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Caribbean Rum Cake

If you were baking in the 1970s, no doubt you came across the rum cake recipe from Bacardi’, the well-known rum company from Puerto Rico. I made plenty of them back in the day, and they were always a big hit and easy to make, using a box mix. On a trip to the Cayman Islands a couple of weeks ago, where Tortuga rum cakes are as ubiquitous as fish tacos, I naturally had to try their version. For a packaged cake, it was remarkably good, but I knew there had to be a made-from-scratch recipe to duplicate the cake, reminiscent of those Bacardi’ cakes I enjoyed decades ago.

A short search online turned up a recipe from the King Arthur Flour website, a company whose products and whose recipes are always reliably good. While the King Arthur cake doesn’t include walnuts, the classic Tortuga cake is dotted with them inside the cake. I prefer the walnuts crowning the cake, as the old Bacardi recipe calls for, so that’s how I made it, and I’m glad I did.

The cake, which also contains a full cup of rum, has a moist, tender crumb and a delicious buttery flavor, almost like eating a rummy butterscotch lifesaver – only better. I’ve never tasted hot buttered rum, but I imagine this must be the cake version of that drink. It’s definitely not for tea-totalers.

The rum cake isn’t the only reason to recommend a visit to the Cayman Islands. Just to give you an idea of what the beautiful island of Grand Cayman is like, (there are three islands in the Cayman Islands, and Grand Cayman is the largest) here are a few pictures from our recent vacation there. The main attraction is the beautiful Caribbean sea, in various shades of blue. This is the famous “seven mile beach” with soft, pale sands and shade in many places. You’ll find world class hotels along the beach, as well as condos for rent. It’s easy to rent a sailboat, paddle board or other water vehicles right from the beach.

Need a respite from the sand and sea? You could easily spend a couple of hours visiting the Queen Elizabeth Botanical Garden, with its beautiful flowering plants and historic exhibits.

The grounds of the botanical gardens also contain a preserve for the blue iguana lizard, found only on the Cayman Islands. They nearly became extinct, with only 12 of the animals recorded in 2004, but through conservation efforts, about 700 have been bred and released in the sanctuary since then.

If you drive to the northern part of the island, you’ll come to a place called “starfish point,” where the beautiful sea creatures are omnipresent.

Speaking of sea creatures, Grand Cayman is a great place for snorkeling, as you can see in the photo below. They were swirling all around me and I felt like I was in the midst of an aquarium!

You can even swim with sting rays if you’re so inclined. They come right up to you in the clear turquoise waters off a certain part of the island.

The food there is really delicious too, which is why the island is sometimes referred to as “The Culinary Capital of the Caribbean.” The cuisine runs the gamut – from a food truck’s barbecued chicken and ribs to break-the-bank refined elegance at Eric Ripert’s “Blue” restaurant in the Ritz Carlton Hotel.

There’s so much more to see and do in the Cayman Islands, including fishing, shopping, and visiting museums. We hope to go back next year and I hope you get a chance to visit sometime too. Until then, I’ll be dreaming of those beautiful beaches and content myself with another piece of Caribbean rum cake.

Click here to find out what’s cooking in Ciao Chow Linda’s kitchen each day (and more).

