Category Archives: Cakes and Muffins

Pineapple Upside Down Cake

2013-03-09 21.24.43

and thereby hangs a tale…

Suffice to say that this cake brings back so many memories of of those years in Pilani. Even so, it is still a surprise to me to see on FB – from all the discussions after Sukhie posted pictures when she baked this cake at home some weeks back –  just how many BITSians of my graduating class – and some from the year before and after – seem to associate it with me.  I guess I baked it more often than I remember myself !

Oddly, this is one cake I’ve rarely baked after I left the campus in Pilani. Perhaps because soon after moving to France, I discovered all those wonderful recipes in the book of baking recipes that Nadia gifted me. The delicious carrot/date/banana/poppy seed and all the other varieties of cake I started to bake after that meant that I never thought to make this old favorite again.

Until recently, when Sukhie visited at the start of this year and told the girls all about how I used to make it all the time in college, and how much everyone loved it. Their incredulous reaction-“YOU know how to make a pineapple upside-down?!” – was  both amusing and revealing, as I had no idea that the the girls were familiar with this cake, nor that they liked it a lot.

As I cast about in my mind for the recipe from long ago, I remembered suddenly the only time I made it in France. It was  in my kitchen in the little studio we rented in the village square of Valbonne. Erin had come over to play a game of scrabble and had just eaten a slice and asked how I’d made it. When I told her the ingredients and the quantities, she said, “Well that’s like a pound cake, then.” And that’s how I found out that what we used to make so often in Pilani was basically what’s known as a pound cake (a pound-or any equal quantities- each of eggs,butter,sugar and flour) in England and a quatre-quarts in French, with the caramelized sugar and pineapple the metaphorical icing on the cake :-).

So that is how, although it’s been the longest time since I made this cake, I baked it yesterday to the complete satisfaction of Indira and Noor. Thank you, Dear Erin, for that little piece of education 14 years ago !

Pineapple Upside Down Cake

Whip 3 eggs (150 gms) in a mixing bowl till they are frothy. Blend in 150 gms of sugar, 150 gms of softened butter and 1 teaspoon of vanilla. In a separate bowl, mix 1 teaspoon of baking powder in to 150 gms of flour (I used whole wheat and the cake tastes as good). Stir these dry ingredients in to the egg-butter-sugar mixture till the batter is smooth.

Spread about two tablespoons of sugar evenly in a baking pan, and caramelize the sugar (taking care not to blacken or burn it) in the oven. This will take a few minutes. Now place pineapple slices (the canned variety are better for this purpose,IMO) over the caramel, pour the batter over the slices, shake the pan a little  to spread the batter evenly, then bake till done.

Let the cake cool in the pan, then turn it out and invert carefully to the oohs and aahs of your audience.

Et voila, behold a cake that is quite a pretty sight.

And later the next day…

The nicest reactions came  today from the girls. Noor said, as I packed a couple of slices for her morning break in school – “this cake is now officially my favorite cake !!” And when I asked Indira this evening if she’d shared some with her friends in school – they all seem to enjoy the cakes I make – she said, “this is one of my most favorite cakes from all the ones you’ve made so far so I didn’t share any of it today”. Sweet and amusing, that.

Brownie delight

The aroma of these brownies wafted out from the oven tonight as they baked while we ate dinner, causing much anticipation in Indira and Noor. And as it turned out, the brownies – my first-ever attempt at making this dessert at home, though I’ve thought of doing it on and off ever since I saw Erin make a most delicious lot of them in her first home in Valbonne almost 13 years ago – are a respectable first effort, even though I say so myself !

But then, Indira has asked for so long that I make brownies at home, I think she was going to be pleased with these no matter what. So it was no surprise when she said – “Oh these are awesome !!”. Sleepy Noor’s response was more measured, but she did say, “now you should make these often”. So that’s two happy customers
then 🙂

This is a simple recipe and I fortunately had everything at home that we need to make the brownies. So putting the mix together was quite easy and quick especially as the girls do so much of the process in all the cooking we do together these days. I got the recipe here, and substituted butter for vegetable oil as suggested, and whole wheat flour for all-purpose. I also made some changes to suit the new oven, such as baking the mix at 155degreesC – though the baking time turned out to be the 20 minutes mentioned in the original recipe. Here’s my version of it –

1/2 cup melted butter
1 cup white sugar (though I intend to use less next time; these were a tad too sweet)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt (I skipped this because I haven’t yet found a reasonably priced brand of unsalted butter since I moved back so I buy the salted variety)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Pre-heat the oven for 5 minutes to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease a baking pan.
In a bowl, mix together the butter, sugar, and vanilla. Beat in the eggs. Combine the flour, cocoa, and baking powder, then gradually stir into the egg mixture until everything is well blended. Stir in the walnuts and the vanilla extract. Now pour the batter into the  pan.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the brownie cake begins to pull away from edges of pan. Allow it to cool before cutting into squares.

