Category Archives: Entertaining

Friday Favorites: Everyday Cakes {Spring Edition}

Friday Favorites: Everyday Cakes {Spring Edition}Everyday Cakes are probably my favorite desserts to make and eat. I’m sure I’ve said that about at least one other category of dessert, but I promise it’s true.

Like their name implies, these are cakes that can be made any ol’ day with limited fuss. Theyre single layer, have short ingredient lists and can almost always be adapted to work with whatever you have on hand. They’re the sort of thing you can bake on the fly when you need to let out some stress after work, or want to make a cake on a Saturday afternoon but don’t want to deal with frosting and layering. Even better, they’re the kind of super-classy-but-still-low-maintenance dinner party dessert that will make you look like Ina Garten (hydrangeas optional, but recommended). Their versatility simply cannot be matched.

It will come as no surprise that I have tons of Everyday Cakes in my archives—too many for one post—so this is my spring Everyday Cake round-up. Five cakes that are far more than the sum of their parts. Try out one or two before summer’s here and it’s too hot to bake!Friday Favorites: Everyday Cakes {Spring Edition}Boterkoek {Dutch Butter Cake}

My friend, David, introduced me to this Dutch dessert a few years ago and it’s quickly become one of my favorite cakes of all time. With plenty of butter, bits of ginger strewn throughout and a signature golden lid, it might just become your favorite too!

Ginger not your thing? Feel free to leave it out, or make my almond variation.Friday Favorites: Everyday Cakes {Spring Edition}Flourless Almond Cake

The nectarines in this picture won’t be in season for a few more months, but don’t let that stop you from making this dreamy Flourless Almond Cake! It’s perfect for eating with your fingers as a mid-afternoon snack, but it can also be dressed up with berries or chocolate or whatever for post-vaccine get-togethers.Friday Favorites: Everyday Cakes {Spring Edition}Blueberry Torte

A torte is just a low maintenance cake by another name. This one is super easy to make, tender and buttery and chockablock with fresh blueberries.Friday Favorites: Everyday Cakes {Spring Edition}Mango Upside-Down Cake

Pineapple is the reigning queen of upside-down cakes, but I’d like to make a petition for this mango number to be a princess or a duchess or something. The combination of brown sugar cake and fresh mango baked in caramel is absolutely divine.Friday Favorites: Everyday Cakes {Spring Edition}Winning Hearts & Minds Cake

Everyone needs a good flourless chocolate cake recipe in their back pocket. This one is the slightest take on Molly Wizenberg-Choi’s gem of a recipe. I’ve made it approximately a thousand times—I’ve got the recipe memorized—and am still not over the crackly top and dense chocolaty middle. Consider my heart and mind won.

Have you made these or any of my other everyday cakes? Let me know in the comments or on social media!

Sunny Lemon Upside-Down Cake

Sunny Lemon Upside-Down CakeIf you love a real mouth-puckering punch of lemon, this Sunny Lemon Upside-Down Cake is for you. We’re talking buttery lemon cake topped with a sticky mosaic of sliced lemons—all the lemon flavor you could ever want. It’s sunny and happy-looking enough to drive any late-winter blues away, at least for the two minutes it takes to eat a slice!Sunny Lemon Upside-Down CakeUpside-down cakes are very simple to make and this one is no different, although it does take some time. The lemons have to be sliced, seeded and trimmed of excess rind, lest your cake become incredibly bitter. If you happen to find thin-skinned lemons (Meyer lemons!), you can skip trimming off that outer layer, but I wouldn’t chance it otherwise. Heads up that while I find this process enjoyable, it almost always takes a half hour from beginning to end. Plan ahead.Sunny Lemon Upside-Down CakeAll my previous upside-down cakes have been made by tiling the fruit over a pool of butter and brown sugar that have been melted together, but that combination doesn’t work terribly well here if you’re hoping for your lemon slices to be tender and defined. I tried all sorts of adjustments to my usual topping before following the advice of Broma Bakery—arguably the queen of citrus upside-down cakes—and adding some water to form a syrup. This makes all the difference, keeping the lemon slices pretty, plump and tender, even after baking.

