Chocolate Babka Swirl Coffee Cake

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Jordan: This is a coffee cake, which means you can eat it for breakfast. It also uses a pound of butter, so you probably shouldn’t, but that’s not going to stop us.

Kitra: I eat ice cream for breakfast about 40% of the time, so this seems perfectly reasonable.

That’s sad and we’re not going to comment on it.

I mean, that percentage is lower in the winter. I eat a lot of Girl Scout Cookies for breakfast instead.

So if you’re looking for a cake that is better for you than Kitra’s usual breakfast fare but still feels like a comforting plate of carbs and chocolate, you’ve come to the right place!

If there’s one thing we know, it’s how to provide you with healthy breakfast options.

This is supposed to be a coffee cake (that’s cake to have with coffee, not cake made with coffee) mashed up with a loaf of chocolate babka. Call it babka-inspired: It has chocolate filling and swirly layers, but no one is going to mistake it for the real thing.

And that’s fine, because it’s “breakfast” and mostly chocolate. This cake is moist and pretty, so what’s not to love.

We both brought leftovers to work (it’s a LOT of cake) and both sets of coworkers demolished it, which is the sign of a successful cake in our book.

So have your cake and eat it (for breakfast) too.

Chocolate Swirl Babka Coffee Cake

Adapted from Joy the Baker and Smitten Kitchen

Notes

We used the cake recipe from Joy the Baker but, not wanting to track down chocolate wafers, we swapped in the filling from Smitten Kitchen’s Better Chocolate Babka. We didn’t use streusel because the original doesn’t and Kitra, like a monster, doesn’t enjoy it but both coffee cakes and babka often include it. Should you want to add it, use whatever recipe you like best (it’s included in other recipes from both Joy and Deb) and sprinkle it generously on top of each chocolate layer and/or on top of the whole thing.

This recipe calls for 2 cups of sour cream; a 16-oz container of sour cream contains about 30 tablespoons, which will put you just shy. We used the entire container and didn’t find it lacking, but if you happen to have the extra 2 tablespoons accessible it will make the cake slightly more moist and delicious.

Ingredients

  • 9 oz dark chocolate, or approximately 1½ cups of chocolate chips
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup (100g) powdered sugar
  • ⅔ cup (60g) cocoa powder
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 cups (500g) flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 (400g) cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups or 16 oz. sour cream (see note)

Directions

Preheat your oven to 350° and butter and flour a bundt or tube pan (or coat it with baking spray).

First, make the filling. In a medium bowl, microwave butter and chocolate until melted, stirring every 30 seconds. Stir together until smooth, then mix in powdered sugar, cocoa, and cinnamon. Set the filling aside while you make the rest of the cake.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Add the softened butter and sugar to a separate large bowl and use an electric beater (or stand mixer) to beat until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating until roughly combined between each, then add the vanilla.

Add half of the flour mixture and gently beat to combine. Repeat with all of the sour cream and then with the remaining half of the flour. Your batter will be quite thick, which is normal.

Scoop about 1½ cups of batter into the prepared pan and gently smooth it; no need to measure carefully here. Add several large dollops of chocolate (Joy says about ⅓ of a cup; Jordan says just eyeball it) and smooth that as well—we recommend using separate spoons for the chocolate and the batter so that you don’t mix them too much at this stage. Repeat until you’ve used up all of the batter and filling, ending with a layer of batter on top.

Bake for 70 to 80 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out free of batter. Let cool in the pan for at least half an hour before turning it out onto a cooling rack. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature.

Poppy Seed Orange Cake

Poppy seed cake with whipped cream and blood orangesJordan: Happy New Year!

Kitra: 2018 happened. It’s over. We’re moving on with cake.

Specifically, a lucky cake. Poppy seeds are considered lucky in Hungary, especially around New Year’s.

And when we briefly lived there, the holidays were marked by a Black Friday-esque battle for oranges at the grocery store.

Imagine, if you will, dozens of middle-aged eastern Europeans, swarming the aisles of Tesco to fill their carts to the brim with boxes and bags of oranges. We’re not exaggerating here; people would buy literal cartloads.

Every person you passed in the store had nothing but oranges in their cart.

To this day, all of my Googling has been unable to come up with an explanation for this surreal phenomenon. We’ll blame it on the Soviet Union, just like all of the rest of Hungary’s idiosyncrasies.

