Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Citrus Buttermilk Sheet Cake with Duck Eggs

Yesterday was my birthday and I decided to bake myself a cake. I still have the dreaded ‘tiny oven’, so I chose a boring sheet cake instead of a pretty layered one. Poor me, I know. This wasn’t just any sheet cake though, it was made with fresh duck eggs. There is a rad little family I know that has ducks and chickens in their backyard and they donated some fresh duck eggs to my kitchen. Thank you, friend Oliver! You may be asking yourself, ‘what’s the big deal with duck eggs?‘. I didn’t know either until last year when I read about the benefits of baking with them. These eggs have more protein than chicken eggs do, which gives them more structure when cooked. Extra protein creates more loft in cakes which makes it so much better! Isn’t it wonderful?! Using duck eggs in your baked goods results in fluffier, moister and richer cakes than those made with chicken eggs. Jamie Oliver told me this and I totally believe him. Just in case you don’t have the faith in Jamie Oliver that I do, there are a few other websites that talk about the benefits of using these eggs in your cakes and I will post the addresses at the end of my rant if you want to learn more.

I usually buy my duck eggs from Seward Co-op, who actually gets them from LTD Farms, but I was so excited to get my first eggs of the year from my generous friends. It was really cool being able to see the actual ducks that produced the eggs I was about to use. I love the texture, which almost feels waxy to me, and the look of the shell of the duck egg too. They are much thicker and are a little bit more difficult to break into. Since they have a thicker shell it gives them a longer shelf life. Who knew?! You can keep duck eggs for about three weeks in the refrigerator, some can last longer but you just have to check them over. It all depends on the freshness of the egg when you receive it to see how long you can keep it in your refrigerator. Makes sense, right? Once you crack that duck egg open, you’ll notice that the egg white is thicker and the yolk is a super bright yellow. If you have a chance to, I would recommend baking with duck eggs at least once to try it out. I have even tried them in cookies and they worked great.

Back to my birthday cake. I chose this particular cake because it seemed light and fresh. Perfect for a May birthday. We found out that this cake tastes best the day it is made. The next day it gets just a little dry, but it’s still quite edible. On top of this particular cake it has just a simple powdered sugar glaze. The glaze seriously took me about a minute to make with a whisk. One of the best parts of the whole thing is the sprinkle of reserved citrus sugar on top of the glaze. It added a crunch and a little more sweetness to it. This cake would actually be great to bring along to a picnic or something this summer. Super easy to make. Hope you get to give it a shot.

Citrus Buttermilk Sheet Cake
Adapted from Cook’s Country

For the Cake:
2 ½ cups cake flour, sifted
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup buttermilk, room temperature
3 tablespoons grated lemon and orange zest
¼ cup lemon and orange juice, mixed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ¾ cup granulated sugar
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
3 large eggs plus 1 large yolk, room temperature OR 3 duck eggs

3 cups confectioners’ sugar
3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons buttermilk

Directions for Cake:
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Butter a 9X13-inch baking dish. Sift flour baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a bowl. Combine buttermilk, lemon/orange juice, and vanilla in a small bowl or liquid measuring cup.

Using your mixer, beat granulated sugar and lemon/orange zest on medium speed until moist and fragrant, about 1 minute. Transfer ¼ cup of the sugar mixture to a small bowl and cover it for later use. Add butter to remaining sugar mixture and beat until light and fluffy, about 2 to 3 minutes. Beat in eggs and yolk, one at a time. Mix each egg until incorporated. Make sure your mixing speed is on low and then add flour and buttermilk mixtures alternating between the two beginning and ending with the flour. Mix until smooth, but don’t over mix.

Scrape batter into buttered baking dish and smooth out the top. Bake about 25-30 minutes until cake is golden brown or toothpick inserted comes out clean. Let cool on wire rack for at least 10 minutes.

Directions for Glaze:
Whisk confectioners’ sugar, lemon juice, and buttermilk together until smooth. You may have to add a little extra lemon juice to make it a little more runny. I did. Gently spread glaze over warm cake and sprinkle evenly with your reserved citrus sugar mixture. Let cool completely, at least 2 hours. Serve when ready!

