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Lemon and Almond Cake (Torta di limone e mandorle)

In Cakes & Cupcakes, Desserts, Creams & Sauces On June 16, 2013 0 Comments

Prep time: 15 minutes
Bake time: 20 to 23 minutes
Makes: One 9-inch round cake

Are summer weather, bright colors and flavors on your mind? Because lemons are all of the above, I thought of using them in this Lemon and Almond Cake that I grew up with in Southern Italy.

This cake is so rich with butter, lemon and almonds, that you should just omit the whipped cream garnish. All you need are freshly-sliced lemons, complementing the cake’s essence!

Ingredients:

Prepare the pan –
-1 tablespoon butter & small amount of flour (to butter a spring form pan)
Parchment paper

Make the cake –
-¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon unbleached, all-purpose flour (preferably organic)
-1 teaspoon baking powder
-Dash each salt and ground cinnamon (very little amounts)
-Zest of 2 small lemons, set it aside in a small bowl
-Juice of 2 small lemons, set aside in a small bowl
-5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into slices and softened at room temperature
-½ cup granulated sugar
-3 large eggs, separated (put yolks in a small bowl and whites in another bowl)
-½ cup ground raw, unsalted almonds
-Confectioners’ sugar (powdered sugar)
-1 lemon, for slicing and cake garnish

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a 9-inch spring form pan and place parchment paper circle at bottom of pan.

2. Cut 3-inch wide strips of parchment; line pan sides with parchment strips. Set aside.

3. Measure the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon into a small bowl; set aside.

4. In a medium bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff; set aside.

5. In a 6-quart mixing bowl and using a hand mixer (or a stand mixer), beat together the butter, sugar and egg yolks until mixture is creamy.

6. With mixer set on low, stir in the ground almonds and mix until batter is uniform.

7. Stir in the zest and lemon juice; set the bowl with batter aside.

8. Using a spatula, gently fold the beaten egg whites into the batter.

9. When the batter is uniform, gently pour it into the prepared spring form pan.

10. Place the spring form pan with batter on a rack positioned in center of oven; bake cake for 20 minutes.

11. After 20 minutes, insert a pointed knife in center of cake. If the knife is clean, the cake is done. If there is batter stuck to the knife, bake for an additional 2 to 3 minutes and test with knife once more.

12. Transfer the cake to a counter and slightly cool (about 10 minutes).

13. Loosen sides of spring form pan from cake with a spatula. Remove pan sides and parchment strips.

14. Invert the cake onto a serving platter; lift off the pan bottom and gently peel away the parchment paper.

15. Let cake cool to room temperature.

16. Gently and lightly sift the powdered sugar over cake. Garnish with lemon slices and serve.

Text and Photograph ©2013 Nancy DeLucia Real

Leprechan Pudding Cake

In Cakes & Cupcakes, Holidays On March 7, 2013 0 Comments

For Saint Patrick’s Day this year, I feel like cake – but a healthy kind. Along the lines of carrot cake, I decided to use a neutral vegetable that would also serve as a natural colorant. You got it – spinach!

The end result is a moist cake with a texture as smooth as pudding. Moms – when your little Leprechans eat this delicious cake, they’ll have energy to play for hours. Just be sure to serve this cake early in the day – lol!

Prep time: 15 to 20 minutes
Bake time: 25 to 35 minutes
Makes One 9-inch round cake

Ingredients:
2/3 cup thawed spinach, packed (thaw a package of frozen spinach first, drain it and then measure)
2 large eggs
1/3 cup cold water
1-3/4 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup granulated sugar
4 ounces cream cheese, softened to room temperature
1/4 cup vegetable oil (safflower or sunflower preferred)
1/2 cup milk (whole or 2% milk fat)
1 teaspoon vanilla
Confectioner’s sugar (powdered sugar)
Candy sprinkles (nonpareils)

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour a 9-inch springform or regular cake pan; set aside.

2. In a blender, purée the spinach with 1 egg and 1/3 cup water until mixture becomes creamy and uniform. If needed, add 1 to 2 more tablespoons water until spinach mixture is uniform. Set aside for later use (you will only need 1 cup of this spinach mixture).

2. In a 1-quart bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt; set aside.

3. In a stand mixer or in a 4-quart mixing bowl using a hand mixer, beat together 1 cup of the spinach mixture, sugar, cream cheese, vegetable oil, milk and vanilla.

4. Gradually stir in the dry ingredients and beat until batter is smooth.

5. Pour the batter into prepared pan.

6. Place the pan on a rack positioned in center of oven.

7. Bake the cake for 25 minutes. After 25 minutes, insert a knife in center of cake. If knife comes out clean, the cake is done. If not, bake for an additional 5 to 10 minutes and test doneness again.

