Coffee Cake

Bday cake

Half a year has already passed by and it seems like just yesterday that we celebrated the start of a new year. Sumner is on its full bloom now, after what has been a very long winter. It feels so good to look outside at the clear blue skies and the greenery all around. I have come to appreciate such days even more, thanks to the East-coast weather.

Last couple of weeks have been quite busy. With the weather improving tremendously, the weeks go by planning summer events, weekend trips and concerts. Reading, movies and friends occupy the rest of the hours. And now-a-days of course the soccer matches. The blog had been going down in my list of priorities. It was only as I was changing the calendar for the month of July that I remembered this post pending since May. So finally, here it is. And though I silently promise to be a bit regular on my blog, I have stopped apologizing to my readers for my disappearances once in a while with the hope that they must have gotten used to it by now.

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Today I will talk about the cake I made for my husband’s birthday. Though I love baking, I have not really tried out different cake recipes. Reason is that both of us prefer the sponge cake (recipe) that I had learnt from my mom. However this time I wanted to make something different. A while ago we had got an amazing coffee cake for a friend’s birthday from a nearby bakery. Since then I had been wanting to bake one of my own and what better day to do this than a birthday.

Interestingly, Coffee cake has no coffee in it, quite contrary to what I had assumed. It is known as a coffee cake as it is usually had with coffee.

Stephanie’s Joy of Baking had this recipe of a coffee cake which looked exactly like the one I had had. Being a big fan of her website which has wonderful baking videos and techniques, I did not want to look any further. The original recipe can be found here, the only change that I did was used plain yogurt instead of sour cream. As the recipe suggests using yogurt instead of sour cream gives a lighter textured cake.

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Ingredients:

  • All purpose flour – 1 2/3 cups or 215 gms
  • Baking Powder – 1 tsp
  • Baking Soda – 1/2 tsp
  • Salt – 1/4 tsp
  • Unsalted butter (at room temperature)- 1/2 cup or 113 gms
  • White Sugar – 1 cup
  • Eggs – 2
  • Vanilla extract – 1 tsp
  • Sour Cream / Yogurt – 3/4 cup or 180 ml

For the Crumb topping –

  • Walnuts or Pecans – 1 cup (I used a combination of walnuts and pecans, but you can use other nuts of your preference.)
  • Light brown sugar – Little less than 1/4 cup
  • Mini Chocolate chips – 1/3 cup. (I used the semi sweet ones but you can use any that you prefer.)
  • All purpose flour – 1 tbsp
  • Ground cinnamon – 1/2 tsp

Crumb Topping

Method:

  • Preheat oven to 350 F.
  • Prepare a baking pan, preferably a spring form pan so that you don’t have to flip the baked cake which might result in messing up the crumb topping. I did not have one so i used a Bundt pan and needless to mention some of the crumb topping came out while flipping it. Whatever pan you choose, grease it with butter and dust it lightly with flour or line the greased pan with a parchment paper.

Prepare the crumb topping –

  • Dry roast the nuts on stove top or bake in a preheated oven at 350F for 8-10 minutes until lightly browned and fragrant. Let them cool. Coarsely chop them.
  • In a bowl mix the chopped nuts with the other ingredients mentioned for crumb topping – sugar, chocolate chips, flour and cinnamon and keep aside.

Prepare the Cake Batter –

  • In a bowl mix flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt, whisk together and keep aside.
  • In a  separate bowl add the softened butter and beat it well using a hand mixer / stand mixer.
  • Gradually add the sugar and beat well till light and fluffy.
  • Add the eggs, one at a time and beat well after each addition. Using a spatula or a spoon scrape the sides of the bowl so that everything is well incorporated.
  • Beat in the vanilla extract.
  • Next gradually add the flour in three additions alternating with the sour cream. Mix till everything is well combined and there are no lumps.

Assemble the Coffee Cake –

  • Since the batter will be thick, spoon out half of the batter into the prepared pan and smoothen the top with a spatula or the back of the spoon. If using a Bundt pan spoon out the mixture and place dollops of it all over the pan. This makes spreading the batter, in the Bundt pan, easy.
  • Sprinkle evenly approximately half of the crumb topping on top of the batter.
  • Again spoon out the remaining batter into dollops all over the crumb mixture. Lightly level it out so as not to disturb the crumb layer.
  • Sprinkle the remaining crumb mixture evenly.
  • Bake for about 40 – 50 minutes or until the cake is done and a toothpick inserted in tehe middle of the cake comes out clean.
  • Remove from the oven and let it cool for 10 minutes.
  • If using spring form cake, release the sides of the pan. If using any other cake pan, do what I did – gently flip the cake onto a plate. At this stage some of the crumb topping might come out. Take another plate and flip it once again so that the side with the crumb topping on top faces up. Gather the crumb topping that had come out of the cake and sprinkle it on top of it and press gently.