This syrup is made of sugar, honey, butter, salt and water that have been microwaved together. It’s divided so that there is a layer both under and over the lemons. The lemons themselves are tiled in whole at first, before being cut into tiny wedges to fill in gaps. The lemons will shrink while baking, so the only way to guarantee a beautiful upside-down cake is to leave as little space between pieces as possible.Sunny Lemon Upside-Down CakeOnce your lemon mosaic is assembled, bury it in thick lemon cake batter; this recipe is my go-to vanilla cake with some lemony flair. The cake will need nearly an hour to bake. Don’t be alarmed when when you pull it from the oven and it looks like a nightmare—there’s a reason this cake is served upside down!Sunny Lemon Upside-Down CakeAnother way this cake is different from my other upside-down cakes? It needs to cool for a long time in the pan. Between the juicy lemons and the syrupy topping, this cake needs to fully settle or it will look like a hot mess. For the best results, wait until the cake has cooled completely before inverting onto a plate. Your patience will be rewarded with a beautiful golden lemon top. All the peculiarities of assembly will have been worth it, I promise.Sunny Lemon Upside-Down CakeOnce your cake is on a plate, all that’s left to do is slice through the top with a serrated knife, grab a fork and enjoy this dessert which, like it’s name suggests, both looks and tastes like a ray of sunshine. I, for one, can’t see or taste it without smiling.Sunny Lemon Upside-Down Cake

Sunny Lemon Upside-Down Cake
makes 1 9-inch round cake

Topping:
5-6 small/medium lemons
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon mild honey or maple syrup
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/4 cup water

Cake:
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoons fresh lemon zest
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (from ~1/2 lemon)
~1 cup milk (not skim or fat free), room temperature
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
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
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

For serving (optional):
vanilla ice cream
whipped cream

Preheat oven to 350F. Heavily grease a 9-inch round cake pan. Line with parchment and grease again. Set aside.

Make the topping. Wash and dry lemons. Zest 1 lemon, then set zest aside.

Slice lemons (including zested one) in 1/4-inch slices. Use a sharp knife to trim rind to no more than 1/4-inch. Remove seeds (they will become more pronounced during baking).

Combine sugar, honey, salt, butter and water in a microwave-safe bowl or liquid measuring cup. Stir together, then microwave 45 seconds. Stir again, just until sugar granules are dissolved. Pop back in the microwave for 15 seconds if necessary. This step may also be done in a small pot on the stove.

Pour half the liquid (~1/3 cup) in the prepared pan and swirl to coat. Arrange whole lemon slices tightly over the top. Cut some whole lemon slices into small wedges, then use them to fill in any gaps. There shouldn’t be much, if any, open space. Pour over the remainder of the liquid. Set aside.

Make the cake batter. Combine the sugar and lemon zest in a small bowl and use your fingertips to rub them together.

Pour lemon juice into a liquid measuring cup, then add milk up to the 1 cup mark. Stir together and set aside for at least 5 minutes, or until curdled.

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 lemony sugar. Add eggs one at a time, mixing completely after each addition. Add vanilla. With the mixer on low, alternate adding dry ingredients and the milk mixture in two installments. Mix just until combined.

Pour batter over the arranged lemon slices, 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. Bake 50-55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Let cake cool completely in the pan on a rack. Run a small, thin knife around the edge of the pan a couple of times before inverting onto a cake stand or large serving plate. Peel off and discard parchment.

Serve cake with ice cream of whipped cream, if desired. Cake is best the day it’s baked, but wrapped leftovers will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.Sunny Lemon Upside-Down CakeSunny Lemon Upside-Down Cake

Baked Shrimp with Lemon & Garlic

Baked Shrimp with Lemon & GarlicThere is a time for involved, long-cooking, multi-dish recipes, and then there’s the time for a 30 minute main that can be made in two steps and served with any carby thing that makes you happy.

