Recipe quick takes: King Arthur Flour’s Chocolate Zucchini Cake

It’s that time of year again, when people in small towns all over this country lock their cars and their back doors to forestall neighborly gifts of summer squash. Here in the big city, we always lock our doors, and we have to pay real money for our zucchini, but we are probably still getting a bit tired of the elongated green gourd, and looking for something useful to do with it that doesn’t involve either frying it or dumping slices in the steamer basket. And as a college friend of mine once said, “Anything can be good and useful if it’s made of chocolate!” So, therefore, it’s time for chocolate zucchini cake. This recipe comes from King Arthur Flour’s Whole Grain Baking (Countryman Press, 2006; p. 426), and it’s the last of the King Arthur whole-grain recipes on my agenda until December. (I changed my mind about banana crunch cake and peanut butter cream pie, previously scheduled for September.) This cake has an unusual assembly method, as is often the case for cakes that incorporate fruits or vegetables, so let’s see how it came together.

Mise en place
We start, of course, with the mise en place. The recipe calls for all traditional whole-wheat flour; I had a few ounces of whole spelt flour, and a fresh bag of sprouted whole wheat flour, both of which can be substituted for regular whole wheat (the total quantity is 10 oz or 280 g). The leavening, which I added directly to the flour, is a teaspoon of baking powder, with a teaspoon of soda added to react with a half-cup of nonfat buttermilk that’s part of the wet works. Other dry ingredients include a half-teaspoon of salt, 6 ounces (170 g) of semisweet chocolate chips, and 1½ oz (45 g) of natural (not Dutch-process) cocoa powder. The wet team, in addition to the buttermilk, includes three eggs, 7½ oz (210 g) of light brown sugar, 3½ oz (100 g) of white sugar, and — most unusually — 4 ounces (115 g) of either butter or vegetable oil. If either butter or oil was acceptable, I figured melted butter must be acceptable as well, so I melted a stick of butter in the microwave, using the Pyrex bowl I intended to mix everything in anyway. Finally, there’s the zucchini. The recipe calls for a pound of shredded zucchini, but it also gives a volumetric measurement, two cups, and I found that two cups of firmly packed shredded zucchini, as measured using my Adjust-a-Cup measure, was actually more like 12 ounces (340 g) than a pound (450 g) — which was good, because it meant that I didn’t have to shred a fractional zucchini.

(Ever wonder why it is that we use an Italian word, and the Brits use a French word, to talk about a New World gourd? The generic term, “squash”, is from Narragansett; “zucchini” and “courgette” are diminutives of the respective Italian and French words for “gourd”, referring to the fact that these fruit are picked and eaten in the immature state — a mature gourd is called a “marrow” in Britain, and “inedible” in America. The OED says, with regard to “marrow” in this sense, that “the development … is uncertain” — but the term was first used in reference to the avocado rather than the squash.)

Butter-sugar mixture
Unlike many of the cakes I’ve done this summer, this one is not made by the creaming method — that would be impossible to do, if one were using the vegetable oil option, although I could have done it if I hadn’t melted the butter. Doing it this way allowed me to keep the flavor of the butter without having to wait for it to soften sufficiently to cream with the sugar — the result is obviously very different looking. Melting the butter liberates the water contained within, which dissolves a small fraction of the sugar, but mostly this still looks like a big lump of brown sugar.

All the wet ingredients
After mixing in the eggs, vanilla, and buttermilk, the batter is quite loose and looks a bit curdled — probably because the eggs and buttermilk were still a little cold, so some of the butterfat resolidified rather than being emulsified with the eggs.

Finished batter
The dry ingredients are whisked together and added in two lifts, with the shredded zucchini in between, giving what is still a fairly wet, barely pourable batter. Chocolate chips are stirred in along with the second half of the dry ingredients. I chose to bake this cake in a 10-inch (250 mm) tube pan, previously lubricated with baking spray. It’s cooked for about 45 minutes in a 350°F (175°C) oven, until a tester inserted in the center comes out moist but clean.

