Elodee’s Dream Cake

I’ve always felt that writing and concocting food are disciplines that mirror one another. On one hand, you pick up a pen and with one word at a time, you build a feast for the heart and mind, keeping character arcs and plot lines intact, carefully measuring out conflict and raising the stakes, until at last: resolution!

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Baking a cake is not so very different. You begin with an idea—a ache for a particular flavor matched to a particular crumb. You count eggs, and level flour. You add dashes of this and that for whimsy, and you let it bake, wafting aromas into the rooms of your home and heart.

When an author friend of mine—Corey Ann Haydu—and I got to chatting one afternoon about writing and baking, love of books, and supporting dreams, a cake dream slowly rose into existence.

“I’ve written this story,” said Corey. “The main character bakes a cake— olive oil and jasmine with white chocolate pear frosting . . .”
“Tell me MORE!” I begged.

And she did, also sending me an advanced reader copy of her new book Eventown (OUT TODAY—February 12 and available wherever books are sold!) so as to offer the literal backstory on this cake idea.

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In Haydu’s book, (from the editor) Elodee’s world is tilting and it’s impossible for her to be the same as she was before. Not when her feelings have such a strong grip on her heart. Not when she and her twin sister, Naomi, seem to be drifting apart. So, when Elodee’s mom gets a new job in Eventown, moving seems like it might just fix everything.
   Indeed, life in Eventown is comforting and exciting all at once. Their kitchen comes with a box of reipes for Elodee to try. Everyone takes the scenic way to school or work—past row of rosebushes and unexpected waterfalls. On blueberry picking fieldtrips, every berry is perfectly ripe.
    Sure, there are a few odd rules, and the houses all look exactly alike, but it’s easy enough to explain—Until Elodee begins to ask questions about Eventown that no one seems to be able to answer.
   Everything may be “even” in Eventown, but is there a price to pay for perfection—and pretending?

And so, Elodee’s Dream Cake fell from the page and into reality, both here on my blog, and under the careful hands of Corey and her editor as they put their imaginations, baking prowess, and my recipe to the test (link to that video coming soon!)

But we all know that reality is fraught with as many twists and turns as fiction, and so this real version of Elodee’s cake is gluten free so as to accommodate some dietary needs. After experimenting with innumerable flours, editing measurements, and revising baking times and temperatures, I’m happy to share Elodee’s Dream Cake with you!

Be sure and grab a copy of Eventown before you serve yourself a slice. Because nothing goes with a good story quite like a good piece of cake.

Cheers!

 

 

Elodee’s Dream Cake
Olive Oil and Jasmine with White-chocolate- pear Frosting
(Gluten Free)

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Cake Ingredients:

8 Tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1 Cup of sugar-in-the-raw
2 Eggs
2 Tablespoons of baking powder (yes, tablespoons) *
½ Teaspoon of salt
½ Cup plain Greek yogurt
1 Teaspoon Jasmine flavoring (a liqueur also works here, I’ve substituted Cointreau with excellent results).
¾ Cup of white rice flour
½ Cup tapioca flour
1 ½ Cups oat flour

* A note on baking powder: For anyone with severe gluten allergy, or celiac’s disease, you will want to make sure your baking powder is made with corn starch rather than wheat starch.

 

Frosting:

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1/3 Cup white-chocolate chips
2/3 Cup heavy cream
1 baby food jar of pureed pears
½ cup butter, melted
7+ cups of confectioner’s sugar

 

 

For the Cake:

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In a large mixing bowl or stand mixer combine olive oil, sugar, and eggs. Add in Greek yogurt, Jasmine flavoring, salt, and baking powder. Mix until well combined. The batter will rise slightly due to the eggs and baking powder. Add the flour into the batter and scrape down the sides of the bowl until the flour is well incorporated, and the batter has an almost fluffy consistency.

In a well-greased pan (gf flour tends to stick to the pan more than standard flour, and I will often add parchment paper to the bottom of a round pan in addition to butter or oil), bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean.

If you are making a layered cake, allow to cool before attempting to remove from pan. GF baked goods tend to “set up” more firmly once they have cooled. If you’re making a standard sheet cake, allow to cool before frosting.

