine.
  5. Stir in the flour using a rubber spatula.
  6. Fold in the melted butter.
  7. Pour batter into your prepared pan and smooth top with rubber spatula.
  8. Sprinkle almonds over the top of the batter.  If you’re using a cake or pie pan, place pan on a baking sheet.
  9. Bake for 25-30 minutes until it is golden and a little crisp on the outside.  The inside will remain moist and even a little damp.
  10. Remove skillet from oven and let cake cool for 5 minutes, then run a thin knife around the sides and bottom of the cake to loosen it.  Serve the cake, warm or cooled, directly from the skillet or turned out onto a serving plate.
  11. The cake keeps well.  Wrap it well and store at room temperature for 5 days or in the freezer for 2 months.

 

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Devil’s Food Cake

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This recipe makes a deep, rich chocolate cake that is perfect for special occasions or even just those days when you feel like treating yourself.

 

Devil’s Food Cake
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours

Yield: 12 servings

  • 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar OR 3/4 cup white sugar+dollop molasses
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk OR milk, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  • 4 ounces semisweet or milk chocolate, finely chopped, or 2/3 cup store-bought mini chocolate chips (optional)
  • Chocolate frosting

 

  1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350ºF.  Butter two 8-x-2-inch round cake pans, dust the insides with flour, tap out the excess and line the bottoms with parchment or wax paper.  Put the pans on a baking sheet.
  2. Sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  This is particularly important if your cocoa powder has clumped.
  3. Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter on medium speed until soft and creamy.
  4. Add the sugar and continue to beat for another 3 minutes.
  5. Add the eggs one by one, beating for 1 minute after each addition.
  6. Beat in the vanilla; don’t be concerned if the mixture looks curdled.
  7. Reduce the mixer speed to low and mix in the melted chocolate.
  8. When it is fully incorporated, add the dry ingredients alternately with the buttermilk OR milk, adding the dry ingredients in 3 additions and the (butter)milk in 2 (begin and end with the dry ingredients); scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed and mix only until the ingredients disappear into the batter. At this point, the batter will be thick, like frosting.
  9. Still working on low speed, mix in the boiling water, which will thin the batter considerably.
  10. Switch to a rubber spatula, scrape down the bowl, and stir in the chopped chocolate, if using.
  11. Divide the batter evenly between the two pans and smooth the tops with the rubber spatula.
  12. Bake for 25-30 minutes, rotating the pans at the midway point. When fully baked, the cakes will be springy to the touch and a thin knife inserted into the centers will come out clean. Don’t worry if the tops have a few small cracks.
  13. Transfer the cake pans to a rack and cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes, unmold them and peel off the paper liners. Invert and cool to room temperature right side up. (The cooled cake layers can be wrapped airtight and stored at room temperature overnight or frozen for up to 2 months.)
  14. Prepare the chocolate frosting while the cake cools.
  15. When you are ready to fill and frost the cake, inspect the layers. If the cakes have crowned, use a long serrated knife and a gentle sawing motion to even them. (Or leave them as is, if you’re not picky.)
  16. Fill and frost the cake.  Store any leftovers in the refrigerator.

Taiwanese Pineapple Cakes

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A family friend took a class on baking Chinese desserts and afterwards taught me how to make pineapple cakes.  These are as delicious as the ones you can buy in Taiwan – and even better, you can eat them fresh from the oven!

Baking notes:

  • You will need 20 (2″ x 2″) square molds, or molds of a similar size
  • You can find the pineapple paste in specialized Chinese grocery stores

 

Taiwanese Pineapple Cakes
Chinese cooking class

Yield: 20 pineapple cakes

For crust:

  • 5 oz unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 5 tablespoons instant milk powder
  • 6 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • 1 egg yolk (if you triple the recipe, put in entire egg)
  • 2 cups cake flour OR 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour+1/4 cup corn starch

For filling:

  • 5 oz unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 14 oz pineapple paste

 

