Everyday Chocolate Cake

Everyday Chocolate CakeDo you ever have Chocolate Cake Emergencies? Times when you’ve just had a string of bad days or worked too much, or are in an otherwise foul mood that can only be solved with a bit of chocolate cake?

Everyday Chocolate CakeThis week has just been one big Chocolate Cake Emergency for me. I’m making a couple of big changes and I am a walking, talking ball of stress. Logically, I know that sweets cannot (and will not) fix any of my problems, but on a week like this, they sure can’t hurt.

Everyday Chocolate CakeEveryday Chocolate CakeEnter this Everyday Chocolate Cake: a nine-ingredient one-bowl wonder with no need for layering, frosting, or anything else. There are no difficult-to-find ingredients, unusual methods, or long processes—this is an easy, straightforward recipe with spectacular results. Really, this soft, fluffy, deeply chocolaty dessert is just what I want when a Chocolate Cake Emergency arises.

Everyday Chocolate CakeAs I said before, this cake doesn’t need any sort of adornment; I prefer to eat it by its lonesome or with a light dusting of confectioners sugar. If you want to get a little fancy, I recommend topping a slice with a scoop of ice cream (current favorite: Trader Joe’s Salted Caramel Gelato) or drizzling the whole cake with ganache.

I’ll be real with you though—this cake really doesn’t need a thing. In fact, I think its less-is-more approach is what makes it so damn great.Everyday Chocolate Cake

Everyday Chocolate Cake
makes 1 9×5-inch loaf cake

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature 
1 cup light or dark brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup Dutch process cocoa powder (I like Droste)
1 1/2 baking powder
1/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
3/4 cup milk (not skim or nonfat)
confectioners sugar, for dusting (optional)

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and lightly flour a 9×5-inch loaf pan. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to beat butter and brown sugar until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, followed by vanilla.

Sift in flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt. Mix just until combined. Add milk and mix on low until combined.

Transfer batter to prepared pan. Tap on counter to release any air bubbles. Bake 38-42 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool completely in the pan on a rack.

Run a small, thin knife around the edge before inverting. Dust with confectioners sugar, if desired. Slice and serve.

Leftovers will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to three days, or in the refrigerator for up to five.

Pear & Cranberry Torte

Pear & Cranberry TorteEverybody has their holiday mainstay dish. For some it’s tamales, for others, a glazed ham. For me, it’s this Pear & Cranberry Torte. I found the recipe for a simple cranberry version years ago when I was just learning to bake, and I’ve made it ever since. I made it as written many times, but as I gained more knowledge and confidence in my baking, I made a few adjustments and have had it in my holiday repertoire ever since.

Pear & Cranberry TorteWhat’s the difference between a torte and a cake? Besides just sounding fancier than regular cake, tortes are made with minimal to no flour, relying on eggs, sugar, and sometimes leaveners to give them structure. I’ve put one other torte recipe on here, my grain-free version of Molly Wizenberg’s Winning Hearts & Minds Cake. If you or your guests are way into chocolate (or gluten-free!), throw that recipe on your menu.

Pear & Cranberry TorteBut back to today’s torte. It’s a buttery, light vanilla-almond cake full of soft pieces of pear and tart whole cranberries–it definitely tastes like the holidays. Where a lot of holiday desserts are time consuming and require ingredients you don’t use for the other 11 months of the year, this one is simple. With the exception of the pear and the cranberries, you probably have all the ingredients in your home right now.

The cake base comes together in minutes. Cream some butter, granulated sugar, and light brown sugar. Beat in a couple of eggs, some vanilla, and a hint of almond extract. Mix in a mixture of flour, baking powder, and salt before spreading the batter into a buttered springform pan. That’s it! Then just dot the top with chunks of pear (you’ll want to use one that’s ripe but not mushy) and scatter on some cranberries. Dust it all with a tablespoon of sugar before baking for 40 minutes or so.

Pear & Cranberry TortePear & Cranberry TorteOnce baked, Pear & Cranberry Torte has a very rustic appearance. The pieces of pear will buckle into the batter while the cranberries dot the golden brown top crust. The torte may be served warm or at room temperature, and is just as good with whipped cream or a dusting of confectioner’s sugar as it is by its lonesome.

