spumoni cake (& guest post by the writographer)

spumoni cake
spumoni cake
spumoni cake

I am a lazy person, writing is hard and I love to outsource the labour. So today I bring you a wonderful guest post from The Cousin (who also goes by The Writographer)!

Hi ten.times.tea readers, 

It is I, the Cousin (also known as The Writographer), and I have returned to this blog after a very long day. I just did the calculations, and I have not written a guest post in 1236 days (it will probably be more when you are reading this, but that is how long it has been when I write my original draft. Despite being given an open invitation to write for this blog whenever I feel like it, I have not taken up ten.times.tea’s offer. But now that it is summer, and my schedule is less busy than usual, I have decided to finally write a blog post. It took me a while to decide what to blog about; this blog’s author told me that I could write about anything, but I did not think she would appreciate another nerdy blog post about Star Wars (and to be fair, I have no yet watched episode IV). I did consider writing a blog post about Downton Abbey, specifically talking about the new movie coming up. I concluded that the readers of ten.times.tea come to this blog for baking and photography; not the nerdy cousin’s rants. 

One of the hardest parts about writing this guest post is that I have no idea what the recipe is, so whatever I say will have nothing to do with the baking. I can guess that the baking is probably with very little sugar, whole wheat flour, no chocolate and most likely will include rhubarb and some interesting spice combination. I am excited to see how accurate my prediction is. 

After much deliberation, I concluded that my post should have something to do with ten.times.tea, so either revolving around baking or photography. Since I am not much of a baker (the closest I get to baking cool creations is when I wash the dishes for ten.times.tea), I am sticking with photography topics. So this blog post is going to be about what I think are ideal photography conditions. Disclaimer: I am not a professional photographer. These are my opinions that I find lead to good photographs. 

  1. Good weather – While I say good weather, this depends on what you find is “good weather.” I enjoy it when the weather is slightly warm since I go for long walks when I take photos. If it is too warm then it’s annoying to stand in place for a long time to get the right shot. Also, since I normally take cityscapes and various street photography, I enjoy cloudy days since the sky looks more interesting, and then light/shadows are more interesting. 
  2. A fellow photographer/friend – Some people might prefer to take photos on their own, but I enjoy having someone with me. Whether it is someone also taking photos or just someone whose company you enjoy. This way you have someone to talk to and they might be able to point out good photo opportunities you missed.  
  3. Food/drinks – Since I normally go on long photography walks, it’s nice to get sustenance by stopping to get something to eat/drink. Or depending on the weather, it’s fun to get takeout drinks and walk around with them while you take photos. I’ve done both and I am not entirely sure which one is better. It probably depends on the area that you are in. 
  4. Extra batteries/enough memory – I realize that a lot of people now use smartphones to take photos, but I am thinking of actual cameras. I have had the misfortune to have forgotten to pack batteries and to run out of room on my memory card while on a photo walk. So before leaving to take photos, check if you have charged/extra batteries, enough room on the memory card, and take a test photo to make sure your camera is working. 
  5. A route/destination – Sometimes you are just out and suddenly see an opportunity to take a good photo. However, I find some of my best photographs have come from knowing where I want to go. While I always bring my camera (or at least my phone) when I go out, it is nice to have an idea of what you want to photograph. 

Bonus: natural lighting – this is more for ten.times.tea’s benefit since she can only bake when there is natural lighting. Since I usually photograph outside this does not apply to most of my photographs.

Okay, that is all I have for you today. Ten.times.tea, I hope your baking turned out well; I am sure that it did. I am looking forward to seeing what you have created. Goodbye!

spumoni cake
spumoni cake
spumoni cake
spumoni cake
spumoni cake

Thank you again The Cousin! I gave you a pretty difficult request by asking for a guest post without any idea of what recipe I would be posting – what a great idea to talk about photography! (If, reader of this blog post, you were not already aware, she is a brilliant photographer!). Oh and by the way, I am totally for it if you want to write about Star Wars again someday too…

If you want to see more of The Cousin’s hijinks, she has her own tag on tentimestea. You can also check out her blog, The Writographer, which features her photography and writing, or find her on Instagram!

