I'm P.C., and I have studied food and cooking around the world, mostly by eating, but also through serious study. Coursework at Le Cordon Bleu London and intensive courses in Morocco, Thailand and France have broadened my culinary skill and palate. But my kitchen of choice is at home, cooking like most people, experimenting with unique but practical ideas.

I live, mostly in my kitchen, in my hometown of Memphis, Tennessee.

Chocolate Buttermilk Pound Cake with Buttermilk Ganache

Chocolate Buttermilk Pound Cake with Buttermilk Ganache

Valentine’s Day gives us all a chance to indulge, and what better way to treat yourself than a rich chocolate cake that is simple to make and completely decadent. I’ve made some version of Chocolate Pound Cake for years, but I kept thinking “this is good, but it could use more chocolate.” So with some tinkering, I figured out how to pack in some really intense chocolate flavor. A healthy dose of deep chocolate cocoa powder set off by tangy buttermilk, with just a little hit of semisweet chocolate. Using buttermilk in the ganache sets it apart – rich chocolate with tang and zip.

This simple cake makes a wonderful dessert for a family dinner or a thoughtful gift for a friend. And I’m just saying, a leftover piece for breakfast with a dollop of strawberry jam keeps the indulgence going.

Chocolate Buttermilk Pound Cake with Buttermilk Ganache
Serves 8
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For the Cake
  1. ½ cup (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
  2. 1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  3. ½ cup granulated sugar
  4. 1 egg
  5. 1 teaspoon vanilla
  6. ½ cup bittersweet (or semisweet) chocolate chips
  7. 1 ½ cups all purpose flour
  8. ¾ cup natural cocoa powder
  9. ½ teaspoon baking soda
  10. ¼ teaspoon salt
  11. 1 cup whole buttermilk, well shaken
For the Ganache
  1. 6 Tablespoons whole buttermilk, well shaken
  2. 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  3. ½ Tablespoon butter, cute into cubes
For the Cake
  1. Preheat the oven to 325°. Spray a standard 9 x 5 inch loaf pan with baking spray (like Baker’s Joy).
  2. Beat the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment until creamy. Add the brown and granulated sugars and beat until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat in the egg until completely combined. Beat in the vanilla and the chocolate chips until evenly distributed.
  3. Sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt together into a small bowl. Really do take the time to sift, as cocoa powder tends to clump. Beat the flour mixture into the butter, alternating with the buttermilk, into two additions, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.
  4. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 60 – 70 minutes until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan on a rack for about 10 minutes, then remove from the pan to the rack to cool completely.
For the Ganache
  1. Place a piece of parchment or waxed paper under the rack where the cake has cooled to catch any drips.
  2. Heat the buttermilk in a small saucepan over medium heat just until it begins to bubble. Do not boil. The buttermilk will begin to separate; that’s fine. Drop in the chocolate and turn off the heat. Beat vigorously with a spatula or spoon until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Beat in the cubes of butter until melted and smooth. Because the buttermilk curdles slightly, this ganache is not utterly smooth and silky, but I like it that way – it gives it a homemade look. If you like, you can pour the ganache through a fine strainer into a bowl before spreading it on the cake.
  3. Slowly spread the ganache over the top of the cake. I love to leave most of the ganache on the top, with just a little overflow dripping down. Go slowly and you can do this to. This way you don’t loose too much frosting in drips. Let the ganache cool and firm up for at least an hour, then slice and serve.
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Peppermint Cookie Bars

Peppermint Cookie Bars

A good, thickly frosted sugar cookie bar has all the old-fashioned comfort we look for during the holidays. I like to take that recipe and zuzz it up for Christmas, with some rich white chocolate and bracing peppermint. The shower of crushed peppermint candy adds a festive touch and couldn’t be easier to do. These are simple to make, but look gorgeous on a festive platter and will really stand out on a display of other sweets. I took them to a party last year and another woman picked one up then asked what they were. I told her they were peppermint and saw her hesitate – but clearly wasn’t going to put it back on the plate – so she politely took a bite. Her face lit up and she declared “I don’t really like peppermint but these are yummy. My son would love these!” She promptly asked for the recipe.

