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Entries in vanilla bean (9)


Almond Cake

Almond Cake Almond Cake Almond Cake

This year I have been about simple food—simple muffins, classic desserts, and hearty loaves of bread. Truthfully, I haven't had the energy for layer cakes or multi-step desserts as of late. The endless winter has taken what little I have left to give. There is no fuss, no frosting, no flair in my cooking. The focus has been solely on flavor and all the many straightforward forms it may come in. A simple goal, perhaps, but one I believe worth pursuing.

This Almond Cake falls squarely under simple food, but nothing about the flavor is plain. The sweetness rings true, a pure blend of almond and vanilla bean that is wholly dreamy in theory and in reality.

Almond CakeAlmond Cake

I made this cake twice over the last two weeks (and would make it again in a heartbeat should the ingredients find their way into my cupboard). The first occasion was on a Monday evening after a long day's work. When it cooled, I wrapped it up tight so I could photograph it the next afternoon, much to my boyfriend's dismay. Once the scent of almond had settled into the apartment, it was hard to ignore the cake on the counter. The next afternoon, once the photographs were finally taken, we split the cake in two, each eating half and calling it dinner. We had no regrets.

The second time I made it and brought it to a family gathering, leaving it unadorned with a jar of raspberry jam to complement it. It disappeared quickly once again, as little slivers were stolen for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It is a classic cake which can be dolled up for a fancy dinner or left simple for an afternoon treat, but never will it disappoint.

Almond Cake

This Almond Cake is a simple one, the ingredients common and the flavors pure, but it is somehow utterly unforgettable. A jar of almond paste and the seeds from a vanilla bean provide the flavor to the cake's tender crumb. Though the cake in the photographs is slightly overbaked, it still turned out well, the oven providing a toasted almond flavor to the outer edge. The glaze is optional; the cake is lovely enough left bare. However, I do recommend cutting a slice and spreading your favorite jam across the side. It will be memorable.

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Vanilla Bean Malt Cake

Vanilla Bean Malt Cake

Deep down, there's a part of me that believes that I belong in the city. Though I grew up in a city of sixty thousand, I spent most of my youth daydreaming of faraway places. Tropical islands, foreign countries, and big city lights were what I saw (and still see) when I closed my eyes. There was something about the tall buildings, the bustle of both cars and people, and the glowing of the city that I saw on television that drew me in.

Eventually I moved to one such city and fell in love—in love with the culture, the people, and the feeling of belonging. However, as all things go, the day came where I had to say goodbye. I packed my bags and left, my heart breaking in two.

Vanilla Bean Malt Cake Vanilla Bean Malt Cake

As the years have passed since then, the chaos of the city, both wonderful and maddening, is something I have sorely missed. I made a promise to myself that I would return to the city again one day. When I began applying for jobs last spring, I sent applications far and wide. While I couldn't have predicted where I would end up, the reality surprised everyone, including myself. Instead of moving to my big city, I moved to a small town, population 3000.

I now reside in the heart of lakes country. Life moves slowly and conversation circles around whether the fish are biting and when hunting season begins. It is a very different life from the one I had in the big city, but it is neither better nor worse. There is one thing to be certain, however—it will take some getting used to.

Vanilla Bean Malt Cake Vanilla Bean Malt Cake

Three stoplights fill the roads, allowing cars to traverse the small town in just a few short minutes. My restaurant options have decreased by ten fold, exchanging chains for mom and pop diners. I have to drive over an hour away to find dairy-free butter, a staple in my kitchen. Some days this place feels smotheringly small, so different and unfamiliar from what I am accustomed, and others it feels like a wide open space, peaceful and inviting.

The other evening I opened my window to allow the night breeze in. While the blinds occasionally rustled, it took me awhile to realize the gravity of what was taking place. There was silence outside the window. No cars on the highway or on the nearby streets, no airplanes overhead or sirens in the distance. It was so quiet I double checked to make sure the window was even open at all. In that moment, I wondered if this small town might just grow on me after all.

Vanilla Bean Malt Cake Vanilla Bean Malt Cake

Vanilla Bean Malt Cake is a dessert for all weather, warm or cold. The cake has a heavy flavor of malt and vanilla bean, though the crumb itself is light and moist. A light vanilla malt glaze tops the cake, coating the top and soaking into the bottom. I shared this cake with my new coworkers, a small gift of butter and sugar, and it disappeared both quickly and quietly. Light enough for warm fall weather and bold enough for a chilled evening, this cake will find a place on your table during all seasons.

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Rhubarb Vanilla Pound Cake

Rhubarb Vanilla Pound Cake

I grew up with a rhubarb plant in the backyard. The perennial plant was more of a fuss than it was adored, as it hung heavy over the marigolds and outgrew its home in the garden. The large leaves spread out over the lawn, becoming a nuisance when it became time to mow the lawn. The rhubarb plant has been there as long as I can remember, sprouting just as the grass began to turn green. Though my family never used its gift of fruit, we would encourage the neighbors to take what they wished and cut off stalks for family friends.

It wasn't until I began baking that I started to appreciate the rhubarb plant for its tart stalks.

Rhubarb Vanilla Pound Cake Rhubarb Vanilla Pound Cake Rhubarb Vanilla Pound Cake

With a winter that overstayed its welcome, this year the rhubarb did not have a chance to sprout until late May. Though the season for rhubarb lasts all summer long, the vegetable is sweetest when the stalks are young and thin. I waited impatiently for the rhubarb to grow, desperate for a sign of spring, hoping that sharp taste would erase the endless snow and bitter wind. I had already drawn up a recipe list, finding ways to make the most of the stalks, and was simply waiting for my prize. Last week, I finally received my first batch fresh from the garden, hauled three hours to my doorstep by my younger sister.

Unapologetic, the rhubarb was as tart as my winter dreams had dared.

Rhubarb Vanilla Pound Cake

Rhubarb is often buried beneath other flavors, playing second fiddle to fruits like strawberries. Spiced with a pinch of ground ginger or mixed with vanilla bean seeds, the vegetable can stand alone and shine. My love for sour and tart foods refuses to drown out the tartness of the rhubarb with cloying amounts of sugar, and it shows in this pound cake. This cake is a compromise between the tart rhubarb and sweet cake, a simultaneous play on both flavors.

With a dozen stalks remaining in my crisper, you can count on a few more rhubarb recipes appearing in the next couple weeks.

Rhubarb Vanilla Pound Cake

Rhubarb Vanilla Pound Cake is a heavy, dense cake in the most delightful of manners. The cake has a sweet, creamy quality which contrasts with the tart rhubarb pieces scattered throughout. Before baking, sugar is sprinkled over the batter which creates a crackly, sweet crust when it emerges from the oven. The cake is best served by itself, or with a glass of milk or mug of coffee.

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