Tag Archives: cake

Clementine Cake …. Again

Sometimes you can’t stop thinking about someone, which might be labeled as passionate, obsessive, or in the worst case scenario, as stalker-ish behavior. If that’s how we think of person fixating on another person, what do we call someone who can’t stop thinking about a recipe? More specifically a cake. Obsessive, compulsive, maybe even a little dessert crazy? Whatever you call it, let’s admit it isn’t completely normal. Which pretty much describes me for the last few weeks, making the Clementine Almond Cake again, and again, and again.

If you read about the Clementine Almond cake last month and had your fill then you may want to stop reading now. Or pop over and enjoy some other food blogs like Molly Yeh or Sara & Hugh Forte or Beth Kirby. Of course if you want to follow me down the rabbit hole come along…

One of the things I wondered about with this recipe is the almond flour. I started with Bob’s Red Mill Almond Meal/Flour, which while yielding delicious results, was rather pricy (in my opinion) at $13/pound. In the weeks I’ve been testing and retesting this recipe Stop N Shop has the almond meal/flour on sale for $10/pound. Trader Joe’s has a version of almond flour with the skin still on which goes for around $6/pound. The skin off version is more delicate in both taste and looks, but the question remains if it is worth nearly twice the price?

Clementine Almond Cake with and without skin in the almond flour

According to two out of my three taste-testers (Dan our plumber, Bill our neighbor and Shawn) Continue reading


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A Childhood without Madeleines

I cannot claim to have had a Proustian moment with a Madeleine and cup of tea in my youth since the sad truth is I grew up in a Madeleine-less world. Somehow I managed to make it to adulthood on a diet which included snickerdoodles, sticky buns, and sour cream coffee cake but nary a nibble of the sweet cakes Proust remembered. Which goes a long way to explaining why I have become obsessed with rectifying this deficiency. Madeleines are divine and no childhood should be without a few dozen or more (over the years, not all at once). My friend Alexis, who lives in Paris, sent Shawn and I madeleine pans from France as a wedding present. Over the years I have acquired madeleine pans of all shapes and sizes am continually on the lookout for more (though I eschew the non-stick pans which the butter renders unnecessary). Next to the Best Chocolate Cake Cupcakes I find madeleines a quick, satisfying treat on the non-chocolate side of baking.

"madeleine pans"

Madeleine pans of all shapes and sizes

One of the advantages of learning to make madeleines in adulthood is that I got to teach my sister Heather how to make them. It seems my teaching skills are somewhat limited since I received the following phone call shortly after giving her the recipe:

Cindy you aren’t going to believe what happened to my madeleines. I used the recipe you sent me but they came out the size of baseballs and they’re hairy!”

It was very lucky I wasn’t eating a madeleine at that moment because I might have choked to death laughing. Yes I know I’m a rotten person to laugh at someone else’s cooking mistakes but hairy, baseball sized madeleines? You would have laughed too–admit it. The thought of these ginormous cakes in need of a haircut was amusing to say the least. Turns out she’d used an inexpensive pastry brush to butter the pans with and bristles had come out and stuck to the pan. Add to that the fact that Heather owns only one 12-madeleine pan which she used for all the batter rather than splitting it into two batches (the recipe makes 24). My advice was pragmatic – I suggested she get out her tweezers to remove the offending bristles and eat the oversized madeleines as long as they were cooked all the way through. No reason to waste a perfectly good madeleine just because it is deformed. I am happy to report that Heather now makes divine madeleines with nary a bristle in the batch.

"tea and madeleines"

Tea and madeleines

Years of madeleine taste testing has led me to a tweaked version of  Julia Child’s recipe from her book  Way to Cook. With recipes whose primary taste is butter my first bit of advice is buy the best butter you can afford. I always use unsalted butters though with the rise in the price of butter the brand varies depending what was on sale and how flush my pocket-book is that week. Land O’Lakes, Kerrygold, Vermont Creamery,  and Plugrá are all excellent choices. I also love the taste of lemon so my version has much more lemon peel and juice in it than in Julia’s version.

Lemony Madeleines

2 eggs

2/3 cup sugar

1 stick unsalted butter (4 ounces), plus 1 Tablespoon more for greasing the pans

zest of 2 medium lemons, finely grated

juice of 1-2 lemons

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup flour, plus 1 Tablespoon more for greasing the pans

pinch salt

powdered sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 375º F. Melt stick butter and let cool slightly. Mix eggs and sugar together until well blended. Add the lemon zest, juice, and vanilla. Mix in the cup of flour and salt then start beating in the melted butter. It will take a few minutes for that much butter to incorporate into the batter. Do not despair just keep folding. The batter will become smooth and glossy once you’ve fully incorporated it. Let the batter rest while you pop the remaining Tablespoon of butter into the butter melting pan along with the extra Tablespoon of flour and  whisk them around the pan with a pastry brush (not the cheap kind that drops its bristles) until the butter is melted. Then paint two 12 madeleine pans with the butter-flour slurry and spoon the batter evenly into the 24 spaces. Bake 15 minutes or until the edges are browned and the centers of each madeleine have domed in the middle.