Encouraged by the decent results tonight, I am now planning to try out these two other recipes once I’ve bought dark chocolate –

http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/wordofmouth/2010/sep/09/how-to-make-perfect-brownies

http://leitesculinaria.com/36645/recipes-brownies.html

Strawberry Muffins

One of the fruits the girls miss eating, since we’ve moved back from France, is blueberries. Not the fresh kind, in Indira’s case, but the muffins, which were always a favorite with her.

Then, sometime ago, it occurred to me that strawberries might soften on baking just the way blueberries do when added to muffins, in the way they almost melt when we make the strawberry crumble the girls love to eat.

So we tried to make muffins with strawberries by substituting them for blueberries in this recipe here, a few days ago, and the girls were very pleased with the results. I was actually quite surprised at the pleasure and enthusiasm with which they finished all the muffins in just 3-4 days, taking them to school every day for their morning snack as well as eating one or two each evening, as I could tell from the very slight bitter taste that there was too much baking powder – a result of my having overlooked the fact that the size of the tablespoons I bought here is a fair bit larger than the tablespoons I had in our kitchen in France.

Or perhaps they just love strawberries, whatever the situation ! Or maybe it’s been a while since we made muffins. Or maybe it was that they did virtually all the steps of making the muffins – the measuring, the mixing, the tidying up. Either way, it’s encouraged me to try and make these muffins again, since it will be one more addition to their gouter and breakfast choices that will be to their liking. And this is going to be handy during the summer holidays coming up, since they will be at home and I will need to keep up a steady supply of healthy things in the kitchen for them to snack on during the day.

Toffee Cake

Yummy.

That is the first word that came to mind when I had a slice of this cake.

There’s been a half-tin of condensed milk sitting in the fridge for some days and I had been wondering what to do with it.  As I spotted it again this evening, I suddenly remembered the recipe for Toffee Loaf in my baking bible, Jean Paré’s  “Muffins & More”. I remembered that condensed milk was one of the ingredients in that recipe and that’s how this blog post came in to being.

This is an unusual cake in my experience because it’s made without egg.

It’s got a rich, lovely caramely sort of taste and so would make a great dessert for a special occasion. That it’s eggless makes it an excellent option for vegetarians.

Toffee Cake

sweetened condensed milk – 300 ml

boiled water – 1 cup

softened butter – 1 cup

raisins – 1 and 1/2 cups

pitted, chopped dates – 1 cup

all-purpose flour – 2 cups

baking soda – 1 teaspoon

salt – 1/8 teaspoon

Combine the condensed milk, the water and the butter in a saucepan and place over medium heat till the mixture boils. Stir often to prevent the mixture sticking to the bottom of the pan. Once the mixture boils, let it simmer, stirring frequently, for 3-4 minutes and then remove from the heat. Stir in the raisins and the dates and leave the mixture to cool till it is just warm.

Combine the flour, the baking soda and the salt and mix in to the contents of the saucepan. Pour the batter in to a greased or non-stick cake pan and bake for  about 2 hours at 160 degrees C (I used 2/3 of the quantities listed above and the cake was done in exactly 2/3 the time –  80 minutes, as ably calculated by Indira to help me figure out how long to leave the pan in the oven). Cover the cake with silver foil half way through if the top is getting too dark.

Leave the cake to cool in the pan then turn it out in to a plate.

Warm the slices just a little before eating, if you like, especially if you make the cake  in cold weather.




Banana Loaf

The first time I ate banana cake, it was at a friend’s home several years ago and as it was rather soggy and stodgy – perhaps it wasn’t cooked enough, or maybe there was too much of some ingredient that made it so – I did not enjoy it very much. That experience has made me stay away from banana cake ever since and I haven’t wanted to make one either.

But that was until this morning. As I thought about the day’s meals, I asked the girls if they might like to have cake for dessert tonight, since dinner was likely to be only pasta with some vegetables in it, with no side-dish such as soup or fish. (In the afternoon, though, I come across an idea for cooking prawns very simply so I hope to do that for dinner. More about that in another post, if that works out).

The suggestion of dessert seemed to appeal to the girls. And when I looked through my cake book for new recipes and asked them impulsively if they’d like to eat banana loaf,  their response was so enthusiastic – “Oh yes ! I love banana cake !!”, “Oh yea ! BANANA cake !!” – that I figured it was time to overcome my apprehension about baking with bananas as an ingredient.

