Blackberry Jam-Filled Doughnut Bundt Cake

“Did you ever suck the jelly out of a jelly doughnut and then fill it with chocolate swirl ice cream?” Fatso, written by Anne Bancroft

Nobody told me there’d be doughnuts. In addition to clusterfucktastic traffic on sprawling freeway roads connecting neighborhoods, Mexican food in vast abundance that ranges from the gloppy-melty-guacamole to the authentic sublime in small corn folds, casual celebrity sightings, beautiful youth, wide, deep beaches, roller bladers, stoners, and other outdoor enthusiasts, palm trees in many sizes, smog, recently crafted mountains, iconic sights and signs and mansions and movies, Los Angeles is lousy with doughnuts.

Blackberry Jam Filled Doughnut Bundt Cake

Freestanding buildings with a walk-up window, cases packed with rows of sweet puffy taste sensations. Some are round, filled with chocolate cream or ruby red jelly, others are oblong, slicked with thick chocolate icing or sugary glaze, some are old fashioned twists dusted in cinnamon sugar. All are wonderful. Not like cake doughnuts from a New England country fair, but airy, ethereal wisps of perfection, quickly consumed in mass quantities.

Blackberry Jam Filled Doughnut Bundt Cake

During our first days in Burbank, whilst holed up like junkies at the Safari Motor Inn, we found ourselves adjacent to a magic place called Donut Prince. Every morning I would wake up, baffled by the turning of events that led us precisely there, then walk to the doughnut shop to fill a paper bag with breakfast pastries and return to the room a hero. Where does the doughnut come from? Nobody knows. But the form may have reached its apex here in Southern California, like so much of twentieth century America.

I used a blackberry jam this time, but use whatever jam/jelly/marmalade/preserve you like best. Such good breakfast cake with coffee!

Blackberry Jam Filled Doughnut Bundt Cake

5 from 1 reviews

Blackberry Jam-Filled Doughnut Bundt Cake
 
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Serves: 1 cake

Ingredients
For the cake:
  • 2⅔ cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1½ sticks unsalted, melted
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • ½ cup blackberry (or your favorite) jam
For the topping:
  • ½ stick butter, melted
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

Method
  1. Preheat oven to 350. Grease a bundt pan liberally with butter.
  2. In a large mixing bowl whisk together flour, sugar, and baking powder. In medium mixing bowl or saucepan combine melted butter, eggs, milk, and nutmeg.
  3. Stir wet ingredients into dry. Pour half the batter into prepared bundt pan and use a rubber spatula to spread up the sides. Use your fingers to dollop in a stripe of jam all the way around the cake, careful not to touch the sides of the pan.
  4. Spread the rest of the batter evenly over the jam. Bake 50-55 minutes, until a tester comes out clean. Cool cake in the pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack. Brush with melted butter and dust with cinnamon-sugar.

Notes
Adapted from a recipe by Hungry Girl por Vida

Blackberry Jam Filled Doughnut Bundt Cake

Angel Food Cake with Strawberry Rhubarb Sauce

There isn’t any rhubarb in California. At least, none that I could find in Los Angeles in June. In Maine, this time of year, you literally can’t give rhubarb away. You can, but it will come back to you threefold. Sometimes you find it under your pillow; when someone shakes your hand you walk away with a palmful inexplicably. Like zucchini in August, it’s obnoxiously abundant. It’s a weedy overgrown patch of wily stalks in your backyard fairly seething at you to come up with new recipes for pies and jams and cocktails. We had some growing in the farm house we rented in Topsham. Lucky for me, a fake Mainer displaced in this shiny Western desert, our terrific contributor Kasey mailed me a package of rhubarb that arrived on my welcome mat with a thud this week.

