Sweet Cream Cake

I made a lovely, dense, rich cake last weekend from one of my grandma’s cookbooks – there is just something so wonderful about old cookbooks.  The way recipes are described and explained – it so much less detailed and matter-of-fact than any of the modern cookbooks I own.  There was a certain level of assumption about cooking and baking knowledge, that no longer is found in contemporary cooking explanations.

cake

I whipped it up, and frosted it, with an almond flavored butter cream frosting on grandma’s wedding pottery (pictured here), to boot.  Fitting, since the old Joy of Cooking, (1946 edition) this recipe came from was a wedding gift.

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This photo shows my grandparents – Mary and Gene – on their wedding day, with both sets of their parents.  There is a photo somewhere of my grandmother holding her wedding Joy of Cooking cookbook that I will have to look for.  That would be a nice addition to my kitchen decor, an homage to one of the two people who guided me most in the kitchen.  My other biggest culinary influence being my mother.

The Joy of Cooking is something I have been reading since I was a little girl.  I find the older editions so intriguing, as one can find explanations on how to prepare a wide variety of dishes, including game, unfamiliar German desserts, fallen from fashion puddings and fruit cakes, and lists and lists of coffee cakes.

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I settled on creating a gluten-free version of the Sweet Cream cake, just because it used what I already had on hand.  I substituted the Cup for Cup flour, for the cake flour.  The recipe below is verbatim from my grandmother’s cookbook.

My kitchen helper helped by stirring, combining, and spit shining the butter cream almond flavored frosting bowl.  The cake, frosted, right.  I left a small section unfrosted for those crazy family members who find frosting too sweet!  As much as I enjoy trying new recipes, this will be one of those cake recipes that goes into my repeated rotation.  Thank you for continuing to influence my kitchen habits, Grandma.  Miss you.

Sweet Cream Cake, from The Joy of Cooking, 1946 edition

Beat until light and lemon colored:
2 eggs
Sift, then beat in gradually:
1 cup sugar
Add:
1 teaspoon vanilla
Sift before measuring:
1 2/3 cake flour
Resift with:
2 1/2 teaspoons tartrate or phosphate baking powder or 2 teaspoons combination type (see Baking Powder, page 447)
1/4 teaspoon soda (if sour cream is used)
3/4 teaspoon salt
Add these ingredients to the egg mixture in about three parts alternately with thirds of:
1 cup rich sweet or sour cream
Beat after each addition until the batter is smooth.  Bake the cake in two greased 8 inch layer pans or in a greased 8 inch tube pan in a moderate oven 350°. Allow about 25 minutes for the layers and about 3/4 hour for the loaf cake.

Almond Butter Cream Frostingfrom Better Homes & Gardens cookbook, makes about 2 cups

In a large mixing bowl beat 6 tablespoons of butter until smooth.

Gradually add 2 cups of powdered sugar, beating well.  Slowly beat in 1/8 cup milk and 1 teaspoon of vanilla.

Gradually beat in the remaining 2 1/2 cups of powdered sugar.  Beat in enough additional milk to reach spreading consistency.

Pie Crust 101

done.pies

A good pie is a flaky crust filled with delectable filling and a side of ice cream.  Once on masters the crust, and figures out correct volume for your particular pie pans, you are free to experiment and create new combinations of pies.

But I truly believe, a good pie is all about the crust.  I have done quite a few posts about pies – but still get frequent requests for my crust recipe.

I have used the same crust recipe for a number of years now, one that my dad shared with me.  I always use it, because it creates perfection.  Why the vodka, you ask?  My dad discovered the vodka crust method from J. Kenji López-Alt’s article in Cook’s Illustrated.  The idea is, you are able to add more liquid to the dough, without making it tough by adding too much water.  Most of the vodka bakes out and there is no after-taste.  In a pinch I have used gin in place of vodka, and used bourbon once to make a fantastic bourbon apple pie.

I am by no means pie scientist, I just do what I know works best – check out J. Kenji López-Alt’s Serious Eats article on pie myths for even more information on pies.  I will have to test out the rubber spatula method on my next pie!

Dad’s Pie Crust – makes a double crust for a pie

Ingredients:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup cold butter
3 tablespoons ice-cold water
3 tablespoons cold vodka

1.  Preheat oven for particular pie recipe temperature.  In a medium mixing bowl, use a pastry blender to cut in cold butter until pieces are coarse crumb size.

2.  Sprinkle 1 tablespoon ice-cold liquid at a time, alternating water & vodka; gently toss with fork.  Push moistened dough to side of bowl.  Repeat using rest of liquid.  Dough will be dry, do NOT give into temptation to make dough moister by adding more liquid, however, if it is unworkable, dry and crumbly, you may add 1-2 more tablespoons of vodka.  Too much water will make your dough tough.  Divide dough in half; form into a ball.

3.  On a lightly floured surface, use your hands to flatten ball of dough.  Roll dough from center to edges into a circle 12 inches in diameter.  Do not overwork the dough and do not allow dough to warm up.  Refrigerate while preparing filling, or if your baking time is delayed.  If the dough is too warm, it will stick and tear.

