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Cakes

Sweet salty chocolate cake with an almond bark crown and a secret sauce

IMG_4647.jpgThis rich and satisfying little chocolate cake has a secret sauce that makes it unforgettable. The salty component of this beauty comes from tamari (Japanese) soy sauce and it’s in the cake batter and the crunchy almond topper. Easy to make, this six-inch cake is perfect for eight small slices or four huge ones.

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  1. Tamari almonds
  • 2 cups raw almonds
  • 1 tbsp tamari or Japanese soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp neutral oil, eg grapeseed

Preheat oven to 350°F. Place almonds on a baking tray. Pour over tamari or Japanese soy sauce and oil and mix through evenly. Spread almonds evenly in dish and roast until fragrant and crisp, about 15 minutes. Cool before storing in a sealed jar. They will keep for several weeks.

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2. Chocolate Cake

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 tbsp cocoa powder sifted
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tbsp tamari soy sauce
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup milk

Directions

With the rack in the middle position, preheat the oven to 350F. Butter the sides of a 6-inch springform or cake ring and line the bottom with parchment paper.

In a bowl, whisk together the egg, sugar, oil, soy sauce and vanilla. Stir in the dry ingredients alternately with the milk until smooth. Spoon into the prepared pan.

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IMG_4616.jpgBake for 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Let cool for 15 minutes. Unmould and let cool completely on a wire rack. Clean the ring or springform ring.

3. Almond Crisp

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Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp tamari almonds, coarsely chopped from step 1

Directions

Line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper. Place the ring of the springform pan on the prepared sheet.

In a saucepan over medium-high heat, melt the butter with the brown sugar and soy sauce. Simmer for 30 seconds and remove from the heat. Stir in the flour. Working quickly, pour into the ring and spread into a thin layer. Sprinkle with the almonds.

Bake for 10 minutes in a 350F oven. Let cool completely on the baking sheet, then unmould.

4. Ganache

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Ingredients

  • 170 grams good quality dark chocolate, chopped
  • 2/3 cup 35% heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened

Directions

Place the chocolate in a bowl. In a saucepan, bring the cream to a boil. Pour over the chocolate and let melt for one minute without stirring. Using a whisk, stir until smooth. Stir in the butter. Cover and refrigerate for a half hour or until the ganache is spreadable.

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Some Assembly Required

Slice the cake in half horizontally to obtain two layers. Spread the ganache onto each layer and stack them. Top with the almond crisp.

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Naramata Peach Spice Cake

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It has to be tasted to be believed. This rustic-looking cake belies its simple appearance. It is a toothsome combination of ingredients such as cocoa, cinnamon, fresh-ground nutmeg made light and moist with fresh eggs, butter, grapeseed oil and buttermilk. The smell from the oven is as enticing as it gets. Take it up a notch by soaking the cakes in a glaze made with peach jam and spices. Blow it into orbit with a fluffy caramel cream cheese frosting and give it some delicious crunch with rosemary toasted pine nuts and fresh summer flavours with dynamite organic peaches from Naramata’s T NT Farm and you have something worth the afternoon it will take you to bake it and a run-on sentence worth running on about.

This amazing creation, which I Naramatified, is from British Columbian Tessa Huff and her spectacular Layered cookbook. In a Julie and Julia type scenario I’ve been baking my way through her cake cookbook, adding a few custom touches here and there and sourcing my ingredients locally. This recipe gets a 12 out 10. Enough hyperbole…let’s get cracking. There are six separate recipes to tackle…none of them hard: Spice cake, peach glaze, rosemary pine nuts, salted caramel sauce and Swiss meringue buttercream. You will need a two 8-inch cake pans for this beauty that serves 12 to 15 peeps.

 

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Spice Cake ingredients

  • 2 3/4 cups cake flour
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/4 cut grapeseed oil
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla
  • 4 large eggs (I walk out to my yard, and get them from my chickens Maria and The Baroness…bragging a little)
  • 1 1/4 cups buttermilk (from the store…I don’t have a cow yet)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350F, grease and flour two 8-inch cake pans and line with parchment rounds.

Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, cinnamon, baking powder, ginger, baking soda, salt, nutmeg and cloves and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle, beat the butter on medium. Add the oil and sugar. Turn the mixer to medium high and mix for 3 minutes. Turn mixer to low, add the vanilla and eggs, one at a time. Scrape down the bowl.

