Lemon Victoria Sponge Cake

Firstly, apologies.  I know I’ve been a bad blogger.  Life caught up to me.  But never fear faithful followers!  I have not quit cooking.  In fact, I’ve been cooking nearly as much as ever.  I just haven’t been posting about it.  I pledge to try harder.

It is fitting that I am writing about this cake for 2 reasons.  First of all, I missed my blog’s one year anniversary.  I never even posted any recipes that month!  In addition, I made this a short while ago for a friend who was celebrating her birthday!  (Happy belated birthday Rach)  She is also the Matron of Honor in my wedding.  She asked me if I could try to recreate a classic English dish her grandmother always makes her.  Now, please don’t hold this cake to the standards of traditional Victoria Sponge Cake.  There are many things that the traditional cake will or will not have that just doesn’t *quite* make it the same.

For instance, I could not make the cake in crazy British measurements.  Not that they are crazy in general; just crazy hard to replicate here in the States.  Exhibit one: 7 inch sponge cake tins.  I didn’t know a 7 inch round pan existed.  I have one smaller pie plate that would have cut it, but no second pie plate for the second layer.  So I did not use the pie plate.  Instead, you can use two 8×8 square pans.  Exhibit 2: Funny names for items like caster sugar and icing sugar.  These are just superfine and powdered sugar, respectively.   Exhibit 3: Directions in ounces in grams.  This is actually a brilliant way to bake.  Europeans are much more precise in their measurements when baking, so they use scales to get the exact weight of the ingredient they are using.  While this is much more accurate, most American kitchens don’t have a scale.

Needless to say, I had to do some math and some research.  But, in the end I had an actual cake that had a striking resemblance to an actual Victoria Sponge cake.  The most amazing thing is this recipe is actually pretty simple.  There are only a few ingredients and you can easily customize it.  As long as you are careful with your technique, you can easily have a homemade sponge cake in no time.

I used a recipe from this site.  It’s a really fun site that also explains a lot of the conversions.  It also has fun history facts about some of the ingredients, which is super cool if you are a food nerd like me.   But I won’t make you do the math.  Here is the American conversions for the recipe.  You can find superfine sugar at most large grocery stores.  The Domino brand is especially easy to find.

1 cup of butter, softened

3/4 cup of superfine sugar

1 cup of all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 eggs

zest of one lemon

1 Tablespoon of lemon juice

Raspberry preserves and powdered sugar to serve

Preheat the oven to 325.  Cream butter and sugar together.  The website explains that you want to do this, “until you get a pale, fluffy mixture that drops off the spoon easily”.  Beat the eggs, adding them into the butter and sugar mixture a little at at time.  It is important to do this slowly.  The best way to do this is add about a tablespoon of egg, then beat.  Add another tablespoon of egg, then beat.  Keep repeating until all the egg is incorporated.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.  Fold the flour mixture into the egg mixture.  Again, take your time folding this in.  Fold in lemon zest and juice. Make sure the mixture can slide off the back of a spoon. If your mixture is a little too thick, add more lemon juice.

Line 2 8-inch round cake tins with parchment paper.  Grease if you are worried.  Fill the tins evenly with mixture.  Bake for 25-30 minutes.  Cake WILL fluff up.  Thats good.  🙂  They will be springy in the center when done.  The most common way to serve this is with a thin layer of raspberry preserves between the two cakes, the sprinkled with powdered sugar.

Assyrian Orange Cake

Today I have a real treat – a guest recipe!  This is a recipe from a friend of mine.  It is a traditional Assyrian cake and it’s been in her family for generations, so I am very fortunate to have her share with with me.  But I must say, after tasting this cake the first time she made it for me, I HAD to know the recipe.  I understand why it has been in her family for so long; its a beautiful cake.  It has the earthy, deep, hearty flavor of a tried and true recipe.  The cake has a sweet crusty exterior and a spongy, vibrant interior.  It even looks wonderful!

This cake is a memory from better days.  Days when warm spices and hot drinks kept you snug.  It’s the perfect combination of toasty, nuttiness and bright notes of citrus.  This cake would be a lovely addition to any brunch, paired with coffee.  I must say, from experience, it is also incredible after a meal with a cold glass of milk!

