In our last CSA box we unexpectedly got some late-season rhubarb, which led us to think of more unusual ways in which to use it than our first instinct, pie. Globally, rhubarb is popular in Scandinavia, especially Norway and among Norwegian-Americans. Rhubarb entered Norway in the 18th century as a decorative plant, but made its way into the kitchen by the 1800s. It was also able to flourish in the harsh Norwegian climate, which added to its popularity. An iconic Norwegian recipe is for Rabarbrakake, or rhubarb cake, a simple cake filled with rhubarb and topped with almonds. Here is a recipe for Rabarbrakake from North Wild Kitchen (pictured below), and you can find other versions from Ramshackle Pantry and Outside Oslo.
Tag Archives: cake
When we first happened upon a picture of this cake, we couldn’t believe it was real. Was it a fruit? Gelatin? Turns out that this striking, otherworldly concoction is Vietnamese Pandan Honeycomb cake. Pandan – a flavor not often seen in American baking – is a tropical plant from Southeast Asia with edible leaves that impart the flavor and green color to this unusual cake. You can find pandan extract in many larger SE Asian groceries or online. The main base ingredient of this cake is tapioca flour, which leaves a chewy texture in the middle, much like pão de queijo. Julesfood, Danang Cuisine, and Runaway Rice have similar recipes for Pandan honeycomb cake. The Spice of Life takes it one step further, and uses whole pandan leaves to supplement the flavor of the pandan extract, and while it seems a little difficult, the payoff is big!
We are always looking for unique dishes for holidays – and for Passover we decided to go beyond the typical charoset and matzoh concoctions (not that there’s anything wrong with those, and this recipe does also include matzoh). This sunny citrus, almond and walnut cake comes to Istanbul via the Sephardic Jewish communities of Spain. Sounds pretty good, right? You may also notice that “Gato” seems similar to the French word for cake, and is indeed the Ladino spelling for the French “gateau.”
I found a few scattered references to this online, but they all seemed to trace back to a recipe from The Book of Jewish Food (1996) by Claudia Roden, featuring recipes from around the world that put a focus on diverse Jewish populations and history. Hannah’s Nook has a recipe, and the following excerpt from Claudia Roden herself:
“One of the gastronomic successes of Sephardi culture is the very wide range of Passover cakes made with almonds or nuts instead of flour, which are characteristic of the communities. Some, like the orange cakes, have a dististinctly Iberian character. This is the Passover cake of Istanbul. Moist and aromatic, with a delicate orange flavour, it can well be served for dessert.”
Today is election day in the US, and while the eaters voted early in Ohio last week, it has still been a stressful day watching the news and the polls. I think we, and anyone else who voted, deserves some cake – maybe even some “Election Cake.” Though it has been out of fashion for over a century, Election Cake used to be an election day staple. Election Cake represented the most popular flavors of the time: it is a leavened sourdough cake with molasses, cinnamon, dried fruit and nuts. In the past, when people actually had to travel distance to the polls, election day was something of a celebratory affair. The election cake hails from a time before refrigeration, and when this type of stable cake would be necessary to last through a long day at the polls and the celebration after.
Nourished Kitchen has a great Election Cake recipe (pictured above). But if you want to get a little more historical, here’s a recipe from the Washington Post from 1796. This was long before women could vote, so making these kinds of cakes was one way to participate in the electoral process. Election Cakes are making a comeback thanks in part to Old World Levain Bakery, in Asheville, N.C., who started the “Make America Cake Again” project, encouraging knowledge of historical cakes, and encouraging bakeries to sell Election Cakes and donate the proceeds to the League of Women Voters. You can check out more recipes on the OWL page, and to see if there is a bakery selling Election Cakes near you.
Looking to make something sweet for your sweetheart? Why not a courting cake – a Northern English confection made with a dense sponge cake with a layer of berries and cream. Until I watched the BBC’s Great British Bake-Off (anyone else love that show?) I had no idea what a courting cake was. Turns out making the cake is a symbolic Northern English tradition where a girl would bake a cake for her beau after they had begun “courting” to show both her affection and skill in the kitchen. Nowadays, I imagine that any partner could make the courting cake for their significant other. The courting cake also experienced a bit of a revival due to the fact that Prince William and Princess Kate received one on a visit to Lancashire! You can try your hand at courting cake with recipes from Epicurious, Food.com and Northern Soul (plus a mini version), though I imagine it is especially nice in the height of summer when strawberries are fresh.