*A note on flavorings: Most flavorings and extracts are derived by soaking herbs/spices/florals for a period of time in an alcohol base to “extract” their essence into the alcohol. With floral extracts, especially light florals like jasmine or rose, the flavor can be incredibly subtle and difficult to detect over the flavor and sent of the alcohol it was extracted with. Feel free to experiment with different brands or substitute a liqueur.
*A note on flour
There are many gluten-free mixes of flour on the market and even gf cake-flour mixes if you’d rather not mess around with finding three different types of flours as this recipe calls for. I was looking for a particular nutty flavor, which the oat flour provides in my flour mixture, but experimentation is the best part of baking—try your own flour blends and have fun!

 

For the Frosting:

Melt the white-chocolate chips and butter in a double boiler or in the microwave, and blend with a fork until well incorporated. With a stand mixer or hand beater, blend in the pears and the heavy cream. Once mixed, slowly add in the powdered sugar one cup at a time until the frosting takes on weight and consistency. It should form peaks that do not readily fall, and if you lift your beater or mixing wand from the bowl, the frosting should keep its shape on the end of the mixing implement.

 

*Notes on frosting a layered cake:

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Once my cake layers have cooled and have been removed from the pan, I set them on a cake stand, spread a generous layer of frosting between the layers, and then scrape a “crumb layer” of frosting over the entire surface of the cake. This is a light layer of frosting designed to set and keep the crumbly nature of the cake’s surface in tact while I add the finishing layer of frosting. I refrigerate the crumb layer for an hour or so to help it set, and then frost and decorate the cake as I would normally.
A sheet cake does not require a crumb layer.

 

Pumpkin-cashew cookies (whole30)

So, if you’re a whole30 purist, you might want to skip this particular recipe, but only because whole30 rules leave no room for “baking”  . . . I, however, am not a purist in methodology. I’m only a purist when it comes to ingredients. And these cookies definitely keep to the rules. —Dried apricots, lightly-salted cashews, pumpkin puree, chia seeds, coconut oil, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, eggs, coconut flour, almond flour. See? No added sugar! No grains! And yet, here is a slightly sweet “cookie” that works perfectly for breakfast with a side of bacon, a soft egg, and a handful and wilted spinach. The baker (and rule-breaker) in me is satisfied.

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INGREDIENTS
1 cup dried apricots
1 cup lightly-salted cashews
1 cup pumpkin puree (not pumpkin-pie mix)
1/2 cup chia seeds
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 eggs
1/2 cup coconut flour
1/2 cup almond flour

In a food processor combine apricots, pumpkin puree, chia seeds, cashews, coconut oil and spices. Process on high until a thick, sticky batter forms. Scrape into a mixing bowl and add eggs, coconut flour, and almond flour. Mix until well-combined.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and on a parchment paper lined baking sheet, roll dough into one-inch balls and press down with a fork (just as you would cross-hatch peanut butter cookies). Bake for 18-20 minutes. Enjoy!

Rhubarb Hazelnut Tart (Gluten Free)

Here it is, the middle of June, and all my summer food adventures have thus far been concocted with such frantic abandon (Hello sun! Hello air that doesn’t hurt my face! Hello GREEN!) that I’ve only just remember I have a food blog.
Ahem.
Hello food blog.

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All that to say, I took a deep breath and a little care to snap pictures and make recipe notes with this one. Partly because it has been requested more than once, and partly because Gluten Free baking is hard to wing. (Hello, measuring tools my old nemesis). But with a few carefully-measured scoops of delightfully-varied flour, sugar, some well-whipped eggs, and the glory of lip-puckering rhubarb, this tart rings roundly of spring’s tail end. For which I will only grudgingly part ways with because strawberry season comes next.  Enjoy!

