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Banana Cherry Pecan Cake

Far too often I buy fresh fruit with every intention of eating it as a snack or on my cereal, but then I see that same fruit in the bowl a week later – soft, brown and sad.

In most cases this means a silent curse and a trip to the trash for the mealy apple or pear, but not so for the banana.  For the banana, there is a chance at redemption in the form of baked goods, which do better with overripe bananas.

This weekend I had a few (okay, five) overripe bananas on my counter, so I made it up to them by throwing three into the batter for this cake, which also has dried cherries and toasted pecans.  As you should know by now, I like my cakes dense, studded with nuts and dried fruit, and sans frosting.

This cake is dense and moist and not too sweet.  It would be fine with a cream cheese glaze or generous dusting of powdered sugar, but I left it as-is.  If it looks more like a slice of muffin, I won’t feel so bad when I eat it for breakfast all week.

I also know bananas and cherries aren’t very Christmassy, hence, the snowflake napkin.

See what I did there?  Instant holiday cheer.

Banana Cherry Pecan Cake
Adapted from Bundt Classics by Dorothy Dalquist (2003)

Ingredients
1 3/4 cups sugar
2/3 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened
3 ripe bananas, mashed
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 tsps. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. salt
1 1/3 cups buttermilk
1 cup dried cherries (or cranberries)
1 cup chopped pecans, toasted

Directions

  • Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  Grease and flour a 10-12 cup Bundt or tube pan, or generously spray with baking cooking spray.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Set aside.
  • In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the bananas, eggs, and vanilla and mix until combined.
  • Alternately add the flour mixture and buttermilk to batter until combined.  Fold in the dried cherries and pecans.
  • Spoon the batter into the prepared pan, then bake for 70-80 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then invert onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Print Version

chocolate pistachio bundt cake

Chocolate Pistachio Bundt Cake

I recently had the pleasure of reading Bonny Wolf’s “Talking with My Mouth Full” – a collection of memoir-style food essays that she describes as “kitchen stories” on topics ranging from Jell-O, aprons, fair food, southern BBQ, latkes, and many more – all with a few recipes.  Bonny feels the exact same way about the significance of food as I do, and she expresses it in a way that makes me teary if it’s late and I have had a glass of wine.

We cook and eat for comfort, nurture, and companionship.  We cook and eat to mark the seasons and celebrate important events.  We cook and eat to connect with family and friends and with ancestors we never knew.  And through this baking and breaking bread together, we come to know who we are and where we came from. – Bonny Wolf 

In an early chapter, Wolf shares her fond memories of a universally loved Chocolate Pistachio Bundt Cake from her days as a young bride.  In true 1970’s form, the recipe is of the shortcut variety, taking advantage of mixes and chocolate syrup to help the baker assemble the cake quickly and with essentially guaranteed results. 

As the 20th century picked up speed, things like prepared foods, mixes, and frozen vegetables became an acceptable way to manage the demands of working wife and homemaker.  But then, as preservatives, trans-fats, and high fructose corn syrup became higher and higher on the ingredients list, “convenience food” fell out of fashion.  There is pressure today to do things all-homemade, all-organic, all of the time. 

When crunched for time, I will sometimes doctor up a cake mix, but then I apologize profusely for not having time to do it “all from scratch.”  Homemade is arguably better, but that doesn’t mean a little contextual love shouldn’t be aimed the cake mix’s way.  Items like mixes, syrups, flavorings, and pre-made pie crusts are an enormously important part of culinary history and deserve their occasional place on the cake plate.  Wolf made her 1970’s Chocolate Pistachio Bundt sound so delicious, I knew I had to make it and taste for myself.

Which is what brought me to these three darlings.  Hello Mix 1, Mix 2, and Bottle 3.

I tried to at least balance things out a little with the organic chocolate syrup. 

Well, as expected the cake was a snap to put together, and came out perfect.  I brought it into work, sifted some powdered sugar on top, and set it out in the kitchen.

I kid you not, the entire cake was gone in an hour, and my office isn’t that big.  One of my co-workers even told me it was her favorite thing I had ever brought it.  I said, “Well, that’s cake-mix-moistness for you!”

I actually said “moistness” and I wasn’t joking.  Who am I?!

I am someone who likes a good slice of cake mix-pudding mix-chocolate syrup Bundt cake from time to time.  No gooey frosting, no melting scoop of ice cream – just a sprinkling of powdered sugar on a cake so moist you could use it to finger paint.

