PUMPKIN CAKE WITH GINGER STREUSEL AND CRÈME ANGLAISE

  Lyric night of the lingering Indian Summer,
Shadowy fields that are scentless but full of singing,
Never a bird, but the passionless chant of insects,
Ceaseless, insistent.

  The grasshopper’s horn, and far-off, high in the maples,
The wheel of a locust leisurely grinding the silence
Under a moon waning and worn, broken,
Tired with summer.

  Let me remember you, voices of little insects,
Weeds in the moonlight, fields that are tangled with asters,
Let me remember, soon will the winter be on us,
Snow-hushed and heavy.

  Over my soul murmur your mute benediction,
While I gaze, O fields that rest after harvest,
As those who part look long in the eyes they lean to,
Lest they forget them.

  • Sara Teasdale, “September Midnight”

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  I was waiting until it was ‘officially’ fall to start baking with pumpkin; no matter how fall-ish it felt near the end of summer, I couldn’t get myself to use pumpkin just yet.  My supermarket just started selling local pumpkins this past week and that’s when I decided it was time to use them.  So, I welcomed the new season with a simple pumpkin cake, garnished with a nutty streusel that uses fresh, minced ginger root for flavor.  And of course, you can’t have a cake without some pourable, sugary topping, so I opted with delicious crème anglaise.  It went exceptionally well with the cake!

  When baking, I almost always make my own added ingredients when possible, instead of buying pre-made or canned ingredients.  So I used fresh pumpkin purée when I made this recipe.  You don’t have to use it fresh, though, canned pumpkin purée will work fine.  If you want the full flavor, I highly reccomend using fresh pumpkin purée.  It’s very simple to make.

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  On another note, this was my first actual styled shoot.  Most the time when I’m baking and it comes time to photograph the thing(s) which I just baked, I find myself rushing the entire process when I shouldn’t be; so I end up throwing things together onto a table with the subject and don’t pay close enough attention to the light I’m in.  I decided ahead of time that I wasn’t going to do that with this shoot.  So, I planned it all out instead of doing it on a whim like I usually find myself doing.  I was quite pleased with how the photos turned out and I didn’t spend nearly as many hours editing them, per usual.  

  I also went more with neatness.  I tend to be very messy when it comes to the props in my photographs, which are almost always flowers, dried or alive.  You see, I don’t have that big of a prop closet, but what I do have is an abundance of flowers and greenery as I’m a hoarder with those things and love drying them for later use or for decoration.  My prop closet is pretty much a small cardboard box filled with tinkerings I’ve found here and there while rummaging through antique stores(I rarely ever purchase brand new props, I like them old).  It’s a never ending learning process photography is, and the main key is patience.  Something I lack more often than not, but am learning to work on.  

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PUMPKIN CAKE WITH GINGER STREUSEL AND CRÈME ANGLAISE


pumpkin cake

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoons kosher salt

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/8 teaspoon ground allspice

1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temp.

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

2 large eggs, room temp.

1 cup fresh or canned pumpkin purée

1/4 applesauce 

ginger streusel

2 ounces unsalted butter, cold and cubed

2 ounces granulated sugar

3 ounces all-purpose flour

3 ounces chopped pecans

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 ginger root, minced

crème anglaise

1 cup whole milk

1/4 cup granulated sugar

3 large egg yolks

2 vanilla bean pods

METHOD

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.  Grease and line (with parchment paper) two loaf pans and set aside. 
  2. In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices; whisk till combined and set aside.
  3. In another (large) mixing bowl, combine the butter and sugar.  Using am electric hand mixer or standing mixer with whisks attached, beat the butter and sugar till fluffy.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well and scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition.  Add the pumpkin purée, applesauce, and half of the flour.  Mix on medium speed till just combined, then add the remaining flour.  Again, mix till just combined. 
  4.  Divide the batter equally amongst the two loaf pans and spread around evenly in the pan(s).  Sprinkle with the streusel mixture.  Place in the preheated oven and bake for 40-45 minutes.  Check for doneness with a toothpick at 40 minutes; if it is clean it’s done, if not, bake for 3-5 more minutes.
  5.  Once the cake is done, let them sit in the pans for 10 minutes.  Use a sharp knife to loosen the cake from around the edges of the pan then gently invert onto wire racks to cool.  You can eat it cool or warmed.  Once it reaches the desired temperature, cut into slices, then drizzle on the crème anglaise with a spoon onto the individual slices. 