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CRUST
1/2 cup oat flour
1/4 cup buckwheat flour
1/4 cup ground cashews or hazelnuts
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter

FILLING
2 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup oat flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
zest from 1/2 a lemon
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 cups chopped rhubarb

Notes:
• You will need a food processor for this recipe.
• GF flours are a little tricky to use if you’re not used to baking without gluten, but I am finding the flavor in different four varieties far exceeds pre-mixed gluten-free flour options, because most are made with a lot of rice flour. If you’re feeling brave, try this recipe as it’s written, but if it’s a little too scary, you can go ahead and use a pre-mixed gluten free flour. You’ll be just fine either way.
• Oat flour: I just throw gluten-free rolled oats in my food processor and whirl until they are a fine powder.
• Buckwheat flour: You can find this flour at most grocery stores, but if you want to get creative you can substitute Amaranth flour or Sorghum flour for a lighter color dough, while maintaining the rich nutty flavor.
• Ground hazelnuts: You can substitute cashews or walnuts here as well. As with the rolled oats, simply whirl in a food processor until fine.

METHOD

CRUST
In a food processor, combine oat flour, buckwheat flour, ground hazelnuts, sugar, and butter (cubed). Whirl until the ingredients combine to form a very thick, heavy dough. Remove form the food processor and press the dough into a buttered pie plate or tart pan. Don’t worry about pressing the dough up the edges of the pan as it will slide down while baking away. Just press evenly across the bottom.
Bake at 400 degrees for 12-14 minutes, or until the edges bubble. Remove and allow to cool and set slightly, for about 10 minutes.

FILLING
In a large bowl combine eggs, sugar, oat flour, salt, lemon zest, and cinnamon. Beat until smooth and creamy. Stir in rhubarb. The filling will become slightly more liquid-heavy because rhubarb releases water when it rests. The eggs and flour will help compensate for this, so don’t worry. Pour the batter onto the prepared crust and spread the rhubarb around until it’s distributed evenly.
Bake at 375 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes until the top of the tart is golden brown and the middle is firmly set. Allow to cool well. Gluten crusts and doughs appear to be undercooked when warm, but set up perfectly as they cool, so give it time.

Serve chilled with fresh whipping cream.

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Lilac Simple Syrup

Where I live in the more northerly-regions, the massive lilac bushes in my yard hit peak bloom this past week. Everything smells of lilacs. I cut armloads of blooms and filled the house with blossoms.
On every surface, a vase.

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Lilac season is so short—the blooms open, flourish, close, and die in a matter of days, and they won’t flood the world with their color or fragrance for another year. So my fanaticism is totally justified. This year I decided to take things a step further, and devise some way to hang onto that amazing lilac essence just a bit longer.
As with violets, nasturtiums, lavender, and many other blooms, lilac blossoms are edible and their gorgeous color and fragrance lend a unique flavor to anything you bake them into. (Shortbread is my particular favorite).

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This week I took it a step further and concocted a simple syrup. It’s versitle, keeps for quite some time, and looks absolutely lovely bottled. Sadly, the farmhouse lilacs (traditional blooms, large, light purple, unbiquitious to farmfields and in quiet rural neighborhoods) have finished blooming for this season. However, there are several varieties that bloom a bit later and you will still be able to find them this season (at least if you live in zone 2 in the US). These varities include the smaller, more vibrant Purple Dwarf lilacs and the white-bloomed French lilac. Both of these varities will also serve beautifually for this recipe.

LILAC SIMPLE SYRUP

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4 cups water
4 cups granulated white sugar
4 cups tightly-packed flower blossoms, green parts and stems removed.
4-5 blueberries (for color)

In a large saucepan, combine sugar and water and bring to a light simmer until all the sugar has disolved. Add the flowers and berries and simmer for another 6-8 minutes until the blooms are wilted and the water is a soft purple-blue color, and fragrant.
• Note: The water will smell strong and floral but not particularly like lilacs due to its concentration. When the syrup is added to food the lilac essence will be obvious and unmistakeable.

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Strain the syrup through cheese cloth until it is clear. Allow to cool, and then bottle. It can be stored in the refrigerator for weeks, or if canned, for months.

I use the syrup to flavor my coffee, and it is also lovely over ice cream, served with carbonated water (as a lilac soda), in all manner of baked goods, and in coctails!
Enjoy!

