baking boys Dorie

Tuesdays With Dorie: Perfect Party Cake

cake 2

I made this cake a month ago. I was so proud of myself — I was ahead for once; I could write the post at my leisure, and just hit Publish when it was time.

But I neglected to actually write the damn thing, or process the photos. I had a month.

Anyway, now it’s 10 p.m. on Monday night, and I suppose this will once again be a not-very-good post. I’m sorry.

I made this cake for #2 Son’s 12th birthday party back in May. He was a good enough sport to accept a white cake, but he held out for chocolate frosting.

So I left out the lemon and added twice as much vanilla, and needless to say I left out the jam. I made the frosting as Dorie instructs, but I melted 6 ounces of bittersweet chocolate and added it to the meringue after it was cool. I intended to add the coconut, but there were people here already, and I forgot. (I have a long, inglorious history of decorating birthday cakes while guests are in the next room.)

As I recall, this was easy to make; I even managed to slice the layers in half without destroying them. And as I further recall, I liked it. It wasn’t the best cake I’ve ever had — #1 Son and his beloved America’s Best Recipes were responsible for that — but it was good. I didn’t think the buttercream was buttery enough; I’m a big fan of buttercream, something of a buttercream connoisseur (connoisseuse?), you might say. This was more of a chocolate marshmallow fluff: not bad at all, but not buttercream. And considering how much butter was in there, I was expecting buttercream.

cake 1

Family thoughts:

Husband: I could taste the strange flour [the cake flour], but it was very light. I thought the overall effect of the chocolate icing on the cake was good. It wasn’t too sweet all together.

#1 Son: [He’s away for the week, working at a Civil Air Patrol encampment. And I seem not to have written down his impressions back when I actually made the cake. Sorry again.]

#2 Son: I thought the frosting was a little sweet, but the cake itself was pretty good. It was too big, though; I had to unlayer it.

cake 3

Go check the hundreds of variations helpfully provided by the Tuesdays With Dorie bakers, and if you want to try it yourself — it is a Perfect Party Cake, after all — buy the book or visit mix, mix… stir, stir, where Carol will have the recipe.

baking Daring Bakers recipes

Daring Bakers: Bakewell Tart!

The June Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Jasmine of Confessions of a Cardamom Addict and Annemarie of Ambrosia and Nectar. They chose a Traditional (UK) Bakewell Tart… er… pudding that was inspired by a rich baking history dating back to the 1800’s in England.

Bakewell tart is apparently a term applied to various confections, but in this case it was a shortbread crust topped with jam topped with almond pastry cream-like stuff, then baked. Yum.


I did this one all by myself. I feel so grown-up. In the midst of trying to complete four different jobs at the same time and going insane, I stopped to bake. I’m glad I did.

(For those of you who don’t know, I often contract out the actual baking to my older son, who is 17. He has considerably more free time than I do.)

I wanted to make cherry jam for this, because cherries + almonds = awesome. But I forgot to go to the farmers market after delivering above-mentioned son an hour from home at 6:30 in the morning. So, plan B: a pound of frozen cherries, about an ounce and a half of sugar, and a splash of vanilla. I threw the undefrosted cherries and the sugar in a pot and cooked them for a very long time, mashing occasionally with a potato masher, and near the end using an immersion blender on the poor cherries. One it was jelly-like, I turned off the heat and added the vanilla. Excellent, if I say so myself.

The crust was easy enough, although I must confess to using the food processor. Sorry. I think I didn’t add quite enough water, but it rolled out fine. It was just a bit dry after it was baked.

The frangipane was absolutely delicious raw — I could have eaten it all that way. It was light and airy and sweet and almondy. Really, I’d have been happy with this, the whole bowl, all to myself. But no, I soldiered on.

It baked for exactly the length of time the recipe says, which is rare around here. My oven is old and not terribly reliable. I couldn’t find the sliced almonds I know for a fact I have, so I used slivered.


