Category: Cake (page 1 of 2)

The I’m Sorry Cake + More STL Eats

Test a new recipe on guests at your own risk. Especially when it’s a “Sorry I Forgot Your Birthday” Cake.

Four of my in-laws drove to St. Louis from Minnesota for their first visit this weekend and we welcomed them with this cake. It sure looks pretty. What better way to ask for someone’s forgiveness than presenting them with a fresh strawberry cake lovingly frosted with cream cheese frosting?

The recipe’s technique of cutting butter into the dry ingredients, gradually adding eggs, and stirring in the wet ingredients seemed unusual, but the website’s photos looked pretty so I proceeded anyway. After all, how bad could fresh strawberry puree, flour, sugar, and butter taste? Pretty bad. Pretty, pretty, pretty bad. 

We sang “Happy Birthday” and the belated birthday girl blew out the candles. After passing slices of cake around the room, I noticed pensive facial expressions and quickly took a bite from Jake’s plate.

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It was terrible. “This cake tastes really bad and I’m not going to have any,” I announced as my family tried to politely choke down their slices. We’ve always spoke candidly with each other, which is something I really appreciate. Once I broke the ice, feedback rolled in:

“It tastes like unleavened communion bread with frosting.”

“It’s like big mound of paste.”

“I can’t do it Jeni, I’m sorry.”

“Honey, I ate it all!” stated my father-i-law, a man who exemplifies the stereotype of Norwegian stoicism. I thanked him and asked if he’d like another slice, to which he replied “no.”

In the end, it was the thought behind the “I’m Sorry” cake that mattered and our apology was accepted. “I’m going to bake you all a birthday cake,” I promised. Much better food followed and we enjoyed the rest of the weekend exploring St. Louis together. Here are some more things we learned:

Happy hour at Katie’s Pizzeria rocks. We learned that we had actually visited Katie’s Pizzeria instead of Katie’s Pizza & Pasta. No worries, though. Our pizzas, prosciutto spring rolls and toasted ravioli were delicious and we’re excited to visit Katie’s Pizza & Pasta next. During happy hour, glasses of wine were $4 and all of the pizzas are available in a personal size for about $8.

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These were no tiny pizzas and no one could finish an entire one. The pesto served with the fried ravioli and on top of Jake’s pesto-shrimp pizza really struck my fancy. I’m still craving it.

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I chose a spicy pizza topped with copa, fresh ricotta, pepperocini, and red pepper flakes.

It’s hard to go wrong at Bogart’s SmokehouseEveryone tried a different menu item, from ribs to a turkey sandwich and no one had any complaints. I chose the chicken wing special with sides of sweet and spicy Fire & Ice Pickles and potato salad dotted with hard-boiled egg. I liked that one could sandwiches in small or large sizes and that each comes with two sides.

Plus, everyone who worked here on Saturday was so darn nice. The line was relatively long at lunch, but the staff made sure that when customers who wanted to dine-in entered the building, there was seating available.

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The drinks at Ballpark Village are expensive. Parking is not, however.

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Thank you for putting two cherries in my $8 amaretto sour.

The candy maker at The Fudgery in Ball Park Village sings songs like, “You can try everything for free.” We especially enjoyed a taste of the freshly-made rocky road fudge cooling on the marble table. Turns out that The Fudgery in Ball Park Village is one of 29 stores across the United States. One of the company’s features is their singing candy makers who have to audition American Idol-style for their positions. According to The Fudgery’s website, one of their past employees includes SisQo who totally lives in Maple Grove, MN with his family now!

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Finally, Tani Sushi offers a nice take-out service and the penguin and puffin coves at the St. Louis Zoo are still the most magical place on earth. If you visit Kali the polar bear, know that he gets upset when people put their hands on the glass. I watched a woman argue with the zoo employee when she asked her to and her family to stop. “But it looks like he’s having fun!” she insisted. He’s not. “But it seems like he’s playing with us.” He’s not. Trust, the zoo keepers.

Maybe next time there will be Provel.

Grandmother Jane’s Old Southern Fruit Cake

This is the ninth installment in my series in which I cook all eleven recipes I found my grandmothers had submitted to their old church cookbooks. Previous recipes include Crabby SnacksRice Pilaf, Frozen Fruit AppetizerSalad with Cashew NutsHam & Sour Cream CasseroleOld Fashioned Cauliflower SlawApricot Jello Salad, and Ship Wreck casserole (the one my mom hated). 

Remember these?

Crabby Snack label

Hello crabby snacks. This is the Velveeta-canned crab concoction that derailed my quest to prepare all eleven of my grandmothers’ recipes I found in old church cookbooks. After mysterious casseroles and ice cream jello, Jake begged for mercy. We took an eight-month break from my grandmothers’ retro recipes and found her “Old Southern Fruit Cake” didn’t sound so bad.