Caribbean Rum Cake
 
A rum-soaked cake with a tender, moist crumb.
Author:
Ingredients
  • FOR THE CAKE:
  • 2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1½ cups sugar
  • 3.4-ounce box instant vanilla pudding mix (not sugar-free)* (I used a smaller box of 1.5 oz)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, softened
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • ½ cup milk, at room temperature
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • ½ cup rum, plain or spiced (I used Bacardi gold rum)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon butter rum flavor (I omitted this)
  • ⅓ cup chopped walnuts
  • FOR THE SYRUP:
  • 8 tablespoons (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup rum, plain or spiced
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F.
  2. Place the flour, sugar, pudding mix, baking powder, salt, butter, and vegetable oil in a mixing bowl, and mix at medium speed until everything is thoroughly combined and the mixture is sandy looking.
  3. Beat in the milk, then beat in the eggs one at a time.
  4. Scrape the bowl thoroughly, and beat briefly to recombine any sticky residue.
  5. Stir in the rum, vanilla, and butter-rum flavor, if using.
  6. Generously butter a 10- to 12-cup Bundt pan with cooking spray, then spritz with cooking spray.
  7. Sprinkle the inside of the pan with the chopped walnuts.
  8. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread level with a spatula.
  9. Bake the cake for 50 to 60 minutes.
  10. When done, a cake tester, long toothpick, or strand of uncooked spaghetti will come out clean when inserted into the center.
  11. Remove the cake from the oven.
  12. Leave the cake in the pan to cool slightly while you make the syrup.
  13. In a medium-sized saucepan combine the syrup ingredients, except vanilla.
  14. Bring to a rapid boil then reduce to a simmer and cook (without stirring) for about 5 to 8 minutes, until the syrup thickens slightly.
  15. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla.
  16. Use a long skewer to poke holes all over the cake.
  17. Pour about ¼ cup of the syrup over the cake (still in the pan). Allow the syrup to soak in, then repeat again and again until all the syrup is used.
  18. Cover the pan loosely with plastic wrap and allow the cake to sit overnight at room temperature to cool completely and soak in the syrup.
  19. When ready to serve, loosen the edges of the cake and invert onto your serving plate.
  20. If the cake won’t release, don't force it.
  21. Place it in the oven, turn the oven to 350°F, and warm for about 10 minutes, to soften the sticky syrup.
  22. (If your oven is one that preheats by making its upper element red-hot, place the cake on a lower rack and tent it with aluminum foil to protect it.)
  23. Remove the cake from the oven, and tip it onto the serving plate.
  24. Serve with hot coffee or tea.
  25. The cake is very moist, fragrant and potent.
  26. Wrap securely (or place under a cake cover) and store at room temperature for several days. Freeze for longer storage, up to 1 month.
 

Upside Down Pear Gingerbread Cake

 

I’ve made dozens and dozens of gingerbread cookies, and baked and decorated many gingerbread houses when my kids were little, but a gingerbread cake? Well, I’d never made one, and if truth be told, had never eaten a slice of one until a few years ago. It wasn’t a flavor that I’d grown up with or ever had the yen to seek out on my own. But I have to say, I was a convert after tasting that first slice of gingerbread cake a few years ago at the house of friends.

Those same friends who served the gingerbread cake – Jan and Dave – also send us a box of Harry & David pears each Christmas. Last year, I made an upside down pear walnut cake with some of them last year here. We loved the nuttiness of this cake, but I wanted to try something different this year.

Eureka! I found a cake recipe combining gingerbread with pears in an upside down cake crowned with a luscious caramel-y top. It turns out pears and gingerbread were made to party together!

Although I’ve made many upside down cakes, with fruits of all kinds, most of them (not the walnut cake) have a basic white or yellow cake batter as the base. Like the walnut cake though, this gingerbread cake recipe is a welcome change from the standard upside down cake batter.  Lay the pear slices in a cast iron skillet (or a 9″ cake pan) and pour the brown sugar/butter mixture on top.

Then make the batter, which is very dark since it contains molasses and many spices.

It comes out of the oven looking like this. Run a butterknife around the edge, then using two pot holders, place a large platter (a wider diameter than the pan) over the cake and flip it over. Careful, don’t burn yourself on the pan or the hot syrup.

Top it with whipped cream or ice cream. Of course, the topping is not strictly necessary, but the coolness of the cream with the spiciness of the cake is divine. Besides, what are a few more calories when bathing suit weather is still months away?

This cake is best eaten warm from the oven, but it tastes delicious the next day too. Unlike most white or yellow upside down cakes, whose texture get denser the next day, this gingerbread cake maintains its tender crumb and moist texture even a few days after baking. The pears and the brown sugar topping do soften somewhat if you don’t eat it all the day it’s baked, however. It serves at least eight people, so plan on taking some to a neighbor as I did, or invite some friends in for coffee and cake.

