Pear, Maple and Nutmeg Cornmeal Cake + Kitchen Tools #1

Pear, Maple and Nutmeg Cornmeal Cake all dressed up with a dollop of vanilla Greek yogurt is an easy, alternate idea for Holiday celebrations that will be much appreciated by those looking for something naturally sweet without using a lot of granulated sugar. Rich, almost caramelized, pears with nutmeg then generously drizzled with maple syrup while hot out of the oven is good for a few days warm or cold.

I like how the maple syrup pools in the pear.

There is nothing quite like freshly grated nutmeg. Do you have one of these graters, or a nutmeg grinder? They are inexpensive and will become one of your most used kitchen tools if you, like me, find the jarred ground nutmeg somewhat pale in aroma and flavor. Whole nutmeg grated is a much used spice at our house. Wouter adds it to his meatballs and always in his wonderful mashed potatoes. Just a hint is often all that is needed. This cake recipe calls for a generous amount and is just the thing paired with real maple syrup.

Notice how I grated the nutmeg onto a sheet of parchment paper? Parchment is another “kitchen tool” that I use every day for measuring flour onto, lining cake pans or sheet pans so I don’t have to scrub them so much….small pieces are good for using like this instead of another dish to wash! Can you tell washing dishes is not my favorite thing?

Melon ballers in various sizes are great for coring apples and pears, making melon balls of course….or butter balls.  It was so easy to core the pears to create a bowl to hold all that tasty maple syrup using this small melon baller.

See that wee paring knife? It is my go-to knife for so many jobs in the kitchen…I finally bought a good one that has a thin blade that sharpens well. It was not the cheapest nor the costliest, but it fits my hand just perfect and came from E. Dehillerin in Paris. I picked it up at our local Willliams-Sonoma.

So that’s four kitchen tools….nutmeg grater or grinder, parchment paper, melon baller and paring knife….basics…not trendy…forever useful, especially for these days of seasonal baking.

Warm, aromatic cake drizzled with Vanilla flavored Greek Yogurt. Yum.

Pear, Maple and Nutmeg Cornmeal Cake

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 stick butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 4 ripe, but firm pears, halved, cored and peeled
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, divided
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup 2 percent milk
  • 1/2 cup real maple syrup, divided + extra for serving
  • 2 large eggs, lightly whisked
  • 2 cups vanilla greek yogurt, whipped for serving

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Brush a 9″ round x 2″ deep cake pan with 1 tablespoon of the melted butter.
  2. Add 1 tablespoon of the melted butter to a cast iron or other heavy skillet. Set over medium heat. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons sugar over the butter.
  3. Place pear halves in a circle in the bottom of the pan, cut side up. Sprinkle cut sides with 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg. Cook for 5 minutes.
  4. Turn pears over with cut side down. Sprinkle with another 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg. Cook pears until most of the liquid has evaporated and cut sides are beginning to lightly caramelize, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat.
  5. Place pears, cut sides down, in the prepared 9″ round cake pan.
  6. Quickly whisk together remaining 1/4 ground nutmeg, flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  7. Whisk in milk, 1/4 cup maple syrup, eggs and remaining melted butter just until smooth. Pour mixture over pears and bake until golden brown, for about 20-25 minutes. Test with a wooden pick inserted into the center of the cake. Remove from oven and using a skewer make a few random holes over the entire cake surface. Drizzle with remaining 1/4 cup maple syrup. Let cake cool on a wire rack while syrup soaks in for about 15 minutes. Carefully invert onto a serving plate.
  8. Cut cake into 8 wedges with each person getting a pear half, drizzle with another bit of maple syrup and add a dollop of vanilla greek yogurt.  (This cake keeps well for a few days and is deliciously seasoonal either warm or cold.)

(This recipe is adapted from a recipe by Ruth Cousineau from Gourmet Magazine February 2008 that I clipped and saved. I tweaked a few things to make it easier to make. Thanks Ruth for the inspiration.)

Teresa Blackburn    http://www.teresablackburnfoodstyling.com   www.foodonfifth.com

 

Ruby Red Strawberry Victoria Sponge Cake with Lemon Mascarpone Filling

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I like to make things. I’m pretty sure that is one of the reasons I ended up being a food stylist by trade and a jack-of-all-trades by nature. Making “beauty” is really what all my
“making” obsessions are about. Beauty that is organic & natural, beauty to look at, beauty to use every day, beauty that you can eat, beauty that is often an ode to times past, times in the future, or times that never were.

Such is this cake. A riff on the classic “Victoria Sponge Cake”, an ode to a time of lawn parties, women strolling across green parks in white dresses, croquet games where men wore bowler hats & seersucker suits. To a time when cakes were special, beautiful and meaningful.

Here is how you make my “Ruby Red Strawberry Victoria Sponge Cake with Lemon Mascarpone Filling”

Shopping list: 2 pints of small strawberries, 1 pint of whipping cream, 1 carton of mascarpone cheese, 1 lemon, super-fine sugar or regular granulated sugar, powdered sugar, vanilla extract, self-rising flour, 5 eggs, salt, parchment paper, oil to grease pans

Make it:

1. Preferably use local Spring strawberries, (these ruby red beauties came from the Downtown Nashville Farmer’s Market), 2 pints rinsed & drained, caps removed. Leave berries whole unless they are large, then cut in half. Set aside.

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2. To make this very easy sponge-cake you will need 5 large eggs separated, 3/4 cup superfine sugar (if you don’t have then pulse regular granulated sugar in a food processor for a few seconds to make your own), 1 1/4 cups self-rising flour sifted with a pinch of salt.

3. Grease & line two 8 or 9 inch cake pans with parchment paper. Grease the paper. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

4. Whisk egg yolks & sugar together until a pale yellow.  Using a stand or hand mixer whip egg whites until stiff.  Whisk egg whites into yolks. Gently sprinkle sifted flour over eggs in batches and fold into eggs using a large metal spoon until all the flour is mixed in.

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5. Divide batter between two prepared pan. Bake for about 20 minutes or until cake layers are light golden brown  & cooked in the middle. Remove from pans to cool completely on wire racks.

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6. Mix 1 cup or container of marcarpone cheese, which is slightly sweet,  with the juice & zest of half a lemon. Blend well.

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8. Place one cooled cake layer on a cake plate or stand. Spread lemon mascarpone on top. Arrange half the berries over &  gently press them into the cheese. Dust with a bit of powdered sugar.

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9.  Top layer of berries with the second cake layer. Whip one cup of heavy cream with 2 tbsp powdered sugar & 1 tbsp vanilla extract until stiff peaks form. Spread on top of second cake layer. Top whipped cream with the remaining berries. Dust with additional powdered sugar if desired.

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11. Serve immediately or chill until ready to serve.  I made this cake from start to finish in 1 hour. It keeps well lightly covered for a day or two in the fridge.

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Notice the texture of the cake….very sponge-like!

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Making this cake will create a sense of well-being, make you think about the historical context of baking cakes, allow you to use fresh, local, just picked strawberries that taste like berries should.

Happy Mother’s Day!

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