Zesty Lemon Almond Cake with Spiced Tangerine Sauce

Moist Lemon Almond Cake

The winter winds have me looking for excuses to turn the oven on. Since my future Mother-in-Law was coming for dinner, the decision was finalized. Cake for dessert.
When I had my wedding cake business I always had pounds and pounds of butter, stacks and stacks of eggs, and never ending bins of flour and sugar at my disposal. Whenever I wanted to get creative in the kitchen I never had to stop to think about what was in the cupboard.
Now I find myself, for the first time in 25 years, purchasing butter at the supermarket- but I rarely eat it. I trend to the healthier olive oil in my cooking, and that is including baking as well. In many recipes oil and butter may be interchanged, but not always to the best advantage. It’s the buttery goodness in brioche that makes the difference, the same-of course- in a sugar cookie.

Last minute baking may require some forgiveness, in a pinch you could get away with plenty. This cake does not need any apologies or excuses- The oil makes for a moist delicious cake that easily waves a dismissive hand at butter.

When it came to deciding what flavor cake to make, my cupboard yielded plenty of flour, sugar and eggs. There were some almonds, a lemon on the counter, and an ambitious stack of tangerines in the fruit bowl. {I promised I would eat them all when I hoisted that big bag into my cart, but they were starting to best me} I also had a container of buttermilk, something many southern women keep at the ready.

As I acquaint myself with southern living I am amazed at the cultural differences in the market aisles. At my regular store I was amazed to see that there were 8 varieties of buttermilk and mostly in half gallon sizes. In contrast there was one option for ricotta, offered only in 16oz containers. On my NY shelves the offerings are the exact opposite. Perhaps this is just a quirk of the store manager, but I was still baffled to think how was all that buttermilk being used?

I have a few “out of the cupboard” cake recipes that everyone should have up their sleeve. This is a pretty nice one. You can substitute the almonds for other nuts, or simply leave them out. You can also switch up the fruit for the sauce- frozen fruits being a perfect thing.

This particular cake was tangy due to the soaking of a lemon juice simple syrup. It’s a great cake for simple gatherings, coffee klatches and, in my case, my Mother-in-Law.

Zesty Lemon Almond Cake with Spiced Tangerine Sauce
makes a 9″ single layer cake- 10 small slices
2.5c ap flour
1.5t baking powder
.5t baking soda
.25t salt
10T vegetable oil
1.33 c sugar
3 large eggs
1c buttermilk
.5c almonds, toasted and rough chopped
zest and juice from one lemon, separated
.5c water
.5c sugar
2 tangerines
.5c sugar
1c water
.25t cinnamon
pinch of salt
Preheat oven to 350˚ and prepare a 9″ cake pan with cooking spray
In a large bowl combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
In a separate bowl whisk together the oil, sugar and eggs into a thick emulsion. Add the lemon zest.
Add the egg mixture and half the buttermilk to the flour and stir until mostly smooth, then add the rest of the buttermilk and the almonds. Stir gently until smooth.
Pour batter into the prepared pan and bake until golden and the center of the cake is springy to the touch. Approx 25 mins.
While the cake is baking, prepare the lemon syrup and the Tangerine Sauce.
In a small saucepan combine the sugar and water and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and stir in the fresh lemon juice. After the cake is removed from the oven, and still warm, evenly pour the syrup over the top of the cake, and allow to soak in.
To prepare the Tangerine Sauce, using a knife cut off the tops of the tangerines and then slice off the sides. Following along the membranes, remove the sections of tangerine flesh and drop into a small saucepan, allowing any juices to drip into the pan as well.
Add the sugar, water and cinnamon and bring to the boil. Allow the sauce to gently boil for 3 minutes, then remove from the heat and allow to cool. Serve the sauce either warmed or room temperature. 
{A splash of Cointreau or Grand Marnier would be a lovely addition if you’re so inclined}

The After Feast- and Gingerbread

Stacks of Dishes with my morning Gingerbread
The gathering was easy and the company divine. Good food, delicious laughs and familial ease. It was a lovely day, one of the nicest I’ve had with my family in awhile. We were a small group, so there was plenty of opportunity to share and really get to speak with one another. My children are adults now and starting to point themselves into different directions. It’s one of the hardships when pulling together large groups. I love to entertain large raucous crowds, it’s so nice to “see” everyone, but I always leave feeling like I didn’t get a chance to really visit.
Yesterday was a sweet day for visiting. The sunny afternoon was filled with relaxed talk while my Mother and my son leaned back into couches, Olivia danced with herself in the corner as we put the desserts together, and my Uncle Joe told me stories of my Grandfather- who passed when I was too young to know him- as I put on the coffee. Priceless ease.
My favorite time, once the evening is over, is the quiet morning after. I’m a bit of a pain in that I really don’t like people cleaning up my kitchen. It’s not that I’m such a control freak or anything, it’s that there is something beautifully zen about the sound of soapy water, and the clattering of dishes and silver while I review the events of the evening. There is ceremony in the storing away of platters and serving pieces- my loved things amongst loved ones, now put to rest until the next gathering. As I look around there are remnants of the evening imprinted in the dents in the pillows, crumbs on the carpet, and scattered smudgy wine glasses. It all tells a story, and every story touches me. Beauty.
The morning held no rush for me. Everyone had headed off into the evening to their own homes so I was left to myself in the morning light to putter and fuss. This year for Thanksgiving my fiancee is at home in Louisiana with her family. It’s hard to juggle families and holidays. I know so many that have to do it, it’s not like I can complain really, it’s just that she is also my family, and it’s hard to be separated. This fact just made my morning that much quieter and that much more introspective.