This is the second thing.Baked Shrimp with Lemon & GarlicWhether you’re looking for something you can throw together on a weeknight or an easy special occasion meal for when dinner parties are a thing again, Baked Shrimp with Lemon & Garlic fits the bill. It’s light and refreshing, a snap to make and can be on your table in half an hour! Yesssss.Baked Shrimp with Lemon & GarlicBaked Shrimp with Lemon & GarlicBaked Shrimp with Lemon & GarlicThis is one of those dishes for which I almost always have the ingredients. My kitchen is always stocked with lemons, fresh garlic, onions, red pepper flakes, salt and olive oil, and I usually have parsley, too. Just add a couple of pounds of raw shrimp (I used frozen/thawed) and we’re ready to roll!

To make this bright and lemony main, begin by tossing the raw shrimp, minced garlic, thinly sliced onion, red pepper flakes, salt, olive oil, lemon zest and lemon juice in a casserole dish. Bake everything for 12-15 minutes at 375F, stirring every five minutes, until the shrimp are pink and opaque, and the thin strands of onion have lost their rigidity. Squeeze another lemon over the top, stir in a big handful of chopped fresh parsley and…um, well that’s it. Told you it was easy.Baked Shrimp with Lemon & GarlicServe Baked Shrimp with Lemon & Garlic over rice, orzo (or other pasta) or with crusty bread—anything to take advantage of all that lemony, garlicky oil! Oh, and a glass of something crisp and cold never hurt anything. Just saying.Baked Shrimp with Lemon & Garlic

Baked Shrimp with Lemon & Garlic
makes 4-6 servings

3 medium lemons, divided
2 pounds fresh or frozen (thawed) raw shrimp (I use 21-30 count)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 small white or Spanish onion, very thinly sliced
1/2-1 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt, or to taste
1/4-1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4-1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley

For serving (optional):
sliced lemons
baguette or other crusty bread
cooked pasta
cooked rice

Preheat oven to 375F.

Zest and juice two lemons.

Combine lemon zest & juice, shrimp, garlic, onion, salt, red pepper flakes and olive oil in a casserole dish. Toss together until fully combined. Bake 12-15 minutes, gently stirring every 5 minutes, until all shrimp are pink and opaque.

Squeeze over remaining lemon and stir in parsley. Garnish with lemon slices, if desired. Serve with toasted baguette, pasta or rice.

Leftovers will keep covered in the refrigerator for up to 48 hours. Do not microwave leftovers, as it will drastically over cook the shrimp. Instead, reheat gently on the stove in a pan over medium-low heat.

Baked Shrimp with Lemon & GarlicBaked Shrimp with Lemon & GarlicBaked Shrimp with Lemon & Garlic

Little Lemon Pie Jars {No-Bake}

Little Lemon Pie JarsThese Little Lemon Pie Jars are are the best no-bake dessert I’ve had in quite some time. They’re cold, creamy and tangy, but not overly rich, and their single-serve presentation makes them ideal for any socially-distanced gathering during these hotter months.Little Lemon Pie JarsLittle Lemon Pie JarsLittle Lemon Pie JarsLittle Lemon Pie JarsLittle Lemon Pie Jars are incredibly simple to make. The lemon filling is made with a fluffy combination of cream cheese, confectioner’s sugar, whipped cream, and my favorite Lazy Lemon Curd. While the curd takes a little forethought so it can cool completely, it’s very easy to make—sweetened condensed milk does all the heavy lifting. You could certainly use store bought lemon curd or make a traditional recipe, but I really want to encourage you to try this easy version. It’s dead-simple to make, perfectly balanced, and one recipe makes twice the amount you’ll need for these little pies, meaning you’ll have plenty leftover for toast or biscuits or slapping together a few Lemon Meringue S’mores. Yum.Little Lemon Pie JarsOnce the curd is made and cooled, the filling takes all of ten minutes to mix and spoon over the crust. Oooh, this crust. While the lemon filling is plenty sweet and refreshing on its own, the crust provides textural contrast and cuts the richness.Little Lemon Pie JarsLittle Lemon Pie JarsSimply mix up some graham cracker crumbs, confectioner’s sugar, a pinch of salt and melted butter until everything is lightly moistened, then press the mixture into the bottoms of eight small mason jars. It won’t set hard, instead staying a little on the crumbly side. Where this wouldn’t work particularly well for a traditional pie, it works like a dream here. I love that I can dig my spoon into the bottom of the jar and get a little crust in every bite.Little Lemon Pie JarsYou can garnish these little pies however you like or not at all. I’ve been saying some version of this a lot lately, but it’s the truth: we’re in a pandemic and there are no dessert rules. I dressed these pictured pie jars up with whipped cream, teensy lemon wedges and extra drizzles of lemon curd for their glamour shots, but I ate the leftovers plain out of the fridge and they were just as delicious. Little Lemon Pie Jars

