When I was a child my mother thoughtfully allowed me in the kitchen, not only to help her but also to bake. While I enjoyed cooking a lot, my passion has always been baking.
My mother was a good baker and excelled in the art of baking pies. Occasionally she baked cookies, but she didn’t have a sweet tooth so she baked primarily for special occasions. I, on the other hand, had a sweet tooth, and the only way to satisfy it was to bake as we lived too far away for us to walk to the local markets.
By the time I was in high school I was baking bread, cakes, pies and an array of cookies – baking well enough to win the local school contests. Although I now live alone and am so busy that baking should be low on my list of priorities, I still make time to bake something every couple of weeks, and now that I am hosting tea parties for our Capitola New Leaf Market, I indulge myself by baking something special for each event.
If you love good baked goods but don’t have time to make them yourself, you can use short-cuts. Purchase a pre-made angel food cake, which makes a great base for a variety of desserts. The simplest is to cut slices of the cake and drizzle warm fudge or caramel sauces over them. Add a scoop of high-quality ice cream, and you’re home free.
One step up is to whip lightly sweetened cream and serve the angel food cake with fresh berries or peaches topped with cream. For a fancier presentation, cut the cake in half horizontally and add berries or peaches and whipped cream to the top of the bottom half, replace the top half of the cake and add more cream to the top of the cake and decoratively place slices of strawberries or raspberries and blueberries on top. Usually store-bought angel food cakes are good enough that no one will be the wiser if you say it’s homemade. For a gorgeous presentation, pour a little raspberry sauce on each dessert plate, then place the cut slice of cake on top.
For those of you who, like me, yearn to bake something special for birthdays, holidays and “just because,” here are two new cake recipes for you. The first is the cake is a Rum Almond Cake that I baked for the March tea party. This was originally a coffee cake but I have elevated its status to afternoon and evening tea cake. I’ve included a powdered sugar glaze to top it if you choose. Personally, I prefer to simply dust the top with powdered sugar. It can be served plain, with a Crème Anglaise(thin custard sauce) or almond ice cream. Rum Almond Cake.
The second cake can be used for Passover as it is unleavened. While I haven’t tried this, if you have a nut sensitivity or allergy, you could probably substitute tapioca or potato flour or starch or Gluten-Free Pantry’s all-purpose flour with no problem. Otherwise, substitute sifted, unbleached wheat flour.
I admit I’m a fool for sponge cakes because they’re light as a feather. My daughter was born in late June, just when all the berries were in season and fabulous. I made sponge cakes that I rolled and filled with sweetened whipped cream and berries that were lightly sugared. I covered the top with whipped cream and decorated the cake with edible flowers and berries.
My cakes weren’t as cute or as clever as the cakes made by one of her friend’s mothers, who had studied how to professionally decorate cakes. Her cakes were a little girl’s dream, with flowers and dolls and everything else you can imagine on them, but the frosting was Crisco and sugar. The children oohed and aaahed over the cakes, then ate two bites and abandoned their plates. I had little girls lining up for seconds, the best compliment I can imagine! Sponge Cake with Almonds and Citrus
If you decide to roll the sponge cake, you will need to line a rimmed baking pan with parchment paper. Include a little extra parchment so that you have something to hold onto. Let the cake rest in the pan on a rack for about 5-8 minutes. Then carefully remove it from the pan, keeping it on the parchment.
Lay a large tea towel on a smooth surface and dust it well with powdered sugar. Very carefully, flip the cake onto the tea towel, then ease off the parchment paper. Roll the cake carefully into the towel and allow it to cool rolled up in the towel. When you are ready to fill it, open it carefully, add the cream and fruit, then roll it up again.
My directions are probably not as specific as any by Flo Braker, Rose Berenbaum or even Joy of Cooking. If you don’t feel 100% confident in what you’re doing, check a good baking book before proceeding.
If you don’t roll the cake, there are lots of ways to enjoy it. Slice it into layers and fill it with Lemon Curd and whipped cream or berries and whipped cream. Glaze the top with chocolate or caramel sauce. Frost it with butter cream (scroll past the cake recipe for the butter cream). Or slice it and serve it “nude” with high-quality ice cream and peaches or berries.
Happy Baking! I’m about to go into the kitchen myself to bake cakes for our annual Easter/Passover/Spring Celebration.
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