Gold Cake

I am putting together a cookbook for my family that celebrates all the recipes that we have grown up with. I come from a long line of really fantastic cooks and bakers and I decided that there are recipes that we were in danger of losing.

One that we almost lost is this recipe for Gold Cake. My cousin Cathy emailed this to me. I’d not only never eaten it before, I’d never even heard of it before. Naturally, I had to try it out – if only just so I could have pictures of it for the book. Plus I love to try out new recipes! And the whole point of a family cookbook is to try the recipes that our grands and great-grands loved enough to make and keep and pass down.

I hope you enjoy it!

Gold Cake

  • 1 ¾ cup sifted cake flour
  • 2 ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ cup butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ tsp vanilla
  • ½ tsp lemon extract
  • ¾ cup unbeaten egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup milk

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Sift the flour and then measure it. Add in the baking powder and the salt and whisk those quickly in with a fork. Set the flour mixture aside.

In a large mixing bowl cream together the butter, sugar, vanilla, and lemon extract.  Add the egg yolks to the butter and sugar mixture and beat on high until the are light and a lemonade color. You need a lot of air whipped into this so don’t cheat yourself on time.

(A note about the egg yolks: I ended up using – I kid you not – *9* egg yolks. 9. Egg. Yolks. The look on my face increasingly become more horrified as I continued to crack and separate egg after egg. And the yolks need to be unbeaten as they go into the cup or your measurements will be off.  Given the price of eggs in the Great Depression I can only wonder if the name of this cake isn’t for the golden color the yolks provide, but for how much it would have cost to make it. Now I need to decide if I should make the world’s largest batch of Macarons or an Angel Food Cake.)

Fold in dry ingredients alternately with the milk – beginning and ending with the flour. And they mean fold, not beat with the mixer. You have just added a ton of air when you were beating the eggs, so folding will ensure you keep the air and lightness.

The finished batter is actually quite thick. Carefully spoon or pour into two lightly greased and floured 8” square pans. I didn’t have square pans, so I used round. I’m sure it ended up tasting just the same.

Do NOT tap it on the counter to remove the air from the pans.

Bake at 350° 25 minutes (just until cake begins to pull away from pan sides.) Watch this. You don’t want to bake it too long or the cake will end up dry.

Cool. Put together with lemon curd filling (recipe below).

Lemon Curd Filling

You will need a double boiler for this.

  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 2 T cornstarch
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 slightly beaten egg yolk (Holy crap, yet another egg yolk.)
  • ¾ cup water
  • ¼ cup lemon juice (this works out to be the juice of one lemon)
  • 1 tsp grated lemon peel
  • 1 T butter

Get the water in the bottom of the double boiler to a simmer. Combine the sugar, cornstarch, and salt in the top of a double boiler and set of the the top of the simmering water. Then add the egg yolk (Lord!), water, and lemon juice.

Cook until thickened stirring constantly. This took me about 45 minutes to an hour to get it really nice and thick. I had to remind myself that this is a filling and not a glaze or sauce. And it will thicken as it cools, but you do want it really nice and thick.

Remove from heat. Add the grated lemon peel and butter. Stir until the butter is melted. Leave aside to cool completely. Spread between layers of cake.

Our family traditionally frosts this cake with a simple powdered sugar frosting, but you can also adopt our family’s other time-honored tradition of opening a can of Betty Crocker and using that instead. (She’s practically a cousin.)  A nice mascarpone frosting would be awesome with this, too.

This cake lasted exactly 1 day. The kids loved it, Mark – who is not a fan of lemon – also enjoyed it, and then I took it with me to girls’ night and the rest of it was devoured. The curd is really sharp and very lemony and the sponge is light and airy with a hint of lemon itself which makes it perfect for a summer treat.

A Rockin’ New York Cheesecake

I love cheesecake. Love it. It’s one of my favorite desserts to order when I’m out for dinner. I think my husband loves it more than me, though. He routinely requests it for his birthday and eats it for breakfast. “It’s practically like eating a bagel.”