You could tint the icing pink if you are so inclined and I have been known to add some edible white glitter to the peppermint candies to add an extra sparkle. The soft peppermint puffs work best, rather than the classic starlight style mint, because they crush more easily and are not as hard to eat.

Peppermint Cookie Bars
Yields 26
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For the Base
  1. ½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened
  2. ½ cup sugar
  3. 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  4. ½ teaspoon baking powder
  5. ½ teaspoon salt
  6. 1 egg
  7. 2 Tablespoons sour cream
  8. 1 teaspoon vanilla
  9. ½ cup white chocolate chips
For the Topping
  1. ½ cup butter, softened
  2. 4 cups confectioner’s sugar
  3. ¼ cup milk
  4. ¼ teaspoon peppermint extract
  5. 10 soft peppermint candies (such as Bob’s Sweet Stripe)
For the Base
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Line an 8 by 8 inch square pan with nonstick foil or parchment paper.
  2. Beat the butter and the sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add the egg, sour cream and vanilla and beat until well combined ans smooth. Gradually beat in the flour, baking powder and salt, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed, until you have a smooth, thick dough. Beat in the white chocolate chips.
  3. Press the dough into the prepared pan in an even layer. Smooth the top with your fingers to make a flat surface. Bake the base for 20 – 15 minutes until lightly golden at the edges, firm, and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool the bars completely.
For the Topping
  1. Clean and dry the bowl of the stand mixer, then beat the butter until light. Gradually add the confectioners sugar alternately with the milk, scraping down the sides of the bowl frequently, until you have a luscious, spreadable frosting. Beat in the peppermint extract.
  2. Spread the frosting in an even layer over the top of the cookie base. I like to use an offset spatula. Smooth the top.
  3. Unwrap the candies and place them in a sturdy zip top bag. Use a rolling pin or other heavy object to smash the candies to rubble and dust. Evenly sprinkle the candies over the frosting and use your clean hands to press the candy into the frosting so it doesn’t just fall off when served.
  4. Cut into small squares.
Notes
  1. For the batch in the photo, I found white chocolate chips with a red swirl which make a pretty addition. They were not peppermint flavored, but if you find those, I am sure it would be lovely.
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Cranberry Gingerbread Cake with Butter Sauce

Cranberry Gingerbread Cake with Butter Sauce

I am very nostalgic about gingerbread, though it is not part of some long-standing family holiday tradition. Other than the occasional hard gingerbread man cookie, I was well into my teens before I ever even knew there was any other form. But soft, cake-like gingerbread seems to hark back to the olden days. It has a Little House on the Prairie or Frances Hodgson Burnett kind of quality to it. Maybe it’s the gingery smell of Christmas when the cake is baking, or the rich, warm spices so associated with the holidays. Gingerbread makes me feel like I am continuing a tradition, though I never had one to begin with. And it does play nicely into my anglophilia, for it is definitely an British tradition.

I’ve upped the American ante here though with our native cranberries for a festive touch. This cake perfectly straddles the Thanksgiving – Christmas line, featuring flavors perfect for both. Make it for either or both. This recipe can be made ahead, which is always a bonus during the hectic season. I serve this as dessert, and the butter sauce adds a touch or decadence fit for the season. But this would also make a lovely breakfast without the sauce.

