Oh my gosh, it’s going to be Easter in just a couple of weeks!! Yeah, I know…news flash! Clearly this holiday has sneaked up on me, so I got busy experimenting with some Easter dessert options.
My first is: Better for You Banana cake. Until now, I haven’t brought you a layer cake recipe and that’s because I’ve always had such bad luck with them – they’ve all been “leaners”. You know…the ones that no matter which way you turn them, are always tilted. Which is kind of embarrassing since I’m supposed to be a baker, and that includes making layer cakes that don’t look like they’re going to fall over.
So I stepped out of that comfort zone I’m so fond of and went about learning the “technicalities” of making a straight up, level, flat cake layer. And it wasn’t nearly as scary or daunting a task as I had thought it would be. Imagine that? Basically, you just need to wrap some wet strips of towel around the edge of the cake pan in whatever width the pan is, usually 2-3″, attaching them with large safety pins. The moisture from the wet towel strips help the cake to bake more evenly, preventing the dome that forms, which is the primary reason layer cakes lean. You can find more detailed information for the procedure on one of my favorite blogs: The Kitchn.
You really should give this Better for You Banana cake a try. It’s been lightened up from the original recipe; both the butter and sweetener has been reduced (as usual, I used real maple syrup for the sweetener). This banana cake is moist, flavorful, and downright irresistible. So why resist?
- 1 cup milk
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 3/4 cup butter, room temp
- 1 cup real maple syrup
- 3 eggs
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
- 3 cups flour
- 3 ripe bananas mashed, about 1½ cups
- 8 ounces (1 package) cream cheese, room temperature
- 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
- 3 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1-2 tablespoons milk
- 1/3 cup sweetened flaked coconut, optional
- Spray three 8-inch round cake pans or two 9-inch round cake pans with Baker’s Joy (or similar) spray. Set aside.
- Whisk the milk and lemon juice together in a medium bowl. Set aside.
- Combine flour, salt, and baking soda in a medium bowl. Set aside.
- Using a hand mixer or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment beat the butter and syrup in a large bowl until combined, adding in the syrup a little at a time until fully incorporated (The mixture will appear slightly “curdled”, but don’t worry, it’s just fine).
- Add in the eggs and vanilla and mix until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl.
- Add in the milk and flour mixture in alternating additions, beginning and ending with flour, mixing on low and scraping the sides of the bowl as needed.
- Finally, mix in the mashed bananas until just incorporated.
- Divide the batter evenly among the pans and bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Rotate the pans in the oven halfway through baking.
- Cool cakes in the pans for 15-20 minutes; then remove from the pans and place on a wire rack to cool completely.
- Using a hand mixer or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment mix the butter and cream cheese together for 2 minutes until creamy. Mix in the maple syrup.
- Add in the vanilla and 1 tablespoon of milk.
- With the mixer on medium, blend until creamy, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed.
- Add remaining tablespoon of milk, if needed and mix until combined. Frost cake.
- Place the coconut in a nonstick skillet over medium-low heat, stirring gently but constantly. The coconut will start to turn light brown; watch carefully, because it burns quickly.
- Remove the pan from the heat and allow the coconut to cool completely. (I spread mine out on a paper plate so it wouldn’t continue to brown in the warm pan and would cool faster.)
- Sprinkle cake with the toasted coconut.
Preheat oven to 325°F
How many times have you tried a new recipe and upon taking that first bite, knew you had a “keeper”? Well, this Orange Poppy Seed Olive Oil Cake is one of those! I know I’ll make this cake again and again; moist and full of flavor, and so easy to pull together! I found some Cara Cara navel oranges at our town’s version of Whole Foods and was keen to try them in this cake; they’re a little larger and sweeter than the regular navel oranges you find in most grocery stores. The juicy flesh is a pretty deep orange color, which doesn’t affect it’s flavor at all, but sure makes for a lovely accent in the photos; and food lover/geeky photographer that I am, I pay attention to those things…. I would love to know if you try this recipe and what you think of it. Please feel free to send your comments.
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3 tablespoons poppy seeds
- 3/4 cup whole milk
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest
- 1/4 cup fresh orange juice (from Cara Cara navel oranges)
- 3/4 cup maple sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 1/2 cup maple syrup
- 3 tablespoons fresh orange juice
- 1/2 teaspoon orange extract
- Line a 9-inch round baking pan with parchment paper; spray with Baker’s Joy or similar. In a large bowl whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together; set aside.
- In another bowl, whisk together the oil, milk, melted butter, vanilla, and 1/4 cup of the orange juice; set aside.
- Mix the maple sugar and zest together until thoroughly combined. Mix the orange-sugar blend and eggs in a large bowl and using either a hand mixer or stand mixer with the paddle attachment; beat on medium-high, about 2-3 minutes.