streusel:

  1.  Wash, peel, and mince the ginger root and set aside.
  2. Whisk together the flour, sugar, and cinnamon.  Cut in the cold butter cubes using a pastry blender or pulse in a food processor.  The pieces should be large and crumbly.  Add the nuts and freshly grated ginger and stir with a spoon till combined.  Sprinkle on top the cake before baking.

crème anglaise:

  1. Fill a large pot with ice and water a few inches deep.  Place a thin mixing bowl in the center of it with strainer resting on top.  Set next to your stove for later use.
  2. In a medium sized saucepan, add the milk.  Split open the two vanilla bean pods and scrape out the seeds and put them into the milk along with the pods.  On medium-low heat, bring the milk to a simmer.  Meanwhile, combine the sugar and yolks, whisk till well blended.  Once the milk has come to a simmer, remove from heat also removing the vanilla bean pods.  
  3. While whisking the yolks, slowly stream in half of the hot milk into the yolks.  Once they’re combined, gently add the yolk mixture back into the remaining milk, continuing to whisk.  Return the mixture to medium heat and continue whisking until thickened.  Be sure the mixture does not boil, or the yolks will curdle.  It should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.  To test the thickness, run your finger along the back of the said spoon after dipping it in the creme, if the streak remains without the creme running back into it, it is done.  Turn off the heat and pour the creme into the strainer that is resting on top the mixing bowl in the ice water.  Once strained, continue to whisk the mixture till it’s cool to touch.  Cover and place in the refrigerator till ready to use.   Serve with the cake.
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CINNAMON PEAR DOUGHNUTS WITH CREAM CHEESE AND PISTACHIO

  If I were to put fall in a food, it would have to be these doughnuts.  Cinnamon tossed pear encased in a slightly sweetened fried dough, then topped with a cream cheese glaze and then salted pistachios; they really are amazing.  They reminded me somewhat of apple fritters, except they’re made with pear and in doughnut form.

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  I thought it about time I made something using pears.  With the abundance of apples currently available here in Virginia, all I’ve been thinking about is baking something delicious with apples.  Pear is not as popularly grown here as apples are, and sadly, the majority of pear growers in my area are not having a good harvest this year due to the spring frosts.  So, I’m still waiting for them to come in so I can grab a few bushels of what they do have this season.  I had to use supermarket pears for these doughnuts, but if you can get local ones, I highly recommend using them, especially if you’re making these doughnuts.

  One of my favorite things to do is bake or cook with fresh, seasonal produce that is (preferably) grown locally.  And so, almost all of my recipes include at least one local ingredient that fits the season it’s grown in, that is if it’s possible.  It really adds so much more flavor, a flavor supermarket produce just can’t cut.  Not to mention they look so much prettier, too!  Supermarket produce, to me, always looks too perfect.

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CINNAMON PEAR DOUGHNUTS WITH CREAM CHEESE AND PISTACHIO

for the dough

1 cup almond milk, heated to 110°F

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temp.

1/4 cup maple syrup

1 whole egg + 2 egg yolks, whisked slightly

3 to 3 1/2 cups bread flour

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

1 tablespoon active dry yeast

vegetable oil, for frying

for the pear

2 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 Asian pear

for the glaze

8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature

2 cups powdered sugar

4 tablespoons almond milk

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

pinch of sea salt

other

1 cup coarsely chopped salted pistachios 

vegetable oil, for frying

oil / candy thermometer


METHOD

DAY ONE:

  1. In a small saucepan placed over medium-low heat, heat the almond milk till it reaches 110°F, then remove from heat.  Take 1/4 cup of the hot milk and place it in a small bowl, sprinkle in the yeast, then a pinch of sugar, and let it sit for 10 minutes until it’s foamy.   If it does not foam, restart with new yeast.
  2. In an electric mixer with dough hook attached, add the remaining 3/4 cups warmed almond milk, butter, maple syrup, whisked eggs, salt, nutmeg, 2 cups of the flour; and lastly, the yeast mixture.  Mix on low till combined, then add the remaining amount of flour in batches till the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl and cleans it.  The dough should be soft and slightly sticky when touched.  
  3. Remove dough from the mixing bowl and turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead till it has a light coat of flour on it.  Shape dough into a ball and place in a lightly buttered bowl.  Cover with a thin towel and let rise in a warm, dry place for 30 minutes or till doubled in size.  Once the dough has risen, punch down and then tightly wrap the bowl in plastic wrap.  Place in the refrigerator for at least 12 hours, or make the dough the night before and let it sit over-night in the refrigerator.

