{twd} rum-drenched vanilla cakes

I have no idea why I never noticed this recipe until it was my turn to pick one. Really, it has everything I enjoy. Rum. Vanilla Beans. Low Mess/Dirty Dish Count. No Waiting for Butter to Soften. Simple Straight-Forward Recipe.

I joined Tuesdays with Dorie back in August 2008 and now almost 2 years later it is finally my turn to host a recipe. It was a super-easy pick for me. I just flipped through Dorie Greenspan’s Baking…From My Home to Yours and the book fell open to page 226: Rum-Drenched Vanilla Cakes.

Originally when I selected this recipe I was going to make it three times. Once with the beans I bought in Taha’a, Tahiti; once with the beans I bought in Zihuatanejo, Mexico;  and once with the beans I bought in Vava’u, Tonga. I even considered making it four times with the Madagascar vanilla beans that I have but did not travel to get. Yeah, I may have a little vanilla bean problem. I wanted to see if I could taste the difference.

I also have a time management problem and ran out of time. I went out-of-town this weekend, got home Sunday afternoon, went to go make the cakes, realized I didn’t have eggs or cream, ran to Trader Joe’s, got home, realized I was out of sugar, debated going to the store again, decided to use the homemade vanilla sugar I had and had just the right amount for the recipe.

This is an awesome recipe. The cake is unbelievably good. The texture is amazing and flavors work really well together. Yum.

Rum-Drenched Vanilla Cakes

Recipe from Baking…From My Home to Yours, page 226.

The texture of this cake is so perfect–the crumb so soft, even and tightly knit–that you could mistake it for a Sara Lee pound cake. That’s high praise in my book: I’ve always loved Sara Lee’s compact, tiny-bubble crumb and the slices of cake are simultaneously firm and supple. But what you get here is a flavor Sara Lee can never deliver, one that depends on using the very best vanilla you can find. The first choice is a pair of moist, pliable vanilla beans. You get the truest flavor from beans, and if you follow the nifty technique of  of rubbing the pulp of the beans into the sugar, you’ll get maximum results. If you use extract, you’ll still produce an excellent cake, but you’ve got to use pure extract. As for the rum–it should be high-quality, dark and strong.

Make the syrup as soon as you slide the cakes into the oven to bake–that way, it will have time to cool.

For the Cakes

  • 2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 1/3 cups of sugar
  • 2 plump, moist vanilla beans, split lengthwise, seeds scraped out and reserved, or 1 1/2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
  • 6 large eggs, preferably at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup of heavy cream
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons dark rum
  • 1 stick plus 7 tablespoons (15 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

For the Syrup

  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup dark rum

Getting Ready: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 8 1/2-x-4 1/2-x-2 1/2 -inch loaf pans, dust the insides with flour and tap out the excess. (Even if the pans are nonstick, it’s a good idea to butter and flour them.) Place the pans on an insulated baking sheet or on two regular sheets stacked one on top of the other.

Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together.

Put the sugar and the pulp from the vanilla beans, if using them, in a large bowl and, working with your fingers, rub them together until the sugar is moist and thoroughly imbued with the fragrance of vanilla. (If you are using vanilla extract, add it later, after you’ve added the eggs.) Add the eggs and whisk them into the sugar, beating until they are thoroughly incorporated. Whisk in the extract, if you are using it, then whisk in the cream, followed by the rum. Continuing with the whisk or switching to a large rubber spatula, gently stir in the dry ingredients in 3 or 4 additions; the batter will be smooth and thick. Finish by folding in the melted butter in 2 or 3 additions. Pour the batter into the pans, smoothing the tops with a rubber spatula.

Bake for 55 to 60 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean. (As soon as the cakes go into the oven, make the syrup.) After about 30 minutes in the oven, check the cakes for color–if they are browning too quickly, cover them lightly with foil tents.

Meanwhile, Make the Syrup: Stir the water and sugar together in a medium saucepan over medium heat until the sugar melts, then bring to a boil. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the rum. Pour the syrup into a heatproof bowl and let cool.

When the cakes test done, transfer them to a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes before unmolding them and turning them right side up on the rack. Place the rack over a baking sheet lined with wax paper and, using a thin skewer, cake tester or thin-blade sharp knife, poke holes all over the cakes. Brush the cakes all over with the syrup, working slowly so that the cakes sop it up. Leave the cakes on the rack to cool to room temperature.