My Black Friday Christmas List

Black Friday is the day after tomorrow. I know this because my mailbox, email inbox, and voice mailbox are full of offers promising to save me all the dollars, on all the things, for all the people, forever and ever amen. I’m exhausted just thinking about all the savings.
To help me sort through it all, I’ve put together a Christmas shopping list. Perhaps you’ll find it useful as well, should you also need help wading through your gift-giving and purchasing processes.
Happy day-before Thanksgiving!

MY BLACK FRIDAY CHRISTMAS LIST:

• Wisdom as I try to better love, nurture, feed, educate, and raise my Littles in a world that values their pocketbooks more than their creativity, their bodies more than their minds, and their contributions more than their ethics.
• Skinny jeans that aren’t jeggings, leggings, or tights; that don’t gap in the back when I bend over, and that don’t have glitter on the back pockets. My butt doesn’t need glitter, thank you very much fashion industry.
• A paid-in-full mortgage on the place I call home.
• Sleep in any form—free from extra children in my bed, late night cries for water, bad dreams, snoring, and random fire-alarm beeping due to low batteries.
• Words at the tip of my tongue when I need them, as opposed to two days later in the middle of the night.
• Grocery carts that don’t flip when being ridden upon by four small children.
• Car seats that buckle and unbuckle themselves.
• A checkbook that balances itself.
• A checkbook that balances.
• Balance.
• Someone to decorate my house like JoAnna Gaines’s house.
• JoAnna Gaines’s house.
• JoAnna Gaines.
• Netflix shows that have a longer than 14-second next-episode countdown, so I can actually work up the willpower to stop. watching. at. 2am.
• Willpower. Of any kind.
• Greater empathy, deeper kindness, expansive generosity, more certain convictions, faith that never wavers, and a love that never fails the people I care about the most.

What’s on your Christmas list? I’d love to know! xo

 

Eggnog Pie Crust

There’s eggnog everything, right? Kinda like pumpkin spice? I don’t know. I’m not as cued into Starbuck’s influence on the tastebuds of the world as I used to be.
But of one thing I am certain: Eggnog is yummy. And the more ways I can incorporate it into my holiday eating experience, the better.
It was from this belief that eggnog pie crust was born.
Is there any better accompaniment to a pumpkin pie? Any better duet than with a caramel apple pie? Chocolate silk pairing?
Thanksgiving is upon us and Christmas right on its heels. Baking will be required! Pies! Let this be your go-to crust recipe.
Enjoy

EGGNOG PIE CRUST

1/2 cup butter, chilled and sliced
1 1/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup + 1 Tbsp Eggnog, chilled

In a food processor, pulse the flour, the cold butter (sliced), and the salt until crumbly. With the preprocessor whirling, slowly pour in the eggnog until a crumbly dough forms. Empty the crumbles into a clean mixing bowl, and using your hands, meld together until a smooth ball forms. Press into a circle and roll between waxed paper.
Each batch makes one crust. Double the recipe if you have a food processor large enough to handle the job!

Blitzkuchen

I think all of my childhood memories orbit around food.
*thinky face*
I’m not sure if this is good or bad. But Blitzkuchen (blitz-koo-chin) is one of my favorite memories. It means “Lightning Cake” in German because it’s so simple and so quick to make. Imagine something that crosses the bridge between a perfectly soft sugar cookie and a spongy pound cake, and there you have it.

When I was little, Mom would whip up this cake right in the middle of math (worst subject ever, even for this homeschool kid) and just when long division was becoming unbearable, it was ready. Vanilla and cinnamon would waft through the house, and I would know with certainty that I’d survive math after all. Lightning Cake to the rescue. I think the world needs a big pan of it.
Enjoy.

BLITZKUCHEN

1 cup butter, melted
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
4 eggs
2 cups flour

In a mixing bowl, melt butter and stir in sugar and vanilla.Add eggs, whipping each one into the butter and sugar until smooth. Add flour and blend completely. Pour into a well-greased cake pan, sprinkle the top generously with cinnamon and sugar, and bake at 400 degrees until an inserted knife comes out clean. About 20 minutes.