There are a couple of “tricks” to making this cake just right.  Firstly, my friend tells me you must have a good, sturdy bundt pan, preferably a thick-gauge one.  Secondly, each egg need to be fully incorporated before adding the next.  It is important to have them at room temperature, as well.  Don’t skip on these simple steps!  They will make the difference between pretty good cake and an amazing one.

My friend has also wavered between using wheat and while flour.  I’ve tried her recipe with both.  Personally, I like the wheat flour because I think it complements the natural nuttiness of the cake.  I believe my friend likes white flour.  I will leave it to your discretion.

Orange Cake (Cakekit’ Pertikala)

1 ½ cups sugar
¾ cup unsalted melted butter (1 ½ sticks)
1 cup milk (room temperature)
3 eggs (room temperature)
Zest of 1 orange
Zest of 1 lemon
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon Grand Marnier (optional)
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons fresh orange juice
2 ½ cups flour (preferably cake flour)
1 teaspoon baking powder (reduce by a pinch)
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ cup chopped walnuts
½ cup raisins (preferably golden raisins)
1/8 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.   Grease and flour Bundt cake pan.  Mix sugar and butter with electric mixer until fluffy.  Next, add the eggs one  at a time, incorporating each egg fully before adding the next.  Add milk, orange and lemon zest, vanilla extract, Grand Marnier, orange and lemon juice until incorporated.  In a separate bowl, mix flour, baking soda and baking powder.  Add the dry ingredients into the wet and mix thoroughly.  Finally, fold in walnuts and raisins.

Pour batter into pan and bake for 1 hour or until the cake is brown in color and a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean.  Cool before slicing.

Plum Almond Tart

The minute I saw this recipe, I knew I had to make it.  Plum Almond TartI’ve had some leftover almond meal for a while.  I originally bought it to make some kumquat muffins.  While they were delicious, they left me with half a bag of almond meal and no idea what to use it for.

Luckily for me, there are lots of new, fabulous dessert recipes that include almond meal for those who need to accommodate a gluten-free diet.  I am not gluten-intolerant, but I do have a close friend who is.  So, Jen, this one is for you!

I got this recipe from simplygluten-free.  You can see the original here. This recipe is proof that gluten-free food can be incredibly yummy!  The baked plums added a sweet, slightly tart finish to the nutty tart.  I expected the tart to be more dense, but it actually had a very light texture.  It was airy, but satisfying.

However, just to forewarn you, this is not your average tart.  When I told boyfriend I made a tart, I believe he expected the more common flaky crust type of tart with a fruit filling.  He told me it wasn’t really a “tart” but more like a cake.  I do agree it is not the standard idea of a fruit tart.  The pastry is not the flaky crust-like consistency you would expect.  It’s more like a very fluffy cake.  However, it is still delicious in its own right.  (Despite his complaint, my boyfriend did wolf down his entire piece.)

I highly advise anyone, gluten-free or not, to try out this recipe.

Cake in a cup?

Today I am reviewing a recipe going around the internet called Cake in a Cup.  The e-mail, which I received from my aunt, describes a way to “bake” chocolate cake in a coffee mug.  Cake in a Cup Initially, I had my doubts.  I mean, come on cake? In a cup?  Thee whole idea behind the recipe is that you put a little dash of this, a splash of that, mix it all up and nuke it in the microwave to make your own single-serving instant cake for those late night cravings.

Brilliant, right?  Wrong.  While this did take a mere 5 minutes for me to whip up, I wouldn’t exactly call it “cake”.  As you can see, the end product looked more hardened lava rather than fluffy cake.  The taste was just as disappointing.  It had a tough, spongy texture.  It tasted bland and faintly of plastic.  I blame it on the egg to dry ingredient ratio.  After all, most cake recipes have a couple of eggs and couple of cups of flour.  This recipe calls for one egg and only a few tablespoons of flour.

I wouldn’t recommend this speedy treat to anyone; if you have a late-night chocolate craving, I’d stick to the Oreos.  However, just in case you want to experiment with it on your own – here is the recipe. (Since no one is credited in the e-mail, I don’t know who to credit with inventing it)

4 tablespoons flour
4 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa
1 egg
3 tablespoons milk
3 tablespoons oil
3 tablespoons chocolate chips (optional)
A small splash of vanilla extract
1 large coffee mug (make sure its microwave safe)