Category Archives: Cakes

The Backstage Baker ON STAGE!

decoratedThe cake on the prop table decorated with fresh strawberries and fat free, sugar free Greek yogurt.  Mmmmmm.

Sometimes, there are things asked of stage manager that are far outside their job description . . .

Now, as mentioned in a recent post, the Backstage Baker is stage managing “Time and the Conways” for the Roundabout.  They just started previews at the American Airlines Theater and I hear it’s a smash.  (So get those tickets now, because this is a limited run that closes on November 26.)

This show offered James a baking challenge and believe it or not, it’s not the first time he’s been called on to create something edible to appear onstage eight times a week. (The last time was for a blueberry pie that Dianne Wiest made and baked onstage in the play  “Memory House” back in 2005. Here’s the review where the pie features prominently.)

But back to “Time and the Conways.”  It so happened that one of the actors was staged to devour a mini-bundt cake, but no one wants to consume a sugar-filled, gluten-based cake eight times a week.

Backstage Baker to the rescue!  Late one night, right the middle of technical rehearsals, he got home and started experimenting.  Could a pancake batter of eggs and banana be turned into a cake?  Would it even be edible?  Would it hold the bundt shape and look like an elegant confection worthy of the Conways? More importantly, would the actor be able to eat it with gusto?  Into the wee hours, he baked.  The cakes auditioned the next day and were a hit!   Now you can see them on stage eight times a week at The American Airlines Theatre.

Matthew and cake
Matthew James Thomas (who plays Robin Conway) about to do the taste test.

Matthew tasting cake
It passed the first audition… now to the call back, on stage and in front of the director.

It’s hired!  Now, should you ever find yourself in this situation, here’s the recipe:

Robin Conway’s Gluten Free, Sugar Free Mini Bundt Cakes

Ingredients:

1 really ripe banana mashed
2 eggs separated
1 Tablespoon Coconut Flour
1 /2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla

Method:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Separate eggs and whip whites until soft peaks form. Mix bananas and egg yolks together, add flour. Mix well. Add cinnamon and vanilla, then stir gently into whites until incorporated.
Pour into two mini-bundt pans. Bake for 22-25 minutes until set.
Cool in pan 5 minutes and then invert onto a cooling rack.

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Raspberry Stuffed Mini Dark Chocolate Cakes with Chocolate Truffle Icing

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Our Backstage Baker is busy busy —  he’s already deep in rehearsal for his next Broadway show, J.B. Priestley’s Time and the Conways, starring Elizabeth McGovern and directed by Indecent’s Rebecca Taichman.  (FYI, Indecent closed on August 6, but if you missed it, you can catch it on November 17 on PBS’ Great Performances.  Check your local listings, as they say.)

Last week was the first Wine and Unwind for the Conways cast, and James made the Flourless Chocolate Cake already posted on the site. (As an aside, do you realize there are over 85 recipes posted here?  All made by James for the various shows he’s worked on over the past four years.)

This week, he tried a new recipe, and it seems like a keeper.  Enjoy!

Fresh Raspberry Stuffed  Mini Dark Chocolate Cakes with Chocolate Truffle Icing
NOTES:  The individual cakes are made in cupcake pans and then inverted to cool, iced and served.
This recipe is great for a party since it makes 24.

Ingredients
for the mini cakes:
Nonstick Coconut Oil cooking spray
1/2 cup butter
2 large eggs
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder or unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 3/4 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup buttermilk
2 cups raspberries

for the Chocolate Truffle Icing:
1 cup whipping cream
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 1/3 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1 teaspoon vanilla

Method:

Let butter and eggs stand at room temperature for 30 minutes while you preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly coat twenty-four 2-1/2-inch muffin cups with nonstick cooking spray; set aside.

In a medium bowl, stir together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In a small bowl, combine granulated sugar and brown sugar. Set aside.
In a large bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Gradually add sugar mixture, about 1/4 cup at a time, beating on medium speed about 5 minutes or until light and fluffy, scraping side of bowl occasionally. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla.