Fully baked cake, cooling on a rack
After cooling the cake in its pan for about 15 minutes, I turned it out onto the rack to finish cooling. A few of the chocolate chips stuck to the bottom of the tube pan, leaving voids in the top of the cake, but that will be fixed by covering the cake in a simple chocolate glaze — a ganache, in fact, made from 4½ oz (130 g) of chocolate chips, a half-cup (120 ml) of heavy cream, and a couple teaspoons of corn syrup (honey or glucose syrup would do as well).

Cake with chocolate ganache glaze

When I brought it in to work, I was the only person who could taste the zucchini. Most people quite liked it, and one taster raved. The zucchini did what it was supposed to do, imparting moistness and a soft texture to the cake without interfering with the chocolate flavor.


Unlike most tube cake recipes, this one is specified to make 16 servings (as opposed to 20). If you leave off the glaze, the servings are about 90 g each and 50 kcal cheaper.

Nutrition Facts
Serving size: 1/16 of a glazed 10″ tube cake
Servings per recipe: 16
Amount per serving
Calories 326 Calories from fat 169
% Daily Value
Total Fat 16g 24%
 Saturated Fat 9g 45%
Trans Fat 0g
Cholesterol 60mg 20%
Sodium 209mg 9%
Potassium 81mg 2%
Total Carbohydrate 45g 15%
 Dietary fiber 4g 17%
 Sugars 30g
Proteins 6g 12%
Vitamin A 8%
Vitamin C 6%
Calcium 6%
Iron 18%
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A layer cake for a party with nuts and two kinds of chocolate

This gallery contains 10 photos.

Early last week, my colleague Marzyeh invited me to an end-of-summer party she and her husband Eric were holding on Saturday at the picnic area outside their apartment building. They were providing (and Eric was grilling) the protein, but they … Continue reading

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Recipe quick take: Emily Luchetti’s Walnut Hazelnut Bars

Straight off, I have to admit that this recipe was a bit more involved than my initial impression had suggested, making it unsuitable for the “easy midweek” tranche of my summer baking project, and as a result I screwed several steps up. However, it still came out OK. These bar cookies — from Emily Luchetti’s A Passion for Desserts (Chronicle Books, 2003; p. 64) — are essentially two layers of a rolled-out shortbread surrounding a caramel-nut filling. A majority of tasters liked it, but a significant minority (OK, three people) thought that the filling was far too sweet — although the floral notes from the honey were universally praised. I personally would have preferred a thicker, darker caramel, not to mention construction instructions that gave a precise temperature rather than a qualitative description.

Blanched, toasted hazelnuts
I started out some days earlier, by blanching and then toasting hazelnuts. There are two ways to remove hazelnut skins: the hard way, which is to toast them and then rub the skins off, and the easy way (described, among other places, in Rosetta Costantino’s Southern Italian Desserts, which was the reference I used), which is to blanch them in boiling alkalized water and then squeeze the skins off. The trouble with the blanching method is that you then have to dry the hazelnuts before you can do anything useful with them, and if you don’t get the cooking time right, your hazelnuts can end up waterlogged. For this recipe I just went ahead and toasted them; it takes a bit of extra time to dry the nuts out. I’m not sure if I would bother to do this again, as it was a bit of a pain. (I’ll have another opportunity in the next few days.)

Mise en place for shortbread
The crust, as I mentioned, is essentially a shortbread: lots of butter (10 ounces or 280 g). sugar (7 oz or 200 g), and flour (14⅞ oz or 420 g); the butter and sugar are creamed, then an egg is beaten in to provide enough liquid to moisten the flour, and finally the flour itself. Surprisingly, there is absolutely no salt in this recipe, either in the crust or in the caramel — I suspect it could have used some.