8. If needed, bake for an additional 5 minutes.

9. Cool Leprechan Cake completely.

10. Mix 1 cup confectioners’ sugar with 2 to 3 tablespoons milk to make a glaze. Pour it over cake and decorate with candy sprinkles.

Text and Cake Photograph ©2013 Nancy DeLucia Real

Panforte di Siena (Italian Christmas cake)

In Cakes & Cupcakes, Holidays On December 10, 2012 0 Comments

A few hundred years ago in Italy and other European countries, imported and exotic spices were linked to nobility – they were expensive!

Going back to the Middle Ages, panforte (it literally translates to “strong bread”) is  a rich fruit and nut cake. It is a specialty of the Tuscan city of Siena. Made with “strong” spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, cardamom and black pepper, panforte is traditionally made at Christmastime.

However, you don’t have to go to Siena to enjoy panforte because I’m sharing my favorite version of this delicacy with you. Happy Holidays to all my Friends!

Active prep time: 25 to 30 minutes
Bake time: 30 minutes
Makes: one 9-inch cake

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons butter (to lightly grease a 9-inch round springform cake pan)
Parchment paper, trimmed to a 9-inch round to fit in bottom of cake pan
2/3 cup dried figs, minced
2/3 cup dates, pitted and minced
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon each ground cloves and nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup candied fruit (a mix of lemon and orange rinds and citron)
-or-
1 cup mixed white raisins and dried cranberries
3/4 cup unsalted almonds, coarsely chopped (preferably skinned and roasted)
3/4 cup unsalted hazelnuts (roasted first, then skinned), coarsely chopped
1/2 cup unbleached, all-purpose flour
1/4 cup Vin Santo or Sweet Vermouth
Confectioner’s sugar, for dusting

1. Preheat oven to 300°F.

2. Butter the bottom of a springform cake pan and cover it with the parchment round. Set cake pan aside.

3. Place the figs and dates in a 1 to 2-quart saucepot. Add enough water to barely cover the dried fruit. Add the honey, brown sugar and the spices.

4. Cook the fruit-spice mixture on low heat for 4 to 5 minutes. NOTE: TO PREVENT BURNING OR SCORCHING OF THE FRUIT MIXTURE, DO NOT OVERCOOK. IF IT BEGINS TO “SMELL” BURNT, YOU MUST DISCARD IT AND START ALL OVER AGAIN.

5. When the fruit mixture has cooked and reduced for 5 minutes, transfer it to a medium bowl. the fruit mixture should be sticky.

6. Stir the candied fruit and nuts into the hot fruit-spice mixture, mixing well. Stir in the flour and Vin Santo or Vermouth and mix until the mass is sticky.

7. Carefully spoon the panforte mixture into the springform pan. Place the pan on a rack set in center of oven and bake for 30 minutes.

8. After 30 minutes, check to see if the panforte is too soft (undercooked) or if it is firm. If it is too soft, bake the panforte for an additional 5 minutes.

9. Remove the panforte from oven and place it on a counter to cool. When the panforte has cooled but is still a little warm, remove it from pan by releasing the sides. Carefully invert the cake onto a serving platter and peel off the parchment paper.

10. Cool the panforte completely. When cool, generously sprinkle it with confectioner’s sugar and serve the panforte in tiny wedges.

Note: Panforte can be stored, covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated, up to two weeks.

Text and Photograph ©2012 Nancy DeLucia Real

Strawberry Rhubarb Cheesecake

In Cakes & Cupcakes, Desserts, Creams & Sauces On May 31, 2011 2 Comments

Seasonal, fresh strawberries combined with tart rhubarb make an exquisite and beautiful topping for this cheesecake. Because I love sweet and sour flavors so much, strawberry rhubarb desserts are my favorite. Entice everyone when you set this bright cheesecake on your sweet table.

Active prep time: 15 minutes
Bake time: 55 minutes
Inactive prep time: 5 hours or overnight refrigeration

For the Crust:
1½ cups finely ground Maria cookies*
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

1. Preheat oven to 350˚F.

2. In a 2 or 3-quart mixing bowl and using a fork or pastry cutter, combine the ground cookies with cinnamon and melted butter until uniform.

3. Transfer the mixture to a 9-inch spring form pan: spread the crumb mixture evenly, pushing it up with fingers along sides of pan to rise ¾-inch high.

4. Gently pat and flatten the crumb mixture at bottom and at sides of pan; set aside.

For the Cheesecake:
Three 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. In a 5-quart mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese with the sugar and one egg until mixture is smooth.