Add about 1/4 cup flour mixture and 1/4 cup buttermilk to butter mixture, beating on low speed. Keep adding flour and buttermilk until finished and beat until just combined. Beat on medium to high speed for 20 seconds more.

Divide half of the batter among the prepared muffin cups. Divide the 2 cups raspberries among muffin cups, adding 3 or 4 berries to the center of each cup. Spoon the remaining batter over berries in muffin cups. Do not fill the cups fully.

Bake for 18 to 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the centers comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire racks for 5 minutes. Remove cupcakes from pans; cool completely on wire racks.

To Prepare Chocolate Truffle Icing:
Put cream and corn syrup in a small pan and boil over low heat stirring constantly. Add chocolate chips and let set 2 minutes. Whisk to combine and add vanilla.

To glaze cupcakes, invert one cake at a time onto a slotted spoon. Hold the cake over the bowl of icing and spoon icing over cake, allowing excess to drip down side. Place glazed cakes on a wire rack set on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Chill about 20 minutes or until icing is set.

James 1

If desired, decorate cakes with additional raspberries. Makes 24 cupcakes.

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Actors Cara Ricketts and Gabriel Ebert ( 2013 Tony Award  winner for Best Featured Actor in a Musical)

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Anna Camp, Anna Baryshnikov and Charlotte Parry wining and unwinding

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Assistant Director Katie Lindsay

Vegan Chocolate Cake

VEgan chocolate cake

When you need a vegan dessert this one is easy, moist and delicious. Jitney’s associate director, Awoye Timpo, is vegan, so the Backstage Baker baked this for her birthday.

It’s amazing.  And super easy to make.  In fact, I think I’ll go bake one now.

Easy Vegan Chocolate Cake

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups sifted flour
1 cup sugar
3 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/3 cup canola oil
1 Tbsp. vinegar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup cold water

Method

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2.  Measure flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda and salt into a sifter, sift twice. Sift all into and ungreased 9 inch square pan.

3.  Make three holes in the mixture. Pour oil into one hole, vinegar in the second, vanilla in the third. Pour water over all. Mix with fork until smooth and blended. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes (no more).

This cake is so moist it doesn’t need frosting.  Make like the Backstage Baker and top it with fresh raspberries tossed in powdered sugar and shave some chocolate on top.  Mmmm, delicious!

Chocolate Zucchini Cake with Sweet Potato Frosting

the-play-the-cake-the-wine

The Backstage Baker is back on Broadway with August Wilson’s Jitney! Directed by Ruben Santiago-Hudson, it’s part of Wilson’s Pittsburgh/Century Cycle of plays (two of which won the Pulitzer Prize) and is the only one never produced on Broadway.  Until now.

James sent me this recipe several weeks ago, having baked this delicacy for the company’s first Wine and Unwind.  I’m only just getting around to posting it, while in the interim James and the company have rehearsed, teched and had their first preview on Broadway! (Oh, and they celebrated some holidays in there too.)  Opening night is January 19, 2017, so get your tickets now!

Chocolate Zucchini Cake with Sweet Potato Frosting
(with thanks to fellow stage manager Buzz Cohen)

1 pound (453 g) zucchini (about 4 small), trimmed
2½ cups (360 g) white whole wheat flour
½ cup (48 g) unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1½ cups (312 g) sugar
1 cup (245 g) buttermilk, at room temperature
½ cup (112 g) grapeseed or other neutral oil
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup (180 g) semisweet chocolate chips

Sweet Potato Frosting:
1 (15-ounce; 425-g) can pure sweet potato puree
10 ounces (283 g) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Method:
1. To make the cake: Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 325°F. Coat a 9 x 3 x 2-inch cake pan or dish with nonstick cooking spray. If you’re using a metal pan, line the bottom and sides with foil or parchment paper and spray again.

2.  Set a box grater on some paper towels and grate the zucchini on the large holes. Spread it out on the paper towels, top with more paper towels, and press gently to remove excess moisture.

3.  Sift the flour, cocoa powder, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl. Whisk the sugar, buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla in a medium bowl until very smooth. Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients. Whisk, gradually drawing in the dry ingredients, just until smooth. Fold in the zucchini and chocolate chips with a silicone spatula until evenly incorporated. Spread the batter in an even layer in the prepared pan.