Late yesterday, after finishing all my dinner preparations, I had a small chunk of time and a half a can of pumpkin left over. Since the oven was already on I pulled together a tasty Gingerbread for my after-feast breakfast. A simple homey tea cake.

This quick bread is SUPER moist with a nice mellow hit of molasses and a tender bite of ginger. The pumpkin doesn’t reveal itself, it merely adds moisture and depth. As you can see it slices quite nicely and could even do with a toasting and a pat of butter if that’s your preference.

I sliced mine up super thin to enjoy with my milky latte. It was a nice quiet moment in the morning light, before I began my post feast ritual.

Morning After Moist Gingerbread
makes one 4″x11″ loaf~ enough to serve 8-10
.5 can pumpkin puree (not pie filling)
2 large eggs
.5 c vegetable oil
.75c water
.5 c molasses
1c white sugar
1.75c all purpose flour
2 t baking soda
1 t salt
1t ground cinnamon
1t freshly grated nutmeg
2T freshly grated ginger
Preheat oven to 350˚ and grease 4″ x 11″ loaf pan
In medium bowl combine pumpkin, eggs, oil, water, molasses and sugar. Stir smooth.
In large bowl combine flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger.
Pour the wet ingredients into the large bowl and stir just until incorporated. This makes a fairly wet batter.
Gently spoon into the loaf pan and spread evenly.
Place pan into the center of the preheated oven and bake. After ~40 minutes test for doneness- Gently pressing on the top of the cake. When it is springy to the touch is it done. Alternatively use a toothpick to poke into center of cake. When the toothpick comes out clean it’s done.
Allow to cool for at least 15 minutes before removing from the pan.
Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!


SAVEUR Magazine’s Birthday Present to Me & the BEST Chocolate Cake EVER

Dark chocolate birthday cake

If’s official, I am over the hill- and I will be honest, I am loving the view from up here! Last week heralded a demi-century of loops around the sun. Of course this is mind boggling for a woman who still has conviction that she is 25 years old- but now that I’ve passed the mark- I think it’s pretty awesome.

This past year has been especially wonderful and all indications are that this trend will continue. Thank you to everyone who has supported this blog. It has given back to me in ways that I never have imagined and that just tickles me to no end. I really love writing and cooking, and I promise I will be around for awhile.
The big announcement that I alluded to in my last post is that the very day before my birthday SAVEUR magazine chose me as one of their “Sites We Love” (!!!!)
Nov 8, 2012

Sites We Love: A Stack of Dishes

Gorgeous photos? Check. Engaging writing? Check. Seriously inspiring recipes, tips, and culinary curiosity? Check, check, and check. The best food blogs all seem to have a lot in common—but what separates them out are the strong personalities behind them. In our Sites We Love series, we sit down with some of our favorite bloggers to find out how they do it—and why it’s as much fun for them as it is for us.

Needless to say I am overjoyed and over the moon!!!! I am humbled to be in such astute and talented company as well. I did not see this coming, and it will certainly go down in history as one of the dandiest birthday presents ever!

Unfortunately I am having trouble with the code for the badge, so I will have that up soon as we sort out the glitch.

I am making dinner tonight for another Scorpio pal of mine and so we are having my favorite chocolate cake. For those who have tasted my chocolate wedding cake, I regret to inform you that this is not the same recipe (sorry, trade secret), but this version is pretty close and sensational. Rather than icing I whipped up some sweetened whipped cream, which is a fantastic foil to this dark rich cake.

Dark Chocolate Cake
3 tiered 9″ cake, enough for 15 servings
2c boiling water
1c unsweetened cocoa powder
2.75 c all purpose flour
2t baking soda
.5t baking powder
.5t salt
1c unsalted butter, room temperature
2.25c sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
1.5t vanilla
Preheat oven to 350˚. Grease and flour 3 9″ pans and set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the butter and sugar and beat moderately until light and fluffy. Do NOT minimize this step. 
Add eggs one and a time on low and stir until incorporated. It will look grainy and mucky. Stir in the vanilla.
In large mixing bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, bs, bp and salt and stir to combine.
Add the egg/butter mixture into the bowl, then add the hot water in 3 stages and stir smooth.
Divide the batter evenly between the pans and bake until the centers spring back from the touch.
The average baking time is 30 mins- but please don’t go by that. The best rule of thumb I can give you, is when you start to smell the cake it’s “getting there”. Alternatively, at 20 minutes check on it every few minutes until it’s done. 
Please don’t over bake this yummy cake.
Cool completely before frosting with whipped cream.