Archive for the ‘Sweets’ Category

Persian Spice Cake

Saffron Vanilla Frosting
I’d been waiting for an excuse to make a cake – a birthday, an anniversary, a holiday… something – and nothing soon was coming up. But why does anyone really need an excuse to make a cake? Cake is good all the time. So for no reason at all I made a cake last night to bring into my office. I called it a Happy May Day cake (a day early).

Now, does anyone else get tired of eating chocolate and vanilla cakes over and over? I mean, dont get me wrong, I love them both. I love chocolate cakes with coffee or chocolate stout (recipe for that one to be made and posted soon) or vanilla cakes that use real vanilla beans. Great fruit fillings can also turn an ordinary cake to something brilliant (I want to make a fig filling when they come back in season). But sometimes you just want something different. Something you wouldn’t know where to buy, but if you saw it on a menu you’d say to yourself (or out loud), “ah ha! that sounds fantastic. I’m ordering one of those!” Well… this is one of those cakes.

The ingredients are based on flavors found in Persian, Turkish, and Indian foods. I succeeded in finding 2 out of the 3 ingredients that I didnt have at home: ground cardamom and saffron threads (apparently the most expensive seasoning in the world, or so the bottle told me). I searched through four different stores to look for rose water/oil/essence with no luck – Boston/Holly fail. So I decided to make my own by using organic flowers from Whole Foods and letting the petals steep in boiling water. I’m not sure that the end result was what I would find in a store bought bottle (it wasnt especially strong), but it worked well enough with the light flavor. And honestly, I’m guessing it would be great completely without it.

The texture is light like angel food or chiffon cake. The cardamom is just enough to balance the lemon zest without overpowering the experience. The saffron adds a twist while visually providing the whipped cream with a beautiful yellow color and vibrant red streaks. If you’re feeling like something new for Mother’s Day or an upcoming celebration – you might consider this. I know I’ll make this again (and again).

Persian Spice Cake
adapted from Bon Appétit

1 c cake flour
1 c sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt (I like sea salt)
5 large eggs, separated (3 egg yolks, 5 egg whites)
1/4 c water
1 tsp rose water (optional)
1/4 c vegetable oil
1 1/2 tsp grated lemon peel
2 tsp ground cardamom

2 1/2 cups chilled heavy whipping cream
Small pinch of saffron threads
1 c powdered sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Very slightly oil two 9″ cake pans and line with parchment paper.
2. In a large bowl, combine 1/2 c sugar, baking powder, and salt. In a separate small bowl wisk 3 yolks, waters, vegetable oil, cardamom and lemon zest. Add yolk mixture to dry ingredients; whisk until smooth.
3. Beat 5 egg whites in medium bowl until soft peaks form. Gradually add 1/2 c sugar and beat until whites form solid peaks.
4. Slowly add the egg whites to the batter and mix well.
5. Divide batter between prepared pans and bake until cakes are golden, about 20-25 minutes.
6. Invert pans and cool upside down on rack for 25 minutes ( It doesn’t rise much so dont worry if it deflates a little).

To make the frosting:
1. Combine 1/2 cup cream and saffron in small saucepan and bring to a slight boil. Remove from heat and chill until cold.
2. Beat remaining 2 cups cream, powdered sugar, vanilla and rose water in large bowl until soft peaks form. Add saffron cream and continue to beat until solid peaks form.

Frost one layer flat-side up. Place second layer on top, also flat side up. Spread remaining frosting over entire cake and allow to chill for at least 1 hour.

Cake + Rose


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Cookies Cooling
I havent spent much time in the kitchen lately. I went on a trip to DC, had several out of town friends visit, restaurant weeks, just plain laziness after work, etc. There’s no real excuse, I just havent made the time in the last two weeks and it didnt feel right. Cooking has become very therapeutic for me, it helps me unwind while I dance to my ipod and whip up batter for cookies. At the end I have something real in my hands to look at and enjoy (and/or photograph) and I know exactly what went into it.

The end result is never as important to me as the process. For example these cookies. I love baking and making sweets in general; however, I dont enjoy eating them all that much. I’m really more of a salty/savory kinda girl. When I have a craving its usually for chips or fried food that has more than a days worth of my recommended sodium intake. But there is something special about baking, maybe the smell, that I cant get enough of.

In the spirit of reducing my waste and wanting to bake, my secret ingredient this week was buttermilk. I cant quite remember why I bought it in the first place, but I remember the story goes along the lines of not being able to buy a pint – they only had half gallons. Epicurious had this recipe for buttermilk cookies that rates 3.5/4 forks (usually a decent sign that the recipe is good) so I thought that I’d try them out. These “cookies” are more like mini cakes in that they are light and fluffy. They dont quite have the dense/chewy consistency that cookies do. Nonetheless, they are delicious. I halved the recipe for the most part, but kept some of the ingredients the same ratios (vanilla and lemon rind) to give it extra flavor. You can play around with the glaze as well – maybe add some zest as a final finish before the glaze has set.

Lemon Buttermilk Cookies
adapted from Gourmet

For cookies:
1 1/2 c all-purpose flour
1 tsp lemon zest
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 stick unsalted butter, soft
3/4 cups granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup buttermilk (shake it!)

For glaze:
3/4 cups powdered sugar
1 tbs buttermilk (shake!)
1 tbs lemon juice
1 tsp lemon zest
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Make cookies:

1. Preheat oven to 350°F and oil baking sheets
2. Whisk together dry ingredients – flour, zest, baking soda, and salt.
3. Using an electric mixer, beat together butter and sugar in a large bowl. Once mixture becomes pale and fluffy add egg, beating well after the addition, then beat in vanilla.
4. Mix in small amounts of flour mixture and buttermilk into the butter/sugar alternately in batches at low speed, until smooth.
5. Drop level tablespoons of dough about 1 1/2 inches apart onto baking sheets.
6. Bake until cookies are puffed and edges are golden, approximately 12 to 15 minutes per batch.

Glaze cookies:
In a small bowl, whisk together all glaze ingredients. Dunk tops of warm cookies into the mixture and set aside on cooling rack. Let stand until cookies are completely cooled and glaze is set.

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Candied Kumquats


For my second post I was trying to think of something new to try out. Noticing my kumquats on the first post my friend suggested that I try candied kumquats. Let me tell you – they are fantastic. My dad used to take me after school to this hotel in my hometown that had several trees out front. We would sneak a few bags and eat them on the ride home. Before Monday, that was the only way I tried them – straight off a tree.

Kumquat pile

Simmering them in sugar creates a nice balance between the tart citrus taste and sweet. They’re best after a few days soaking in the sugar reduction. They’d go great on sugar cookies, in salads, part of a salsa, or you can eat them like me… out of the container. Feel free to experiment with other flavors in the sugar syrup too, I think cinnamon and/or nutmeg would be delicious.
candied kumquats

Candied Kumquats

2 cups sliced kumquats
1/2 water
1 cup sugar

1. Slice the kumquats in half, taking out any seeds that are easy to get. Luckily the seeds are edible so you dont have to worry too much about the ones that are hard to reach.
2. Stir water and sugar together on high heat in a pot and bring to a boil. Reduce to medium-low heat and simmer for a few minutes until the sugar is completely dissolved.
3. Add kumquats to the pot and simmer for approximately 10 minutes.
4. Drain the kumquats and set aside in small bowl. Return sugar mixture back to the pot and reduce on low heat for a few more minutes (note: be sure not to reduce for too long or you’ll end up with carmel like I did the first time I made these).
5. Combine kumquats and sugar in a small container.

Can be stored in a container for a week, but they’ll probably be eaten by then – they are VERY addicting.

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