Shortbread dough after resting
Unlike the typical shortbread, this dough is rolled out like a pie crust — after resting in the refrigerator for the customary half-hour. I found it a bit too soft and fragile after just half an hour, and gave it additional chilling to make it workable. It’s hard to see how the usual press-in method would work for making the top layer, so rolling is probably the best way. I found, however, that rolling a rectangular crust (this dish is baked in a 9×13 pan) is rather more of a challenge than making something round enough to fit a pie plate.

Baked bottom layer
The bottom layer is fitted into the lubricated baking pan and docked before baking in a 350°F (175°C) oven for 20 minutes to set.

Nut-caramel layer
The nut-caramel filling is applied directly on top of the bottom crust. Here is where most of the things I screwed up were: I neglected to chop the walnuts after toasting them — I think they were supposed to be in pieces approximately the same size as a hazelnut — and I didn’t let the filling cool in the mixing bowl as I should have before pouring it into the baking pan. The caramel itself is a little odd, and the recipe calls for strange quantities of sticky, viscous liquids that make me nearly certain that it was scaled down from a larger recipe: who would ever write a recipe calling for five teaspoons of corn syrup (or water or honey)? The other ingredients in the caramel are 10½ oz (300 g) of granulated sugar, 1¼ tsp of lemon juice, ½ cup (120 ml) heavy cream, and ⅓ cup (80 ml) milk. The finished caramel is mixed with 1 lb (450 g) of toasted nuts — I suspect you could use pecans, macadamias, or any other nut that’s sufficiently soft. After spreading the caramel-nut mixture on top of the bottom crust, the top crust is laid on top and brushed with an egg wash before returning to the oven for another 20 minutes.

Fully baked and portioned bars
Luchetti recommends a yield of 32 bars from this recipe. I didn’t manage to get quite there; I initially cut it into 24 rather uneven quadrilaterals, but then decided to cut the biggest column in half, giving the 28 bars seen here. I took the whole pan to work with me, as I expected the caramel to be messy, and used a rubber spatula to lever the bars out of the pan for service at the lunch table. Once about half of them were gone, it was clear that the caramel had set up sufficiently to transfer the remaining bars to paper plates and take the pan away to be washed before someone could damage the non-stick coating by splitting bars with a sharp knife.


The following computation is based on Luchetti’s published yield of 32 bars per recipe. As pictured, your guess is as good as mine.

Nutrition Facts
Serving size: 2¼”x1¾” rectangle
Servings per recipe: 32
Amount per serving
Calories 283 Calories from fat 162
% Daily Value
Total Fat 18g 27%
 Saturated Fat 6g 31%
Trans Fat 0g
Cholesterol 28mg 9%
Sodium 4mg 0%
Total Carbohydrate 28g 9%
 Dietary fiber 1g 6%
 Sugars 16g
Proteins 4g 8%
Vitamin A 6%
Vitamin C 1%
Calcium 2%
Iron 6%
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Other people’s recipes: King Arthur Flour’s Lemon-Raspberry Cake

This gallery contains 11 photos.

Last weekend’s baking project was the Lemon-Raspberry Cake from King Arthur Flour’s Whole Grain Baking (Countryman Press, 2006; p. 375). In yesterday’s post, I went into the details of buttercream frosting, which is an important part of this cake — but … Continue reading

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I made buttercream (and so should you)

On my way into work today with yet another layer cake (about which more to come later), it occurred to me that the entire time I was growing up, my mother baked cakes but never once made a buttercream frosting. By “buttercream” I mean a proper buttercream — made by beating butter into a meringue — not the sweetened grease that too often goes by the name of “American” or “easy” “buttercream”. The frosting I remember from my childhood definitely falls into that second category: nothing more than Crisco whipped with a pound of confectioner’s sugar, a few tablespoons of milk or other water-type liquid added to adjust the consistency. No wonder my mother was (and is to this day) disgusted by frosting, when that was what she was used to! That is essentially the same substance as the filling used in Oreos (and of course back in the days before Crisco, people would have used lard, just like in Oreos). Proper buttercream is much nicer, despite having even more fat than the imitation stuff. On today’s cake (yesterday’s by the time you read this), I received comments like:

That lemon frosting is addictively delicious and the texture is just wonderful. … I was so overwhelmed by the frosting that I only remember the cake as a pleasant vehicle.