Cranberry Gingerbread Cake with Butter Sauce
Serves 9
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For the Cake
  1. 2 cups fresh cranberries
  2. 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
  3. 4 Tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
  4. 1 cup (2 sticks) butter
  5. 1 cup light brown sugar, packed
  6. ¼ cup molasses
  7. 1 egg
  8. 1 cup buttermilk
  9. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  10. 2 cups all-purpose flour
  11. 1 teaspoon baking soda
  12. 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  13. ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  14. ½ teaspoon salt
  15. ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  16. 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  17. For the Butter Sauce
  18. ½ cup (I stick) butter
  19. 1 cup granulated sugar
  20. ¾ cup heavy cream
For the Cake
  1. Pulse the cranberries in a food processor (the mini one works fine) until roughly chopped. Add the flour and 1 Tablespoon sugar and pulse until you have a fine rubble.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350°.
  3. Cut the butter into chunks and place it in a 9 by 13 glass baking dish. Melt the butter in the oven for about 5 minutes. Swirl the butter around to cover the sides of the pan, then pour the butter into the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the brown sugar and molasses and beat on medium low for a few minutes until thoroughly combined and smooth. Add the egg and beat until combined. Beat in the buttermilk and vanilla until incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl.
  4. Mix the flour, soda, salt, and spices together in a small bowl, then beat into the wet ingredients until combined, scraping down the bowl a few times. Add half of the cranberries and mix in gently. Take the bowl off the mixer and give the batter a good stir to distribute the cranberries. Scrape the batter into the buttered baking dish.
  5. Spread the remaining cranberries evenly over the surface of the batter. I find my clean fingers the best tool for this, breaking up the cranberry mixture as best I can and distributing over the batter. The batter will not be completely covered, just do your best to evenly spread the cranberries and press them lightly into the batter.
  6. Mix the cinnamon and remaining 3 Tablespoons sugar together for the topping and sprinkle evenly over the top of the cake. Bake for 30 – 40 minutes until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean.
  7. The cake can be cooled and covered and kept for one day.
For the Butter Sauce
  1. Melt the butter over medium high heat in a medium saucepan until it is bubbling and spitting and just beginning to brown. Stir in the sugar and the heavy cream and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, then remove the sauce from the heat and stir well. The sauce can be served warm or a room temperature. You can cool, cover and refrigerate one day ahead, then loosen the sauce by heating it in the microwave.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Apple Ginger Upside Down Cake

Apple Ginger Upside Down Cake

You may notice a little theme this month, though it wasn’t actually by design. As autumn rolls around, I start cooking with (and eating) a lot of apples. In season, locally-grown apples are a wonder, on par with eating seasonal, local strawberries, instead of the chemically ripened fruit flown in from miles and miles away. So I make the most of the bounty in cooking both sweet and savory. Last week, I included apples in my deliciously autumnal Roasted Pork with Sweet Potatoes and Hard Cider Cream Sauce, and here I use the little beauties in a sweet preparation, that makes a wonderful dessert with a scoop of ice cream or a perfect breakfast treat.

An upside down cake is a chance to be really artistic in the kitchen. Feel free to arrange the apple slices are creatively as you can manage. Flip the cake over and you’ve got a really beautiful creation to share. Ginger and apple is an amazing flavor combination, and I incorporate the ginger in layers here, using fresh, powdered and crystallized.

Apple Ginger Upside Down Cake
Serves 6
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Ingredients
  1. For the Apples
  2. ¼ cup butter
  3. ¼ cup light brown sugar
  4. 1-inch piece of fresh ginger, finely grated
  5. 2 apples, I prefer golden delicious
For the Cake
  1. ¼ cup (1/2 stick) of butter, softened
  2. 2/3 cup light brown sugar
  3. 2 eggs
  4. 1 teaspoon vanilla
  5. 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  6. 2 teaspoons baking powder
  7. 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  8. ½ teaspoon salt
  9. ½ cup buttermilk
  10. ¼ cup chopped crystallized ginger
For the Apples
  1. Preheat the oven to 375°. Spray a 9-inch round cake pan lightly with cooking spray.
  2. Cut the butter into cubes and drop it the pan. Place the pan in the oven for 3 – 5 minutes until the butter melts. Remove the pan from the oven and sprinkle over the brown sugar and the ginger. Stir with a spatula to combine, then spread the sugar mixture around the pan. It won’t cover the bottom completely, just make sure the sugar is not all in one place. Core and slice the apples into ¼-inch slices and fan out over the butter mixture in an attractive pattern. Some apples can overlap, but you only want one layer.
For the Cake
  1. Cream the butter and brown sugar together in an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time and beat until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in the vanilla, then beat in the flour, baking powder, ginger and salt alternately with the buttermilk, scraping down the bowl, until the batter is smooth. Beat in the crystallized ginger until evenly distributed. Dollop the batter over the apples in the pan, then use dampened fingers to press it out to cover the apples.
  2. Bake the cake fro 20 – 30 minutes until firm, golden brown and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Leave the cake in the pan for 10 minutes, then run a thin knife around the edge to loosen it. Invert the cake onto a platter, leave for about a minute to loosen, then remove the pan.
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Caramel Cobbler