2. Beat in the remaining eggs, one at a time; stir in the vanilla extract.

3. Pour cheesecake batter over crumb mixture in pan.

4. Set pan on a rack placed in center of oven and bake 50 to 55 minutes or until cheesecake is light golden brown and begins to crack at sides.

5. Turn off oven and leave cheesecake to set for 30 minutes.

6. After 30 minutes, transfer cheesecake to counter, cover with foil and let cool 2 hours (do not remove cheesecake from spring form pan).

7. Refrigerate the cheesecake 5 more hours or overnight (it’s best to make cheesecake one day ahead).

For the Strawberry Rhubarb Filling:
2 cups diced fresh strawberries
1¼ cups diced fresh rhubarb (about 2 medium stalks)
½ cup granulated sugar
1/8 cup cold water and 1 teaspoon cornstarch (mixed together in a cup)

1. Combine the strawberries, rhubarb and sugar in a 2 or 3-quart saucepot.

2. Bring to a boil and cook on medium heat for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon.

3. Set heat on low and cook for 3 more minutes, stirring frequently to prevent sticking.

4. Stir in the cornstarch mixture; cook and stir 1 more minute until thickened.

5. Transfer the filling to a glass or porcelain bowl, cover and cool on a counter. After cooling, refrigerate about 1 hour or overnight.

To serve: Remove sides of spring form pan from cheesecake. Set the cake with pan bottom on a large platter, spoon the strawberry filling over its top and serve individual slices.

*Note: Maria cookies are round, sweet biscuits. Each biscuit has perforations or holes and the name “Maria” engraved on its top surface.

Text & Photograph © 2011 Nancy DeLucia Real

Irish Whiskey Cake with Avocado Cream Frosting

In Cakes & Cupcakes, Holidays On March 12, 2011 0 Comments

When I first imagined making this scrumptious cake, I thought it should be round. But then I thought, “Naaah, decorated cupcakes are more fun.” I also bought a clover leaf cake pan and delved right into the festive spirit of St. Patrick’s Day.

My version of this springtime cake contains no butter – the “cream” in the frosting comes from fresh avocado with an added tangy surprise. The result is a rich and delicious Irish Whiskey Cake. You and your guests can reach for that second or third piece guilt free – enjoy!

For the Cake:
2 ¾ cups all-purpose, unbleached flour
2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon salt
1 ¾ cups granulated sugar
½ cup vegetable oil
5 large eggs
½ cup whiskey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
zest of 1 lemon

1. Preheat oven to 325F˚. Grease and flour either a 9-inch round cake pan or a clover leaf cake pan; set aside. If making cupcakes, line the muffin pans with baking cups and set aside.

2. In a 1-quart bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt; set aside.

3. In either a stand mixer fitted with a bowl or a conventional mixing bowl (using a hand mixer), beat together the sugar, oil, eggs, whiskey, vanilla and lemon zest until smooth.

4. On low speed, stir in the dry ingredients and mix until batter is smooth, about 2 to 3 minutes.

5. Pour the batter into desired cake pan or into the muffin cups.

6. Place cake pan on a rack positioned in center of oven and bake 30 to 35 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean.

7. Alternatively, place muffin pans on top and bottom oven racks and bake 20 to 25 minutes or until knife inserted in center of one cupcake comes out clean.

8. Transfer cake pan or muffin pans to counter and set aside to cool.

9. When cake is completely cooled, unmold it and transfer to a serving platter; set aside.

For the Avocado Cream Frosting:
2/3 cup freshly mashed avocado
5½ to 6½ cups powdered sugar
2 to 2½ tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
One clover-leaf shaped cake pan, one 10-inch springform pan or two 12-cup muffin pans
One 4.25-ounce Decorating Green Icing Tube fitted with a straight tip (optional)

1. In a 1-quart mixing bowl, whisk together the mashed avocado (with all lumps broken down) and 5½ cups of the powdered sugar.

2. Mix in the lemon juice and whisk until smooth. If frosting appears to thin, add a little more sugar and whisk until consistency is smooth and creamy but firm enough to hold its shape on top of cake or cupcakes.

3. With a spatula or flat, round-tipped knife, frost the cake or cupcakes.

4. Using the tube fitted with a tip, make decorations over frosting.

The cake or cupcakes can be served the same day or made a day ahead, covered in a foil tent and refrigerated.

To foil tent a cake, place 6 to 8 toothpicks halfway into cake and spaced out throughout cake surface. Create a tent with aluminum foil sheets that are large enough to cover cake and secure around platter edges.

*Note – A 10 or 11-inch square cake pan can be used as well.

Text and Photographs ©2011 Nancy DeLucia Real