Saturday, September 28, 2013

Pumpkin Pound Cake

For those who love the flavors and aromas of autumn's best treats, this cake is for you.  Packed with delicious pumpkin puree, freshly grated orange zest, crystallized ginger and spices, my Pumpkin Pound Cake is certainly going to entice your palate in the coming weeks.  I don't know about you, but the moment I begin to feel change in the air as Fall approaches I must turn on my oven and get baking.  There's something so comforting this time of year about having a toasty kitchen redolent of sugar and spice.

I recently had the opportunity to recreate this delicious cake for a small event and I can assure you that it was a hit with guests.  Aside from the scrumptious attributes found in every slice, the pound cake is very easy to make as long as you have the ingredients in your kitchen.  I think the most difficult thing to do is choose which bundt pan will best suit your event.  In actuality, one doesn't need an event or special occasion to create this magnificent cake because it's the type of dessert that can get served with a cup of tea on any given afternoon.

A pound cake like this will keep for several days if it doesn't disappear after you've divvied up the first few slices.  It's perfect for the busy host or hostess who wants to get the baking done a day in advance of a special dinner.

Pumpkin Pound Cake is one of my favorite holiday treats.

Bake one now!   

Pumpkin Pound Cake Ingredients
  • 2 3/4 cups {365 gm} all purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons {12.5 ml} baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon {1.25 ml} fine sea salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons {7.5 ml} ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon {5 ml} ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon {1.25 ml} ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon {1.25 ml} ground cloves
  • 2 sticks or 16 tablespoons {226 gm} unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 3/4 cups packed {420 gm} light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon {15 ml} freshly grated orange zest, from one whole navel orange
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups {365 gm) pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie mix)
  • 4 tablespoons {40 gm} finely chopped crystallized ginger
  • 1 cup {105 gm} coarsely chopped, toasted pecans or walnuts
  • 3/4 cup{225 gm} orange marmalade, for glaze

Equipment: 10-12 cup bundt pan or other tube pan.
Servings: 12-16 slices

  1. Center an oven rack and preheat the oven to 350° F (177°C).  Spray your bundt pan with nonstick cooking spray or butter and flour the pan; set it aside. 
  2. In a bowl, whisk to combine the all-purpose flour, baking powder, fine sea salt, ground cinnamon, ground ginger, nutmeg and cloves.  Keep this ready.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter, brown sugar and orange zest on medium speed until the mixture is very light and fluffy, about 4-5 minutes. Stop the machine and scrape down the bowl and paddle at least once.
  4. On medium speed, add the eggs one at a time and beat until fully emulsified.
  5. On low speed add the pumpkin puree; mix well.
  6. Add the reserved dry ingredients, along with the chopped crystallized ginger and chopped nuts.  Mix until combined and no flour is visible.
  7. Pour the batter into your prepared bundt pan.  Smooth the top with a spatula.
  8. Bake approximately 50 minutes to 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean. 
  9. Remove cake from oven and let cool in the pan for 15 minutes.  Gently turn out onto a rack and cool completely.
  10. Heat marmalade until liquefied, strain through a fine mesh sieve and brush liberally onto the cooled cake with a clean pastry brush.
Choose a nice cake pedestal and center the beautiful cake.  It can sit on your sideboard until dessert is served, and any leftovers will keep for up to 4 days at room temperature.

Pumpkin Pound Cake.  Perfect for Autumn.

Bake my pound cake in the coming weeks when you feel like bringing the best of Fall into your home. Serve it at your Thanksgiving dinner as part of a dessert assortment and let each guest determine how big of a slice they get.  Better yet, don't wait for Thanksgiving.  Bake one now just because you feel like it. 


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Autumn Arrives

The calendar says autumn has arrived, yet I look out of our windows and still see green everywhere.  On a walk over the weekend I decided to photograph our surroundings to give you a perspective of eastern Pennsylvania as it is now, with the intent of showing you what it will eventually be like next month and in November.  As much as I do it for you, the reader, I also like to catalog the property from year to year so that I note the differences in the landscape.  Storms, fallen trees, dead foliage, etc., can have a significant impact on the areas around our home.  A tree that no longer stands where it used to, for instance, can make a space feel completely different.  