 

Upside Down Pear Gingerbread Cake
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
moist and flavorful upside down pear gingerbread cake
Author:
Recipe type: dessert
Serves: 9-12 servings
Ingredients
  • TOPPING:
  • 4 firm medium pears
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • ½ cup packed light or dark brown sugar
  • ⅛ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • GINGERBREAD CAKE:
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1½ tsps. ground ginger
  • 1⅓ tsps. ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp. ground cloves
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • ¾ cup unsulphured or dark molasses
  • ¾ cup hot water
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • ⅓ cup packed light or dark brown sugar
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • whipped cream, to serve (optional)
Instructions
  1. Prepare the topping: Lightly grease a 9" square or round baking pan (I used a cast iron skillet).
  2. Peel, core and slice pears into thick slices.
  3. Tightly layer the pears in the prepared pan. Set aside.
  4. Whisking constantly, heat the butter, brown sugar and cinnamon together in a small saucepan over medium heat.
  5. Once butter has melted, vigorously whisk to ensure the butter is not separating from the brown sugar.
  6. Once it comes together, pour evenly over pears.
  7. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  8. MAKE THE CAKE:
  9. Whisk the flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, cloves and slat together.
  10. Set aside.
  11. Whisk the molasses and hot water together. Set aside.
  12. Beat the butter and brown sugar together on high speed until smooth and creamy, about 1 minute.
  13. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed.
  14. Beat in the egg and vanilla extract on high speed until combined, about 1 minute.
  15. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl as needed.
  16. Turn the mixer off and add the dry ingredients and molasses/water.
  17. Turn the mixer on low and mix just until combined.
  18. The batter will be a little thick.
  19. Carefully pour/spread batter on top of pears.
  20. Bake for around 35-45 minutes or until the cake is baked through (I put a cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil on the rack below the cake to catch any butter/brown sugar that might spill out).
  21. To test for doneness, insert a toothpick into the center of the cake.
  22. If it comes out clean, it's done.
  23. If you notice the edges or top browning too quickly, tent the cake with aluminum foil.
  24. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes, then invert onto a serving plate
  25. Best served warm.
 

Easy and Delicious Pandoro “Christmas Tree”

If you follow this blog, you know I’ve posted a recipe for a Pandoro Christmas tree dessert in the past, filled with either a chocolate mousse filling, or a lemon curd/mascarpone filling. You can view it here. They’re as easy as can be, since the cake itself –  a traditional rich, buttery Italian Christmas treat – is purchased. All you have to do is slice it, drizzle it with some liqueur (or a simple syrup), make the fillings, and assemble the cake.

Making the filling is the hardest part. But this year, I’m making it really easy on myself with a filling made from whipped cream and a boxed vanilla pudding mix. That’s right, I’m taking a shortcut, and I have to confess, I think it’s my favorite of all the ones I’ve made in the past. After all the work that’s required for the Lucullan fish feast we enjoy on Christmas Eve, this easily prepared dessert is a much needed way to present a delicious showstopper without too much fuss.

And while we’re talking about Christmas Eve, I was recently contacted by a local newspaper, whose reporter interviewed me for a feature on holiday food traditions. As a former journalist, I’m used to being the one doing the interviewing, but this time the tables were turned and the reporter asked me lots of questions. He wrote a really nice article about my family, that includes my recipe for stuffed squid, and a photo of my dad and husband, that you can read here. But little did I know that my photo would be plastered on the front page – bad hair day, wrinkles and all! Where’s Photoshop when you need it?

Anyway, back to regularly scheduled programming – and the easy Pandoro Christmas tree. Slice the cake into about seven even layers. If you’re serving it right away, dust the cake first with powdered sugar. It’s easiest to sprinkle on the sugar before you layer it and add the filling, so you can roll it on its side and get better coverage. But if you’re holding it to serve it a day or two later, it won’t matter because the sugar will dissolve into the cake.

Make the simple syrup and add the liqueur. I divided the simple syrup solution and in one I added rum. In the other I added Sambuca. I alternated flavors with different layers. If you don’t want to add liqueur, you can just the simple syrup without alcohol. The cake isn’t particularly dry, but I think it really benefits from some moistening, so don’t skip this step.

Make the instant pudding mix by mixing milk with the mix (using less milk than the box calls for, since you’ll be adding whipped cream. You don’t want it so soft that it pours out of the cake layers.) Fold in the whipped cream.

Spread some of the filling on each layer, placing each layer at a different angle from the prior one, so the tips are in different orientations.

Decorate the edges with berries and slice.

You can see, it holds together very well, even after it’s sliced. Naturally, the bottom slices will be larger portions than the top, so you’ll want to split those in half (or maybe not!)

I’m getting hungry for some again. Time to make another one.

