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Recipe: Triple Lemon Cake

14 Jun

When the kids were little, I used to make them specially decorated cakes: a pick-up truck cake with candy in the back (as if the cake and ice cream weren’t enough), a dinosaur cake, a cake that looked like a pumpkin (two Bundt cakes on top of each other,  covered with orange frosting, with a bit of stem coming out the top), a soccer field cake, etc. As the children got older, the decorations decreased–but not the cake requests.

Of all the cake options available, this Triple Lemon Cake is the most requested (with the Mexican Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Glaze offering stiff competition). It has triple the tang because lemon appears in the batter, syrup, and glaze. If I could find a fourth way to get more lemon into the cake, I would. But it is really nice just the way it is, and is a good cake for spring/summer.

Triple Lemon Cake

1/2 lb. butter, at room temperature
2 c. sugar
3 eggs, at room temperature
3 c. flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. buttermilk (a good substitute: put 1 tbsp. vinegar in a measuring cup, then add milk to make 1 c.)
2 tbsp. tightly packed grated lemon zest (from about 4 lemons)
3 tbsp. fresh lemon juice (the 4 lemons should provide enough juice for the batter, syrup, and glaze)

1 c. confectioners’ sugar
½ c. butter, melted
1/3 c. fresh lemon juice

fresh lemon juice
confectioner’s sugar


1. Preheat oven to 325°.
2. Carefully and very thoroughly grease and flour a Bundt pan.
3. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, blending well each time.
4. Sift the flour, baking soda, and salt together. Add about 1/3 of the flour mixture to the egg mixture, stir to combine, add about 1/2 of the buttermilk, stir, and repeat, ending with last bit of flour mixture and ensuring it is well incorporated. Gently stir in the lemon zest and juice. Note: The batter will be thick.
5. Pour the batter into the prepared Bundt pan, smoothing the top as evenly as possible. Cook for an hour in the middle of the oven, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Sometimes, it may take longer than an hour to cook.
6. Toward the end of the baking time, prepare the syrup: melt the butter and lemon juice in a small saucepan over medium heat, then stir in the confectioner’s sugar. Bring to a quick boil just before using.
7. When the cake is done, remove from oven. Poke holes in the cake with a long skewer, then pour the hot syrup over the cake. Let the cake sit for about 20-30 minutes.
8. Put a large plate (or platter) upside down on top of the cake pan and invert the pan and plate together so the cake drops neatly onto the plate. Actually, I have rarely had the cake drop neatly onto the plate; I just always hope it will. It usually requires a lot of jiggling and careful loosening of the sides. And even then, the cake doesn’t always come out of the pan cleanly. So, grease and flour the Bundt pan heavily beforehand, and use a liberal amount of glaze on the cake afterward, to cover up any less-than-perfect parts (as I did for the cake in the phot0).
9. Glaze the cake: the amount of glaze is entirely up to you; I start off with about 2-3 c. of confectioner’s sugar, then add a few drops of lemon juice at a time until the glaze is a good consistency (and then if it looks like I don’t have enough glaze or if it is too thin, I add more sugar and keep going). Sometimes, I drizzle a thicker glaze on the cake first (also good for filling in rough spots), then add a slightly thinner one for contrast.

Recipe: Raspberry Oatmeal Bars

25 Feb

Quick, easy, and full of oaty goodness, these bars work multiple jobs: they can be a snack, dessert, or even part of breakfast. They are also a good way to use up jam or preserves if, like us, you have a variety of half-full jam jars in the fridge (a state of affairs that arises when family members each have a favorite). Whenever I want to clear out the fridge, I make these bars. But truthfully, fridge clearing isn’t the main reason to make these; we quite frequently open new jars of jam just for this recipe, starting the cycle all over again. The bars are worth it.

This weekend, I actually did use up all that remained of a jar of regular raspberry preserves, but there wasn’t quite enough for the recipe. Solution? I topped up the measuring cup with a bit of black raspberry jam. That’s the other good thing about these oatmeal bars –they are very versatile: a blackberry, blueberry, cherry, or strawberry/rhubarb filling would work quite nicely, too.

