Recipes so good it oughta' be a sin!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

White Mountain Cake with Luscious Lemon Frosting

Has it really been twelve days since I posted a recipe? It seems like twelve years! With Lady Snow out of commission I haven't been able to get much done in the kitchen. She came through her surgery for the ligament repair just fine and seemed in pretty good spirits when I picked her up last Thursday at the vet.

We found out that she had completely blown out the Posterior Cruciate Ligament in her knee and had torn the Anterior (or Cranial) about 80%. Because the injury was so much more severe than anticipated the doctor put her in a splint she has to wear for 12-14 days to keep her from using the leg at all. Combined with an E-collar she was not a happy camper. They prescribed sedatives to help her out but we found out last Saturday that she doesn't tolerate sedatives well. By mid-afternoon she was so sluggish we could barely rouse her. She wouldn't move at all and her breathing was very slow and shallow. Needless to say we stopped the sedatives. Unfortunately, that meant putting up with her whining about the collar and splint. She also decided that she would refuse to use the bathroom with the splint and collar on.

Obviously, the past week has not been fun for anyone and cooking took a backseat to trying to get her better. (BTW: I've reapplied the splint 4 times in the past 10 days because she figured out how to get it off by rubbing against things.)

A most unhappy Lady Snow
Finally, though, we seem to have turned a corner. She's feeling more chipper and her splint comes off and stitches come out this week. That means I had some time last night and today to work on a very old cake recipe!

The cake recipe is adapted from a traditional southern cake recipe known as the "White Mountain Cake." I have no idea where the name originates but the cake itself is a very delicious butter cake. The original version of this recipe calls for whipping egg whites and folding them into the batter much like a French Marquis cake. However, I opted to change it up just a bit because I wanted something that would stand up to the lemon frosting I was envisioning. (OK - originally I was envisioning a coconut rum Pastry Cream but just wasn't up to that task.)

Instead of whipping the egg whites, I incorporated them into the batter as is and just upped the flour content from the original recipe slightly. The result is a very buttery and moist cake that doesn't rise too high and was perfect for my lemon frosting and a rustic presentation.

: White Mountain Cake with Luscious Lemon Frosting
: A traditional southern cake recipe paired with a tart lemon buttercream frosting in a rustic presentation.

  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 8 egg whites
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 3 cups cake flour
  • 2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp. lemon (or almond) extract
Lemon Frosting
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 32 oz. powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp. lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2-3 tbs. half and half (or heavy cream)
  1. Preheat oven to 375°. Grease and flour three 9-inch round cake pans and set aside.
  2. Sift together flour, salt, and baking powder.
  3. In bowl of electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg whites and mix until incorporated. Add extracts and mix until combined.
  4. Mix in dry ingredients alternating with milk just until incorporated. Complete mixing using a rubber spatula being sure to scrape sides and bottoms of bowl.
  5. Divide batter evenly between the three cake pans and bake at 375° for 15-20 minutes or until top of cakes are golden brown and toothpick inserted in center of cakes comes out clean. Allow cakes to cool in pans for 10 minutes then remove from pans and allow to cool completely on wire racks.
  1. In bowl of electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment cream butter until smooth. Add powdered sugar and mix until incorporated. Add juice and lemon zest and beat on high speed for 3-5 minutes or until frosting is smooth and creamy. If necessary add half and half or cream to achieve desired consistency for spreading.
  1. Lay first layer on a cake stand or plate and place 1/3 of frosting on cake. Spread into a thick layer to about 1-inch from edges with a mound of frosting in center. Place second layer on top and using a piece of plastic wrap press down to spread frosting to edges. Repeat with third layer then frost the top.
  2. Garnish with thin slices of lemon sprinkled with coarse sugar.
Preparation time: 15 minute(s)
Cooking time: 20 minute(s)
Number of servings (yield): 12
Meal type: dessert
Culinary tradition: USA (Southern)

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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Lady Baltimore Cookies

Once upon a time in the first half of the 20th Century there was a popular novel by Owen Wister set in Charleston titled Lady Baltimore. This romantic tome was highly popular among the ladies of Charleston and inspired two to open a tea room called "The Lady Baltimore Tea Room." This tea room became quite famous in its own right serving such delicious treats as the famous Lady Baltimore Cake - a delicious concoction of fruit, nuts, spices, meringue and layers of delicious cake. By the time Charleston Receipts was printed at mid-century it had been adapted into a cookie recipe. While the cookie is a much simpler version, it remains delicious with its heaping assortment of spices, walnuts (or pecans), and raisins.

I decided to give this old recipe shared by Mrs. Gladys Hay Walker in Receipts a go. For added flavor, soaking the raisins in rum makes a nice variation (something not done in the original). The cookie has something of the delicate crispness of shortbread but the use of vegetable shortening in place of butter allows the nut and spice flavors to shine through. It also produces a wonderfully "plump" little cookie instead of a flat blob! The original recipe calls for all-purpose flour, but I found substituting self-rising flour gave these gems a little more oomph! so they could rise a bit and produce a nice texture reminiscent of holiday nut cookies. If you use this option, just delete the salt (but keep the soda for the extra rising power!) A sprinkle of powdered sugar finishes them off or for a more elegant finish drizzle with chocolate or royal icing.

