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I'm amazed at how superior your vanilla is!
- Des, The Grommet
I opened the bottle of your vanilla extract last weekend to bake some cookies and the difference in taste is extraordinary." – Judy

Cakes

A Vanilla Chiffon Cake to Celebrate Spring

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Spring weather  is so fickle. Balmy and beautiful one day, windy and wild the next. But here on the California Coast, the first organic strawberries are being picked on our local farms, unusual this early, but oh, so welcome, and perfect for a holiday dessert.

When I think spring and summer cakes, I think angel food, sponge or chiffon. Light, airy, the perfect foil for berries and other  summer fruits.  I decided on chiffon.

My friend and colleague Shirley Corriher, has this to say about chiffon cakes in her book, BakeWise :

Rose Red Velvet Cake

Courtesy of Rose Levy Beranbaum, Real Baking With Rose

I long resisted the charms of Rose Red Velvet Cake, believing it to be merely a layer cake tinted red with a bottle of food coloring. But when several people on my blog sang its praises, I decided to investigate it more thoroughly. It turns out that there is more to this cake than its shocking color. This beloved southern cake is traditionally prepared with oil, a mere suspicion of cocoa, and a teaspoon of white vinegar, which raises the acidity of the batter and intensifies its color. The liquid component is usually buttermilk, which is thought to raise the acidity as well, although the baking soda normally used neutralizes most of the acidity and makes the crumb more coarse and the color darker. So, when I created my
version of this classic, I used only baking powder to employ the full acidity of the buttermilk, making vinegar unnecessary. I also used half oil and half butter for the flavor-enhancing qualities of butter and the moist, softening quality of the oil. The resulting cake is as flavorful and tender as you can hope for and stays soft enough to eat even straight from the fridge. A heart-shape pan is perfect for Valentine’s Day. And the contrast of the white chocolate cream cheese buttercream against the red cake is alluring.

The Sensational Kaese Sahne Torte from Maria Reisz Springer

Kaese Sahne Torte

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An Austrian Cheese and Cream Cake

Today I am bringing you a blog from a dear friend, Maria Reisz Springer. Maria is from Europe and grew up with incredible desserts. She now has a cooking school in Maryland and tempts sahne-torte-0311those of us who don’t live nearby with incredible blogs. When I saw this blog on Facebook, I asked Maria if she would be comfortable sharing it with my readers and she said she would be happy to be a guest blogger.

European Plum Cake

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This delicate, delicious, absolutely-must-make cake recipe comes from Maria Reiz Springer. Now living in Maryland, Maria is from Austria and has an infinite number of amazing European dessert recipes, and usually a wonderful story that goes with the recipe. Maria has a home cooking school and is truly a master baker. The plum cake can be made with other stone fruits as well, but if you are lucky enough to have French plums, they are both the traditional plum used as well as divine in this cake.

Deep Down Orange Cake

Deep Down Orange Cake

 This is a gem of a cake. It’s a rich, buttery cake with an orange and Grand Marnier glaze, a perfect completion to a lovely meal. I made the cake in the picture for a friend’s birthday party. The Satsuma Mandarins had just come into the Farmers Market so I purchased a bag filled with the sweet orange orbs, and added lots of fresh zest to the cake batter.

Karidopita (Greek Walnut Cake)

My mother took some cooking classes when she lived in Washington, D.C. in the late 1960s, and one of the series focused on meals from various countries.  This is one of the recipes from that era, and one I happen to like.  So, when I was invited by a chef friend to a Greek Easter party I volunteered to bring the cake.

I’m not quite sure why things went wrong, but the cake stuck in the pan.  I carefully ran a knife around the edges and thumped.  Nothing.  Finally it came out in seven or eight pieces.  I was mortified as I worked with the chef and other chefs attending the party.  I pushed the pieces together as well as possible, but it was obvious that it was not quite as it should have been.

Got to the party and my chef friend showed me a Greek pastry that he had ruined earlier that day.  It looked worse than mine.  Then another chef arrived at the party.  I told him what happened, and he said, “What’s the problem?  It simply represents all the Greek Islands!

Chocolate and Beet Fudge Cake

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 Courtesy of Janet Sawyer, Little Pod, UK

This recipe is written for those of you who are in the UK or other countries who measure with grams.  It’s truly a delicious recipe that Janet served for the first anniversary party for Little Pod, held at the Chelsea Physic Gardens in London.

Norwegian Toscakake

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Courtesy of Pat Sinclair, Classic Scandinavian Baking

Pat says, “To Scandinavians, “tosca” means a layer of sliced almonds covered with a buttery caramel topping.  The tender sponge cake is leavened mostly by air beaten into the eggs and is typical of the type of cakes popular in Scandinavia.  Toasting the almonds brings out their nutty flavor and adds color to the topping.”

Pistachio and Cardamom Cake with Apricots Poached in Sauternes

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Courtesy of David Lebovitz from Ready for Dessert

David says that while the cakes stands well on its own, the apricots poached in Sauternes are so good, that he has included them with this recipe.  This recipe is also in Room for Dessert, a compilation of David’s best/favorite desserts, sans apricots in Sauternes, so you’re getting a double treat here.

Gift of the Gods Cake

Courtesy of Susie Norris, author of Chocolate Bliss

Susie says, This is my favorite fudge cake. It is light, but also buttery, chocolaty, soft, and moist. Its texture is strong enough to hold up to butter cream, which can drag a lesser cake down. This cake works well with Sweet Bittersweet Ganache (recipe below.)   

Makes 2 (8-inch) cake layers

Baby Lemon Cheesecakes

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Courtesy of Rose Levy Beranbaum from Rose’s Heavenly Cakes Real Baking With Rose

Creamy cheesecakes set on a gossamer base of thin sponge cake (biscuit) and topped with
lemon curd are a real favorite for a dinner party, an afternoon tea, or any special event.
Make all twelve as there will surely be calls for seconds! If you want to make a charming
flourless version, bake and serve the cheesecakes without the cake in lovely pastel silicone Sili-cups).

Gingerbread with a Lemon-Vanilla Glaze

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I always associate gingerbread as just right for a cozy evening at home when it’s chilly outside. Of course it’s terrific any time of the year, and if you’re a ginger lover, this is an especially good recipe as it has both powdered and crystalized ginger as well as complementary spices that enhance the flavor. It’s also quite moist as it contains applesauce and has a delicate lemon-vanilla glaze.  Gingerbread served warm from the oven with whipped cream is hard to beat, but it’s also good lightly toasted with butter or cream cheese on a leisurely weekend morning.

Churros

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If you have never had real churros, you are in for a treat!  First, lightly sweetened fried dough is hard to beat as long as it’s prepared properly.  However, what should be a delicate treat can easily become a sodden, greasy, unpalatable mess.  And, if it is held under a heat lamp for very long, it can become tough.  So, that’s why I say, real churros.

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For an update on the 2016 vanilla shortage, please see "Why is Vanilla so Expensive?"

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