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.

Raisin Pecan Spice Bars {ModBak}

The third recipe in the Cookies, Bars, & Biscotti section of the Modern Baker Challenge is an old-fashioned, straight from your grandmother’s oven kind of recipe. Spicy, chock full of raisins and nuts, Nick Malgieri hits the nail on the head when he describes these bars as “homey”.

I made a half recipe. We had plenty of sweets around, and I knew that since these bars had raisins in them, the girls would leave them for me. So instead of the 9 x 13-inch pan called for in the recipe, I broke out an 8 x 8-inch pan and lined it with parchment foil.

The bars have a lot of ingredients in them, but they mixed up quickly and were in the oven in just a few minutes. I baked the batter at 350°F for about 25 minutes, until it was well-risen and spongy to the touch, about like a cake.

I cooled the cake in the pan, then inverted it onto a cutting board, peeled off the parchment, and turned it right side up. I cut the cake into 2-inch bars.

These bars were so good! They had an almost gingerbread-like spiciness to them, and the raisins and pecans gave just the right amount of flavor and texture. To my surprise, the kids even tried them — and liked them!

This recipe is definitely a repeat. It’s especially perfect for the holidays or those cold Winter days when you want something homey and comforting to warm you.

Beggar’s Linguine {FFwD}

The linguistic derivation of this dish is more complex than the dish itself, so bear with me. The French word for “beggar” is mendiant, which is derived from the Latin mendicans, from which the word “mendicant” also comes. Now, mendicant also means “begging”, but more commonly refers to religious orders who, like Blanche Dubois, rely on the kindness of strangers, which is to say, they takes vows of poverty and rely exclusively on charity for their survival.

Have I lost you yet? Hang in there.

Many religions have mendicant orders, but perhaps the best known (at least in the West) are the Catholic Franciscans, Dominicans, Augustinians, and Carmelites. 

OK, so back to France, where the word mendiant has come to refer to a chocolate confection studded with dried fruit and nuts and flavored with orange peel. The fruits and nuts are meant to represent the mendicant orders: dried figs for the Franciscans; raisins for the Dominicans; hazelnuts for the Augustinians (think frangelico); and almonds for the Carmelites.

So, there you have it. Mendiant (or beggar’s) chocolate is filled with fruit and nuts. And so is beggar’s (or mendiant, or mendicant) linguine. Specifically, this dish has pistachios, almonds, figs, and raisins, along with orange zest, Parmesan, and chives.

It may sound complicated, especially if you try to follow the lineage of the name. But it’s really a simple dish. Boil linguine, brown some butter with the fruit and nuts, stir in the pasta, and season with salt, pepper, orange zest, and cheese. Toss it all together, put it in bowls, and top with some chives. You can gather and prep all your ingredients while waiting for the pasta water to boil. And if you brown the butter while the pasta is cooking, you’ll have the dish on the table in less than 20 minutes from start to finish.

This dish was a complete surprise. I couldn’t believe how well all the ingredients melded. It seems like an odd combination of ingredients, better suited to candies than a main dish for dinner, but it all worked beautifully. It was savory, with just a hint of sweetness from the orange zest, figs and raisins. The whole family loved it, and we decided it would be a great dish keep in mind for a fast, satisfying dinner.