Little Lemon Pie Jars
makes 8 4-ounce pie jars

Crust:
1 cup graham cracker crumbs (about 8 whole graham crackers)
1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Filling:
6 tablespoons heavy cream, very cold
3/4 cup Lazy Lemon Curd (or other lemon curd), recipe below
4 ounces (1/2 brick) full-fat brick-style cream cheese
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

For Garnish:
whipped cream
Lazy Lemon Curd
small lemon wedges

Special Equipment:
8 4-ounce mason jars or ramekins

Make the crust. In a small-medium mixing bowl, whisk together graham cracker crumbs, confectioner’s sugar and salt. Add melted butter and whisk until everything is lightly moistened and resembles damp sand.

Divide mixture among 8 4-ounce mason jars (or ramekins), about 2-3 heaping tablespoons each. Tamp down the crust with the back of a spoon. Set aside.

Make the filling. Pour heavy cream into a small-medium mixing bowl, and use an electric mixer to beat until stiff peaks form. Set aside.

In a medium-large mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to beat together Lazy Lemon Curd and cream cheese. It may be a little lumpy. Add confectioner’s sugar and salt and beat to combine. Mix in vanilla.

Use a silicone spatula to stir half the whipped cream into the lemon mixture. Gently fold in the second half of the whipped cream. Spoon filling into mason jars, smoothing the tops with the back of a spoon. Refrigerate at least 2 hours, or press plastic wrap to the surfaces and chill up to 2 days. If you are short on time, these may be frozen for an hour.

To serve, top with whipped cream. Drizzle with more Lazy Lemon Curd (I did this with a snipped piping bag) and garnish with a lemon wedge.

Lazy Lemon Curd
makes about 1 1/2 cups

2/3 cup fresh lemon juice (from about 3-4 lemons)
1 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
2 large egg yolks, room temperature

Make the filling. Fill a small pot with 1-2 inches of water. Set a heatproof bowl over the top, ensuring that the water does not touch the bottom of the bowl. Remove bowl and bring water to a simmer.

In the heatproof bowl, whisk together lemon juice, sweetened condensed milk, and egg yolks. Place bowl over simmering water, creating a double boiler. Let cook, stirring frequently, until slightly thickened (about 15 minutes). Remove from heat and transfer filling to a heatproof container. Press a piece of plastic wrap to the surface. Let cool completely at room temperature before storing in the refrigerator.Little Lemon Pie JarsLittle Lemon Pie JarsLittle Lemon Pie Jars

