Cooking with Alison

Archive for the ‘Cakes’ Category

Cranberry and Almond Cake (2 variations)

In Cakes on January 19, 2011 at am

I was still craving cranberries after the holidays, so I did more baking while I could still get them fresh.  This cake looks beautiful and has a light flavour.  It is moist, dense, and subtly sweet with delicious bursts of juicy and tart cranberries.  I’ve made this two ways by making a tiny adjustment.  The first time I made this, I used amaretto like the original recipe suggested.  Personally, I don’t like artificial almond flavouring, so it was a bit overpowering for me.  But if you like an almond flavoured cake, then use the amaretto because it provides a nicer flavour than almond extract would.  If you’re like me, and prefer a simple pound cake base, use the milk instead.

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Best Pineapple Cake Recipe (and a little bit of food psychology)

In Cakes on October 4, 2010 at am

I tried pineapple and walnut cake for the first time recently and this experience turned out to be a neat example of food psychology.  I find that pineapple cake has a distinct flavour and texture that is noticeably different from that of a standard cake.  So when most people try it for the first time, they are thrown off when it doesn’t taste the way they were subconsciously expecting it to.  This mismatch results in a knee-jerk negative perception of the food at hand.  It took me two bites to decide whether or not I liked it, and only one more bite to fall in love with it  🙂  I made it for my mom’s birthday the next week.  My dad, Ed’s family, and my housemate really enjoyed the cake.  But it was funny to watch my mom, Ed, and Krystal as they took their first bites.  I could see from their faces that they had the same initial reaction that I had.  My sister didn’t take another bite because she decided that she didn’t like it.  However, it didn’t take long for my mom to decide that she liked it.  Then, after encouraging Ed to try more of it, he quickly became a big fan too  🙂  If you give it a chance, I think you are going to love the moistness and density of this simple and fresh cake.

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Best Casual Chocolate Cake Recipe (using mayonnaise)

In Cakes on August 10, 2010 at pm

I’ve been testing chocolate cake recipes for a while now.  Although they were all good, none of them were food blog worthy.  I never thought that the first chocolate cake recipe deserving of a post would be the easiest chocolate cake recipe I’ve ever tried.

Let me count the ways I love this recipe:

The #1 reason:  I love the texture of this cake.  It’s moist and soft, with a great density and perfect crumb tightness (in my opinion).  And it doesn’t use buttermilk!  [I don’t like buttermilk.]

2.  It’s a ridiculously simple and easy recipe.  You really don’t need to use a mixer for the cake batter (you’ll need a mixer if you’re making your frosting from scratch, though).  Also, this cake doesn’t require butter, so you don’t have to worry about pre-softening butter, which means you could make this at the drop of a hat.

3.  This is the perfect casual chocolate cake.  It’s a great weeknight dessert.  This recipe isn’t about making a pretty-looking cake (although you could if you wanted to).  So if you’re just making this for your family (or if you’re like me and you’re just making it for yourself), it’s perfect because it only makes an 8 in x 8 in square cake in a single layer.  It requires minimal effort because you don’t have to remove the cake from the pan before serving, you don’t have to make a layer cake, and you frost only the top of the cake, still in the pan.  [Fewer dishes to wash.]

4.  I like the story behind this recipe.  See Cookie Madness’s blog for the full story about how she found this recipe hand written on an index card in her mom’s binder of recipe clippings.

5.  For almost a decade now, I’ve known that one of the secrets to achieving a beautifully textured cake is to add mayonnaise.  The cake recipes [containing mayonnaise] that I’ve seen simply added it to a cake mix or a standard cake recipe.  This never seemed appealing to me, because I thought it would make the cake too oily.  So I never tried it.  But when I noticed that mayonnaise is a key ingredient in this recipe (substituting for your typical butter or vegetable oil), I was finally ready [and very excited] to test this mayonnaise-in-cake theory.  It really does work.  The cake was not oily at all and you would never know there was mayonnaise in it.

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Favourite Funnel Cake Recipe

In Cakes, Other Desserts on May 8, 2010 at pm

For years, I bought the season pass for Canada’s Paramount Wonderland just so I could eat the funnel cake there.  I would eat two by myself each time I went.  I’ve tried funnel cakes elsewhere, but no one does it like they do at Wonderland.  After trying 4 different recipes, this version is my favourite.  It is best served with icing sugar, soft serve frozen yogurt (the kind you get at McDonald’s) and strawberry sauce, although just a plain funnel cake with icing sugar is good too.

