Caramel Cake - Daring Baker's November Challenge

I was scared to make this cake.

When I saw what this month's Daring Baker's Challenge was, I was excited because it was something sweet and the last couple have been savory.    This cake comes from Shuna Fish Lydon, who is a professional pastry chef and writes the great food blog, Eggbeater.  I started reading all the comments by people who have previously attempted this cake and had real problems with it.  I was sure I would, too.   But Shuna had lots of detailed notes posted about how to deal with some of the challenges of this cake and I followed them thoroughly and did not have any problem at all.   The cake was moist and light and absolutely delicious.  The caramel frosting is outstanding.  So if you have the urge to make this cake, don't be afraid. It was pretty straightforward. It just takes a little time to make it properly.

Making the Caramel, Steps 1 & 2

I think one of the important things that Shuna emphasizes is the "dry, wet, dry, wet, dry" method of cake making. You must alternate adding the dry and wet ingredients, and do it very slowly and patiently. For additional notes by Shuna about how to make the cake, click here.

When you finish this recipe, you will have additional caramel sauce left over.  It won't take long to put it to good use!  You can even drizzle the extra over the cake slices.

The hosts for this month's challenge are Delores of Chronicles of Culinary Curiosity , Alex of Blondie and Brownie, and Jenny of Foray into Food . And if you need a gluten free version of this cake , you can turn to Natalie of Gluten-a-Go-Go.

For the full recipe for this cake, please go to this link on Bay Area Bites.

My previous Daring Baker's Post: Lavash Crackers with Peperonata Topping

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Last Minute Lemon Shrimp Pasta and a Review of Chicago's "Quince"

We had to go to Chicago this weekend for a wedding and we got to have dinner one night with our oldest son, Barry, who goes to school there. I've always wanted to try "Quince", the restaurant which occupies the space where the famous five star "Trio" and Grant Achatz used to be. We had a great dinner there. The menu had me stumped because I wanted to try almost every single thing on it. And I was so disappointed in myself because I did not have the guts to take decent photos of the food - just these lousy low light ones. But I was way too conscientious to use my flash in such a nice place. Just what they need - another food blogger taking pictures of the food. But that food really deserved serious photos. If you want to see real photos of how the food was presented, go to their website. The dishes are real works of art.

We had two waiters the whole evening and they were just great. What a treat to have such outstanding service.

Quince has a selection of specialty martinis which are really interesting. Talk about a hard choice - I had the Quince Tini (pear vodka, pear puree, Apple Pucker, quince) and my friend Yvonne had the Green Tea-ni (dragonwell tea, earl grey-infused vodka, cointreau, honey) and Brian had a Tequitini (tequila, campari, pineapple juice). They sound great, don't they? They were!

The menu is a collection of cold and hot appetizers and entrees of seafood, meats and gnocchi. One thing I was disappointed with was there was not some kind of pasta on the menu. I was looking for some handcrafted pasta, like ravioli or something, just to see what Chef Hannon would do with it.

I started with the Shaved Asparagus Salad, which is something they are known for. It had a combination of shaved asparagus and whole asparagus dipped in tempura batter and fried , tossed with truffle vinaigrette and shaved parmesan cheese. Really special.

Here was Brian's scallop appetizer. I just loved the way they presented this.

For my entree, I had the yellowtail snapper with forbidden black rice over basil cream. The aroma when the waiter brought it to the table was wonderful.

I'm glad Brian ordered the short ribs with peas and carrots because I was dying to see how they were plated. It was a great presentation and I tasted the short ribs and they were outstanding. Don't you love how they did the peas and carrots?

See what I mean about my lousy photos.

My son had the ricotta gnocchi and they were light and delicious. We wanted to have a Sicilian wine and instead of ordering one of the Nero d'Avolas, we tried the Bonaccorsi “Val Cerasa,” Etna Rosso 2000 and we loved it. Always fun to try something different. The wine list was great.

For dessert, I had the doughnut with blueberry jam. Nice.

The only downside to the evening was that the dining room was blazing hot. I was actually sweating. I did mention it to one of the waiters and he turned the heat off and that helped. There was a fire in the fireplace in the dining room, which was nice but not when it's 85 degrees in the place.

Quince on Urbanspoon

After we drove home from Chicago, I had nothing to fix for dinner so I whipped up this quick dish. I love having shrimp in the freezer because they come in so handy when you don't have anything defrosted. A little warm water and a colander and they thaw out so fast.

I sliced a red onion and some garlic and sauteed them for a few minutes with a pinch of salt and pepper. I threw the shrimp in for a couple of minutes, added about a half cup of white wine, about a cup of chicken broth and let this simmer just a little. I threw in a large pinch of red hot chili pepper, the zest and juice of one lemon and let that simmer, covered, for a couple of minutes until the shrimp were just poached. Meanwhile, I boiled the penne pasta. When that was almost done, I took them out with my trusty spider and added them to the skillet with the shrimp and sauce. The last touch was a handful of chopped parsley and a few gratings of parmesan cheese. Dinner in no time! Much better than picking up fast food on the way home.

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How to Make Homemade Gnocchi

(Please note that I have moved my blog as of September, 2009. This post is now at: http://tinyurl.com/y9z5k38. Please hop on over and visit me at my new site. Thanks!)

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Roasted Vegetable Lasagna

(Please note that I have moved my blog as of September, 2009. This post is now at: http://tinyurl.com/y9z5k38. Please hop on over and visit me at my new site. Thanks!)

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Almond Raspberry Cake

I just finished reading Patricia Wells' wonderful book, "We'll Always Have Paris . . . and Provence". This famous cooking teacher has written a fun and interesting book about her life which includes some of her favorite recipes, too. She raves about this cake in her book saying she could eat the whole thing! She and I are alike when it comes to dessert. She says she can usually pass on dessert and I can, too. I do like a dessert that is not too sweet and involves almond flour. This cake contains no egg yolks and no butter. It's light, like an angel food cake, but has that wonderful earthy taste of almonds. And this cake is so easy to make - everything gets whipped up in one bowl and put right in the pan to bake. Easy.

Almond Raspberry Cake

for a printable recipe, click here

Make sure you measure the egg whites in a measuring cup, do not go by just the number of egg whites.

1 teaspoon vegetable oil for preparing the pan (I just used Pam)
1 cup egg whites (6 to 8 large)
1 cup raw sugar
a scant 2 cups almond powder or flour*
grated zest of 2 lemons
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 cups fresh raspberries (or other small berries)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Brush a 9 1/2 inch springform pan with the oil or spray with Pam. Set aside.

Place the egg whites in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a whisk. Beat at low speed until frothy. Gradually increase the speed to high, slowly addin ghte sugar, and whisking until the egg whites are stiff but not dry. At low speed, carefully add the ground almonds, lemon zest, cornstarch and salt and mix until blended.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared pan. Sprinkle the berries on top. Place the pan in the center of the oven and bake until the cake is firm and golden and begins to pull away from the side of the pan, 35 to 40 minutes.

Remove from the oven and transfer to a rack to cool. After 10 minutes, run a knife along the side of the pan. Release and remove the side of the pan, leaving the cake on the base. Serve warm or at room temperature.

I thought this cake was even better the next day!

*Not as hard to find as you may think - sometimes almond flour is located in the health foods section at the grocery store. I buy Bob's Red Mill Almond Flour in my local grocery.

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