4.  Bake the cake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and the top springs back a little when lightly pressed with a fingertip, 45 to 50 minutes. Cool completely in the pan on a rack.

5.  While cake is cooling, make the frosting: Bring the sweet potato puree to a simmer in a large saucepan over medium heat, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat and add the chocolate and vanilla. Stir until smooth. Cool, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is at room temperature and the consistency of canned frosting. It should hold soft peaks when you lift the spatula from the pan but not be stiff. Spread the frosting all over the top of the cake, creating swoops and swirls.

*Make ahead notes: The cake is best the day it’s made, when the chocolate chips are still a bit melty and the frosting is soft, but it will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.*carra-patterson-and-andre-holland Carra Patterson and Andre Holland

brandon-dirdenBrandon Dirden in a sugar coma . . .

Apples LeRoy

apples-leroy

The Backstage Baker made this apple sheet cake for the company of Plenty.    Cast member LeRoy McClain (who plays Mick) really, really liked it, so it was unanimously decided to name the dessert Apples LeRoy. (And that’s pronounced Apples LE-Roy, not Apples Leeroy!) The recipe originally came from the Better Homes & Gardens website, but our Backstage Baker did some fiddling with it to make it even tastier.

Here’s a very happy LeRoy with the (almost) empty pan.

leroy-with-whats-left-of-his-cake

I had the opportunity to chat with LeRoy who, it turns out, is quite an accomplished baker himself.  A native of Cambridgeshire, England, he shares a lot of the same holiday baking memories that I have — mincemeat pies, Christmas cake, lemon curd tart . . .   But he’s also mastered new delights, such as French Vanilla Pineapple Upside Down cake (“Oh, I bring this one to all the Thanksgiving dinners I get invited to — it’s obviously not a holiday I celebrated as a child.”  Hmm, what are you doing for Thanksgiving this year, LeRoy?)  He’s promised to share a recipe for the blog – -perhaps his Caramel Apple Candied Pecan cake or his Raspberry Streusel Crunch Cake.  So stay tuned!

Apples LeRoy

Ingredients:
2 medium baking apples
1/3 cup butter, melted
1 2/3 cups packed brown sugar
1 cup apple sauce
2 eggs
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup dried apples, finely chopped

Maple Icing:
1 tablespoon melted butter
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1/2 cup sifted powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon milk

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 13x9x2-inch baking pan; set aside.

2. Peel, core, and coarsely shred one of the apples. Thinly slice remaining apple, removing seeds; cover and set apples aside.

3. In a large bowl whisk together the butter, brown sugar, apple butter, eggs, and vanilla until smooth. Add flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; whisk until combined. Fold in dried and fresh shredded apple. Spread batter into prepared pan. Arrange apple slices over batter.

4. Bake about 40 minutes or until golden and a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Remove to a wire rack. Spoon Maple Icing over hot cake; spread evenly, using a pastry brush if necessary. Cool completely. Dust with ground cinnamon.

for Maple Icing:

In a small bowl stir together 1 tablespoon melted butter, 1 tablespoon maple syrup, 1/2 cup sifted powdered sugar, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, and 1 tablespoon milk until smooth.

Golden Syrup Cake

emily-bergl
Emily Bergl and her cake

Ah, Golden Syrup!  Also known as “light treacle,” it’s a British thing.  Thick, sweet and (duh!) syrupy, it has the same color and consistency as honey, but is made from cane sugar.  So it’s basically just melted sugar.  100% sugar. Sweet, pure, delicious sugar.  And doesn’t the name Golden Syrup sound delightful and kind of magical?

My mother is of British extraction — well, she’s from New Zealand, which was a British colony back in the day — so we always had a can of Lyle’s Golden Syrup slowly crusting up in the back of a cupboard.

screen-shot-2016-09-16-at-2-02-10-pm

I loved this stuff — I think my Mum grudgingly allowed me to use it as an oatmeal topping, but only on special occasions!  Because, you know, she grew up when sugar was rationed, so  . . .

