Category Archives: Cakes

Bustrengo – Polenta and Apple Cake

This past Christmas, M whipped up a mean Osso Buco and served it over Risotto Milanese. Braised slowly for hours, the end result was aromatic and tender.  But, I’m not writing about that, except to say that it was out-of-this-world delicious.

I’m here to write about my challenge.  What would dessert be?  I wanted it to be Italian, in keeping with the dinner’s theme.  Tiramisu was too obvious, so I regrettably passed on that.  And, although I could eat frozen desserts year round, it was just too cold for gelato.

I finally settled on a Bolognese polenta and apple cake called Bustrengo.  It was not an easy sell for me.  Breadcrumbs, polenta and dried fruit in a cake?  It sounded too much like a dried out fruitcake.  But, I persevered.

The cake was super moist – an Italian version of bread pudding and a perfect ending to our Italian Christmas. Here is the recipe…


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Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownies

Guess what?  M now likes chocolate.  For years, I have avoided baking chocolate treats because he was opposed and because he told me so.  And now, it seems, he has forgotten all that, claims it was never said, and wants his chocolate!

I’ll bake anything, chocolate or not, and turned to my subtle friend Martha for an over the top recipe for Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownies.

These are dangerous.  Dangerous in that you can’t eat just one and dangerous for the other obvious reasons which start and end with an awful lot of butter. Here is the recipe…


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Maple Parsnip Cake

Parsnips used to puzzle me.  They look like a carrot but aren’t and I never really knew what to do with them. I had them mashed once and, though memorable, I did not rush out to recreate the dish myself.  The other day I used them as part of a vegetable medley along with sweet potatoes, carrots and potatoes at the base of a roasted chicken and that was nice.  And then I found the ultimate use for parsnips.  And so I share a recipe for Maple Parsnip Cake.

This cake is delicious!  The texture resembles carrot cake – moist and dark – and the maple syrup adds sweetness that cannot be derived from sugar alone.

As usual, I halved the recipe and used my 5″ mini cake pans so as not to have a lot of extra cake in the house.  However, after tasting this one, I wished I had made the full recipe.

And so I am now left with a big decision to make.  Maple Parsnip cake instead of Pumpkin Pie this Thanksgiving? Here is the recipe…


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Whipped Brown Butter & Vanilla Birthday Cake with Lemon Swiss Meringue Buttercream Frosting

Now that’s a mouthful, both on the page and in real life.

Our friend Marica had another birthday and, as our tradition goes, we had the pleasure of making the annual birthday cake.  She usually opts for chocolate cake with white frosting and, as such, we have made Devil’s Food Cake or Red Velvet Cake, rotating between the two, for the past many years.  This year, however, she declared that she wanted a white cake.  Say what?  Since I’m always up for  baking something new and different, I was quick to oblige.

She had no thoughts on the type of frosting and left it up to us to surprise her.  We polled our friend Justin, who would also be in attendance, and he voted for chocolate, trying to convince us that this was what the birthday girl would prefer. Turns out that this was his choice and the furthest thing from her mind.  Nice try and no chocolate for you!  It was her birthday after all.

After much deliberation, we decided on white cake with lemon curd between the layers and a lemon frosting.  However, the white cake we chose is so much more than just white cake.  It is made with brown butter that gets whipped forever in my favorite kitchen appliance, the Cuisinart stand mixer.  The recipe comes from The Sweet Life, the Chanterelle dessert cookbook, and honestly is the only white cake that I will ever make.  It is moist, light and fluffy.

I then found a recipe for Lemon Swiss Meringue Buttercream frosting.  The frosting gets its lemon flavor from lemon curd, which I had never made.  The curd is essentially egg yolks,  lemon zest, juice and sugar and has a bit of a tart, tangy taste with a pudding-like consistency.

So, we baked the cake, slathered the lemon curd between the layers and then finished it off with the lemon swiss meringue frosting.

Each bite of this cake is a taste sensation…a wonderful combination of moist cake, tangy lemon flavor and decadent rich frosting.

Happy Birthday, our dear treasured friend, and we can’t wait until next year.
Here are the recipes…


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Blueberry Cornmeal Cake

I found this recipe in the letters section of the May 2010 issue of Bon Appétit.  Someone had written in to ask how to make one of the creations they had at the Huckleberry Bakery and Cafe in Santa Monica, CA.  I held on to it until the local organic blueberries were available and finally made it a few weeks ago.

As I have taken to doing recently, I substituted my 5″ silicone pans for the 10″ springform that the recipe calls for.  We ended up with two small cakes, the first of which M and I quickly devoured.  The second one was frozen and recently served with coffee as breakfast  to a houseguest.

There are so many great things about this cake but the overall texture is what really sets it apart.  It is crusty on the outside and, because of the amount of blueberries involved, super moist on the inside.  The addition of cornmeal to the batter gives the cake a grainy (but in a good way) texture.  It defies classification and is equally at home being served as a breakfast treat, on its own with tea or as a dessert.

Hurry up and try this before all the blueberries are gone!

Here is the recipe…

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Orange and Poppy Seed Cake

Orange and Poppyseed CakeWe discovered these great mini silicone cake pans and I love them.  At 5″ in diameter, they make the perfect size cake for two to four people without too much left over.  The best thing is that we have three of them.  So, depending on my mood and the occasion, the creation can increase in height.

Here is a great one layer cake that I made recently that provided a perfect ending for a dinner for three, with a slice or two left for the next day, but barely.  Orange and poppy seeds play really well together in this light (at least in terms of texture) cake.  However, this cake’s best feature is definitely the fact that it is soaked in orangey syrupy deliciousness.  Moist, light and definitely worth the effort.  This is one that you will make again and again.

The recipe that I have included is for one 8 inch cake.  I halved the recipe, used the 5″ cake pan and reduced the cooking time to 45 minutes.  Enjoy!

Here is the recipe…


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