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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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.

Cinnamon-Rum Ice Cream

It’s Sunday morning and after a cold rainy day yesterday and a very cool night, I’m caught somewhere between late summer and early fall. This is evidenced by several nectarines on my counter, quickly becoming over-ripe.
I’ve baked them into almost every muffin, cake, and pastry I can devise this week, so it seemed unwise to bake them into anything else this morning. (My waistline doth protest!)
But what if . . .

This is my favorite question, by the way. It’s how I begin every story and every new recipe.

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What if I let them stand on their own? Halve and pit, sprinkle with cinnamon and glaze with honey. Broil for a quick minute or two so they warm and singe. And then top with ice cream! What’s better than ice cream for breakfast?!
Unfortunately, Cotton Candy Ice Cream was the flavor of the week, according to my kids, and it is all I had in my freezer. Nasty.
Solution: make my own. But alas, I don’t have an ice cream maker.
Pffft. No worries. You don’t need one for this recipe.
Just a freezer, a blender, and a few hours.

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So from my late-summer-early-fall kitchen to yours: homemade Cinnamon-Rum Ice Cream, excellent over honey-glazed nectarines (or peaches).
This morning this is breakfast, but dessert is an excellent option as well.
Enjoy!

CINNAMON-RUM ICE CREAM

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2 1/2 cups whipping cream
2 1/2 cups whole milk
3/4 cup white sugar
a dash cinnamon
a dash of ground cloves
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp rum extract (or a teaspoon or two of the real thing!)

In a blender, combine the ingredients and whirl until frothy, and the sugar has dissolved. Pour into a metal bread-pan and freeze for 4-5 hours at least, preferably overnight.

Nectarine Galette

Late summer. August. The season of purple cone flower and golden yarrow, cicada song, heat, and stone fruit. Peaches, plums, nectarines, apricots . . . the apples and pears are close behind, but for now it’s all about achingly sweet fruit that melts into pastry dough and oozes out of pie crust. Welcome to my favorite part of summer. This quote from Natalie Babbitt sums it up perfectly for me (though sadly, we are already past the first week in August).

“The first week of August hangs at the very top of summer, the top of the live-long year, like the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning. The weeks that come before are only a climb from balmy spring, and those that follow a drop to the chill of autumn, but the first week of August is motionless, and hot. It is curiously silent, too, with blank white dawns and glaring noons, and sunsets smeared with too much color.” 
(from Tuck Everlasting)

I found  a crate of nectarines at the grocery this week. They were so ripe I could smell them almost as soon as I walked into the store. I prefer nectarines to peaches because I’m not overly fond of fuzzy peach skin. They are not quite as sweet as peaches, but nearly. And they meet this galette, saturated in brown sugar and cinnamon, the way the first week in August meets September. —A final sweet hurrah of summer.

NECTARINE AND BROWN SUGAR GALETTE

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BUTTERMILK PIE CRUST
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, chilled and diced
1/4 cup chilled buttermilk

In a food processor, whirl the butter, flour, and salt until crumbly. Then, one teaspoon at a time, add the buttermilk until a dough forms. The trick here is not to overwork the dough or let it get warm. You don’t want the butter melting into the dough, but rather staying rather crumbled within it—those butter bits are what will make the dough flaky when it bakes.

FILLING
3 very ripe nectarines, sliced and pitted
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup flour

In a bowl, gently combine the sliced fruit with the brown sugar, cinnamon, and flour. The flour will help thicken the juices and sugar as they galette bakes, but there will be extra juice in the bowl. You can leave this and discard it when you scoop the fruit onto the pastry.

Roll the pastry out between two pieces of parchment paper until you have a 1/4 inch thick circle about 12 inches in diameter. Remove the top sheet of paper and scoop the nectarines into the center of the rolled dough, leaving 2 1/2 inches around the outside edge free of fruit. Taking an edge of the dough, bring it up onto the fruit and press it gently. Bring the next edge, beside the one you just creased, up beside it and onto the fruit, gently pressing it onto itself. Go around the circle, pulling the dough up onto itself, one bit at a time until the whole thing is self contained in a sort of pastry-pocket. The beauty of a galette, is that you do not need a pie pan!

Slip the bottom layer of paper with the galette on top, onto a flat baking sheet and bake on 350-degree preheated oven for 40 minutes, or until golden brown across the top.
Allow to cool before serving.

rhubarb cake

I have this patch of rhubarb in my garden—the grandchild of a plant that has been growing at my house for more than thirty years, and it’s fantastically huge. In the height of summer it takes up a full 8-foot by 12-foot raised garden bed.
I love it.
I call it Gertrude.

It’s only the middle of May in Minnesota but I’ve already harvested two batches of rhubarb from Gertrude, and yesterday’s harvest was a whopper. I had to use a laundry basket to bring it all inside. A batch of rhubarb sauce ensued. Also this cake.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that baking is not more forte. I’m better with main dishes and soup. There’s just so much chemistry in baking and I’ve never been great with chemistry. But.
But. But. But.
This cake.
—Custard-like, loaded with fruit, and finished with a crisp sugared crust. The almond flavor adds a hint of something magic, and topped with a fresh dollop of whipped cream, it’s basically perfection.
Enjoy!

RHUBARB CAKE

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 1/2 cup sugar-in-the-raw
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 eggs
1 3/4 cup flour
4 cups diced rhubarb

In a large bowl or stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar together. The larger grains of sugar give everything a different texture, but trust me, the end result is amazing. Add almond extract, salt, baking powder, and eggs. Mix well. Scrape down the sides of your bowl and add the flour. The batter should be thick, almost thicker than expected. No worries, the juice from the rhubarb will thin it out a bit. Add the rhubarb and mix again. It’s going to look like too much fruit for the cake. But not to worry. The eggs and flour will eventually hold everything together.

I have a deep 8x 12, casserole pan I use to bake this cake. It will overflow a standard 9 x 9 cake pan. If you have a 9 x 16 cake pan, that may work better. Grease the pan well and spread the batter evenly with a spatula.
Sprinkle sugar-in-the-raw generously over the top.

Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees and then turn the heat down and bake for another hour and a half (yes, that’s correct) at 325 degrees. Keep an eye on it and cover the cake with aluminum foil if it begins to brown too darkly over the top. After it had been in the oven for a total of two hours, give the pan a light shake. If the center is still jiggly, continue baking at 325 until it sets. (The “insert knife until it comes out clean” trick won’t work on this one because the finished cake has an almost custard-like texture).
Allow the cake to cool once it has finished baking.
Serve with whipped cream or ice cream!