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Note: For a denser texture use sour cream and for a lighter cake use yogurt. Though I used yogurt, I would want to use sour cream the next time to for the denser texture.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Instant Chocolate Cake – Microwave Mug Cake

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Much more than cooking I love baking, infact I am crazy about baking. The only down side is that I love the calorie filled end products even more. That does not really help me in pursuing my knack for baking. So while whipping up a cake or a bunch of cookies may be good for my blog, the following couple of days will find me consuming a lot more of carbs than I would like to. And hence my conscious decision to not make such goodies.

But then there are times – maybe after days of salad crunching and workouts, or when you are sad and need a little break, or you are having a very happy moment – that you want to give in to that sweet temptation. You suppress that voice inside you reminding you of what-not-to-eat.

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Yesterday afternoon found me in such a mood. And just for clarification, No, I am not on a diet…I never diet (Period!), neither am I sad or in a celebratory state. Do cravings need to have any reason or logic? I recalled seeing a couple of 2 minute cake-in-a-mug microwave recipes – no elaborate preparations, instant and a portion size that will not make me indulge later. This is one such recipe that perfectly fits the bill.

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Ingredients:

  • All purpose flour – 4 tbsp
  • Cornstarch – 1/4 tbsp
  • Sugar – 4 tbsp
  • Unsweetend Cocoa powder – 2 tbsp
  • Egg – 1
  • Milk – 3 tbsp
  • Oil – 3tbsp
  • Splash of Vanilla extract
  • Chocolate chips or any nuts of your preference.

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Method:

  • Grease a Microwave safe cup/mug tall enough to allow the cake to rise.
  • Add the dry ingredients: Flour, cornstarch, sugar and cocoa. Lightly mix with a fork or spoon.
  • Break an egg into the cup and stir the mixture vigorously so that everything is well incorporated.
  • Add the wet ingredients: Milk, Oil and Vanilla. Again give it a good mix scraping the sides of the cup so that the dry and wet ingredients are well mixed and there are no lumps.
  • Stir in chocolate chips / nuts if desired.
  • Microwave the entire mixture on high power for 2-3 minutes. You will see the cake rising from the brim of the cup which is perfectly normal. In case you are unsure of the size of your mug and want to avoid any kind of mess, I would suggest placing the cup onto a microwave safe plate so that clean up, if required, is easy.
  • Let it rest for 1-2 minutes after which serve it immediately as is or with a side of your favorite ice cream. This cake, if allowed to sit for longer, will be come a little chewy or hard, so make it just before you want to serve.

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The Xmas Cake – Fruit Cake

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Love this time of the year… (in spite of the weather..). Everyone around  in a celebratory mood, all the houses  lighted up, people swarming in decorated shopping malls, families and friends exchanging gifts and holiday greetings… everything just rubs off onto you. Usually Thanksgiving to Christmas/Year end is, for us, our vacation time in India. However, for some reason, we could not make our annual trip back home or any other within-the-country trips. Still it has been a good one overall. Went out for Christmas shopping, spent time with friends… eating in and eating out whenever our hearts desired… Lots and lots of baking at home and an overdose of magic and romance with the Hallmark movie channel.

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My usual recipe for cake, as and when occasion calls for it, is my mom’s sponge cake recipe . This is a sure shot recipe that all my friends have tried and succeeded without fail. However I was getting a little bored with the same recipe and was longing to try something different. I never planned for the fruit cake, rather I had come across a wonderful coffee cake recipe and would have made it for sure. And then the Bongmom posted that she was using Alton Brown’s fruit cake recipe for her Christmas cake. To me it looked like a lot of ingredients and effort. But I thought – “what the heck… it isn’t as if I have a lot of important tasks at hand…!’… why not? So, made a list of all the required ingredients, bought whatever I could easily find, bought a new Bundt pan and got all hyper-excited about it.

