In search for an easy, big, nut-free, and interesting cake to bring to feed my students on Tuesday, I was intrigued by this recipe in the cinnamon section of Baked Elements. Spicy brownies with cinnamon and a chili kick? Sounded like something worth trying.
Of course, I don’t have ancho chile powder. Don’t know if they sell it here, what it’d be called, or where I would even start to look for it. So my friend Google suggested I substitute a mix of cumin and cayenne pepper, which I did. But then when I tried the batter it had a mega kick and I thought I might kill the students with spice. Then I was convinced they wouldn’t like the brownies because none of them liked the ginger rhubarb cake I love so much. I attribute that to them having less sophisticated palates 🙂
(Photo credit: Sabrina; clockwise from top: chocolate chip cookies, Ali’s cupcakes, vanilla malt bundt cake, spicy brownies, cinnamon carrot cake)
Well, I was surprised. They all loved it. Some of them thought they weren’t spicy at all. Others got over the initial shock and then reached for seconds, thirds … claiming the kick at the back of the throat was addictive. A colleague tried one of the last remaining ones and declared it to be the perfect blend of a burger and a brownie. Needless to say, they were completely consumed before the end of the day.
My carrot cake recipe (from the Hummingbird Cafe cookbook) is a bit famous. It’s a perennial favorite and is always requested for friends’ and colleagues’ birthdays. It’s gotten to the point where I lobby – hard – for other cakes just because I get bored making carrot cake all the time.
(Photo credit: Sabrina)
For my school birthday party, where I had committed to bringing baked goods for all of my students (in honor of my birthday and the last class period before exams), I thought I’d try another carrot cake recipe. One of my students is deathly allergic to peanuts – and avoids all nuts just to be sure – and this recipe calls for walnuts (easy enough to leave out) and coconut, which I thought would add a little something that might go missing if I left out the walnuts.
I have what some may call an addiction to peanut butter. I import incredible quantities of Trader Joe’s peanut butter (only one ingredient: peanuts!) every time I return from the US. And I put in requests from everyone who visits me.
I think the only thing I like better than peanut butter is peanut butter with chocolate. My favorite indulgence as a child was peanut-butter & nutella sandwiches. Who am I kidding – it’s still my favorite indulgence! I just indulge slightly less frequently.
So when I got the new Baked cookbook and there’s a whole section on baking with peanuts and peanut butter, I had to make their chocolate peanut butter cake.
It is amazing.
I was looking for a simple cake to offset some of the more elaborate confections I made for my birthday party. This one, a simple vanilla Bundt cake with malted milk powder as a secret ingredient, was just the one. It was a huge hit, with the flavor depth curtesy of the malted milk powder, the crumb, and the vanilla glaze…
It goes well with ice cream, with whipped cream, with fresh fruit or just by itself. It can be a dessert, but also a coffee cake for an afternoon tea.
In an attempt to both improve my French and learn fancy pastry technique, I signed up for a pastry class earlier this year. It was a double success. I understood by far the vast majority of the chat – including jokes! – and learned how to make traditional Belgian pastry (the special cake they make for King’s Day) and all kinds of pastries I drool over in the bakeries.
Everyone at school looked forward to the Tuesday after my pastry classes…
One of my favorites was a delicate white chocolate mousse with citrus (zest and juice) which was so slight and refreshing – and beautiful! You make it in a stainless steel circular ‘pan’ with no bottom (‘cercle inox‘ in French). And the secret is to freeze it for a couple of hours (or overnight) before unmolding it so you get a beautiful mousse finish which looks super professional.