"madeleine batter ready to bake"

Batter ready to bake

When they come out of the oven give each pan a good whack on the counter or cutting board which should loosen the little cakes from their pans. Turn out onto wire racks and cool. When cool dust lightly with powdered sugar (if desired) and serve with tea or a cold glass of milk or a glass of champagne.

"baked madeleines"

Just baked madeleines

Proust may have been wrong about the memory of how they crumbled in a cup of tea, but he wasn’t wrong to remember how fantastic these scalloped shaped little cakes are. In my opinion they don’t deserve to be dropped in a cup of tea, but rather nibbled out of hand while sipping your beverage of choice.

"madeleines and strawberries"

Powdered and ready to eat with strawberries for Charline's birthday

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Vegan War Cake

I find it intriguing to see how people put a different spin on the same old thing. During the second world war my Grammy Caldwell often had to make due with limited amounts of sugar, butter, and eggs in order to do her part for the war effort. Today I often do without those ingredients because I know or am related to so many people with allergies or special dietary needs. Same recipe, different rationals.

This applesauce cake comes from my friend Jessica and is a great example of the “something old is often the same as something new” theory. Her daughter V. was allergic to eggs and nuts as a baby and toddler and Jessica found this recipe in an old Fanny Farmer cookbook out of necessity. Before bookstores had shelves of cookbooks devoted to allergy free cooking and blogs targeted at any and all dietary quirks she needed a safe, quick, kid-friendly recipe to bring to school events and birthday parties ( after all it’s not too fun to be invited to a friend’s birthday party only to be told you can’t eat the cake or ice cream). This is the recipe she often used, leaving out the nuts and cutting back on the ginger and cloves which don’t often sell well with the under four set. It became her recipe for all occasions.

"applesauce cake"

Applesauce Cake

I first tasted the by then infamous applesauce cake after Jessica and her family moved to Massachusetts. She served it to our knitting group one night warm and fragrant, straight out of the oven. It was divine, not just roll-your-eyes divine, but sneak away from the group and sit in the kitchen scarfing the whole pan down in one sitting divine. It’s not that this cake is a looker–it’s a plain Jane of cakes, but it tastes fantastic.

More quick bread than cake it has become one of the signature dishes I bring to soccer games, potlucks, and church coffee hours. It works for many allergy issues (when you leave out the nuts) and has the added advantage of being really quick to make. This recipe is the reason my cupboards are rarely without a box of raisins, bag of walnuts, and a jar of applesauce.

Walnut Raisin Applesauce Cake

7/8 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1 cup applesauce

1/2 cup raisins

1/2 cup chopped nuts (walnuts or pecans or almonds), optional

1/2 teaspoon cloves

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon ginger

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 3/4 cups flour

Preheat the oven to 350º F and spray or grease an 8″ x 8″ pan.

Mix together all ingredients. Scrape into prepared pan and bake 35-40 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. If there is a nut allergy you can leave out the nuts and add an extra 1/4 cup of raisins instead.

"crumbs of applesauce cake"

What is left...


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Comfort and Spice x 2

Spring is here. The calendar says so, the bees with their pollen baskets say so, the shorts my kids wear to school say so, however  for much of April I have been cold. Something all month has been telling me to stay inside, drink lots of tea, pull on a sweater, then cozy up in an armchair with a good book and some gingerbread. Not very springlike instincts. Today’s weather proves my instincts to have been spot on. I woke up this morning to snow Continue reading

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The Best Chocolate Cake Ever

After graduating from college one of my first  jobs was as the baker at Leaf n’ Bean Cafe in Brooklyn Heights. I brought with me a rather slim batch of recipes. Prior cooking jobs had always handed me house recipes to use. No muss, no fuss just bake and serve. This was the first time I had been asked to supply my own recipes. The cafe was open for breakfast and lunch plus weekend brunches so the baked goods were pretty straight forward–muffins, cakes, pies, the occasional mousse, and bar cookies fit the bill. The glitch came around chocolate. The owners John and Allan wanted something chocolate on the menu every day, which makes sense since chocolate sells. The problem was that while I ate a lot of chocolate I didn’t have many chocolate recipes in my repertoire back then (my, how things have changed). My rescue came in the form of  Continue reading


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