Caramel Cobbler

I have a small obsession with Mississippi made McCarty Pottery. I am sort of a latecomer to it. When I was of an age that all my friends were getting married, McCarty was on the top of everyone’s gift registry. But I just didn’t see it. Not my style, I thought, too rustic. But for my 40th birthday, a generous friend gave me a beautiful jade platter and I was hooked. I went on a spree, searching out interesting pieces to add to my growing collection (that same friend is my favorite enabler). This all culminated in my first visit to the McCarty Pottery in Merigold, Mississippi. Merigold is a little hamlet of just a few streets, right off legendary Highway 61. Part of the pottery pilgrimage is a stop at the Gallery Restaurant. Hidden behind a wall of bamboo, the jewel box of a restaurant serves a set menu of simple dishes. Start with some hearty vegetable soup, chicken crepes, tomato pudding and spinach, all served on McCarty Pottery of course. The kicker is dessert. A choice of caramel or chocolate cobbler. I chose the caramel, as I am wont to do, and ate every last bit of it drenched in vanilla ice cream. All the way home, driving through the flat Mississippi Delta with my new pottery pieces carefully tucked in the back of the car, I thought about that cobbler and how I could recreate it at home. I’ve been forced to go back just to try and get it right, and if I buy a few pieces while I’m there, who can blame me.

So here’s my attempt, and it’s a pretty good one too. I won’t say I got it exactly right, but this is a rich and homey dessert you won’t soon forget. I like to serve it in McCarty bowls, but that’s up to you.

McCarty's Caramel Cobbler

McCarty’s Caramel Cobbler at The Gallery Restaurant

Caramel Cobbler
Serves 6
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Ingredients
  1. ½ cup (1 stick) butter
  2. 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  3. 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
  4. 2 teaspoons baking powder
  5. ½ teaspoon salt
  6. ¾ cup milk
  7. 2 Tablespoons bourbon
  8. 1 teaspoon vanilla
  9. 1 ½ cups light brown sugar, packed
  10. 1 ½ cups boiling water
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Place the butter in a 9 by 13 inch baking dish and place in the oven until the butter melts, about 6 minutes.
  2. While the butter is melting, stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder in salt in a large bowl. Mix the milk, bourbon and vanilla in a 2-cup measuring jug, then add to the dry ingredients and stir until smooth and combined. Carefully remove the baking dish from the oven and pour the batter over the melted butter. Do your best to distribute the batter evenly, but don’t worry about it covering the bottom of the dish. Sprinkle the brown sugar evenly over the top of the batter, then slowly pour over the boiling water. Do not stir, just carefully place the dish back in the oven.
  3. Bake for 30 minutes until the batter is firm with craters of lovely caramel bubbling up through the top. Serve immediately with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
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Whole Lemon Squares

Whole Lemon Squares

My mom made great lemon squares. I say did, because she just doesn’t do it anymore. They were her go to take-along to school events and family functions, and a special treat for us. She had volunteered to bring lemon squares to a school field trip for me when I was in elementary school, but shortly before the scheduled date, she broke her leg and was completely laid up. But she worried about those squares, and insisted that my Dad and I make them the night before. My Dad was a very good cook, and I was getting there, but we made a complete mess of it. The lemony filling never set up, so our cookie base turned hard as a rock. We even tried a second batch to equally disastrous results. I can’t remember how my Dad remedied the situation (probably stopped at the bakery on the way to school), but the experience scared me off of lemon squares for many a year.

I make a wonderful Blender Lemon Pie that’s uses a whole lemon, peel and all, to great results. Its an old community cookbook recipe, so when I ran across a recipe for lemon squares using whole lemons in another community cookbook, I worked up my courage to try again. And then they became a sort of go to for me as well. My mom even asks me to make them for her. This version has all the sweet-tart tanginess of classic lemon squares, but not the wobbly texture from a filling that uses more eggs. This method takes a lot of guesswork out of the baking and yields easily perfect results.