I can singlehandedly dispute the rumor that there is actually only one fruit cake in the whole world that people keep re-gifting. Growing-up, my parents received a fruit cake every holiday season and I was the only person in my family who ate them. I don’t know where the cakes came from or if they were homemade, but I ate them all one slice at a time. Of course they were speckled with those fluorescent green and red candied cherries.

I examined my grandmother’s recipe and couldn’t do the candied cherry thing. Yup. I’d sooner dig into a bag of Lay’s Cappuccino chips or hack into a durian than purchase a bucket of green cherries for the sole reason that they just really freak me out. I followed the sound advice of a friend and substituted dried cherries instead. They lent a pleasing tart note and so I recommend you do the same.

Fruit Cake recipe watermarked

Grandmother Jane’s Old Southern Fruit Cake is totally not gross. I made half of a batch and live to tell the story. Like most fruit cakes, Jane’s is dense and thick with fruits and nuts, but it’s far from the store-bought bricks. We enjoyed slices fresh from the oven and relished the dried fruit which had become plump and gooey. I chose to add brandy to the batter and, after the cake baked for two hours, we were left with only a hint.

Fruit cake slice watermarked

If I had any qualms about this cake, it’s that I wished for more salt. Fortunately, this is a simple fix. Try adding a teaspoon of salt to the batter or swipe some butter on each slice and sprinkle with flaky sea salt.

This fruit cake is more like an energy cake with all of its dried fruits and nuts. Who needs chalky energy bars when there are glorious cakes o’ fruit? Thank you for this gem, Grandmother Jane.

My Take On Grandmother Jane’s Fruit Cake
This recipe halves the original and produces two loaves of fruit cake. I substituted dried cherries for candied cherries. 

Fruit Cake Cover Photo

Ingredients:
1/2 cup mashed banana
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup + splash of brandy or grape juice
1 1/2 tablespoon buttermilk (can substitute whole milk with a splash of lemon juice)
3/4 cup flour
2 eggs
1 scant teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups pecan halves
1/4 lb dried cherries
(optional) 2 slices dried or candied pineapple, cut into small pieces
1/2 lb. dates cut into large pieces

Instructions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 250℉.
  2. Grease pans and dust with flour so the cakes don’t stick.
  3. In a large bowl, mash the banana with the sugar until it forms a paste. Stir in the brandy, buttermilk and flour.
  4. Mix in the eggs until smooth.
  5. Add the vanilla, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  6. Stir in the fruits and nuts until combined.
  7. Pour batter into two loaf pans. Tap and shimmy the pans so that the batter is evenly distributed.
  8. Bake for one hour uncovered.
  9. Bake covered for another hour. Cool.

Only two grandmother recipes remain: Grandmother Jane’s braised Chicken Marengo and Crabmeat Casserole. I will not be preparing an entire Crabmeat Casserole which is a baked dish that contains crab, cheese, hard-boiled eggs, mayonnaise and cream. Fresh crab is not available here and frozen crab is expensive. Based upon the Crabby Snacks experiment, I’m afraid this dish would be a waste of resources if we prepared it with canned crab. Maybe I’ll try preparing a small ramekin of crabmeat casserole. 

Rhubarb Muffin Cake

The North Iowa farmers markets are open again and I spy rhubarb, so summer may begin now.

Unlike the Twin Cities, we don’t have a farmers market in every neighborhood, but I’m happy we have one in town. The Mason City farmers market isn’t large and there aren’t food trucks or anything, but I can at least buy fresh vegetables and fruits, plus extra treats like bread, jam, and bags of puppy chow mix.

There’s also a vendor that sells grilled brats with the typical fixings of sauerkraut, onion, ketchup, and mustard. This is a simple pleasure that never gets old. I rarely turn down street meat.

On my last two visits, I rejoiced over this summer’s first bounty of rhubarb like the good Midwesterner that I am.

We never cooked with rhubarb growing-up. Nobody in our neighborhood grew it and I think they considered it like a weed. Jake remembers picking it as a child and eating the tart stalks dipped in sugar. As an adult, I’ve become taken with rhubarb. I love how it retains some tartness when cooked and balances out sweet desserts. The complexity of its unique flavor strikes me as both fruity and floral.

I asked friends for their favorite rhubarb recipes, but chose this cake because I had all of the ingredients in my kitchen. I found variations of this recipe in nearly all of my cookbooks, so, where it truly originates, I do not know. This cake is very simple to prepare and light and fluffy like a muffin. It reminded us so much of muffins, that I poured the batter into muffin tins the second time I made it.

This cake will be an ol’ reliable for us. Now I’m moving on to trying everyone’s favorite rhubarb recipes.