The strawberry rhubarb sauce I made – super simple, fruit cooked down with sugar, water, and lemon juice – could go on anything. ANYTHING. Vanilla ice cream, lady fingers, ribs. You’ll eat it from the jar with a spoon. Drizzled over angel food cake is kind of a perfect vehicle. It’s tart and the cake is sweet. Angel food, like spun sugar. Springy, sticky, melt in your mouth. It has a gauzy, seraphim quality that is terribly enjoyable as an afternoon snack with a cup of tea. It’s ladylike, demure, but you can also eat it like a boss all by yourself while binge-watching The Tudors after everyone is asleep. Making it requires some patience, but it’s a good way to focus. Cracking and separating eggs, watching the mixer as the whites foam and peak, folding in the flour and more sugar mixture. It’s contemplative. Follow my directions and all will be well. And now it’s summer.

Angel Food Cake with Strawberry Rhubarb Sauce

Ingredients:

For the cake:

  • 12 large egg whites, room temperature
  • 1 cup cake flour
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon orange juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

For the sauce:

  • 1 cup rhubarb, chopped into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 lb strawberries, hulled and halved or quartered
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon

Method:

For the cake:

Preheat oven to 325 and move rack to bottom third of the oven.

In a mixing bowl combine flour and 1/2 cup sugar.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment beat eggs on medium speed until foamy, about 2 minutes. Add cream of tartar, vanilla extract, orange zest and juice, and salt, mix another 2 minutes. Pour in 1 cup sugar with mixer running.

Turn up the mixer speed to medium-high until firm peaks form, about 2 minutes. Use a rubber spatula to gently fold in the dry ingredients, 1/3 at a time. Carefully spoon/pour batter into a tube pan. Bake 45 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean.

Cool cake in the pan for at least 30 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely. When cool, drizzle with sauce.

For the sauce:

In a medium saucepan bring all ingredients to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring frequently, 30 minutes. More water may be added to thin sauce if desired.

Chocolate Raspberry Torte

Valentine’s Day has never been a big deal with us. We don’t do flowers or heart-shaped boxes of chocolate. We’re lucky if one of remembers to pick up a card. The one Valentine’s Day tradition that we do have, is going to the local candy store the day after and getting giant bags of red and pink candies for 50% off. We’re those people.

Besides being able to get a killer sugar high on day-old confections, Valentine’s Day does have one more redeeming quality. It is one of the few times of the year that you can eat unlimited amounts of chocolate guilt free. I don’t even think chocolate has calories between February 12th and February 15th. Armed with this little-known scientific fact, I get giddy when Valentine’s Day approaches, dreaming of all the different ways I will indulge in this temporarily calorie-free decadence. It usually starts simple with a few strawberries taking a dip in a dark chocolate lake. Then we progress to something a little more intense like warm, gooey, double chocolate brownies with strawberry ice cream and hand whipped cream. Then I get serious. I get out the cookbooks and scan the indexes for anything with the word chocolate in the title. I pick a few of the most delectable sounding recipes, take an ingredient or two from each, read up on techniques and cross my fingers that what comes out of the oven is edible.

This year, I had my heart set on a flourless chocolate cake with a sweet and tart raspberry gelee. In my mind, the cake was the consistency of a truffle, silky and smooth, melting the second I hits your tongue. The gelee is a sophisticated gelatin with just the right amount of structure and give. This is not what came out of my oven, but what did was insanely delicious. A light as air chocolate “cake” held in place by a sturdy cookie crust, topped with a raspberry layer that is halfway between a sauce and the gelee that I envisioned. My very own beautiful disaster.

This recipe does not require and special techniques or equipment, but it is a bit time consuming. I suggest reading through the recipe before diving in so that you can plan the process and get your ingredients organized.

Chocolate Raspberry Torte

5 from 1 reviews

Chocolate Raspberry Torte
 
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Serves: One Torte

Ingredients
For the Crust:
  • 1 bag Oreo cookies
  • 6 tablespoons melted butter
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
For the Cake:
  • 8 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 7 ounces semi-sweet baking chocolate, chopped
  • ½ cup butter, cubed
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
For the Raspberry Topping:
  • 4 tablespoons water
  • 2 ½ teaspoons unflavored gelatin (1 packet)
  • 2 cups frozen raspberries, partially thawed
  • 4 tablespoons sugar