As with the Blender Lemon pie, the lemons are best with a thin skin, which can be kind of hard to tell when buying them. Too much white pith makes the filling bitter. Look at the pointy end of the lemon – if it’s very elongated, there is likely to be a thick skin. If the skin feels tough and hard, as opposed to having some give when you press on it, it’s likely to be thick. You can poke through with your fingernail to see what you’re looking at. Buy a couple of lemons with appropriate skins. Cut into them and use the thinnest skinned one. Use any other lemon for you gin and tonic. No great loss.

Whole Lemon Squares
Yields 16
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Ingredients
  1. 2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour, divided
  2. ½ cup confectioners’ sugar
  3. 1 cup (2 sticks) of butter, softened
  4. ¼ teaspoon salt
  5. 2 medium lemons
  6. 4 eggs
  7. 2 cups granulated sugar, divided
  8. 1 teaspoon baking powder
  9. confectioners’ sugar for sprinkling
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Line a 9 by 13 brownie pan with parchment paper.
  2. Place 2 cups of the flour, the confectioners’ sugar, the butter and the salt in the bowl of a mixer and blend until combined but crumbly. Scatter the crumbs in the bottom of the prepared pan and press evenly into a uniform crust. Bake for 20 minutes until firm and golden in places.
  3. Cut each lemon into eighths and pop out all the seeds. Drop the lemon pieces in a blender and add 2 eggs and 1 cup of the sugar. Blend until smooth and the lemons are pureed, then add the remaining 2 eggs and 1 cup of sugar, ¼ cup of flour and the baking powder and blend until completely smooth, scraping down the sides of the carafe if needed.
  4. Pour the filling over the crust in an even layer and return the pan to the oven. Bake for 20 minutes, until the filling is set and no longer jiggly in the center. Leave to cool for about 10 minutes, then sprinkle a thick layer of confectioners’ sugar through a sieve in an even layer over the bars. When completely cool, lift the bars out of the pan using the parchment paper, then cut into squares.
  5. The bars will keep covered for up to a day. If not serving right away, I wait to cut them into squares and sprinkle some more confectioners’ sugar on before serving.
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Blackberry Sage Skillet Cake

Blackberry Sage Skillet Cake

Fruit and herbs are a wonderful combination. I’ve made Peaches Poached in Basil, a Blueberry Basil Compote, even a Strawberry Mint Vinaigrette. Blackberries and sage a re a lovely pairing, the berries are sweet and the sage woodsy, but together they sing. Sage isn’t generally associated with sweet recipe, but it should be for the lovely herbaceous tone it adds.

I’ve added sage to blackberry jam for years – its one of my standard summer recipes, but I hadn’t really considered using sage in baking. I’ve been experimenting with various herbs in baking recently, and when I decided to use some fresh farmers market berries in this classic upside down cake recipe, I wanted to give sage a chance. It creates this elusive note of herbal freshness under the dark, sweet juiciness of the berries. The cake is tender and moist enough to soak in some of the juices, but not terribly sweet so the berries really shine. A bright note of lemon zest helps bring the whole together.

This cake is lovely on its own for dessert, though I could easily see it at breakfast. A dollop of whipped cream – perhaps infused with sage – or a big scoop of rich vanilla bean ice cream wouldn’t go amiss. And don’t these simple skillet cakes make an impressive presentation?

