If you have only light brown sugar in the house, by all means, use it. But having made the cake both ways, with light brown sugar and with dark brown sugar, I prefer it with dark. The flavor is fuller, with a different depth.
Position a rack in the middle of the oven, and preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter and flour a standard-size (12-cup) Bundt pan.
In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, salt, pepper, and spices, and whisk to mix well.
In a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a standing mixer, beat the eggs with both sugars until light. Beat in the applesauce, oil, and vanilla until smooth. With the mixer on the lowest speed, add the flour mixture, and beat briefly, just to combine. Use a rubber spatula to fold gently, making sure that all the dry ingredients are incorporated. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for about 45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the thickest part of the cake comes out clean. Cool the cake for 10 minutes in the pan on a rack before turning it out and allowing to cool completely. Make sure the cake is not at all warm when you make the glaze.
When you’re ready to glaze, set the cooling rack (with the cake on it) on top of a rimmed sheet pan. This will catch drips.
Put the butter in a medium (2- to 3-quart) saucepan with the brown sugar, cream, and salt, and set over medium heat. Bring to a full rolling boil, stirring constantly. Boil for one minute exactly, and then pull the pan off the heat. Leave to cool for a couple of minutes, and then gradually whisk in the confectioner’s sugar until you have a thick but pourable consistency – and note that you may not need all the sugar! I don’t use the full ¾ cup (90 grams). Really, eyeball it, and go with your gut. If you’ve added too much sugar and the mixture seems too thick, add a splash of cream to thin it slightly. And do not worry if the glaze seems to have little flecks of powdered sugar in it at first; just keep whisking, and they will dissolve. Then immediately pour the glaze over the cake, evenly covering as much surface area as possible. Let the glaze set before serving the cake.
Yield: a good 10 servings
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 9-inch round cake pan (I used springform), and press a round of parchment paper into the bottom.
In a large bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder, and kosher salt. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, ricotta, and vanilla until smooth. Gently stir ricotta mixture into the dry ingredients until just blended. Then fold in the butter, followed by ¾ cup of the raspberries, taking care not to crush them. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing it evenly, and scatter the remaining raspberries on top.
Bake the cake until it is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 50 to 60 minutes. Let cool at least 20 minutes before unmolding. Cool completely before serving.
Yield: 8 servings
This recipe was shared with McDermott by one Suzanne O’Hara of Burlington, North Carolina, and it comes together with remarkable speed and ease. I think I’ll be making it often.
Preheat the oven to 325°F. Grease and flour a 10-inch tube pan or two 9-by-5-inch loaf pans. (I also lined my pans with parchment, because it makes the cakes so easy to remove.)
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter and cream cheese, and beat on medium speed until soft and fluffy. Add the sugar, and continue to beat for about 2 minutes more, stopping once to scrape down the sides. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla. Reduce the mixer speed to low, and add the flour mixture in three doses, beating only until the flour is absorbed and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan or pans.
Bake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes (for a tube pan) or 55 to 60 minutes (for loaf pans), or until the cake is golden brown, pulling away from the sides of the pan, and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer the cake to a wire rack, and cool completely before loosening the sides with a thin knife and removing the cake from the pan.
Yield: 1 loaf
Position a rack in the middle of the oven, and preheat the oven to 325°F. Lightly butter a 9”x5” loaf pan, or grease it with cooking spray. Cut a rectangle of parchment paper to line the bottom and the two long sides of the pan, leaving a little overhang. Press the parchment paper into the dish, and grease it lightly, too.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and baking powder. Using an electric mixer, beat the butter on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the sugar, and beat until well incorporated, 1 to 2 minutes more. Add the eggs one at a time, beating to blend between additions. Add the juices and the zests, and beat until well combined. (Don’t worry if the batter looks curdled.) Add the flour mixture, reduce the speed to low, and beat until just incorporated. Add ¾ cup of the pistachios, and fold in gently. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top. Sprinkle the remaining ¼ cup pistachios over the top.
Bake the cake, rotating it halfway through, until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, about 1 ½ hours. Transfer it to a wire rack, and let it cool completely in the pan. Run a sharp knife along the short ends of the pan to loosen the cake; then pull up on the parchment paper to lift the cake out of the pan.
Note: The flavor of this cake is best on the day after it’s made.
Yield: 1 loaf
You could make this cake with store-bought roasted almonds, but I like to buy them raw and toast them myself. That way, I can control how deeply they’re toasted, and they also taste fresher. If you’re short on time, you can toast them a day or two ahead. You might also want to plan ahead for preparing the citrus fruits, since boiling and cooling them takes time. (And remember to use organic oranges and lemons, since you’ll be eating the rind.) Once you’ve got the nuts and fruits ready, this cake is quick to make.
First, get to work on the citrus. Put the orange and the lemon in a saucepan, and cover with water. (They’ll want to float. Don’t worry about it.) Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; then reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 30 minutes. Drain, and cool.
Meanwhile, toast the almonds. Preheat the oven to 325°F, and set a rack in the middle position. Put the almonds on an ungreased sheet pan, and bake until they look golden and smell warm and toasty, 10 to 15 minutes. (I tend to get nervous about burning them, and consequently, I always try to pull them out of the oven too soon. Don’t do that. Let them really toast.) Set aside to cool completely. When the almonds are cool, pulse them in a food processor until finely ground, the texture of coarse sand. Set aside.
Set the oven to 350°F, and grease a 9-inch round springform pan.
When the citrus is cool, cut the lemon in half, and scoop out and discard the pulp and seeds. Cut the orange in half, and discard the seeds. Put the lemon rind and orange halves in the food processor – there’s no need to wash it after grinding the almonds – and process to chop finely, almost to a coarse paste.
In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder.
Combine the eggs and salt in a mixing bowl. Beat until foamy. Gradually beat in the sugar. Fold in the flour mixture. Add the citrus, almonds, and olive oil, and beat on low speed to just incorporate. Do not overmix. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and bake for about 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool the cake in its pan on a wire rack. Remove the sides of the pan. Before serving, dust the cake with confectioners’ sugar.
Note: This cake tastes even better on the second – or even third – day, as the flavors meld and mellow. Store it at room temperature, covered with plastic wrap.
Yield: 8 to 10 servings