Method
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8-inch spring form pan and wrap the bottom in tinfoil to make watertight. You will be using a water bath further in the process.
  2. To make crust, place Oreos and salt in a food processor, pulse until the cookies are fine crumbs. In a small bowl mix together cookie crumbs and melted butter. Press mixture firmly into the bottom of the springform pan. Bake for 8 minutes and then place on a rack to cool.
  3. In a large standing mixer bowl, add eggs, sugar and vanilla. Beat on medium speed for 10 minutes using whisk attachment. Eggs will pale in color and almost double in size.
  4. Meanwhile in the top of a double boiler or metal bowl set over a pot of barley simmering water, add chopped chocolate, cubed butter, heavy cream and cocoa powder. Whisk until chocolate and butter are fully melted and mixture is smooth.
  5. Once the eggs are finished beating, slowly add chocolate mixture to egg mixture, whisking by hand until all of the chocolate mixture has been added and is fully incorporated. Pour mixture into springform pan on top of the cookie crust.
  6. Place the springform pan in a 9×11 roasting pan and fill the pan with hot water until it reaches halfway up the side of the springform pan.
  7. Bake at 350 degrees for 50-55 minutes. The sides will begin to set, but it will still have quite a bit of jiggle to it. Place on a rack to cool completely.
  8. While the cake is cooking you can prepare the raspberry layer. In a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over the water and set aside to bloom. Place raspberries in a blender and pulse until smooth. Mix together raspberry puree and sugar in a small saucepan. Bring mixture to a rapid boil over medium heat.
  9. Remove pan from heat and whisk in gelatin until gelatin is fully dissolved. Allow mixture to cool for at least 30 minutes. Once mixture has cooled enough that you can touch it, place the entire saucepan in the fridge. Allow to cool and begin to set in the fridge for approximately two hours or until it is beginning to set, but can still be whisked gently.
  10. Once the mixture has reached this consistency, pour over the top of the cake and place the entire springform pan in the fridge to let the raspberry layer set further. It is best to let it sit in the fridge overnight, but three hours will be enough for you to cut into the cake without the raspberry layer falling apart. Enjoy!

Grammie Welch’s Apple Bread

Some of my earliest memories involve food. Waking up to the smell of bacon, eggs and spam frying at my Grandparents’ house. I always steered clear of the fried Spam, but it was a comforting smell nonetheless. Gently folding blueberries into muffin batter while I stood perched on a stool on tiptoes in my Great Aunt’s kitchen. Standing behind my Great Grandmother, my tiny hands full of carrots, ready to hand one to her as soon as the previous one had been shredded into the coleslaw. My Grandmother baking the perfect chocolate cake without ever looking at a recipe. To this day, my grandmother can walk you through baking almost anything without opening a cookbook.

More than the smells, more than the flavors, I remember these people that shaped me as a cook. Each and every one of them moved through their kitchens with confidence and purpose. Knowing exactly where the next ingredient was housed. Grabbing the desired utensil, without giving it a second thought. They brought people together with their cooking. When they cooked, the aromas emanating from the ovens drew my family to the table.

I think it is because of their ease in the kitchen that I have always been self-conscious of my own kitchen. Nothing is organized. I know roughly where I can find a whisk, but chances are I will buy a new springform pan before I ever find my own. My recipe catalog is a joke. I have stacks and stacks of empty recipe cards, complete with spaces for the recipe name, cooking time, servings and ingredients. Instead of using these adorable cards, I use scraps of paper to write down my recipes. I never title them and often find myself cursing my past self when I want to make banana bread and have to paw through a stack of scrap paper keeping my eyes peeled for the word banana. I have always thought that this disjointed method kept me from attaining the culinary greatness that I saw in so many of my predecessors. I was wrong.

Last week, I pulled open my mother’s recipe drawer and among the recipes torn from Better Homes and Gardens and Woman’s Day were scraps of paper with lists of ingredients. No titles. No instructions. Not just in my mother’s hand writing, but my Grandmother’s and Great Grandmother’s as well. I had learned more from them than I had ever known. This recipe is one that I found in the drawer. It was my great grandmother’s. I assumed from the ingredient list that it was a bread recipe, but it could easy be a cake. I changed a few things, including using bread flour rather than all purpose, adding ginger and substituting applesauce for oil.