Raspberry Oatmeal Bars
9 or 16 servings

3 c. quick-cooking oats
2/3 c. whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp. salt
2/3 c. canola oil
1/2 c. maple syrup
2 tsp. vanilla
2/3 c. raspberry (or other fruit) preserves/jam, stirred until smooth


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9×9-inch baking pan with cooking spray (or lightly oil the pan).
2. Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl.
3. Combine wet ingredients, and add to dry ingredients, mixing well.
4. Put half of oat mixture into baking pan, and press firmly and evenly into place with the back of a spoon.
5. Spread the preserves/jam evenly over the oat layer. Loosely cover the filling with the remaining oat mixture.
6. Bake for 35-40 minutes; let cool 15 minutes before serving.
7. Cut into 9 squares for hearty servings, or 16 squares for smaller bites.

Recipe: Pumpkin Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

16 Jan

When it comes to baked goods, there are few things I don’t love. I’m especially fond of baked goods with oats in them (oatmeal cookies, layered oat bars with jam, fruit crisps with an oat-based topping…). And pumpkin (pumpkin brownies, pumpkin bread/cake, pumpkin pancakes…). And chocolate (the list is infinite). And I mustn’t forget walnuts….

So what could be better than all of those things combined in one cookie? Not much. These are soft and full of flavor and texture. My husband made these one night after I was pining for something sweet, and they were all gone by the next afternoon (but lest you think the worst, I had lots of help eating them).

Pumpkin Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies © G. Stansbury

Pumpkin Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
Yield: 4 dozen cookies

1 1/4 c. all purpose flour
3/4 c. whole wheat flour
1 1/3 c. rolled oats
1 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 c. white sugar
3/4 c. brown sugar
2/3 c. canola oil
2 tbsp. molasses
1 c.  canned pumpkin
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 c. chopped walnuts (optional)
1/2 c.  chocolate chips


1. Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly grease two cookie sheets.
2. Mix together first six ingredients.
3. In a separate bowl, mix together sugars, molasses, pumpkin, and vanilla until very well combined.
4. Add dry ingredients to wet ones, folding to combine. Fold in walnuts and chocolate chips.
5. Drop by tablespoons onto prepared sheets, one inch apart. Flatten tops of cookies with a fork or your finger.
6. Bake for 16 minutes or until golden on bottom, rotating sheets half way through.
7. Remove from oven, cool on baking sheets for 3 minutes, then transfer to cooling rack or clean counter. These taste best cool, and are especially good the next day.

Adapted from Vegan with a Vengeance, by Isa Chandra Moskowitz.

Recipe: Mexican Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Glaze

8 Jan

There are some recipes you turn to again and again because they are deeply satisfying. This is one of them — a dark, rich chocolate Bundt cake heightened with hints of coffee and cinnamon. It is a frequently requested birthday cake at our house, made most recently for my son’s 21st birthday this week — with the addition of some Espresso Chip ice cream to complement the flavor.

Mexican Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Glaze

3 c. all purpose flour
1 1/2 c. sugar
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking soda
4 tsp.  cinnamon
1/2 c. cocoa powder
3 tsp. vanilla extract
2/3 c. canola oil
2 tbsp. white distilled vinegar
2 c. coffee at room temperature  (or warm water mixed with 1-2 tbsp. instant espresso powder)
1-2 c. chocolate chips (preferably dark chocolate, if available)

3/4 c. chocolate chips
3 tbsp. non-hydrogenated buttery spread such as Earth Balance/Smart Balance
1 tbsp. light corn syrup
1/4 tsp. vanilla


1. Preheat oven to 350°.  Generously grease (with vegetable shortening) and lightly flour a Bundt pan.
2. Mix dry ingredients in a bowl until thoroughly combined. Make a well in the center, and add wet ingredients. Stir until just combined, and fold in chocolate chips.
3. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 40-50 minutes, or until skewer inserted into cake comes out clean; be careful not to overbake.
4. Cool for about 20 minutes, then turn out onto plate or serving platter. Cool completely and top with Chocolate Glaze.