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Once I finished making it, I surely had to revise my opinion on the effort part – trust me – it is not that much work as it looks like. Just don’t get over whelmed with the whole thing. What takes time is – 1. soaking the fruits in the alcohol (you also have a shortcut microwave method for that) and 2. Cooling of the boiled mixture to room temperature (as described below). You don’t even have to tire your hands beating the batter or use a mixer/processor, so it really is pretty easy.

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Usually this cake is made 2-3 weeks to a month ahead of time and then stored and sprayed with brandy every once in a while. However, I started making it 2 days before Christmas and skipped on the spritzing process. I used gold rum as the recipe suggested, but I read online that you can use sherry or any other wine of your choice too. Again, if you do not want to use alcohol, feel free to substitute it with any fruit juice of your choice. 

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Ingredients:

  • Dry fruits: 3 cups (The recipe called for a little more with some variations but I adjusted the amount and the mix according to my preference)
    • Raisins – 1 cup
    • Mix of dried and chopped Blueberry, strawberry and cherries- 1 cup
    • mixed dry fruit mix – 1/2 cup
    • Prunes or dried plums, chopped into bite size pieces – 1/2 cup
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • Gold Rum – 1 cup. (substitute with fruit juice if required)
  • Butter – 5 oz or 10 tbsp  1 1/4 stick
  • Sugar – 1 cup
  • Apple Juice – 1 cup. The recipe calls for unfiltered apple juice but I used apple cider instead.
  • Cloves – 4 whole
  • All spice – 6 whole berries
  • Ground cinnamon – 1 tsp
  • Ground ginger – 1 tsp
  • All purpose flour – 1 3/4 cup
  • Salt – 1/2 tsp
  • Baking Soda – 1 tsp
  • Baking powder – 1 tsp
  • Eggs – 2
  • Toasted and roughly chopped nuts – 1/4 to 1/2 cup. I used 1/4 cup pecans and 1/4 cup silvered almonds
  • Brandy – for spritzing/spraying. Can use any fruit juice instead. I did not use it at all.

Method: You may want to check out Alton Brown’s recipe video here

  • Put all the dry fruits in a pot along with the zest of lemon and orange. Add rum and soak it for 24 hours. This process is called maceration. The alcohol acts as a preservative and also enhances the flavor of the cake when it is stored. When in rush, microwave the mixture on high for 5 minutes, though the flavors might not be that intense.

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  • Dry grind the cloves and all spice berries.
  • Place the macerated fruits along with the liquid in a nonreactive pot. Add butter, sugar, apple juice, ground spices – cinnamon, ginger, cloves, all spice. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring continuously and then reduce the heat and let it simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let it cool down completely. If the mixture is not cooled to room temperature, adding the flour might make it lumpy.

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  • At this stage you can also refrigerate the cooled mixture to a maximum of 2 days if you wish to bake the cake later. However, if refrigerating, let the mixture come back to room temperature again before proceeding.
  • Preheat the oven to 325 F and prepare the baking pan. I used a Bundt pan and greased it with butter and lightly dusted with 1-2 tbsp of flour. Shake off the excess flour. You can also line the greased pan with parchment paper.

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  • Sift the dry ingredients – flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder into the mixture. Mix well with a wooden spoon till everything is well incorporated.

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  • Add the eggs, one at a time and stir into the mixture till it is well incorporated.

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  • Add the chopped nuts and fold into the batter.

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  • Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake it on the middle rack for 50-60 mins or till a wooden toothpick inserted in the cake come out clean. While baking place a tray half filled with water and place it on a rack underneath the cake. This ensures that the cake remains moist and does not have cracks on its surface.

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  • Once the cake is done, remove it from the oven and place it on a cooling rack. At this stage if you want you can spray/spritz it with some brandy or some fruit juice; I skipped it as it was sufficiently moist.

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  • Let it cool for 10 minutes and then flip it onto a tray or the wire rack. Flipping it before letting it cool or letting it cool down too much (more than 10-15 mins.) might result in the cake to break.
  • If you want to store it, wrap it in a foil and keep in an airtight container. Mine was used up within 2 days so I did not need to store it. If storing, check the cake every 2-3 days and if it is drying up you may want to spritz it with brandy or some fruit juice to keep it moist.