The tart smelled absolutely stunning while it was baking, and it tasted good too:

Husband: I was a little dismayed by how soft the top was, but once assured it was supposed to be that soft, I actually found it to be enjoyable, and I thought the balance of flavors between the almond and the cherry was great. I really liked the crust too, more than I normally like pie crust.

#1 Son: I would have preferred more fruit flavor. The almond was a little heavy, but I liked the taste.

#2 Son: I liked it. I liked the cherry jam especially. There could have been a bit less frangipane and a bit more jam. The crust was awesome — perfect for a pie crust. I’d definitely eat it again. [Note to new readers: He’ll eat everything again. This is not a picky eater.]


Hundreds of other Daring Bakers tried this recipe too, so go see what they did with it. And if you want to try it yourself, please do. It’s a perfect summer dessert.


Bakewell Tart … er … Pudding
Makes one 23cm (9” tart)
Prep time: less than 10 minutes (plus time for the individual elements)
Resting time: 15 minutes
Baking time: 30 minutes
Equipment needed: 23cm (9”) tart pan or pie tin (preferably with ridged edges), rolling pin
One quantity sweet shortcrust pastry (recipe follows)
Bench flour
250ml (1cup (8 US fl. oz)) jam or curd, warmed for spreadability
One quantity frangipane (recipe follows)
One handful blanched, flaked almonds

Assembling the tart:
Place the chilled dough disc on a lightly floured surface. If it’s overly cold, you will need to let it become acclimatised for about 15 minutes before you roll it out. Flour the rolling pin and roll the pastry to 5mm (1/4”) thickness, by rolling in one direction only (start from the centre and roll away from you), and turning the disc a quarter turn after each roll. When the pastry is to the desired size and thickness, transfer it to the tart pan, press in and trim the excess dough. Patch any holes, fissures or tears with trimmed bits. Chill in the freezer for 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 200C/400F.

Remove shell from freezer, spread as even a layer as you can of jam onto the pastry base. Top with frangipane, spreading to cover the entire surface of the tart. Smooth the top and pop into the oven for 30 minutes. Five minutes before the tart is done, the top will be poofy and brownish. Remove from oven and strew flaked almonds on top and return to the heat for the last five minutes of baking.

The finished tart will have a golden crust and the frangipane will be tanned, poofy and a bit spongy-looking. Remove from the oven and cool on the counter. Serve warm, with crème fraîche, whipped cream or custard sauce if you wish.

When you slice into the tart, the almond paste will be firm, but slightly squidgy and the crust should be crisp but not tough.

Jasmine’s notes:

  • If you cannot have nuts, you can try substituting Victoria sponge for the frangipane. It’s a pretty popular popular cake, so you shouldn’t have any troubles finding one in one of your cookbooks or through a Google search. That said, our dear Natalie at Gluten a Go Go has sourced some recipes and linked to them in the related alt.db thread.
  • You can use whichever jam you wish, but if you choose something with a lot of seeds, such as raspberry or blackberry, you should sieve them out.
  • The jam quantity can be anywhere from 60ml (1/4 cup) to 250ml (1cup), depending upon how “damp” and strongly flavoured your preserves are. I made it with the lesser quantity of home made strawberry jam, while Annemarie made it with the greater quantity of cherry jam; we both had fabulous results. If in doubt, just split the difference and spread 150ml (2/3cup) on the crust.

Annemarie’s notes:

  • The excess shortcrust can be rolled out and cut into cookie-shapes (heck, it’s pretty darned close to a shortbread dough).

Sweet shortcrust pastry

Prep time: 15-20 minutes
Resting time: 30 minutes (minimum)
Equipment needed: bowls, box grater, cling film

225g (8oz) all purpose flour
30g (1oz) sugar
2.5ml (½ tsp) salt
110g (4oz) unsalted butter, cold (frozen is better)
2 (2) egg yolks
2.5ml (½ tsp) almond extract (optional)
15-30ml (1-2 Tbsp) cold water

Sift together flour, sugar and salt. Grate butter into the flour mixture, using the large hole-side of a box grater. Using your finger tips only, and working very quickly, rub the fat into the flour until the mixture resembles bread crumbs. Set aside.

