Darcy Lewis Design

Adventures in "Good Enough" Design

Archive for the tag “cake”

New Year Fruit Cake

Hope you all had a wonderful winter holiday and new year!

After 6 years, my Armenian husband and I (Jewish) finally negotiated what we want for holidays and family traditions, and in the sudden peace and happiness that descended on me when this issue (which has been tremendously thorny to me) was settled, I was reminded of my own family’s traditional fruit cake made for the winter holidays, it was a rare treat – a dark, flavorful, rum-soaked, rich delight that I adored.

I’ve never understood why fruitcake is so often the butt of jokes, when it can be so delicious!  The origins of the cake hark back to Roman times, though since they thought rotten fish sauce was the ultimate condiment for everything, I’m thrilled the recipe has evolved a bit…

The Smithsonian wrote up a little thing about the history of the fruitcake HERE .

This is a perfect winter holiday recipe – surprisingly simple (I had remembered it as a complicated, laborious, difficult process, but it wasn’t!!!), warming and delicious, and laden with rich candied fruits, nuts, and exotic spices like nutmeg and cinnamon that all symbolize prosperity for the new year!  Despite all the alcohol soaking it, it’s not very boozy and is safe for kids to eat.

Darcy’s Candied Fruitcake – The Original Version:

1 Cup (C.) chopped dates
1 C./8oz candied pineapple OR citron
1 C./8oz candied cherries
1 C. chopped dried apricots
½ C. dried cranberries
1 pound/16 oz pecan pieces

Mix the chopped fruits with 2/3 C. spiced dark rum and 8 Tbsp. orange juice concentrate, and let soak for several hours.

Sift together:
4 C. flour
2 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt

Beat 8 eggs till frothy

Cream 2 sticks of softened butter with ¼ cup white sugar and 1 ¼ cup packed brown sugar

Add the eggs, and:
4 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp ginger
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp allspice

Preheat oven to 275 degrees.

Mix the eggs and spices with the creamed butter, and slowly add the flour mixture.  Stir until well-blended (do not over-mix) – batter may have a more ‘foamy’ or spongey texture than other cake batters.  Add the fruit and rum mix and stir until well combined.

Pour into a loaf pan lined with a strip of parchment paper (see photos) – it will rise a bit as it bakes!

Bake until a toothpick or knife poked into the middle comes out cleanly – about 2-3 hours.  Invert onto a rack to cool.

After the cake is cool, slowly pour another 2 cups of the spiced dark rum over the cake, pausing often to let it absorb (I did this as 2 sessions, 1 cup of rum each.  A little would puddle on the plate, but would be rapidly absorbed – I was done and the plate was dry within 30-60 minutes.)

The Quick Version:

I stumbled on this when I was in a big hurry to make this AND desperate to clean out my cupboards (good combination for me that has birthed many delicious recipes!).  Honestly, I now like this version better!

Use candied diced citron, candied cherries, candied pineapple – anything that is candied in those ridiculous neon colors (seriously, bright green cherries?!) goes in – preferably it comes already chopped, but I was so lazy I just tossed the cherries in whole.  It worked!  Because everything else was in nice pieces, and the cake was cut into slices, no one noticed the big cherries and it just made a nice variety of textures.  Add the dried cranberries and anything else dried and fruity that you have laying around (I had about 5 dates, and some trail mix fruit bits, and I didn’t have EXACTLY 16oz of pecans.  I could do either 12oz or 18oz because of the bag size, so I went with 18oz.).  Follow the rest of the recipe as written, except for the sugar: I used ONLY the brown sugar in the original quantity, and just omitted the white sugar entirely.  I think it was sweet enough as it was and had a very nice, moist, flavorful taste that was not chemically or rummy nor was it too heavy or too spicy or too sweet.  The little kids who ate a slice didn’t seem to notice the alcohol so I think the cake is heavy enough to counter any alcohol effects.

A NOTE ON PANS:
When I made this last time, I decided I wanted enough for several holiday parties we had coming up, so I doubled the recipe and poured half into my fancy bundt pan, and half into a large loaf pan (which normally equals one cake), but everything seemed so full and I still had batter left over (HOW?!) so I started pouring what was left into mini loaf pans.  This turned out to be a very good call since I’d forgotten the batter rose while baking, and the oven was nearly flooded!  I filled 6 mini loaf pans besides!!  Of the finished products, I left the mini loafs soaking in about 2 cups of rum for a week, and served the 2 larger cakes immediately.   The large loaf pan cake ended up being the best – it kept its moisture well and was very good.  All the others seemed a little drier and not quite as flavorful and balanced, even immediately on cutting.  Since this was also the easiest size and shape to make… I’m happy!