It’s a bit of a pain to make, since it requires a stand mixer, a hot sugar syrup, and a bunch of egg whites. Unless you’re making something like a custard that leaves a lot of leftover egg whites, you’ll probably find that using packaged pasteurized egg whites (sold in one-pound cartons in the refrigerated case at your local supermarket) is much easier and cheaper than separating fresh eggs and finding something to do with the yolks (which, unlike the whites, don’t freeze well). According to my officemate Linda, what I’m describing is technically “Italian meringue” buttercream; there are also French and Swiss varieties, which differ in preparation somewhat. Some buttercreams are also flavored and enriched further by mixing in pastry cream, lemon curd, melted chocolate, caramel sauce, or whipped cream, depending on the application, but I’m concentrating here on just the standard white stuff.

The procedure is simple: make a syrup from granulated sugar, corn syrup (or some other syrup that’s high in simple sugars like glucose and fructose), and water; cook it to 240°F (115°C) — although Linda says her recipe specifies 248°F (120°C). Some flavoring ingredients — like coffee or lemon juice — can be added to the syrup, but most flavorings are added at the very end of the process. While the syrup is cooking, whip egg whites with salt and cream of tartar to soft peaks. Once the syrup has come to temperature, gradually add it to the whipped egg whites to form a sweet meringue — some recipes, like the King Arthur Flour recipe I used this weekend, say to stop the mixer briefly and add the syrup by fourths, but other recipes say to leave it running and carefully drizzle in the syrup. (Since the syrup is both very hot and very sticky, it is important either way to make sure it does not get flung or splashed out of the mixing bowl and onto the cook or innocent bystanders!)

Frosting being whipped

At this point, the meringue must be whipped continuously while it cools down to room temperature; this may take anywhere from 15 to 20 minutes. (For those worried about food safety, the hot syrup should sufficiently cook the egg whites, but if unsure, you can do like I did and use pasteurized egg whites. Be aware that these do not whip up as light and fluffy as fresh egg whites.) Once the meringue is down to room temperature, room-temperature butter and/or vegetable shortening (according to your preference and dietary requirements) is whipped in, a tablespoon or so at a time, and then flavorings and colors can be added. The total preparation time is a bit over half an hour, and the resulting fluffy white buttercream frosting keeps at room temperature for several hours, tightly wrapped in the refrigerator for several days, or in an airtight container in the freezer practically forever.

The King Arthur recipe that I used most recently gives these proportions:

4 oz egg whites
2¾ oz light corn syrup
7 oz granulated sugar
2⅝ oz water
½ tsp cream of tartar
½ tsp salt
8 oz unsalted butter
3¼ oz vegetable shortening
2 tsp pure vanilla extract

I actually used a slight modification of this, since I was making a lemon-flavored buttercream. When I did Daffodil Cake back in June, it used the same buttercream straight, without additional flavors or colors, and you can see some more photos of the process in that post.


I wanted to compare the nutrition of a proper buttercream to the sweetened-grease method, and conveniently King Arthur provides a recipe for the latter (which, to their credit, they call “Fluffy White Frosting” without mentioning the “b” word) with just about the same yield. (They are intended to be substitutable, and in fact this weekend’s recipe calls out lemon-flavored variants of both.) Both recipes make sufficient frosting for one two– or three-layer cake (nine or eight inches in diameter, respectively). This presentation assumes you cut the cake into 16 uniform slices. As you can see, the top-line calorie numbers are nearly identical; where they differ is in how you get there — the proper buttercream uses fat and protein, whereas the Fluffy White Frosting has less fat, no protein at all, and a lot more sugar — some people find it intolerably sweet, in fact.

