Wednesday, November 9, 2011


After a relatively warm December, January has shown that winter is indeed here. Nothing brings on warmth and comfort like the aroma of gingerbread. More importantly, its spicy scent covers the smell of roasted chicken, which is especially good when you live in a super tiny apartment that is wreaking of smoke (if you have ever used Zuni's recipe then you know exactly what I'm talking about).

As the frosty weather continues on and my comfort food cooking cravings intensify, more homey and comforting goods will be baked. Thank you, gingerbread, for making the cold nights more bearable and thank you for being the perfect thing to make one's apartment smell less poultry-like!

Gingerbread Apple Upside-Down Cake
Adapted from
Smitten Kitchen via Karen Bates at the Philo Apple Farm via the New York Times

Serves 12

4 tablespoons butter, plus extra for greasing pan
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
Pinch of salt
4 apples (about 1 3/4 pounds), peeled, cored and cut into 1/4-inch wedges

1/2 cup (1 stick or 4 ounces) butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
1/3 cup dark molasses
1/3 cup honey
1 cup buttermilk
2 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Very softly whipped cream

Make the topping: Preheat the oven to 325°F. Grease a 10-inch cake pan. Melt butter in a small saucepan. Add brown sugar and simmer over moderate heat, stirring, four minutes, then swirl in salt. Remove from heat and pour into the bottom of your cake pan. Make circles of overlapping apple slices on top of the caramel. Chop any remaining slices and place them in the gaps.

Make the batter: Using a mixer, blend 1/2 cup butter and the sugar on medium-low speed. Increase the speed to high and cream until light and fluffy.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg, molasses, honey and buttermilk. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, ginger and cinnamon. Alternate mixing the flour and molasses mixtures into the butter mixture, adding the next once the last has been incorporated.

Pour the batter into the pan. Bake at least 45 to 50 minutes (thanks to commenter klp for reminding me this took a bit longer) or until a wooden tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cool on a rack for 10 to 15 minutes, then turn out onto a platter (one that will catch spills, unlike what you see in the pictures above).

Serve warm or cool with very softly whipped cream.

Monday, November 7, 2011


During the week, my meals are usually healthy. I keep carbs to a minimum, rarely eat dessert, watch my portions, limit the number of times I go out to eat, and make healthy vegetable omelets in the morning. For the most part, I'm successful at eating this way but there are times that I need to partake in birthday celebrations during the week and then these dietary habits go out the window. This is how I like to think of it:

"Calories don’t count if they’re connected to a celebration. Everyone knows this." -Janet Evanovich, Hard Eight

My coworker, Emily, requested coffee cake for her birthday and though I have not made it in years, it once was my go to cake in middle school. I was obsessed with making coffee cake because the only other option in my repertoire was a yellow cake from the box. Baking with boxed cake mix is never fun regardless of your age.

Coffee cakes can end up dry. dense and bland but Ina Garten's recipe produced a moist, fluffy, cinnamony, comforting cake. She isn't Paula Deen but she sure does love her butter. After taking a bite, Emily asked how many sticks of butter were in the cake and that was the first thing my mom commented on as well when I made Ina's Blueberry Crumb Cake for her. I know there can never really be too much butter but I would have liked the coffee cake to have had less of a pound cake flavor. It was delicious nonetheless and Ina never steers me wrong. The coffee cake is perfect with a morning coffee or as an afternoon snack but I had it for both since it's a celebratory cake and obviously, the calories don't count!

Close up of my favorite part - the streusel!

Sour Cream Coffee Cake

2001, Barefoot Contessa Parties, Serves: 8 to 10 servings

• 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
• 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
• 3 extra-large eggs at room temperature
• 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
• 1 1/4 cups sour cream
• 2 1/2 cups cake flour (not self-rising)
• 2 teaspoons baking powder
• 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
• 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

For the streusel: (I doubled the streusel)
• 1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
• 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
• 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
• 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
• 3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
• 3/4 cup chopped walnuts, optional

For the glaze: (I used 1 tbps. melted butter, 1/2 cup powdered sugar, and 2 tbps. whole milk)
• 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
• 2 tablespoons real maple syrup

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 10-inch tube pan.

Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment for 4 to 5 minutes, until light. Add the eggs 1 at a time, then add the vanilla and sour cream. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture to the batter until just combined. Finish stirring with a spatula.

For the streusel, place the brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, salt, and butter in a bowl and pinch together with your fingers until it forms a crumble. Mix in the walnuts, if desired.

Spoon half the batter into the pan and spread it out with a knife. Sprinkle with 3/4 cup streusel. Spoon the rest of the batter in the pan, spread it out, and scatter the remaining streusel on top. Bake for 50 minutes.

Let cool on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes. Carefully transfer the cake, streusel side up, onto a serving plate. Whisk the confectioners' sugar and maple syrup together, adding a few drops of water if necessary, to make the glaze runny. Drizzle as much as you like over the cake with a fork or spoon.