  1. Sift together instant milk powder and powdered sugar.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, cream together 5.5 oz butter, instant milk powder, powdered sugar, and yolk on low speed.
  3. Add cake flour and knead by hand until it forms an evenly mixed ball of dough. It might be a little crumbly.
  4. Refrigerate in a plastic bag for 30 minutes.
  5. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Spread 20 2″ x 2″ square molds evenly across a large baking sheet.  You can line the sheet with aluminum foil for ease of cleaning.
  6. Using hands, mix together 0.5 oz butter and pineapple. Stir until evenly mixed, then divide into 20 equal pieces, gently pressing them together into solid little mounds.  It’s easiest to divide them by weight in units of grams.
  7. Remove dough from refrigerator and divide into 20 equal pieces. It is easiest to divide them by weight in units of grams.  Cover loosely with plastic wrap to prevent dough from drying out.
  8. Roll a piece of dough into a ball, and flatten it to a rough circle 3 inches in diameter between your palms.
  9. Place a piece of pineapple filling in the center of the dough circle and gently pinch the edges of the dough together, removing excess dough. Save it to patch up any tears in the pineapple cake.
  10. Roll into a smooth ball between your palms.
  11. Place each ball into a mold and press down gently with the palm of your hand until the pineapple cake fills the corners of the mold. They will not expand much while baking.
  12. Repeat with remaining dough and filling.
  13. Bake for 10 minutes, remove from oven, and flip over molds using two metal spatulas.
  14. Bake 10 more minutes with the tray rotated from its previous orientation, until pineapple cakes are light golden brown on top.
  15. Cool pineapple cakes on baking sheet until molds are cool enough to touch.
  16. Gently remove pineapple cakes from molds. Finish cooling on baking sheet or on wire rack.

Chinese Almond Cookies

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Chinese-style almond cookies are popular around Chinese New Year but also throughout the year.  You can find them in Asian grocery stores and bakeries — or make them yourself so they’re extra fresh.

Baking note:

  • The fat that you use in this cookie makes a big difference, in both the flavor and the texture. While many people seem to have an aversion to lard, in this cookie it really is a good choice. Using all shortening, rather than lard, makes a crisp/crumbly cookie similar to a lard cookie, but without its classic flavor.  Using half butter and half vegetable shortening makes a cookie that’s less “sandy” in texture, but still tender and a bit crunchy. Using all butter changes the flavor and texture, but makes a very tasty cookie — just not exactly a Chinese almond cookie.

 

Chinese Almond Cookies
From The King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion

Yield: 24-30 cookies

 

  • 2 3/4 cups (11 1/2 oz) all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup (7 oz) sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup lard OR vegetable shortening OR cold unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons almond extract
  • 1 large egg + 1 large egg yolk
  • 1/4 cup whole blanched almonds (optional)

 

 

  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment, for easy cleanup.  If you don’t have parchment, don’t grease the pans; it’s unnecessary.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, salt, and baking soda.
  3. Cut the cold butter, lard, vegetable shortening or whatever combination you choose to use into cubes, then cut the cubes into the dry ingredients until the mixture is evenly crumbly.
  4. In a separate small bowl, stir together vanilla and almond extracts, plus the egg and yolk.
  5. Sprinkle egg mixture over flour mixture, then stir together until dough is cohesive when squeezed.
  6. Roll the dough into 1 1/2″ balls.
  7. Place them on the prepared baking sheets, spacing them 2-3″ apart.
  8. Flatten the balls to about 1/2″ thick.  If desired, press an almond into the center of each cookie.
  9. Bake the cookies for 16-18 minutes, until they feel set (a fingerprint will remain if pressed in the center).  Halfway through, rotate the baking sheets back to front and top to bottom.  Check them after 16 minutes, because if you bake the cookies until they’re totally set (your fingerprint will spring back), they’ll be crispy to the point of rock-hard.
  10. Remove the cookies from the oven, and cool on rack.

 

 

Swedish Princess Cake

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I first tried Swedish princess cake on a visit to Lund, Sweden, several years ago and fell in love with it.  It’s definitely a pretty involved recipe (and almost certainly won’t look perfect the first couple times you try), so you might want to make it with a friend, but it’s well worth the effort!