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Favourite Cheesecake Recipe

In Cakes on January 22, 2010 at pm

Ed and his family love cheesecake so I made him one for his birthday in January 2010.  I like cheesecake too, but only in small amounts because I find it always sits heavily in my stomach.  So you can imagine how happy I was when I found a cheesecake recipe that’s light and rich without the heaviness.  I went through 3 other recipes before I fell in love with this one.   I especially like that you can get a smooth top on the cheesecake without using a waterbath.  If you prefer New York style cheesecake (ie. a dense cheesecake, like Ed does, simply omit the sour cream).  Also, note that this recipe uses a shortbread crust as opposed to the more commonly used graham cracker crust.  I prefer the shortbread where Ed prefers the graham.  I tried both and found that the graham cracker crust burnt more easily and was more likely to get soggy.

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Favourite Carrot Cake Recipe

In Cakes, Cupcakes on January 21, 2010 at am

My mother really likes carrot cake so I tried a few different recipes.  Most of them were too dense or not moist enough or worse, too moist.  I was beginning to lose my appeal for carrot cake until I tried the Silver Palate Cookbook carrot cake recipe.  In my opinion, it’s a really good balance of sweet, dense, moist and depth of flavour.  The frosting is good too.  Time saving tip:  Make a large batch of pureed carrots and freeze 1 1/3 cup portions for future batches of carrot cake or muffins.

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No Bake Strawberry Torte (or Trifle)

In Cakes on January 20, 2010 at pm

I always found baking much more difficult than cooking.  So I eased my way into baking by first making no-bake desserts like this strawberry torte.  Perfect in the summer, this dessert tastes wonderful and contrary to what my first attempt may have you believe, it can look beautiful too.  I had trouble finding the proper lady fingers so I settled on these large, cakey, irregularly shaped ones.  Although they made for an ugly cake (photo below), they tasted very very good and lended the perfect texture.  I also used too much strawberry sauce, as you can tell from the leakage  😉  But like I said, it was delicious.  I’ve made this several times now and people always love it.

I used the leftovers for a strawberry trifle.  If you adjust the amounts accordingly, this recipe makes the best trifle.  Photo below.

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Gumpaste Recipe

In Cake Decorating, Cakes, Cookie Decorating, Cookies, Cupcakes on January 18, 2010 at pm

Gumpaste is used for decorating cakes, cookies, and cupcakes and is actually very easy and cost efficient to make.  I think of it as an edible cake decorating play-doh.  It holds up better than fondant so I use it for decorations that need more structure.  Also, unlike fondant, once gumpaste decorations dry out, you can keep them forever.  I buy tylose online and use the recipe provided by Nicholas Lodge’s isac (international sugar art collection).

Please note that you need a stand mixer to make gumpaste (although I wonder if a food processor would work… let me know how it works out if you try it).  The first time I made gumpaste, I broke my handheld mixer.  I was So Happy when it happened because then I knew that I could finally justify buying myself a Kitchenaid stand mixer.  You see, I try to only purchase kitchen stuff that I absolutely need and I try to be resourceful with my already versatile tools.  Even while sticking to these strict rules, I’ve still managed to accumulate a Lot of kitchen stuff, haha.  In October 2009, I bought the Kitchenaid Professional HD model from Costco for $275 (on sale).  I chose the stainless steel colour because it reminded me of an industrial kitchen.  I absolutely adore it and use it all the time.

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Favourite Yellow Cake Recipe

In Cakes on January 16, 2010 at am

When I took a cake decorating course (link here), homework included baking a cake for each class.  So I used this as an opportunity to search for my favourite yellow cake recipe.  I tested three cake recipes that were already rated “the best”, and the one I liked the most was Restaurant Eve’s Cake, posted in The Washington Post on April 23, 2006.  I especially like it because it uses melted butter which means you don’t have to worry about remembering to soften the butter ahead of time.  Also, you don’t have to worry about overbeating this batter as you actually want to incorporate air into this one.  For cupcakes, however, I prefer the texture of this yellow cake recipe here.

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