My cousin has me pegged in terms of baking tendencies, but I decided to be unpredictable (ooh so wild!!) – this recipe has no whole wheat flour and quite a bit of chocolate. I was inspired by the flavour combination of spumoni, an Italian frozen dessert typically featuring pistachio, chocolate, and cherry: this is a fragrant pistachio cake, spotted with fresh cherries, marbled with cocoa powder and finished with a dark chocolate ganache. Due to the nuts nuts, the cake itself is very tender and moist. It also chills and eats very well from the fridge (likely as it’s an oil cake instead of butter) which is helpful in making it keep for a few days.

spumoni cake

spumoni cake

Cake adapted from The Milk Street Cookbook‘s pistachio cardamom cake (book edited by Christopher Kimball). Ganache from Ottolenghi Sweet by Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh.

cake

  • 85g pistachios
  • 100g almond flour
  • 130g all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 150g granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 120g greek yoghurt
  • 50g olive oil (if you like the taste – otherwise use a neutral vegetable oil)
  • 50g whole milk
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 150g cherries, pitted and halved

ganache

  • 53g very dark chocolate (90% cocoa), chopped
  • 25g granulated sugar
  • 23g corn syrup
  • 55g water

cake

Preheat the oven to 350F. Butter a loaf tin and line with a parchment paper sling.

Place the pistachios in a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. Add the almond flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder and salt. Process until the pistachios are finely ground.

In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, eggs, yoghurt, oil, milk and vanilla extract. Add the flour mixture and mix until just combined.

Divide the batter in two, transferring half to a second bowl. Beat the cocoa powder into one half of the batter. Add half the cherries to each half of the batter and mix. Put the chocolate batter into the prepared loaf tin, then top with the remaining half of the batter. Use an offset spatula, butter knife or spoon to dip down to the bottom of the pan and draw back up. Repeat a few times in the loaf tin to create some swirls.

Bake the cake for about 45 minutes or until an inserted skewer is removed with a few moist crumbs clinging, or clean. Let cool completely on a wire rack.

ganache

To make the ganache, put the chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl. In a very small saucepan, put the sugar and corn syrup. Stir together until mixed. Heat over medium-low until the sugar, then increase the heat to bring the mixture to a bubble. Cook until the sugars caramelize and turn amber (about 7 minutes).

Remove from the heat and add the water carefully – it will splatter a bit. The sugar will seize and harden so return the saucepan to the heat to allow the sugar to redissolve and bring back to a boil. Once boiling, remove from the heat again and let cool one minute before pouring over the chocolate.

Let the chocolate sit for 5 minutes to begin to melt, then whisk until smooth. Pour over the cake while still warm.

Let the ganache set slightly, then top with cherries and chopped pistachios as desired.

Due to the moisture content of the cake, I recommend storing in the fridge. I find this cake eats very well cold from the fridge – and I slightly prefer eating it cold too!

spumoni cake

grapefruit, rose & cardamom loaf cakes

grapefruit rose cardamom loaf cakes

I don’t know whether there is a grapefruit rose soap, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the flavour combination subconsciously entered my head via a soap. I mean, it sounds pretty soapy – in a good way. (I always find myself wishing that displays of fancy handcrafted soaps were edible. Oatmeal, honey and goat’s milk soap? I’d eat that for breakfast any day. Especially if it wasn’t actually soap.)

These soap bars cakes are also actually grapefruit cakes. I’ve tried making “grapefruit” cakes a couple times before following a similar approach as I would with a lemon cake – throw in some zest – and always ended up with a very plain cake. Because I am very susceptible to the power of suggestion and have an active imagination, I could taste grapefruit if I waved my hands and thought hard enough about it… but that doesn’t help others taste the flavour.

Continue reading “grapefruit, rose & cardamom loaf cakes”

mocha java loaf

mocha java cake

This is day 10 of 10 of a series celebrating local Toronto businesses!  Recent events have put many local businesses in a difficult position and unfortunately, it’s not clear when this situation will come to an end. For ten days I’ll be posting recipes inspired by some of my favourite local businesses as my own way of celebrating what they bring to our communities. While we may not be able to visit our local bakeries, cafes and restaurants right now, this is a way of keeping them in mind, and a reminder to support them again once there is a chance.

Harbord Bakery is an everything bakery – the main wall lined with shelves proffering rye breads, fluffy challah, dense poppy seed Danish rings, and the fabled Thursday-through-Sunday-only chocolate babka. In comparison, the mocha java cake is a bit more discreet. We’ve only ever seen it in the freezer section, innocuously tucked away against the lemon and blueberry loaves. My roommate bought it once out of curiosity – a deep brown loaf cake with a tight, silky crumb, and intense coffee flavour. We devoured it within days – a slice for breakfast, oh a slice for afternoon snack, maybe another with tea in the evening. It’s such an anticipated treat that when we do buy it, we usually crack open the plastic clamshell as soon as we get home and eat the first piece (or two) while still frozen, breaking the softly brittle slices into pieces in our hands. It is just as great frozen too.

Continue reading “mocha java loaf”

week-end citron (lemon loaf 3.0)

weekend citron
weekend citron
weekend citron

When I was younger, we would purchase this lemon loaf cake from Première Moisson in Montreal. I thought it was so special and regal, packed in a stiff transparent plastic box on a gold piece of cardboard. And packed was key: the cake barely fit in the box, and each time you slide it out, the top of the cake streaked the plastic with glaze. Those 1800 cubic centimetres contained satisfaction for days.

The cake had two presentations — first it would be the crisp morning coating of a crackly sugar glaze, and later, after a day or so, the glaze would be softened and the crown of each slice would be moist and saturated with lemon and sugary glaze.

I’ve been trying to make a lemon cake that lived up to my excessively detailed and visceral memories for a long time. That goal had vaguely concluded with the previous lemon loaf cake–I wasn’t fully satisfied, but I had brought that cake recipe as far as I could.

weekend citron
weekend citron
weekend citron
weekend citron
weekend citron

I was fairly certain that was to be that and any advances in lemon cake-making remained dormant until the last time my grandparents were in Montreal. They brought back a shrink wrapped loaf cake, and while it wasn’t glazed, this cake, labelled as “week-end citron”, had the tender and fine crumb that I remembered.

But best of all, the name was also familiar: the “week-end cake” recipe from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking Chez Moi from which I had previously adapted this chestnut and prune version. In fact, the crumb and richness was quite similar to the cake I had made. A look at the ingredients also seemed to confirm that, as both cakes also contain heavy cream and rum.

I set about making a lemon adaptation of the week-end cake, taking some of the core principles that guided my previous favourite lemon cake. Based on Smitten Kitchen’s lemon cake, we use two glazes: some lemon juice squeezed over just out of the oven followed by a set sugary glaze once the cake is cool. But let’s take some measures to control the sweetness–just using straight lemon juice for the first soaking and cutting sugar from the cake. This is key so we can completely coat the whole cake (and I mean every spot of the top and sides) in a doughnut-like thin sugary crust without it being overwhelming (no thick drizzle please!). In the previous rendition, cuts to the sugar budget compromised texture and led to a bit of an anemic crust. This cake cooks long enough in the oven to end up with a golden brown crust, and has a rather lovely texture that is less dependent on proper butter-sugar aeration.

weekend citron
weekend citron
weekend citron

This cake is like I remember in the important ways. The crumb is finer and denser, and straightforwardly rich and each slice is solid, not crumbly. The deeply browned crust peeking out from below an icing sugar glaze and the profile when you cut a slice from the middle–of a tall, proud craggy crest of lemon yellow cake–is just what I remember.

This cake is also not like I remember; in fact, I think it’s a wee bit better in some of the even more important ways such as being very, very lemony.

weekend citron
weekend citron

I’ve made this cake upwards of seven times now (it is a good one to bring to the lab). And each time it has been actually rather excellent. Of course, all the credit goes towards the reliable base cake recipe from Dorie Greenspan, because in fact, this cake is far easier and reliable than the previous one. With melted butter, there’s no need for softening nor emergency measures when your perfect room-temperature butter gets wrecked by those dastardly fridge-temperature eggs. Nor do you need to actually put in the work of creaming butter (which I know really does pay off, yet I am never able to convince my right limb of that in the moment).

Now this earlier lemon cake still has plenty of merit, just of a different sort. When your butter and eggs are at the right temperature and properly creamed, the crumb is softer, lighter and fluffier. It’s not worse at all (and probably better to some), it’s just that this cake is the one that I’ve been looking for all this time.

Well. I’ll try not to overstate and exaggerate too much. It’s a very, very small thing, but it’s still a really lovely cake.

weekend citron

week-end citron

Adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s brown butter and vanilla weekend cake in Baking Chez Moi.

cake

  • 238 g a.p. flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp b.p.
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 150 g sugar
  • finely grated zest of 2 lemons
  • 4 room temperature eggs
  • 3/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp dark rum (optional)
  • 80 mL heavy cream
  • 1 stick butter, melted and cooled

to glaze

  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 100g (1 c) icing sugar

Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a loaf pan with a parchment paper sling and butter the exposed sides of the pan.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.

In another bowl, rub the lemon zest into the sugar until very aromatic. Add the eggs and whisk thoroughly to combine, then whisk in the vanilla extract, rum and finally the heavy cream. Mix in the flour mixture with a spatula, and finally add the butter in 2-3 additions, folding in the butter completely each time. Scrape the batter, which is beautifully ribbony, into the prepared pan.

Bake for 45-55 minutes or until an inserted skewer is removed clean. Remove from the oven, prick lightly all over with a wooden skewer, and drizzle overtop juice of half a lemon. Let cool around 10-15 minutes before removing from the pan and placing on a wire rack to cool completely.

For the second glaze, I recommend doing this the day you’re planning to serve the cake. Often I will bake the cake the night before, and then finish glazing next morning so it is freshly set before bringing it as a gift.

For the sugar glaze, whisk together the icing sugar with enough lemon juice (usually a bit less than half a lemon, depending on the size of your lemons) to make a glaze that is thin and drizzly (slightly translucent), but still thick enough to cling to the cake. Place the cooled cake on a wire rack over a pan. Pour the glaze over the cake, using a large offset spatula to spread the glaze evenly over the sides of the cake until it is completely coated.

Update notes: photographs updated Apr 2021.

a guest post for a pug in the kitchen: prune and chestnut vanilla loaf cake

I had the wonderful opportunity to put together a guest post for Suzanne of A Pug in the Kitchen. You can take a look over at Suzanne’s blog for the full post, but here’s a bit of an excerpt (I get to quote myself!) about the cake and the recipe follows below.

The cake is unabashedly rich, the crumb possessing a buttery sheen, and is incredibly fragrant due to an incredible quantity of vanilla extract and browned butter. I’ve made merely superficial changes, but I highly advocate them. The prunes and chestnuts, which are two of my favourite things, are homely and warm […] They simply fit perfectly into the backdrop of a dense and vanilla-heady cake, such that even a friend who does not at all subscribe to my obsession with prunes admitted that really, they did seem to work quite well.

I really emphasized the glamourous nature of this cake with a of couple binders and an old stapler.

Continue reading “a guest post for a pug in the kitchen: prune and chestnut vanilla loaf cake”

golden beet, chamomile & rye iced cake

Brian Jacques’s Redwall was one of the beloved series of my younger reading days.

They were, in some ways incredibly repetitive and problematic (for example, how an individual’s moral compass is almost invariably determined by their species–foxes were sly, mice were brave, stoats were mostly mean minions–somehow I never noticed the issues with this until I read the Wikipedia article and thought about it), but they were also insatiably good in other respects. They were absorbing, in the same way that some fantasy series are, characterized by strong world building as you become privy to another history, set of norms and traditions–and stereotypes.

Continue reading “golden beet, chamomile & rye iced cake”