Given my husband’s love of cheesecake you can bet that I have made A LOT of cheesecakes. This one here is the best one that I have come across. This recipe was first published in Gourmet Magazine, November 1999. I cut it out of the magazine and have used it ever since. It’s really perfect.

What makes it so perfect? It is simple to make. You just whip together the ingredients and then put it in the pan and let the oven do the work.

It also doesn’t require the dreaded water bath. So many other classic recipes require that you wrap your springform pan with foil and then nestle it into the biggest pan you have and pour water around it. Then you have a scaldingly hot, dripping wet cake that you pull out of the oven and have the carry to a cooling rack. Yuck.

With this recipe you end up with a tall, dense cheesecake with hints of a bright citrus flavor.

New York Cheesecake

  • 1 packet of graham crackers
  • 3 T of butter, melted
  • 5, 8-oz packets of cream cheese, softened
  • 1 3/4 cups white sugar
  • 3 T all-purpose flour
  • The zest of 1 lemon
  • The zest of 1 orange
  • 5 large eggs
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla

Preheat the oven to 550F/288C. (No, I am not kidding.)

Grind up the graham crackers using a food processor. You want them really fine. If you don’t have a food processor don’t use an immersion blender. Bits of graham shrapnel exploded out of my container and flung across the counter top, floor, refrigerator, and into the sink. I even found bits on the kitchen table on the other side of the kitchen island. I will be finding bits of graham for weeks. Instead, use the end of a rolling pin or a mortar to bash it with. That is more effective and cleaner.

When the graham crackers are a nice small size mix them with the melted butter. Get the butter all through the crumbs so that your crust will hold together. Dump them into a large springform pan and spread them out evenly. Take the flat of your hand and press it firmly into the bottom of the pan.  Set the pan aside.img_0710

Get to unwrapping the cream cheese. All 5 blocks. I swear the 5 blocks are worth it. I couldn’t bring myself to go with full-fat. My ventricles were threatening to slam shut on me at the very thought of all that fat. The 1/3 fat works just as well as the full-fat and then you can pretend you are being healthy.

In a large mixing bowl – preferably an electric mixer because this starts out THICK – beat together all that cream cheese, sugar, flour, and zests until smooth.

Add the egg yolks and beat them in on slow. Then start adding the eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl after each addition. This is important because the eggs are the only leavening agent in this recipe. They must be evenly incorporated to ensure an even rise and a smooth and creamy texture.

Add the vanilla and mix until well blended. Scrape down the bowl and give it a few beats by hand to ensure that everything is completely blended.

Pour the filling into the prepared springform pan with the crust.  A 9-inch pan should be almost completely full. Mine is a 10-inch pan so I have about an inch of room at the top.  If the pan is absolutely full to the top, put it on top of a cookie sheet or in a pan to catch the drips.

Put the cheesecake in the oven and bake for 12 minutes or until the cheesecake seems puffed up. (Make sure it is puffed in the middle or it will sink in the middle as it cools.) WITHOUT OPENING THE OVEN, reduce the temperature to 200F/93C and bake for an additional hour. The middle should be just slightly wobbly when the pan is gently shaken.

Put the cheesecake on a cooling rack. Run a knife around the edge of the pan to separate the cake from the pan. Let the cheesecake cool completely on the rack and then put it in the refrigerator to chill to at least 6 hours. Keep it loosely covered.

When ready to serve take it out of the refrigerator and let it come up to room temperature (if you can stand it, that is). This is delicious with everything, but we like strawberries in our household. I also recommend trying it with a chocolate or caramel sauce. Or raspberries. Or blueberry compote. Or alone. Or for breakfast with a cup of coffee.

I guarantee this will be the only cheesecake recipe you will ever need. It is tall, dense, and creamy. Plus you can make it one or two days ahead of your party and not have to worry about whipping together a dessert on top of an entire meal!

Enjoy!

Mary Berry’s Creme Caramel

As I have mentioned before I am a fan of The Great British Bake Off. I am especially fond of the technical challenges. One of the technical challenge recipes from Season 3 was Mary Berry’s recipe for Classic Crème Caramel.