Chocolate Pistachio Bundt Cake
Adapted from “Talking with My Mouth Full” by Bonny Wolf

Ingredients
1 box (18.5 oz.) yellow or white cake mix
1 box (3.5 oz.) pistachio instant pudding mix
4 eggs
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp. almond extract
3/4 cup chocolate syrup
Powdered sugar

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a Bundt pan liberally with non-stick cooking spray.
  • In a large bowl combine the cake mix, pudding mix, eggs, water, orange juice, vegetable oil and almond extract. Mix together until smooth.
  • Transfer 1 cup of cake batter into a small bowl, then add the chocolate syrup.
  • Pour the pistachio cake mix batter into the Bundt pan, and then top with spoonfuls of the chocolate flavored batter. Using a knife, gently swirl the chocolate and pistachio cake mix batters together. Do not over mix!
  • Bake for 50-60 minutes or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.
  • Allow to cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then carefully turn onto a plate and top with sifted powdered sugar.

Print Version

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Vanilla Pound Cake

My Great Auntie Anne recently asked me to make a cake for a family event, and then my sister Courtney narrowed it down further by requesting it be a pound cake.

It took me about thirty seconds of flipping through my “King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion Cookbook” to decide that it would be Vanilla Pound Cake in a Bundt pan – simplicity at its absolute finest.

Also, we all know I just can’t resist a Bundt.

Keep Reading!

Sour Cream Citrus Bundt Cake

Sour Cream Citrus Pound Cake

In 2009 I gave myself a Christmas present (sidenote…I think everyone should do this) of a Baking Series class at the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts in Cambridge, MA.  I didn’t have a blog then, and I didn’t know much about baking, but I knew I wanted to learn.  And boy, did I!

It was a wonderful experience, and I baked and ate many, many (many) things…but the recipe I enjoyed the most was this Sour Cream Citrus Pound Cake.    Banish all thoughts of bottled extracts, and grab an orange, lime, and some lemons instead.  The tang of the citrus zest gives the cake such a wonderful aroma and flavor, and like all pound cakes, it also works well as a Bundt…arguably my favorite way to serve cake.

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Thanksgiving Recap

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving – and that you fell into the same food coma I did come Thursday evening.   I had a great time visiting with my family and counting all of my many blessings.

There are a lot of us so we do Thanksgiving “family-style” with all the food set up in one spot…or, as you can see, on every available inch of my mom’s counter.  Covered in copious amounts of tin foil.  Underneath was a turkey, a spiral ham, a pork roast, a tray of stuffed shells, and a tray of veggie lasagna.  Plus sides. 

We are Italian.  The phrase “too much food” doesn’t exist.

My mom and Arthur had me as their guest for 2 nights and took great care of me.  They are terrific.

Arthur used to wake us up on Thanksgiving morning by “making the turkey dance” before it went in the oven.  This consisted of coming into our bedrooms with the turkey like a hand puppet and waving it over our heads while we hid under the covers, shrieking.

Thankfully, he now just sticks to basting and carving.

Our Community Servings pecan and pumpkin pies were both delicious…especially the pecan.  I could have eaten it with just a spoon.  Dangerous.

 

Sadly, one thing I was not thankful for was the batch of Italian Meatball cookies I ruined when I forgot to add the baking powder.  Not a proud moment, but it happens…and I will admit it!

In need of dessert one way or another, I grabbed a lemon cake mix and a brownie mix and doctored them up with the help of some trusty Bundts.

Lemon Pound Cake Bundt:

The side of the cake mix box told me I could turn it into a pound cake by adding a box of instant pudding mix and tweaking the egg, water, and oil extras.  My mom didn’t have lemon pudding so I used vanilla.  I also added vanilla oomph by poking 2 dozen holes in the baked cake with a toothpick and then pouring a vanilla glaze of powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla extract over the top to drain down into the cake.  A dusting of powdered sugar added class.  I love how powdered sugar accentuates the lines of a good Bundt.

This pan is my mom’s, one of the few styles I don’t have, so it was fun to try it out.

Also on the menu was a Thanksgiving edition of Brownie Bundts – this time with sprinkles:

I used a Ghiradelli brownie mix (the best of the mixes) and made a quick glaze using a little melted butter, cocoa powder, vanilla extract, and milk.  Some autumn sprinkles made them holiday-ready!

And of course, I couldn’t forget to include these 3 boys from my visit.  They are very clean.

My favorite Thanksgiving Day treat was a new appetizer my sister Courtney made.  I will be sharing that recipe next, so stay tuned!

Chocolate Chip Castle Cake

I wanted to make a cake for a coworker’s birthday, and a chocolate chip cake just seemed appropriately fun.  And since I was going for fun, I also decided to go with my much-neglected castle Bundt pan. 

Bundts have so much to offer visually, before you even get to the taste.

You don’t cover these babies with frosting.  You glaze.  You ganache.  You dust.

And then, if your cake is a castle, you add some flair. 

Would you enjoy entering your office and being greeted by THIS on your birthday?