DAY TWO:

  1.  Wash, peel, and core the pear and cut it into thin, small, square pieces.  Place in a strainer over a bowl and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of sugar.  Cover with a towel and let it sit to drain juices for at least 25 minutes.  Meanwhile, prepare two large baking sheets by placing a non- terry towel on each one and lightly flour it, set them aside.  Once the pear has drained, pat the fruit dry, add the cinnamon and the remaining sugar.  Stir till each pieces is coated.  
  2. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and punch down.  Turn out onto a floured surface and roll into a large rectangle.  Sprinkle on the pears and fold over twice till you have a rectangular packet, pinch the edges shut.  Gently roll the dough out till it’s about 1/2 inch thick.  Using a doughnut cutter of your preferred size, cut out as many doughnuts as you can and place them on the prepared baking sheets, spacing each doughnut 2-inches apart.  Roll out the remaining dough scraps and doughnut hole centers and cut out more doughnuts.  Repeat till there’s no more dough left to roll out.  Cover the doughnuts and place in a warm, dry spot to rise for 30 minutes, or till doubled in size.
  3.  In a large pot, wok, or deep fryer, add the vegetable oil till it’s about 4 inches deep.  Heat the oil to 375°F and use an oil or candy thermometer to keep track of the temperature.   Once heated, add doughnuts, two at a time (if possible, 3).  Fry each side for 50-60 seconds till they’re a light golden color.  Remove from oil with a slotted spoon or wire mesh ladle and place on a cooling rack.  Repeat this process till all the doughnuts have been fried.  You can drizzle the glaze on while the doughnuts are hot, or you can wait till they’re just warm to touch.  If you want it to stay thick on the doughnut, dip the smooth top part of the doughnut in the glaze when they have completely cooled.  Sprinkle on the chopped pistachios.

  for the glaze:

With an electric hand mixer, beat the room temperature cream cheese till smooth, then add all other ingredients.  It should be thick, but not so thick that it won’t run off a spoon.

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APPLE RUM PEACH PIE WITH MAPLE OAT CRUNCH

  Almost two weeks have passed since I went traversing through an orchard in search of my favorite autumnal fruit.  It was the first of September, a very damp and dark one at that, but not at all in a depressing way.  It set the mood for the month, and since that day I have found myself wishing the last of summer away and yearning for fall to arrive with all its color and ecstasy.   

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  I rather loved the weather that day, I’m typing this now wishing I could go back as it is currently miserably hot and humid today.  It was quite cool that day and the fog was hanging low in the mountains; both the peaches and apples looked like candy dangling from a tree, but the apples looked especially pretty as they were bright red and glimmered with fresh droplets of rain.  I’m already excited about going back the end of this month or in early October when all the other varieties are ready.  

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  Walking under that canopy of peach trees reminded me somewhat of Alice in Wonderland as if in any given moment a white rabbit would emerge from somewhere, wearing a waistcoat and brandishing a pocket watch.  As silly as that sounds, that was the vibe I had while walking under these trees.  I really did have a smile on my face the entire time, I felt like a child who found a hideout somewhere amongst the brush.  I brought my baby sister with me (who is ten years old) and she had the same air to her.  She had so much fun picking the peaches all by herself.  I’m not sure how it would’ve felt if the sun was bright and shining.

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  Since I’ve probably talked enough about my orchard trip, I will now talk about these pies.  I’ve had this idea for mini pies, each donned with a different look, for quite some time but I didn’t have any mini pie tins.  Lucky for me I stumbled across a few just recently and was able to make them with the fruit I had just picked.  You don’t have to use mini pie tins as I did, though.  The dough amount is a perfect fit for an eight or nine-inch pie.  

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  I really love the combination of apples and peaches, though the sound of such a pie doesn’t flow as well as “apple and pear”, which was my first idea, then I switched fruits.  I see this combination as a last hoorah to summer, as peaches go out of season here around the first or second week of September and then the apples begin to arrive.  When the two are paired with rum it really is delicious!   