Note the parchment strips in the mini loaf pans, baked on the mini cakes… makes removal from the pan very easy and mostly very clean (a couple of the minis lost a corner), and the paper easily peels off the cake without damage.

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Sugared Cranberries

I wrote about the various eggnog cakes with sugared cranberries last year, but the berries have been incredibly popular (and festive!) that I’ve taken to plopping them on top of just about everything!  Since everyone keeps asking for the recipe, I thought I’d present it again.  Remember, this works not only for things like cranberries (which are so incredibly delicious prepared this way that I call them ‘crackberries’), but many other berries and edible flowers (like pansies and violets) as well!

The cranberries will only keep about a week, so I make a lot and SMOTHER a cake with them, which will be fine because your guests will scoop extra onto their plates!

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Ingredients:
2 cups fresh cranberries (places like Costco are generally much cheaper than the grocery store)
2+ cups sugar, divided
1 cup water
Directions:
1. Make simple syrup by bringing 1 cup sugar and water to a simmer in a saucepan. Simmer until sugar is completely dissolved, stirring often.
2. Pour simple syrup into a heatproof bowl and allow to cool for about 10 minutes.
3. Add cranberries and stir to coat.
4. Refrigerate cranberries in syrup overnight, stir periodically.
5. Using a slotted spoon, remove cranberries from syrup and let sit for a few minutes to dry a little (you want them moist and tacky, but not soggy).  Put about 1/2 cup of sugar in a large flat-bottomed bowl, and roll the cranberries in it – a few at a time – until they look frosted.  You may need to periodically scrape out the damp sugar in the bowl and replace it with fresh sugar, because it will get damp and clumpy and uncooperative. (I like to put the clumpy sugar in a tupperware container and save it for my tea/coffee or use it for the cake or whatever.  I hate throwing out perfectly good food.)
6. Set cranberries aside to dry a little more.
Here they are, jazzing up a cake.  I love baking the cakes in a bundt pan if I’m going to be using the berries, because then you have a really nice hole in the middle to stuff with berries!

Darcy’s Blueberry and Herb Salt Cheesecake!

I was so happy that my Armenian Fig Cheesecake was such a hit, and I had a log of blueberry cinnamon goat cheese sitting in the fridge and the fresh blueberries at Costco were delicious….so when I was asked to make something for my husband’s colleagues, I thought of trying a blueberry cheesecake version.

I was out of sour cream, so just substituted plain greek yogurt, then compensated by using heavy whipping cream instead of the milk.  However, when I tasted the filling, it was very bland and seriously lacking in flavor.  My husband suggested rosemary and more berries, so I put in Huckleberry jam and he ground some dried rosemary for me, but it was still lacking the right note… I seized on some dried lavender flowers, and some herbs de provence-flavored sea salt (Herbs de provence is a traditional herb blend from the Provence-region of France – and heavily features both rosemary and lavender, along with other herbs like savory, thyme, basil, and tarragon – though the exact blend varies by chef).  I think we got another winner with this one!  Hope you like it too!  Btw, this would also be delicious topped with a drizzle of rosemary simple syrup!

The blueberry cheese log was 16oz instead of 10oz, and I used a smaller pie pan, so I ended up with enough filling for THREE pies – 2 using the Keebler graham cracker crust, and 1 using the Cinnamon Chex Mix for a gluten-free option.  See the Armenian Fig Cheesecake recipe for directions on making the gluten-free crust.

(I got distracted, and left it in too long – so it’s a little too browned on top, and my husband stole a corner while I was trying to photograph it….)

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Darcy’s Blueberry and Herb Salt Cheesecake 

MAKES 3 PIES!!!

Prep Time: 30 min.

Bake Time: 45 min.

Total Time: 4.5 Hours (3 hours of cooling after baking)

Ingredients:

3  8-oz packs of regular cream cheese

1  16-oz log of blueberry cinnamon goat cheese with figs (I used Celebrity Int’l brand)

1 11-oz jar of wild huckleberry jam

3/4 cup heavy whipping cream

4 eggs

8-oz greek yogurt (I used Greek Gods brand Traditional Plain)

1/4 cup gluten-free flour

4 Tbsp dried rosemary – our rosemary was quite old, so very bland, so 4 Tbls wasn’t too much.  If your rosemary is new, try half of this and then taste.

