Orange-scented Olive Oil Cake {ModBak}

This week’s Modern Baker Challenge recipe from the Cakes section is one of those “but for” recipes. But for the Challenge, I would never have made this cake. As much as I love The Modern Baker and most of Nick Malgieri’s recipes, this one just didn’t jump out at me as one I had to try.

And there’s one simple reason I would have skipped this recipe:

Yes, folks, that’s 1 1/2 cups of olive oil. Like Margaret, the official Challenge blogger for this recipe, I was afraid that the olive oil would dominate the flavor of this cake and make it heavy, not to mention oily. But, like Margaret, I made it anyway.

And, like Margaret, I was pleasantly surprised.

Other than an obscene amount of olive oil, this cake contains orange zest, eggs, sugar, milk, all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. The orange zest — from 3 navel oranges — is the predominant flavor in this cake.

It’s not exactly light, but it’s not heavy or oily tasting, either. As Margaret notes, it would be a good cake to serve at the end of a heavy meal, as it would stand up well to strong flavors. It was delicious plain, and would also be great served with a dollop of whipped cream and a few orange wedges.

One thing I liked about this cake was the fact that it makes 2 layers, but you serve a single layer, which means this cake could serve a crowd. Or, in my case, you end up with a cake to eat now, and another for the freezer.

So don’t fear the oil. This is really a delicious cake that is not at all heavy or greasy.

Blackberry Jam Cake {ModBak}

This week’s Modern Baker Challenge recipe is Blackberry Jam Cake, a cake that was popular in the 19th century but which is relatively unknown today. I’m not sure when or why this cake fell out of favor, but I applaud Nick Malgieri for bringing it back to the modern kitchen. This is a delicious and simple cake that, as Nick says, deserves to be better known again.

To make the batter, I began by creaming butter and sugar, then adding eggs. Next, I mixed flour, cocoa, allspice, cinnamon, and baking soda in a bowl. I then added the flour mixture and buttermilk to the butter mixture, alternating between the wet and dry ingredients. Finally, I stirred in blackberry jam, raisins, and walnuts.

I scraped the mixture into a Bundt pan that had been buttered, sprinkled with bread crumbs, and sprayed with cooking spray.

I baked the cake for about an hour, until it was firm, well risen, and baked through.

We ate this cake plain, and it really didn’t need any accompaniment. If you wanted to dress it up, a few sugared blackberries would be really nice.

This cake was delicious — the blackberry jam infused the cake with a sweet, rich flavor without being overpowering. And the cocoa added depth and color to the cake. The spices lent a warmth to the cake that made it seem like it would be perfect for late fall or winter, although we enjoyed it in the heat of summer, too.

This is a wonderful cake that I will be sure to make again when the heat of this crazy summer breaks and the leaves start to turn. In fact, it might just make an appearance at Thanksgiving this year.

This recipe and post are part of the Cakes section of the Modern Baker Challenge. Margaret was the official blogger for this recipe. Check out her blog to see how she liked it.

Blueberry Crumb Cake {ModBak}

Like most of the rest of the country, we have had an unseasonably warm spring and early summer here. One of the consequences of this has been that many of the local fruits and vegetables are coming on much earlier than normal.

So I was only a little surprised to find fresh local blueberries at the farmer’s market a few weeks ago. Blueberries don’t usually hit until about mid-July in our area, but here is was the second week of June and they were at the market already.

I try to avoid buying trucked in fruit whenever possible, so I was holding out until I could get local blueberries to make this recipe from the Cakes section of the Modern Baker Challenge. I just never imagined it would happen this soon. This recipe is a combination of  a blueberry crumble and a cake. It has a thick cake layer on the bottom, topped with a mix of blueberries and crumb topping.

I began by making the crumb topping, which consisted of flour, baking powder, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and butter. Because the butter was melted, it had more of a doughy consistency than a crumb topping made with room temperature butter.

I crumbled the topping onto the blueberries in a baking dish and set them aside while I made the cake. I found this step kind of odd, as I expected the recipe to say to put the blueberries on the batter, then add the crumb topping. It turns out my instincts were right on in this case, as I got an e-mail from Nick Malgieri after I made this recipe noting that this instruction was an error in the book. Either way, it worked out fine.

The cake batter was made with flour, butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla, baking powder, and buttermilk. After mixing it up, I spread it in the pan.

I topped the batter with the blueberries and crumb mixture.

I baked the cake for about 40 minutes, until the batter was set and the crumb well-colored.

The blueberries melted into a jam-like consistency and were delicious with the crumb topping. I thought the cake layer was a bit too thick for the amount of topping. I think if you doubled the amount of blueberries, it would be perfect.