So we paired a documented Hungarian tradition with one we’re only mostly sure we didn’t dream.

Here’s hoping this cake brings you a bright, lucky, and only mildly perplexing 2019.


We also did some other things since we last posted!

While we may revisit some of these in later posts, we’ll share the links here now as a belated Christmas/Hanukkah gift to you and an apology for being gone so long.

Spiced Brown Sugar Pound Cake | We’ve had this bookmarked since it first went up on Shutterbean more than a year ago and recommend that you don’t wait nearly as long as we did to make it. It’s from Julia Turshen’s Feed the Resistance and it’s truly excellent.

Olive Oil Cake with Farmer’s Cheese Filling | We made this, as Alice Medrich suggests, as a Hanukkah cake but it was delicious and would be welcome all year round. We swapped farmer’s cheese for the creme fraiche in the filling, but suspect it would be great either way.

Thanksgiving (and pre-Thanksgiving) pies: Garam Masala Pear Pie, Sweet Potato Pie, and Orange Maple Walnut and Apple Chai pies, both from A Year of Pies.

Poppy seed orange cake, brown sugar bundt cake, three pies, and Hanukkah cake

Poppy Seed Orange Cake

Adapted, just slightly, from Food52

If you like poppy seeds, this cake has a lot going for it! It’s moist and light, gluten-free, and is interesting enough to serve for dessert but not so sweet that it can’t be breakfast or an afternoon snack. If you don’t like poppy seeds, then this is really not your cake.

We used orange in the batter, in keeping with the theme, but you could also use lemon (as in the original recipe). We top it here with a lightly sweetened whipped cream and fresh blood oranges, but it would also be good on its own or with a light icing.

We used a very small blood orange but have adjusted it here to use a regular one and increase the amount of orange flavor in the cake itself. We strongly recommend doing the almonds and poppy seeds by weight, so convert those to cups at your own risk.

Ingredients

¾ cup (150g) sugar
1 orange
5 eggs
1 tart apple, peeled and coarsely grated
7 oz (200g) almond flour/meal or an equal weight blanched almonds, processed until fine
7 oz (200g) poppy seeds
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
Lightly sweetened whipped cream and sliced oranges, for serving

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°. Grease an 8- or 9-inch round cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.

Add sugar to a large bowl and zest the orange over top of the sugar. Use your fingers to rub the zest into the sugar to help release the orange flavor.

Once you’ve zested it, cut your orange in half and juice one half into a small bowl. Toss the grated apple with the juice and set it all aside.

Separate your eggs. The whites should go into a clean large bowl, while the yolks can go on top of the orange sugar. Using an electric mixer, beat the whites until they reach soft peaks. Without bothering to wash the beaters, beat the egg yolks and sugar until pale and creamy.

Add the almond flour and poppy seeds to the egg yolk/sugar mixture and mix until well-combined. Mix in the grated apple (along with any juices in the bottom of the bowl), then the baking powder. Using a spatula, gently fold in the egg whites.

Bake for 40 minutes, until the top is golden and set and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool fully before serving with whipped cream and sliced oranges.

Election Cake

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Kitra: Election Cakes are part of the largely forgotten American tradition of bribing people to participate in democracy. First it was politicians offering free booze outside of polling locations, then the country turned to cake. Women made massive batches of election cake and offered them as incentives to come to vote. And we’re not the only ones who did this. In Australia, it’s still a common practice to serve “democracy sausages” outside of polling sites.

Jordan: Kitra vaguely remembered that one of the early presidents once won an election by providing free booze at the polls. Turns out it was George Washington, who lost his first election in Virginia but won the second by spending his entire campaign budget on alcohol.

Speaking of presidents, our election cake inspiration came from an 1887 White House cookbook full of poison antidotes and cake recipes that seem to be missing most of their ingredients and all of their directions.

The full recipe for Election Cake:

Three cups milk, two cups sugar, one cup yeast; stir to a batter, and let stand over night; in the morning add two cups sugar, two cups butter, three eggs, half a nutmeg, one tablespoonful cinnamon, one pound raisins, a gill of brandy.

Brown sugar is much better than white for this kind of cake, and it is improved by dissolving a half-teaspoonful of soda in a tablespoonful of milk in the morning. It should stand in the greased pans and rise some time until quite light before baking.

That’s it. That’s the entire recipe.