4 Tbsp dried lavender flowers – see note above.

2 Tbsp Herbs de Provence sea salt – I used Chateau Provence Seasoned Salt by Urban Accents.

3 pie crusts – I used the Keebler graham cracker crusts – the 10″ size.

Fresh blueberries to top.

Instructions: 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Let cheeses stand at room temperature until soft.  Blend them together until creamy. Add the jam and cream and yogurt.  Grind the rosemary and lavender with a mortar and pestle until fine, add.  Grind the herb salt a little – you want to keep the large crystals and chunks, but you do want to even the size of the particles and release the flavors – I ground everything until about 1/3 of their original size, add.  Blend. Add the eggs, one at a time, then the flour – DO NOT OVER MIX – only blend as much as needed.

Divide the filling between the 3 crusts, and put into pre-heated oven.

 

Bake for 1 hour.  The edges should be lightly browned, and it’s ok if the middle jiggles a little when the dish is moved.  It will firm as it cools.  When done, leave the door closed, and just let the cheesecake sit a few hours until it cools.

Top with fresh blueberries before serving.

ENJOY!!!

In process photos:

The beautiful lavender and rosemary in my mortar:

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The blended filling – note the texture is lumpy – that’s normal!

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Darcy’s Armenian Fig Cheesecake!!

Never heard of Armenian Cheesecake, have you?  That’s because I invented it!!

We were invited to the home of an Armenian family and asked to bring dessert. I had the following parameters: Gluten-free, not too sweet.  Easy, right?  I decided that I wanted to bring something unique and flavored with traditional Armenian flavors, but I am not Armenian so didn’t want to make anything that actually IS traditional (I’m not competing head to head with Armenian cooks!!).  So I thought of figs and the young black walnut preserves Armenians put in their tea…and cheesecake, a nice classic for summer.  It came out DELICIOUS, not too sweet, very distinctive, unique flavor, fluffy texture, etc.  Both kids and adults loved it, even adults who don’t like sweets OR cheesecake!!

So I’m sharing with you:

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Darcy’s Armenian Fig Cheesecake with Gluten-Free Cinnamon Crust

Prep Time: 45-60 min. – including cooling time for the milk

Bake Time: 60 min.

Total Time: 5 Hours (3 hours of cooling after baking)

 

Crust:

2 cups Chex cinnamon gluten-free cereal, crushed/pulverized/crumbled

4 Tbl unsalted butter – very soft

Blend together, and press into the bottom of a 9″ glass pie dish.  Set aside.

Filling:

3  8-oz packs of regular cream cheese

1  10-oz log of goat cheese with figs (I used Celebrity Int’l brand)

.5-1 cup (to taste) sweetener of choice – I used the syrup from young black walnut preserves.  You can use sugar, honey, jam in a complementary flavor, etc.

3/4 cup milk – in which you’ve boiled 2 Tbl strong black tea and 1/2 tsp whole cloves until the milk turns medium brown and smells VERY strongly of the tea and cloves. Let cool.

4 eggs

8-oz sour cream

1/4 cup gluten-free flour

Fig marmalade – about 8 oz. Heated until runny. (I found a huge jar at Costco pretty cheap – used about half).

1 orange – zested

 

Instructions: 

Let cheeses stand at room temperature until soft.  Blend them together until creamy. Add the sweetener and the cooled milk and 1 full tsp of orange zest. Blend. Add the eggs, one at a time, then the sour cream and flour – DO NOT OVER MIX – only blend as much as needed.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Ladle a thin layer of filling over the crust and smooth.  Top with a thin evened-out spooning of the warmed, runny, fig marmalade.  Add another thin layer of filling, then another thin layer of fig, then a very thin layer of filling.

I had enough filling left over to fill 3 ramekins – skipped all the layering and the crust, and just put in filling and spread some fig marmalade on top then baked.  This was also delicious, so you can skip all the layering work if you want, and just do a layer of marmalade on top of the filling.

Pop into the heated oven for 1 hour – BE SURE TO PUT A LINER DOWN – this has a tendency to bubble over (because I totally overfilled the dish – I REGRET NOTHING!)

The edges should be lightly browned, and it’s ok if the middle jiggles a little when the dish is moved.  It will firm as it cools.  The little ramekins I baked for only 45 min.  – putting them into the oven 15 min. after the big cake, then letting everything bake and cool together.

