Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Spiced Plum Upside Down Cake

After seeing this fantastic Plum Tart recipe at Sugarlaws, I decided I needed to make something with plums. Plums bake beautifully, when they're at high temperatures the heat causes the purple skin to bleed into the yellow flesh and creates this gorgeous magenta to yellow color-blend. Not only that, but plums have a unique taste that is sweet and tart at the same time, kind of like Granny Smith Apples. I decided to make an old-timey English style dessert, the kind that might accompany an afternoon tea service. The cake also has a great blend of spices, which give it an autumn-esque flavor (I had recently purchased some ground cloves on sale and was looking for an opportunity to use them, so spice cake it was!) It came out wonderfully, as is evidenced by the fact that when I brought the cake over to my friend Alana's house me, Alana and her mom Melanie managed to eat half the plum cake in about 20 minutes. I want to go out and buy some more plums to make more cake just thinking about it.....I'm pretty positive you'll like it as much as we did.


1 lb Fresh Plums
1 and 1/2 Cups Whole Wheat Flour
1 Cup Sugar
1 Cup Olive Oil
3 Eggs
2 Tablespoons Powdered Sugar (optional)
2 Teaspoons Cinnamon
1 and 1/2 Teaspoons Vanilla Extract
1/2 Teaspoon Almond Extract
1/2 Teaspoon Nutmeg
1/2 Teaspoon Ground Cloves
1/2 Teaspoon Allspice
1/2 Teaspoon Ground Ginger
1/2 Teaspoon Baking Powder
1/4 Teaspoon Salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease an 8-inch cake pan and set it aside. Cut the plums in half, remove the pits, and place them in a single layer, cut-side-up, on the bottom cake pan, as can be seen in the photo above.

In a large bowl, blend together all of the dry ingredients, except the powdered sugar. Add the oil and continue mixing until the dry ingredients are evenly moistened. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Lastly, add the vanilla and almond extracts and mix until thoroughly combined. You should now have a smooth, and fairly thick, cake batter.

Pour the cake batter over the plums in the cake pan. Place the pan in the oven and bake for about 50 minutes to an hour, or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean.

Allow the cake to cool for 15 minutes before flipping it over and inverting it onto a plate or cake stand. Allow the cake to cool completely, and then garnish it by sprinkling the 2 tablespoons of powdered sugar over the cake.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Sweet Orange Citrus Cake

I based the recipe for this cake off of a Greek recipe on my other blog for Ravani, a syrupy Greek lemon cake. I also made it with an orange jelly filling inside and sweet, slightly lemony, vanilla frosting on the outside. But what really makes this cake unique is the use of semolina, which gives the cake an almost cornbread-like texture and sweetness. You all can try it and find out for yourselves, enjoy the citrus!!!!


Orange Cake

1 Cup Flour
1 Cup Sugar
1 Cup Semolina
1/2 Cup Salted Butter
6 Eggs
2 Tablespoons Milk
Finely Grated Zest From 1 Orange, (about a tablespoon)
3 Teaspoons Baking Powder
2 Teaspoons Vanilla Extract
2 Teaspoons Orange Juice
1 Teaspoon Lemon Juice
1/4 Teaspoon Almond Extract
Peel from 1 Orange (optional)

Orange Jelly Filling

2 Oranges, Peeled
3/4 Cup Sugar
1/2 Cup Water
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1 Packet Unflavored Gelatin (about a teaspoon)
4 Drops Red Food Coloring
4 Drops Yellow Food Coloring

Lemon Vanilla Frosting

3 Cups Powdered Sugar
3/4 Cup Butter, softened
2 Tablespoons Water
2 and 1/2 Teaspoons Lemon Juice
1 and 1/2 Teaspoons Vanilla Extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Mix together the flour, semolina, and baking powder in a large bowl and set it aside. Beat the butter and sugar together with an electric mixer until they are thoroughly mixed and become creamy in texture. Add the eggs one at a time and blend well after each addition. Stir in the milk, orange zest, orange juice, lemon juice and the vanilla and almond extracts. Gradually add the flour mixture to the egg mixture, about one cup at a time, until the cake mix is well blended. Pour an equal amount of cake mix into two well greased 8-inch cake pans. Bake in the oven for 30 - 45 minutes, until the top is golden and a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out fairly clean.

I am also going to warn you all that my oven stopped closing all the way today and was about 1/2 inch open when I made this, so it may take less time for all of you so just keep checking on the cake when it's in the oven. The cake will also look bubbly on top when it's done, like in the picture below. This is normal for semolina cakes.

Allow the cake to cool for 10 minutes, then flip it out onto a plate, then flip it again so that the part that was the top of the cake in the baking pan is still the top when it is laying on the dish. You should do this because the top part is very sticky and will get stuck to the bottom of the plate if you leave it upside down. Now, take the syrup that was reserved from the orange jelly and  drizzle about 2 tablespoons over each cake, making for 4 tablespoons total. Allow the cake to cool completely while the orange jelly solidifies in the refrigerator.