Check out Ciao Chow Linda on Instagram here to find out what’s cooking in my kitchen each day (and more).

Easy and Delicious Pandoro Tree
 
Author:
Serves: at least 12 servings
Ingredients
  • 1 large pandoro cake
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 Tablespoons sambuca or anisette
  • 2 Tablespoons rum
  • 1 5.1 oz. box instant vanilla pudding
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • berries to decorate
Instructions
  1. Slice the pandora cake horizontally, in six or seven layers.
  2. Make a simple syrup by heating the water and sugar together until the sugar dissolves.
  3. Let the syrup cool, then divide in two and put the sambuca in one half, and the rum in the second half.
  4. Make the box of instant, mixing it with only 2 cups of milk instead of the 3 cups per instructions on the box.
  5. Whip the 1 cup of cream until soft peaks, then fold the whipping cream into the instant pudding.
  6. Drizzle some of the simple syrup on each layer of the cake, following by some of the pudding/whipped cream mixture.
  7. Continue with the rest of the layers, pivoting each slice so that the points are arranged in a star-like fashion.
  8. Finish by sprinkling with powdered sugar, and decorating the tips with berries.
  9. Optional, find a nice star at a craft shop for the very top.

Chocolate Coconut Tart

Whenever I’m in Italy and the mood for gelato strikes (ok, let’s get real – when doesn’t the mood for gelato strike?), I’m likely to get a flavor that’s called “Bounty” –  coconut ice cream punctuated with small chocolate bits. It’s named for the eponymous candy bar available there, but here in the states, there is a similar candy bar called “Mounds.”

A few years ago I ate a slice of cake in Bellagio that had the same flavor profile, and I was determined to duplicate it at home.

I finally got around to it recently, and while I’m not sure it’s exactly the same, it’s really, really good, especially if you’re a dark chocolate and coconut lover, as I am.

I made two of the cakes, one half the size of the original one, since I was serving the larger one to my Italian chit-chat group and wanted a second, small one to serve guests after dinner the following night. A bit of gold leaf on top makes a nice decoration, but so would a simple dollop of whipped cream.

If you’re making just one tart according to the recipe below, the coconut layer will be thicker than in the photos above, since I made 1 1/2 times the amount of the chocolate cake part, but I spread the coconut quantity over the two cakes (the larger and the smaller version.) I hope that makes sense to you. If you’re still confused, send me an email and I’ll try to explain it better.

Just a word of caution – the chocolate ganache will not stay this glossy if you refrigerate the cake. So if you want to serve it with that sheen but want to make the cake ahead of time — just make the cake without the ganache and place it in the refrigerator (still in the springform pan), then a few hours before you want to serve it, remove from the refrigerator and top it with the ganache while in the springform pan. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes for the ganache to solidify, then release the side of the springform pan. Don’t refrigerate it again or you’ll lose the sheen.

Enjoy! It’s almost like eating a chocolate covered, coconut-cream Easter egg.

Chocolate Coconut Tart (Bounty Torta)
 
A rich, brownie-like cake, with a coconut layer and a topping of chocolate ganache.
Author:
Recipe type: dessert
Ingredients
  • FOR THE CHOCOLATE CAKE LAYER:
  • ½ cup unsalted butter melted.
  • ¾ cup white sugar.
  • 2 eggs lightly beaten.
  • ½ tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 Tablespoons espresso coffee
  • ⅓ cup unsweetened cocoa powder.
  • ½ cup flour.
  • ¼ teaspoon salt.
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder.
  • FOR THE COCONUT LAYER:
  • 12 oz sweetened condensed milk (I think the can was closer to 14 ounces)
  • 2½ cups unsweetened coconut flakes
  • FOR THE CHOCOLATE GANACHE:
  • ½ cup whipping cream
  • 4 oz semisweet chocolate
Instructions
  1. FOR THE CHOCOLATE CAKE LAYER:
  2. Mix sugar and melted butter, with a wooden spoon. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Pour into a greased 9 inch springform pan and bake for 25 minutes at 350 degrees.
  3. FOR THE COCONUT LAYER:
  4. Put the coconut in a food processor and shred into small bits.
  5. Add the condensed milk and combine.
  6. When cake is cooled, spread coconut layer on top.
  7. It will be very dense.
  8. FOR THE CHOCOLATE GANACHE:
  9. Heat cream and remove from heat.
  10. Add chocolate.
  11. Let sit for a few minutes then stir to blend.
  12. Pour chocolate over coconut layer a couple of hours before you serve it and leave it out at room temperature in order to keep the chocolate glossy.
  13. You can refrigerate it if you want, but it will lose some of its gloss.
  14. Remove the ring from the springform pan, and serve.
 

