Orange Syrup Polenta Cake

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So remember how I made candied citrus peel with the peels left over from my yogurt panna cotta citrus tart? Well, taking my leftovers game to a new level, I’m using the citrus syrup left over from my candied peel in yet another recipe! This cake is dense and moist, fragrant with orange flavor and slightly sticky from the syrup. The cornmeal and almonds help the cake keep its shape so it’s perfect for eating out of hand by the slice, and the overall flavor is just breakfast-like enough that you don’t feel guilty for doing so! (I had some for breakfast the other day with a dollop of vanilla yogurt and regret nothing.)

Another plus is that the recipe doesn’t require a mixer– I enjoy a light, fluffy butter cake as much as the next person, but lugging out my stand mixer and then cleaning it is kind of a pain, so it’s great to have a whisk-only recipe once in a while. And the melting here means no waiting for butter to soften!

Did I mention that it’s flourless and therefore gluten-free? Just another reason to give it a try…

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Carrot Cake with Pepita Brittle

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This past Easter I was in a baking mood (when am I not in a baking mood?) so decided to make– what else?– carrot cake.

I love a good carrot cake, though everyone seems to have a different idea of what to add to the basic flavor profile. Some people use raisins, some nuts, or crushed pineapple. Some people use carrot puree, others go traditional with grated carrots, and some cakes use shockingly low amounts of carrot to begin with. Last year I even made one that incorporated graham cracker crumbs in the batter. I decided this time to try a recipe from Alton Brown, who rarely lets me down when it comes to good basic recipes.

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Blackberry Tea Cakes

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I attended a tea party recently– the best kind of tea party, with tiered servers and tiny sandwiches and itty-bitty desserts of all kinds– so of course I had to bring something of my own to contribute. The more elaborate dishes were already taken care of, so I thought it would be nice to have a plateful of relatively simple tea cakes on the table.

I immediately thought of friands and financiers– two traditional French cakes made with almond meal that I’ve always wanted to try– but the guest list included some nut allergies, so those were out. Still, I figured that I could use brown butter (another traditional component of French cakes) for flavor and a high sugar content to get a touch of chewiness, and with a little searching found a recipe that I thought might work as a base.

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Chocolate-Strawberry Pocky Cake

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So remember when I made the three-tiered Pawprint Cake for my daughter’s birthday? At the time I wasn’t sure quite how much cake I would need in each color, so I ended up with extra layers– one 6″ layer and one loaf pan’s worth of pink cake, to be exact. I wrapped them in foil, froze them, and figured I’d find some other use for them eventually. That “eventually” arrived this weekend, when after buying several multi-packs of Pocky in various flavors to use for Valentine’s Day gifts for the kindergarten class, the teacher emailed everyone asking that we not give edible items for the occasion. (sigh)

Great, what was I supposed to do with 20+ packs of Pocky? Other than eat them, of course? But then it occurred to me that I had Pocky, I had cake, and I had Valentine’s Day coming up– of course I could put them all together to make a fabulous dessert!

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Hidden Pawprint Cake

So remember how last year I let my daughter tell me what she wanted her birthday cake to look like? This year I didn’t even have a chance to ask– she handed me a sketch one day and informed me that this was what I’d be making. It had three tiers (!), was decorated with berries and green icing, and had a fake warning on the outside saying that it most certainly did NOT hide any surprises inside… or did it?

Apparently she decided that what she wanted was a hidden pawprint to surprise her guests. It had to be pink, and it had to show only when the cake was cut into. While I had a general idea as to how to get this done, I turned to the internet and was happy to find a tutorial to give me some details as to how it could be accomplished! Here it is:

I’m not going to bother posting too many step-by-step instructions because honestly, the video is pretty good at explaining what to do.

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Creamy Chocolate Frosting

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This frosting really is fantastic– it’s light and creamy, silky and smooth, and it has a nicely chocolate-y flavor without being cloying.

Unlike my favorite Vanilla Frosting, which has a thickened flour/cornstarch base sweetened with granulated sugar, this frosting uses powdered sugar for sweetness; however, it avoids the underlying grittiness of powdered sugar frostings by dissolving the powdered sugar in a cocoa slurry made with boiling water. The result is a perfectly smooth frosting without a trace of grit– plus, the water itself cuts the butteriness of the frosting and allows it to whip up into a light and fluffy mass that’s perfect for spreading over a cake. I really just can’t say enough wonderful things about this frosting, so go ahead and make it for your next cake– I promise you won’t be sorry.

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Chocolate Mayonnaise Cupcakes

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So… about the title. I know, the word “mayonnaise” doesn’t exactly inspire confidence when applied to a cake recipe, but using mayonnaise in cakes is actually pretty common, and makes sense– after all, what is mayonnaise but oil, eggs, and a little acid? And when you’re trying to add richness to a cake without adding dairy (sour cream is my usual go-to for stuff like this), it sounds like a great option.

I made a huge batch of cupcakes– half chocolate, half yellow cake– for a joint birthday party this winter, and when I say “huge” I mean “100+ guests HUGE.” And one of the birthday girls was allergic to dairy, so rather than single her out by making her a few “special” cupcakes, I decided to make the chocolate cupcakes dairy-free in their entirety.

I do have a dairy-free chocolate cake recipe that I use for all of my standard chocolate cakes, but honestly, when it came to making several dozen cupcakes I decided that it would actually be easier (if not cheaper) to start with cake mix. Duncan Hines chocolate fudge cake mix is naturally dairy-free, it was on sale at the grocery store, and I didn’t have to worry about measuring out dry ingredients or buying expensive cocoa. Works for me! All I needed to do was doctor it up!

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