Rainbow Cake–A food color review.

My son loves rainbows–in the sky, in My Little Pony form, but most of all in cake form.

He has asked me for a rainbow cake for a long time now.  I thought I had it covered when I made him a chocolate cake with rainbow frosting but, apparently, that wasn’t enough.  The other day, he asked again and I folded like a lawn chair.  Ok, kid.  We will make a real rainbow cake. I’ll even try to not complain about dirtying six bowls and spoon mixing all the colors.

I used the Vanilla Cake recipe from Cake Simple.  I changed it in a few ways to suit what I had on hand (why were all my vanilla beans so dry and sad??) so, despite this cake being seriously delicious, I want to make the recipe again before really going into the details.

Instead, I want to talk about the amazingness of these food colors I tried out.  They were just ok in the bowl while I mixed them up; the colors were solid but I still expected them to fade significantly while they baked.  The top layer of the cake was purple, so I couldn’t tell what the outcome was until I unmolded the bundt.

WHAT THE WHAT?  All hail Ateco gel food color, bringer of rainbows!  These colors were amazing! Red is always a problematic color and, even though I could have added a little more to the batter, this was leaps and bounds above any other color I’ve ever used.

I’m a convert.  Rainbow cakes forever.  Ateco food colors forever.  If you are the type that likes fun colored food, I cannot recommend these enough.

Orange Swirl Coffee Cake

A few weeks ago, I finally got around to ordering the first issue of King Arthur Flour’s magazine, Sift. It was, as you’d expect, fully of gorgeous photography and delicious looking recipes but, after making the Orange Sunshine Coffee Cake from the first issue, I’m underwhelmed.

rolling

The recipe in the magazine was full of errors (ingredients calling for orange juice and then the instructions saying “add the water”, etc) and I find so much of the helpful information in the reviews and replies back from KAF on the website. With Sift, you are basically paying (a lot–these magazines aren’t cheap!) for an out of date printed out version of their website. Anyway–the Orange Coffee Cake recipe is available (without all of the errors) on their website for free: King Arthur Flour’s Orange Sunshine Coffee Cake

Even with all the problems I had during assembly because of the errors in the text, this was a delicious and impressive looking cake. Think orange flavored cinnamon roll in cake form. This is described as a spring flavor but I always associate oranges with Christmas and New Years since my family always received a box of oranges from my Grandmother and then, later, my Aunt.

This was received well and it is, as everyone noted, an impressive looking cake even with my fairly novice construction skills. Like many of the online reviewers, I had a problem with the filling leaking out while waited overnight in the fridge. It wasn’t a disastrous event but this cake would be better either with the clear gel called for in the recipe (instead of the suggestion of subbing flour) or baked immediately after the resting phase instead of putting it in the fridge overnight like I did.

The flavor was great and my Mom loved it so I’ll give this another try some day with a better edited recipe and a little more cake shaping experience under my belt.

Orange Swirl Coffee Cake
from King Arthur Flour

dough
1/2 cup milk
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup orange juice
2 teaspoons instant yeast or active dry yeast
2 3/4 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar
1 large egg

filling
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon Instant Clearjel
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons grated orange peel (zest)
3 tablespoons orange juice

icing
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 to 2 tablespoons orange juice

To make the dough: Place the milk in a small saucepan and bring it to a simmer. Remove it from the heat and add the butter. When the butter has melted, add the orange juice. When the mixture is barely warm to the touch, mix in the yeast, 1 cup of the flour, and the sugar. Cover the bowl, and let the mixture rest for 10 minutes, to give the yeast a chance to get going.

After 10 minutes, the mixture should be showing some bubbles. Mix in the egg and salt. Add another 1 1/2 cups of flour and mix until cohesive. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface; use the remaining 1/4 cup flour for your hands as you knead the dough for 6 to 8 minutes. It should be soft, smooth, and supple.

Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover it, and let it rise until doubled in volume, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

To make the filling: Combine the sugar, Clearjel, cinnamon, orange zest, and juice to form a spreadable paste.

To assemble the coffeecake: Deflate the risen dough and pat it into a rectangle. Cover it with greased plastic and let it rest for 5 minutes. After this rest, roll it into a 12″ x 18″ rectangle. Spread the filling over the rectangle, leaving 1/2″ along one long edge uncovered. Roll the dough up (starting at a long edge) toward the opposite uncovered edge. Pinch the seam to seal, then transfer the log to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Pull the ends around to form a circle; pinch the ends together.