Turn mixer to low and add the flour mixture alternating with the buttermilk in three batches. Only mix for 30 seconds or until just combined.

Divide the batter between the prepared pans and bake for 25 to 28 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of the cakes comes out clean. While the cakes are baking work on the peach glaze as you will need to spread it over the cakes as soon as they come out of the oven.

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Peach glaze ingredients

  • 1 cup peach jam
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated ginger

Directions

Combine the jam, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg in a saucepan. Heat over medium until the jam melts…five minutes or so. Strain the mixture through a fine sieve set over a bowl to remove any solids. Evenly pour the warm peach glaze over the top of the two cakes just after they come out of the oven. Let them cool completely on a wire rack before removing the cakes from their pans. Do not turn the cakes upside down to remove as the tops will be sticky. Rather pry them up with the parchment or a lifter.

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Cakes just out of the oven with their glaze.

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Rosemary pine nuts ingredients

  • 1/2 cup pine nuts
  • 1 tablespoon Okanagan honey
  • 1 teaspoon rosemary (you can use dried)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions

Heat a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and dry-roast the nuts for about three minutes. Add the honey, rosemary and salt and stir until nuts are evenly coated. Cook, stirring for another 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and spread on piece of parchment paper to cool and dry … about 10 minutes.

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Salted caramel sauce ingredients

  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup of heavy cream at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced
  • 3/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or vanilla bean paste which I use exclusively as it’s better…Nielsen-Massey is great.)

Directions

Place the sugar, corn syrup and 2 tablespoons of water in a heavy-bottomed small saucepan. Stir. Heat over high heat, stirring occasionally swirling the pan, until in turns a medium golden amber colour…8 to 10 minutes. The sugar mixture will begin to rapidly boil before slowing down and darkening in colour. Remove from the heat and whisk in the cream. Be careful as it will foam up and sputter. Add the butter and stir until melted. Add the salt and vanilla and stir. Pour into heat-safe container and let if cool or refrigerate. It will thicken as it cools.

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Vanilla swiss meringue buttercream

  • 1/2 cup plus egg whites
  • 1  cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups unsalted butter (very important that it be at room temperature or it won’t combine properly) cubed
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste

Directions
Place the egg whites and sugar in the bowl of a stand-mixer. Whisk them together by hand to combine. Make a double boiler by filling a medium pot filled with water over medium-high heat. Place the mixer bowl on top of the pot. The bottom of the pot should not touch the water.

Whisk intermittently and heat the egg mixture to 160F (candy thermometer) or until it is hot to the touch. Carefully fit the mixer bowl onto the stand mixer and whip with the wire attachment on high speed for 8 to 10 minutes, until it holds medium-stiff peaks. The bowl should be back to room temperature at this point. Stop the mixer and swap out the whisk attachment for the paddle.

With the mixer on low, add the cubed butter, a few tablespoons at a time then the vanilla. Once incorporated, turn up the mixer speed to medium-high and beat until the buttercream is silky smooth, 3 to 5 minutes.

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Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting ingredients

  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 2 cups vanilla swiss meringue buttercream
  • 1/4 cup salted caramel sauce

Directions

In the bowl of stand mixer with the paddle, beat the cream cheese on medium until smooth, add the buttercream and caramel sauce and mix until combined.

Some assembly required

Level the layers. Place a layer on a cake plate and spread half of the frosting over it. Top with the next layer of cake and frost the top with the remaining frosting. Arrange peach slices from one or two peaches on top (I resorted to frozen peaches from T NT as it will be August before nice new fresh ones are ready) and garnish with a generous handful of the rosemary pine nuts.

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Allegory of Spring raspberry pistachio almond sponge gateaux

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Fit for Botticelli’s lovely ladies dancing on the wall’s of Florence’s Uffizi and good buddy Bill’s birthday.
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Here is a second version with violets for decoration.

This lovely little light cake serves eight with nary a crumb left. The homemade pistachio paste whipped into the Swiss meringue buttercream gives the cake’s layer’s a primavera hue and a nice nutty flavour that complements the almond sponge perfectly.

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Homemade pistachio paste

Expensive to buy, if you can find it, pistachio paste is not hard to make yourself and the results are pretty great.