When done, leave the door closed, and just let the cheesecake sit a few hours until it cools.

Top with a sprinkle of orange zest before serving.

ENJOY!!!

In process photos:

Adding the marmalade layer

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Side view of all my layers – except the final filling layer on topIMAG5597

With the final top layer – it’s so full, I know disaster (aka leaking) is inevitable, I don’t care…IMAG5599

Cooling… IMAG5600

Baking!

Gosh, I know I’ve been so bad at keeping this updated!  It seems like I wake up, do the bare minimum to keep my business and life running, and suddenly it’s 1am and bedtime!  Every day feels like nothing got done, but I know that isn’t true and vast amounts of unpacking, settling in, organizing, and LIVING are happening.

So, some highlights of the past month (as proof 😉  ):

ONE OF MY JACKETS WAS FEATURED ON TELEVISION!

On a local morning talk show, to be precise!  That was tremendously exciting, and I only found out about it the night before!  They’d seen my work in one of the galleries I show in here, and decided to grab it!

Also, have been asked to teach several workshops, some open to the public, some not.  So if you are local, or visiting the Greater Detroit area and you’re a member of ASG, I will be doing 3D Quilting in March and Velvet Embossing in May for 2 different local chapters.  You are welcome to come join.

Tried my hand at decorating for winter for the first time this year.  Hopefully, will improve with experience 😉

Strung one of our smallest trees with ornaments (no lights ;(  )…

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Hung up 2 large lanterns filled with twinkle lights and ornaments… 1 at the end of the drive, 1 on the front porch by the door.P1000229

I decorated the wreath myself!  (Very proud of my first attempt 😉  ) – this is hung by the garage door we use most.P1000230

Put a little reindeer by the porch… he needed a nose, but not red (I hate the story of Rudolph.  Moral: People will come to like you when they realize they need you?!), gold seemed to match…P1000248

My husband decided this wasn’t enough, so he wrapped ME in lights and planted me on the porch.  We are not amused….P1000234

 

AND, I’ve spent the past month baking up a storm!!!  Husband waited (3 times!) until the last minute to ask me to make something for the company bake sale fundraiser for Toys for Tots, then there was the company potluck, then he wanted something to bring as a present for colleagues, then he ambushes me with a demand for more (he miscounted), PLUS could I make a special batch for one person who is gluten-free (well, his diet is).  Ok, that was actually more like 5 times, wasn’t it?

So I bought a ton of the mini-loaf pans (Bed, Bath, and Beyond has a set of 4 for $10, don’t forget your coupon!) and an average cake recipe divides neatly into 4 minis!  Yay math!

I made lots of cranberry cakes, many different versions! (Note, I skipped the nuts in all these recipes because they were for gifts and I didn’t know who had allergies.)

Our favorite ended up being this delicious coffee-cake version from Cookie Monster Cooking – though I skipped the almond extract.  (Confession: The first time I made it, I didn’t have a spring-form pan handy, so I poured the batter into a bundt cake pan, carefully putting the streusel topping on the bottom of the pan first. This worked out shockingly well!!!  It was QUITE good!)

Topped with the frosted cranberries from Life, Love, and Sugar (which were awesomely good!).  We don’t like white chocolate, so I skipped that part of the LLS recipe, and found that without it the cake was ok – very dense and heavy, but we preferred the lighter, more open crumb of the CMC recipe.

For the gluten-free recipe, I found this recipe from Martha Stewart which really did come out quite well!!  I used the gluten-free flour blend from Krusteaz that was available at my Kroger grocery.

I found a super handy trick for using mini-loaf pans, that surely will work just as well with almost any pan… Use a strip of parchment paper (does not have to full cover the bottom of the pan, can be less than half the pan in width) to line the pan first, pour your batter on top of this, and then gently pull the tabs of paper up to release the baked cake!  I’ve seen recipes that call for lining the pans, but never suggesting just a little strip.  It makes all the difference in the world!  Those little cakes popped right out, neat as could be.  Any batter that had stuck to the paper and burnt on could just be brushed off gently and did not adhere to the cake, and all the little cakes (I made about 50 mini and full size cakes this month, and have a request for another 2 dozen!) came out beautifully!

Here is what it looks like before, waiting to receive the batter… (forgot to take the other pictures (during and after), so just try to imagine how they’d look…)

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Happy holidays, everyone!!!  Wishing you all a year full of joy, health, happiness, friendship, peace, and love!

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