Nutrition Facts
Serving size: 1/16 recipe
Servings per recipe: 16
Amount per serving
Italian Meringue “American”
Calories 222 from fat 153 218 from fat 72
% DV % DV
Total Fat 17g 26% 8g 13%
 Saturated Fat 10g 48% 4g 22%
Trans Fat 0g 0g
Cholesterol 30mg 10% 10mg 3%
Sodium 90mg 4% 21mg 1%
Total Carbohydrate 16g 6% 36g 12%
 Dietary fiber 0g 0% 0g 0%
 Sugars 14g 34g
Proteins 1g 1% 0g 0%
Vitamin A 8% 3%
Vitamin C 0% 0%
Calcium 0% 1%
Iron 0% 0%
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Other people’s recipes: King Arthur Flour’s Chocolate Pound Cake

This gallery contains 8 photos.

Running a little late for this week’s “easy” midweek recipe write-up, but here goes. This chocolate pound cake recipe comes from King Arthur Flour’s Whole Grain Baking (Countryman Press, 2006; p. 387), so naturally it is made with a whole-grain flour … Continue reading

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Coming Attractions (redux)

A month ago, I posted “Coming Attractions“, listing the things I was planning on doing for my summer baking project. I thought it was time to post an update.

Whole Grain Baking: Lemon–Raspberry Cake
Luchetti: Walnut–Hazelnut Bars
Whole Grain Baking: Chocolate Zucchini Cake
Whole Grain Baking: Banana Crunch Cake
Flour: Classic Carrot Cake
Luchetti: Walnut Cake with Chocolate-Orange Sabayon and Vanilla Crème Anglaise
Whole Grain Baking: Peanut Butter Cream Pie (having second thoughts about this)
Costantino: Torta Gattopardo
Flour: Midnight Chocolate Cake
Flour: Best Boston Cream Pie (substitute soaking syrup)
Ovenly: Black Chocolate Stout Cake with Salted Caramel Cream Cheese Buttercream (subject to availability of Brooklyn Brewery Black Chocolate Stout in the package store)
Huckleberry: Chocolate Banana Walnut Cake
Luchetti: Pumpkin Upside-Down Cake
Whole Grain Baking: Carrot Cake
Brody: White Chocolate–Orange Pound Cake
Ovenly: Brooklyn Blackout Cake


That leaves the following recipes from my original list unaccounted-for:

  • Flour: Double Chocolate & Orange Semifreddo (as a frozen dessert, should probably have been left off the list — I wasn’t going to be bringing this in to the office to share even if I did make it)
  • Moosewood: Dark Chocolate Layer Cake (substitute frosting) [1 request]
  • Costantino: Africano
  • Brody: Chocolate Pound Cake
  • Brody: Chile Cha-Cha Brownies
  • Brody: Chocolate-Raspberry Torte [2 requests]

Some of these are possible mid-season replacements or may be doable as a midweek project if I feel ambitious in the fall. Likewise, the following recipes (which really should be listed on my Recipe Pointers page) were not included on the original list of recipes, but might get added later on, or swapped for something else to use up perishable ingredients:

  • Moosewood: Cinnamon Honey Coffeecake
  • Costantino: La Deliziosa
  • Costantino: Ciambella all’Arancia
  • Costantino: Dolci di Noci
  • Costantino: Barchiglia (chocolate-glazed almond tart with pear)
  • Ovenly: Gooey Honey Blondies
  • Flour: Famous Banana Bread
  • Flour: Double Chocolate Cookies
  • Flour: Deep Dark Spicy Gingerbread
  • Luchetti: Ricotta Cheesecake with dried cherries & golden raisins
  • Brody: Peanut Butter Cups
  • Brody: Denver Chocolate Pudding Cake
  • Medrich: Bittersweet Deception
  • Medrich: Bittersweet Roulade
  • Medrich: Chocolate Cheesecake
  • Bloom: Chocolate & Caramel Layer Cake
  • Bloom: Butterscotch Toasted Walnut Pound Cake
  • Bloom: Butterscotch Blondies
  • Bloom: Nutty Caramel Bars
  • Alford/Duguid: Banana Coconut Bread
  • Greenspan/Hermé: Moist & Nutty Brownies
  • Greenspan/Hermé: Chocolate Sparklers