Notice, no flour.

Four cups of sugar.

ONE CUP OF YEAST. YEAST!

How long does it bake for? What kind of pan? No one knows!

So obviously we had to make it. And also a safety cake with flour, instructions, and a very reasonable amount of yeast.

To reconstruct this cake, we started by assuming that it was wrong. Four cups of sugar and no flour sounded like a disaster, but two cups of flour and two of sugar might work. We decided that the first mention of sugar must have been a mistake and swapped it for flour. We also reduced the yeast significantly. We cut it in half to account for using active dry yeast rather than fresh yeast, then again for the advances in yeast effectiveness that have probably happened since 1887, then reduced it a bit more for good measure.

I just thought it should be a living buzoozle of yeast.

That felt like a bad idea. Also like a cup of yeast would be kind of expensive.

I wasn’t thinking a cup, but like, maybe a ¼ cup.

The actual process for this was pretty concerning. It turns out that adding a very liquidy batter, raisins, and brandy to creamed butter and sugar gives you… very liquidy butter and sugar with raisins and brandy. So we added a little bit of flour, threw it in the oven, and crossed our fingers.

Slice of rather squishy cake, with raisins
Our experimental late-1800s election cake.

You don’t need to butter this cake. This cake is ALL. BUTTER. My immediate reaction upon turning it out was “So greasy…”

In fact, testing it with a toothpick was very concerning because even though the cake still felt quite soft, the toothpick came out with nothing but butter on it.

A selection of our reactions to this cake upon trying it:

“What the hell is this?”

“It’s like we invented baked oatmeal, but without the oats.”

“It’s like we already made french toast out of the other cake.”

“This is bread pudding.”

And honestly? It’s not bad. It’s pretty good actually, just… not election cake.

It has potential, though. We’ll revisit it next time there’s an election. Until then, here’s a recipe that actually works… and, if you want it, our variation on the 1887 cake. We recommend you make the former.

Sliced election cake, with butter

 

Election Cake

Adapted slightly from Food52, where it was in turn adapted from I Hear America Cooking by Betty Fussell and American Cookery by Amelia Simmons

While we didn’t discuss it much, this version is a pretty good cake! (It’s the one in the first and last pictures in this post.) It’s closer to a bread, which makes it an excellent breakfast cake or afternoon snack. It’s great on its own or with a bit of butter. Fair warning that the alcohol doesn’t cook all the way off, which also makes it a good way to drown any election-related sorrows you might have without looking like an alcoholic.

Our only real change was to use brown sugar instead of white, because “brown sugar is much better than white for this kind of cake.” This recipe is supposed to be made in two smaller 8”x3” loaf pans; we used foil 8”x4” pans. A 9”x5” pan would likely just hold it, maybe with a couple of muffins or a mini-loaf left over. We also found that the recommended 2-3 hour rise time was longer than necessary and have shortened it here.

Ingredients

½ cup warm milk (100° to 115°)
1 packet (2 ¼ tsp) active dry yeast
1 cup (120g) flour
1 T molasses
1 ½ c (8 oz) raisins; we used a mix of golden and regular
¼ c sweet fortified wine; the original recipe calls for Madeira or sweet sherry, but we used white port
¼ c brandy
2 ½ c (300g)flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground coriander
½ tsp allspice
½ tsp salt
1 c (100g) toasted and chopped pecans
1 c (2 sticks, 8 oz) unsalted butter, softened
⅔ c brown sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature

Directions

Combine the raisins, wine, and brandy in a bowl and let soak while you make the rest of the cake.

Next, make the sponge. In a small bowl or glass measuring cup, combine the yeast and milk. Add 1 cup flour to a medium bowl and pour the milk/yeast mixture over top. Add the molasses and stir with a silicone spatula until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap until doubled, 1 to 2 hours.

Once the sponge has doubled, preheat your oven to 350° and line two 8″x3″ pans with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, mix together flour, cinnamon, coriander, allspice, salt, and pecans.

In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to cream butter and brown sugar until light and fairly fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating to combine between each. Scrape down the bowl, then add the sponge (the yeast mixture) and mix until fully combined.

Add the flour mixture and mix on low until just roughly combined, then add the raisins and any alcohol they haven’t soaked up and mix until fully combined. (This last step may be easier with a spatula.)

