Sugar Plum Clafouti

Hello, friends! Do you like my new springtime-y blog design? (Note to Google Reader-Readers: you do not want to miss this hot English Pea action).

Helen and I got back from Granny Cruise 2010 late on Saturday.  We had tons o’ fun, but I am so glad to be home! I’ve got some rockin’ pictures of our trip posted on Facebook– friend me if you’d like to see them!

Anyway, on Sunday, Andy and I went to Central Market and it felt like I was in a wonderland after a week without being able to cook. Our cart overfloweth(-ed?) with fresh produce (right now I’m having a lovely lunch with radishes, fresh butter, and sea salt!), including a dozen sugar plums!  What’s a sugar plum? I had no idea, but I wanted to find out.  Here’s what they look like:

 Here’s a sugar plum compared to your everyday-plum:

Little darlings, aren’t they?  Anyway, I decided I wanted to try them out in a clafouti, which is a classic French dessert that I hadn’t made before.  I had all the ingredients except for the cup-and-a-half (!) of heavy cream that the recipe called for.  Andy graciously volunteered to go to the Mexican grocery store around the corner from our house to pick some up.  Turns out they don’t sell the kind of cream I’m accustomed to there, so I ended up using this instead:

Man, this stuff is good! It’s thicker than regular cream and smells intensely buttery.  I will definitely use this again.

So, for the clafouti,  I cut my plums in half, pitted them, and arranged them on a pie plate.  I tasted them at this point too, and they weren’t very ripe.  They were still slightly sweet, but pretty firm.  I reasoned that they’d soften up and sweeten during baking. (This assumption turned out to be wrong!  Don’t make clafouti unless you have ripe fruit!).  Then I mixed the batter and poured it on top of the arranged plums and baked it for 35 minutes.

The result?  Well, the thing was beautiful, especially once the top was dusted with confectioners’ sugar, but the fruit didn’t pop through the top like it’s supposed to (clafouti is traditionally made with cherries).  The taste was quite lovely.  To my mind, you could describe it as the love child of flan and a dutch baby. The fruit was a problem though.  It was too hard and not sweet enough.  Boo. But don’t let that discourage you from trying it! Make it with cherries, or with Ina Garten’s recommendation of sliced pears, or perhaps with very ripe plums 🙂

Sugar Plum Clafouti
Adapted from Ina Garten’s Pear Clafouti from Barefoot in Paris

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 3 extra large eggs, at room temperature
  • 6 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream (or Mexican crema fresca!)
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 12 very ripe sugar plums (or 2-3 bartlett pears or the fruit of your choice)
  • confectioners’ sugar
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Butter a 10 x 1 1/2 inch round baking dish (or a pie plate, if you don’t have one of these) and sprinkle the bottom and sides with 1 tablespoon of the granulated sugar.
  2. Beat the eggs and the 1/3 cup of granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  On low speed, mix in the flour, cream, vanilla extract, lemon zest, and salt. Set aside for 10 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile prepare your fruit.  If you’re using sugar plums, cut them in half and remove the pit.  If you’re using pears, peel, quarter, core, and slice them.  Arrange the fruit in a single layer in the baking dish.  Pour the batter over the fruit and bake until the top is golden brown and the custard is firm, 35-40 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature, sprinkled with confectioners’ sugar.

Super Mario Cake!

I made a silly cake! My dear friend Erin mentioned that she was looking for a Super Mario Bros cake for her son Kaleb’s 9th birthday, and I jumped at the chance.  (I was the happy recipient of some lovely cake-decorating tools this Christmas, and had been looking for an opportunity to try them out).

I’m somewhat bashful to admit that this cake took nine hours from start to finish.  Egads.  I had fun though! I had never made a two-tiered cake like this before, and was pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t quite as tricky as I had feared.  This how-to guide helped in the assembly process.

For the cake, I made a double-batch of Martha’s Yellow Buttermilk Cupcakes and a single batch of her Swiss Meringue Buttercream, both from the charming Cupcakes book.

The bottom tier is 10″ and the top is 6″, with the requisite support of wooden dowels holding up the top tier. I made all the decorations with gum paste, which is just a powder you mix with water and tint by kneading in food coloring gels.

Pictured below:  I also tried my hand at making cake pops for the first time.  I used the instructions from Bakerella to make one chubby little Mario star for the top of the cake, and several coins, all on lollipop sticks, to be stuck into the cake when it reached the birthday boy.

Hooray for birthday cakes 🙂

The Snake Bite

I made up this recipe for the chocolate cake contest at Food52, which they’re doing in honor of Valentine’s Day.   Here’s the intro I wrote for my contest entry (see if you can catch my attempt at using Danielle Steel-esque language to make a Snake Bite cake seem more Valentine’s Day-y):

This cake was inspired by the oh-so-tasty concoction of lager and cider known as a ‘snake bite.’ For the cake, I’ve replaced the lager with a stout, and have opted for fermented pear cider in place of the more traditional apple. The ever-so-slightly effervescent pear cider cream cheese frosting swoons contentedly upon a truly dark, rich, and delicious chocolate stout cake. 

Anyway, this cake is fun! And absolutely incredibly easy to throw together.  Mix dry stuff in one bowl, wet stuff in another, then mix together and bake.  And just like that, you’ll have a cake! That you baked from scratch! Also, it’s very boozy, which is nice 🙂

Update: My cake wasn’t selected as one of the two finalists, but it was highlighted as an Editor’s Pick. Yahoo!

The Snake Bite

For the Cake:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup good cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sour cream, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted and cooled
  • 3/4 cups Guinness Extra Stout, at room temperature

For the Frosting:

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cup powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1/4 cup fermented pear cider (I like Ace’s)
  • 1 dried pear slice, for garnish
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a nine-inch round cake pan.
  2. Mix together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and sour cream. Then whisk in melted butter and Guinness. Add flour mixture to egg mixture and combine with a rubber spatula. Pour into the prepared cake pan and bake 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
  4. While the cake is baking, prepare the frosting. Put the softened butter and cream cheese in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on medium speed until creamy and well combined, about 2 minutes. Reduce the speed to low and add the powdered sugar and mix until combined. Slowly pour in the pear cider and mix until the frosting comes together. Let the frosting set up a bit in the refrigerator until the cake is ready to frost.
  5. When the cake is cool, transfer it to a platter. Spread the icing on top of the cake, taking care to push it all the way to the edges. Garnish with a slice of dried pear and enjoy with a glass of pear cider!