As it turned out, this cake- once again the recipe is adapted from the original in Jean Paré’s “Company’s Coming” – that Noor and I made in the afternoon while Indira was at her dance class is definitely one that I’ll make again. We know this already because we’ve all had a small slice each for our evening snack!

Banana Loaf

1 egg

1/2  a cup of sugar

1/4 cup  butter

1 cup of flour (white or half-whole wheat), with 1/2  a teaspoon of baking soda and 1/4 teaspoon of baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon of salt mixed in

1/2 a cup of chopped walnuts (optional but nice); mix these in to the flour mixture

1/3 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips (optional but a this would add a nice touch especially if you make the cake for dessert)

1 medium-sized banana or enough to make 1/2 a cup of well-mashed banana

Whisk the egg in a mixing bowl, then blend in the sugar and the butter. Stir the banana in and then add the flour mixture, followed by the chocolate chips. Mix well.

Turn the batter out in to a loaf pan or a round baking pan and bake for about 35 minutes at 180 degrees C or till a table knife inserted in to the centre comes out clean.

Remove the cake from the oven, leave to cool and then turn it out in to a serving dish or a box to store.

This is a good cake for gouter or for dessert. With vanilla ice cream on the side if you are in the mood to indulge 🙂

Blueberry Muffins – A holiday memory

Yesterday, Indira asked if we could bake blueberry muffins today.

Never having noticed before that she is fond of this variety of muffins, I was curious as to the reason she wanted to make them.

She told me that she loves the muffins they serve for breakfast  on the flight from Nice to Zurich – we almost always  fly on Swiss, when we travel back each year to India – and that it is always a blueberry muffin.

So we picked up fresh blueberries in Carrefour yesterday and made these cupcakes today in the morning for breakfast.

Blueberry Muffins

125-150 g of fresh blueberries

1 and 3/4 cups of flour (all-purpose or whole wheat or semi-wholewheat)

1/2 a cup of sugar

1/4 cup of softened butter

1 tbsp of baking powder

3/4 cup of milk

1 tsp of vanilla

1 egg

1/2 teaspoon of salt

Wash and dry the blueberries.

In a small bowl, combine the flour, the baking powder and the salt.

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar. Then add the egg and whisk everything together.

Add the milk and the vanilla and mix thoroughly.

Now pour in the flour mixture, stir it in well, then add the blueberries and mix them in lightly.

Put a tablespoon or so of the batter in to each of the cups of a muffin tray and bake at 200 degrees C for 25-40 minutes till the muffins are nicely browned.

While using  fresh blueberries as a baking ingredient does feel like a pity to me – the original recipe does say that frozen berries will do as well but the ones we buy here are too sour for my liking and I therefore tend to avoid them –  I have to say that these cupcakes are quite nice too, with the delicious taste of the berries spread through as the fruit softens on baking.

Carrot Cake: a third recipe

2010 got off to a very pleasant start with the open house this afternoon at the home of Rick and Angela, the parents of Indira’s friend Nicola.

I took along a carrot cake which Indira liked very much, as did some of the parents.

This particular recipe (from “The Little Book of Baking Recipes”) – which makes for a large cake – has cinnamon, which seems typical for carrot cakes, but also powdered green cardamom and this latter adds a very special flavor.

This recipe is  heavy on the butter though, so I suppose it is one that’s best kept for special occasions.

Carrot Cake

2 eggs

180 grams of softened/melted butter

225 grams of flour

180 grams of  brown sugar

225 grams of grated carrots

1/4 teaspoon of freshly powdered green cardamom

1/2 a teaspoon of cinnamon

90 grams of raisins

60 grams of chopped walnuts

2 tablespoons of honey

1 teaspoon of baking powder

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and the sugar thoroughly. Now crack the eggs in to the mixture and blend everything well. Then mix in the flour (with the spices and baking powder mixed in). Add the carrots next , as well as the raisins, the walnuts and the honey. Mix everything well and turn the batter in to a non-stick cake pan and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour  at 180degrees C. Check towards the end by inserting a knife to test if the mixture has set well. Take the pan out and leave the cake to cool completely before turning it out on to a cake tray.

The cake is rich enough already but it would be just perfect with some ice cream on the side, I think 🙂 Or, for an healthier option, a little Greek yogurt would be quite nice as well.

Maybe that’s why the original recipe suggests dredging the cake with icing sugar before serving?  Either way, it’s delicious.