Blackberry Sage Skillet Cake
Serves 8
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Ingredients
  1. 10 Tablespoons butter at room temperature
  2. 1 nice bunch of fresh sage, 5 -6 leaves and 2 Tablespoons finely chopped
  3. 1/3 cup dark brown sugar
  4. ¾ cups granulated sugar
  5. 2 cups blackberries
  6. 2 teaspoons lemon zest
  7. 1 teaspoon vanilla
  8. 2 eggs
  9. 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  10. 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  11. ½ teaspoon salt
  12. ½ cup buttermilk
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350.
  2. Melt 4 Tablespoons of butter in a 10–inch oven safe skillet over medium heat. Drop in 5 – 6 sage leaves to infuse the butter. When the butter is melted and fragrant from the sage, remove the sage leaves, squeezing them against the side of the skillet to remove as much butter as possible. Stir in the dark brown sugar and cook briefly, just until smooth and melted. Do not let it burn. Remove from the heat and stir in 1 Tablespoon chopped sage. Spread the sugar mixture evenly over the skillet, then sprinkle the blackberries in an even layer over the sugar.
  3. Beat the remaining 6 Tablespoons of butter with the ¾ cup granulated sugar in the bowl of a mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in 1 Tablespoon of chopped sage, the lemon zest and vanilla until combined. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, blending thoroughly before adding the next egg, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Beat in the flour, baking powder and salt in two additions, alternating with the buttermilk, scraping the sides of the bowl.
  4. Scrape the batter over the top of the berries and smooth the top. Bake the cake for 30 minutes, rotating the skillet half way through the cooking time, until the top is a lovely golden brown a tester inserted in the center comes out clean.
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Peanut Butter and Jelly Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting

Peanut Butter and Jelly Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting

I never tire of peanut butter and jelly. I have a peanut butter sandwich (no jelly, whole wheat bread, natural peanut butter) for lunch most days. The jelly is a special treat, particularly when I have some homemade strawberry preserves on hand. It still makes me feel like a kid, though no one cuts my crusts off for me anymore. Baking the classic childhood flavors up into a sweet treat is a fun way to expand on the pairing – kids and adults will love it. And what could be more American for a summer picnic or party?

The classic 9 by 13 cake is a great party take-along. It serves a lot of people, and sweet cake like this can even be served in smaller portions to stretch it out. This cake keeps well, so make it a day ahead and keep it covered on the counter. It even gets a little moister! It is rich, but you could absolutely serve it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting
Serves 16
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Ingredients
  1. For the Cake
  2. ¾ cup (1 ½ sticks butter)
  3. 1 cup water
  4. ½ cup creamy peanut butter (not natural)
  5. 2 cups light brown sugar
  6. 2 cups all-purpose flour
  7. ½ teaspoon baking soda
  8. ¼ teaspoon salt
  9. ½ cup buttermilk
  10. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  11. 2 eggs
  12. ½ cup jam, jelly or preserves (I like strawberry)
  13. For the Frosting
  14. ½ cup (1 stick) butter
  15. 1/3 cup buttermilk
  16. ½ cup creamy peanut butter (not natural)
  17. 4 ¼ cups (1 pound box) confectioners sugar
Instructions
  1. For the Cake
  2. Preheat the oven to 350°. Spray a 9 by 13 baking dish thoroughly with cooking spray.
  3. Put the butter, water and peanut butter in a large, about 4 – 5 quart, pot and place over medium high heat. Bring to a boil, stirring until everything is smooth and incorporated. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the brown sugar until incorporated. Add the flour, baking soda and salt and stir until smooth. Stir in the buttermilk and vanilla. Let the batter cool for a few minutes. Break the eggs into the measuring cup you used for the buttermilk and lightly beat. Add to the batter and beat until smooth and thoroughly combined. Spread the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.
  4. Dollop the jam by evenly spaced tablespoons over the batter, then use a thin knife blade or a skewer to swirl the jelly through the batter. It doesn’t need to be perfect or pretty, just try and get the jelly throughout the cake. Bake the cake for 25 – 30 minutes, until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean.
For the frosting
  1. Rinse out and dry the pot you used for the cake batter.
  2. As soon as the cake comes out of the oven, bring the butter, buttermilk, peanut butter and vanilla to a boil over medium high heat, stirring until smooth and incorporated. Remove the pan from the heat and quickly beat in the confectioners sugar, by hand or with an electric mixer, until smooth. Pour the warm frosting over the warm cake and carefully spread it over the top.
  3. Leave the cake to cool, then cut into squares and serve.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Blueberry, Coconut and Lime Bake

Blueberry, Coconut and Lime Bake

I’ll admit, blueberries and coconut are not a combination I would have thought up. Then I had a blueberry and coconut popsicle at a Mexican paleta shop and the idea sort of took off. I’ve been thinking of interesting and complex ways to make the most out of the combo, dreaming up ideas for cakes and bars and pies to create recipes for. In the meantime, I rather accidently converted an old recipe to the new ingredient and it worked out so well, I thought I better share it.