Lightly beat the egg yolks with the almond extract (if using) and quickly mix into the flour mixture. Keep mixing while dribbling in the water, only adding enough to form a cohesive and slightly sticky dough.
Form the dough into a disk, wrap in cling and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes

Jasmine’s notes:

  • I make this using vanilla salt and vanilla sugar.
  • If you wish, you can substitute the seeds of one vanilla bean, one teaspoon of vanilla paste or one teaspoon of vanilla extract for the almond extract


Prep time: 10-15 minutes
Equipment needed: bowls, hand mixer, rubber spatula

125g (4.5oz) unsalted butter, softened
125g (4.5oz) icing sugar
3 (3) eggs
2.5ml (½ tsp) almond extract
125g (4.5oz) ground almonds
30g (1oz) all purpose flour

Cream butter and sugar together for about a minute or until the mixture is primrose in colour and very fluffy. Scrape down the side of the bowl and add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. The batter may appear to curdle. In the words of Douglas Adams: Don’t panic. Really. It’ll be fine. After all three are in, pour in the almond extract and mix for about another 30 seconds and scrape down the sides again. With the beaters on, spoon in the ground nuts and the flour. Mix well. The mixture will be soft, keep its slightly curdled look (mostly from the almonds) and retain its pallid yellow colour.

Annemarie’s notes:

  • Add another five minutes or more if you’re grinding your own almonds or if you’re mixing by hand. (Heaven help you.)

Tuesdays With Dorie: Coconut-Roasted Pineapple Dacquoise

This sounded great, even with the pineapple. I really wanted to make it. But I also had to make this month’s Daring Bakers challenge this week, and there was just no way to justify both. Go read about hundreds of versions of the Coconut-Roasted Pineapple Dacquoise on hundreds of other blogs, and come back Saturday for the Daring Bakers unveiling!

boys Dorie

Tuesdays With Dorie: Honey-Peach Ice Cream


This week’s TWD recipe, chosen for us by Tommi of Brown Interior, was Honey-Peach Ice Cream. Yum.

Unfortunately, it’s about a month too early for local peaches here in the lovely mid-Atlantic, so I had to buy some California imports at Whole Foods. They were not Jersey peaches, let me tell you.

I cut up half the not-terribly-ripe alien peaches and threw them into a pot, then discovered that the local farmers market honey was gone. I threw a little tantrum and then left for a doctor’s appointment. While I was gone, #1 Son rode to the rescue and made the custard with agave instead of the honey.

I love #1 Son.

I came home to discover custard chilling in the fridge (with lots of little egg bits in it; he didn’t know the strainer trick). I left again to take #2 Son into the city for an art class.

I came home to delicious ice cream, strained and churned and stuck in the freezer to harden. (And it did harden; we had to let it sit out for about 10 minutes before we could scoop it.)

I love #1 Son.

I make a lot of ice cream in the summer; I’m partial to Philadelphia-style recipes because they’re so much easier, but I’ve been using David Liebovitz‘s Perfect Scoop a lot too. Homemade ice cream is something of a staple around here.

I say this so you’ll trust me when I say that this stuff was good. Once the peach bits softened up a little, it was excellent. Try it. You’ll like it. But wait till the peaches are in season.

As a starter (everything’s a starter; dessert is the important course), #1 Son made a Vietnamese-Creole fusion dinner of gumbo served pho-style with add-ins of curried peas, toasted walnuts and pecans, sauteed mushrooms, black olives, coriander chutney, and a dill-roasted garlic tomato sauce. He’s creative, I’ll say that for him.

We wound up with less than a quart of ice cream, and we could have eaten more. And you know what’s really good? Slivered toasted almonds on top. Perfect combination.

(Not very photogenic, though. Here’s a shot in #1 Son’s Marine Corps mug.)


Herewith, the reviews:

Husband: I was disappointed in the texture — it didn’t look or feel like ice cream in the bowl. But in the mouth it had a wonderful peach flavor, especially as the peach bits warmed up a bit, and I wish there had been more. The agave worked perfectly.

