The end of the year is coming fast, and November has been crazy! I had a quick visit to Philadelphia to meet up with my sisters for a happy family event. We packed in the activities, as we always do. Our mother was not one to sit still, and she trained us to be the same way.
I really like cake, plain simple unfrosted cakes. I could take or leave birthday cakes or other layered cakes, but I always enjoy a pound cake, a Bundt cake, or any kind of one layer cake. A simple glaze or a dusting of powdered sugar makes them complete, no fussing required. For Howard, I think it’s all about the frosting as he never gets excited when I make a cake, so they are usually relegated to occasions where I’m having just my friends over or bake something to bring somewhere else.
My favorite bakery cake is the Vanilla Bean Pound Cake made by Hi-Rise Bakery in Cambridge. They are regulars at the Lexington Farmers’ Market and, in season, I treat myself to a slice about once a month. The genius of their cake is that it’s soaked in vanilla-infused simple syrup, making the outside crust magical. Eating an end piece with its extra crust is just heaven. I’ve never made it myself, but here’s the recipe.
Right before I left, I made David Lebovitz’s Bay Leaf Pound Cake, the first November challenge recipe for Cook the Book Fridays. I did NOT need a whole cake. I had nowhere to bring it that week. So, I minified it. I made one-third of the recipe (dividing by the eggs, of course) to fill one small loaf pan – a personal pound cake.
This cake is a little different than a traditional pound cake recipe because rather than creaming the butter, the butter is melted. In this case, the butter is then infused with bay leaves to add some depth of flavor. A couple of bay leaves are also set on the bottom of the pan to add more bay flavoring.
We are also instructed to squeeze a line of soft butter on top of the cake to enhance a decorative crack. It could be because of my smaller pan, but that didn’t happen on my cake.
The final touch was an orange glaze. The cake’s predominant flavor was orange. Even with the infused butter and extra leaves, I didn’t notice the bay flavoring at all. Overall, this was a lovely cake, small enough for me to eat a daily slice for a few days. It wasn’t interesting enough to make again, though I did enjoy it while it lasted.
The second recipe for Cook the Book Fridays is Panade de Butternut (Butternut Squash Bread Soup). To read the C&C (comments and concerns) post for this recipe, it wasn’t getting a lot of love, so I was a bit wary.
The recipe took a bit of advanced planning. David recommends homemade stock for this one. We were finishing up a whole chicken, so that was easy enough with a carcass on hand. I’ve been making stock in the slow cooker for the past few years which is so simple. Sourdough bread was also required. My sourdough starter needed a workout this week, so I managed to bake my own loaf to use. Stock? Check! Bread? Check! I was ready to go.
This panade is a layering of caramelized onions, toasted sourdough bread, sliced butternut squash, chopped thyme and sage, and grated cheese doused with the homemade chicken stock. I halved the recipe for our household. I must have sliced the bread too thickly because there wasn’t nearly enough to fully cover the pan for even two layers, and the recipe called for three. That means I had three layers of squash and just two of bread, which was fine.
As the panade baked, the bread absorbed all the stock, so the result was more like bread pudding than soup. It also reminded me of a lighter version of the filling for a stuffed pumpkin I’ve made. Whatever it was, it was delicious! All the flavors of fall combined into one hearty dish. It would be a wonderful alternative to stuffing for the Thanksgiving table. On the downside, if I’m being honest, even though I really liked it, in my opinion, it was a lot more work than it was worth.
Judge for yourself! Recipes for both the pound cake (page 296) and the panade (page 163) can be found in David Lebovitz’s My Paris Kitchen. My friends from Cook the Book Fridays made these too. You can find their reviews for the cake here and the panade here.
Who wants cake? On deck this week for French Fridays with Dorie is a simple buttery cake called Visitandine, named after the order of French nuns who created this recipe.
I’ll admit, I had near tragedy with this one. I decided to halve the recipe and make two small cakes in 4-inch springform pans. All seemed to be going well. I browned the butter. I mixed the butter with the dry ingredients. It wasn’t as thick or hopeless as Dorie indicated it might be. I beat the egg whites until they were stiff. I folded the egg whites into the batter. I filled the cake pans. I put them in the oven. Then, I went down to the basement to move some laundry around.
I came upstairs to find a burning smell. I turned on the oven light and looked in the little window. The oven was filled with smoke. Uh-oh. I immediately turned off the oven and opened it up to retrieve my little cakes. I also opened a window and turned on the fans. The source of the smoke was a puddle of butter that had leaked from the pan onto the oven floor. I hadn’t thought to put the cake pans on a baking sheet.
I was so disappointed. The cakes seemed to have such possibilities! They were partially baked, but not all the way. I hated to throw them out, so I just stashed in the fridge overnight while I figured out what to do.
Overnight, I was weighing my options. Do I bake the saved cakes through and see what happens or do I start over? As I was reviewing the recipe in my head, I realized why the pans might have leaked. I halved the recipe EXCEPT for the butter. That probably explains why it mixed together more easily than expected. With that much butter, it might also explain why it exuberantly oozed out of the pan.
In the morning, I cleaned the bottom of the oven and decided to try just baking what I had. If it failed, I could start over. It worked!
The cake was light though rich-tasting (must be that extra butter). I’ll have to try it with the proper amount of butter, but this is just the sort of cake I enjoy. It reminded me of the financiers, and also an almond-browned butter cake I’ve been making when I have extra egg whites.
Howard wasn’t interested in this one, so I ate some cake plain (delicious) and also cake with rhubarb compote spooned over it (also delicious, but not very attractive). I still have one more cake to enjoy. I’ll be making Howard some chocolate pudding with the extra egg yolks, so he won’t feel left out.
If you missed it on Facebook or Instagram, here’s a photo of Mardi and I enjoying a fantastic meal at Coppa, a tiny enoteca (wine bar) in the South End neighborhood of Boston. We had a great time meeting though we missed the rest of you. Here’s to more Dorista meetups in the future.