Tag Archives: cake

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 Red Wine Cake


Chocolate Red Wine Cake

 Chocolate. Red wine.  What else do you need?

James celebrated his first Wine and Unwind with the cast of Cymbelinecombining the Wine and the Unwind in one cake.  (I’m sure, however, that there was some wine served separately, but the efficiency of this appeals to the stage manager in me.)

He tells me “This a not too sweet cake that goes great with vanilla ice cream or gelato, based on a recipe from Anne Willan’s 2001 book Cooking with Wine. There is just enough wine to give it a wonderful flavor!”

I know I like chocolate, and I like red wine, and I like both together.  So how can this cake go wrong?

Chocolate Red Wine Cake

Ingredients:
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)* plus some for dusting.
1 1/4 teaspoons  baking soda
1/2 teaspoon  salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 3/4 cups  sugar
2  large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons  pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups  dry red wine
Confectioner’s sugar for dusting
Whipped cream or ice cream for serving

Method:

1.  Preheat the oven to 350°. Butter and dust a 12-cup Bundt pan with powdered cocoa. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt.

2.  In a large bowl, using a handheld electric mixer, beat the butter with the sugar at medium-high speed until fluffy, 4 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat until incorporated. Add the vanilla and beat for 2 minutes longer. Working in two batches, alternately fold in the dry ingredients and the wine, until just incorporated.

3.  Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, and bake for 45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn it out onto a rack; let cool completely. Dust the cake with confectioner’s sugar and serve with whipped cream or ice cream.

Kate Burton Queen and Belarius
Kate Burton, who plays the Queen and Belarius, unwinding

Patrick Page who plays the title role Cymbeline and Raul Esparza who play Iachimo

Patrick Page, who plays Cymbeline, and Raul Esparza, who plays Iachimo, taking their wining and unwinding very seriously.

*What is Dutch process cocoa?  What is non-Dutch process cocoa?  And why does it matter? 

Non-Dutch process is simply natural cocoa powder:  the dry, solid remains of fermented, dried and roasted cacao beans that have been ground into a fine powder.  It is slightly acidic with, if you’re a complete nerd, a PH between 5-6.

Dutch process, on the other hand, is natural cocoa powder that has been washed with a potassium carbonate solution to alkalize it slightly.

Who cares, right?  And what difference does it make to my cake?

Well, successful baking is more than a little bit of a science.  In order for cakes to rise properly, you need the proper balance of acid and alkaline in your batter.  If, as in this recipe, you’re only using baking soda to make your cake rise, then you want the slightly acidic natural cocoa because baking soda is alkalizing (it’s why you take a teaspoonful in water if you suffer from acid indigestion.)

Anyway, long story short, you really can use either kind of cocoa no matter what, but to make the ideal version of whatever you’re baking, stick to what the recipe says.  

The Backstage Baker celebrates the 4th of July

I Love AmericaJames, our intrepid Backstage Baker himself, left the Big City to come upstate to celebrate the 4th of July with me.  We ate home-smoked brisket and ribs and collaborated on a 4th of July cake that was loosely based on a Taste of Home recipe I’d found, called a “Poke Cake.”  The idea of it is that you poke holes in your vanilla cakes, then pour a blueberry or strawberry Jello mixture over the top.  The Jello is suppposed to drip down into the holes and the sliced cake will be a lovely Red, White and Blue to celebrate our Nation’s birth.

Well, I baked a gluten-free vanilla cake and, I don’t know, maybe that affected the color and or drippiness.  Or maybe I just didn’t make my cake holes big enough or large enough.  Because unlike the cheery picture on the Taste of Home site that featured perfect red and blue drip lines traversing a blindingly white cake, mine ended up kind of yellow beige, with pastel smudges of pink and purple.

4th of July Cake2

But James saved the day, whipping the cream to perfection, sugaring it with confectioner’s sugar just so, icing the cake with the cream and decorating it with a star made of blueberries and strawberries.  What’s not to like??

BB ices a cake

4th of July “Poke Cake”
(Loosely based on a Taste of Home recipe you can find here🙂

Ingredients:

For cake:
1 package vanilla cake mix

For strawberry drips:
1 cup strawberries, chopped  (fresh or frozen)
1/4 cup water
1/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons strawberry Jello

For blueberry drips
1 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)
1/2 cup water
2 teaspoons sugar
4 teaspoons Berry Blue Jello

Frosting:
2 cups whipping cream
1/3 cup confectioner’s sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Method:

1.  Bake cake according to directions on package.  Remove from pans to cool completely, then put cakes back into pans for Jello drip steps.

2.  In a small saucepan, combine strawberries, water and sugar.  Simmer until strawberries are soft, then strain into a small bowl. Add Jello to mixture and stir until dissolved.   Repeat this process with the blueberries.

3.  Using a wooden skewer, poke holes in top of cakes (to 1″ of edge).  Go all the way through, and try to enlarge the holes a bit with the skewers.  Pour the strawberry mixture over one cake, the blueberry over the other.  Refrigerate, covered, overnight.

4.  Just before serving, whip the cream until it stands in peaks.  Add confectioner’s sugar and vanilla and beat just a little more.  You want your cream to be as stiff as possible, but stop before you turn it into butter!