In addition, I (stupidly) continue to buy cookbooks. Among the cookbooks I already own but have yet to scan for recipes are Rose Levy Beranbaum’s Baking Bible, Ruby Tandoh’s Crumb, Fritz Knipschildt’s Chocopologie, Mindy Segal’s Cookie Love, and Hannah Miles’s Naked Cakes. So of course everything is subject to change, and I could get tired of this and move on to something else at a moment’s notice.

Already done

Flour: Ginger Molasses Cookies
Whole Grain Baking: Daffodil Cake
Whole Grain Baking: Banana–Chocolate Chip Squares
Luchetti: Berry–Crème Fraîche Cake
Whole Grain Baking: Butter-Nut Blondies
Brody: Chocolate-Hazelnut Torte
Nathan: Banana–Poppy Seed Muffins
Moosewood: Coconut Lemon Layer Cake
Ovenly: Coconut, Chocolate & Brown Butter Blondies (with oat variation)
Costantino: Torta di Pistacchio (with crema di pistacchio filling)
Flour, too: Brown Sugar–Oat Cherry Muffins
Rosie’s: Caramel-Topped Pecan Cheesecake
Moosewood: Black & White Brownies
Moosewood: Texas Italian Cream Cake
Brody: Chocolate–Peanut Butter Shortbread Bars
Costantino: Cherry–Almond Cake
Whole Grain Baking: Chocolate Pound Cake
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Other people’s recipes: Rosetta Costantino’s Cherry-Almond Cake

Another Monday, another cake — although I’m actually doing two cakes this week, both relatively easy. The first cake, from Rosetta Costantino’s Southern Italian Desserts (Ten Speed Press, 2013; p. 128), is called Torta di Ciliege. It follows the usual procedure for flourless souffle-style nut cakes — I’ve done several this year — but in an unusual twist, adds fresh whole (pitted) cherries to the batter. Costantino’s headnote says it works equally well with “berries, figs, or peaches … whatever soft fruits are in season”. But I always like to start out as close as I can to the original recipe, so that’s what I did. (I had to make one substitution, which I’ll describe below.)

Blanched almonds
Normally, I would simply buy blanched almonds, but this time I decided to try the home blanching procedure Costantino gives (Mandorle Pelate, p. 189). It’s not at all difficult, indeed the same as any blanching procedure, but tedious: the point is to remove the skin of the almonds, and blanching does soften the skin sufficiently to do so, but you’re still left standing there over a bowl of slippery wet nuts squeezing them out of their outer coating one by one. Then once you’ve extracted all of the nuts, they have to air-dry on a baking sheet before you can do anything useful with them. Perhaps if you have children of the right age to find this entertaining, but I would just as soon pay someone (or something) else to do it.

Mise en place
That was Saturday, so now on to Sunday and the actual baking, starting with the mise en place. The recipe, as I said, is a pretty simple almond cake of the sort I’ve already done several of; it starts with four separated eggs, the blanched almonds, both powdered and granulated sugar, potato starch (a new ingredient for me), and lemon zest. The fat is provided by olive oil rather than butter, so this recipe is not only gluten-free it’s also dairy-free. There’s some baking powder to provide leavening backup to the egg whites, and for flavoring — in addition to the pitted cherries — there are both vanilla and almonds extracts along with a beverage alcohol. The recipe calls for maraschino, but the only package store in town that carried it had just a huge $35 bottle, which is a lot to pay for something I’ll only ever use two tablespoons of, so I asked them to recommend a substitute, and they suggested Kirschwasser, which conveniently I already had. They cautioned that it would not be quite the same, since Kirsch, a brandy, would have less sugar and more alcohol than maraschino.