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RUM APPLE PEACH PIE WITH MAPLE OAT CRUNCH

pie crust

12 ounces all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons turbinado sugar

1/8 teaspoon salt

6 ounces unsalted butter, cold and cut into cubes

3-4 ounces water, ice cold

filling

3 peaches, cut into thin slices

3 apples, cut into thin slices

1 tablespoon lemon juice

3 tablespoons rum

1 cup sugar

2 tablespoons flour

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

dash of ground nutmeg

oat topping

1/2 cup rolled oats

1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts (or pecans)

2 tablespoons pure maple syrup

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

other 

egg wash, (1 egg, 1 tablespoon water)

turbinado sugar, for sprinkling

METHOD:

for the pie:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.  Have on hand three, 4-inch pie tins or one, 8 or 9-inch pie tin.  
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, and salt, whisking till combined; add the cold butter and cut into the flour using a pastry blender or by pulsing in a food process till it clumps into pea-sized nuggets.  Push the flour to one side of the bowl and then add about two or three tablespoons of the cold water.  Gently toss the flour into the side with the water, using a fork, till it all comes together and forms a soft dough.  Add more water if needed.  Cut the dough equally in half and press each half into a flat disk, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 25-30 minutes or till ready to use.
  3. Cut the apples and peaches into thin slices and place in a bowl, toss in the lemon juice, then add the rum.  Let the fruit soak in the rum for about 25 minutes.
  4. In a small bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour, and spices.  Drain the rum from the fruit, add the sugar mixture to the fruit and toss gently with your hands or a spatula.
  5.  In another bowl, combine the oats, finely chopped nuts, one-half teaspoon cinnamon, and maple syrup.  Stir till it all comes together and is crumbly(but not dry).

 Assemble the pie:  

  1. Remove one of the dough halves from the refrigerator and place on a floured surface.  Gently roll into a wide enough circle that will overhang your pie plate by about 3 inches.  Press the dough into the pan and add the fruit, then place the pie in the refrigerator as you roll out the other half of the dough the same as you did the bottom crust.  Gently roll the dough onto the rolling pin and place over the top of the pie.  Crimp the edges together and brush the pie top with egg wash. Using a sharp knife, cut slits around the center of the pie.  Sprinkle on the oat topping and extra sugar and bake for 35-45 minutes.
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SPICED APPLE CUPCAKES WITH WHIPPED CHOCOLATE BOURBON GANACHE

  Ah, September, you came so quickly.  Where did summer go?  I find myself asking this almost every year.  Summer passes by quite swiftly as you grow older.  As a child, I felt as if summer would go on forever(in a good way), even after I moved away from a state where words such as “Fall” and “Winter” were practically non-existent and so were the seasons that matched them.  My favorite seasons have always been spring and summer.  I don’t mind autumn, except when it becomes winter.  This year is different, though; I’m taking the change of seasons quite nicely and actually looking forward to autumn.  At the same time, I can’t help but be a little heartbroken that summer has to end as well.  

  Though the month of September has just begun, I have already felt a change in the air and surroundings.  Most the trees and grass have faded into a different color green over August; they’ve lost their bright euphoria and are on the verge of putting on their autumnal display.  Just today I was able to open all the windows in the house as the weather was beautiful.  As I was standing looking out the kitchen door, a cool breeze swept through the house and outside displayed a shower of yellow leaves falling, like gold, from the black walnut trees surrounding our home.  Here in Northern Virginia, the walnut trees are the last to put on their summer foliage and the first to lose them once late August and September comes around.  It got me giddy about all things fall-ish I will say.

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  I was so sad that I never made it to a peach orchard this year, then on the first of September, I stumbled across an orchard just South of me and about an hour’s drive away.  They had just announced that their gala apples were coming in nicely and were ready for picking, so I took the day off and went apple picking.  Though peaches are almost out of season here, there were still quite a few trees chalked with the delicious fruit.  Of course, I couldn’t leave without picking a few as there’s nothing like a peach straight from the tree.  Just from being there I had recipe ideas pouring out of each side of my brain, so you may be seeing more from my trip to the orchard next week!   

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  Now, let me talk a little about these cupcakes.  They’re a bit addictive!  I could eat them sans frosting because they’re just as good.  The addition of fresh applesauce made them really moist and tender and they pull away from the paper nicely as well.  My favorite part is the top of the cupcake, of course.  It’s chocolate ganache with bourbon, then whipped for a few short minutes with some cocoa powder.  As you’ll see in other places on my blog, I like to use bourbon when chocolate is involved.  That and rum(which you may be seeing soon in another recipe!) are two of my favorite alcohols to bake with.  The ganache piped exceptionally well, you just have to be careful not to have them somewhere hot and rather humid as it will start to soften and may even melt.  