5.  Carefully remove one cake from its pan and place on serving platter.  (You can put strips of wax paper underneath to help keep the platter clean.)  Cover top with whipped cream, then place second cake on top.  Cover top and sides with cream.  Decorate with fruit.

BB slices a cake

Gluten-free Orange Cake

As promised, I’m going to intersperse the Cheesecake Bake-off recipes with some gluten-free ones. James is often called upon to make gluten- and allergen-free goodies, and has taken up the challenge masterfully.  (He has a gluten-free, vegan chocolate cake that is to die for.)  But today’s recipe is a simple introduction to the world of gluten-free baking.

I’ve just started experimenting with gluten-free baking myself and have been surprised to discover how complicated it is.  You just can’t swap out wheat flour cup for cup with, say, rice flour.   Most gluten-free bakers have a unique flour blend they’ve developed that includes several different flours carefully balanced, measured and whisked.  (BTW, there are an amazing number of flours to use other than wheat.  Who knew?)  When you first start out, though, there’s a much higher risk of ending up with a hockey puck of a cake or a loaf.  I’ve found that this is mostly due to the fact that there’s a whole new world of textures to get used to during the mixing process — bread dough is more like a batter, and cake batter is more like a dough.  Cookie dough seems the same, but it often spreads more than you expect.  Gluten provides needed structure to baked goods, and baking without it, while eminently possible, is challenging.

That said, the recipe below couldn’t be easier and more foolproof.  James has made it for the last several shows he’s been on, mostly recently for “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.”  It’s light and Springlike, too, perfect for Easter!

Gluten-free Orange Cake

Ingredients:

*1 organic orange
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
1/2 cup canola oil
1 1/2 cups rice flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

For Glaze:

1 1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
3 tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoon flavoring (vanilla or fior di sicilia)

Method:

1.  Roughly chop the orange (rind and all) in food processor until fine.  *This is why you want an organic orange, because conventional oranges are often sprayed with artificial colors and food grade waxes.  Blech!

2.  Add the eggs, oil, and sugar.   Process until smooth.

3.  Transfer to a bowl and add the flour and baking powder. Do not over mix.

4.  Pour into a greased loaf pan and bake for 60 mins at 350*

(Note:  I’ve substituted 1 lemon for the orange and added 2 tablespoons of poppy seed for a divine gluten-free take on lemon poppyseed cake!)

(Second note:  You can also bake these in mini-muffin pans for a Springtime tea party offering.)

Triple Layer Double Decadence Death by Chocolate No. 17

Mmmm . . . What better way to celebrate a birthday than the chocolatiest most decadent cake imaginable??

Yesterday was Carrie Coon’s birthday, “Honey” in Broadway’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.   I imagine she just signed up for a chocolate cake on James’ “Birthday Information Form” that first day of rehearsal, never expecting that she would get treated to this:

Death by Chocolate No. 17

BTW, James tells me that the reason behind the name of the cake is that he experimented with 16 varieties of Chocolate Layer Cake before finally settling on this one as the ne plus ultra.  How lucky are we to know someone who would experiment with chocolate cakes that thoroughly.

Happy birthday, Honey!!

Happy Birthday, Honey!

Triple Layer Double Decadence Death By Chocolate No. 17

 Ingredients:

1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1.4 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups hot coffee or espresso
3 cups sugar
2 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups cocoa powder (not dutch process). James likes to use 1/4 cup of black cocoa as part of that 1/2 cups
2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp baking powder
1 1/4 tsp salt
3 large eggs
3/4 cup canola or vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups buttermilk. If you don’t have buttermilk, use 1 1/2 cups whole milk (minus 2 Tablespoons) mixed with 1 1/2 Tablespoons of vinegar.
1 tsp vanilla

Ganache Icing
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup heavy cream
2 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp light corn syrup
1/4 cup butter

Method:
1.  Preheat oven to 300. Spray three 9” round cake pans with cooking spray. Line bottoms with parchment and spray again.

2.  Combine chips and hot coffee. Let it stand and whisk occasionally until chocolate is melted. In a large bowl whisk together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking power, baking soda and salt. In another large bowl  beat eggs until thick and yellow (3-5 minutes), slowly add oil, buttermilk, vanilla and chocolate mixture to the eggs beating until well combined. Add dry ingredients and beat on medium until JUST combined.

3.  Divide batter between pans and bake in the middle of the oven until a toothpick comes out clean- 40-50 minutes.

For ganache icing
1.  In saucepan whisk together cream, sugar and corn syrup. Bring to boil over medium heat whisking until sugar is dissolved. Remove pan from heat and add chocolate chips, whisking until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth. Cut butter into 3 pieces. Add to mixture, whisking after each addition until smooth.

2.  Chill for 45- 60 minutes until spreadable. If it is in the refrigerator too long, just bring back to room temperature before frosting.

3.  Keep cake covered and chilled. Bring to room temperature before serving. Amazing!!!!

James’ note: “I use a cake comb on the sides of the cake when frosting to give it linear texture.”

Of course you do James, of course you do!