4.  Carefully transfer dough to pie pan, by wrapping around a rolling-pin, not allowing it to stretch.

5.  Transfer filling into pie pan.  Repeat steps 3 and 4 for second ball of dough.  Gently drape second circle of dough over the filling.  Use your fingers to seal the edges of the dough.

6.  Optional: brush dough with milk and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar.  Cover edges in foil or with crust shield.  Place piece of foil on bottom rack of oven, or pie drippings pan.  Place pie in preheated oven, on middle shelf.  Bake, according to filling directions.

7. Let cool on wire rack.

 

butter

Crust is all about the right ingredients – like cold butter and cold vodka.  I am always a big fan of organic butter.

pie.tools

Crust is also all about the right tools: pastry cutter, marble rolling-pin, silicone baking mat, and crust shields.  My first few pies were without these tools and it wasn’t impossible, but a little more frustrating to work without them.

Sometimes I stack the fillings high, sometimes I keep my pies classic, and sometimes I mix and match the fillings.  Following the correct volume, thickeners, and sugar amounts is important – once you have mastered the basics, any pie is possible.  These two pies are strawberry-rhubarb and raspberry-rhubarb.

My newest and most favorite pie tool is the silicone mat.  I measured my pie pans and now never have the issue of a crust being too small and falling apart when I try to roll it larger.  I still have the occasional small piece of crust is lop-sided and then a patch is needed.  I never said my pies all looked like perfection – but taste is another story!

See more about my must-have pie tools below.

pie.crust.brush

Depending on the pie, there can be a proper finish.  For my double-crust fruit pies, this entails a brushing of milk and sprinkling of Demerara sugar.  Sometimes cinnamon is also called for.

 

My favorite pie tools are the following items:

A marble rolling-pin helps keep the dough colder while you are working with it.  I refrigerate mine before rolling out the crust.  I do not wash it with soap, just hot water.  

A silicone pie mat prevents sticking, helps with correct measurements, and makes cleaning up the countertops easier.  

 

A pastry blender works better for cutting in cold butter than a fork, but now I am intrigued with the idea of using a rubber spatula, and will be trying that next.  
King Arthur all-purpose flour is the only kind I use these days.  The quality is top-notch and it never fails for all my baking needs.  Unless I am baking gluten-free, and then I use Cup for Cup.  I am still working on a perfect, from scratch gluten-free pie crust.  I will let you know when I make the break-through.

You may have noticed earlier in this post, that my pie shields are a tad on the small size. I may have to invest in these adjustable ones in the near future.  

A pie drip catcher means you are no longer wasting rolls of foil, trying to keep your oven free of the bubbling over pie fillings.  


I don’t believe in all the crazy sugar-fad items, but I sure do like the taste of coconut sugar.  I will be trying this combination out on the top of my next pie!

A Man’s Favorite {Applesauce Cake}

cake

I made a cake from my Gramma’s recipe box this week – A Man’s Favorite (Applesauce Cake).  It was a perfect cake for a weeknight fall meal – simple flavors, ingredients I had on hand, fast to mix up, and made a smaller-than-most sized cake.  My gramma got this recipe from a friend of hers from when they lived in Texas – I just love her penciled in addition of Applesauce Cake after A Man’s Favorite.  I have to wonder if someone was being cheeky naming the cake this, or were they serious and it was the man’s favorite?

 batter

I especially liked the addition of my homemade applesauce and a full cup of raisins.

frosted

I added a quick powdered sugar glaze by whisking together until smooth: 4 tablespoons powdered sugar, 1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1-2 teaspoons almond milk.  

I don’t have much to report on right now – I’ve been busy with some big projects at work, wrapping up some artworks and fun decorating ideas at home, and I have been trying to squeeze in as much outside time as I can right now.  It is the most ideal weather right now, in my book, 50s and 60s in the mornings and 70s in the afternoon.  Walking, biking, and enjoying my fair city has been at the top of my agenda.

A Man’s Favorite {Applesauce Cake} 

1/2 cup crisco (I used margarine)

1 cup sugar

1 cup seedless raisins

1 cup applesauce

1 teaspoon soda

1/2 teaspoon allspice

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

2 tablespoons hot water

(Optional: add about 3/4 cup of nuts walnuts or pecans)

Blend crisco, sugar, and egg thoroughly in one operation.  Add raisins and applesauce.  Then add the spices and salt with flour, and add in several portions.  Before the last of the flour is added, stir in the soda dissolved in hot water.  Beat well, pour into a greased loaf or tube pan and bake about 1/2 hour in a 350°.  (I found it to take about 1 hour to bake thoroughly, but test it with a knife, in the center, to see if it comes out clean).