Crème caramel has a creamy, smooth custard with a layer of soft caramel over the top.  Wow, you say, this sounds a lot like a Spanish flan.  That’s because it is, essentially. Why don’t they just call it flan? Is this some kind of dig against Spain? Nope. They call it crème caramel because there is a British dish call flan that is a quiche-like savory custard with a crust.

I have never made crème caramel or flan before. I’ve eaten plenty of flan and loved it and so I was curious if crème caramel tasted any different. Plus this was a Technical Challenge, which implies that there is some fiddly bits in that recipe that can trip you up on your way to making the perfect dessert.

Here is the recipe.

For the caramel

  • 160g/6oz sugar
  • unsalted butter, for greasing the ramekins

For the custard

  • 4 free-range eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 25g/1oz caster sugar (I didn’t have caster sugar so I put in regular sugar)
  • 600ml/1 pint full-fat milk
  • pouring cream, to serve

Preparation method
Pre-heat oven 150C/300F/Gas 2. Warm the ramekins in the oven, so they are warm when the caramel is poured in. (Do not butter them yet, that part comes later.)

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First make the caramel. Pour the sugar and six tablespoons of water into a clean stainless steel pan.  Dissolve the sugar slowly, stirring with a wooden spoon over a low heat. When there are no sugar granules left, stop stirring (really, stop stirring) and boil until the sugar turns a copper color.

I took my caramel to a very dark color. I should have stopped when it was this color below, but I went darker and ended up with a slightly (but not unpleasant) bitter flavor.  If you are looking for a spin on a flan have a bitter caramel is a great way to do it.  Having some slightly sweetened pouring cream at the end helps to off-set that bitterness.
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Remove immediately from the heat to ensure the caramel does not burn. It will continue to cook in the hot pan. Quickly pour the caramel into the warmed ramekins. Set aside to cool and become hard. (Do not put in the fridge because the sugar will absorb moisture and go soft and tacky).

IMG_1738You can see how far I took the caramel. It’s really very dark. It should be a lighter copper color.  If you like that slightly bitter flavor go for it, but if you want a nice sweet dessert go lighter.

IMG_1736Once hard, butter the sides of the ramekins above the level of the caramel.

For the custard, whisk the eggs, vanilla extract and caster sugar together in a bowl until well mixed.

Pour the milk into a saucepan, gently heat over a low heat until you can still just dip your finger in for a moment, then strain the milk through a fine sieve onto the egg mixture in the bowl. Whisk together until smooth, then pour the mixture into the prepared ramekins.

In Switzerland it’s easier to find vanilla bean pods that it is to find extract. Therefore, I put a vanilla bean into the milk and heated it up to get out that vanilla flavor.  It was going through a sieve anyway so no extra steps were required!

Stand the ramekins in a roasting tin and fill the tin half-way with boiling water from a kettle.

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Cook in the oven for about 20-30 minutes or until the custard has set. Do not overcook the custard – check around the edges of the dishes, to make sure no bubbles are appearing.

I had to fiddle with the temperature of the oven quite a bit. I was convinced there were bubbles around the edge so I turned down the oven. Then they weren’t done after 30 minutes so I cooked them longer.  Fiddling with the oven temps adds to the danger of over cooking. You don’t want the custard to be too loose, but you don’t want it extremely firm either – just a bit wobbly in the middle.

Take the crème caramels out of the oven, remove the ramekins from the water bath and set on a cooling rack. When cool, transfer to the fridge overnight so that the caramel is absorbed into the custard.

To serve, loosen the sides of the custard by tipping the ramekin and loosen with a butter knife round the edges. Place a serving dish on top of the ramekin and turn upside down. Serve with pouring cream.

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IMG_1746The custard was very smooth and creamy, just they way Mary Berry likes it.  I could see the caramel start to peek through when I loosened the custard with my knife so I was excited. There was a little bit of hard caramel left in the ramekin, but most of it slurped out onto the plate. The dark caramel was a good bitter counterpoint to the sweet of the custard, but it’s not a flavor for everyone.  I think the next time I make it I might try to make a bourbon caramel flavored flan.

Because it absolutely has to be in the fridge overnight so the caramel can soak into the custard, this is a great make-ahead dessert for a dinner party or other celebration.