Divide dough into prepared pans and bake for approximately 50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool for at least 5 minutes before removing from the pan. Serve warm, with butter.


“Election Cake”

Adapted, liberally, from the 1887 edition of the White House Cookbook

1.5 packets (just over a tablespoon) active dry yeast
1 ½ cup milk, warm (100° to 115°)
1 cup (120g) flour
1 cup (200g) brown sugar
1 cup (2 sticks, 8 oz.) butter, softened
2 eggs
¼ of a whole nutmeg, grated (or 1 tsp ground nutmeg, if you must)
½ T cinnamon
½ cup (60g) flour
¼ cup brandy
1 ½ cups (8 oz) raisins; we used a mix of golden and regular
1 cup (100g) toasted and chopped pecans, walnuts, or a mix

First, make the sponge. In a medium bowl, whisk together yeast, milk, and 1 cup flour. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for about 2 hours.

Once 2 hours have passed, preheat the oven to 350°.

In a medium bowl, use an electric mixer to beat butter and sugar until combined and creamy. Add eggs one at a time and beat until combined. Add the nutmeg and cinnamon.

Add the brandy, sponge, and flour and stir as best as possible using a silicone spatula. Stir in nuts and raisins, and pour into a 9”x5” loaf pan. It will come fairly close to the top, but don’t worry, as it doesn’t rise much in the oven.

Bake for approximately 50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out free of batter. Let cool most of the way in the pan before serving.

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

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Kitra: There are two dishes that define summer to me: ratatouille and this cake. What they have in common is that, like in most rural areas, where we grew up zucchini is both a gift and a curse. In trying to use it up as fast as it grows (impossible), people get crafty. Since this cake came into our lives, I’ve looked forward to zucchini season. And then “forgetting to clean up bits of grated zucchini and trying to scrape it off the counter weeks later” season.

I only have a hazy memory of where this cake came from. It’s on a printed ¼ sheet of computer paper, and in my head it came from someone at the school where our mom used to work.

Jordan: I had no idea, so we texted our mom to ask and she said “Somewhere in the back of my head I think someone at Riverside gave me the recipe, but I could be wrong.” At which point Kitra enthusiastically gave herself a high-five, then gave me a high-five.

Self-fiving didn’t work well enough, so I had to high-five the doubters.

Wherever it came from originally, it’s a great cake. It actually doesn’t use a ton of zucchini, but it has the benefit of being a great use for the infant-sized zucchinis we always had around, the ones that aren’t particularly nice to eat on their own.

You know, the ones that are better as weapons than as food.

In this case, the zucchini isn’t really noticeable but helps keep the cake nice and moist. This is a lightly chocolatey cake—light enough that even I, the person who doesn’t like chocolate cake and thinks chocolate chip cookies would be better without chocolate chips, enjoy it.

It’s a cake’s cake. Like a man’s man, but… a cake’s cake.

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Chocolate Zucchini Cake

Notes

The recipe calls for half a cup of chocolate chips, but you can use as much as you like. (Though we wouldn’t recommend omitting them.) Kitra doesn’t bother measuring and just adds handfuls until she finds it aesthetically pleasing. You want to shoot for at least one chocolate chip per bite, but not so many that they overwhelm the cake.

This cake keeps well at room temperature, so go ahead and eat it for breakfast. It’s got vegetables.

Ingredients

½ c milk
1 ½ tsp white vinegar (or lemon juice)
½ c (1 stick) butter, softened
½ c vegetable oil
1 ¾ c (350g) sugar
2 eggs
2 ½ c (300g) flour
¼ c (20g) cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp baking powder
2c grated zucchini (about 240g or 8.5oz, from a 9-inch zucchini
½ c (110g) chocolate chips, or more as desired

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9×13 pan.

Combine milk and vinegar in a bowl or liquid measuring cup and set aside to sour while you do the next step.

Cream butter, sugar, and oil together in a large mixing bowl. Add eggs and beat until the mixture is fluffy. Add sour milk and beat until creamy.

In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and baking powder. If your cocoa is especially lumpy, you may want to run it through a sifter.

Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and stir gently until mostly combined; it’s alright if there’s still some white streaks at this stage. Fold in the zucchini until the batter is completely combined.

Pour into prepared pan and smooth the top. Scatter chocolate chips evenly across the top; feel free to add more chocolate chips if you like.

Bake 40-45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out free of batter. Let cool slightly before serving; eat warm or at room temperature.

