Chocolate Orange Olive Oil Cake + 5 Must Read 2020 Baking Books

DSC_7582DSC_7551DSC_7560

Starlings in Winter by Mary Oliver

Chunky and noisy,
but with stars in their black feathers,
they spring from the telephone wire
and instantly

they are acrobats
in the freezing wind.
And now, in the theater of air,
they swing over buildings,

dipping and rising;
they float like one stippled star
that opens,
becomes for a moment fragmented,

then closes again;
and you watch
and you try
but you simply can’t imagine

how they do it
with no articulated instruction, no pause,
only the silent confirmation
that they are this notable thing,

this wheel of many parts, that can rise and spin
over and over again,
full of gorgeous life.

Ah, world, what lessons you prepare for us,
even in the leafless winter,
even in the ashy city.
I am thinking now
of grief, and of getting past it;

I feel my boots
trying to leave the ground,
I feel my heart
pumping hard. I want

to think again of dangerous and noble things.
I want to be light and frolicsome.
I want to be improbable beautiful and afraid of nothing,
as though I had wings.

 

Anne looked for Tess in the everyday.  At first, it was the strong breeze at Tess’ funeral on an otherwise calm day.  How beautiful the cherry blossoms rained on them.  The grievers, the grief-stricken, the heart-broken, the lost.  Cherry blossoms floating, flying through the air, landing on their jackets, settling in their hair.

Are you the tenacious breeze Tess?  You made yourself known again.  It was a beautiful display of your all-encompassing presence. Bursts of lightning and hail at Red Rocks while Grace and Anne watched the Avett Brothers sing holding out hope the storm would pass.  And then it did pass.  You pushed out the weather and revealed the stars.  We sang and danced.

Months later an enormous dragonfly landed on Anne’s mailbox, her tiny head facing the house as if ignoring the world. She refused to leave.  Anne poked at it. Nothing but a slight movement in the wing.

What’s wrong with it, Mama? 

I’m not sure.  How do you explain a living thing desiring to stay when it knows it would be best to leave?  You don’t.  Some things are unexplainable.

Fall came and so did the dead bird.  The bird lay on the stone steps outside of Anne’s house, wings to the ground, its underbelly exposed to the sky, bright white, her tail feathers ombre shades of pale blue.  A single leaf-covered her head as if she were part of a crime scene.  Anne stared at it for a few seconds before the kids came out of the house, backpacks in hand ready to go to school.

Mama, what happened?

Gross!

Can we have a funeral for it? 

Not now.  Get in the car. We are late.  

Later that day they did have a funeral for the bird.  Not really.  The kids lost interest and just wanted Anne to get rid of it.  Except for her older son.  He handed Anne the shovel after a failed attempt at digging a hole into the semi-frozen ground.  Anne forced the shovel through the frosted ground, raising the handle above her head and coming down as hard as she could breaking through the ground.  Over and over again.  Anne’s heart pumped hard.  She could feel it.  Tears welled but never spilled over.  Anne gently placed the bird in the ground and covered her with the earth.

I’m glad we planted her there, Mama.  He walked into the house and closed the door.  If only we could plant the things we love and loose and eventually they come back in the spring blooming once again.

The last visitor was a ladybug.  She landed on Anne’s hand at some point without Anne noticing.  It wasn’t until Anne lifted the toilet brush out of the now clean toilet that Anne spotted her.  How strange.  Anne walked down the creaky old stairs.  The ladybug was still sitting on her hand.  She opened the front door and blew as if blowing out birthday candles.  She flew away.

Did you make a wish?

I forgot.

Anne didn’t forget.  She wished for peace.  Not world peace.  That won’t happen.  But peace in her crippled heart.  Peace in the heart she felt beating, once again, after a long silence, when she buried the bird.

