Yo ho ho, and a cake full of rum

IMG_1054BSMbanner_baked-150Regardless of this blog’s title, I’ve never been a pirate – nor have I been a huge fan of rum. Well… wait a minute: I say that, but I’ve been known to toss back a few amazing mojitos and other alcoholic treats with a dash or two – or three, or four – of rum in the mix, so I can’t really say I am violently opposed to rum as much as, well, cashews or goat cheese. I think my distaste stems from consumption of almost far too many rum-and-Cokes during my college years through my late 20s; a concoction I wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole now, considering I swore off of Coke years ago. Maybe it was too much of a ‘good’ thing… who knows?

IMG_1050This week’s recipe from Baked promises a triple threat of rum: Triple Rum Black Pepper Cake. I was reassured by several of my fellow bakers that this was NOT a recipe to sit out by a long shot. Truly – when Matt Lewis himself (I’m assuming it’s Matt) assured me via Baked’s Facebook page that I had to try this one, it goes without saying – I gotta try it! Despite the fact that rum permeates not only the cake, but also its soaking syrup and glaze, the unique spin with the touch of black pepper had my curiosity stoked enough to set my rum prejudice aside and give it a go.

The recipe is similar to a straightforward Bundt cake recipe, but with three components, each of which is touched by rum: the cake, a soaking syrup, and a glaze for drizzling over the top of the glaze. I like the combination of both granulated and dark brown sugars in the cake batter, which gives the cake a warm tint and boost of almost molasses flavor. In addition to the rum accent, 2 teaspoons of freshly-ground black pepper are sifted into the dry ingredients. I’m pretty sure my eyes bugged out when I read that I was to add a cup of buttermilk and 3/4 cup of dark rum to the batter with the dry ingredients, but I forged ahead. Don’t be too alarmed at this step if your cake batter looks especially thin – rest assured, it will bake up beautifully.

IMG_1068I never turn down the opportunity to make a Bundt cake in my beautiful Heritage design pan, and I’m always amazed at how perfectly it pops out of the pan (I seriously always feel that it will stick in all those sharp crevices – it never does)! Unfortunately, once I put the cake back into the pan as the recipe instructed, glazed the bottom, and let it sit to soak in the rum syrup, some of the syrup apparently went all the way to the bottom and ‘glued’ the cake in. As a result, a couple of the nice peaks formed by the pan were torn and stuck when I released the cake again. Luckily, this cake gets a nice, silky buttered rum glaze drizzled over the top to disguise these blemishes. Once I was done, I surmised that a Heritage pan design definitely does not glaze as prettily as a standard Bundt; it’s a bit slapdash and messy. A Heritage Bundt is truly one that is best dusted with powdered sugar and left at that, as the design is so striking. Oh well… I suppose I will just rely on those sage words uttered once by my grandfather: “Don’t worry – it’s not how it looks, it’s how it tastes that matters!”

IMG_1075And my, how it tastes. Every bite is laden richly with rum, which surprisingly did not bother me, but for those of you not big on boozy desserts, it may be a little much. I almost felt like I could get drunk on one piece of cake – but it’s wonderfully delicious. The extra good news is that this is easily one of those cakes that improves upon sitting for a few days, as the rum develops a stronger taste throughout the cake. The black pepper adds an interesting note of heat. It wasn’t as pronounced as I thought it would be, but I’m not sure I would add more; it seems to be ‘just right’. The cake crumb is dense, but springy and moist, thanks to the buttermilk. The soaking of the cake with the rum syrup on the bottom keeps the bottom from being too dry and adds a terrific extra ‘shot’ of booziness, and the buttered rum glaze is an out-of-this world topping that provides a great textural contrast to the cake. (By the way, I used Myer’s Jamaican Dark Rum for all of the rum in the recipe; the glaze suggests using spiced rum, but I wasn’t going to run out and buy some just for 3 tablespoons.) I will definitely be making this cake again; it’s probably one of my favorites out of the new book.

If anything is going to turn me more on to rum, it would be this cake (well, and maybe an awesome mojito at Cubanitas in downtown Milwaukee – very recommended). It’s easy enough to put together for a family gathering and, as Baked’s intro to the recipe suggests, it’s a terrific treat at the holidays. Thankfully, we had friends moving in on our street this week to whom I was able to pawn off a large chunk of it – otherwise, yours truly would have devoured it entirely. Dangerously, almost drunkenly good. Your link to this fabulous recipe is provided here:

Triple Rum Black Pepper Cake

Please check out/follow the blogs of my fellow Baked Sunday Mornings bloggers to see how they enjoyed (or maybe didn’t enjoy) this cake, as well. Have a wonderful week, and see you in a couple more weeks… next week we’re making homemade hazelnut spread (similar to Nutella), which I am going to skip (yuck!). See you on the flip side and Happy Baking! Yes, that is an instruction to go make this cake… NOW!

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It’s all in black and white…

IMG_1040BSMbanner_baked-150Hi everyone!  Miss me?  After a few weeks’ hiatus, I’m back!  The play went exceptionally well, and I bid a fond – and teary-eyed – adieu to it this weekend as we closed.  Thank you to all who came to see it.