{twd} two for the price of one

This week marks the second anniversary of Tuesdays with Dorie, the awesome blogger baking group that is baking it’s way through Dorie Greenspan’s Baking…From My Home to Yours. To celebrate the occasion Laurie, the founder of the group, let the bloggers decide which recipe to make and chose a second one  as another option.

I made the Tarte Tatin for the non-chocolate dessert option at my supposed-to-be-vegetarian Christmas Eve dinner. Darn, those parents! Anyway, the tarte was easy to make and used simple ingredients.  You caramelize apples in a pan and then cover the apples with puff pastry (what I used) or tart dough and bake it in the oven. Once done, you flip it and the apples are on top. And, YAY!, all my apples behaved.

I, of course, served it with homemade ice cream. I made the Vanilla Bean Ice Cream from Alice Medrich’s Pure Dessert. See the flecks! Love it.

I really liked the Tarte Tatin. It wasn’t too sweet and it was light and flaky. I’ll definitely make it again, maybe using different fruits.

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I made the Cocoa-Buttermilk Birthday Cake for Olivia’s first birthday party. Olivia is my best friend’s daughter. I made it for the sole purpose of destruction.  I made half the recipe and baked it in three 4-inch round pans. I froze two of the little cakes and split the third to make layers. The cake was a big success with Olivia. See the photo montage below.

Thank you so much to Laurie for starting Tuesdays with Dorie 2 years ago. It’s been so much fun and I’ve met and have become friends with so many new people since I joined. If you would like the recipes for both, please buy the book or visit Laurie’s blog.

Tahitian Vanilla Bean Star Cookies and Eggnog Ice Cream

You probably all don’t know this, but I just got back from vacation. 😛 And on this vacation I bought vanilla beans. A lot of vanilla beans. Although most of the beans I bought came from Taha’a, French Polynesia, I also bought some in Vava’u, Tonga.

The quality of the Tongan beans doesn’t compare to the Tahitian ones and my Polynesian friends scoffed when I showed them my purchase. Visually  I knew the quality wasn’t there, but they smelled like vanilla and the price was right–10 beans for $5. I figured I could use them when vanilla isn’t the star of a recipe or maybe to make vanilla sugar.

Last Saturday, I invited my intrepid pastry sous-chef Diego over to help me get back into the post-vacation baking swing of things. When I asked him what he wanted to bake, he told me ice cream. Okay, not really baking–but I heart ice cream so all is good. We flipped through The Perfect Scoop looking for a recipe I hadn’t made and had all the ingredients. We came upon Eggnog Ice Cream. Not only did it meet my criteria, it was also seasonally appropriate. Score!

{I realize Diego is holding a duster and not a whisk in the above picture, but he also likes to clean in addition to baking.}

The original  recipe calls for vanilla extract, but I decided to test out my Tongan beans and used two of them instead. The ice cream is wonderful. Not only is it perfectly creamy, it packs a punch of flavor with the perfect combination of vanilla, nutmeg, and booze. Oh, yes–not only do I heart ice cream, I heart boozy ice cream most of all {see: Guinness-Milk Chocolate Ice Cream, Tiramisù Ice Cream, Prune-Armagnac Ice Cream}.

You can find the recipe for Eggnog Ice Cream HERE. Note: To sub the vanilla beans, I scraped the seeds into the sugar and rubbed them with my fingers until the sugar was moist and fragnant. I then added the milk and 1/2 the cream into a medium saucepan with the sugar and vanilla seeds and pods. Once heated, I let it seep for 30 minutes and then proceeded with recipe as written.

I paired the ice cream with a cookie in which vanilla beans are the star (ha ha) of the show: Tahitian Vanilla Bean Star Cookies. The recipe comes from the Sunset Magazine 2009 Holiday Cookbook special issue and doesn’t specify what type of bean, so use what ever type you have on hand.

The cookies are simple butter cookies with the ingenious addition of a vanilla bean. No need to refrigerate before rolling and cutting, so if you are a speedy baker you can have cookies in less than an hour. {I am not a speedy baker}. I may change the name of these cookies to Tahitian Vanilla Bean Bliss Bites. These are now my go to roll and cut sugar/butter cookies. YUM.

You can find the recipe for Vanilla-bean Cookies HERE. {Note: I also used the scrape seeds directly into sugar and rub method here. I find this a better method for mixing the seeds into the sugar.}