I think I mentioned at some point, probably in one of the 10 question posts, that when I was a kid I loved to bake. Fast forward well into adulthood, and I really don’t bake that often. I guess it’s partly due to the fact that if I bake sweets, I’ll eat ’em, and if I eat ’em, well, let’s just mention that slow metabolism once again and leave it at that! The other problem though, and the reason I don’t bake bread, is that my oven has issues. The main issue has been a broken seal, which my dear husband just replaced. “Why don’t you just get a new oven,” one might ask? Time and hassle, but it’s coming, yes it’s coming… Meanwhile, this relatively simple fix seems to have transformed my oven into a decent space to bake once again, and so this week I did just that with a vengeance.
It all began with some inspiration provided by a fellow blogger—Sharyn of The Kale Chronicles—on making Tangerine Curd and you can see that post here. I’ve been getting a good amount of citrus from my CSA lately, and up to this point hadn’t really done anything creative with it…just too busy with work or just plain lazy, I can’t really say why! Then last week, Cecilia over at The Kitchen’s Garden posted about her lemon curd and using it in a Lemon Butter Cake, which sounded good and can be seen here. It looked so easy, I thought why not? I don’t have lemons, but I bet I could make Sharyn’s recipe for curd with my oranges and then Cecilia’s recipe with the orange curd instead of lemon, and that’s exactly what I did.
The orange curd was delicious…and so easy to make that I now can’t figure out why I haven’t made curd before…but I can tell you I certainly will again. The oranges are much less potent and lighter tasting than lemon, so I wondered how this might impact Cecila’s cake. I did squeeze a bit of lemon over the top, and it made a wonderful, flavorful and densely-crumbed cake…we loved it. I tried serving it the way she did in her lemon version, with fresh mint mixed into greek yogurt, which was good, but would have been better with lemon’s stronger flavor. I then tried splitting a slice of cake, filling it with more orange curd and serving plain yogurt alongside. This was delicious and a great balance. But of course, the very best was the plain cake with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, which enhanced the flavor of the curd within the cake as well as the bit of vanilla called for in the cake recipe. Both of these recipes are keepers in my book, and thanks, ladies, for breaking me out of my non-cake baking mode…my husband is thrilled that I’m baking again, and my waistline…not so much!
Within the next 24 hours, I’d turned into a baking madwoman relatively speaking, and I decided I needed to make a cake for a party. I’d read this really scrumptious sounding recipe in last month’s Cooking Light magazine for what they called a Texas Sheet Cake. It reminded me of a very similar cake that my mom made when I was a child called a Mississippi Mud Cake, which I have never made. Hers was a dense devil’s food cake, spiced with cinnamon and topped with a thick layer of fudge-like icing with toasted pecans. Truly a lovely cake, and really very rich, as I recall. This cake was calling to me, so I tried out the magazine recipe and it was magnificent. This Texas Sheet Cake has all the same flavors of the Mississippi Mud, but seems a bit lighter in texture and the icing is more of a glaze over the top rather than a thicker traditional fudge icing. Given the small adjustments I made, there may not be any significant caloric savings between the two versions because I just had to fuss with it a teensy bit. The important part is that it was a real winner in the taste department and everyone raved, so I’m keeping this one in the rotation…watch out friends, you’re probably gonna see this one a lot this year!
So all in all, the last 4 days resulted in not one, but two cakes and a lovely orange curd…that’s more cakes than I’ve made in the last two years and more dessert-like items in one week since, well, Christmas! Thank goodness for friends, the freezer and sunny days to try and power walk it all off…
Texas Sheet Cake (slightly adapted from Cooking Light)
2 cups all purpose flour, plus extra to flour the pan
2 cups cane sugar or granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 generous teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 generous teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus extra to grease the pan
1/4 cup cocoa
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla, good quality like Madagascar Bourbon
2 large eggs
6 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup milk, I used 2%
1/4 cup cocoa
3 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla, good quality
3/4 cup pecans, toasted and then coarsely chopped
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Butter a 15 x 10 inch jelly-roll pan and then dust with flour. Set aside. Combine 2 cups of flour, the cane or granulated sugar, the baking soda, cinnamon and salt in a large bowl. In a small saucepan, combine 3/4 cup water, 1/4 cup cocoa and 1/2 cup butter over medium low heat, stirring until it comes to a boil. Remove from the heat and add to the flour mixture. Beat with a hand mixer until well blended. Add the buttermilk, 1 teaspoon of vanilla and the eggs and beat well.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 17-19 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Place cake in pan on a wire rack.
Combine the 6 tablespoons of butter, the milk, and 1/4 cup of cocoa in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium low heat, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat and gradually stir in the powdered sugar. Stir in 2 teaspoons of vanilla and the nuts. Spread evenly over the hot cake. Cool completely on a wire rack. Cut into squares.