Cut slits about 1 1/2 inches apart, three-fourths of the way toward the center of the ring. Lay the rings on their sides to overlap, or twist alternating slices to the inside and outside of the ring, as shown in the recipe’s photo. **I simply stretched these apart rather than try to twist them** Cover with greased plastic wrap and let rise for 30 to 45 minutes, until quite puffy-looking. After 20 minutes of rising time, preheat the oven to 375°F.

When the coffeecake is almost doubled, remove the plastic. Put the cake into the preheated oven, and bake it for 20 to 25 minutes, until it’s golden brown. Remove it from the oven, and cool it on a rack.

When the cake is lukewarm, combine the confectioners’ sugar and orange juice and drizzle over the top before serving.

Salted Caramel Cake

  
I eat a lot of cake and cookies–more than most people, I would say. I usually prefer chocolate cake or my inner-child-love of funfetti. This time, I let my husband loose on a new bundt cake focused cookbook and he selected a salted caramel cake. Caramel is usually an “ok” flavor for me but it isn’t something I lay awake at night thinking about.

Or, at least, it used to be something I didn’t crave. Now I can’t stop thinking about this cake. It’s the most delicious cake I have ever made–and perhaps ever eaten. It is super dense, moist, and has the deepest, smoothest, luscious caramel flavor. Add the icing on top? I may never want another cake again.

This recipe is a bit involved to start with since you have to make the caramel syrup first. I’m not very familiar with sugar work, so I was a little intimidated. Like most things, it wasn’t nearly as hard as I had feared. On the upside, you’ll end up with at least a cup or so of extra syrup. Add it to coffee, or just roll around in it.  

 It took quite a long time to develop the color on the sugar but, it went pretty quickly once it did have some color. The directions here were a little vague–I was supposed to stir the water in and cook until the syrup “thickened” but how much? As it turns out, not much at all. The syrup will still look quite watery in the pan (it maybe would have passed the line on the back of the spoon test) but will thicken tremendously as it cools to a very thick molasses like consistency.

The batter for the cake was easy and, except for the caramel syrup, was all basic ingredients. Then the scary part: preparing an intricate bundt pan. I hadn’t used this football stadium shaped pan before and there were so many nooks and crannies! I feared for my poor little cake but followed the melted butter/flour mixture worked in with a pastry brush technique. Then, I crossed my fingers and poured the batter in the pan.

  
VICTORY! I knew when I pulled the cake out of the oven I was in pretty good shape as it was pulling away from the pan.

  
…and turned out!

  
I let it cool completely then added the frosting (similar to a basic buttercream with caramel syrup added).

  
Next time, I will flip the cake out onto its final resting platter rather than giving it more time on the rack to cool. It was very difficult to move without breaking and its not like I was trying to preserve a crisp crust or anything like I do with bread. I’ll also ice it differently when I use this pan again since you can’t really tell its a stadium. Oh well.

This cake was AMAZING. My nephew who doesn’t really even like caramel loved it. I will probably double this recipe next time and make a larger bundt cake with it since everyone was sad when the cake was finished.

Salted Caramel Cake
Makes a 6-cup bundt pan size cake.

Caramel Syrup:
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups water
1/4 tsp fleur de sel (or other fancy salt)

In a small saucepan with high sides, mix the sugar with 1/2 cup of water and stir until combined. Use a wet pastry brush to wipe down the sides of the pan to prevent crystalization of the sugar. Cook over high heat until it turns a dark amber color. DO NOT STIR THE PAN. Swirl the pan occasionally to ensure even coloring. When the sugar is dark amber, carefully pour in the remaining 1 cup of water. The caramel will bubble up and sizzle, so stand back. Reduce the heat and whisk the caramel mixture until somewhat thickened. Allow to come to room temperature before proceeding.

Caramel Icing:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup confectioners sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla
2 tablespoons caramel syrup
pinch of fleur de sel
1-3 tablespoons heavy cream to get the consistency frosting you want

Whisk the butter, confectioners sugar, vanilla, syrup, salt and 1 tablespoon of heavy cream in a bowl until well blended. Add more cream as needed.

Caramel Cake:
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
2 cups (240 grams) all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
1/3 cup caramel syrup
1 cup whole milk

plus more butter and flour for the pan

Preheat oven to 350 and prepare the pan by brushing with melted butter, then flour. Work into all the nooks and crannies with a pastry brush.

Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl and set aside.

In your stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar on medium to cream until light and fluffy. Add vanilla then the eggs, one at a time until combined. With the mixer on a low, gradually add the caramel syrup and beat until incorporated. Add the flour mixture, alternating with the milk and beat until blended.