Original recipe

 

Swedish Princess Cake
Adapted from Global Table Adventure

Yield: Tall 8″ cake

For the pastry cream:
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 vanilla bean, split and scraped OR 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1/3 cup cornstarch
For the cake:
  • 2 cups cake flour OR 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour+1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup warm water
For the filling and topping:
  • 1/2 cup seedless raspberry jam
  • 3 cups heavy cream, whipped stiff (sweetened as desired)
  • 21 oz  (3 packages) marzipan (although it’s expensive and you can get away with 14 oz)
  • green food coloring (preferably gel colors), optional
  • red food coloring (preferably gel colors), optional
  • powdered sugar, for dusting

 

Prepare the pastry cream:
  1. In a saucepan, heat up milk with vanilla bean scrapings OR extract and sugar.
  2. Meanwhile, whisk together yolks and cornstarch in a mixing bowl.
  3. When milk is hot, whisk a little at a time into the yolk mixture, taking care not to curdle it.
  4. Strain mixture back into saucepan, return to stove, and cook until thickened, whisking often so that it doesn’t clump up or stick.
  5. Set aside custard until cooled to room temperature.  (If you’re impatient, you can cover it in plastic wrap and put it in the freezer, checking frequently to make sure it doesn’t freeze.)
Prepare the cake:
  1. Preheat oven to 350ºF.  Grease and flour an 8″ cake pan.  Insert a circle of parchment paper in the bottom.
  2. In a mixing bowl, whisk together flour and baking powder.
  3. In a stand mixer, whip eggs with sugar on high speed until fluffy and pale yellow.
  4. Stream in water, then fold flour mixture into egg mixture.
  5. Pour into prepared cake pan and bake 40-45 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
  6. Let cool completely.
Color the marzipan (optional):
  1. If using food coloring, make an ounce or two of the marzipan pink, for the rose(s).
  2. Next, work on the green.  The best way to do this is to mix the green into a handful of marzipan until smooth.  Make it darker than you need (and save a pinch of this dark green for leaves).  Then work this dark green into the remaining marzipan and work until smooth (break it apart, mash it, break it apart, mash it, and so on until the color is even).
  3. If not using food coloring, just reserve enough marzipan to make a few roses and leaves.
Roll out the marzipan:
  1. Once the (green) marzipan is really warm from being worked with your hands, roll it out.  Place between two sheets of parchment paper and roll out in a circle, until 2 mm thick and about 16-17″ wide (although you might want to measure your cake after you assemble it, with a tape measure, just in case you need more or less).
  2. Remove the parchment paper at the very end and roll out marzipan to get rid of any lines the parchment paper may have pressed into the marzipan.
  3. Keep under tightly pressed parchment or saran until needed (so it doesn’t dry out).
Assemble the cake:
  1. Using a long, serrated knife, slice cake into three even layers.  If you want to be really precise, you can measure up from the bottom of the cake and put toothpicks at the same height all around to guide your knife.  (I didn’t.)
  2. Place one layer onto a serving plate and top with raspberry jam and a scoop of whipped cream.  Keep jam away from the edge of the cake to prevent it from oozing out once you press the layers together.
  3. Add second cake layer.  Top with vanilla custard, and then a mini-mountain of whipped cream.  Use your spatula to smooth it into an even mound.
  4. Add final cake layer, pressing down with your hands on the edges to encourage it to curve.  (The Swedes don’t use this third layer of cake, but it helps achieve the dome shape.) 
  5. Use the last bit of whipped cream to cover the entire cake.
  6. Drape with (green) marzipan and smooth it out as best you can.  You should rotate and smooth, rotate and smooth.  If you still end up with pleats near the bottom of the cake, don’t worry about it; you can hide them with a ribbon.  You can dust your hands with powdered sugar to keep the marzipan from sticking.
  7. Make rose(s) and leaves from the reserved marzipan and decorate cake.

Vanilla Chiffon Cake

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Here is a fancy vanilla chiffon cake that you can bring to birthday parties.