Note:

  1. As the recipe suggested, the flavors of the cake enhanced in the next 2 days so maybe next time I will make it a week ahead.
  2. Feel free to play around with the dry fruits/nuts. Use what you want or is easily available and also can reduce the amount to your taste.
  3. Just to remind once again – You can make this cake without alcohol if you want. Just substitute equal measure of any fruit juice of your choice.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all…!

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Sponge cake (with eggs)

Never did I celebrate a birthday till date without cutting a cake. My first birthday in US was a wonderful yummy chocolate cake from Stop & Shop. The very thought of all the thick chocolate on it makes me feel hungry even right now. Childhood was different… birthdays meant grand parties at home with all the school and neighbourhood friends.. balloons and birthday caps and home-made cakes. The house felt like a bakery shop then, smelling wonderful. My mom would start making cake in the old style oven, then cut it into various shapes.. sometimes it was a big mickey mouse or maybe just a round plain one. Then she would fill it up with cream and icing.. and after all the artistic touches, finally some gems and then use the icing nozzle to write my or my brother’s name on it. As I grew up, I started helping her too… the icing and artistic shapes were gone but the normal sponge cake remained. My best memories would be mixing the cake batter… I loved to scoop out some of the batter to lick.. it was yummy! Though everybody would make faces stating that it was not cooked and it’s not good for my stomach, but I just loved it. Me, my mom and bro would wait till midnight while dad slept till the cake was baked completely… and I still remember a night when we actually cut the cake at  midnight.

Those were the glorious old childhood days. These days it is so much easy to order a cake. but I do miss all the fun. As I started getting comfortable in the kitchen and with the oven, I decided to attempt to bake a cake. Again a quick call to mommy and it did not sound too difficult as well. So we got a baking tray and hurray within an hour or two I could smell the similar whiff of bakery in my house too… It was so nostalgic… thanks mommy…!

This is something that me and my husband love. Nothing better than this healthy home made sponge cake. Though we do get readymade cake mixture at the stores here, we both love the authentic way. Here it is for you all to give a shot!

Ingredients:

  • Eggs – 6
  • All purpose flour (Maida) – 3 cups
  • Sugar – 3 cups
  • White oil – 3 cups
  • Baking Powder – 3 tsp
  • Vanilla essence – 2tsp (adding too much might lead to a bitter taste)
  • Cherries or dry nuts – as per preference
  • Milk – 1/4th cup
  • Oven (I use the conventional oven available in US kitchen, so you may want to check the temperature for the kind of oven you possess.)

Method:

  • Add baking powder to the Maida and keep it aside.
  • In a bowl break all the eggs and beat it well till bubbles start appearing. Use a hand blender if available.
  • Gradually add the sugar in turns and keep whisking the mixture well.
  • Add the Maida and baking powder gradually in turns and keep beating so that there are no lumps.
  • Add oil, milk and vanilla in turns and blend it well.
  • Add dry nuts if you want to and mix it to the batter and garnish a few at the top.
  • Lightly grease the baking pan with cooking oil and sprinkle some flour on it so that the cake does not stick to the bottom of the pan.
  • Pour the batter into the pan, it would be 2 inches deep.
  • Preheat the oven and then bake the mixture at 350 F for 40-45 minutes. Check the readiness of the cake by poking it with a fork or toothpick. The cake is ready if it comes out clean (Since ovens vary, you can bake it for a couple of minutes more or less).
  • Remove the pan from the oven and let it cool for 5 – 10 minutes.
  • Once it had cooled off use a knife gently on the edges of the cake to unmould it from the tray and flip it on to a fresh plate or tray.

Important Note:

  • A cake with 3 eggs can be baked easily on a 9 inch by 9 inch baking tray, that is what I generally use. However I am mentioning the measurements for 6 eggs which will need a larger baking tray.
  • You may use color as well as per preference though it is optional. You can also use coco powder to get a chocolate color. I sometimes keep half the batter as it is and in the other half add 1-1.5 tsp coco powder (adding too much might lead to a bitter taste) and then put the batter in 2 layers in the baking tray. This gives me a bicolored or a choco-vanilla cake. You can experiment with colors, but always remember that using coco powder might lead to the cake getting burnt at the bottom so the layer with coco powder should always be on the top.
  • The batter should be well beaten, only then will you get the perfect (unbelievably soft) sponge cake. I usually beat it with my hand but you may use a blender if available.

Do not forget to inhale the scent of the cake while it is baking. Trust me its heavenly!