Grammie Welch's Apple Bread

5 from 1 reviews

Grammie Welch’s Apple Bread
 
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Serves: Makes 1 Loaf

Ingredients
  • 2 medium Granny Smith apples
  • 2 cups bread flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ cup plain unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon

Method
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare a loaf pan by spraying with cooking spray.
  2. Peel, core and dice apples. Set diced apples aside.
  3. In a medium sized bowl, sift together flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
  4. In a large bowl, beat together eggs and sugar at medium speed until mixture is pale in color, about 2 minutes. Beat in applesauce, milk, vanilla and cinnamon.
  5. Slowly add flour mixture, mixing until dry ingredients are just moistened. Gently fold in diced apples.
  6. Spread batter into prepared loaf pan. Sprinkle top with cinnamon and sugar.
  7. Bake for 60-70 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.

Parsnip Spice Cake

There’s no need to scoff at parsnip cake, like certain husbands did. It may not have rainbow layers or funfetti or an animated character airbrushed in icing but it’s super moist, homespun, and perfect for breakfast or an after-school snack. I was going to make one for Violet’s birthday next week, but Malcolm made me feel like a lame mom for proposing a cake made from carrot’s colorless cousin.

If you frosted this with cream cheese it would totally be a party cake, you know, the kind of cake that leaves its panties at the door. Without the cream cheese, it’s perfectly respectable, but still totally fun to be around, like your spring break friend who danced on the bar at Senor Frogs and now has two kids and a split level house in the suburbs.

You’re gonna have game night with this cake. You could invite this cake to a wine and cheese colloquy with colleagues. This cake would not feel like a harlot at a bake sale. This cake never gets in the fountain on Memorial Day. But it’s still a very good dessert.

Parsnip Spice Cake

5 from 1 reviews

Parsnip Spice Cake
 
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Serves: Serves 6

Ingredients
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup almond meal flour
  • ½ cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 2½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon grated fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ¼ allspice
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups grated parsnip (about 2 large)
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • ¼ cup maple syrup
  • ¼ cup honey
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Method
  1. Preheat oven to 325. Grease a deep ceramic baking pan.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flours, coconut, baking powder, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, allspice, and salt. In another bowl, combine parsnip, sour cream, maple syrup, honey, granulated sugar, eggs, vanilla, and butter, mixing well. Stir wet ingredients into dry, until just combined. Pour into greased 8×4 cake pan and bake for 35-40 minutes.

Pumpkin Spice Cake with Rum Raisin Icing

If you’re going to make this cake (and you should), you need some advance warning. Perhaps you’re a better person than I am and always read through a recipe all the way before embarking upon it. I think we learned about this in seventh grade home economics, or that meeting with financial aid at the ending of college where they explained about the repayment of student loans, or somewhere else I wasn’t paying attention.

See, the raisins, they must soak. They macerate in rum for up to twenty-four hours. And believe me, it’s worth it. Gross, mundane, lunchbox raisins get all bloated with juicy booze. So, first thing’s first: Get some golden raisins steeping on the stove. The resulting icing is lovely, potent, and reminiscent of eggnog, somehow. But now I am getting ahead of myself.

Pumpkin Spice Cake

We’re still talking Thanksgiving recipes here. I love the way this all comes together and makes the perfect finish to an autumnal celebration. I used canned pumpkin, but you could certainly roast some little sugar pumpkins up, and this would still come together pretty quickly. It’s pretty much a “pantry cake,” which is nice if you’re making the entire meal on your own or if you were tasked to bring dessert, this would impress. I’m still planning my menu and counting my blessings, thinking of the things I am grateful for this year. There’s not much time though! Better get cracking.