Rhubarb Muffin Cake
Adapted from Bonnie Anderson, Dee Detlefsen, Blanch Grummons & Ardy Haugen’s recipe in the Peaceful Pantry Recipes cookbook compiled by Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, Burnsville, MN, 1975

Cook’s Notes: The original recipe calls for 1 1/2 cups of white or brown sugar. I used both, but in lesser amounts. The original recipe also calls for buttermilk, which I did not have. It says you can substitute one cup of regular milk + one tablespoon of lemon juice for buttermilk. In my first cake, I used 2/3 almond milk + 1/3 cup sour cream. In my muffins, I used only almond milk. I think you can use whatever you have, though the sour cream adds extra moistness. If you’d like to bake muffins, reduce the cooking time. Mini muffins took about 10 minutes. The cakes are done when you can cleanly remove a toothpick from the center.

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Ingredients:
A scant 1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar, not packed.
1/2 cup butter (1 stick). I used salted.
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Optional: Splash of almond extract
1 cup milk or combination of milk + sour cream
2 cups unbleached, all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups of rhubarb, chopped into small pieces
Topping: sugar & cinnamon

Instructions:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350℉.
  2. Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt in a bowl and set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugars.
  4. Mix the egg and vanilla extract into the butter-sugar mixture.
  5. Add the milk and dry ingredients to the butter-sugar mixture, half at a time, alternating until just combined. Don’t overmix.
  6. Stir in the rhubarb.
  7. Pour into a greased pan or muffin tins. Sprinkle lightly with cinnamon and sugar (or just cinnamon).
  8. Bake until you can remove a toothpick cleanly from the center. A small cake pan took about 45 minutes, a 9×13 will take about 35-40 minutes, and muffins will vary depending on the size. Mini muffins took about 10 minutes.

Church Cookbook Wacky Cake With Cocoa-Coffee Glaze

I stumbled upon Wacky Cake as a youth quite by accident.

My parents were very frugal, especially my mom. I’m sure she learned this from her parents who lived through the Great Depression. I remember visiting my grandma in Cuyahoga Falls, OH and finding bags filled with bags, boxes filled with wrapping paper she had carefully peeled from gifts, and baggies filled with twist ties.

My mom’s rule was that I could embark on cooking and baking projects as long as I bought the ingredients we didn’t have. Although this rule seems misguided in hindsight, I think her intention was to teach me to appreciate the food we had in our kitchen.

Therefore, I baked a lot since our pantry was typically stocked with typical baking supplies and if we were missing something, they were cheap enough to buy with my babysitting money or allowance.

I was an avid reader and loved reading cookbooks. One day, I baked Wacky Cake from a recipe I found in our church’s cookbook since we already had all of the ingredients. Later, I learned that Wacky Cake possibly originated during the Great Depression or as a result of wartime food rationing since it does not contain dairy or eggs.

Oops, I made a vegan cake!

My family enjoyed my first Wacky Cake experiment so much that my mom made it for special occasions or to share with friends in need. We frosted it with a white icing, but the church cookbook recipe recommends peanut butter icing. My husband would have been sad to find an empty jar of peanut butter (he eats PB regularly, I do not), so I made a coffee-cocoa glaze.

Wacky Cake isn’t intensely chocolatey, but it’s light and airy and sweet. If you want to keep the vegan thing going, don’t add half and half to the glaze. Either way, you can’t go wrong but you might go wacky.

Wacky Cake

Wacky Cake
Adapted from Bettemae Ramsey’s recipe in Favorite Recipes, Faith Lutheran Church Women, Akron, OH, date unknown. Glaze adapted from The Weary Chef’s recipe for Easy Mocha Glaze Icing

Cake Ingredients:
1/2 cocoa powder
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (had to swap in about 1/2 whole wheat flour)
2 cups sugar
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. vinegar (I used apple cider)
2 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
2/3 cup vegetable oil
2 cups cold water

Instructions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350℉.
  2. Grease a large baking pan.
  3. Sift the cocoa powder, flour, baking soda together into a large bowl. Stir in salt.
  4. The original recipe instructs one to make three holes in the dry ingredients. Add the vinegar to one, vanilla extract to another, and oil to the third.
  5. Pour over the cold water and lightly whisk until the ingredients are incorporated.
  6. Pour into the prepared baking pan and bake for about 30 minutes, or until you can stick a toothpick into the middle of the cake and cleanly remove it.
  7. Cool completely before frosting (or hack off a steaming piece of cake and frost for immediate consumption, like me).

Glaze Ingredients:
1 cup powdered sugar
2 Tbsp. cocoa powder
1 Tbsp. of coffee
Half & half: Enough to provide a nice consistency

Instructions:
Mix the cocoa, powdered sugar, and liquid until you like the flavor and consistency. I made this cake to share with kids, so I only added a hint of coffee and thinned it out to a proper consistency with half and half. You could use all coffee, or just use milk/cream/half and half as a liquid.

Farm To Fork, A CSA Series Part VI: Vegetable Fatigue

Visit Simple, Good, and Tasty for the newest installation of Farm To Fork, A CSA Series where I address vegetable fatigue. Find out how I put zucchini and corn to work in chocolate zucchini bundt cake and Korean Pa Jun filled with bulgogi and sweet corn.  

I’ll meet you there.
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