Ground almonds and sugar
The first step in the recipe is to grind the almonds in a food processor, together with the confectioner’s sugar. The mixture is then pulsed together with the potato starch and baking powder.

Meringue peak
The next step, familiar if you’ve read any of my past posts about other cakes made by the soufflé method, is to make a meringue from the egg whites, a pinch of salt, and half of the sugar. The recipe in this case says to beat “until nearly firm peaks form, slightly curling over when you lift the beater”, and I thought this would make a great illustration.

Egg yolks at the ribbon stage
The next step is to beat the egg yolks and remaining sugar together to the ribbon stage. The recipe would have you do this in a stand mixer, but yet again, my stand mixer is simply too big to work with this small a quantity, so I used a hand mixer and a small bowl. (If there had been more sugar, it would probably have worked, but the beater in my stand mixer simply didn’t make enough contact with the yolks.) After mixing in the olive oil, lemon zest, and flavorings, the volume was large enough to transfer to the stand mixer for the next step (and getting a bit too big for the small bowl I had been using), mixing in the dry ingredients.

Two phases of batter
Now comes the heart of the soufflé method: folding the meringue into the egg-yolk base. This is generally done by thirds: the first third can be done a bit roughly, as it serves primarily to lighten the heavy batter enough to accept the rest of the meringue without deflating too much. The second and third thirds require more care.

(Nearly) fully mixed batter
The batter is carefully poured into a prepared 9-inch (24 cm) springform pan, and the pitted cherries are dropped on top — they quickly sink to the bottom. The cake is baked at 350°F (175°C) for about 45 minutes.

Undercooked batter in the center of the cake
I took the cake out a bit too soon — it could have used another five minutes or so, despite the outer edges being fully cooked — and as a result the batter in the center never had a chance to set properly. I warned my tasters about this, but nobody seemed much to mind; at least one person loved the “goo”.

Cake after removing springform ring
After removing the springform ring, you can see how the cherries all ended up at the bottom of the cake.

Overall, I had one taster who positively gushed about this cake. Other people who offered their opinion had nothing bad to say about it, but were perhaps not as enthusiastic. I was rather unhappy at how undercooked the center turned out; I was concerned about overbrowning the outside, or else I would have left it in long enough to solidify. (My oven’s temperature control is not brilliant, so perhaps it was off by a bit — I’m not sure I trust my flimsy oven thermometer much more than the thermostat!)


The recipe gives a yield of 10–12 servings, and I was happy enough with the way the numbers came out at 12 that I did not feel the need to try to make 16 slices as I would with a layer cake. The figures below do not include a dusting of confectioner’s sugar added at presentation.

Nutrition Facts
Serving size: 1/12 cake
Servings per recipe: 12
Amount per serving
Calories 281 Calories from fat 153
% Daily Value
Total Fat 17g 26%
 Saturated Fat 2g 12%
 Monounsaturated Fat 11g
 Polyunsaturated Fat 3g
Trans Fat 0g
Cholesterol 62mg 21%
Sodium 85mg 4%
Potassium 176mg 5%
Total Carbohydrate 29g 10%
 Dietary fiber 2g 10%
 Sugars 21g
Proteins 5g 10%
Vitamin A 2%
Vitamin C 4%
Calcium 10%
Iron 5%
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Other people’s recipes: Lora Brody’s Chocolate–Peanut Butter Shortbread Bars

This gallery contains 9 photos.