- Reduce mixer speed and add the flour mixture and milk mixtures alternately, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Mix well after each addition.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake until a cake tester or toothpick comes out clean; check at 45 minutes. Cool the cake in the pan for 25-30 minutes, then transfer to a wire cooling rack to cool completely.
- In a small saucepan, bring the maple syrup, 3 tablespoons orange juice, and orange extract to a low boil, simmering for 10-12 minutes. Remove from heat to cool and thicken. Drizzle over the cooled cake. Let cake set for about an hour before serving.
Carrot cake is one of those classic, been-around-forever desserts that I’ve had more than my fair share of; I really don’t think I’ve ever had one I didn’t like. Oh, for sure there have been favorites, but in my experience, carrot cake is tuck-in-worthy in pretty much all of its variations. Having said that…I bring you my new favorite: Carrot Cake with Orange Glaze! This one is about as healthful a carrot cake as I think I’ve ever laid lips on. The requisite oil is coconut oil (sooo good for you!), there’s walnuts in there with essential fatty acids (need those EFAs!), and whole wheat flour to increase the fiber and lessen the effects of the sweeteners in the recipe. Speaking of which, as usual, only unrefined sweeteners were used here. Sometimes people hesitate to eat a dessert that’s called “healthful”; they think that means it won’t be nearly as yummy as the full-fat and full-sugar kind. Thankfully, that perception is changing because of all the easy-to-find, tasty, healthful desserts. Lucky you! This is one of those tasty ones!!
- 2/3 cup melted coconut oil
- 3/4 cup honey
- 1/4 cup maple syrup
- 1/3 cup Greek yogurt, plain (or fat-free sour cream)
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup white whole Wheat flour
- 1 cup white flour
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 3 cups shredded carrots
- 1 cup toasted walnuts, chopped
- 1 ½ tablespoons cornstarch
- Pinch of salt
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1/2 cup sugar-free orange juice
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1 tablespoon orange zest
- Toast walnuts for 5-6 minutes at 350ºF. Set aside to cool. In a medium mixing bowl whisk together flour, soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger and walnuts. Set this aside also.
- In a large mixing bowl, blend together oil, honey, and syrup. Add yogurt, eggs, and vanilla, mixing until well combined, about 2 minutes. Add dry ingredients to wet mixture and beating on medium speed until completely combined. Stir in carrots. Pour batter into well greased and floured Bundt cake pan. (I use Baker’s Joy oil/flour spray on my Bundt pans and it works like a charm.)
- Bake for 40-45 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow to cool about 30 minutes. Invert onto a serving plate and continue cooling.
- Combine cornstarch and salt in a small saucepan. Combine the juices and honey and slowly stir them into the cornstarch mixture until smooth. Add orange zest and cook over low heat until it thickens. Cool and drizzle over cake.
Ahhh, comfort food. It comes in many forms for me – macaroni and cheese, chicken pot pie, baked potato soup, and fresh bread; I could go on and on and on…. When it comes to comfort food in dessert form, however, it’s all about apples and cinnamon. And what could be more satisfying than this Apple Cinnamon Cake? (You’ll just have to take my word for it until you try it…). And this cake is so, so simple to make, which adds to it’s appeal. The original recipe from Pinch of Yum called for brown and cane sugars, but as usual I’ve subbed in maple syrup and maple sugar. If you prefer to use traditional sugars, head on over to Lindsey’s amazing site for her version. This satisfying, lightly sweet, cinnamon-y cake is especially yummy when served warm – with a dollop of whipped cream, of course.
- 3/4 cup maple syrup
- 1/3 cup oil
- 1 egg
- 1/2 cup light sour cream (you can substitute buttermilk)
- 1/4 cup milk
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 cups white flour
- 1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
- 1 1/2 cups chopped apples
- 1/2 cup maple sugar
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)
- 1 tablespoon butter
- Mix the wet ingredients (maple syrup through the sour cream) in a medium bowl.
- Measure both flours and baking soda into a large mixing bowl, add the wet ingredients and chopped apples Stir until well blended.
- Pour batter into a 9×13 greased pan.
- Combine maple sugar, cinnamon, nuts (if using), and butter to make a topping; sprinkle it evenly over the batter.
- Bake for 45 minutes. Really good with a dollop of whipped cream.