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Easter Dinner Ideas

Easter is just a few short days away and many of you have your menus all ready. But for those of you still looking for ideas, here are a few from blog posts in the past. Click on the name of the dish below the photo to take you to the recipe.

Ricotta Broccoli Rape Torta – This is a dish my son makes as an appetizer for Easter, using broccoli rape. No, that spelling is not a mistake, it is rape in Italian, while most Americans spell it broccoli rabe or raab. Any way you spell it, it’s delicious, and a lighter alternative to the heavier, meat-laden pizza piena.

Braided Easter Bread – This bread, studded with hard boiled eggs, is braided with soppressata, olives and cheese, and would be perfect with drinks before dinner.

Grilled Leg of Lamb – Marinated and cooked on the grill, this lamb recipe from Julia Child, is tender and full of flavor.

Honey Baked Ham with roasted grapes – This recipe will make you forget those prepared hams purchased from franchise ham shops – and it’s so easy to make too.

 Neapolitan Pastiera – This traditional Southern Italian dessert is made with ricotta and wheat berries.

Colomba Pasquale – It wouldn’t be Easter in most Italian households without this Easter dove, which you can make at home too.

Coconut covered lamb cake – A childhood favorite, I continue the tradition with the same cake mold my mother used more than sixty years ago.

chocolate lamb cake – Why not give equal time to the black sheep? This cake, decorated with crushed cookie crumbs, will please the chocolate lovers in your family.

coconut cream Easter eggs – These are a weakness of mine, which is why I can’t make them more than once every few years. Otherwise, I’d end up eating dozens of them.

Perfect hard boiled eggs – And if you don’t make any of the above recipes, you’ll probably make hard-boiled eggs at some point. If you’ve ever struggled with peeling them, here’s a primer that will help you avoid frustration.

Buona Pasqua a tutti!

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Orange Yogurt Loaf Cake

This recipe, from Jamie Schler’s wonderful new cookbook “Orange Appeal,” is originally made with blood oranges, but I used Cara Cara oranges instead. They’re really my favorite variety of orange, and ok, I admit it, I inadvertently bought two large bags of them, thinking one was a bag of grapefruits. So aside from eating fresh oranges a few times a day, I’ve been experimenting with lots of orange recipes.

Truth be told, the first time I made this recipe, it was a flop. Not that it wasn’t edible. It was. But it had a peculiar shape, due to pilot error. I used a loaf pan that was too small and caused the following chain of events: batter spilling over the sides of the pan, leaving a hollow down the center of the cake; crispy, burned bits on the bottom of the oven; smoke billowing into the kitchen and a loud alarm sounding throughout the house.

Still, that didn’t deter me from trying again. I could tell it was going to be a good cake. And remember I had all those oranges to use up. So this time I followed Jamie’s advice and used the proper size loaf pan – 9″ x 5″ by 2 1/2″. I also followed the recipe exactly, since the first time I added the oil to all the liquid ingredients rather than at the very end. Alright, I did forget to pour the syrup over the cake, but it was wonderful all the same, especially with the glaze over the top.

See for yourself, or rather try it for yourself. But make sure to read the directions thoroughly and follow the recipe and above all, use the right size loaf pan. Otherwise, get your oven cleaner ready.

