Julie’s Pound Cake

Pound Cake on a cake plate

I am unmoored, adrift on an alien sea without a recognizable land mass in sight. I’m anxious, a bit panicked even, scanning the horizon for a hint of familiarity, only to be met with unending waves of strangeness. I’m utterly lost and unsure how to be Julie during these times.

Until recently, the reality of the daily consequences of this pandemic somehow didn’t leave its mark upon me. Sure, my life was inconvenienced, but never changed beyond recognition. Last week, however, something shifted and I’ve been going through the unease that everyone else faced months ago. It’s disconcerting to be in this untethered mode while the rest of the world has moved past these initial discomforts and are now humming along nicely within this state of the “new normal.”

Nothing feels normal.

The only time my footing becomes sure is within the confines of my kitchen, when all else fades away and my mind becomes firmly focused on baking, like this tender pound cake just waiting for some fresh summer berries and a dollop of whipped cream.


Julie’s Pound Cake

  • Servings: 10-12 servings
  • Print

This recipe requires a bundt pan and results in a tender version of the well-known classic.


Ingredients

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon cream of tartar
  • ¼ teaspoon cardamom
  • 2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 6 large eggs
  • ½ cup plain yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Directions

  1. Place a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 325⁰ F. Butter and flour bundt pan. Stir together flour, salt, cream of tartar and cardamom. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter on high speed until very light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
  2. Reduce speed to low and gradually add sugar. Return speed to high and continue beating for about 7 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, blending completely between each addition. It is helpful to add a tablespoon of the flour with each egg to stop the batter from curdling. Beat in yogurt and vanilla. Reduce speed to low and slowly add dry ingredients, beating just until combined. Scrape batter into prepared pan.
  3. Bake cake, rotating halfway through, until golden brown and a tester comes out clean, about 70 minutes. Cool in pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely.

*Adapted from Bon Appetit Magazine.

Tropical Tres Leches Cake

A pan of Tropical Tres Leches Cake with fresh fruit

 

To be alive at all is to have scars.
– John Steinbeck

How beautiful you are
He said
A tapestry of scars
– Atticus

I couldn’t help staring at him, transfixed. His perfect Dutch face – high cheekbones, full lips, mutable blue-grey eyes, alabaster skin – dissected diagonally, from his left eyebrow, across his nose, to the right of his chin – by a jagged, pink scar.

He. Was. Beautiful.

I blushed when those eyes caught me looking.

Thirty years later and scars still fascinate me. Rather than flaws, I see them as character, turning unremarkable symmetry into something unique, exquisite. In addition to their visual interest, each scar carries a story – nature’s version of a tattoo – without any say from the owner in the final artwork. This particular scar, this story, was the result of smashing through a windshield.

I find the invisible scars just a beautiful – the ones carried on the inside. We hide them from the world, afraid we’ll appear disfigured, imperfect, damaged. However, they’re what make us truly remarkable. A smooth cabochon is lovely, but a faceted stone, with its 1000 cuts, is much more precious and shines with fire. There’s no need to hide your scars from me – they’re what I like best. I won’t love you in spite of them; I’ll love you because of them. Scars, both the visible and unseen, tell the world we have lived…and survived.

– written July 2019

As is often my style, what I’ve written above has absolutely nothing to do with the recipe below, except that they were both birthed by me.


Tropical Tres Leches Cake

  • Servings: 12-16 servings
  • Print

Ingredients

    Tres Leches Milk
  • 10 oz. dulce de leche or 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk (see note below)
  • 12 oz. can evaporated milk
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Cake
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 4 eggs, room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla
  • Topping
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 3 Tablespoons corn syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup coconut, toasted
  • Assorted chopped tropical fruit (strawberries, mangoes, kiwi, or berries)

Directions

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together dulce de leche, evaporated milk, heavy whipping cream and vanilla. Set aside.
  2. Preheat the oven to 325⁰ F. Grease and flour a 9”x13” pan. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Set aside. Whip eggs in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment until frothy. With the mixer on medium, gradually add the sugar until incorporated, then beat on medium high until the mixture is pale yellow, thick and glossy, 8-10 minutes.
  3. While the mixture is beating, heat the milk and butter in a small pan over low heat until the butter has melted. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla. When the eggs are ready, reduce the mixer to slow and add the milk. The milk can be fairly warm, but not hot to the touch.
  4. Add the flour mixture in three parts with the mixer on medium speed and beat just until combined. Scrape down the sides as needed.
  5. Pour the mixture into prepared pan and bake for 35-40 minutes. The cake is done when a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool the cake in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Using a wooden spoon handle or chopstick, poke holes in the cake surface, spacing them about ½” apart (a skewer is too small). Pour the tres leches liquid slowly over the cake and let sit at room temperature for 15 minutes. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours and up to overnight (the longer the better).
  6. A few hours before serving, whip together the cream, corn syrup, and vanilla until stiff peaks form. Spread the topping over the cake, garnish with fruit and coconut.
  7.  