Pumpkin Spice Cake

5 from 1 reviews

Pumpkin Spice Cake with Rum Raisin Icing
 
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Serves: One Cake

Ingredients
For the cake:
  • 2 sticks butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 15 oz can pumpkin
  • ¾ cup buttermilk
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 heaping teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 cup golden raisins
For the icing:
  • 1½ cups spiced rum
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 cup golden raisins
  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 2 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon rum extract
  • ¼-1/2 cup whole milk

Method
For the cake:
  1. Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour a bundt pan. In the bowl of a stand mixer cream butter and both sugars until fluffy. Crack in the eggs, one at a time. In a mixing bowl combine vanilla, pumpkin and buttermilk. In another mixing bowl whisk together flour, baking powder and soda, salt, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. Alternating, add the pumpkin mixture and dry ingredients to the batter, ending with flour, etc. and not overmixing. Fold in raisins, if using. Pour batter into prepared cake pan and bake, 45-50 minutes. Cool in the pan, then on a rack.
For the icing:
  1. In a small pot over high heat bring rum and brown sugar to a boil. Remove from the heat, add raisins, cover and let stand for up to 24 hours. Strain the booze-soaked raisins, chop them up and add them to the cake batter, if desired. [ED NOTE: May also be sprinkled on top]. Return the infused rum to a saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment combine butter and cream cheese. Add powdered sugar, one cup at a time. Add cooled rum, rum extract, and vanilla extract. Pour in milk until a thin, pourable consistency is achieved. Drizzle over cooled cake.

Strawberry Upside Down Cake

Today, in Maine, it is the most spectacular pre-fall day. Fifty-nine degrees, high blue sky. I turned on the heat in the Jeep, rolled down the windows, turned up NPR and we drove all over doing errands and walking the dog along sidewalked streets looking at houses and porches, dreaming and making plans, and feeling amazed that everything is changing again. This summer was chaotic and full of transition, but mostly it was really great. And one of the very best new things is integrating Violet into my old adventures and routines. Since I was old enough to drive and have a little money in my pocket I have spent the summer with a car full of beach blankets and chairs and empty iced coffee cups, and a bag of bathing suits and towels for spontaneous trips to the shore. Instead of going it alone, now I have a sidekick. One who chases ducks and appropriates strangers’ toys and refuses to drink from a sippy cup.

She has grown so much since June. Then, she’d hardly spent any time walking outside and was unsure of the uneven ground. Now she runs down little hills and wants to climb steep steps and scramble ahead of me at the beach. She loved splashing in the water from the first time I took her to the beach. By the end of August, she was wading in the lake up to her chest and taking both my hands so I could swoosh her around, while she laughed up to the sky. I hold her on her belly and she puts her face in and kicks. Next summer she will swim like a fish, I predict. We went a lot of places close to home, discovered woods and beaches and gardens. We walked all over town. We went to the lobster festival events, including her first parade, to the farmers market most weeks, and all the green spaces we could find. We went out of town, too. To visit my family in Connecticut and to Storyland in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Mostly, we didn’t travel far.

Strawberry Upside-Down Cake

We were sort of stuck here doing nothing much. Reading books on rainy days and spending every other second outside until bedtime. It was the summer we became buddies. We held hands and shared sandwiches. We laughed about stuff we saw and swayed to live music and danced in the living room to our favorite songs. There are songs she wants on repeat and songs we sing when she’s in the backpack and we’re waiting for something to happen. We walked barefoot on the sand and ruined the bottoms of our dresses as the hems dipped in the ocean. We got stained with strawberries and blueberries, not so much raspberries because those make our mouths pucker. We went on swings and down slides and picked herbs and smelled flowers. Now summer is ending. Which makes me a little sad, but mostly happy, because we have classes resuming and boots to wear and all sorts of cozy events to look forward to.

I am transplanting the rosemary, the only plant I can’t kill once indoors and putting away the shorts and flip flops, closing the windows and airing out the winter comforters. It’s time for slippers in the morning. Sweaters on our early morning outings with Olivia. We had our annual Labor Day Lobster Feed and after that is over I realize I will miss sand in my hair and not wearing shoes and hot, sticky nights and her kid pajama sets with polka dot shorts. The air feels different, smells different, it’s in between and changing constantly. We have one last pint of strawberries from Beth’s in the fridge before it’s time for apples and pumpkins. I wanted to make then into a homey dessert, because none of my desserts are the kind you’d see on Cake Fancy, and I like to eat cake for breakfast.