Toddler Collage Art + Strawberry Graham Yogurt Pops

Greta and I have both been busy working on collages lately.  Greta has watched me make collages countless times and I haven’t yet thought to have her make her own at home.  I know she’s made them at school, but she blew me away with her collage skills.  Little collage artist in training, I tell ya!
This particular collage was my favorite one that she made yesterday.  It was the third one in a series of four that we completed in the morning before nap time.  She was tickled at the way the holes would allow colors beneath to show through.  She quickly learned that the glue had to go on the edges and so had to slide her papers around in order to move the glue.
The large glue bottle was perfect for her little hands.  We practiced squeezing the glue out onto the paper while the bottle was just above the paper.  She enjoyed slowly squeezing out the glue and watching it pool, as it was pooling she would ask me, “Good, Mommy?” to check on the amount of her glue.  Only a couple times did I say, “Ok that’s good,” most of the time she figured out the amount of glue on her own.

Next, Greta placed her cut papers onto the glue dots.  I enjoyed watching her choose papers based on color, size, and shape.

I used the color issue of In Style magazine for all of her shapes.  Fashion magazines make the best collage magazines due to their textures, variety of color, and size of colors.  The first collage she made was full of random shapes.  For her second one, she decided she wanted mostly circles.

This is her mostly circle collage.  As she got more used to making collages, she began to request particular colors, sizes, and shapes.  Her most frequently requested were yellow circles.  As I flipped through the magazine, she would ask me to cut out certain items she liked – such as the eye.  Her final collage used overlapping pieces with small areas cut out of the middle, this is at the top of this post.

Greta has plastic scissors and we are working on her cutting technique, but in the meantime, this mommy daughter collage collaboration is a fun way to spend a morning.

We spent part of our morning on Friday making yogurt pops.  Greta helped me layer strawberry yogurt, crumbled graham crackers, and chocolate syrup to make these delicious freezer pops.  Frozen desserts are a good way to practice patience for little kitchen helpers!

Gluten Free Blackberry Orange Cake + Mother’s Day

I made this gluten-free cake, with Greta’s help, a couple weekends ago to take to dinner with Eric’s family.  It is a simple cake and the addition of yogurt makes it moist and dense.  It was a nice ending to a family meal with a just a hint of orange to the tangy blackberry.  Scroll down for the recipe.

I simply served it plain without any topping.  Though a glaze or a berry sauce as a topping would be quite good.  It makes a single layer 8 inch cake and so it went fast.  I even caught Eric toasting a slice and eating it for breakfast one morning.

For Mother’s Day weekend, we traveled to Minneapolis to see my sister and her new baby girl, Dylan.  It just kills me that the cute little newborn dress my new niece is wearing was once worn by Greta.  Greta enjoyed her time meeting her new cousin and hanging out with her aunt and uncle.  In this photo she is still holding an armload of toys that belong to her cousin – she was trying to work with Dylan on grasping toys.  We explained it would be a little while before that could happen.  In any case, I think Greta is going to be an excellent big sister and extremely helpful.  I am not even sure how many times she told my sister, “I help!”

Sunday morning we ate at a lovely cafe, The French Meadow Bakery & Cafe on Lyndale in Minneapolis.  They specialize in organic, vegan, gluten-free, and slow foods.  I had the two egg breakfast which came with sourdough toast.  Eric had the chicken chorizo Cajun hash browns, which he reported were spicy and chock full of garlic cloves.  As you can see, we had the place to ourselves on this Mother’s Day Sunday.  Although, we were there by 7 AM – we are all early early risers on trips.

After a perfect breakfast, we headed off to Lake Calhoun for a walk.

Greta and Eric practiced their soccer skills lakeside.  Greta picked up quite a few ball handling tricks right away.  Maybe we have a future futbol girl on our hands.

Other than visiting family and work we have been just laying low.  I am enjoying seeing lilacs in bloom for the first time in 9 years.  The scent is just heavenly and lilac is not a plant that grew very successfully in Greensboro.

Greta has a new-old sandbox that was once mine.  I am impressed it is still in one piece, considering the abuse it endured from my sister, friends, and myself as a kid.  Greta has been putting it to good use in the mornings before I head off to work.  I am trying to soak up as much relaxing time and one-on-one Greta time as I can with a mere 8 weeks to go until baby boy arrives.

Gluten Free Blackberry Orange Cake – serves 8. 

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease the bottom and sides of a 9-inch round cake pan and dust with gluten free flour, knocking out any extra.  Stir together 2 cups gluten free flour1-1/4 cups sugar1 teaspoon baking powder1/4 teaspoon baking soda, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a large mixing bowl.  Whisk together 2 large eggs1/3 cup vegetable oil1 cup plain low-fat yogurt, and 2 teaspoons vanilla in a bowl.  Pour the yogurt mixture into the flour mixture and stir just until moistened.  Add the zest from one orange and 1 cup blackberries (fresh or defrosted), fold into batter.

2. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake until the top of the cake is light and golden and a knife or toothpick inserted comes out clean, about 40 minutes. 

3. Let the cake cool for about 5 minutes in the pan.  Then, place on a wire rack too cool completely.  

4. Wrap in plastic wrap or store in cake keeper for 2 days at room temperature.