I hope this Pear & Cranberry Torte becomes a holiday mainstay for you. The buttery vanilla-almond cake and seasonal fruit are a delightful end to any holiday meal. And if you’re the kind of person who gives cakes as gifts, this torte is easy to pack and your friends will love it.Pear & Cranberry Torte

Pear & Cranberry Torte
adapted from Lottie & Doof
one 9-inch cake

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar + 1 tablespoon, for sprinkling
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
1 medium pear, cored, peeled, and 1/2-inch diced (about 1 cup cubes)
3/4 cup fresh or frozen whole cranberries

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 9-inch springform pan. Set aside.

In a small-medium mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to cream butter until very light and fluffy (about 2 minutes). Beat in granulated and light brown sugars. Mix in eggs one at a time, followed by vanilla and almond extracts. With the mixer on low, mix in dry ingredients. Batter will be thick.

Spread batter into the prepared pan. Scatter pear pieces and cranberries over the top and lightly press them into the batter. Sprinkle additional tablespoon of granulated sugar over the top. Bake 40-45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Let cake cool in the pan on a rack for 15 minutes before running a small, thin knife around the edge and releasing the springform.

Serve warm or room temperature with whipped cream, if desired.

Mini Apple Upside-Down Cakes {Vegan}

Mini Apple Upside-Down Cakes {Vegan}Last Friday, I took the day off from work and went on a day-trip upstate with a few girlfriends, including fellow food blogger, Nimai Larson. She and I have known each other for a couple of years now. When she’s not busy making music and touring with her band, Prince Rama, Nimai loves to spend time whipping up vegan recipes. She’s an absolute doll!

Mini Apple Upside-Down Cakes {Vegan}Mini Apple Upside-Down Cakes {Vegan}Our original plan for our upstate adventure had been to go apple- and pumpkin-picking, but it was raining, so we ended up grabbing a few bushels of sweet Macoun and McIntosh apples at Salinger’s Orchard in Brewster, New York. Then we set up camp in the kitchen of our friend Katrina’s family home and did some serious baking.

Nimai and I had a bit of difficulty coming up with something to bake together–apple pies and crisps often require a combination of sweet and tart apples, but tart apples won’t be available at Salinger’s until later in the season. We racked our brains and tore through our recipe archives before settling on upside-down cake. Nimai had brought along a mini-loaf pan, so we divided the batter into it and these Mini Apple Upside-Down Cakes were born!

Mini Apple Upside-Down Cakes {Vegan}Mini Apple Upside-Down Cakes {Vegan}Mini Apple Upside-Down Cakes {Vegan}These sweet little cakes start with a batter similar to the base of my Mango Upside-Down Cake. Here it’s made vegan–a mixture of flaxseed (or chia) and water replaces the eggs and non-dairy milk is used in place of the usual buttermilk. A combination of maple syrup and granulated sugar sweetens the cakes, although you may nix the syrup and use brown sugar in place of the white stuff. The batter is scented with apple pie spices and a bit of fresh-pressed apple cider before being spooned over sliced sweet apples and a subtly-spiced maple caramel.

These Mini Apple Upside-Down Cakes bake up super soft and puffy, and they’re just gorgeous. My favorite part about this recipe is that these little cakes may be served warm–Nimai, Katrina, Selena, and I loved snacking on them before taking the rainy drive back to Brooklyn.

Mini Apple Upside-Down Cakes {Vegan}Mini Apple Upside-Down Cakes {Vegan}Make a little time to bake these Mini Apple Upside-Down Cakes this fall! And let Nimai and me know if you try this recipe: @nimailarson and @e2bakesbrooklyn on Instagram 💗Mini Apple Upside-Down Cakes {Vegan}

Mini Apple Upside-Down Cakes {Vegan}
makes 10-12 mini loaf cakes

For the pan:
1 tablespoon neutral-flavored oil
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

Apple Layer:
1 sweet apple, 1/4-inch slices
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup Earth Balance Buttery Spread
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch of ground allspice
pinch of ground nutmeg
pinch of Kosher or sea salt

Cake Batter:
2 tablespoons ground flaxseed or chia
6 tablespoons water
1 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1/2 cup Earth Balance Buttery Spread
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup fresh-pressed apple cider
1/2 cup soy or almond milk

Preheat oven to 350F. In a small bowl, whisk together oil and flour. Use a pastry brush to brush the inside of an 8-loaf mini-loaf pan. Set aside.