Chuck was! 

The almond extract in this recipe is absolutely noticeable (heads up, non-almond lovers) and lends a grownup flavor to what is otherwise a very simple, dense, and delicious yellow cake, studded with chocolate chips.

Covering the cake with the chocolate glaze adds polish and texture, and the dusting of powdered sugar covers up any blemishes – like the crack I accidentally put in mine when I tipped it out of the pan improperly.  The cake basically wore a girdle of plastic wrap overnight to keep it together…but you’d never know that, would you you?

You know…unless I told you?

Oh well.  This is a place of honesty.

Happy Birthday, Chuck!

Click for the full recipe

Double-Chocolate Brownie Bundts

I know I always say that I don’t really go for chocolate, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have its time and place…it absolutely does.  I was going to make something else last night, but it turned out that I only had a little over one stick of butter (butter never leaves the shopping list, my friends) so I switched to a brownie recipe I had just seen in the special edition issue of Martha Stewart Holiday Cookies.  I knew I had some excellent double-dutch dark cocoa powder from King Arthur Flour in my pantry, and it was time to put it to good use.

I also was excited when I remembered that I had a special Mini Brownie Bundt Pan that my Nana picked up for me over the summer.  I hadn’t tried it yet, but I knew I would love using it.  It’s green!  It makes brownies shaped like BUNDTS!

Also, the little dipped brownie Bundt center just begs to be filled with something.  I went with a pinch of chopped walnuts, then covered the whole thing with garlands of melted white chocolate for garnish.

Garlands of garnish.  I love alliteration.

Martha classified this recipe as “for hedonists” – meaning it was sure to be extra decadent, fudgy, and chocolatey.

And Martha is usually right about these things.

Click for more!

Apple Streusel Bundt Cake

It wouldn’t be fall without apples, and since fall is now in its final month I figured I had better get moving on my apple baking! 

For apple picking this year I went to a familiar orchard, but with a new face.  Jessica O. was in need of her first apple picking experience, which kind of blows my mind because she is from West Virginia, meaning she participated in 4-H and knows how to knit, sew, and make a mean batch of pepperoni rolls.  It seems like apple picking would have fallen in there somewhere.

Determined to correct this, we hit up Russell Orchards in Ipswitch for the following reasons:

Hot and greasy Cider Donuts at $4 for a half dozen.

The Biting Pig…click on his picture with caution.  I warned you.

Gorgeous leaves and apples…including the 2010 “Twilight Apple”.

Lovely Jessica.

We had a great time, but onto the Bundt cake!

As you may know, I love Bundts.  My mom gave me the official Bundt Classics cookbook from Nordic Ware for my birthday last summer and I finally cracked the spine with this recipe. 

I actually made 2 of these this weekend.  John and I went to a birthday party Friday night, and then to a pre-wedding celebration for Greg and Courtney last night.  I enjoyed the cake so much the first time that I wanted to make another one, and since I knew we’d be seeing Greg and Courtney and they just bought their first home a few months ago, I thought it could double as a housewarming offering.

Greg and Courtney are getting married next month.  Greg and John lived next door to each other growing up, and he is one of Greg’s groomsmen.  They are one of those couples that just makes you happy – the second you meet them you feel right at home.  It was so much fun seeing them last night and meeting their extended wedding party – I can’t wait for their big day! 

Awesome, right?  They totally are.

And so is this cake!  The alternating layers of golden cake, sliced apples, and streusel crumbs is seriously delicious, and would go great with your morning coffee.  Or anytime, really…  It’s also incredible easy.

The one thing that’s tough about a cake is that you can’t cut it open for a picture before you give it away without people noticing, so you have to take a picture of your slice with your (amazing) new phone’s camera.

Then you eat the whole thing. 

Click for the full recipe

Bundt Update

You may recall my initial post on Bundt pans and how much I love them.  So much that I was collecting them from yard sales and Ebay so I could hang them in my new apartment, where the walls were very blank. 

I thought it time for an update, since some of my Bundt children have finally made their way off the floor and onto the walls.  Many live, appropriately enough, right above a large chunk of my cookbook collection.  It’s a happy place.

The pure aluminum mold looked better in my living room with images of Washington, Lincoln, Scotland, and a much-loved photo of my mom in Quebec from the 70’s for company. 

This doesn’t mean I won’t buy any more pans.  Right now there are none in my bathroom or bedroom…though I do have one doing double duty as a fruit bowl in the kitchen.

At what point is this too much?  I just don’t see it happening.

Anyway…my next post will be on the ultimate comfort food.  I recently broke a nearly ten-year personal rule when I made the version of the recipe to go along with it, and I am mentally preparing myself for writing about the ordeal.

Spoiler alert… it was worth it.  Happy Birthday John!