Wednesday, October 22, 2008

a recipe that cake people love - recipe: brandied apple cake with walnuts and citrus cream sauce

My friend Sean insists that there are two types of people -- pie people and cake people. Whenever he meets someone new, invariably he will ask them, "Are you a cake person, or a pie person?"

When Sean posed this question to me a number of years ago, I knew immediately that I couldn't give him an answer that would satisfy him, for I am most certainly both.

Sean couldn't accept my "bipartisan" response -- he insisted that one can't be both -- he believed that deep down, we all secretly favour one over the other.

It's a simple (and silly) question -- but whenever I eat cake or pie, I think of Sean and his cake/pie question.

It is a full 10 years since Sean first asked me my preference, and I am still no closer to an answer that he'd be content with. Sean never did spell out what he thought it meant about one's personality to be a pie or cake person. I'll have to ask him. Perhaps it will help me decide.

Here's the thing. I love pie, but to be honest, I'm partial to my mother's recipes. (So is my husband, David. He claims he never knew what pie should taste like until he tried my mother's sour cream and rhubarb pie.)

I don't bake pie very often because no pie I bake will ever compare to one of hers. However, I love all types of cake, too -- from simple pound cakes to rich, syrupy sweet ones with lots of icing.

While I definitely enjoy the classic -- a homemade apple pie -- I adore the below apple cake recipe, given to my mother from a friend many years back.

This is definitely a cake for "grown ups" as kids don't seem to appreciate the flavour of brandy or other spirits in baking. (Both my husband David and I have vivid memories of begging our mothers not to put rum or liqueur in cakes or brandy in the Christmas trifle as it "ruined" it!)

A few weeks ago, David and I drove out to Martin's Family Fruit Farm on Lobslinger Line (on the way to Heidelburg). We sampled all sorts of their delicious apples but settled on some of their galas and honey crisps to take home with us. Both would work well in the below recipe.

Brandied Apple Cake with Walnuts and Citrus Cream Sauce

ingredients for apple cake

  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 2 cups chopped, peeled apples
  • 1/3 cup brandy
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt

ingredients for citrus sauce

  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 cup half and half
  • 1/4 tsp Pure
  • vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1-2 tbsp Grand Marnier or Triple Sec


  • To make the cake preheat oven to 325 degrees Farhenheit.
  • In a small bowl, pour boiling water over the raisins to cover them and soak for 5 minutes to soften; drain.
  • Place the chopped apples in a medium bowl, pour the brandy over the apples, and stir to coat them with brandy.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, oil and egg.
  • In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, baking soda and salt, stir in the walnuts and raisins.
  • Combine the apples with the sugar mixture, then add the flour mixture, mixing until well blended.
  • Fold the batter into a buttered eight-inch square baking pan. Bake in preheated oven for 50-60 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean. Serve warm or cold with sauce.
  • To make the Citrus Sauce, open the top of a double boiler, mix together the egg, sugar and cornstarch over boiling water. Add half and half and heat without allowing to boil until the mixture has thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon.
  • Remove the pan from the heat and add the vanilla. Cover the sauce with buttered waxed paper and let cool completely.
  • Just before serving, beat the heavy cream until soft peaks form. Fold the whipped cream into the cooled sauce, add the Grand Marnier or triple sec to taste and gently blend.

extra hints from dana's kitchen

Cut the cake into 1 1/2 inch cubes (or use a small cookie cutter to make tiny rounds). Serve the apple cake pieces in a martini or brandy glass, layered with the citrus cream sauce and/or caramel sauce. You could also serve the dessert with a dollop of fresh whipped cream and garnish with apple chips.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

a new pumpkin treat for thanksgiving - recipe: pumpkin croissant bread pudding with tipsy caramel sauce

Are you interested in serving something other than (or perhaps in addition to) a classic pumpkin pie this Thanksgiving? Try my pumpkin croissant bread pudding with "tipsy" caramel sauce -- guaranteed to make you and your guests swoon.

Traditionally, bread pudding was an economical way to serve dessert -- an easy means to use leftover bread that would otherwise be thrown away.

Torn or cubed bread is soaked in a sweetened egg mixture, accompaniments are added (see below for ideas) and then it is all baked in an oven.

Typically, bread pudding recipes call for stale bread but I've found that using fresh bread is just as good.

Although the original recipe calls for white bread, I've adapted the recipe for croissants.

Egg bread is equally delicious if croissants aren't handy or to your liking.

In addition to pumpkin bread pudding, I've had the pleasure of making (and eating) many other types, including:

• chocolate and dried cherry bread pudding

• apple and rosemary bread pudding

• white chocolate bread pudding

• banana, rum and coconut bread pudding

• vanilla bean and raisin bread pudding

I've also made savoury bread puddings, which are perfect for a casual brunch or lunch with friends. To convert the below recipe into a savoury bread pudding, simply omit the sugar, vanilla, spices and raisins.

In their place, add one cup of crumbled cooked bacon or chopped ham, a cup of caramelized onions and a cup of your favourite grated cheese (I prefer gruyere).

Bake and top with a sprinkling of fresh herbs (and, of course, omit the caramel sauce).

Pumpkin Croissant Bread Pudding with Tipsy Caramel Sauce
recipe adapted from Bon Appetit magazine


  • 1 cup milk
    (skim, 1 per cent, 2 per cent or whole milk -- whatever is on hand)
  • 1 cup 35 per cent heavy cream
  • 1 15-ounce can pure pumpkin
  • 1 cup (packed) plus 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon
  • pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon
  • ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2teaspoon
  • vanilla extract
  • 10 cups of 1/2-inch cubes of croissants (about 10 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins (can omit or replace with chopped crystallized ginger)

Tipsy Caramel Sauce


  • 1 1/4 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup brandy


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees Farenheit.
  • Whisk the milk, heavy cream, pumpkin, dark brown sugar, eggs, pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon and vanilla extract in large bowl to blend. Fold in croissant cubes. Stir in golden raisins.
  • Transfer mixture to 11-inch by 7-inch glass baking dish. Let stand 15 minutes.
  • Bake pumpkin bread pudding until tester inserted into centre comes out clean, about 40 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, prepare the caramel sauce.
  • Melt butter in heavy medium saucepan over medium heat until it is melted.
  • Add brown sugar and whisk in cream and brandy and stir until sugar dissolves and sauce is smooth, about three minutes.
  • Serve pudding warm with caramel sauce drizzled overtop (and whipped cream, if desired).

entertaining idea

Slice the tops off of miniature pumpkins and scoop out the flesh and/or seeds.

Serve the pumpkin bread pudding inside the miniature pumpkins (you can fill the pumpkins with the bread pudding earlier in the day and then reheat them in a 350-degree Farenheit oven for 10-15 minutes before serving).

dana's tip

Make sure that you purchase a can of pure pumpkin, not pumpkin-pie filling (which already has sugar and spices added).

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