Ube is having a moment in US food culture. The sweet purple yam flavor seems to be popping up all over in the US, in cakes, ice creams and donuts, mirroring its popularity in the Philippines, where it is incorporated into any sweet treat you can imagine. Ube is truly, shockingly purple, so you definitely won’t be able to miss it. We first had ube-flavored desserts at Village Creamery in the Chicago burbs, and we were hooked. Ube is a traditional flavor in the Philippines, and one of the most popular uses for it is in Ube Macapuno cake (ube = purple yam, macapuno = preserved coconut), a light and fluffy frosted cake with tons of bright-purple goodness. It is getting easier to find ube itself in the US, and you can also find ube powder in some well-stocked Asian groceries. Macapuno, preserved coconut, may be a little harder to find, but the Phil-Am Foods site has both ube powder and macapuno for sale online. Bake Happy has a recipe utilizing Ube Powder (seen below) and Bakanista has a recipe for a cake made with fresh ube (in some places you can even enhance your recipes with McCormick Ube Essence).
Back in the day, an area of Central Rio de Janeiro, Cinelândia (pictured above in 2013), as its name suggests, was the home of Rio de Janeiro’s opulent Art Deco movie theaters. At its peak, there were over a dozen, centered on the square called Praça Floriano Peixoto. Only one movie theater still remains, the Odeon (link in Portuguese), whereas the other grand movie palaces have been converted to performing arts centers, churches, bookstores, or adult movie theaters. Bomboniere Pathe (Praça Floriano, 45, Rio de Janeiro) used to be below one such grand cinema – Cinema Pathe (now a church), which opened in 1901 and closed in 1999.
Though the theater is closed, this tiny corner shop that sells nothing but cake is still chugging along. The store is blink-and-you’ll-miss-it-small. But don’t let the humble appearance fool you – the cakes are amazing! There are a dozen or so traditional and exotic flavors available every day, and are worth a special trip. It costs $R 5 for a slice, and $R 65 for an entire cake. With the current exchange rate of the Brazilian Real, that is a pretty reasonable price. The refrigerator case for the cakes is rolled right out into the street, enticing passers-by with scrumptious cakes.
So what kind of cakes can you expect? While we were there we sampled: A tri-color Neapolitan cake, a brigadeiro cake (chocolate condensed milk) with brigadeiro truffles right on top, coconut cake, prestigio cake, a traditional chocolate and coconut layer cake, passion fruit cheesecake, key lime, strawberry, blueberries and whipped cream, Black forest cake, and more! The selection changes daily, so be sure to ask ahead if there is something you have in mind. You can also buy single bite-size Brazilian treats like truffles, brigadeiros / casadinhos / cajuzinhos / beijinhos and small pudins (egg puddings).
If you order a slice, you are treated to a hearty wedge in a little plastic container. Since this is a take out place, there is no “eating-in.” However, you will see some people gathered around the shop just noshing on their cakes. Another nice touch – for my birthday they even gave me a cake with a candle in it (see below)! We sampled cakes at least once a week and were never disappointed. Located near the business center of Rio, it is a popular choice for businesspeople on a lunch break, and the crowd strictly seemed to be locals. If you are in Central Rio and looking for a sweet, traditional Brazilian dessert, look no further!
We are pretty fond of the Swedish way of taking coffee, Fika, and we also love their idea of the “cake table” aka kaffebröd or fikabröd which accompanies this traditional Swedish fika coffee break. A cake table typically includes cakes (obviously), cookies, pastries and other sweet treats. We think that a full fika with cakes and cookies is the perfect way to celebrate St. Lucia’s day, a holiday celebrated in Sweden on December 13th. Here are some top picks that we think would be perfect on any holiday table (or just for fun):
The bolo de bolacha, which means “cookie cake,” is a Portuguese version of the classic icebox cake. This iconic cake uses “Maria” cookies, versions of which are available in pretty much any Latin grocery store, and typically is made with condensed milk and coffee. We tried this mini bolo de bolacha at the Ribeira Market in Lisbon, and we were instantly sold on the comforting dessert with a coffee kick. Unlike many Portuguese desserts, this one is simple enough to make at home. Here is a super-simple butter-free recipe from Dreaming Drawing, and a version with eggs from Portuguese Diner.
This lunar new year, the pastry post-doc is celebrating with an entirely new cake preparation format – steamed. Yep, the cake in question, Nian Gao, is actually a sweet steamed Chinese cake made from glutinous rice flour and brown sugar. Nian Gao (or nin gou) is popular across China, and varies widely by region, as well as in the Chinese diaspora. It is considered a lucky food to have around the New Year, partly because of its name. According to Wikipedia:
It is considered good luck to eat nian gao during this time, because “nian gao” is a homonym for “higher year.” The Chinese word 粘 (nián), meaning “sticky”, is identical in sound to 年, meaning “year”, and the word 糕 (gāo), meaning “cake” is identical in sound to 高, meaning “high or tall.”