    Note: If you can’t find dulce de leche, you can make your own by slowly reducing sweetened condensed milk in the microwave. Pour the milk in a microwave safe bowl and cover it loosely with plastic wrap. Microwave on medium power for 3-5 minute intervals until milk begins to darken, uncovering and stirring between intervals. Once milk begins to color (about 10 minutes total), reduce power to low and continue heating and stirring until thickened and light brown. This process can take 30 minutes or longer.

    Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated.


Blood Orange and Honey Upside-Down Cake

 A Blood Orange and Honey Upside-Down Cake dotted with orange slices
He loosely grips the steering wheel with one hand, the other nestles along my left thigh. The dappled sunlight warms our scalps, unimpeded by a convertible roof tucked away in the trunk. My hair is kept restrained by a scarf. I catch his eye and grin, content and ready for another adventure…

The Southern California weather’s been ideal, bright sunny days with cool breezes, and I long for the return of road trips with my guy, shelved during this self-isolation and COVID shaming. Reminding myself that the best part of the adventure is often the journey, I suggest a road trip where the final destination becomes secondary, where we needn’t leave the safety of our convertible. The first weekend, we head northeast to two mountain destinations offering up patches of slushy snow and the fresh, cool air we so desperately crave. Our picnic by the lake, his doing, is a bonus. We’re hooked. The next weekend, it’s two hours south to Julian, a town known for its freshly baked apple pies. Not only do we pick up a still-warm apple crumble pie, we also pull off at a dusty roadside fruit stand for blood oranges, avocados, and honey. Next weekend, it’s our longest adventure yet, up the coast to an enclave famous for aebleskivers and Danish kitsch.

This cake is a celebration of our roadside stop last weekend where we stocked up on local honey and blood oranges. These farm-fresh ingredients made their way into this refreshing citrusy dessert that looks quite the showstopper when the cake is inverted onto the serving platter.


Blood Orange and Honey Upside-Down Cake

  • Servings: 8-10 servings
  • Print

A refreshing citrus cake that looks quite a showstopper when turned out is sure to be a favorite of anyone who appreciates a bit of marmalade.


Ingredients

  • ½ cup honey
  • ¼ cup fresh orange juice (either blood orange or regular)
  • 1 to 2 unpeeled blood oranges (depending on size), very thinly sliced crosswise (discard ends). I used a mandolin.
  • ¾ cup butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 Tablespoon grated orange peel (either blood orange or regular)
  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ⅓ cup whole milk
  • Lightly sweetened freshly whipped cream (optional)

Directions

  1. In a 10-inch nonstick, ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat, stir honey and orange juice until boiling. Cook without stirring until mixture is foamy, slightly thickened, and reaches 230°, 2 to 4 minutes. Place in freezer until cooled, about 10 minutes. Slightly overlap orange slices in concentric circles over syrup.
  2. Preheat oven to 350°. In a large bowl, with a mixer on high speed, beat butter and sugar until smooth. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in orange peel.
  3. In another bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir half the flour mixture into butter mixture just until incorporated. Stir in milk, then remaining flour mixture. Do not over mix.  Carefully spoon batter over orange slices in pan and spread evenly.
  4. Bake until a wooden skewer inserted in the center comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes. Lay a flat plate over pan and carefully invert cake onto plate. Lift pan off, being careful with hot syrup. Allow to cool completely and cut into wedges. Serve with whipped cream, if desired. This cake is best eaten the same day it is made.

I’d love to claim this recipe as one of my own, but it actually comes from Sunset Magazine. My only alteration was substituting blood oranges for standard oranges.

Apple Molasses Spice Cupcakes

Rows of Apple Spice Muffins

“How often do you blog?” he asks.

“I try to post twice a week,” she unthinkingly replies, “Every Monday and Wednesday.”

Her answer was honest…albeit, incorrect. She USED to post twice a week, yet she hasn’t done so in a year. In December, Mardi Gras for most dessert bloggers, her fingers didn’t type a word. In 2019, her unique views didn’t surpass the previous year’s count, a first.

It’s not only about the statistics.

