On our anniversary in March, Dana and I went across the bridge to a little downtown shopping district and found a mom-and-pop bookstore. The only thing I bought that afternoon was a book called Small Batch Baking by Debby Maugans Nakos. She gives instructions on how to assemble your own small baking containters out of aluminum cans and explains how medium size eggs are better for her recipes. I fell in love instantly! You see I have a little habit in the kitchen of making too much of a recipe and having so much leftover that we both stuff ourselves silly, or the excess simply goes to waste. This book was the perfect solution. The recipe I used was actually called Orange Spice Layer Cake but I improvised a little (per the usual!). I had no oranges, but I did have lemons and pineapple juice and that sounded pretty damn delicious together Small changes will make this recipe vegetarian or vegan. I use small silicone baking pans that I got from our local $1 store.
4T unsalted butter (or vegan margarine)
1/2 c all purpose flour, sifted
1/4 c buttermilk (I used 1/8c soymilk, 1/8c pineapple juice)
yolk of one large egg (or equivalent in egg substitute)
2 t grated orange (lemon) zest
1/2 c sugar (i used 1/3 c)
1/8 tsp baking soda
1/4 t salt
1/4 t ground cinnamon
1/4 t ground nutmeg
1/8 t ground cardamom (YUCK! I used ground cloves)
1/8 t ground ginger
Preheat oven to 325F. Lightly grease and flour the insides of your baking pans and tap off excess flour. Place on a baking sheet and set aside. Combine the milk (and pineapple juice), egg yolk and orange (lemon) zest in a small bowl and wisk to mix. Place the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom (clove) and ginger in a medium size mixing bowl and wisk to blend well (I just sifted all of these ingredients together). Add the butter and the milk-egg mixture. Beat with a hand-held mixer (i'm sure any mixing method is fine) on low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened. Increase the speed to medium and beat for 45 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl (very important because you are making a smaller batch so it could throw off the math if you don't scrape thoroughly with a silicone spatula - I got those from our $1 store too!) Spoon the batter into the prepared pans, dividing it evenly between them. Bake the cakes until a toothipick inserted comes out clean, 30-35 minutes. Cool in a wire rack for 15 minutes, then run a thin, sharp knife around the edge of each pan and invert them to release the cakes and allow them to cool completely.
Problems: My cakes came out really crumbly - the top half was cooked perfectly and the bottom half fell apart. I have several guesses as to why. 1. Perhaps my substitutions caused the mixture to be unstable. 2. Perhaps my oven is the wrong temperature (have had that problem with other ovens before!). 3. I forgot to flour the pans, I only greased them. 4. did not allow them to cool completely because Dana was coming home and I wanted to feed her a lovely cake! Phew. I should really start following directions, don't you think?
4 oz cold cream cheese (or vegan cream cheese)
2 t unsalted butter at room temp (or room temp vegan margarine)
3/4 c confectioner's sugar (I used 1/2 c + 2 T)
1 t grated orange (lemon) zest (or just toss in the rest of what you grated)
1/2 t pure vanilla extract
1 T thawed frozen orange juice concentrate
(rather than the orange juice, I put in about 1T fresh squeeze lemon juice and 1T pineapple juice)
Place the cream cheese and butter in a medium mixing bowl and beat with a hand-held mixer on medium until blended. Add sugar, zest, vanilla and beat to mix. Add juice and beat until fluffy. Use right away or chill (then let stand 1 hr before using).
The lemon pineapple frosting is by far the best frosting I have ever made in my entire life! The book recommends cutting the cakes in half through the middle and putting a layer of frosting between the cake layers. Top with nuts, more lemon zest, sprinkles or whatever! Baking is all about having fun and improvising. All great food is made when someone says, "I wonder if this and that would go nicely together?"
I'm still trying to perfect my small-batch homemade mac and cheese - I'll let you know when it shows up!