Nian Gao is traditionally steamed, and therefore has a more gelatinous texture, as in this recipe, though Chow.com also has a baked recipe. Honestly, though the baked cake may be more familiar, I really appreciate the steaming technique, which is definitely not utilized in many Western sweets. Here’s to a sweet new year!
Being the Portuguese pastry fans we are, we were excited to meet up with one of the masterminds behind the indispensable Portuguese patry guidebook, Fabrico Próprio, Frederico Duarte, for a cake tour. Frederico was generous enough to show us around the city to some hidden bakery gems of Lisbon. While we had previously visited the big names like Versailles and Confeitaria Nacional, Frederico helped us uncover yet another layer of sugary, pastry goodness in Lisbon.We first visited Cafe Paço Real (Rua da Conceição 55) an understated cafe with a full savory menu in addition to the bakery counter, in the heart of Baixa. When you walk in, you will notice one feature immediately: there is an azulejo mural of the ubiquitous Portuguese statesman Marques de Pombal on the wall. However, we were most drawn by the wide variety of pastries on display in the street-facing windows, which Frederico told us was more traditional in bakeries of the north, something we had not noticed to this point. We tried the specialty of the house – a unique treat for us – the rocha (“rock” in Portuguese). These little cakes do indeed have a somewhat craggy appearance, but the texture was almost like a banana bread, unlike a sponge cake or puff pastry. It was cakey, not too sweet, and contained bits of citrus peel and more than a hint of cinnamon. This was a different type of pastry and was a nice change from sugar and egg yolks.
The next stop on the cake tour was another old school cafe in Baixa that Frederico was familiar with: Cafouro (Rua do Ouro 177), usually spotted by its triangular “Tofa” brand coffee signs. There, Frederico recommended that we try a geladinho, a coffee-flavored version of the Indiano pastry in Fabrico Próprio. This pastry was composed of two layers of cake, split in the middle and filled with a coffee pastry cream and a shiny coffee glaze. The pastry was moist and delicious, and we appreciated the unique coffee flavor, not especially common in traditional Portuguese pastries. Like Paço Real, we definitely appreciated the down-to-earth vibe of Cafouro.
Next, we took the iconic #28 yellow tram up to the School of Hospitality and Tourism of Lisbon, located in Campo de Ourique, in the historic Palácio dos Condes de Paraty. Here, we got a glimpse of future pastry chefs hard at work in the teaching kitchen. Frederico also told us about the techniques manual that you can now buy along with Fabrico Próprio, which makes sense since so many people were intrigued to try the recipes behind the desserts in the book. However, due to the semi-industrial nature of most Portuguese baking, these pastries are not generally meant for a home cook (rats!). Still, we hope to try our hand at making them someday.
Around a nondescript corner we came upon a truly old school cafe, Panificaçao Mecânica (Rua Silva Carvalho 209), our final stop on the cake tour. This was by far the most unusual stop on the tour, a pastry shop crossed with a breadmaker. The opulent setting was the highlight of the cafe, with two large crystal chandeliers and two types of Bordallo Pinheiro azulejos with wheat motifs (seen above and below). We not-so-secretly covet these azulejos for a future kitchen.
The inside was straight art nouveau, with some anachronistic 1950s plastic-y touches. They had a variety of traditional pastries as well as a wall of breads and an unusual streusel from the Alentejo region. We ordered a new-to-us type of cookie, called a Húngaro (yes, after the country Hungary), and a passable Pastel de Nata. The Húngaros were two sugar cookies joined with cherry jelly and coated in chocolate. Another showpiece of the cafe were the bolinhos de Algarve, little marzipan cakes in the shape of fruit, which reminded us of some of the marzipan candies we had seen in Sicily and Naples.
We finished up at one of our favorite Pastelarias for a superlative Pastel de Nata, Pasteleria 1800 (Largo do Rato 7), brightly decorated with yellow, blue and white azulejos. Though not officially on the cake tour, we were excited to return to one of our favorites before parting ways with Frederico. The cake tour was certainly one of our Lisbon trip highlights. We visited bakeries we would have never noticed, thanks to Frederico’s guidance, and gained an even greater appreciation for the world of Portuguese pastries. Thanks so much for showing us around town, Frederico!
Hanukkah starts tomorrow – so it’s about time to start prepping some holiday treats. One Hanukkah treat we detailed in years’ past was sufganiyot, the Israeli jelly doughnut associated with Hanukkah. However this year we can do one better – how about a huge sufganiyot cake? Food 52 has an inspired recipe for the sweet Hanukkah treat that’s perfect for sharing with the whole family.