Make the apple layer. Combine apple slices and apple cider vinegar in a small bowl, and cover with cold water. Set aside.

Combine Earth Balance, sugar, and maple syrup in a small saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat, whisking constantly, until no longer grainy (3-5 minutes). Remove from heat and stir in cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, and salt. Divide caramel among loaf pans (about 1 1/2 tablespoons each), and spread to cover the bottom of the pan. Set aside.

Make the cake. In a small bowl, whisk together flaxseed and water. Set aside for at least five minutes, until thickened.

In a small mixing bowl, whisk together flour, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to beat Earth Balance until light and fluffy. Mix in sugar and maple syrup, followed by flaxseed mixture, vanilla, apple cider, and non-dairy milk. Whisk in dry ingredients until incorporated.

Drain apple slices and blot dry with paper towels. Lay 3-4 slices into each mini loaf (it’s okay if they overlap a bit). Fill 2/3 full with cake batter. Bake 22-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the centers comes out clean. Let sit 15 minutes. Run a small, thin knife around the edges of each mini-loaf before inverting onto a large pan. Repeat baking process with any remaining batter.

Enjoy cakes warm or at room temperature.

Plum Cake

Plum CakeHello! How was your Labor Day weekend? Did you go on a vacation? Did you have a cookout? Please tell me you did something fun, because all I did was work. Thank goodness I have friends who know how to save me from myself by taking me out to dinner! Mark my words, I’m not doing anything on Columbus Day weekend.

But enough about my personal life. This is a baking blog and my day-to-day simply is not as interesting as this Plum Cake.Plum CakeI’ve never been much for cooked stone fruit (peaches, apricots, etc.) in my desserts, but I make an exception for this cake. I mean, how could I possibly resist a buttery, brown sugary cake full of soft, jammy late-summer plums?!

This is my favorite kind of cake–the “everyday” variety. There’s no layering, no frosting, no need for a special occasion. This rustic dessert is one that can be whipped up anytime the need for cake arises.

Plum CakePlum Cake has the same base as my Mango Upside-Down Cake. The cake itself is super soft and full of brown sugar flavor. I added the tiniest bit of cinnamon and a little almond extract here, just to help the plums “pop.” The batter is a breeze to whip up, and only takes a few minutes to put together. Once you’ve got the batter in the pan, lay halved plums over the top and slide it into the oven.

Plum CakePlum CakeAs the cake bakes, the plums collapse into the batter, leaving divots in the top of the finished product. The cake can be served as-is, but I like to sift confectioner’s sugar over the top. I love the contrast between the browned edges and the white top. And of course, when the cake is sliced, there are gorgeous purplish-red cross-sections of plum all the way through!

Plum CakeThis Plum Cake is a fantastic way to use some of that good end-of-summer fruit. The sweet-tart plums really shine in this simple almond-scented brown sugar cake. As we move into fall, this cake is a great way to enjoy the last of what summer has to offer.Plum Cake

Plum Cake
makes one 9-inch round cake

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
4-6 plums,* halved and pitted (I used empress plums)
1/4-1/3 cup confectioner’s sugar, for topping

Preheat oven to 350F. Butter a 9-inch springform pan.* Set aside.

In a small-medium mixing bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in dark brown and granulated sugars. Add eggs one at a time, mixing completely after each addition. With the mixer on low, mix in vanilla and buttermilk. Add dry ingredients in two installments, scraping down the bowl as necessary.

Pour batter into prepared pan, and spread with a silicone spatula to even out the top. Tap pan on the counter two or three times to release any large air bubbles. Lay halved plums cut-side down over the top of the batter. Bake 32-35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out mostly clean.

Let cake cool completely in the pan on a rack. Place a separate rack over a sheet of wax paper. Release the cake from the pan and place over prepared rack. Sift confectioner’s sugar over the top. Slice and serve. 