With such a wet summer and cooler-than-normal temperatures these past few months, it's going to be interesting to see what our foliage will look like this season.  Several years ago we had the most amazing colors that were simply breathtaking, yet the following year, the colors were muddied and the leaves fell before they even had a chance to change colors.  I felt robbed of the transition.  I'm keeping my hopes up for a splendid show this year, so let's see if it happens.  I'll have my camera at the ready to photograph everything for you whether or not it's nice.

Just the other day I was telling someone that I've lived here on the east coast the longest out of anywhere else I've resided in my lifetime.  The changes in weather, the changes in foliage, the changes in temperatures are all things I enjoy about the east coast.  Although I sometimes don't like or even welcome the change in seasons, once I get my mind into gear and begin to notice the aromas, the flavors and the colors of a particular season, I'm all for it.  Don't get me wrong, I could do with a place in Hawaii where it is splendid all year long, but for now, I'll enjoy my autumn.    

The walk up our long driveway this time of year is always nice.  There is a flurry of activity from the birds, squirrels, the occasional deer and of course, the bees.  Some of the trees along the driveway are already beginning to turn just slightly.  You have to really pay attention to notice.

I love the view of the barn from the bottom of the driveway.  The hand-built wall of the patio looks as if it's been here for the 200 years the barn has been standing.  This area is always buzzing with activity from the bees.

As I was making my way around the patio, I stopped to admire these flowers and noticed a giant spider resting on the petals.  This long-legged creature with a plump body just conjures up images of Halloween. 

The facade of the bank barn with the 4 Dutch doors is covered by a simple porch.  Every single one of the windows has its trim colored in a nice flax color that complements the stone walls.  That exact color is being copied as we speak onto something that's truly special, which will be available for all of you very soon.  Stay tuned for that.

I took this particular photograph to show you what used to be here back in the 1800s.  A door which gave access to the upper bays of the barn made it easy for the farmers to drop down equipment, bales of hay and other supplies.  It has since been sealed up and those two iron squares which flank the bottom window were added as supports for the walls.  They hold the eastern and western walls together with tension rods running through the barn.  

The hill going up toward the meadow seems to beckon me to take a long walk.  It depends on my mood, but I will either go along the right-hand side of the meadow or I will walk along the left-hand side and loop around to the other side.  Either way, the walk is a pleasure.

Looking at the side of the barn, you can see how it's built into the hill.  Bank barns like these are common to this area of the country and the fact that many of them still stand today, is a testament to their good bones.  You can see more of that color I was talking about on the window frames and along the roof line.

There's nothing like my walks around the field.  Look at the trees on the right side showing their oranges and yellows, with hints of reds.  The dogwood trees are among the first to change every single year, so you can understand why they remain a favorite with me.

I'm not sure what that flowering growth is in the middle of the grass, but it's wonderful.  It gives a nice punctuation of color which draws you in.  The butterflies were all over it as I was walking through here.  Keep in mind that my friend, Sean, mows several paths around the meadow to make it easy to navigate.  As much as I would love to, I don't make it a point to run through the field and roll around the grass.  What would the neighbors think?

This old tree which has grown rather crooked is already beginning to change and drop a lot of its leaves.  Isn't it nice to see this change in color?  With clear blue skies, wonderful temperatures and the sun shining down on me, I felt like bottling up the moment right then and there.  Although I'm not a big proponent of soaking in a lot of sun, I did not want to move from this spot because it was so warm and soothing. 

As I was making my way down the path I couldn't get over how much activity there was around me.  Bees were still buzzing, crickets were chirping by the hundreds, butterflies were fluttering about and birds were flying every which way.  Deer which are quite common in the area were not to be found on this day.

A birdhouse with the number 5 sits here on the edge of the path.  Several of these are placed around the perimeter of the field and a great number of birds use the houses to take shelter and raise their families.  I just happen to like the number 5. 