She compares her dull flat-lays to the avante-garde images in her head – a bowl of soup precariously teetering on a see-saw (quirky and unexpected), a slowly melting chocolate truffle on a tongue (sexy, gothic and moody) – and is chagrinned. Her intros are stilted and forced – telling, rather than showing. Her words only seem to flow when in the midst of upheaval – not a sustainable situation. Unsatisfied with her results, she wonders if she’s stuck in a pattern that doesn’t suit her anymore.

But who is she without her blog, her constant companion for the past 11 years? She considers her options and decides, before killing it off completely, to seek CPR – her first remedy – a writing course to revive words that have flat lined.


Apple Molasses Spice Cupcakes

  • Servings: 24 Cupcakes
  • Print

Moist cupcakes with the unexpected flavors of cardamom and 5-spice garnished with walnuts and rich cream cheese frosting, if desired.


Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
  • ¾ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¾ teaspoon cardamom
  • ½ teaspoon Chinese 5-spice
  • ¼ teaspoon clove
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup molasses
  • ½ cup brown sugar (packed)
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 Tablespoon grated fresh ginger
  • ½ cup boiling water
  • 2 apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1/2 ” pieces
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts (optional)
  • Cream cheese frosting (optional)

Directions

  1. Heat oven to 350⁰ F. Line cupcake tins with papers.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, soda, spices, and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk together molasses, sugar, egg, oil, ginger and water. Add molasses mixture to flour mixture and whisk until just combined. Fold in apples.
  3. Pour batter into tins, sprinkle with chopped walnuts (if using) and bake until toothpick comes out clean, 20-25 minutes. Cool completely and decorate with cream cheese frosting.

Sticky Gingerbread Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting

A gingerbread cupcake drizzled with salted caramel

I’m a list keeper. I keep shopping lists, lists of books to read, lists of desserts I want to make, lists of writing topics, and my never-ending to-do list. Of all my lists, my favorite is one I’ve entitled “Things I Love” and it captures some of the things, from the silly to the sublime, that put a smile on my face. If you want to know what makes me happy, you can read my list here.

Looking back, I can’t recall why (or even when) I started this list. Remembering how crazed my work world used to be, I was likely attempting to bring a little contentment into my life. By reminding myself what truly brought me happiness, I could remember to appreciate these simple delights.

Christmas light displays didn’t make the list, but they’re a much-loved part of my holiday season. When I was little, my siblings and I would squeal from the station wagon’s back seat, “Pretty lights! Pretty lights!” whenever we’d drive by a festively lit house. As adults, we road trip to other neighborhoods – and other cities (Portland!?) in search of flamboyantly adorned holiday houses. If Jesus, Santa, Snoopy, AND a giant snow globe all make it into one tableau, our holiday is complete!

I’m thinking about Christmas light displays today because I’ve had a request to bake a few treats for a neighborhood holiday light stroll next month – a request I happily accepted. These sticky, spicy gingerbread cupcakes are my first contibution, adapted from Gramercy Tavern’s Gingerbread. My coworker, John, took a bite and said, “This is dangerous.” He then took a second bite and said, “This is really dangerous.” By his third bite, the cupcake was gone. Others agreed.


Sticky Gingerbread Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting

  • Servings: 24 cupcakes
  • Print

Dangerously sticky, spicy, not-too-sweet cupcakes topped with lashings of cream cheese frosting, salted caramel and candied walnuts.


Ingredients

    Gingerbread
  • 1 cup Guinness Stout
  • 1 cup dark molasses
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 Tablespoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • ¾ cup vegetable oil
  • Salted Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting
  • 16 ounces cream cheese, chilled
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar
  • ⅓ cup good quality salted caramel, plus more for drizzling (It’s worth making your own!)
  • 24 candied walnuts

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 24 muffin tins. Bring stout and molasses to a boil in a large saucepan and remove from heat. Whisk in baking soda, and then cool to room temperature.
  2. Sift together flour, baking powder, and spices in a large bowl. Whisk together eggs and sugars. Whisk in oil, then molasses mixture. Add to flour mixture and whisk until just combined.
  3. Fill muffin tins ¾ full and rap pan sharply on counter to eliminate air bubbles. Bake in middle of oven until a tester comes out with just a few moist crumbs adhering, about 25 minutes. Cool completely.
  4. To make frosting: In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and butter together on medium-high speed until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add the confectioners’ sugar and salted caramel. Beat on low speed for 30 seconds, then increase to high speed and beat for 3 minutes until creamy. If frosting is too soft, refrigerate for 15 minutes before piping.
  5. Frost cupcakes, drizzle with additional salted caramel, and garnish with a candied walnut.