Strawberry Upside-Down Cake

5 from 1 reviews

Strawberry Upside Down Cake
 
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Ingredients
For the strawberry topping:
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup sliced strawberries
For the cake:
  • 1-1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 stick butter
  • ⅔ cups brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ⅔ cup sour cream

Method
For the strawberry topping:
  1. Preheat oven to 350. Put the 2 tablespoons of butter in an 8 or 9 inch cake pan and place in the oven until it melts. Remove it from the oven, swirl the butter around. Sprinkle in the brown sugar and layer the sliced strawberries. Set aside while you make the cake.
For the cake:
  1. In a large mixing bowl whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and nutmeg.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar. Add vanilla extract and the egg. Pour in dry ingredients until just combined, then stir in sour cream.
  3. Use a large spoon to dollop the batter into the pan on top of the strawberry layer without disturbing the fruit. Spread the batter evenly and give the pan a little shake.
  4. Bake 30-35 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool. Run a knife around the edge of the pan and turn onto a cake plate. Serve with freshly whipped cream, if desired.

Notes
Adapted from a recipe by Joy the Baker

Nutrition Information
Serving size: Serves 6

Strawberry Upside-Down Cake

Maine Wild Blueberry Pudding Cake

Maine wild blueberries are tiny, usually smaller than peas. Violet and I have been eating them by the quart this summer. They are sweet, never tart, and have a gentle mellowness other berries lack. Driving through Maine at this time of year – high summer – you will find wild blueberries for sale outside everywhere. At roadside tables, farmstands, in neighbors’ front yards. You can also pick your own, if you are so intrepid. They are fleeting, a delicate delicacy, get them while you can. They are perfect for snacking and I love baking with low bush blueberries, too.

Summer is ending, not yet, but you can feel it in the wind. Baking with blueberries reminds of me of my favorite young adult novel, The Witch of Blackbird Pond, a book I reread every autumn. In it, a widowed, half-senile woman, a Quaker, who is commonly considered a witch by the Puritan population of the 17th century Connecticut colony, shares what little she has – blueberry corn cakes and warm goats milk – with two new reluctant and rebellious friends and a basket of kittens in her small, scrubbed kitchen in a cottage on the edge of town. Share this New England pudding cake with friends, young and old on a lovely August afternoon.

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Chocolate Banana Sour Cream Cupcakes

In high school, on Friday and Saturday nights, we would drive. We would drive from Clinton to Old Saybrook and back. We would stop at the marina, the beach, the woods, the gas station. Sometimes there was a party, in the woods behind Marty’s, or under the power lines, or at Tim and Charley Something’s house. Occasionally we would go to a movie, or play miniature golf in the summer, or travel to New Haven to see a band at the Tune In or Toad’s Place. Some nights all we did was drive in a loop on Route 1, listening to music, making plans for the future just beyond our headlights. Places to stop along the way went in and out of favor, or depended on who you were with.

As a last resort we would end up at the diner to sit for hours, drinking coffee, smoking cigarettes and eating toast and pie. Our diner, like all diners, had a beautiful, shining case of revolving desserts. Meringues and eclairs and elaborate cakes with synthetic cherries on top. I never did care for a fruit pie. I could go a thousand years without strawberry rhubarb or key lime. What I liked was chocolate banana cream -gooey and cloyingly sweet. I would get a slice of pie, because it seemed obscure, and endless cups of coffee, despite preferring tea. Eventually we would have been seen by enough people to make the location a legitimate alibi. Either that, or too many weird theater weirdos would show up. We were also theater weirdos but slightly cooler in the high school hierarchy. So we would get back in the cars, driving too fast or too slow. We would try to buy booze or, failing that, find a safe basement or rec room in which to watch movies. We were so restless. So silly. So innocent and strange, but not as jaded or as strange as we thought.

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Peaches and Cream Coffee Cake

Four years ago right now, Malcolm and I were driving a rather large moving van from Florida to Maine. First, we had to fly out of Mexico. We left the house we built on the beach in the care of Malcolm’s mom, said “hasta luego” to Olivia and Tripod, the street dogs we’d rescued along the way, and drove east.