#1 Son: Flavor was good. Texture was a little grainy, more like a granita than an ice cream. But that could have been more my fault than the recipe’s; this was the first time I’ve ever made custard-style ice cream. I was worried about the agave, but it turned out really well. I think it let the peach shine more than honey would have. It was also pretty good with toasted almonds, I gotta say.

#2 Son: Flavor was good. Texture was kind of hard. I didn’t get very many actual peach bits, but it was creamy if you let it sit out for a second. I had it in a bowl of bread, which was too salty, but it was good with toasted almonds. I would eat that again, without the bread bowl.

Check out the variations created by the other TWD bloggers, and get the recipe either from Baking: From My Home to Yours or from Brown Interior. Then make the ice cream already!


Tuesdays With Dorie: Parisian Apple Tartlet

I forgot to buy puff pastry at the good grocery store. They didn’t have any at the bad grocery store. We didn’t have any yummy Parisian Apple Tartlets.

But I guarantee you that there will be some amazing ones at the other TWD blogs, and Jessica of My Baking Heart will have the recipe.

I’ll try to do better next week, although the scheduled recipe calls for peaches and they’re not in season here yet, so I’m not hopeful!

baking Dorie

Tuesdays With Dorie: Cinnamon Squares (Rounds?)

I have been waiting for someone to choose this recipe for Tuesdays With Dorie since the day I bought the book. This cake — cinnamon-flavored batter with a vein of chocolate and cinnamon-sugar, topped with a pure chocolate frosting — sounded like everything a cake should be, and I wanted it.

I got it.


I was going to make it for breakfast, but circumstances intervened and we had it for dessert instead. So I didn’t add or subtract anything from the recipe at all, except to make the cappuccino variation. (Mmmm, coffee and cinnamon and chocolate.)

I cut the ingredients in half and made six cupcakes; they baked for about 25 minutes. About 15 minutes out of the oven the cupcake I cracked open was warm and airy and exuding cinnamon: absolutely marvelous. I could have eaten all six cupcakes right there, leaving my poor family bereft.

But I didn’t. I’m a good person, really.

I let them cool and put them away all nice and airtight, and there they sat for 20 hours or so.

The next day #1 Son was kind enough to make and apply the frosting. I neglected to tell him that I wanted milk chocolate frosting, so he made dark (as written). Then he made more with milk, for me. Isn’t he a darling?


And the frosting worked! I looked at the ingredients — just chocolate and butter, melted together — and I couldn’t figure out how that was going to turn into frosting. It was magic, I guess.

I didn’t try a cupcake with dark chocolate, but the milk was pretty darn good. It meshed perfectly with the flavor and texture of the cake. I would eat many more of these, given a chance.

Husband: When they were warm, they were incredibly light and gave off this great cinnamon fog, in a good way — you could smell and taste it, but it wasn’t overpowering. The second day they had densed up and a lot of that cinnamon freshness was gone. But it was really quite good with the frosting, and it’s hard to say, ultimately, which way I preferred it. I know I should have preferred the dark frosting — and I generally do prefer dark chocolate — but at least the way it was tonight, the milk was much more of a marriage.

#1 Son: Much better warm. They were too sweet the next day, and lost most of their cinnamon flavor. The frosting was interesting, but a little heavy. [He put raisins on his. Always with the fruit!]


#2 Son: Better warm, and a very subtle undertone of cinnamon the next day. The frosting was … well, it was fudge. The milk chocolate one was just too sweet.

Too sweet. Hah! But he’s right — it was essentially fudge. And fudge is good.

What kind of crazy world is it where a 12-year-old boy tells a 41-year-old woman that something is too sweet?


Anyway, go check out the myriad variations that will no doubt grace the pages of the TWD bloggers. And go buy the book so you can make this cake yourself (or visit Tracey’s Culinary Adventures; Tracey chose the recipe for us this week, and she’ll have the details). Bon appetit!