Pour the batter into the pan, smooth the top and bake until done. The guideline in the recipe for a standard shaped bundt pan was 45-55 minutes but my stadium pan was done in 35. Watch your cake carefully and make liberal use of your cake tester!

Remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool for 15 minutes, then invert onto your platter. Drizzle with the frosting and eat!

Butterscotch Swirl Cake

 

If you are from Michigan–at least the Detroit area–you’ve no doubt heard of Sander’s Candy. It is, without a doubt, the best hot fudge IN THE WORLD. In addition to their amazing sundae toppings, they also bake coffee cakes. Legend says (actually, my Mom told me) that they used to have an amazing butterscotch coffee cake that my grandfather loved. While I never had it, I’m determined to bake a great butterscotch cake for her. After some googling, I decided upon the Butterscotch Swirl Cake from the Galley Gourmet, a new to me food blog.

 

This is an upside down cake with a glaze that covers the bottom of the pan before you assemble the cake on top. The glaze and dough both came together very easily and I was ready to assemble!

 

I found assembly a little difficult but something that would probably be much better the second time I made it. I ended up cutting my long strips into shorter strips to make it easier. I was a little doubtful that the dough would proof enough to fill the cake pan but it did.

 

It baked beautifully but LEARN FROM MY MISTAKES. Put this pan on a rimmed sheet pan to go into the oven or the glaze mixture will spill over the pan and smoke up your oven!

After baking, I set to the most difficult part of the cake: turning it out onto a platter. This was….not pleasant. My cake ended up sticking in a few places and a good chunk of it needed to be reassembled.

 

So how did it turn out? The cake and glaze had that amazing butterscotch flavor I was after: sugary, buttery, and deeply golden brown. Now–the downsides. The glaze over-hardened on me. Instead of being a glaze, it was more of a..shell? I wanted something more like a frosting/soft glaze (think cinnamon roll icing) but the glaze in this recipe almost turned to crumbly candy on the edges. Even with my problems, I am going to make this again with a few changes: I’ll keep the cake as is because it is both beautiful and delicious. I’ll make the same glaze but, instead of baking it on the bottom of the cake pan, I’ll simply pour it over the cake when it comes out of the oven. I may add some brown sugar to the filling as well.

Gluten Free Yellow Cake

cake!

Vanilla cake. So misunderstood. I know a lot of people who view yellow cake as simply a vehicle for frosting but it is so much more! It actually can have flavor on its own–a perfect light buttery vanilla.

This year, I volunteered to make a gluten free yellow cake (“with chocolate frosting!!”) for my Nephew’s birthday. I started with this GF Yellow Cake recipe from King Arthur Flour but wanted to make a really intense vanilla butter cake to hold up to the requested chocolate frosting. I pulled out one of my favorite ingredients–vanilla paste which is a sugary syrup with vanilla bean (seeds? insides? gunk?) stuff suspended in it. If you haven’t tried it, and you are into that vanilla seed look to your baked goods, it is well worth a try.

vanilla

The batter came together easily and was nice and fluffy in the pan. I was afraid this would lead to a fragile cake but I was past the point of no return. Though I do admit to making backup box-cake mix plans.

cakes

Gluten free cake can often be dry and crumbly and, sadly, I found this cake to hold true to that. It was delicious the first day but didn’t have any shelf life at all. I wish I had waited until the day of the party to bake the cakes so they didn’t sit overnight. Lesson learned.

sliced

This cake didn’t last long in terms of shelf life but it did delivery really fantastic flavor. It was also dense enough to allow me to slice the two cakes into layers to make a 4 layer cake. Frosting was also easy since the cake held together and didn’t create a gazillion crumbs to muck up the frosting.

cake!

Gluten Free Vanilla Butter Cake
(best eaten the day it is baked!)

3 cups King Arthur Gluten-Free Multi-Purpose Flour
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 1/2 cups sugar
12 tablespoons soft butter
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon vanilla paste (eyeball this as the paste is SUPER sticky)
4 large eggs
1 cup milk, at room temperature

Preheat your oven to 350.

Combine the flour and xantham gum in a large bowl, set aside.

In the bowl of your stand mixer, beat the sugar, soft butter, salt, baking powder, and vanilla paste until smooth. Beat in the eggs, which will fluff up the batter. Then alternate milk and flour additions to the batter. Prepare 2 9-inch cake pans with parchment paper and cooking spray. Divide your batter into the pans. Bake 25 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.