Today’s recipe is “Chocolate–Peanut Butter Shortbread Bars”, from Lora Brody’s Chocolate American Style (Clarkson Potter, 2004; p. 196). Even though this was one of my “easy midweek” recipes, I took enough pictures to do a full walkthrough; if you notice that … Continue reading

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Other people’s recipes: Moosewood’s Texas Italian Cream Cake

The history of this recipe is a bit obscure: it’s understood to come from Texas, and it may have been inspired by an Italian torta; this version is from The Moosewood Restaurant Book of Desserts (Clarkson Potter, 1997; p. 99) — Cook’s Country did a much more fattening version (and that’s saying something) which was featured in season 7 of the eponymous TV show. The basic flavors here are coconut and pecan, with a sweet cream-cheese frosting.

Mise en place for cake
The pecans are, of course, toasted; the recipe calls for one cup (120 g). The other ingredients are two cups of pastry flour (240 g), 1¼ tsp baking soda, ¼ tsp salt, half a cup (40 g) of unsweetened coconut, two sticks (225 g) of unsalted butter, two cups (400 g) of sugar, four eggs, a teaspoon each of vanilla and coconut extracts, and a cup (240 ml) of buttermilk. These are assembled by the standard butter-cake method (which I’ve done so many times by now, I didn’t even bother to take pictures of the intermediate steps), giving about 1500 g of raw batter, which is divided equally between two previously prepared 9″ (24 cm) round cake pans.

Mise en place for frosting
The frosting consists of only four ingredients: confectioner’s sugar (360 g), unsalted butter (2 oz or 56 g), Neufchâtel (6 oz or 170 g), and vanilla extract (1 tsp).

Two cake layers, one more done than the other
The two cake layers were baked in a 350°F (175°C) oven for about half an hour. As you can see, one of the layers appears to be perfectly done, but the other is a little bit on the underdone side. They cool briefly in their pans before being turned out onto the rack to cool completely, about 90 minutes total.

After depanning the cake layers
And of course the cake that was a little underbaked didn’t depan properly. Luckily, like so many baking sins, this can easily be covered up with frosting in the end.

Can't see the imperfections when covered with frosting
What did I say about covering things up with frosting? I took about a third of the prepared frosting by weight and used it to fill the cake, placing the torn bottom side of the underbaked layer up so that the voids would be filled by the frosting. (Everything goes better with cream-cheese frosting, or so it seems.) Doing a separate crumb coat would not have hurt, in all honesty, but the frosting recipe does not make quite enough to do that — and this is supposed to be a simple “kitchen” butter cake, not a fancy bakery item. The frosting is a little soft, however, so it spreads perhaps a bit too easily.

Cake covered entirely in frosting
After placing top layer (smooth bottom side up!) and dumping the rest of the frosting on top, I spread it all over the cake with an offset spatula. It’s pretty clear that the frosting could have been a bit stiffer.

Let's try it with the cake comb
When all else fails, try using a cake comb! Actually, I’m about equally bad with the cake comb as with the spatula, so this didn’t make a whole lot of difference. The frosting definitely needed to be a bit stiffer, and it got better after sitting in the refrigerator for a while. (Perhaps I should have made the frosting first, and refrigerated it?) Unfortunately, I don’t have any photos of the interior of the cake — it has a fairly coarse texture, despite the use of pastry flour, probably due to the shredded coconut (this seems to be one of the issues the complications in the Cook’s Country version were trying to address).

Over all, this was a very popular cake. Everyone who tried it — even our resident cream-cheese-frosting-hater, professed to like it a lot. The only problem is that even a small piece is incredibly high-cal — and the recipe recommends larger servings.


Nutrition Facts
Serving size: 1/16 cake
Servings per recipe: 16
Amount per serving
Calories 486 Calories from fat 216
% Daily Value
Total Fat 24g 37%
 Saturated Fat 12g 62%
Trans Fat 0g
Cholesterol 91mg 30%
Sodium 209mg 9%
Total Carbohydrate 62g 21%
 Dietary fiber 2g 7%
 Sugars 49g
Proteins 5g 9%
Vitamin A 13%
Vitamin C 0%
Calcium 4%
Iron 4%
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