Once the jelly has thickened, coat the top of one of the cake halves with about 1 cm of orange jelly, leaving an inch of space around the edge of the cake so that the jelly does not come out the sides when you place the second layer on top. Place the second cake layer on top of the jelly layer and begin icing the sides and top of the cake with the lemon vanilla frosting. If you want, you can cut a circle out of the leftover orange peel and then cut several small strips out of the peel. Place the circle in the middle of the cake and surround it with the small strips of peel to create a circular border.

To make the orange jelly filling, cut the oranges' flesh into roughly 1-inch chunks, discarding any seeds, and set them aside. Bring the water and sugar to a boil and simmer for five minutes.

Add the oranges and simmer over medium heat for 30 minutes, or until the orange chunks have partially disintegrated. Remove the mixture from heat and stir in the gelatin and vanilla extract. Bring the mixture to a boil again and simmer over medium heat for another 5 minutes.

Strain out 4 tablespoons of syrup from the orange mixture and it set aside. Pour the orange mixture into a food processor or blender, add the food coloring and blend until the mixture is completely pureed. Place the puree into a small bowl and refrigerate it for two hours, or until the mixture has thickened to a jelly-like consistency.

To make the lemon vanilla frosting, mix all of the frosting ingredients together in a large bowl using an electric mixer on medium-high speed.

Continue mixing for five minutes, or until the mixture has thickened to the texture of frosting. If you want the frosting to be thinner, keep adding another teaspoon of water until it the frosting reaches your desired consistency.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Zesty Tomato Soup With Parmesan & Sun-Dried Tomato Scones

I have been trying to eat a bit healthier lately, and so I've been trying to use a lot of fresh ingredients in my cooking, largely from my patio garden which seems to be exploding with plants. I was able to use my own tomatoes for this recipe, which was quite a thrill! They taste so much sweeter, plus it makes me feel like all the money I spent battling with organic fungicide on my patio was well worth it! The cilantro and garlic in the soup make for a little bit of a kick, which I loved. And the scones were sooooooo good. Seriously, sun-dried tomatoes, basil and parmesan cheese baked into cute tasty biscuits? There's nothing I enjoy more!

Zesty Tomato Soup


1 and 1/2 lbs Roma Tomatoes
5 Sprigs of Green Onions, diced
2 Tablespoons Fresh Cilantro, diced
3 Cloves of Garlic, minced
1 Bay Leaf
3 Cups Water
3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 Tablespoon Cornstarch
1 Teaspoon Black Pepper
1 Teaspoon Salt

Bring a medium sized pot of water to a boil. Place a similar sized pot of cold water next to it. Turn off the heat and as soon as the water stops boiling place the tomatoes in the hot water and let them sit for 30 seconds, then remove them with a slatted spoon and place them in the cold water for 1 minute. Use a knife to puncture a small hole in the skin of the tomato and then grab the skin and peel it off all of the tomatoes, the hot and cold water bath should make the skin come off really easily. Chop up the skinned tomatoes and set them aside.

Warm the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the bay leaf, green onions and garlic and stir, sauteing for about 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes and allow to simmer for 10 more minutes. Now add the water, cilantro, pepper and salt and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, in a small bowl mix the cornstarch with about 3 tablespoons of water so that it forms a thin paste. set aside.

Remove the soup from heat and allow to cool slightly. Remove and discard the bay leaf. Pour the soup into a food processor or blender, (I used my Magic Bullet by breaking it up into two separate containers), and blend until the soup is completely pureed. Empty the soup back into its original pan and add the cornstarch paste. Mix well until the cornstarch is completely combined into the soup. Bring the mixture to a boil and cook for another 15 minutes. Serve hot with scones, biscuits or bread for dipping.

Parmesan & Sun-Dried Tomato Scones


2 Cups Flour
1/2 Cup Milk
1/2 Cup Parmesan Cheese, grated
6 Tablespoons Olive Oil
2 Tablespoons Fresh Basil, diced
3/4 Cup Sun Dried Tomatoes, boiled for 7 minutes, drained and then diced
1 Teaspoon Mustard Powder
1 Teaspoon Paprika
1/2 Teaspoon Baking Powder
1/2 Teaspoon Salt

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, mustard powder, paprika and salt. Add 4 Tablespoons of the olive oil and blend the mixture together with your hands until breadcrumb-like bunches form in the flour. Stir in the parmesan cheese, basil and sun-dried tomatoes. Add the milk and mix until a thick dough forms.

Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and knead for 3 minutes. Knead the dough out into a rectangle about 8 x 6 inches in shape with about 1 or 2 inches in thickness. Cut the dough into roughly 2 inch squares and place them on a greased baking sheet.

Brush the tops of the scones with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil and place the baking sheet in the oven. Bake for 13-20 minutes, depending upon the accuracy of your oven and how crispy you like your scones. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving.