Sunday, January 18, 2015

Lime in the Coconut Cake

This particular cake gets a lot of its flavor from the glaze.  The coconut lime glaze is actually put on both sides of each layer.  In addition to that, you poke holes to further insure that the great flavor seeps in.The actual cake only has coconut extract and coconut milk in it.  It has good texture and taste but it is very plain tasting without the glaze and frosting, so those additions should not be skipped.

Regarding the recipe itself, it had an error in which the correction note was made after a few reviews came in- the coconut oil was actually supposed to be coconut extract.  I have made the correction in the ingredient list and instructions below.
Yet, there are still a few questions.  Both are regarding "sweetened ingredients".  The recipe listed shredded coconut and coconut milk.  Each of those ingredients have a sweetened or unsweetened version.  Without the answers, I proceeded with 1/2 sweetened and 1/2 unsweetened for the shredded coconut and unsweetened instead of sweetened coconut milk.  A lot of the comments were that the cake was very sweet, so those bakers make have gone "full force" on the sweetened.

Another discovery was that there was way too much glaze.  The glaze makes over 2 full cups, which is a lot.  A glaze should be thin and flow over the cake and dry, not be thick and make a filling by itself.  I chose to use half of the recipe.  Another issue with the glaze is that there is a choice to use sour cream or yogurt.  The sour cream is a thicker consistency than yogurt, so if I make this again I will use yogurt.

Other than those few adjustments, the recipe has tasty results.  Note that the recipe below does not have any of the adjustments as noted in the 3rd and 4th paragraph above.  How sweet and how much glaze should be your preference, but bear in mind that the more glaze the longer it will take to dry before frosting.  Without it drying you will be mixing the glaze with the frosting as you frost the cake.

Lime in the Coconut Cake
adapted from Doreen Howarth found via Food Network

1 cup coconut milk
4 eggs
1 cup butter
1 tsp coconut extract
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 1/2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1/2 tsp salt

1/4 cup coconut milk
1 cup sour cream or yogurt 
1 cup shredded coconut
zest and juice only of 2 limes
1 cup sugar

1 lb box plus 1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup shortening
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup coconut milk
4 oz cream cheese
2 cups shredded coconut (optional for covering top and sides after frosting)

To begin, grease the interior of 2 nine inch round cake pans.  Then line the bottoms of the interior with parchment paper and grease the face up side.  Dust the interior of each cake pan with flour.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

For the cake batter, add the butter and sugar to the bowl of a stand mixer.  Beat on medium speed, occasionally scraping down the sides of the bowl.  Beat for 1 full minute, so it has a fluffy consistency.  Pull out a small bowl and add one egg.  Pour in 1/2 tsp coconut extract.  Using a fork, scramble the egg in the bowl and then add to the butter/sugar mixture.  Beat on medium speed for 30 seconds.  Do the same with the second egg.  For the 3rd and the fourth egg, add each (one at a time) directly to the batter and beat each into batter for 30 seconds. Set aside.

Sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a medium size bowl.  Add 1/3 of the sifted ingredients to the batter and stir with a wooden spoon until all is blended.  Then mix in 1/2 cup of coconut milk.  Stir in 1/2 of the remaining sifted ingredients.  Once smooth, add another 1/2 cup of coconut milk. Lastly, blend the rest of the sifted ingredients into the batter.

Pour the batter evenly into the prepared cake pans.  It measures out to a total of about 5 cups, so 2 1/2 cups per pan should be about right.   My batter was fairly thick, so I took a spatula to smooth out the top.  Place filled pans in oven and bake until a tester comes out clean, between 25-28 minutes.

Once baked, remove pans and place pans on cooling rack placed over a baking sheet.  Let cakes cool in pans for about 10 minutes.  Invert cakes onto cooling rack and then peel off parchment paper.  Cake will need to cool completely before proceeding.

 To make glaze, mix all ingredients in one bowl until fully combined.  Then poke holes in each of the layers of cooled cake. Spread glaze on tops of each cake. Let the glaze completely dry before proceeding.  This should take anywhere from 1-3 hours.  Once dried, invert cakes and repeat, poking holes and then spreading rest of glaze over top of cakes.  Cover cakes with cake domes and place in refrigerator for 2 hours. When ready, the glaze should be set and no longer sticky.

The last part is the frosting.  Cream together the shortening, butter and cream cheese until smooth.  Then sift in the powdered sugar in increments of 1 cup, beating on low to blend after each addition.   After all the powdered sugar is mixed in, add the coconut milk and extract.  Beat on medium speed for 30 seconds.  Then frost the surface of one of the layers and stack the other on top.  Frost the top and sides as normal. Lastly, you may opt to cover the surface of the frosted cake with sweetened coconut.
                                **LAST YEAR:Cream Bruleed Chocolate Bundt** 

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Schnecken/ Pecan Cinnamon Buns

It is a tradition of my mother to make cinnamon rolls at Christmas for breakfast.  These rolls are light and airy, filled with cinnamon and nuts.  However, there are other households which take the tradition to a sweeter level by having the cinnamon rolls topped with a sticky sweet caramel and toasted pecans.

In comparison, there more of a pastry than bread like quality to the dough when baked up.  While less filling than bread, each serving does hit the mark for your sweet tooth.  Instead of just cinnamon lovers, these rolls will have your pecan pie lovers taking notice.

I found the rolls quite easy to make.  The dough did not require a lot of shaping and kneading.  Outside of the rise time, it is just a matter of rolling up the dough like a jelly roll and slicing.  Also, these rolls fell out of the pan easily when inverting and came out without leaving a lot of topping still sticking to the pan.  Topping in the pan is something I did not want to have to tangle with, so I was happy to see it in its rightful place.

The other good point about these rolls are that they can be prepared the night before and placed in the refrigerator.  Follow everything as directed, but cover and place in the refrigerator after the 40 minute rise time is over.  The next morning, remove pan and let rest at room temperature for about 1 hour.  Then bake as directed.

Schnecken/Pecan Cinnamon Buns
adapted from The Dahlia Bakery Cookbook

Ingredients/ Dough
1 cup milk
1 egg and 1 yolk
1/2 cup or 1 stick of butter (more for greasing pan and bowl)
1 tbs active dry yeast
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt or 3/4 tsp regular salt
3 to 3 1/2 cups flour
5 tbs sugar

3/4 cup packed brown sugar (light or dark-not specified)
3/4 cup chopped pecans
3/4 or 1 1/2 sticks butter
1/4 cup corn syrup

1 cup sugar
1 tbs cinnamon

The first step to making the dough is to melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat.  Once melted, pour in the milk and then add the sugar.  Mix the ingredients with a wooden spoon until there is no longer a grainy feeling when scraping the bottom of the saucepan, which means the sugar has all dissolved.  The ideal temperature for this is 110 degrees, so test the temperature with a candy thermometer and let cool or heat further according to the temperature it registers.

At the idea temperature, pour mixture in a heat proof bowl.  Sprinkle in the yeast and stir, making sure it is mixed evenly without clumps. Let rest 10 minutes and then stir in the salt.  Set aside.

In a separate bowl, place the egg and yolk and mix with a fork until all is blended.  Pour into the yeast batter and mix.  After the egg and yolk are thoroughly mixed in, prepare a flat surface by dusting with flour.  Then add 1 cup of flour to the batter and stir.  Continue to add the flour in one cup increments until 3 cups have been incorporated, stirring mixture after each addition.  Check for the consistency of the dough, it should be sticky.  Reserve the rest of the flour for dusting and kneading.

Place the dough on the prepared flat surface and knead about 5 times.  Your dough should now be smooth and elastic.  Butter the interior of a large bowl and a 9 x13 inch glass pan.  Shape the dough into a ball and place in the bottom of the prepared bowl.  Cover and let rise in a warm place until tripled in volume, which should take about 2 hours.

During the last 1/2 hour of rising time, prepare the topping.  Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat.  Then stir in the corn syrup and brown sugar.  Let thicken a little and remove from heat.  You will notice that there is some excess butter that does not blend in.  It is okay, the excess is what enables the saucepan to be cleanly emptied along with the pan when inverted. 

Pour brown sugar mixture into the prepared pan and let run to the edges evenly.  Then sprinkle on the chopped pecans, being careful not to get too close to the edge.  The ones close to the edge will most likely fall off the outer edge of the rolls.  No worries though, these as well as topping spill over can be easily scooped up and placed on top of the rolls when inverted.  However, should you need to do this, do not delay after removing the glass pan or the mixture will set up and make it more difficult. After filling with topping, set pan aside.

Prepare the filling by mixing the cinnamon and sugar together.  Then melt the butter in a small saucepan and set aside to cool.

Once dough has risen, punch down and then place on flat surface dusted with flour.  Roll dough out to the size of 12x15 inches with an even thickness.  Brush with the melted butter and then sprinkle the cinnamon sugar over the surface. Press into the butter lightly with a spatula and make sure all is damp.  Dry cinnamon sugar will have a tendency to spill out when the dough is cut.

Take the longest edge and start rolling up.  Should you have any issues with sticking, use a bench scraper to ease it off the surface.  Roll the dough into a long cylinder with the seam facing down.  Then slice vertically into 12-14 inch pieces approx 1 inch thick.  Place each piece, cut side up, evenly in the pan.  Remember that these will rise some more, so do not place them too tightly together.   Tear off enough plastic wrap to cover pan.  Oil one side of plastic wrap and cover pan of rolls with the oil side face down.  Let rise in a warm place for about 40-50 minutes.

10 minutes prior to rise time completion, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  After the rising time, uncover rolls and place pan in oven and bake for 17 minutes.  Then rotate pan and bake for another 17-20 minutes.  Check periodically to make sure they are not getting too brown.  If so, place aluminum foil over pan (do not fold tightly around edges but just let set on top loosely) and continue to bake.

Remove pan and place over rack and let rolls rest for 10 minutes.  During this time, line the bottom of a baking sheet with parchment paper.  After the 10 minutes have expired, invert the rolls on the paper lined baking sheet.  The easiest and cleanest way to do this is to hold the baking sheet with the paper inside and place face down on top of the glass dish.  Then grip the handles of the baking dish along with the baking sheet edges and invert.  Then lift glass pan off of rolls.

Serve warm and enjoy.
                                  **LAST YEAR: Kiwi Pomegranate Angel Pies**

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Candy Bar Tart

I am always excited to see a recipe that steers away from the tried and true.  The first thing that pops into our head when we think of tarts is fruit.  Nothing wrong with that, fruit and cream make for a wonderful filling to a sweet shortbread crust.  Besides fruit, recipes for the rich chocolate filled tarts come up now and again. However, this one caught my eye.  This recipe replicates the flavors of a long time favorite candy bar- Milky Way.

The crust is pretty much the standard, but the filling is unique.  As you know, the candy bar has a ribbon of caramel in it.  To support this flavor ingredient, the bottom part of the pastry crust is covered in caramel and the top is drizzled as well.  The fluffy nougat is imitated with the whipped cream filling flavored with melted chocolate.  Then the dessert imitation does take a unique turn with the addition of instant coffee added to the whipped cream. Lastly, milk chocolate curls dust the top.

This is another light and fluffy one with some very rich flavors.  Whipped cream is used in a lot of pastries and I think that this filling is very versatile. It would be an excellent filling for cream puffs or as a top layer to a chocolate cream pie or even an ice cream pie. 

The assembly comes together quite quickly.  However, the filling and the caramel require hours of cooling, so prepare those a day in advance and make the crust the day you plan to serve.

Candy Bar Tart
adapted from Flour by Joanne Chang

Ingredients/Mousse Filling
5 oz milk chocolate chips
2 tsp instant coffee powder
1/8 tsp salt
2 cups heavy cream

1/3 cup water
2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup heavy cream
2 tbs melted butter
3/4 cup sugar

10 inch tart shell, baked (see previous post sweet pastry project, it uses a flan pan but tart pan will do)
4 " slab of milk chocolate at room temp, for chocolate curl topping.

Start making the mousse by pouring the cream and adding the coffee powder to a saucepan.  Stir on medium heat until coffee powder dissolves.  Then turn up to medium high and let mixture come to a scalding temperature.  It has reached the right temperature when you see bubbles form around the edge of the inside of pan.  Watch closely so it does not burn.  Remove from heat.

Fill a heat proof bowl with chocolate chips.  Slowly pour the hot cream mixture over the chips.  Let sit undisturbed for about 1 minute.  Then whisk mixture until all the chocolate is melted and blended.  The mixture should have the same hue as the nougat in a milky way bar.  Strain mixture into another heat proof bowl and mix in salt.  Cover tightly and place in refrigerator for a minimum of 8 hours up to a maximum of 3 days.

For the caramel layer, fill a saucepan with the sugar.  Pour in the water slowly and mix until all the sugar is moistened.  Place over medium high heat and leave undisturbed to boil for about 3-4 minutes.  Then you will see the color change.  The mixture will start to darken.  As soon as you see a color change, swirl the pan to make sure it cooks evenly.  Keep swirling and cooking until mixture reaches a deep amber color. 

Remove from heat and pour in the heavy cream.  Let it bubble and steam.  Once it dies down, place the pan back over the heat, but this time at medium temperature.  Whisk constantly as the mixture cooks.  It will start to thicken and mixture will start to stick to spoon in a solid mass.  You want the mixture thicker than honey and thinner than peanut butter. This will take about 2-3 minutes.  Lastly, whisk in the vanilla and the butter. Remove pan and pour into a heat proof bowl.  Cover tightly and place in refrigerator for a minimum of 4 hours and a maximum of 1 week.

After the chilling time is completed, take out the bowl of caramel from the refrigerator.  Smooth 3/4 of the caramel on the bottom of prepared tart.  I had to get mine slightly warm again to smooth easily.  Set aside.

Remove mousse filling from refrigerator and empty into a bowl of a stand mixer.  Whip on medium speed until soft peaks form.  Spoon out the mousse into the prepared crust, smoothing the top so it is all even.  Drizzle the top with the remaining caramel.  Then, hold the chocolate bar over the top of the dessert and make chocolate curls by using a vegetable peeler, covering the surface as even as possible.  Once complete, let dessert chill about 30 minutes prior to serving.

This is best served and eaten within 8 hours.  Store in airtight container in refrigerator.
                           **LAST YEAR: Evergreen Shortbread Cookies**

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Graham Chocolate Chip Muffins

Life can be a series of changes, sometimes those changes are unexpected and sometimes planned. I feel lucky that 2015 is well planned and I am committed to make sure it is one of the best ever.  At this time my life is fuller and happier than in years past, so life's journey has taken a good turn in the road.  However even in the face of all kinds of change, my passion for creating in the kitchen still remains.

I had intended to make something lemony, but one of the taste testers indicated something chocolate was in order due to the change.  I still wanted to make muffins but I declined on the double chocolate. After reviewing several recipes, I found this one to be just enough chocolate to squelch a craving without an overload.

These muffins have graham cracker crumbs in the batter.  That had me thinking that they may be real dense.  However, they turned out to be typical in texture. I believe the use of oil instead of butter kept the muffins moist. The addition of the chocolate chips and crunchy streusel give the batter the sweetness and texture that was needed to bring it more into a delicious balance. This recipe makes 14-16 muffins.

This is the perfect way to tone down a bit from the big meal extravaganza most people have had this holiday season.  These muffins do not take a lot of time in the kitchen.  It is the first step, but the second step will find you relaxing with a cup of hot tea or coffee along with one of these tasty muffins.  Perhaps enjoying the early morning quiet as well as the pinkish orange hue of the sunrise of the first day of 2015......

Graham Chocolate Chip Muffins
adapted from Dwell on Joy via Michelle's Tasty Creations

Ingredients/ topping
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
3 tbs melted butter

Ingredients/ Muffins
1 cup whole milk
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg, room temp
2 cups flour
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 tbs baking powder
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup choc chips

Prepare a muffin tin by greasing the top edge of the muffin cavities and lining with cupcake papers. Then preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Make the streusel topping first by blending all topping ingredients together until entire mixture is damp and comes together in clumps.  Set aside.

In another bowl, sift together flour, salt, baking powder and graham crumbs.  Some graham crumbs may remain in the sieve.  In that case, empty into the sifted ingredients.  Stir in the sugar.

Pull out another bowl for the wet ingredients.  Add the egg, oil, milk and vanilla extract. Whisk together until all is blended.  Then fold in the dry mixture until no dry streaks remain.  Lastly, mix in the chocolate chips. Scoop even amounts into muffin cavities.

Mix streusel again, making sure to break up any clumps.  Place a tablespoon of streusel on top of each cavity of batter.  Press down lightly.  Put in oven and bake for 16-19 minutes.  Let cool in tin for 10 minutes then transfer to rack to finish cooling.
                             LAST YEAR: Maraschino Snowball Cookies

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Eggnog Chiffon Pie

I had thought that the true "original" eggnog contained rum for the alcohol content.  In passing the eggnog case at the grocers I saw "Southern Comfort" eggnog, which means some people prefer bourbon or whiskey.  Then this got me thinking.  After some research, I found that the the choice of alcohol varied in the early years, depending on the location of the creator.  However, the most standout variation must have been George Washington's mix.  His recipe contained rye whiskey, rum and sherry.  It also seems that the egg part was a secondary component, for his original recipe did not list the exact number of eggs used.  No worries though, I declined to pursue making his stout recipe for this pie filling. This particular pie is made with rum and no other alcohol.  I have stuck with my original idea of what eggnog should be spiked with.

The photo above really makes this pie look like cheesecake.  It is far from cheesecake.  For those of you that have had any type of chiffon pie, you know all about that billowy and wonderful light as air texture. As a bonus, the rum eggnog filling is encased in a crisp cinnamon graham pecan crust. The crunchy flavorful addition is truly an asset to the whole dessert.

Instead of the heavy chocolate desserts this year, why not try this pie?  It may turn out to be a keeper that finds its way to your table every Christmas season.

Eggnog Chiffon Pie
adapted from Pie by Ken Haedrich

Ingredients/Graham Cracker Crust
1 cup plus 2 tbs graham cracker crumbs
1/4 tsp cinnamon
3/4 cup chopped pecans
2 tbs firmly packed light brown sugar
2 tbs flour
1/4 cup or 1/2 stick melted butter

Ingredients/ Filling
2 cups half and half
1/2 cup sugar
6 egg yolks
3 egg whites, room temp
2 tbs water
3/4 cup cold heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup dark rum
3 tbs sifted confectioners sugar
1 envelope plus 1 tsp unflavored gelatin

For the crust: Place all ingredients in a food processor except for melted butter.  Pulse until nuts are very finely chopped and all ingredients are blended evenly.  Pour into a bowl and stir, picking out and breaking up any large nut pieces the processor may have missed.  Then pour in the melted butter and mix until all crumbs are damp. You can use clean hands or a fork for this process. Set aside.

Prepare a pie pan by buttering the interior and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Dump the graham mixture into the pie pan and press evenly in bottom and up the sides.  Place in freezer for 3 minutes.

Remove pan from freezer and put in preheated oven and let bake until lightly browned. Crust should be done in about 7 minutes.  Remove and place on cooling rack.  Once completely cool put pan in refrigerator until ready to fill.

For the filling: fill a small bowl with the water and rum.  Then sprinkle the gelatin powder evenly over the top.  Set aside.  The next part of the filling will be making the creme anglaise.  Whisk the egg yolks with the sugar until blended.

Place a saucepan over medium heat and add the half and half.  Let the cream come to a simmer, taking care that it does not boil.  Remove from heat.  Whisk in 1/3 cup of the hot half and half into the egg yolk mixture.  Continue to whisk and stream in the rest of the warm half and half.  Pour mixture back into saucepan and place over medium low heat.  Continue to stir until it reaches a consistency thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.  Run your finger through the coating and if it leaves a path, it is done.  The time to complete the consistency change should be about 5 minutes. This batter is commonly called creme anglaise.

Remove from heat and mix in the gelatin mixture.  Let the batter come to room temperature and then transfer to a bowl and place in refrigerator.  While you are waiting, place a metal bowl and beaters of a hand mixer in the freezer for about 2 minutes.

Take out the bowl and beaters from freezer and set up your mixer to create the whipped cream.  Pour the heavy cream into the bowl and beat on high speed until soft peaks form.  Sift in the confectioners sugar and then beat the mixture until it becomes firm, about 1 minute.  Then place the bowl of sweetened whipped cream in the refrigerator.

Next, clean and dry your beaters to prepare for the egg whites.  Check your creme anglaise to see if it has reached the right consistency.  It should be as thick as raw egg whites.  If it is not, place back in refrigerator and check every 10 minutes until it reaches the right consistency.

Once the right consistency is achieved, remove the creme anglaise and the bowl of whipped cream from refrigerator.  Fold half of the whipped cream into the creme anglaise until blended.  Then blend in the rest of the whipped cream.  If lumps of whipped cream still remain after some folding, pour through a sieve to remove the lumps. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, add the egg whites and beat with handheld mixer until you have reached the stiff peak stage.  Then add 1/2 cup of the whipped cream mixture and beat for about 30 seconds.  Pour this into the rest of the whipped cream mixture and fold together with spatula.  Once blended, empty this filling into the prepared pie crust and smooth the top.  Tent with foil and place in refrigerator to set up for a minimum of 2 hours and maximum overnight.

You are welcome to serve with a dust of nutmeg on top with a side of whipped cream.

I wish you and yours a wonderful Christmas Holiday!
                                     **LAST YEAR: Gooey Butter Cookies**

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Spiced Honey Pecan Fingers

After last weeks post, I am still craving warm spicy treats.  Outside of the winter spices, the honey with the pecans make me think of sticky buns.  Calling these a bar would be a mistake because there is not much thickness to these.   However, do not let that discourage you, the bars are very big on taste.

Since they have such a wonderful taste, pairing with something like hot chocolate would be too much.  Team this treat with something lighter, like tea, so the flavor can really shine through.  The other great thing about this dessert is that it is easy to make and does not require any hard to find ingredients.

Spiced Honey Pecan Fingers
adapted from the Southern Cookbook

2 egg yolks
12 tbs or 1 1/2 sticks  butter
3/4 cup honey
3/4 cup chopped toasted pecans
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves

Prepare a 9x13 inch pan by greasing the interior and lining with parchment. Leave some parchment overhang along the two long sides and grease the face up side of the parchment paper.  Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Sift together cinnamon, flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and clove.  Set aside.

In another bowl, cream the butter and sugar together by running the mixer on medium high for about 4 minutes.  The mixture should be light and fluffy. Beat in one of the egg yolks until thoroughly blended, about 30 seconds. Repeat with the second egg yolk and follow with the honey.  Once all is combined, fold in the sifted ingredients until there are no more dry streaks.  Then mix in the pecans.

Empty batter into prepared pan and smooth out evenly, making sure all edges and corners are covered.  Place pan in oven and bake for 20 minutes and rotate.  Then bake for about 20 minutes more or until top is lightly browned.

Place pan on rack and let cool in pan.  After cooling, cut into 36 even strips and leave in baking pan. Cover until ready to serve.
                                          **LAST YEAR: Fruits of the Forest Pie**

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Pineapple Upside Down Pumpkin Gingerbread

I think that one of the more difficult things in creating your own recipe is balancing the flavors.  I have posted and have seen other bloggers post comments regarding "subtle flavor" or that a certain flavor takes over the whole dessert which is not what is intended.  I think the worst I have seen is a recipe review stating "and after that dessert we all went to bed with upset stomachs".  It was not a blogger recipe but an actual comment regarding a recipe in a published cookbook.

This cake recipe, in reading the name itself, makes you think there is too much going on here. However, I give kudos to the collaboration of Gold Medal Flour and the Hawaiian Pineapple company in creating this recipe.  It came out back in the 1960's and proves that both knew a thing or two about balance of flavor.

This recipe is spot on when it comes to texture as well as flavor. As you can see by the above picture, this cake was moist and tender.  The cake brings all those wonderful winter flavors together, pumpkin, gingerbread and cinnamon.  Great as a stand alone, but even better with the pineapple caramel topping with an occasional bite of fresh pineapple on top.

This one does not require a lot of time or effort.  The biggest effort was only cutting out the circles of pineapple and most of the time used was in the baking of the cake.  The size of this cake is not real big.  Perhaps you and one of your loved ones should take some time out from all the holiday stress.  Time to crank up the fireplace, put on some Christmas music and kick back with a warm a cup of hot tea or coffee and a slice of this cake. Ahhh, I just feel better thinking about it...

Pineapple Upside-Down Pumpkin Gingerbread
adapted from Bon Appetit/ Oct 2008

1 ripe pineapple/ peeled
2/3 cup light brown sugar (packed)
1 tsp light or mild molasses
2 tbs frozen pineapple juice concentrate, thawed
1/2 cup or 1 stick of butter
Nonstick pan spray

1/2 cup light molasses
2 eggs
1/2 cup or 1 stick softened butter
1/2 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 cup boiling water
1 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
Whipped cream (optional)

Start by cutting 1/3 inch round from the pineapple and core it.  Then stand the pineapple on end and cut 1/3 inch thick lengthwise slices, avoiding the core.  Take a small biscuit cutter (I used a 1 inch) and cut the slices into circles. 15-20 circles will be enough.  Place the slices in a bowl, cover and refrigerate.  Reserve the rest of the pineapple in the fridge for another use.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9 inch square or round cake pan with non-stick spray.

The topping will be prepared first. Place a saucepan on medium high heat and fill with butter, sugar and pineapple juice concentrate.  Stir and let butter melt and sugar dissolve until smooth.  Then stop stirring and let mixture boil for about 1-2 minutes. It should have the consistency of warm caramel. Remove and pour into prepared pan and swirl a little, to make sure it is even on the bottom.

Place the pineapple slices on top of the caramel mixture in a decorative design, making sure there is no overlap. For the cake, sift together the ginger, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, salt and flour. Set the filled cake pan as well as the bowl with sifted ingredients aside.

In another bowl, beat butter until smooth.  Pour in the sugar and beat on medium speed until all is incorporated.  Add one egg and beat for 30 seconds.  Repeat with the additional egg.  Continue to beat mixture and pour in molasses and spoon in the pumpkin.  Remove beater blades and if using a stand mixer, remove bowl from stand when all is blended together. Using a spatula, fold the dry ingredients into the batter until no dry streaks remain.  Lastly, pour the boiling water into the batter and mix until blended.

Empty batter into the prepared pan and smooth the surface, so it is even.  Place in oven and bake until tester comes out clean.  Bake time is approximately 50 minutes. Remove cake pan from oven and place over cooling rack.  Cake should cool in pan for about 45 minutes. Then invert pan over platter or cake board.  Let rest in place for 5 minutes, then remove pan. 

For serving, cake can be warm or room temperature.  Also, if you prefer, you can add a dollup of whipped cream on the side with each slice.

Tips and Notes:
1. Fresh pineapple on top does beat canned, for cutting the canned is way too mushy.  As noted above, you will have some left over.  I did not have an issue since fresh fruit is always eaten in this house.

2. Be aware that the cake bakes up very dark, so do not think it is burnt.  The above noted baking time was perfect for my oven 
                                        **LAST YEAR: Czech Nut Bars*