Almond Poppy Seed Coffee Cake

Almond Poppy Seed Coffee CakeIn keeping with social distancing, baking with what I have, considering what you might have, thinking up swaps, and trying to make something Easter-appropriate, I present to you this Almond Poppy Seed Coffee Cake. It’s made with the last of a container of sour cream I found in my fridge, poppy seeds leftover from Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins, and sliced almonds from Almond Boterkoek. The rest of the ingredients are baking basics/things I normally have around. Oh, and it only requires one egg—score!Almond Poppy Seed Coffee CakeAs far as Easter goes, this is not my norm. This cake is not pastel or coconut or coated in my nemesis, poured fondant, but it feels decidedly springlike anyway. I mean, I know we eat almond things at other times of year, but doesn’t Almond Poppy Seed Coffee Cake scream springtime Sunday morning?Almond Poppy Seed Coffee CakeThe cake is just my usual coffee/crumb cake base, but perfumed with almond extract and studding with crunchy poppy seeds. It’s super moist and tender thanks to sour cream, milk and softened butter.Almond Poppy Seed Coffee CakeI skipped the traditional coffee cake crumble here because I felt like it was competing with the poppy seeds—too much crunch, ya know? Instead, I’ve taken the easy way out and topped this sucker with sliced almonds, put it in the oven and called it a day.

You might think you’ll miss the crumble, but once this cake is baked and golden, I promise you’ll be like “Crumble who?” Or, more likely, you’ll be too busy eating soft almond poppy seed cake to care.Almond Poppy Seed Coffee CakeAs with every recipe I’m posting right now, Almond Poppy Seed Coffee Cake has plenty of room for substitutions and swaps.

-don’t have poppy seeds? Leave them out. You won’t have same crispy, crunchy texture, but your coffee cake will still be delicious.
-if you don’t have a round cake pan, use a square pan. I haven’t tried it, but I have a sneaking suspicion this will work in a loaf pan too, though you may want to let it bake for more like 50-60 minutes.
-don’t have both granulated and brown sugars? You can use all of one or the other. This will change the color and flavor of the cake a little in either direction, but not in a bad way.
-no almond extract? Well, your cake won’t be Almond Poppy Seed without it, but it also will be fine. If you have citrus at home, feel free to zest a lemon (or whatever) into the sugar. If you leave it plain though, I promise it will still be good.Almond Poppy Seed Coffee Cake
-no vanilla? Not ideal, of course, but it can be left out.
-our of sour cream? Use yogurt. No yogurt? Swap all the sour cream & milk in the recipe for 1 1/4 cup buttermilk. For DIY buttermilk, see here.
-I bake almost exclusively with whole milk, but feel free to sub whatever you have. With the quantity of sour cream in this recipe, plant-based milks should work without issue.
-if you don’t have sliced almonds for the top, use slivered or chopped almonds, or leave them off entirely. If you feel like your cake needs more adornment, make a glaze or sift confectioners sugar over the top.

That’s every substitution I can think of, but feel free to ask questions in the comments if you think of another. “Make it work” is the name of the game this Easter.Almond Poppy Seed Coffee Cake

Almond Poppy Seed Coffee Cake
makes one 9-inch round cake, about 10 servings

2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons poppy seeds
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 large egg, room temperature
1/2 cup full-fat sour cream, room temperature
2/3 cup whole milk, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon pure almond extract
1/2 cup sliced almonds

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 9-inch round cake pan. Line with parchment and grease again. Set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together flour, poppy seeds, brown sugar, granulated sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to beat butter until fluffy. Mix in egg, sour cream, vanilla and almond extracts; mixture will be a bit lumpy. Mix in half the dry ingredients followed by half the milk. Add remaining dry ingredients, followed by remaining milk.

Transfer the batter into the prepared pan and spread it evenly. Use your fingers to scatter sliced almonds over the top. Tap full pan a few times on the countertop to release any large air bubbles. Bake cake for 40-45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let cool 20 minutes in the pan on a rack. Run a thin, flexible knife around the edge of the pan before inverting onto a plate to release. Revert cake onto a serving plate. Cake may be served warm or room temperature. Serve.

Leftover cake will keep well at room temperature for up to two days, or in the refrigerator for up to five.Almond Poppy Seed Coffee CakeAlmond Poppy Seed Coffee CakeAlmond Poppy Seed Coffee Cake