This recipe below is from Emily Bergl, currently appearing in Plenty at the Public Theater.  (She found this recipe on a BBC site called Good Food.)  I’ve adapted it to American measurements.  (I hope I did the math right!)

golden-syrup-cake

Golden Syrup Cake
Ingredients:
1 cup butter (that’s two sticks)
1 cup sugar (light brown adds depth but white is fine
1 1/3 Golden Syrup
3 cups all-purpose flour
4 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 Large Eggs
1 1/4 cups milk *
4 tbsp Golden Syrup

Notes:
— You’ll need a 10″ springform pan for this cake.

*Emily substituted coconut milk

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 140C/fan (or 160/C – gas mark 3). Grease the tin and line the base with baking (parchment) paper, leaving a little to cover the bottom corners and sides. Press into place.
  2. Place butter, syrup and sugar into a large pan and heat gently until the ingredients are just melted together, stirring occassionally. Leave to cool for 10 minutes – it helps if you place the pan away from the hob during this time since it will remain warm.(Oh, the hob!! The hob!!  It’s like we’re sitting down to tea with Mr. Tumnis in the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe!)
  3. Beat the eggs with the milk. Add the flour and milk/egg mixture to the cooled syrup mixture in the pan and beat steadily with a wooden spoon until all the lumps have gone. This may take a few minutes, so you will need a little patience. Pour the mixture into the tin.
  4. Bake for around 50 minutes. The cake will be well-risen and springy, but still very moist. After a few minutes cooling time, pierce the cake all over with a skewer and spoon the extra golden syrup over the top. Leave to cool completely in the tin.
  5. This cake keeps for a week and only improves with time.  It’s a real treat and a cake you will be asked to make again and again.

Red Velvet Cake

Red Velvet 1

Lazarus opened last night (here’s Ben Brantley’s review here) and it seems appropriate to share the recipe for the Backstage Baker’s dramatic birthday cake for Michael Esper.

Red Velvet Cake

Ingredients:

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1 teaspoon of salt
2 tablespoons unsweetened, cocoa powder (plus more for dusting pans)
2 cups sugar
1 cup canola oil
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk (if you don’t have buttermilk substitute one cup milk less one tablespoon  and one tablespoon of white vinegar. Let sit 5 minutes.)
2 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
1-2 oz. red food coloring, depends how deep you want the color
1 teaspoon of white distilled vinegar
½ cup of plain hot coffee (don’t skip this ingredient)

Frosting:

2 (8 oz) packs cream cheese, softened
¼ cup milk, made need more
1 stick butter, softened
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups powdered sugar

Method

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, cocoa powder and salt. Set aside.
3. In a large bowl, combine the sugar and vegetable oil.
4. Mix in the eggs, buttermilk, vanilla and red food coloring until combined. Stir in the coffee and white vinegar.
5. Combine the wet ingredients with the dry ingredients a little at time, mixing after each addition, just until combined.
6. Generously grease two round, 9 inch cake pans with shortening and dust with cocoa.
7. Pour the batter evenly into each pan.
8. Bake in the middle rack for 30-40 minutes (check at 30 minutes), or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Do not over bake as cake will continue to cook as it cools.
9. Let pans cool on a cooling rack until the pans are warm to the touch.
Slide a knife or offset spatula around the inside of the pans to loosen the cake from the pan.
10.Remove the cakes from the pan and let them cool. These are moist cakes so I refrigerated them before icing.
11.Frost the cake with cream cheese frosting (recipe below).

Frosting Recipe:
Add softened cream cheese into large bowl.
Pour in milk, butter and vanilla extract.
Mix until well combined.
Pour in half of the powdered sugar.
Mix until combined.
Add the remaining powdered sugar.
Mix until smooth and fluffy.
Reserve about a cup of the frosting and tint with red food coloring until it achieves just the right bloody shade.  Artistically dollop on and around cake as it pleases your murderous eye.

 


Red Velvet 2
Production Assistant Rachel Zucker, Michael C. Hall and birthday boy Michael Esper

Red Velvet 3