Pecan Pie Bundt Cake

Pecan Pie Bundt CakeI acquired a love of Pecan Pie at a very young age.  I’m sure my first encounter must have been a slice following one of my family’s Thanksgiving meals.  My grandmother was a fierce pie baker and is likely the person responsible for my first encounter.  Over the years, I’ve eaten Pecan Pie in every possible form, be it a tart, tassie, cookie, or bar,  every form except cake.  When I happened upon this recipe in the Fall issue of Bake, I pondered whether a cake could ever truly mimic the flavors we equate with pecan pie.  I’ll be honest, I was skeptical.  The only way to know for sure was to give the recipe a try.  Well, let me just say, the folks over at Bake From Scratch knocked it out of the park with this one.  I seriously don’t know if I will ever bake a pecan pie again, it was that delicious, and easy.  No crust required!
Pecan Pie Bundt Cake RecipePecan Pie Bundt Cake Recipe

 

Adapted from Bake From Scratch, Fall, 2016




Zucchini, Lemon & Poppyseed Cake with Lemon Frosting

Zucchini, Lemon & Poppyseed CakeAs many of you have already headed full-force into Pumpkin Season, some of us (Moi), have one foot still firmly planted in the last few days of summer.  Technically, summer doesn’t end until next Wednesday.  And, given that the temps (I’m currently in KY) are well into the 80’s, frankly, it feels more like summer than Fall.  So, for anyone with me on eeking out the last few days of summer, and for any of you who may still be harvesting the end of your zucchini crop, I have a cake for you!  Honestly, this is a year-round cake.  Zucchini is available pretty much all year long, and is a very accessible vegetable.
Zucchini, Lemon & Poppyseed Cake RecipeIf you love Lemon Poppy Seed cake just as much as Carrot Cake, or visa versa, you are going to love this cake.  It is a perfect hybrid of two classics.   Grated zucchini steps in for the carrot that a traditional carrot cake relies on for moisture.  However, the  ample amount of grated lemon zest and nutty poppy seeds in the recipe are indicators that this recipe leans a little more toward a lemon poppy seed cake than carrot.  This cake takes two classics, spins them together, cuts them by half, and voilà, a bright, tangy, and moist single-layer cake is born.
Zucchini, Lemon & Poppyseed Cake RecipeWhat I like most about this cake, besides the bright lemony flavor it exudes, is that the recipe makes a single layer cake.  I like the informality and casualness of single layer cakes.  One can only eat so much cake ;-), even when it is a really delicious cake.  So, unless you are serving a large group, this recipe is perfectly sized at 8 to 10 servings.
Zucchini, Lemon & Poppyseed Cake RecipeZucchini, Lemon & Poppyseed Cake RecipeZucchini, Lemon & Poppyseed Cake Recipe(Just had to share with all of you something my daughter just said to me.  While reading my post, she suddenly stopped and said, ‘wait, that cake had zucchini in it???’  I had to laugh.  She had eaten several slices and never had a clue.  So for any zucchini-adversed eaters out there, you won’t even know it’s in there.)
Zucchini, Lemon & Poppyseed Cake Recipe

 

 

 

 




Wellesley Fudge Cake Re-Visited

Wellesley Fudge Cake RecipeI have been so absent here on the blog, and my apologies to all.  Life has been crazy busy, and with so many good things happening.  One very exciting piece of news will have to wait for an upcoming post (no, I wasn’t offered a cookbook deal) but for now I will share the most exciting thing happening at the moment.

I have been flying to Kentucky and New York a lot lately –  Kentucky (which has to do with my soon to be shared exciting news), and New York to visit my Girl.  The most exciting of those trips was to attend J’s graduation from Grad School.  She did it!  She’s completed what she set out to do in the Big Apple, receiving her masters in Art Therapy a few weeks ago.  If you have followed along here at Sifting Focus from the beginning, you will remember that I began this blog as a way to fill the empty-nest blues I was suffering when she left for college nearly seven years ago.  I had them BAD!  On the other side of that journey now, I am happy to report that I survived, as did she, and as I type these words, I sit among stacks of boxes in her NYC apartment awaiting the movers to return their contents to our home in LA.  My heart is jumping for joy!  My Girl is coming home!!
Wellesley Fudge Cake II recipeSo, on now to the real reason for this post.  Over two years ago I posted a recipe for Wellesley Fudge Cake.  That recipe has stirred up as much controversy on my blog as the original cake did at Wellesley College way back when.  (Read the original post and you will understand what I am am referring to.)  Since originally posting this recipe, there have been a considerable amount of  comments made by readers who attempted baking this cake.  Many of the comments have been positive, even glowing at times.  Unfortunately, I have received too many comments from readers who have struggled, enough so that I decided to re-test the recipe.  I followed my directions exactly as originally posted, except I used round cake pans, since so many readers asked if the cake would work in round pans.  As you can see from the photos of my cake, it turned out beautifully once again.  So, what was happening that it wasn’t working well for a number of others?  Although some found fault with the cake part of the recipe, most of the failures had to do with the frosting.  Since I believe this is a cake worth making (especially that fudgy frosting), I will share some hints to success for anyone who wants to give this cake a go.

