Monday, August 29, 2011

Ready For Dessert: A Twofer

I'm getting a late start on my Hawaiian book. Lesson #1 about Hawaiian cooking: they marinate stuff for hours. Lesson #1 about my flaws in the kitchen: I don't remember that I need to marinate stuff until I start cooking. Tonight, we're having dinner with Matt's new CO, so tomorrow will be my Hawaiian debut.

In the meantime, I've been baking from Ready for Dessert. I was supposed to go to a book club meeting on Thursday, so I made his Fresh Ginger Cake (pg 42). I've been wary of this recipe, because his other two gingerbread recipes that I tried pre-blog were bad. This, however, turned out to be the gingerbread I've been searching for. I no longer need to scour cookbooks for the perfect recipe. I've found it.
What sets this gingerbread apart from any other recipe I've tried? 4 oz. of fresh ginger, to start. In case you can't visualize, that's a pretty sizeable stick of ginger. Between the fresh ginger, cinnamon, cloves and black pepper, this cake has a nice background heat to it, and the balance of ginger to molasses is perfect.

I wound up not going to the book club, because we had the first thunderstorm of Charlie's cognizant life, and he was a bit upset by the thunder. It may be for the best, anyway, because Matt thinks that no one in their right mind would want to eat gingerbread when it's 100 degrees out, and that it would be a weird thing for me to present to a group of almost-strangers. Perhaps. More for me. To stop myself from inhaling the whole thing, I froze half of it.

Conclusion: Loved it and it's Charlie-approved! This kid's tastes are so unpredictable.

I didn't intend to bake another dessert this weekend, but I couldn't resist. Growing up, once a year, my Mom would make a plum cake during the very short span of time when Italian Plums were available in our supermarket. Her recipe was simple--she just cut the plums in half, pitted them, and placed them on top of a sheet cake pan full of boxed yellow cake mix batter. The plums would sink to the bottom and get juicy and wonderful during baking.

I saw Italian Plums, and I had to buy them. A friend was coming for dinner on Saturday, so that was all the excuse I needed. I bought a box of cake mix, but figured I'd scan through Lebovitz's book and see if I could find a similar type of recipe that I had all the ingredients for. Plum-Blueberry Upside-Down Cake (pg 40) jumped out at me.

The cake was good. The evidence speaks for itself...
Three adults ate 3/4 of a cake. Oy vey.
Something seemed wrong to me, though. In my Mom's cake, the plums are still tart and taste like plums. Here, they tasted like prunes. I don't know if I bought the wrong type of plum--they were labeled as Italian plums, so I thought it was right--or laying the plums and blueberries on brown sugar and butter amplified their sweetness so much that they turned pruney. It was good, but it did not satisfy my craving for my Mom's plain old box mix creation.

Conclusion: This recipe turned out to be different than I was hoping, but it was still good. Maryam said it had a good "plum to cake ratio", and everyone but Charlie went back for generous seconds. Liked it.


  1. Those plums are really popular here too and you can find plum cake in just about every bakery right now. My husband loves them and can eat them by the bag-full, but I admit I find them to be a bit sour. Your cake looks like it was delicious though.

  2. I can't eat them raw, but I do love them baked.

  3. I know...that is annoying. I have to marinate my misoyaki butterfish for 72 HOURS before cooking. I can tell you from experience it's enough time for a butterfish craving to pass.

  4. A dessert twofer! Awesome.

  5. A quick followup, I was at my local produce market today and wanted to buy some of these plums for my husband. When I asked the guy for some he asked me if I wanted to big ones or the small ones (looking at them I could barely tell the difference, they had the same shape and were not that different in size). Since I didn't know the difference he asked me if I planed to bake with them or eat them raw, and since I told him we planed to eat them raw he gave me the bigger ones. It made me think of your cake and wonder if that is why it turned out different than the one you remember from your mother. Maybe you had the ones which were meant to be eaten raw? Just a thought.

  6. Oh, that's interesting. That's one of the many advantages to having an actual produce market/produce guy who knows what he's talking about, vs. the supermarket. You may be on to something!