Ingredients

  • 200 grams shelled pistachios (If you can’t find shelled, do the shelling yourself as I did…buy about 450 grams of  un-shelled pistachios to give you the 200 grams you will need allowing for snacking while you shell)
  • 50 grams ground almonds
  • 100 grams sugar
  • About an ounce of water
  • A few drops of almond extract

Directions
Using a coffee grinder (my choice), mortar and pestle or a blender, grind the pistachios until smooth.
Transfer the ground pistachios in a large bowl and mix in the almond meal
Add the almond extract. In a small saucepan, combine the water and sugar and heat until the temperature reaches 115-120 degrees C, stirring constantly.
Immediately pour the sugar/water mixture into the nut mixture and mix quickly to prevent the sugar from crystalizing.
While mixing the mixture to form a paste (kneading with your hands is best), you may have to add more water in order to achieve a marzipan-like texture. Add only 1 teaspoon at a time.
Wrap in plastic wrap and store in a plastic bag. Freeze for longest shelf life.
Makes about 12 ounces of paste so enough for this cake and for the next time you bake it.

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Almond sponge cake ingredients

Almond sponge cake

You will need a 10 by 15 inch cake pan to get the three six-inch round cake layers and you will need and a six-inch cake ring. Alternatively you can use a 9 by 13 inch pan and Macgyver one of the layers by cutting out two half circles and piecing them together to use in the middle layer of the cake (or you can use a hexagonal shaped pan if your husband remembers his math formulas and can calculate the area and compare it to the recommended 10 by 15 inch pan that I didn’t have.)

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Got to love it when a plan comes together.

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup (85g) icing sugar sifted
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (115 g) ground almonds
  • 1/2 cup (65g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp finely grated lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1/4 cup (50 g) granulated sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

Directions

Pre-heat the oven to 375F. Grease a 10 by 15 inch or 9 by 13 inch cake pan and line it with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together the icing sugar, eggs and vanilla until pale in colour. (I cheated and used an immersion blender). Sift in the flour, ground almonds, baking powder and salt. Add the lemon zest and mix until combined. Stir in the melted butter.

In a clean bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk the eggs whites until they start to foam and add the granulated sugar and cream of tarter and mix on high until stiff peaks form.

Carefully fold the egg whites into the batter. Pour the batter into the cake pan and spread it out with a spatula. Bake for about 10 minutes, until springy to the touch. Cool on a wire rack.

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Pistachio Buttercream

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Pistachio buttercream and raspberries for the layers.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup large egg whites
  • 1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups (340 g) unsalted butter at room temperature cubed
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup pistachio paste

Directions

Place the egg whites and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer. Whisk them together by hand to combine.  Fill a medium saucepan half full with water and place over medium heat. Place the mixer bowl on to top of the saucepan to make a double boiler. The bottom of the bowl should not touch the water. Whisking intermittently, heat the egg mixture until it is hot to the touch. Fit the mixer bowl onto the stand mixer and with the whisk attachment, beat the egg white mixture on high speed for 8 minutes, until it holds medium-stiff peaks.

Change to the paddle attachment. With the mixer on low, add the butter a few cubes at a time then the vanilla and pistachio paste. Once all incorporated, turn the mixer up of medium-high and beat until the buttercream is silky smooth.

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Some assembly required

Lift the cake out of the pan using a spatula. Invert it on a clean work surface and peel off the parchment. Using a 6-inch cake ring cut out three rounds of cake. Place the cake ring on a cake board or plate and place the bottom layer of cake inside the cake ring. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a round piping tip with the pistachio buttercream. Pipe about a 1/2 cup of the filling and press into sides of the cake ring. Smooth out with an offset spatula. Place half the raspberries on top of the buttercream pressing them in lightly. Fill in the gaps between the berries with more buttercream. Add another cake layer pressing down lightly and repeat with the buttercream and berries. Top the final layer of buttercream with the third layer of cake and refrigerate to set for about 20 to 30 minutes.

Once set, insert a knife around the inside of the cake ring carefully wiggle the cake ring off. Dust the top with icing sugar before serving and add edible flowers to garnish if you like.

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Allegory of Spring ladies just before they sat down to a picnic lunch with my cake for dessert.
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Digressing…hard left…but I love the Florence home to the Botticelli ladies. Favourite city in Europe. Hope to go back some day…
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I think Botticelli would have liked this cake…Bill did.

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