We spent a few days in Cancun, trying to make sense of where we’d been and where we were going back to, slipping down dangerous water slides and letting the red-flag waves crash over our bodies, driving us into the sand. We floated in the pool and watched American television in the air conditioning. We were reprogramming ourselves for the voyage home.

Peaches and Cream Coffee Cake

Finally, it was time to board the plane. When we arrived in Tallahassee, to collect furniture from a storage space and make for our new home, an apartment we’d never seen in Portland’s West End, it was just as hot and swampy as the place we’d left south of the border. Downtown Tallahassee was deserted, and we ended up eating gas station barbeque (the best kind of barbeque) standing up in our room and later watching baseball at the hotel bar.

It was clear we were still strangers in a strange land. When we started driving north it was with the windows rolled down and Southern rock on the radio, a quintessentially American experience, exactly what we had hoped it would be. Scrubby trees, red earth, and billboards for the Waffle House for hundreds of miles. In Georgia, we could smell the peaches before we saw them, and pulled over to the side of the road. We filled a brown bag with fuzzy, baseball-sized, juicy stone fruit from a stand, and ate them all the way to Washington, D.C. We strolled the cobbled streets of Charleston, sweated up the steps to the Lincoln Memorial, and ate our favorite Chinese takeout in a room at the Omni Hotel in our college town.

Everything was the same, and everything was different. This recipe recalls one leg of our journey, a time in our lives when we felt hopeful and free.

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Mexican Chocolate Cake

Once upon a time in Mexico I got married in front of a fountain and a defrocked priest and friends and family, under a cloudless blue sky in the open courtyard of a colonial mansion. There was no aisle, no mass, no pews, no flower girl. No programs, no rice, no chuppah. There were, however, mariachis. And birds of paradise. And two cakes. And fake dancing.

Later, at the Mambo Cafe, there was real dancing in the crowded, sweaty club. And bottle service. And late-night hilarity and hijinks. But back to the cakes.

They weren’t very good. Kind of wet. But the flowers and the food and the art of it was all very amazing. There was champagne and a note from my groom before our vows and so much happiness. I wish I could do it again right now. Being the bride among a crazy group of gringo wedding guests at a fresh water swimming hole and the greenest Mayan ruins site in the middle of the Yucatan peninsula, talking too late by the pool and swinging in hammocks in cool rooms with old friends, drinking tequila, I had the time of my life.

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8 Sugar-Packed Cakes for When You Need to Eat Your Feelings

We’ve all been guilty of it, at one time or another. A piece of bad news comes in: A stubbed toe causes your big toenail to fall off, say, or maybe the house you bought next to the electric substation has given you brain termites. No matter the case, I think we can all agree that there’s a lot to be said for drowning your sorrows at the business end of a gigantic frosted cake, eaten sitting alone at the kitchen counter, preferably in the dark, your silent salty tears mixing with the sweet frosting and oozing into the delicate crumb.

These aren’t our most sophisticated cake recipes. Instead, these are recipes to consider when your primary concern is banging as much sugar, fat, and buttercream into the back of your skull as quickly and efficiently as you possibly can. They’re the perfect recipes to bake when tragedy strikes, even if that tragedy only happens to be a mid-week slump, when the house is a mess, the new teeth trying to burst violently through the baby’s gumline are making her hysterical, and you’re still looking down the barrel of the two days that stand between you and the weekend. Enjoy.

1. Black Magic Chocolate Cake
The secret ingredient in this foolproof chocolate cake? Strong black coffee. It imparts a mysterious richness to the cake that is unlike any boxed mix you’ve ever tasted. Frost it with mint, as we did here, or frost it with anything you’d like. Especially a second cake.

Cuppa Cuppa Cuppa Cake

2. Cuppa Cuppa Cuppa Cake
“Close your eyes and lean back in your seat, imagining the most decadent, sophisticated dessert you’ve ever had. Was there an artful interplay of salty and sweet? A clever use of unexpected fruit? Did the richness of the chocolate evoke the rarefied air of a Swiss slope? Come back. Now travel to another place entirely. There’s Spanish moss hanging from languid trees and a swimming hole where no-necked children go kissing. You are deep in the south of the south. The dirty, swampy, stewing in their own juices states below the Mason-Dixon line, where the plot is pure Faulkner and sloe gin women bring you a slice of cake and a perspiring glass of iced tea.”