: Lady Baltimore Cookies
: Spiced cookies with nuts and raisins based on a Charleston, SC recipe from the Lady Baltimore Tea Room.
  • 1 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 tsp. water
  • 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. allspice
  • 1 tsp. clove
  • 1 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 cups raisins
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (or pecans)
  1. Preheat oven to 350° and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Cream shortening and sugar together. Add eggs and mix until combined. Dissolve baking soda in water and add to mixture.
  3. Whisk together flour, salt, and spices then add to mixture. Add raisins and nuts and stir and fold into batter until combined and evenly distributed.
  4. Using a medium cookie scoop (or teaspoon) drop onto parchment lined baking sheet. Bake at 350° for 15 to 20 minutes or until edges just begin to brown and cookies are set. Remove to wire rack to cool.
For an added taste boost, soak the raisins in dark rum until they plump up before using in the recipe.
Sprinkle with powdered sugar for decoration or drizzle with white or dark chocolate for a more elegant finish.

Preparation time: 5 minute(s)
Cooking time: 20 minute(s)
Number of servings (yield): 6 dozen cookies
Meal type: snack
Culinary tradition: USA (Southern)

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Thursday, May 5, 2011

Dessert Crêpes

Dessert Crêpes served with Raspberry Sauce and Preserves
Please pardon, but for the rest of this post "crêpe" will be written without the diacritic circumflex over the "e." I don't have a French keyboard and typing CTRL+EEE continually is a pain. So, we're going to talk about crepes.

It's strange sometimes how things come at you in waves. Last week I was watching old episodes of Julia and Jacques on HuluPlus and they were doing classic French Crepes. They looked delicious and after watching them they didn't seem that hard. After all, I'd always heard that doing a crepe was a bit of culinary magic - most people ended up with pancakes instead. I filed it away as something to try in the future. Then my latest copy of Cook's Illustrated arrived and they'd taken Julia's recipe and made a few tiny changes to it and proclaimed it "Foolproof!" Was it really foolproof? Could someone who grew up on pancakes really make a crepe right out of the gate?

Last night for dinner I decided to make crepes for dessert. I pulled out the Cook's Illustrated recipe and got to work. My only change was to use a smaller skillet because my large skillet is not non-stick. Instead of a 12-inch I used an 8-inch skillet. I also added some butter to the inside of the crepes when folding because I like the flavor of butter and it helped the sugar to stick better.

The result? It worked. I turned out very light and delicious crepes the first time out. It took me about 3 or 4 to get the real hang of it, but eventually I fell into a rhythm and had a huge stack ready to go. Of course, I then flirted with the idea of Julia's Crepe Gateau which is layers and layers of crepes separated by Raspberry Jam and coated with chocolate ganache. In the end I decided to go simple. I buttered the inside of the crepes, sprinkled them with sugar and topped with raspberry sauce and warm raspberry preserves.

By the way - crepes freeze wonderfully! If you find that a whole batch is too many for one use, simply freeze the remainder (before folding) then thaw them out when you want to have crepes again! 

: Dessert Crêpes
: Light and thin crepes that even the novice can turn out perfectly!

  • 1/2-1 tbs. vegetable oil
  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. sugar plus 8 tsp. for sprinkling
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 tbs. unsalted butter, melted and cooled plus 2 tbs. melted for brushing inside of crepes
  1. Place oil in small prep bowl or shallow dish. Place a 12-inch skillet on a burner turned to low and lightly brush with oil using a pastry brush. Allow skillet to heat for 10 minutes.
  2. While skillet is heating, whisk together flour, 1 tsp. sugar, and salt in medium bowl. In separate bowl, whisk together milk and eggs. Add half of milk mixture to dry ingredients and whisk until smooth. Add melted butter and whisk until incorporated. Whisk in remaining milk and egg mixture until smooth.
  3. Increase heat to medium and heat skillet for 1 minute. Test heat by placing 1 tablespoon of batter in center of pan. Wait 20 seconds and flip the mini-crepe. If it is golden brown on the bottom, the pan is ready. If too light, increase the heat and retest. If too dark, decrease the heat and retest. When temperature is correct, proceed.
  4. Pour 1/4 cup of batter into far side of pan and tilt and shake pan gently to cover bottom of pan. Cook crepe without moving it until top surface is dry and edges begin to brown (you'll also notice the lacy edges begin to leave the bottom of the pan slightly). Gently slide a spatula under the edge of the crepe and grasp edge with fingertips. Flip the crepe over. Cook until second side is lightly spotted (about 20 seconds). Transfer crepe to wire rack and invert so spotted side is up. Return pan to heat and allow to reheat for 10 seconds. If necessary, brush bottom of pan with a bit more oil with the pastry brush. Repeat with remaining batter.
  5. Melt remaining 2 tbs. butter in a small shallow dish. Transfer stack of crepes to a large microwave safe plate and cover with second microwave safe plate. Microwave on high power for 30-60 seconds. Remove top plate and dry with paper towel. Using a pastry brush, brush the upper half of top crepe with melted butter and sprinkle with 1 tsp. of sugar. Gently fold the bottom, un-buttered half over the top then fold from edge to edge to create a triangle. Place crepe on clean plate and continue with remainder of crepes. Serve warm with choice of toppings or whipped cream.
I found using a ladle to be very helpful in pouring the batter into the pan.
If you put too much batter in the pan, simply tilt it and pour excess back into bowl for reuse. If you put too little batter, simply add some more immediately and it will incorporate into the crepe.

Preparation time: 10 minute(s)
Cooking time: 30 minute(s)
Number of servings (yield): 4
Meal type: dessert
Culinary tradition: French

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