  Can you believe this was my first time ever piping frosting onto a cupcake?  Out of sixteen, just these three made my photo-worthy list.  It really is harder  than it looks, depending on the style you want.  

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*Please read through the instruction and ingredients list thoroughly before you commence baking.  I recommend beginning with the ganache first to give it time to stiffen, which can take close to two hours sometimes; then the applesauce, and lastly the cupcakes.

SPICED APPLE CUPCAKES WITH WHIPPED CHOCOLATE BOURBON GANACHE

Makes 16 normal sized cupcakes

cupcakes:

95 grams unsalted butter, room temperature

185 grams granulated sugar

3 fresh eggs, room temperature

112 mL milk, room temperature

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla

200 grams all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 cup fresh applesauce, room temperature (recipe below)

applesauce:

3 small to medium sized apples ( I used gala)

1 large cinnamon stick

1/4 cup water

whipped chocolate bourbon ganache:

16 ounces heavy cream

14 ounces bittersweet chocolate

3 tablespoons of good bourbon

pinch of salt

METHOD

for the cupcakes:

Preheat oven to 350°F / 175°C.  Prepare two muffin/cupcake tins by adding sixteen paper baking cups.

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and ground cinnamon.  Set aside.
  2. In an electric mixer with beaters attached, combine the butter and sugar.  Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 7 minutes.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and add the vanilla, half of the milk, and half of the flour.  Beat on medium speed till just combined, the beat in the remaining halves of milk and flour.  Gently stir in the applesauce with a spatula.  Spoon the batter into prepared muffin/cupcake tin(s) until 2/3 of the way full.  Bake for 18 to 20 minutes.  Check for doneness at 18 minutes with a toothpick, if it comes out clean it’s done; if not clean, bake two more minutes.  Once done, cool in pans for five minutes, then gently transfer to cooling racks to cool completely.

for the applesauce:

  1. Peel, core, and cut apples into quarters.  Add to a medium-sized saucepan along with the cinnamon stick and water.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low; cover and cook apples for 10 minutes until tender.  Once done, drain juices and then mash the apples till slightly chunky.  Spread out onto a plate and bring to room temperature (or put in the freezer for about 5-10 minutes for a quick cool).  Make the applesauce before cupcakes

for the whipped ganache:

  1. In a small saucepan, bring the heavy cream to a boil over medium-high heat.  Meanwhile, chop the bittersweet chocolate into fine chunks and add to a large heatproof bowl.  Once the cream has reached boiling, pour over the chopped chocolate.  Let it sit 10 minutes, then stir till smooth.  Stir in the bourbon and pinch of salt.  Refrigerate until it has become thick(like a paste), but not completely hard.  Before whipping, I added about a tablespoon of cocoa powder for stability.  Using an electric hand beater, beat the ganache and cocoa powder till it becomes thick enough to pipe onto the cupcakes, about a minute or so.  Pipe the ganache onto cooled cupcakes and decorate with flaky sea salt (optional).

 

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Chocolate Zucchini Cake with Honey Fig Italian Meringue Buttercream

  Why yes, this is another chocolate cake to add to my {growing} collection.  One can never have too many chocolate cake recipes, can they?  This one is special as it includes shredded garden fresh zucchini, which gives the cake a tender and moist crumb.  Also, a pinch of cinnamon because zucchini, chocolate, and cinnamon seem like close-knit friends, they go so well together! 

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 I tried my hand at Italian meringue buttercream for the first time and I must say, it’s so good!  While researching, I came across various people saying it can be somewhat difficult to make if you’re not familiar with making meringue.   Being myself, I took on the challenge.  It was the first time I’ve ever made meringue, and using my own quantities at that.  The first try was okay, but not quite what I wanted as it was a bit too sweet.  So I tried one more time by changing the quantities of a few ingredients.  The second try was a charm!  Then came adding the butter, a step I didn’t get to on the first try.  At first, I thought it wasn’t looking too promising.  After letting it whip for a little while longer, it suddenly turned into a luxurious buttercream.  Smooth and glossy, with the most amazing texture.  I then added the honey fig jam I had just made, along with a wee bit of vanilla.  The camera didn’t really pick it up, but it has a slight pink tint to it.