Resources for learning about duck eggs:

Urban Homestead

Local Harvest

Friday, May 11, 2012

Cake and Pie for Pa

It’s been a busy last few weeks. My god. It’s not that I’ve been slacking in the baking department, it’s that I’ve been slacking in the ‘sharing the recipes with you’ department.  Last weekend we went to North Dakota to celebrate my father’s 60th birthday and I made way too many desserts. If you know me at all that probably wouldn’t surprise you very much. Go big or go home, right?? My dad only turns 60 once, ya know. I made my dad a silly cake, well, several silly cakes, but one in particular that is my favorite kind of birthday cake to make. The recipe's turned out every single time I’ve made it, which has been many. Also, I made the actual cake layers on Thursday and we ate them on Saturday and you never would have known. It stayed so fresh and it was durable! It traveled extremely well. I just wrapped  the layers separately and several times in plastic wrap and that’s it. I was so nervous about traveling with the cake layers but it couldn’t have worked out any better. To decorate the cake I used a simple vanilla butter cream frosting and just dyed it blue. The cake itself was citrus-y and pretty dense. It’s a very filling cake and can feed several people if you cut the slices an appropriate size, but you don’t have to do that either.

My father dislikes cake, quite a bit actually. I know, he’s crazy. So, I also made him a pie as well. I cheated and used a Pillsbury already made crust, I was in a time crunch, people! I decided on a Rhubarb-Strawberry pie. I was selfish and made one of my personal favorites. It was pretty delicious, I’m not going to lie. I don’t have many pictures to share with you in this post so I thought I would share two recipes to make up for it. The delicious pie and the delightful cake. I hope you enjoy and get a chance to make at least one of them. I’m hoping to post more rhubarb recipes in the near future, it is my favorite seasonal item after all.

Yellow Birthday Cake
Adapted from Barefoot Contessa

18 tablespoons (2 ¼ sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 cups sugar
6 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
8 ounces (about 1 cup) sour cream, at room temperature
1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Zest of ½ lemon and ½ orange
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour two 9-inch round cake pans.

To make the cake, cream the butter and sugar on medium-high speed in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. On low speed, add the eggs, two at a time, then the sour cream, vanilla and both citrus zests. Scrape down the bowl as needed to make sure it is mixed well. Sift together the flour, cornstarch, salt, and baking soda. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and mix just until smooth. Don’t over mix. Pour finished batter evenly into the two pans and tap them on the counter to get rid of any air bubbles.

Bake for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool in pan for at least 10 minutes before removing from pan.

*note: Ina says to bake with room temperature ingredients. So if her recipe says room temperature in the list she means it. I’ve always listened to that rule and my cake has always turned out. I’d trust her, folks.

Buttercream Frosting

Rhubarb-Strawberry Pie
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

3 ½ cups rhubarb about 1 ½ pounds, untrimmed), in ½-inch thick slices
3 ½ cups (about 1 pound), hulled and sliced
½ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup light brown sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon cardamom, optional
¼ cup quick-cooking tapioca
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk beaten to blend with 1 teaspoon water (for glaze)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Put pie crust into 9-inch pie plate. I bought my crust but you can make your own using any recipe you may have for butter pie crust.

Stir together rhubarb, strawberries, sugars, spices, lemon, salt, and tapioca in a large bowl. Pour filling into the bottom pie crust and dot with unsalted butter. Lay the top layer crust on top of filling mound and cut slits in it to let out the steam.

Transfer pie to baking sheet and brush with egg yolk mixture over dough. I also sprinkled a tablespoon of granulated sugar on top of the egg wash to make it a little more decorative.  Bake for 20 minutes at 400 degrees and then reduce temperature to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 30-35 minutes, until the pie is golden and the juices bubble visibly. I put my pies in the middle rack of the oven, I don’t like burnt crust!

Transfer pie to wire rack to cool. Seriously, let this pie fully cool down before you decide to slice it. It takes several hours.