1. Melt first three ingredients on low power in microwave, stir until smooth, add vanilla, and drizzle over cake.

Adapted from The Joy of Vegan Baking, by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau.

Recipe: Dulce de Leche Pastry Cake (Torta Chilena)

26 Nov

When I was in college,  I sampled an exquisite confection that has forever remained seared on my memory: Torta Chilena. It was a cake with eight crispy layers filled with dulce de leche (caramelized sweet milk).  I immediately requested the recipe from the Costa Rican lady who made it, and it has since followed me across continents and years to be pulled out on special occasions.

Torta Chilena is a beloved Costa Rican dessert. So why, you may ask, is it called a “Chilean Cake”?  In Chile, a very similar dessert is called Torta Mil Hojas (“Thousand-Layer Cake”), which is itself a variation on the mille-feuille theme. But instead of being filled with custard, as the French versions are, the Latin American versions are filled with dulce de leche.  Latin Americans love dulce de leche, so it is a natural adaptation. I surmise that a Chilean with a fondness for sweets settled in Costa Rica, made the dessert to great acclaim, and helped start the national craze for Torta Chilena. However this cake originated, I am deeply grateful.

Note: One popular way to make dulce de leche is to cook unopened cans of sweetened condensed milk in boiling water for 2-3 hours. The problem with this method is that the occasional can explodes. So, I’ve always preferred making it in the oven in a bain-marie (water bath, also known as a baño maría in Spanish).

Torta Chilena
[Updated 12-15-12]

2 c. flour (250 gr.)
1 tbsp. sugar
½ lb. butter (2 sticks, 227 gr.)
¼ + 1/8 c. white wine (90 ml.)

Dulce de Leche Filling
2 cans (14 oz./400 gr. each) sweetened condensed milk

powdered sugar

1. Dulce de Leche filling: Heat oven to 425ºF/220ºC. Spray a glass casserole dish with cooking spray, pour both cans of condensed milk into it, cover the dish, and then set it in a deep roasting pan filled with enough water to rise slightly above the level of the condensed milk in the casserole dish. Bake covered for about 3 hours until golden brown (stirring vigorously 2-3 times during the latter part of the cooking process to avoid lumps). Set aside. This is the dulce de leche; you can make it ahead of time, but if you are not using immediately, refrigerate it and bring to room temperature before using.


2. Pastry: Put flour and sugar in a large bowl, cut in butter, then add ¼ c. (60 ml.) wine, mix thoroughly, then add remaining 1/8 c. wine (30 ml.). Mix thoroughly. Turn dough out onto well-floured surface, shape into a log and cut into 8 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a ball. Draw 9-inch (23 cm.) circles on baking/parchment paper (I used a  plate and traced around it). Turn sheets of paper over so dough doesn’t come into contact with pen/pencil marks, then place 1 ball of dough in center of the circle, and use fingers to spread out to edges. Dough will be very thin.

3. Preheat oven to 300ºF/150ºC.  Bake pastry circles until slightly golden (exact time will depend on your oven; start checking at about 8-10 minutes–the circles should look “cooked,” but not brown). When cool, very carefully remove each pastry circle from paper; circles will be wafer-like and fragile. Place a small dab of dulce de leche on a round platter, then gently position the first pastry circle on top. Press carefully to stabilize the circle on the platter, then spread with roughly 1/7 of the dulce de leche (doing so as lightly as possible). Put the next cooked pastry circle on top, spread with dulce de leche, and repeat with all the layers except the top one – sift powdered sugar on top of that one. Some layers may crack; press the pieces onto the dulce de leche base, and try to reserve the best layer for the top.
4. Enjoy.

*For another cake that features dulce de leche, see this recipe.