Blood Orange Yogurt Loaf Cake
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1½ cups (7 ounces/195 g) all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (250 ml) unsweetened plain whole-milk or Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup (200 g) granulated white sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3 blood oranges, zested (I used the zest of 2 large Cara Cara oranges)
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ cup (125 ml) vegetable oil
  • Blood Orange Syrup:
  • ⅓ cup blood orange juice (or any orange juice)
  • 1 tablespoon granulated white sugar
  • Glaze:
  • 2 tablespoons blood orange juice
  • 1 cup (135 g) confectioners' sugar
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Butter a standard 9 x 5 x 2½ inch or 8 cup loaf pan, line the bottom with parchment paper, and flour the pan.
  2. Sift or whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt, and set aside.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the yogurt, sugar, eggs, zest, and vanilla until blended and smooth.
  4. Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients just until combined and smooth.
  5. Fold the oil into the batter, a little at a time, until well-blended and no oil has collected around the edges of the batter.
  6. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 45-50 minutes, or until the center of the cake is moist, but set and a tested inserted into the cake comes out clean.
  7. Prepare the orange syrup by placing the orange juice and sugar in a small saucepan over low heat.
  8. Cook until warm and the sugar has completely dissolved and the liquid is clear. Set aside to cool slightly.
  9. When the cake is done, remove from the oven onto a cooling rack that has been placed on top of a large foil-lined baking sheet and allow to cool for 10 minutes.
  10. Carefully loosen the cake from the pan by running a knife around the edges.
  11. Turn the cake out of the pan, discard the parchment paper, and then place the cake upright on the cooling rack.
  12. While the cake is still warm, pour and brush the warm syrup all over the top, allowing it to soak the loaf and run down the sides. Allow to cool completely.
  13. Prepare the glaze by stirring the orange juice into the sugar until the sugar has dissolved and the glaze is smooth. The glaze should be thin enough to spoon or drizzle over the cake but just stiff enough that some of the glaze will cling to the sides.
 

Upside Down Pear Walnut Cake

I know, I promised to eat fewer sweets at the start of the new year, but this has three pears sliced on top, so doesn’t that count as health food? (Don’t answer that.)

Seriously, I had to make this cake, if only because I wanted to use some of those delicious boxed pears sent to us for Christmas by our friends Jan and Dave. We still had five uneaten pears left in the box, despite having had a houseful of family and visitors over the holidays. Yes, of course we could have just eaten them raw, but when you have a husband whose idea of the perfect wedding vow includes a commitment to provide cake each night, well, you try to obey (No, neither the cake nor the obey part was part of the vows). Truth be told, I was longing to make this dessert since I saw it being whipped up on the TV program, “America’s Test Kitchen” recently. And with ample pears in the house, it was good timing.

I’ve made a lot of upside down cakes in my life, from my childhood favorite, pineapple upside down cake, to peach, to cranberry, to plum, to fig, to blood orange. 

All of them are made with a basic white or yellow cake, but this one is very different. It does use a little white flour, but it’s got one dominating ingredient that gives the cake a distinct look and flavor.

Can you guess?

Maybe now you can, after seeing this cut slice. It’s toasted walnuts, giving the cake a delicious walnut-y flavor. It’s also very moist with a delicate crumb. And it’s easy to make too – using a food processor instead of a mixer.

The only thing missing is perhaps a little whipped cream or creme fraiche.

If you want to be really wicked, maybe a scoop of ice cream. Oh what the heck, go for it. Bathing suit season doesn’t start for a while.

Upside Down Pear Walnut Cake
 
Ingredients
  • From Cooks Illustrated:
  • For the Topping:
  • 4 T. unsalted butter, melted
  • ½ cup (3.5 ounces) packed dark brown sugar (I used light brown sugar)
  • 2 t. cornstarch
  • ⅛ t. salt
  • 3 Bosc pears - 8 ounces each - (I used Bartlett and it worked out fine)
  • For The Cake:
  • 1 cup walnuts, toasted
  • ½ cup (2.5 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • ½ t. salt
  • ¼ t. baking powder
  • ⅛ t. baking soda
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup (7 ounces) sugar
  • 4 T. unsalted butter, melted
  • ¼ vegetable oil
Instructions
  1. FOR THE TOPPING:
  2. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 300 degrees.
  3. Grease 9-inch round cake pan and line bottom with parchment paper. (I strongly suggest using a cake pan that is 2" high, or use a springform pan. The batter is almost too much for a regular 9" cake pan.)
  4. Pour melted butter over bottom of pan and swirl to evenly coat.
  5. Combine sugar, cornstarch, and salt in small bowl and sprinkle evenly over melted butter.
  6. Peel, halve, and core pears.
  7. Set aside 1 pear half and reserve for other use.
  8. Cut remaining 5 pear halves into 4 wedges each.
  9. Arrange pears in circular pattern around cake pan with tapered ends pointing inward.
  10. Arrange two smallest pear wedges in center.
  11. For The Cake:
  12. Pulse walnuts, flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda in food processor until walnuts are finely ground, 8 to 10 pulses.
  13. Transfer walnut mixture to bowl.
  14. Process eggs and sugar in now-empty processor until very pale yellow, about 2 minutes.
  15. With processor running, add melted butter and oil in steady stream until incorporated.
  16. Add walnut mixture and pulse to combine, 4 to 5 pulses.
  17. Pour batter evenly over pears (some pear may show through; cake will bake up over fruit).
  18. Bake until center of cake is set and bounces back when gently pressed and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 1 hour 10 minutes to 1¼ hours, rotating pan after 40 minutes.
  19. Let cake cool in pan on wire rack for 15 minutes.
  20. Carefully run paring knife or offset spatula around sides of pan.
  21. Invert cake onto wire rack set in rimmed baking sheet; discard parchment.
  22. Let cake cool for about 2 hours.
  23. Transfer to serving platter, cut into wedges, and serve.
 
