Tag Archives: Cake

Grain Cake

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It’s not a very tantalizing name for a cake, is it? This cake is a riff on that Italian Easter time  dessert, Pastiera Napoletana di Grano, a dessert made with whole cooked wheat grains and ricotta. It wasn’t a big thing in my house growing up, but we did have it every once in a while. It’s delicious in a very comforting way, slightly chewy, slightly custardy and not too sweet. I used cooked barley in it, as opposed to wheat, and impastata ricotta, which is a richer, smoother ricotta used for cannoli filling. I’m pretty sure regular ricotta will work just fine. And other cooked grains? Why not give it a try? Cooked grains add a great texture to cake, and the grains in it feel virtuous. I’m a proponent of anything that makes daily portions of cake a “healthy” option.

Last week, I started finishing up the items in the pantry that are more wintry, like pearled barley. I had a small amount left and got the idea to make a sweet dish, something like a rice pudding. I pressure cooked the small white grains (1.5 cups) in half coconut milk and water (equaling 3 cups) and a pinch of salt. Almost half way done, the liquids started coming out of the pressure cooker and it was a bit of a disaster, burnt coconut milk all over the stove. I went ahead and cooked it until tender with the lid off despite the mishap. (Not sure why it happened? My cooker is fine, as I cooked rice in it afterwards and it came out perfectly, no mishaps. It wasn’t overfilled. Maybe it was the fatty nature of the coconut milk? I’m noting it here, so that you may be warned.) I ate that coconut barley (which is what is was, a cooked grain, instead of a pudding, but whatever) for breakfast a few days in a row, adding cinnamon and maple syrup. It was tasty, with that slightly unyielding chewiness that barley offers. But I was over it after a few days, and there was still a bit left.

What else to do with it? I thought baked in a cake of some sort was the answer. But what kind of cake is that? And the idea of the grain pie came to me. I liked it because the grain pie is sort of involved, and I liked the idea of the filling but not bothering with the pie shell. The grain pie will often have candied citrus in it, but I wanted to use up some pear jam, so the fruitiness of this cake come from that. The jam also gives it moisture and cohesion, so I’ll bet you could swap it with applesauce and then add about a third of a cup of chopped candied citrus, if you prefer. This cake stayed moist for a good five days sitting out. It was quick to put together and a good easy breakfast. Who doesn’t want cake for breakfast?

Grain Cake

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 10-inch springform pan.

1 cup cooked barley

1/2 cup impastata ricotta

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup pear jam

2 eggs

1 cup all purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon almond extract

Add the ingredients in the order they are listed here, but mix the flour, powder, soda, and salt together before adding it to the rest of the ingredients. Poured and smoothed into the pan, it was baked for about 25 minutes. Let cool.

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Canned Pear Cake

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This time of year the empty jars start piling up, and the full jars start to disappear. The jar management game, if you’re a canner,  begins. I might be a little early this year. I tend to be somewhat of a hoarder, which means that by the time asparagus and rhubarb starting producing in the garden, I’m still using up pantry items. This year I want to have a clean slate by that time. And to defrost the freezer! Big plans over here. This cake was a success on all fronts, even though it’s name sounds dull. Not only was it delicious, but it used up almost two jars of pantry goods. And it’s a healthy breakfast cake to boot. Success!

Success feels good. Of course, I don’t post failures, but don’t be fooled, they are legion. I’m never truly bothered by a kitchen fail. It’s disappointing, sure (especially when I think something is going to turn out great and spectacularly fails), but it never deters me from forging ahead. I’m so matter of fact about the failures: huh, that didn’t work. Guess I’ll try this. I wish I could be that forgiving with the rest of my life. I’ve been thinking about this topic a lot lately after reading this article on Brain Pickings about fixed  and growth mindsets; in particular I liked the quote about how growth mindsets  instill “a passion for learning rather than a hunger for approval.”  People with a fixed mindset, on the other hand, “see risk and effort as potential giveaways of their inadequacies, revealing that they come up short in some way.” My cooking life definitely has a growth mindset. The rest of me? Not so much.  I think my personal life could learn a lot from my cooking life–the biggest lesson being: keep going in the face of failures (big plural!).

The success of this recipe is that it’s adapted one of my favorite recipes from The Laurel’s Kitchen Bread Book, a simple one for banana bread. My spin is that I’ve used some pears canned in light syrup, and a pear jam. I also like date molasses (try it!) for this, but maple syrup or honey would both be fine. Keep in mind the honey will be sweeter, so maybe use 1/4 cup, and maple perhaps 1/2 cup? It also depends on how sweet your jam and pears are, so adjust for that.

Canned Pear Cake

Preheat oven to 350. Grease an 8×8 pan.

2 cups canned pears (this can be pear sauce, or canned pear halves that have been mashed)

3 tablespoons of oil or melted butter

1/3 cup of date molasses (or 1/4 cup of honey; 1/2 cup maple syrup–see note above on sweeteners)

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 tablespoon of lemon juice

2 cups white whole wheat flour

2 teaspoons of baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup pear jam (mine was a chunky style with no embellishments)

1 tablespoon of sugar for topping (optional)

Mix the first five ingredients well. Whisk the dry ingredients in a separate bowl. Mix them together. Smooth in prepared pan. Spread the top with jam, and sprinkle with sugar for a little crispness, and bake for about 40 minutes. Look for the sides to be golden, and the very tips of the jam beginning to brown a little. You can also check with a toothpick inserted coming out clean.

Even a few days out, this is still good. I put a slice of cold butter on a untoasted piece of this, and it was heavenly.

Bloomington, NY