Recipe: Persimmon Cranberry Crisp

18 Nov

In the past, the closest I have come to persimmons was drinking a cool, delicate dessert drink at Korean restaurants. Soo Jeung Gwa (many different spellings) is a sweet, jewel-colored palate refresher, and I was intrigued to learn that it is made from dried persimmons. But still,  I did not encounter any actual, fresh persimmons until recently, when I saw some  Fuyu persimmons at the grocery store and impulsively bought them because they were so pretty:

But what to do with them? At first, nothing, since they were not ripe and I had heard horror stories about people biting into unripe Hachiya persimmons. Even though this isn’t a problem with Fuyus, I decided to wait just to be safe–and also to think about what to make with them. I settled upon a Persimmon Cranberry crisp, since in the United States, November is a cranberry time of year. Plus, I thought the two colors–orange and red–would look nice together. And finally, who doesn’t like a nice warm crisp, with vanilla ice cream at the ready?

The topping is one I have long used for fruit crisps: a very generous amount that is enough to top 6 c. of any type of fruit that you may fancy. It’s also vegan or omnivore friendly, depending on your preference. Note: I’m used to making big batches, but this recipe can easily be halved and made in an 8×8 or 9×9 pan.

Persimmon Cranberry Crisp
Serves 12-15

Orange-Wine Syrup
1/4 c. red wine (whatever is on hand)
1 tsp. orange zest
1/4 c. fresh orange juice
1 star anise
2/3 c. sugar

4 c. fresh cranberries (float in a large bowl of cold water, carefully pick through and remove any that are soft, but make sure you end up with 4 c.)
1 tsp. cornstarch
1 tbsp. fresh orange juice
5 Fuyu persimmons, diced (cut out leafy core at top, slice in half, peel, and then dice)

1 c. whole wheat flour
1 1/2 c. oats (can be old-fashioned or quick oats, or a mix)
1/3 c. chopped walnuts
1 c. dark brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 c. non-hydrogenated margarine (or butter)
1/2 c. canola oil

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees, and lightly spray (or grease) a 9×13 baking pan.
2. In a medium saucepan, combine wine, zest, orange juice, star anise, and sugar. Stirring occasionally, bring to a boil then reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat; discard the star anise.
3. Add the cranberries to the syrup in the saucepan. Combine the cornstarch with the 1 tbsp. orange juice, pour over cranberries, and mix well. Fold in diced persimmons, then pour fruit mixture into prepared pan.
4. For topping, combine first five ingredients in a large bowl. Mix in margarine/butter and canola oil until evenly distributed and topping becomes clumpy.
5. Using very clean hands, take a small handful of topping and squeeze it together. Break it into a couple pieces and begin placing strategically on top of fruit mixture in prepared pan. (The objective is to have some topping chunks, rather than just crumbs.) Repeat with all the topping, filling in gaps with more topping pieces/crumbs.
6. Bake for about 45 minutes, or until crisp looks golden and bubbly. Let cool for about 10-15 minutes, then serve with vanilla ice cream.

Recipe: Pumpkin Brownies

31 Oct

After an intense pumpkin-carving session, which requires mastering a new media–gourd–and imposing your artistic vision upon it, what better way to unwind than with something warm, sweet, comforting, and Halloween related: Pumpkin Brownies! While they cannot compete with a ghoulish jack-o-lantern on the fright-o-meter, they are a vision in their own right.  At our house, they absolutely must be served with vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce.

Pumpkin Brownies
Makes 9 brownies

½ c. all-purpose (or unbleached) flour
½ c. whole wheat flour
1 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
1.5 tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. ground ginger
1/8-1/4 tsp. ground cloves
½ c. butter, softened
1 c. packed dark brown sugar
1 large egg plus 1 large egg yolk
1 tsp. vanilla
¾ c. pumpkin puree
baking spray

vanilla ice cream
caramel sauce (home-made, or store bought)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray an 8-inch-square baking pan with baking spray.
2. In a small bowl, mix together the flours, baking powder, salt, and spices.
3. In a large bowl, combine softened butter and brown sugar and beat on medium-high speed until sugar is completely incorporated. Add egg, egg yolk, and vanilla and beat just to blend.
4. Add flour mixture and beat at low speed to combine. Beat in pumpkin puree.
5. Spread batter in prepared pan, and bake brownies until toothpick comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Let cool for about 10 minutes.
6. Cut warm brownies into 9 squares, and serve with vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce.