Torta Paradiso Al Limone

Torta Paradiso al limone

Before National Blueberry month is over (yikes, that’s today!) and before all those sweet/tart local berries disappear from farmer’s markets, I thought I’d post this cake that I made a least a month ago.
Blueberries not only taste delicious, but the plump berries are packed with healthy nutrients for you. They’re a good source of fiber and manganese, which plays an important role in bone development and converting proteins, carbohydrates and fats into energy. They’re also high in levels of vitamin C. and they’re low cal – only 80 calories per cup and no fat — making them the perfect summertime snack.
I used them as part of the filling on this cake called “torta paradiso al limone” — a recipe that popped up in my Facebook feed a long time ago from an Italian site called “Strabuono – Solo Cose Buone” (translates to “Extra special – Only Good Things.”)
The recipe was written with metric measurements, and I’ve included those for you — actually measuring by weight is always more accurate than using the standard American method of 1/4 cup, 1/2 cup and so on. Be aware that the original recipe didn’t include the whipped cream in the filling, nor the blueberries, but I’ll take any excuse I find to include seasonal berries (and cream) in a recipe.
The cake includes plain Greek yogurt, but I had some lemon Greek yogurt in the fridge, so used that instead (hey, does that yogurt counter the calories from the whipped cream? – Don’t answer that.).
It’s a little firmer than a sponge cake, but not as dense as a pound cake.
The filling recipe calls for making your own lemon curd, which I did. But you can always buy a jar of it if you don’t want to go through the trouble.
Homemade lemon curd however, is infinitely better than what you can buy. Make sure you strain it to get out any solids. (As you can see, I almost curdled the curd — not good, but straining it saved the day.)
You can use the curd just as is, which is the original recipe, but warning – it’s really, really tangy and lemony. Instead, I thought the strong lemon flavor needed to be tamed a bit, so I combined the curd with some whipped cream (also because I lost a bit of the curd from overcooking and nearly curdling it.)  Spread the filling over half the cake, then place blueberries all over the filling. Top with the other half of the cake and refrigerate.
Warning – the filling may be too soft and start oozing out the sides, making for a messy looking cake. But once you refrigerate it for an hour or so, the filling will start to firm up. Smooth out the sides with a spatula to tidy things up.
Decorate the top with more berries (I added some fresh currants in addition to the blueberries).
A little sprig of mint completes the decoration.
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Ingredients for the cake:
3 eggs
1 cup sugar (180 grams)
pinch of salt
zest of one lemon
3/4 cup plain or lemon flavored Greek yogurt (125 grams)
1/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil (60 grams)
1 3/4 cup flour (200 grams)
1 tablespoon baking powder (1 bustina lievito per i dolci)
1 tsp. vanilla
for the filling:
juice and peel of two lemons – (this makes a very lemony filling. If you like it less tart, use one lemon only)
1 1/2 Tablespoons butter (20 grams)
1/2 cup sugar (100 grams)
2 eggs
1/2 cup whipping creamblueberries – enough to cover the middle
confectioner’s sugar – to dust over the top

Directions:

Beat the eggs, sugar and salt together until fluffy. Add the lemon peel, yogurt, oil, flour, baking powder and vanilla and beat until combined, a couple of minutes.
Pour into a 8 or 9″ prepared cake pan (buttered and a dusting of flour.)

