Chocolate Brownie Cake and a Birthday

Having visitors from out of town always reminds me of how much our culture revolves around food and beverages here in Portland.  My list of things to do with an out-of-towner is skewed heavily toward the restaurants, bars, and breweries with just a few other attractions (Powell’s books, neighborhood shopping) sprinkled in.  And so I’m still recovering from my sister’s recent visit.  It was an especially exciting visit for me because it landed just a day after her birthday and, since we live in different states, we rarely get to spend birthdays together.  It also gave me an excuse to bake a birthday cake.

This recipe is about as simple as you can get.  It was adapted by Jacqui at So Good and Tasty from a David Lebovitz recipe.  It doesn’t call for any frosting, but good-quality ice cream is a great way to add a little extra sweetness and creaminess.  I’ve been snacking on it for a few days now and I think it’s definitely best when served warm.  Real ingredients, not too sweet…this is cake all grown up.  Happy birthday, Maggie!

Simple Chocolate Cake
adapted from So Good and Tasty

Ingredients
– 8 oz semisweet chocolate, roughly chopped
– 8 Tbsp unsalted butter
– 1/3 cup sugar
– 4 eggs at room temperature, yolks separated from whites
– 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
– pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 350F and butter an 8-inch cake pan.

Melt the chocolate and butter in a double broiler until smooth.  Remove from heat and add half of the sugar, the eggs yolks, and the flour.

Using a hand- or stand-mixer, whip the egg yolks with the salt for a few minutes, until they begin to appear a bit foamy.  Slowly add the remaining sugar in small amounts, whipping constantly until the mixture forms peaks that hold their shape.  (I bought an electric hand-mixer just for this and I really would recommend it…I’m not sure I would have had the speed or stamina to do it by hand!)

Using a rubber spatula, fold the egg whites in with the chocolate batter until the mixture is uniform.  This will take several minutes but you will get there.

Scrape the batter into the pan and bake for 25-30 minutes, until the center feels firm.  Let cool and serve with good-quality vanilla ice cream.
* I added this post to this week’s Melt in Your Mouth Monday.

Pumpkin Breakfast Cakes (Gluten-Free)

A cake?  For breakfast?  Now before you decide I’ve gone off the deep end of decadence, consider: (1) This recipe started out as a pancake recipe but the texture just didn’t lend itself to pancake-ness.  They were super moist and delicious but any attempt at flipping them ended in inevitable disaster.  (2) According to their name, pancakes are really just cakes made in a pan instead of an oven.

So I reworked the recipe a bit and made my very first breakfast cake.  It’s made with whole grain brown rice flour and contains a good dose of vitamins and fiber from the pumpkin.  Now about the pumpkin…I roasted my own small pie pumpkin (more detailed instructions here) and then blended to flesh to make my pumpkin puree.  Until recently, I was adamant that I would never do this.  Opening a can was just too easy and I didn’t see the point in adding extra step to my baking.  Then I heard about a research study in which participants who ate one cup of canned soup per day for a few weeks had a 1,221% (!) increase in BPA in their urine samples (here is a NY Times article summarizing the study).

To remind you, BPA is the substance that has been banned from use in baby bottles because of its ability to disrupt normal endocrine activity and its effects on fetal and infant brain development.  Data about BPA’s effects in adults is still inconclusive, but many health-conscious people are trying to limit their exposure.  And since I subscribe to the “better paranoid than sorry” theory, I’m working to reduce my reliance on canned foods, since BPA is often used in the lining.  If you do use canned pumpkin for this recipe, see if you can find a company the uses BPA-free cans.

So with that, on to the recipe!

Pumpkin Breakfast Cakes
makes 4 individual cakes

Ingredients
-1 cup brown rice flour (I used sprouted brown rice flour)
-1 teaspoon baking powder
-1/2 teaspoon baking soda
-1/2 teaspoon salt
-1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
-1/2 teaspoon powdered ginger
-1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
-1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
– 2 tablespoons butter, melted
– 2 tablespoons honey
– 1 1/4 cup pumpkin puree
– 3/4 cup milk of your choice
– 1 egg
– maple syrup to serve

1. Preheat oven to 350F and grease 4 oven-safe ramekins.  In a large bowl, mix together dry ingredients.

2. Whisk melted butter, honey, pumpkin puree, and milk together in a separate bowl.  Add the egg and whisk until incorporated.

3. Add the pumpkin mixture to the flour mixture and mix well.  Divide the batter between the 4 ramekins, filling each about 2/3 full.  Bake for 12-15 minutes, until the tops are lightly browned.

4. Top with syrup and eat with a smile.  You’re havin’ cake for breakfast!  🙂

*This recipe was entered in this week’s Melt in Your Mouth Monday at Make Ahead Meals for Busy Moms, Traditional Tuesdays at Cooking Traditional Foods, Gluten-free Wednesdays at the Gluten-Free Homemaker, and the These Chicks Cooked blog party.

Apple and Almond Cake

This cake is amazingly decadent but nicely balanced with the sweet-tart apples.  If you don’t like butter, don’t eat it.  Or if you’re watching your calories you can do like I did: skip dinner and have this instead.  🙂  You’ll want to have some apples that will hold their shape a little when baked.  La Domestique has a good synopsis of some common varieties you’ll find in the grocery store this time of year.

Apple and Almond Cake
(Adapted from the recipe in River Cottage Every Day)
Serves 8

Ingredients
For the apples
3 apples (I used 2 Jonagold and 1 Gala)
– 2 Tbs butter
– 1 heaping Tbs granulated sugar
For the cake
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
scant tsp baking powder
1/2 cup blanched almonds
– 2/3 cup butter, softened
– 1/2 cup granulated sugar
– 1 tsp almond extract

1. Preheat oven to 350F.  Grease an 8-inch springform cake pan.

2. Cut the apples into slices about 1 cm thick.  Melt the 2 Tbs butter in a large pan over medium-low heat.  Add the granulated sugar and stir for about a minute while the sugar dissolves.  At the apples and cook, stirring constantly, until they are softened, about 10 minutes.  Remove from heat and let cool.

3. Mix together the flour and baking powder.  Put almonds in food processor and pulse until they are finely ground (but don’t turn them into almond butter!).  Clean and dry the food processor to make the batter.

4. Add remaining butter and sugar into the food processor and mix until fluffy.  Add eggs and almond extract.  Mix until well incorporated.  Add flour mixture and ground almonds.  Mix until batter is uniform.

5. Smooth mixture evenly in prepared pan and place apples on top.  Drizzle any extra juice from the apples on top of the cake.  Bake for 45-50 minutes.  Allow to cool before serving.