My first pass at this used lemon, and it was delicious. But when I was making it again to photograph and test, it occurred to me that lime added to the slightly tropical feel of the coconut, and, well, I happened to have some limes on the counter. This dessert is so simple with so much reward. Use those last berries from your farmers market haul and the rest of the ingredients are probably already hanging around. The coconut adds a wonderful, slightly chewy texture with a little zip from the limes and a nice burst of juicy berries.

Blueberry, Coconut and Lime Bake
Serves 4
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Ingredients
  1. 1 ½ sticks butter
  2. ½ cup plus 1 Tablespoons granulated sugar
  3. 1 egg
  4. 3 Tablespoons sour cream
  5. ½ cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  6. ½ cup all-purpose flour
  7. ¾ teaspoon baking powder
  8. ½ teaspoon salt
  9. juice and zest of one lime
  10. 1 pint blueberries
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Grease a 1 quart baking dish.
  2. Beat the butter and ½ cup sugar together in the bowl of an electric mixer until creamy. Beat in the egg until combined, then the sour cream until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Stir in the lime zest until it is evenly distributed. Beat in the coconut, flour, baking powder and salt until the batter is thoroughly combined and smooth.
  3. Sprinkle most of the blueberries over the bottom of the prepared dish, reserving a small handful for the top. Squeeze the lime juice over the top of the blueberries. Spoon the batter over the berries and spread out to evenly cover. I find a slightly damp hand the best tool for this. Press the remaining berries over the top of the batter, then sprinkle over the remaining 1 Tablespoon of sugar.
  4. Bake for 30 minutes until the top is golden brown and firm.
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Strawberry Ricotta Cake

Strawberry Ricotta Cake

It has taken me awhile to realize that ricotta cheese is an incredibly versatile ingredient. For most of my life, I only ever encountered it in lasagna. But years of cooking and research has shown me that it is good for so much more. Now when I say this, I mean good, whole milk ricotta that is rich and creamy and moist, not the skim variety that can get a bit dry and leaden in that lasagna filling. You’ll find it at better grocery stores. I occasionally make my own ricotta, which is an incredibly easy project (search a recipe online) with great rewards. That I tried with fresh sliced strawberries drizzled with honey and realized what a great combination it makes.

So I turned the idea into a very simple cake, lightly sweetened with honey so the berries really shine. This recipe is not complex or difficult, but it is one of those dishes that makes me feel like a really sophisticated cook. For a little added sweetness and color, slice some strawberries, sprinkle them with sugar and let them sit while the cake bakes and cools. They’ll produce a lovely syrup that is delicious drizzled over the sliced cake.

Strawberry Ricotta Cake
Serves 6
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Ingredients
  1. butter for greasing the pan
  2. 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
  3. 4 eggs
  4. 1 ½ cups whole milk ricotta
  5. ¼ cup honey
  6. zest of 1 lemon
  7. seeds scraped from ½ of a vanilla bean
  8. ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  9. 5 -6 strawberries, sliced
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Lightly coat an 8-inch springform pan with butter. Sprinkle 1 Tablespoon of butter in the pan and shake and rotate it until the sugar evenly coats the sides and the bottom of the pan. Tap any excess sugar out of the pan.
  2. Separate the eggs. Beat the whites in a small bowl until they hold stiff peaks. Put the yolks into a large bowl with the ricotta, honey, lemon zest and vanilla seeds. Beat until smooth and creamy. Beat in the flour until the batter is completely combined.
  3. Gently fold the egg whites into the batter a third at a time, making sure each addition is combined before adding the next. Spread the batter into the prepared pan. Artfully arrange the sliced strawberries over the top of the batter, then sprinkle the remaining 1 Tablespoon of sugar evenly over the top of the cake.
  4. Bake for 30 – 35 minutes until the cake is firm and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely in the pan.
  5. Remove the sides of the pan and slice. If you’d like, you can serve with some sliced strawberries sprinkled with sugar.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/