 

Vanilla Chiffon Cake
Adapted from a cooking class

Yield: 9″ cake

For cake:

  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 2 tablespoons + 4 tablespoons sugar, divided
  • 1/2 cup cake flour
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 7 teaspoons water
  • 7 teaspoons flavorless oil, such as canola
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar

For filling and topping:

  • 1 (3-oz) package Jello strawberry gelatin
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons powdered sugar

 

  1. Separate eggs when cold and bring them to room temperature.
  2. Preheat oven to 350ºF.  Set aside a 9″ springform pan.  Do NOT grease it!
  3. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together egg yolks and 2 tablespoons sugar.
  4. Add cake flour, corn starch, baking powder, salt, water, oil, and vanilla extract.  Whisk until smooth.
  5. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, beat eggs whites and cream of tartar until foamy.
  6. Add 4 tablespoons sugar, one tablespoon at a time, and continue to beat until egg whites form soft peaks.
  7. Carefully stir a large scoop of whipped egg whites into egg yolk mixture to lighten it.
  8. Add the remaining egg whites in 3 additions.  Gently fold into the batter using a large wire whisk, making sure to scrape down the bottom of the bowl frequently.
  9. Pour batter into pan and gently smooth top with a rubber spatula.
  10. Bake 25-30 minutes without opening the oven door.  The cake is done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, or when the surface springs back immediately after pressing on it with a finger.
  11. As soon as you remove cake from oven, cool cake completely upside down on a wire rack.  This step is important, because otherwise the cake will sink.
  12. While cake is cooling, line a 9″ baking pan with plastic wrap and prepare Jello according to instructions on the package.  Pour Jello into pan to a thickness of 1/4 inch and let set in the refrigerator.  Let the extra Jello set as well, because you can crumble it to decorate the top of the cake.
  13. In a large bowl, beat heavy cream and powdered sugar until it forms soft peaks.  The frosting will look smoother if the whipped cream is slightly under-beaten.
  14. When cake is completely cool, run a thin knife around the sides and underneath the cake to loosen it from the pan.
  15. Cut the cake into 2 layers, making the bottom one slightly thicker because the weight of the Jello will compress it.
  16. Place the bottom layer into the pan with Jello, flip the pan over, and peel off the plastic wrap.
  17. Fill and frost cake with whipped cream on a serving platter.  Break up leftover Jello and decorate the top.

Carrot Cake with Crystallized Ginger

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The base recipe for this carrot cake comes from a friend’s mom, who clipped it from Bon Appetit about 40 years ago.  Drawing inspiration from Betty Crocker, I added chopped crystallized ginger; I also paired it with candied orange.  Enjoy!

 

Carrot Cake with Crystallized Ginger
Adapted from Bon Appetit

Yield: 9″ x 4″ loaf cake

For the cake:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 cup flavorless vegetable oil (such as canola)
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 3 cups shredded carrots
  • 1 cup pecans OR walnuts, chopped
  • 1/4 cup crystallized ginger, chopped

For the frosting:

  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1-3 1/2 cups powdered sugar (depending on how sweet you want it)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla

For the topping:

 

  1. Preheat oven to 350ºF.  Grease 9″ x 4″ loaf pan.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, sift or whisk dry ingredients together.
  3. Add oil, eggs, carrots, nuts, and ginger.  Mix well with a wooden spoon.
  4. Pour batter into pan and bake 1 hour 5 minutes to 1 hour 20 minutes, or until the center is done.
  5. Cool completely.  While cake is cooling, prepare 1 candied orange.
  6. In a clean mixing bowl, beat together cream cheese and butter until fluffy.
  7. Beat in sugar and vanilla.
  8. Cut cake into 3 layers.  Place bottom layer on a serving platter and spread with 1/3 of the frosting.  Cover with the middle layer of the cake.  Spread with 1/3 of the frosting and arrange a layer of candied orange slices on it.  Repeat with the final layer of cake.  (You might have some candied orange slices left over, but they taste good on their own anyway.)