Notes:

1.  Use any plums you like. This cake works well with black, red, empress, or Italian prune plums. If the plums are small, you will need more to cover the top of the batter.

2.  If you do not have a springform pan, this cake may be made in a deep dish pie plate, or a deep cake pan. If using one of these alternatives, serve the cake directly from the pan. This cake does not invert well.

Lemon Yogurt Cake

 How is it only Tuesday?

I’m going on vacation this Friday, and the anticipation is making this week seem absolutely endless. I can’t wait to be on an island off the coast of Maine with three of my closest girlfriends. We’re going to cook, hike, lay on the beach (if it’s not too cool), read, and relax. There’s no television or Internet, so we’ll be almost completely off the grid. It might not be your kind of vacation, but living in New York City, the idea of escaping literally all of the hustle and bustle is paradise. 

Until then, though, I’ve got plenty to do. Besides organizing the last details of our vacation, I’ve left my nanny job and gone full-time at my personal chef job. I get paid to cook dinner–that’s the dream, right?! Well, it is for me.

I’ve also been baking like crazy trying to get this blog so that it can function without me for a week. It might be a little quiet around here next week, but I’m hoping to write a post or two from the Wi-Fi porch at the island’s public library. 

 But I’m getting ahead of myself and haven’t said a word about today’s recipe, and that’s a real shame since I’ve looked forward to posting it for two weeks. This Lemon Yogurt Cake is bright, sweet, soft, extra lemony, and totally delicious. The cake itself is made super tender thanks to a cup of plain yogurt and a big hit of fresh lemon juice. Once it’s baked, the cake is soaked in an easy lemon syrup before being drizzled with a thick vanilla glaze. You could certainly make the glaze with lemon juice instead of milk, but I think the creamy texture pairs really well with the double-dose of lemon in the cake!

This Lemon Yogurt Cake is perfect for entertaining. I think it would be great for casual dinner parties, nice picnics, or taking to a friend who could use a nice surprise. Of course, it’s a wonderful cake to have around for no reason at all. After all, it’s hard to think about your never-ending to-do list when you’re eating a slice of cake! 

 Lemon Yogurt Cake
makes one 12.5 cup-capacity bundt pan*

For the pan:
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons neutral-flavored oil (I like canola)

Cake:
2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 tablespoons lemon zest
1 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
4 large eggs, room temperature
8 ounces plain yogurt (nonfat is fine)
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon real vanilla extract
2 teaspoons lemon extract (optional)

Lemon Syrup:
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup granulated sugar

Glaze:
2 cups confectioners sugar
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
3-4 tablespoons milk of choice
1 teaspoon real vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350F.

Prepare the pan. In a small bowl, use a fork to whisk together flour and oil. Use a pastry brush to paint the mixture onto the entire inside of the pan. Make sure to cover every crevice. Pour out any excess. Set pan aside.

Make the cake batter. In a medium-large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a small bowl, use clean fingers to rub together lemon zest and sugar.

In a large mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to beat butter until light and fluffy. Beat in lemon sugar. Add eggs one at a time, mixing completely after each addition. Mix in plain yogurt, followed by lemon juice, vanilla, and lemon extract (if using). Add dry ingredients in two installments, mixing just until combined. Transfer batter to prepared pan and smooth out the top. Tap pan on the counter five times before baking for 40-45 minutes. Cake is ready when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let cake cool in the pan for fifteen minutes. Run a small, thin knife around the edges of the pan before inverting cake onto a rack to cool completely. Set rack over a rimmed baking sheet.

Make lemon syrup. Combine lemon juice and sugar in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. While stirring constantly, bring to a boil and let cook for three minutes, until slightly thickened. Let syrup cool five minutes before spooning over cooled cake. Let cake sit for 20 minutes before carefully transferring to a serving plate.

Make the glaze. In a small bowl, use a fork to whisk together confectioner’s sugar and salt. Stir in 3 tablespoons milk and vanilla. If a thinner glaze is desired, add another tablespoon of milk. Drizzle glaze over cake. Let set for 20 minutes before serving.

Cake will keep covered at room temperature for up to three days, or in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Note:

This recipe may be divided into two 9×5″ loaf pans, although I am unsure of the bake time.