I came to a fork in the road.  Which way to go?  To the left of me is the edge of the meadow and to the right of me is the 2 acre parcel which is being replanted with native trees.  I wanted to take a look at the progress of the trees, so I turned right.

I'm glad I turned right because I came upon one of the apple trees here on the property.  It was laden with delicious apples ripe for the pickin'.  As you can imagine, I wasted no time in getting some.

Here is a tiny one I plucked from the tree.  Delicious!

The path around the replanted area was dark, but that's because the position of the sun has changed with the season.  I first notice the sun's position being different when I'm in the kitchen.  The light filtering through my windows feels different and the timing is different.  When I'm out and about at my usual time, I notice it too.  

One of my friends down in Georgia was telling me about her experiences with black walnuts when she was growing up and I told her that we had several trees here.  She asked if we ever cracked them and had them in the kitchen, to which I replied that I did not.  

The casings are extremely hard and the inner shells are charcoal black which stain everything quite easily.  We let the squirrels partake of the bounty.  Those green lime-like orbs flanking the apple are black walnuts.

Making my way back onto the meadow I came upon an island of ostrich ferns.  I guarantee you, and you'll just have to take my word for it, but these were not here last year.  I don't know exactly how they managed to creep their way to this area, but there here.  Amazing.

Ostrich ferns are quick to take root and will cover an expansive piece of ground in no time.  That reminds me, another friend of mine in South Carolina was just about to transplant some ferns from Pennsylvania.  I have to check to see how they're coming along!

When I get to the other side of the field on a sunny day like this, I'm covered by a lot of shade.  The large specimen trees that surround the area are well over 40 feet tall, so this dense canopy becomes somewhat of an umbrella.

You can see what I mean in this photograph.  The path at this bend in the field has to go right underneath sagging tree limbs.  

In case you were wondering, there are birdhouses #1 & #2.  

The landscape still has lush foliage and there is green everywhere you look, but mark my words, this will be completely different in the coming month.  Just the other day I heard a flock of Canadian geese heading south already.  I think our feathered friends know that fall and winter are right around the corner, and I actually welcome the seasons now.  I'm ready for them.  Are you?  

Enjoy the new season!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Lemon Honeypot

Making a Lemon Honeypot is such an easy thing to do at home and it was one of my very first posts when I began blogging.  The idea isn't new, but it is a nice one if you're expecting company over for some tea and cookies.  A natural honeypot like this not only adds charm to your table, it also adds flavoring to your tea in a most fragrant way.  

Lemons are fruits that can always be found in my kitchen.  No ifs ands or buts about this.  If I'm visiting my parents on the west coast during the winter I make it a point to bring back a suitcase of lemons from their citrus trees.  I can't imagine my life without lemons.

Rather than grabbing a honey bear which may or may not contain actual honey, source your honey from a local farmer if it's possible.  With farmers markets springing up everywhere, I have a feeling that local honey is more readily available these days.  The beekeepers in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, provide me with my favorite honeys and I do try different varieties just to see what they're like.  Honey is delicious drizzled over a buttered biscuit or stirred into some Greek yogurt, but it is fantastic in a cup of tea.  If it's coming out of a lemon pot, then it is superb!

Let's make a Lemon Honeypot.

My dad's lemons are the best.  I love having them in my kitchen sitting on one of my cake stands, because they're a reminder of the things I love most.

It's quite simple.  Choose a lemon (this is a meyer) and slice off a small cross section from the bottom to create a stable base when you set it down.

Cut off about a 1/3 or 1/4 cross section from the top to expose the flesh.

Using a melon baller, remove the flesh and place it in a small bowl.  I like to save the juice for a good salad dressing or for some other use.

Leave a bit of fruit on the bottom of the lemon.

Choose a good honey.  This raw honey is from Maine and it is quite delicious.

Fill the lemon with honey and bring it to the table along with the top.  Supply a honey wand for guests to dip.  Let each person flavor & sweeten their tea to taste.  

Simple.  Beautiful.  Delicious.

Don't forget to have something freshly baked when offering your guests a proper tea.  Madeleines make a perfect accompaniment to tea and if you're like me, make sure to have several 'mads' per guest.  


Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Martha by Mail ~ Cake Decorating Booklet

We all like cakes that are beautifully iced for special celebrations throughout the year.  Many of us enjoy decorating them for our friends and family with tinted buttercream, piped with exact proportions and sometimes we even add a bit of whimsy to make them unique.  Many years ago when Martha by Mail was available, the product developers provided us with a wonderful cake decorating kit which had every tool needed to create lovely cakes.  With this kit came a small decorating booklet.  The booklet is now a collector's item and I'd like to share it with you if you haven't seen it before.

The cakes, tips and decorating instructions found here were taken from previous Martha Stewart Living publications and were collected in a very informative 12 page booklet.  A few classic recipes from were included, such as the ever-popular royal icing and buttercream recipes, plus a typical yellow cake recipe.  I did not include them in this post, but you're more than welcome to visit the website for those and many others.

Enjoy creating beautiful cakes for your loved ones.

Nothing conveys a sense of celebration more than a well-decorated cake.  But too many people are afraid of trying to sculpt leaves, stars or flowers in buttercream.  Now, with this kit from Martha by Mail, you'll find icing easy and fun.  Ateco, the company that makes the thirty two tips, the pastry bags, and other tools, is renowned in its field.  This booklet will show you which tips suit which job, and how to use them.  Begin with the simpler cakes, then move on to the more complicated ones.  In no time at all you'll be improvising your own designs.

"Icing takes some practice, of course," says Martha Stewart, "but it doesn't have to be perfect.  If anything, a little wiggle here and there makes a cake look more personable."

How to Use Decorating Tips

Decorating tips are identified by a number and family- such as Star or Leaf- that they belong to.  The decorating tips in your kit are made by Ateco (other companies may use different numbers).  Use round tips for lettering, drawing and dots.  Star tips make rosettes, zigzags, shells, puffs, and rope borders.  Basket-weave tips produce smooth and ribbed stripes.  Ruffle tips make ribbons, fluted borders, and rows of hearts.  Leaf tips create leaves with a center vein.  Petal tips pipe petals, swags, and ruffle borders.  See "Creating the Perfect Base" for how to prepare a cake.

"When frosting a multilayered cake, have some empty space ready in the refrigerator so that the first few layers can chile while you're decorating."~ Martha

Daisy Cake (cover photo) 
For the yellow-green borders, hold Small Round tip No. 5 at a 45 degree angle to top edge of cake.  Squeeze until a small mound appears, then release while drawing tip down and right to make a teardrop.  Repeat, drawing upward, overlapping tail end of previous mark.  Repeat both steps until border is completed.  For petals, use Curved Petal tip No. 69.  At center of cake, hold wider end at 90 degree angle with curve pointing away from you.  At the tip of the petal, stop squeezing while drawing petal out to a point.  Dot center with Round tip No. 2.

Beaded Box Cake 

Coat a square cake as smoothly as possible with frosting.  Dot beaded edges in a contrasting shade using Round tip No. 2 or 3.

Russian Cake

Coat a cake with chocolate frosting  Mark surface into four quadrants.  Hold Giant Open Star tip No. 864 at a 90 degree angle to cake.  Pull up while gently squeezing, then release halfway into each peak, drawing up until icing forms a point.  Fill each quadrant with one of four shades of icing, starting with a row of peaks along one radius.  Complete rest of quadrant with neat rows.

Leaf Garland Cake

Pipe a white shell zigzag border along top and bottom edge of cake using Open Star tip No 18.  Hold bag at a 45-degree angle to side of cake.  Apply even pressure as you move tip up and away form you to the right, then release while pulling toward you, also to the right, letting each shell slightly overlap previous one.  With a No. 70 Leaf tip, pipe leaves in green icing on top of shell border.  Position tip on inside edge of border.  Squeeze and hold tip in place, then relax and pull toward you over border, curving slightly to the right as you draw leaf to a point.  Use Small Round tip No. 5 to pipe a small dot in a lighter shade of green on upper left side of each leaf.