Whole Wheat Blueberry Chocolate Cake

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Kitra: There was a time in my youth(ish) where I lived in a place deep, deep within the archives of Better Homes and Gardens. I made their Rosemary Lemon Cupcakes at least once a month, and everything else I tried came from there. Enter this cake. It was always… Almost right. A dense chocolate cake that tasted barely healthy, with a truly inadequate dollop of blueberry infused Cool Whip. It’s been on my list of things to fix up for a while, so I brought the idea to Jordan.

Jordan: And I had zero opinions on it, but also zero opinions on anything else. The world runs on apathy. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

So we made a cake! Apathy Cake! Or, Whole Wheat Chocolate Blueberry Cake.

Kitra suggested calling it “extra-gluten chocolate cake,” but I was pretty sure that’s not how whole wheat works.

Listen, it’s WHOLE wheat. Not just partial wheat. Extra wheat = extra gluten.

Fun fact: The internet tells me that whole wheat flour actually has less gluten. So.

Fun fact: Shut up. Bonus fact: Jordan calls blueberries “bluebs.” And also corrected my spelling of “bluebs.”

It’s the first part of the word “blueberries”! Of course it’s spelled that way! But also, blame my coworker for me saying “bluebs.” She started doing it and now I can’t stop. It’s so much fun to say. Bluebs. Bluebs. Say it with me.

I’m good.

Bluebs. Bluuuuuuebs.

The original cake is one layer, and generally close to something you’d want to eat while not quite making it. (Can I be mean to this cake?) The first change I wanted to make was modifying it to become a layer cake, which meant making the batch slightly larger. The second thing that I wanted to change was the blueberry layer. In the original recipe, there is hardly any blueberry. In fact, Jordan didn’t even realize it existed in the original recipe until it was pointed out while writing this. This is, however, the best part of the cake, so in this revision I wanted us to focus in on the blueberries labor.

Ah yes, the blueberries’ labor. [Note: Kitra is voice-typing.]

They do do most of the heavy lifting, and we thank them for their service.

Anyway, focusing in on the blueberry flavor. Swapping out the Cool Whip-blueberry concoction for  a blueberry whipped cream, we were able to get more into the cake. After making that whipped cream, we decided it wasn’t enough and ran to the store to get blueberry jam. Which is a stand-in for the moisture that the original recipe gets from a “ganache” and adds more fruit notes to the cake.

Side note: This cake was SO EASY. It took 10 minutes and 2 dishes to make the batter, and it is deeply pretty. Plus, it’s got whole wheat so I think you’re good to eat it for every meal today.

Oh good, because that was my plan. The cake itself is fudgy and delicious, and I say that as someone who doesn’t really like chocolate cake. The whipped cream tastes like a milkshake and we ate the leftovers straight from the food processor bowl with our forks while writing this.

Any last words on this cake?

Bluebs.

🤦

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Whole Wheat Blueberry Chocolate Cake

Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens and Serious Eats. See Instagram for some behind-the-scenes shots.

Cake

1 ½ cup (180g) whole wheat flour
1 ½ cup (300g) sugar
9 tablespoons (45g) cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder, lightly heaped
¾ teaspoon baking soda
Scant 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons water
¾ cup blueberries
1 whole egg plus 1 white

Frosting

2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup (50g) sugar
25g freeze-dried blueberries

Assembly

Extra freeze-dried blueberries (optional)
1/3 cup blueberry jam
Blueberries to top

Cake

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In medium bowl combine flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

In blender combine water, blueberries, and the egg and white. Cover and blend until smooth.

Add to flour mixture. Whisk until well combined.

Divide the batter into two greased 8 inch round pans, and bake for 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Frosting

In a food processor, blend the dried berries and sugar until powdery. Add the cream, and blend until stiff.

Assembly

Spread a thin layer of jam over each cake layer. Place the first layer, and add about half of your whipped cream. (Note: If you have leftover dried blueberries, feel free to do what we did and sprinkle some crushed berries over the whipped cream between layers.) Add the second layer and top with the remaining whipped cream. The cream will squish out a bit between the layers, so you can run an offset spatula around the cake to create the semi-frosted sides you see on our cake. We topped ours with some remaining dried blueberries (crushed) and a pile of fresh blueberries.

This cake keeps well in the fridge for a few days.