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 I spent at least two hours photographing this cake.  The light was just not on my side!  My home has an insane amount of windows, so I usually have a pretty good amount of light anywhere in the house.  It’s also surrounded by greenery, so finding the right type of light can be difficult.  It usually depends on how bright the sun is shining during the time of day I’m shooting.  I was shooting in mid-afternoon light and the sun was giving out harsh, bright light, causing everything outside to reflect their colors through the windows.  So, almost all the light coming into the house was green, and green is my biggest pet peeve when photographing food.  Long story short, I was in Lightroom for quite some time trying to tone down all the colors coming in from outside.  I’m quite pleased with how they turned out, despite spending so much time photographing and then editing them.

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chocolate zucchini cake + honey fig italian meringue buttercream

for the cake:

175 grams unsalted butter, room temp.

500 g granulated sugar 

4 large eggs, room temp.

250 g all-purpose flour ( 2 cups + 2 tablespoons )

100 g cocoa powder ( 1 1/4 cups )

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

312 g almond milk, room temp. ( 1 3/4 cups)

1 teaspoon pure vanilla

1 cup shredded zucchini

 for the honey fig jam:

1 pound ripe figs

1 cup granulated sugar

2 tablespoon honey

1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

for the  frosting:

5 egg whites, room temp.

1 cup granulated sugar

1/3 cup water

2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, room temp.

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

 fig jam, room temp.

lemon wedge


method:
cake:
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F / 170°C.  Prepare three, 8-inch cake pans by greasing, laying down parchment paper, then lightly greasing again.
  2.  Sift the flour and cocoa powder; combine the baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.  Whisk well and set aside.
  3. In an electric standing mixer / hand mixer with whisk(s) attached, cream together the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy- about eight minutes.  Scrape down the sides and bottom on the bowl and add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition(scraping down the bowl after adding each one).  Add the vanilla and beat till just combined.  Add one-third of the flour and one-third of the almond milk; beat on medium speed until just combined.  Add the remaining two-thirds of flour and almond milk and beat on high for 15 seconds.  With a spatula, fold in the shredded zucchini until it’s evenly distributed.
  4. Pour batter evenly amongst the three prepared cake pans and using an offset spatula, evenly spread around in the pan.  Bake for 30 minutes.  Check for doneness using a toothpick, if it comes out clean- it’s done; if not, bake three more minutes.  Remove from oven and let the cakes sit in the pan for 10 minutes.  Use a sharp knife to loosen the edges, then invert onto wire cooling racks to cool completely.
honey fig jam:
  1. Wash, cut stems off, and then slice figs into halves.  Add to a medium sized saucepan and gently mash them until they are well broken up.
  2. Add the sugar, lemon juice, and honey to the figs and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Stir until the sugar is dissolved and then let the mixture simmer over medium heat, stirring often, until the figs are soft and the mixture is somewhat thick when it runs off the spoon.  About 15-20 minutes.  Pour the mixture into a sieve over a cool bowl and gently press with a spoon to squeeze the good stuff off from the pulp.  Discard the pulp.  Bring the jam to complete room temperature before using it the frosting.  It’s best to make it the day before, then cover with plastic wrap and let it sit on the countertop overnight.
honey fig italian meringue buttercream:
  1. Wipe down the bowl of an electric mixer with the lemon wedge and squeeze about 1/4 teaspoon of it into the bottom of the bowl.  Add the egg whites.
  2. In a saucepan, combine the sugar and water.  Stir over high heat until the sugar is dissolved and begins to boil.  Once boiling, cease stirring and attach a candy thermometer to the side of the saucepan.  Bring the sugar to 240°F, once it reaches that temperature, turn off the heat.  Begin beating the egg whites on medium-high speed until they’re frothy and pale in color.  Then, very slowly and carefully ( it’s hot!) begin to pour a very thin stream of the hot sugar into the beating whites.  Increase the speed to high and continue beating until medium peaks form.  Before adding any butter, make sure the meringue is completely cool to the touch, without a hint of warmth to it.   
  3.  Add the butter and beat on medium-high speed till it all comes together and forms a nice, whipped buttercream.  Turn the mixer off and add the vanilla and the fig jam.  Beat on low until just combined.   
assemble and frost the cake:
  1. Place the first layer on your cake stand, plate, or cake board.  Add about 3/4 cups of frosting and evenly spread around.  Place the second layer, bottom facing up, on top of the frosted layer and add another 3/4 cups of frosting.  Spread around and add the third and final layer, bottom facing up.  Use the remaining frosting to frost the top and around the sides of the cake.  Cut and serve.
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