Three-Collar Cake

Ice the cake in yellow, then use a sieve to dust with confectioners' sugar.  Position Giant Petal tip No. 180 against side of cake, with wider end facing down and narrow end angled slightly away from cake.  Begin with top band.  In one continuous motion and with even pressure, squeeze bag while rotating turntable full circle.  Each successive band should overlap slightly.  The same tip makes the rose: use a rose nail with a square of wax paper.  Dab a bit of icing on nail to secure paper.  Using the same tip, make a mound of icing as a base.  Hold tip against the mound as you did for the cake's sides.  Applying even pressure on bag, twirl rose nail to rotate three times.

Monogram Cake

Giant Leaf tip No. 115 creates a dramatic ruffle band around cake's top.  Apply even pressure on the bag as you zigzag in a left-right motion all the way around.  Along bottom edge, pipe a small pearl dot border using Small Round tip No. 2.  Write monogram with Small Round tip No. 3.

Snowcap Cake

Cover cake with pale green icing and dust sides with confectioners' sugar, tilting cake slightly while holding it in your hand.  Use Straight Petal tip No. 104 to pipe ruffled peaks in white buttercream.  Begin at center, holding icing bag at a 90-degree angle.  To make each snow peak, apply even pressure while moving tip vertically in a zigzag motion.  Stop squeezing halfway into each one, drawing the icing upward.  Place peaks as close together as possible to give an overall effect of snow covering a mountaintop.

Petit Fours

The flower and spiral on these bite-size cakes were drawn with a No. 2 Small Round tip.  The same tip was used to create circle of dots.  Leaf tip No. 65 pipes a thin shell border.

Victorian Columned Cake

Against a base of pink icing, pipe pale violet columns using a No. 895 Large Basket-Weave tip.  Position tip with grooved edge facing down.  Hold bag at a 45-degree angle to sides, piping each column from bottom to top edge.  Use Closed Star No. 35 to pipe a rosette at the top of each column:  hold bag at a 90 degree angle, squeeze up in a circular motion, and release to form a point.  At the base of each column, squeeze star tip while holding the bag at a 45-degree angle; release quickly.  At top, perch a dark pink dot on each rosette with Small Round tip No. 2.

"A turntable or lazy Susan makes any icing job much easier" ~ Martha

"Icing tips should be cleaned like any good kitchen utensil, with warm water and soap.  But don't put them in the dishwasher." ~ Martha

Creating the Perfect Base
Place the chilled and filled cake, bottom up, on a platter or a cardboard round lined with strips of waxed paper (easy to remove after icing); place on a turntable.  Smooth on a base layer of buttercream with an icing spatula to seal in crumbs.  Rechill the cake until icing is hard, about 15 minutes; coat the sides with a quarter inch of buttercream.  Hold a spatula parallel to the sides of the cake, with the blade slightly angled toward you.  Apply pressure, rotating turntable with the other hand.  To smooth down icing build-up on the cake's top edge, hold spatula edge parallel to top of cake, turning the stand and pushing excess into center of cake.  Do a short section at a time.  To smooth the top of the cake, first add more icing, if needed.  Then holding spatula flat on top of cake, angle the right edge slightly inward with gentle pressure while turning cake counterclockwise with the other hand.  Apply even pressure as you turn stand full circle.  icing to be used for decorating should not be chilled but allowed to reach room temperature; leaves in particular need icing to be quite warm to achieve a good shape.  To add color, dab a toothpick into concentrated paste food coloring, dip into icing, and stir.  Repeat, using clean toothpicks until the desired color is achieved.  To use a small tip, fit the coupler into a clean icing bag.  Snip off enough bag so that the coupler's grooves are visible.  Place tip on the coupler and screw on outer ring.  To switch tips midstream, unscrew the outer ring.  For a large tip, simply snip off enough bag until the tip fits snugly (you can't use the coupler).  Note that once a bag has been cut to fit an oversized tip, it can no longer be used with the small tips.  With a spatula, fill bag half full of icing.  Twist the top of bag closed and, holding the bag with thumb and forefinger and resting it on the hell of your hand,  apply pressure near the tip so that icing squeezes out smoothly through the tip.