In my time away from blogging, I’ve still been baking… I’ve FINALLY mastered the chocolate chip cookie (yes!) and for Easter, tackled Baked’s amazing Lemon Drop Cake.  I know – blogs should really be forthcoming on these milestones.  I will do my best to see what I can write up!

Black and Whites surround a line of Highway to Heaven Cupcakes

This week I had the pleasure of hosting our final cast party (yes, as is often the case with theatre folk, there is more than one cast party).  While I left it to the rest of the cast and crew to provide the savory treats, yours truly – of course – provided the sweets.  I was anxious to try the (Portland dessert cart) Sugar Cube’s recipe for “Highway to Heaven” cupcakes – tremendously decadent dark chocolate cupcakes injected with salted caramel, soaked with coffee syrup, dipped in chocolate ganache, and finally – the finishing touch – stabbed with shards of salty Ruffles potato chips and drizzled with a last flourish of salted caramel.  They were *amazeballs*.  More on those later, however… perhaps in a separate post, for they are truly worthy of discussion.  For a little bit of contrast, I was thankful to see that Baked Sunday Mornings had chosen the ubiquitous NYC cookie, the Black and White Cookie, for this week’s assignment.  They were a pleasing complement to the rich cupcakes – and surprisingly, VERY simple to whip up last minute.  Even icing them was a breeze.

IMG_1029The Black and White Cookie is definitely a NYC-origin cookie, through and through, but I like to think of it as a New York state cookie, as a whole.  When I was a kid, my mother never made these cookies, but I remember always seeing them in bakeries – and what an amazing treat it was to eat one.  I would savor each and every bite and try to make it last as long as I could (usually unsuccessfully).  The chocolate and white icings on top were thick and sugary, and the cookie beneath cakey and pillowy soft.  I always broke the cookie in half at the icing ‘seam’ and ate one side at a time, though now, as an adult, I like to take nibbles of both sides at the same time!  What makes a Black and White Cookie truly a Black and White Cookie in the New York sense isn’t – surprisingly – the stark icing design on top.  It is one key ingredient, which I will divulge below.  Leave this ingredient out, and it’s just not a true Black and White.  It’s essential.  Can’t argue with me on this one!

IMG_1034The batter for these cookies contains your standard butter, sugar, a couple eggs plus one egg yolk, vanilla, flour, baking powder and soda, and salt – plus buttermilk to keep the cookies tender – and comes together fairly easily and quickly.  It is a slightly thick batter that reminded me, in consistency, of the batter for the cakey, plump sugar cookies my grandmother always made for Christmas.  Similar sugar cookie recipes may contain a pinch of nutmeg for a little dash of extra, unique flavor.  Black and White Cookies contain, instead – and here is the essential ingredient – a tablespoon of lemon zest.  Now… you may be thinking: “lemon?”  In a cookie that has half chocolate icing on it?  What—??!! Trust me.  The lemon zest lifts and brightens the flavor in what could otherwise be a somewhat dense cookie, and complements the icing perfectly.  Leave the lemon out, you aren’t making an authentic Black and White Cookie, in my humble opinion!

The cookies baked up beautifully in the oven – rising up like splendid, lemon-perfumed, puffy cakes.  While making smaller cookies for a crowd is always fun, by all means do not shy away from using your largest scoop for these; they’re a real treat in a larger size (great for parties, picnics, and the like).  The icing can be whisked together in a bowl very quickly while the cookies bake – no need to bust out the mixer again.  After letting the cookies cool for a short bit, you can start right in with icing them.  Careful application of the icing with an offset spatula does the trick here, though you could use a decorating bag to apply the icing if you want to go for a cleaner, polished look.  I did not divvy up my two separate icings at the start as suggested in the recipe; rather, I first frosted the white halves, then when I was done, I added my cocoa and water for the chocolate halves (the water is added to thin the frosting; the cocoa will thicken it up considerably).  The only downside to this is that I had a significantly larger amount of chocolate icing over white, and the chocolate halves of my cookies was significantly thicker as a result when I tried to used it all up.  (However, when is having more chocolate a problem, really…?)  The next time I make these – and oh yes, there will be a next time – I plan on doing it the same way again, but frosting the white halves a touch thicker, knowing I will have plenty of frosting for the remaining chocolate half.  At the present time, I saved the extra chocolate icing I had and hope to make another batch of cookies soon to use it up.  At the rate these have been eaten, that shouldn’t be too much of an issue!

With this Black and White Cookie recipe, Baked has truly provided us with another wonderful, nostalgic gem.IMG_1030  I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly these came together – they’re not as fussy as you might think at first glance.  Sinking my teeth into one of these, I was almost transported back to being a kid who absolutely loved these fun cookies – and apparently, still does.  If you’re a native New Yorker, you will immediately remember and key into your memories of this cookie at first bite, believe me.

Make your own B&Ws by following this link to the Baked Sunday Mornings page:

Black and White Cookies

…and as always, please check out the blogs of my fellow bakers to see how they fared with this treat!  (BSM bakers – I’ve missed participating with you all, but have really enjoyed reading all of your posts in the meantime!)  I will (maybe) see you next week!  While baking and writing this blog is always fun, I confess that the break was really quite nice… I promise not to leave my fans hanging for too long, however!

Next week:  Triple Rum Black Pepper Cake

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