Recipe: Cinnamon Hazelnut Biscotti with Chocolate

29 Oct

So, what do you do when 1) a hurricane is approaching, 2) you are as prepared as you can possibly be (if that’s possible), 3) you still have power but probably won’t have it for long, and 4) family members are getting a bit restless from the enforced confinement? I bake.

In my mind, biscotti are a food that will keep well and provide comfort under any circumstances. And, I happened to have all ingredients on hand, though our supply of dark chocolate chips was suspiciously low and I had to make do with a few sprinkled in mostly for effect. Had I had more, I might have considered melting some and dipping one end of each baked biscotti in chocolate, to get us through the next few days. However, my husband is happy to have a small reprieve from the chocolaty baked goods produced at our house, and is delighted with this pared-down version. Note: I baked these twice, as is traditional for crisp biscotti (biscotti means “twice cooked/baked” in Italian), but these are also lovely soft–just omit the second baking.

Enjoy these with tea or coffee any time–not just when a Frankenstorm is on its way.

Cinnamon Hazelnut Biscotti
Makes about 32 biscotti

1 c. sugar
1 c. packed dark brown sugar
¼ c. toasted hazelnuts (I used chopped; whole would be nice, too)
¼ c. toasted almonds (I used sliced; whole or slivered would be fine)
¼ c. dark chocolate chips
1/3 c. canola oil
2 tsp. cinnamon (3 tsp. if you really like cinnamon; we do)
2 tsp. water
2 tsp. vanilla
2 large eggs, beaten
2 1/2 c. all-purpose (or unbleached) flour
2  tsp.  baking powder
cooking spray

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray two large baking sheets with cooking spray.
2. Combine first 10 ingredients in a large bowl; mix well. In a small bowl, stir flour and baking powder together; add to sugar mixture, stirring until well combined and a soft dough forms. Divide dough into four pieces.
3. Using clean hands, shape each piece of dough into a 3/4″ -thick rectangle. Place two rectangles of dough on each baking sheet, pressing into shape as needed.  Bake 20 minutes. Remove from oven, but do not turn oven off.
4. Cut each rectangle diagonally into 3/4″ slices (cut straight on the baking sheet). Spread the slices out a bit on the baking sheet, and bake again for about 10 minutes, or until golden.
5. Let cool 10 minutes before serving.

Recipe: Brownie Bites

6 Jul

Here is another way to have your cake and eat it, too. These brownie bites, adapted from what was originally an cake recipe, have a secret ingredient that no one will ever notice: chickpeas.  In addition to being gluten-free, these are practically guilt-free, too, because they are full of protein. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. But I’m not alone in believing these are good for you; at a recent brunch, these flew off the plate. A handy little dessert to have in any cooking repertoire.

Brownie Bites
Makes about 30

12-oz bag chocolate chips (the darker the better)
2 tbsp. canola oil
2 c. cooked chickpeas/garbanzos (canned are fine; make sure to drain)
4 eggs (can substitute 4 egg whites for 2 of the eggs)
3/4 c. sugar
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. baking powder
confectioner’s sugar for dusting


1. Preheat oven to 350. Spray mini muffin tins with cooking spray.
2. Combine chocolate chips and oil in a microwave-proof bowl, and microwave for one minute; stir until smooth. If any lumps remain, microwave a tiny bit longer and stir again. Set aside.
3. Put chickpeas and eggs in a blender and blend until very smooth, scraping down sides of blender as needed. [Note: If you are feeling adventurous and have the time, pop the “skins” off the chickpeas before blending for a smoother finish.] Add sugar, baking powder, and cinnamon, and blend again. Pour in chocolate mixture and blend until well combined. Pour batter straight from blender into prepared muffin tins, using a spoon to help fill each cup almost to the top.
4. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until a toothpick (or knife or fork) comes out clean. Let cool in the tins for a few minutes, then place brownie bites into a container that has a lid. Cover the container after about 15 minutes to keep the bites moist. Before serving, dust with confectioner’s sugar.