Cake:
To ensure that the cake layers release from the pans, in addition to greasing and flouring the pans, line each with a square or round of parchment paper.

To achieve the deep dark brown color and rich chocolate flavor intended for this cake, use a high quality brand of cocoa, such as Valrhona or Callebaut.  Using a store bought brand is fine, you just won’t achieve the same deep dark brown color of cake as the one in my photos.

Frosting:
Biggest hint!  You cannot rush this frosting!!

Thoroughly, and I mean thoroughly, sift together the confectioners sugar and cocoa.

When initially heating the butter, brown sugar, salt, and 1/2 cup half and half over medium-low heat, stir slowly and very frequently.  Stirring constantly is fine also.

Once the butter and brown sugar mixture has thickened, and before transferring it to a large bowl, slightly cool a couple drops of the mixture and rub it between two fingers.  If it feels gritty at all, continue to cook the mixture and test again until no grittiness remains.

When adding the confectioners sugar and cocoa to the other ingredients, add it in small amounts and stir it in thoroughly before adding more.

And one more thing!  This cake truly benefits with a day’s rest before serving.  The decadent frosting begins to seep into the cake layers, adding just the right amount of moisture and additional chocolate flavor.
Wellesley Fudge Cake Recipe




Pear Apricot and Cherry Galette

Pear Apricot and Cherry GaletteWith the rush rush and hurry up pace that is my life most days, I find myself especially appreciative when I awake to find an empty calendar block staring back at me from my computer.  Today was one such day.  I stayed in jammies, and did what I do most days when I find I have no errands to run, chores to perform, or appointments to keep.  I baked.

With a well stocked pantry and a bowl of perfectly ripe pears, I revisited  a recipe I dog-earred earlier this month while doing research for Pi Day.  I chose this savory tart to post for Pi Day but I knew I would return to this galette recipe at another time.  There was no resisting a flaky, buttery crust cradling  juicy pears and sweet-tart apricots.
Pear Apricot and Cherry Galette RecipeThis galette was harvested from the book Pie*ography, which is a treasury of 42 varying recipes, inspired by 39 different women, each sharing their ‘pie story’ and a favorite recipe. One such story is shared by Rebecca Pelfrey.  Just as Rebecca’s oldest daughter was entering kindergarten, she decided to trade in her career as an art director for life on a farm.  As a farmer raising lambs, hogs, chickens, turkeys and more,  she began to cook and bake more from scratch.  Rebecca wanted to perfect her pie baking skills, believing that “a good farm woman should not be intimidated by mere pie”.   This  galette is her riff on a recipe she found in Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home.  I have left my own imprint by further adapting it to suit my tastes and ingredients on hand.
Pear Apricot and Cherry Galette Recipe 

 

 




Banana Pear Quick Bread

Banana Pear Quick Bread RecipeAn abundance of over-ripe bananas sat staring at me from their perch on the kitchen counter.  I over bought fruit in preparation for my girl coming home on spring break.  I forgot that she rarely eats a banana, adding one to her morning smoothy being the exception.  As for me, well I love bananas, but only in their perfectly yellow state.  Once the dark brown freckles of ripening appear,  into the freezer they go, kept on ice for another use.
Banana Pear Quick Bread RecipeBanana bread and muffins have never been my thing.  I know, weird, right?  I love bananas, but rarely do I find a bread recipe that appeals to me.  The one exception is Joanne Chang’s recipe.  Joanne is the famed pastry chef behind Flour Bakery in Boston.  I have had the pleasure of visiting her bakery and eating my way through most everything she bakes.  Her recipe for Banana Bread found it’s way to the internet long before her book Flour made it into print, so I have been making it for years now.
Banana Pear Quick Bread RecipeThree ripe bananas calling my name, I was one half banana short for  Joanne’s recipe.  Why not add the pear that was also threatening to over-ripen on me if not promptly devoured?  So that is just what I did.  Can I tell you what a wonderful addition that little pear made to this bread!  I don’t know that I will ever make banana bread again without adding a pear, or maybe an apple, or maybe…

One interesting and educational note I just had to share.  I have never liked eating the skin of a pear.  The gritty feeling I sense when the peel comes in contact with my tongue just isn’t appealing.  That grittiness actually has a name.  Stone cells.  Who knew?
Banana Pear Quick Bread Recipe

 

Adapted from Joanne Chang’s FLOUR cookbook