Abby liked this recipe a lot (she has a thing for blueberries), and she wrote the official post for the Challenge. You can check it out here.

Sour Cream Coffee Cake {ModBak}

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The fifth recipe in the Cakes section of the Modern Baker Challenge is a delicious and simple sour cream coffee cake. What makes this cake unique is the addition of sour cream to what is essentially a pound cake batter. But what makes it amazing is the cinnamon-sugar-nut filling!

After mixing the batter, I spread half of it in a bundt pan.

I topped the batter with half of the cinnamon-sugar-nut mixture.

Then I spread the rest of the batter on top.

Finally, I added the rest of the topping.

I baked the cake at 325°F for about an hour, until it was golden brown and baked through. I read and reread the instructions for removing the cake from the pan and kept thinking they had to be wrong. If I followed the instructions — which said to invert the pan on a rack, lift off the pan, then put a rack on top of the cake and invert it again — the cake would wind up upside down.

But when I turned the cake out of the pan, I realized that “upside down” was right side up for this cake, since the cinnamon-sugar-nut mixture was on top of the cake in the pan.

You’d think I would know by now to trust Nick’s instructions.

This was a wonderful coffee cake. The cake itself wasn’t overly sweet. The sour cream added both richness and a bit of tang to the crumb. The nut mixture was, of course, quite sweet, but it was distributed throughout the cake in such a way that it blended perfectly with the cake.

This is definitely the recipe I will reach for the next time I want to make coffee cake. And it’s just another reason I’m glad to have my well-worn copy of The Modern Baker on my cookbook shelf.

Hazelnut Biscotti {TWD-BWJ}

The first July recipe for Tuesdays with Dorie — Baking with Julia is one of my favorites: biscotti. I’ve made, and eaten, a lot of biscotti. There’s just something about dunking a crunchy biscuit into a steaming cup of coffee.

I used to think biscotti must be difficult to make, but they are actually quite simple. You mix up a quick dough, press it into a log shape on a pan, bake it, slice it, and bake again to crisp them up.

Since I discovered how simple they are to make, I’ve made many different biscotti, including several original biscotti recipes. So, I was really happy about this month’s first recipe — Hazelnut Biscotti.

I decided to make the biscotti on a lazy Sunday afternoon, and I didn’t feel like running to the store. I didn’t have any hazelnuts, so I decided to use a snack mix from Trader Joe’s with macadamia nuts, almonds, dried cranberries, and candied ginger.

The first thing I noticed about this recipe was how wet the dough was. Biscotti dough is usually the consistency of biscuit or cookie dough — soft, but mailable, and easy to shape. The recipe said the dough would be stiff and sticky, but it was downright gloppy. I had a heck of a time shaping the dough into logs on the baking tray.

I knew it would bake up OK, but it was really an unpleasant dough to work with.

It wasn’t pretty after the first bake, but I knew it would slice up fine. I let the logs cool, then sliced them into individual biscotti.

I put the slices on a cooling rack, which I put in the oven to crisp up the biscotti. I liked the idea of baking the biscotti on a rack so the heat can circulate evenly around them to crisp them up.

The best part about these biscotti was the Trader Joe’s snack mix. The nuts, cranberries, and candied ginger gave the biscotti the only discernible flavor. Otherwise, they were quite bland.

Between the unworkably wet dough and the lack of flavor in the finished biscotti, this recipe is definetly not one that I will make again.

Our hosts this week are Jodi of Homemade and Wholesome and Katrina of Baking and Boys.

Viennese Raisin(less) Coffee Cake {ModBak}

The fourth recipe in the Cakes section of the Modern Baker Challenge is Gehrueter Gugelhupf mit Rasinen (beaten coffee cake with raisins), or, more simply put, Viennese raisin coffee cake. Although I don’t have a traditional gugelhupf pan, my Wilton pan is just fancy enough to work for this recipe.

It’s fitting that this recipe comes right after the pound cakes in the book, as it is quite similar to a pound cake in ingredients, mixing method, and flavor. After beating butter and sugar until light and fluffy, I added lemon zest, vanilla, and egg yolks. Then I alternated adding a mixture of flour and baking soda with more egg yolks, mixing each into the batter. Finally, I folded in egg whites. (I omitted the raisins.)

The cake baked up beautifully. The lemon flavor was reminiscent of both the Perfect Pound Cake and Lemon Ginger Pound Cake, as was the somewhat dense texture of the cake. I wonder if the raisins might have made it seem more coffee cake-like. I’ll have to try adding them next time to find out.

If you want to see this cake made in a true gugelhupf pan, along with some stunning pictures of Vienna, check out Sara’s post. And if you want to make this and more amazing baked goods in your own kitchen, pick up a copy of The Modern Baker. I guarantee you won’t regret it.