 

Chocolate Orange Olive Oil Cake

Serves 8

Recipe adapted from Simple Cakes by Odette Williams

Ingredients:

1 + ½ cups of unbleached all-purpose flour

½ cup unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa powder

1 tablespoon of baking powder

½ teaspoon of kosher salt

½ teaspoon espresso powder

3 eggs, at room temperature

1 + 1/3 cups of sugar

¾ cup of mild extra virgin olive oil

½ cup of whole milk

½ cup of buttermilk

¼ cup of freshly squeezed orange juice

1 tablespoon of orange zest

Ingredients for glaze:

2 cups confectioners’ sugar,

1 tablespoon of unsalted butter, softened

2 tablespoons of boiling water,

½ teaspoon of vanilla

Pinch of kosher salt

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 350F.  Butter, flour, and line with parchment paper 1 8×3 inch cake pan.  Set aside.

Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl.  Set aside.

Using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, beat the eggs and sugar on medium speed until very pale, about 3-5 minutes.  Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.  Next, add the oil, buttermilk, milk, orange juice, zest.  Beat on low speed until frothy, about 1 minute.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and whisk until well combined.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan.  Bake until the cake springs back when touched or a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 45 to 50 minutes.  Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes.  Remove cake from pan and allow to cool completely.  While the cake is cooling, make the vanilla glaze.

 

Directions for the glaze:

Sift the confectioners’ sugar into a medium-size bowl.  Add the softened butter.  Pour boiling water over butter.  Whisk until the butter melts and the sugar and water come together to make a glaze.  Add vanilla and a pinch of salt.

Assembly:

Pour the glaze over the cooled cake, spreading gently with an offset spatula if necessary.  Decorate with sanding sugar or sprinkles if desired.  The cake can be stored at room temperature in an air-tight container until ready to serve.  Enjoy!

5 Baking Books to Check Out in 2020

Midwest Made by Shauna Sever is on all the lists right now.  Her recipes come straight from the heart of America.  You can get your copy here.

Weeknight Baking by Michelle Lopez, the author of the blog Hummingbird High, is a must-read for any home baker with easy and delicious recipes, as well as, suggestions for riffs to make it your own.

Looking to try something new this year or up your pastry skills?  Check out Pastry School by Le Cordon Bleu.  This baking book is a step by step baking guide for beginners, as well as, professionals.  Check it out!

Joanne Chang is by far one of my favorite bakers.  Her latest book Pastry Love is on my must-purchase list.

New to baking?  Buy a copy of Beginner’s Baking Bible by Heather Perine you will become an expert in no time…or at least more capable in the world of butter, flour, and sugar.

Carrot Cake Muffins with Maple Icing + 5 Muffin Recipes for Spring!

Tess had just finished feeding her cat when a familiar face appeared in the window of the old wooden door that had kept her safe inside her home and the world safely outside for so many decades.  The face was framed by the molding on the door her father installed when she was a child, and backlit by the sun, making it hard for Tess to discern who was outside looking in.  Dark eyes, thick, unkempt eyebrows, long, messy hair pulled away from a woman’s face was all she could make out.

The face watched her. Tess hated being observed by anyone, especially by someone she couldn’t place in time, though certainly, this familiar face had existed in one moment or more, in one place or many, together they had gazed at each other briefly or for many hours. Tess now forgot.  She hated the forgetting that came with age, and even more, she detested unannounced visits.

A worried face, much like her own, and yet, she couldn’t place it. Was she hallucinating…again? And if she was? Good, Tess thought.  It was time for this miserable process of dying to get on with it.  The waiting had become unbearable, leaving her restless and angry.  Angry with cancer that took its time eating away at her; angry with her dead husband, envious of fast-moving cancer that took him away many years ago leaving her to deal with this alone, and angry with her remaining family for their visits and calls.  Their concern felt half-hearted, as she knew, as the almost dead do, the living just want you to go.  They are waiting, anticipating the tsunami of grief.  And like Tess, they wanted to get on with it.

If Tess were a dog, she would have walked to the woods that surrounded the back of her property, curled up on a pile of dead brown leaves under the black maple tree and stare at the bluebird sky.  Alone, free, ready.  Why is it so damn hard to die?  Tess thought as she reached for the doorknob.  She figured she would let the face in, see what she wanted.

“Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, Mom! I’m freezing out here.”

“Come in, come in.  Watch out for the cat.” Tess said.

“It’s time to put that cat down, Mom.”

“Like, hell.  When I’m gone, do what you want with it.”

Her daughter was back again, this time with muffins.  Carrot muffins.  Muffins Tess would thank her for, but not eat because eating did not make much sense anymore.  She never cared much for carrot muffins anyway.  Tess would keep this to herself.  The last thing she wanted was for daughter to feel useless.  And she certainly didn’t want another visit from the hospice nurse, poking at her or asking her stupid questions.  How are you feeling today? Are you in pain? On a scale of 1 to 10, one being no pain and ten being the worst pain where do say you are?  Assholes.  All of them.  I’m dying and I just want to forget it.  

Tess moved slowly to her favorite chair and sat down, grateful to be off her feet.  The walk to the door felt like a mile.  Her daughter sat in the chair next to her and grimaced when the matted cat jumped into Tess’ lap.

“I know he is pretty sad lookin’,”  Tess said.

Her daughter smiled, let out a small laugh.  Tess had forgotten her face at the door, misplaced it in time, let it dissipate from her memory in just a matter of days.  It must be part of the dying process, Tess thought.  How could she leave while still holding on so tightly?  Damn near impossible.  Tess loved her daughter’s smile, knowing laugh, dark eyes.  She was a good girl, always had been.  She would miss her.  Tess couldn’t say that about many people.

Tess’ eyes felt heavy.  “I’m so tired.”

“Rest, Mom.  I’ll stay for a while.  I need to pick up the kids in a couple of hours.”

As Tess dozed off, she watched her daughter holding on tightly to her little computer, tapping away a message to the outside world, a message to the rest of Tess’ family.  Soon Tess would be gone and maybe before she left, Tess would take a bite of the muffin.

Carrot Cake Muffins with Maple Icing

recipe adapted from My Recipes

makes 12 muffins

Ingredients for muffins:

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

3/4 cup sugar

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 cup vegetable oil

2 large eggs

2 egg whites

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 teaspoon maple extract

3 medium rainbow carrots or regular carrots, finely grated, about 2 cups

1/2 cup of golden raisins optional

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350F.  Line a muffin pan with cupcake liners.  Lightly coat muffin pan with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and salt.   Make a well in the center of the dry mixture.  In a separate bowl, whisk together oil, eggs, egg whites, extracts and grated carrots.  Add wet mixture to dry mixture.  Stir until just combined. Do not overmix!

Spoon batter into baking cups, about 3/4 of the way full.  Bake until a cake tester inserted in the middle comes out clean, about 22 to 25 minutes.  Be sure to check the muffins at 22 minutes.  You do not want to over bake them.

Remove muffins from pan and allow to cool on a wire rack.  Spoon icing over muffins and serve.  Muffins taste best slightly warm the day they are made but will taste great for breakfast the next day as well.  Store at room temperature in an air-tight container.  Enjoy!

Maple Icing

Ingredients:

1 cup confectioners’ sugar

1 tablespoon maple syrup

1 or 2 tablespoons of milk, any kind

Directions:

Whisk together confectioners’ sugar and maple syrup.  Add 1 tablespoon of milk and whisk.  Add more milk to reach desired consistency.  Spoon icing over muffins.  Enjoy!

5 Spring Muffin Links

If you love berries in your muffins check out Baker’s Royale strawberry muffins recipe and Diethood’s raspberry muffins recipe.

Looking for a gluten-free muffin option for your next spring brunch?  Head to Dolly + Oatmeal for Lindsay’s strawberry, oat, cacao muffin recipe.

Chocolate muffins are always a good idea. Head to A Brown Table for a sea salt chocolate muffin recipe that is sure to make you smile.

Do you remember the department store, Jordan Marsh?  Me too.  I spent many weekends tagging along with my grandmother to Jordan Marsh, but I never did try their blueberry muffins.  NYT Cooking has the recipe for you.  Check it out!