3. Chocolate Chip Banana Cake
Jillian pays homage to her late grandmother, with this cake that’s not unlike the discounted frozen banana kit you might buy at Ocean State Job Lot.

Chocolate Moxie Whoopie Pies with Allen's Coffee Brandy Buttercream

4. Chocolate Moxie Whoopie Pies with Allen’s Coffee Brandy Buttercream
“In an effort to combine my love of ‘drinking cocktails’ with my love of ‘eating cake,’ I tried to create one of the most Maine-centric desserts I could imagine. The Chocolate Moxie Whoopie Pie with Allen’s Coffee Brandy Buttercream was born. The addition of Moxie soda adds the mysterious herbaceousness of the fizzy drink to the chocolate cakes, while lending tremendous lift, lightness, and rise to the batter.” The Allen’s Coffee Brandy buttercream just gets you drunk and makes you fall into the quarry.

Gooey Butter Cake

5. Gooey Butter Cake
“Okay, so, this cake is crazy sweet. And rich. So. Much. Butter. Simple and decadent, with three lovely, distinct layers of texture: crackling, gooey, and rich.”

6. Nutella Bundt Cake
Jillian, on her high school trip to France: “I stayed with a very nice girl who smoked Gauloise cigarettes and drank wine with her parents, and whose handsome boyfriend got to spend the night in her room. The Marchenoirs gave me a bowl of hot chocolate and Nutella spread on crusty bread for breakfast. It’s a wonder I ever came home.”

Red Velvet Cake

7. Red Velvet Cake
“Pristine on the outside, with a harlot-y interior, its taste total comfort and indulgence.”

Snickerdoodle Cake with Brown Sugar Buttercream

8. Snickerdoodle Cake with Brown Sugar Buttercream
“Why is cinnamon so delicious and comforting? It really makes everything better. I suppose I’m supposed to say that of butter. Or is it bacon? This cake definitely has a lot of the former. Almost four sticks, which is pretty ridiculous. Don’t think, just bake. Go buy a big pack of butter, I’ll wait here.”

Haven’t had enough? Be sure to visit the From Away Recipe Index for even more cake recipes!

Gooey Butter Cake

Want to make a house feel like home? Bake this cozy butter cake on the afternoon of your second day, when you are surrounded by boxes. Surrounded by cardboard boxes stuffed with newspaper and odd objects stacking up precariously to your ears while a determined toddler marches past carrying framed photos, clothespins, the dog’s bowl, a Cleopatra head, tongs, a flyswatter, the checkbook, dominoes, a bag of flour, and finally, her pants. It is chaos in here. The complicated, happy chaos of life in motion. We’re settled into a little house on a hill with space to cook and write and work in the warm sunlight. This family life is good in our little town in Maine. Okay, so, this cake is crazy sweet. And rich. So. Much. Butter. Simple and decadent, with three lovely, distinct layers of texture: crackling, gooey, and rich.

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Candied Lemon Cake with Vanilla Icing

I am very, very pleased with how this cake turned out. It is bright, sweet, sticky, and so pretty. A most ladylike cake. It’s a good thing I never, ever defenestrate cakes any more. It all started on my twenty-first birthday. Malcolm and I had been dating for two months. I, naturally, had never had a drink before that night, and yet, managed to comport myself with complete decorum and grace. Somehow, my feelings ended up hurt, because of some perceived transgression. Boyfriends are hard, you guys. And so, back in my fourth-floor dorm room, I very deliberately opened my window and pushed a perfectly round, lovingly decorated, homemade birthday cake to the ground. Thus, a tradition was born. Throwing a cake from the window on your birthday is a great way to get over any birthday angst that may be building. I’ve always had a tendency to become a bit of a birthday brat, and a quick defenestration breaks the tension. It’s cathartic. Nobody gets hurt. It sends off the old year with a thud and prepares the window of your soul for what lies ahead. I wouldn’t advocate doing that with this cake, as it is far too delicious to destroy. I would recommend serving it in the afternoon with tea or coffee.

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