Bake at 320 degree Fahrenheit (160 degrees Celcius) for 35-40 minutes.For the filling, place the juice and lemon peel, plus the butter and sugar into a saucepan. Simmer until the sugar dissolves and the butter melts. Add the two whole eggs and cook for a couple of minutes over low heat until it thickens enough to coat a spoon. (Be careful, it’s easy to overcook and for the eggs to curdle.) Strain through a sieve and let cool, covering with a piece of plastic wrap directly over the curd, to avoid a “skin.” Whip the cream until the point just after soft peaks start to form (but not too much or you’ll have butter!) Fold the cream into the lemon curd.
Cut the cake into two sections. Spread the lemon cream over the bottom half, then fill with a layer of blueberries. Cover with the top layer of cake, and dust everything with powdered sugar.
Decorate with more berries and a sprig of mint.
Blood Orange Upside Down Cake

Blood Orange Upside Down Cake

 Snow and freezing rain are in the forecast here in New Jersey for today — not exactly the warm beaches of the Caribbean or the shores of the Mediterranean. But if you buy a bunch of these blood oranges while they’re still in season, you can bring a little bit of Florida or Sicily into your home with this beautiful and delicious upside down cake. Just looking at these jewel-like slices brings a smile to my face. 

The recipe comes from Coffee and Crumpets, but I first saw this cake posted on my friend Stacey’s blog and I knew right away it had to be in my future. I made it in a cast iron skillet, but the recipe calls for a traditional cake tin. Use whichever you like. The brown sugar and butter go in first, then the slices. Overlap them a bit, since they tend to shrink somewhat. Make sure you spread a little butter along the sides of the pan too.
Then spread the thick batter evenly over the slices.
Bake it in the oven for the allotted time. 
Then flip it over and stare at your beautiful plate of sunshine.
But not for too long. Dig in (with a serrated knife so you can cut through the caramelized orange slices) and enjoy. My favorite way to eat it is while it’s still warm from the oven. It may not be Capri or even Miami, but it will be a welcome treat from shoveling snow.

 

 

Blood Orange Upside Down Cake
The Cake Part
1½ cups/225g all purpose/plain flour
¾ cup/110g cornmeal, organic
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup/200g cane sugar
1½ sticks/170g butter, softened
¼ cup/60ml oil, neutral flavor
½ cup/120ml blood orange juice
3 eggs, large and organic
1 teaspoon orange zest
1 teaspoon vanilla
  1. The “Upside Down” Part
  2. 1 or 2 blood oranges, scrubbed and dried, sliced thinly with peel (I used three)
  3. ⅓ cup/70g brown sugar (I used 1/2 cup brown sugar)
  4. 4 tablespoons butter
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350F/180C
  2. In a 10″ round cake tin preferably, place the butter and sugar.
  3. Place in the oven to allow the butter to melt, about 5-10 minutes.
  4. Remove from the oven and arrange the sliced oranges into the melted butter and sugar.
  5. The orange slices will shrink so you can slightly overlap them to get better coverage on top of the cake. I only used one orange so mine are spaced out quite a bit.
  6. Keep aside and make the cake batter.
  7. Mix the flour, corn meal, salt and baking powder together in a bowl and keep aside.
  8. In a mixer bowl or with a hand mixer, beat the butter, oil and sugar together until light and fluffy.
  9. Add the orange zest and vanilla.
  10. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing after each addition.
  11. Add half the flour mixture and mix gently.
  12. Add the blood orange juice.
  13. Add the remaining flour and mix until well incorporated.
  14. Spread the batter into the cake pan, carefully.
  15. Bake for 45-55 minutes, until toothpick comes out clean and the cake is golden and puffy.
  16. Check the cake at 45 minutes and leave a bit longer if still wet in the centre.
  17. Allow to cool for 5 minutes.
  18. Run a knife around the sides of the cake if necessary.
  19. Unmold the cake while still warm onto a cake plate and allow to cool completely.
  20. Serve as is, or with a dollop of sweetened cream.
Notes
  1. Make sure to cut the orange slices quite thinly without tearing the insides. The thin slices candy nicely and become soft and sweet and accompany the cake perfectly.