I confess that I’m not much into making cakes. Shocking for a professed baker, I know! I suppose I should specify that it’s the multi-layered versions that regularly defeat me – there’s only so much filling and frosting you can use before it becomes obvious you’re trying to cover up a “leaner”. In a moment of frustration/desperation I’ve even considered shimming the legs on the table to compensate; but, yeah, that might be noticeable too… So…I opt for sheet cakes or my absolute favorite – the cupcake. The flavor options are nearly endless, there’s no anxiety about them falling over, and they’re not just a piece of the whole, but your very own, individual cake. And they’re cute, to boot! So much to love! These Blackberry Jam Cakes have a moist, but tender crumb and come with sweet, jammy goodness in the middle. My next batch will be filled with raspberry jam, I think, or blueberry, or hmm, maybe strawberry….
- 1 white cake mix (I used Betty Crocker)
- 3 eggs
- ⅓ cup butter, melted and cooled
- 1 ¼ cups milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 ½ teaspoon orange zest
- 10 tablespoons blackberry fruit spread (I used Smuckers Simply Fruit)
- 1 ½ cups powdered sugar
- 3 tablespoons orange juice (squeeze juice from the orange you zested…)
- ¼ tsp. orange extract
- Spray Baker’s Joy into jumbo cupcake tins (*or use a homemade version of something similar- see note below). Set aside. (If you are using paper baking cups, you can skip this step.)
- Pour cake mix into a large bowl. Add eggs, melted butter, milk, vanilla, and orange zest. Using a stand or hand mixer, beat on low speed for 1 minute, then increase to medium speed for 2 minutes.
- Pour batter into each muffin tin until two-thirds full. Top each with 1 tablespoon of jam; cover with remaining batter.
- Bake about 25 minutes or when a testing toothpick comes out clean. After cooling in pan for 10 minutes, remove cakes and transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.
- In a small bowl, whisk together powdered sugar, orange juice and orange extract to make glaze. Place rack over parchment paper (I didn’t do this and made quite the mess… Duh!); drizzle cakes with glaze.
Not having a favorite sweet treat for St. Patrick’s Day to bring you, I searched about and surprise, surprise! there are so many yummy ones to choose from out there in the vast world of food blogs. It was a tough choice to make but I finally decided on this Guinness Chocolate Bundt cake that I adapted from Fine Cooking. And I’m sooo glad I did! You really don’t taste the beer at all; it mostly serves to enhance the flavor of the chocolate in the cake, which is moist and rich and irresistible. To gild the lily, I’ve topped the cake with an Irish whiskey chocolate ganache that I found on Brown Eyed Baker. Dessert with Guinness Stout and Irish whiskey in it – now that says Happy St. Paddy’s Day!!
For the cake:
- 1-1/4 cups Guinness or other stout beer
- 1/3 cup dark molasses
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder (more to sprinkle in the pan)
- 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
- 1/2 tsp. baking soda
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1 1/4 cups unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
- ⅔ cup sour cream
- 1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- 6 ounces (¾ cup) semisweet chocolate, very finely chopped
For the ganache:
- ⅔ cup heavy cream
- 6 oz. semisweet chocolate
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 tablespoon Irish whiskey (optional)
Pre-heat oven to 350ºF.
- Butter (or use shortening) a 10- or 12-cup bundt pan, making sure you cover the entire pan, (crevices and center post too) and then lightly coat with sifted cocoa powder, tapping it around the sides of the pan and center post until well distributed. Tap out the excess cocoa.
- In a small saucepan over high heat, bring the beer and molasses to a simmer. Remove the pan from the heat while you prepare the cake batter.
- Add together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. With a stand or hand mixer, cream the butter in a large bowl on medium speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Add the brown sugar and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, around 3 minutes. Scrape the sides of the bowl.
- Beat in the eggs one at a time, scraping the bowl after each addition. Mixing on low speed, alternate the flour and stout mixtures, beginning and ending with the flour. Stop the mixer to scrape the bowl and then beat at medium speed until the batter is smooth, about 30 seconds. Stir in the chopped chocolate.
- Spoon the batter into the prepared pan spreading it evenly so it’s fairly level on top. Tap the bottom of the pan gently on the counter a few times to release any air bubbles.
- On the center oven rack, bake until a wooden skewer inserted in the center comes out mostly crumb-free, 45-50 minutes. Set the cake on a cooling rack for 20 minutes. Invert the cake onto the rack and carefully remove the pan. Let the cake cool until just warm. Transfer to a serving plate or cake platter.
To Make the Whiskey Ganache Glaze:
- Heat the cream until simmering, remove from heat and add finely chopped chocolate. Let it sit for one minute. Stir until chocolate is melted and smooth.
- Add the butter and whiskey and stir until combined.
- When the ganache has cooled but is still warm, spoon over barely warm cake.
NOTE: This cake is from scratch, but I think you could easily make it with a chocolate cake mix with only a few changes to speed and simplify the process; I’m going to try it sometime soon and will let you know how it compares.