Almond Poppyseed Loaf

Let me be upfront here. Yes, I am a pastry chef. So, yes, I do spend my days melting chocolate, baking off cookies, crafting desserts, and producing sweet sauces; but I am not always baking and making sweets at home. Although, if you do look at my last few blog posts it may seem as though that is all I have been doing. Bananas Foster, Grapefruit Bunt Cake, Calas … Trust me there have been lots of savory natured things in between all of these. Yet, once again this post is of the sweet persuasion; but not tooth achingly sweet. This is just the right amount of sugary - almond - cake - loaf goodness. An Almond Poppyseed Loaf, to be exact. I was inspired to make this because of our most recent trip to New Jersey. While we were there I had this huge craving for a poppyseed cake. It is a very eastern european item and while growing up in Garfield, N.J. there were two different Polish bakeries we frequented that made them. The bakery version is more like a very sweet bread-like item that beholds a very moist poppy seed / almond flavored filling. One of the bakeries made it in a swirl, and the other made it like a stuffed loaf. I always loved it, and I can recall many evenings as a child sitting with my family snacking on this cake with tea while the adults talked.

Almond Poppyseed Loaf
Almond Poppyseed Loaf

When I was last in New Jersey I went to four different bakeries in search of a Poppyseed Cake. The first bakery was closed! The next bakery said they didn’t make any that day. The bakery after that one was closed too! (It was a Monday.) So I went into the Polish market around the corner from my parents home…no luck there either! I even wandered the isles looking for some sort of poppy seed / almond flavored like ingredients. My thought was if I could get my hands on anything like the filling I could attempt to make it on my own. I could not find any, just walked out of there with some kielbasa for my father-in-law and a beet salad for my husband and I to share. As we walked out I walked next door to a tiny bakery with only two cases. And there it was! Happily I purchased the cake and took it to my in-law’s home to share.

Low and behold this cake was a big disappointment! It was dense, had bits of candied citrus in it, and it possessed a very dry texture. It was totally missing the light and airy sweet bread with that moist gush of poppyseed and almond goodness. I nearly teared when I ate my slice. I was leaving the following day, there would be no poppyseed cake until my next visit back - but only if I am luckier than I was on this trip! While I was back home in Seattle I kept thinking about the flavors of that cake. I have to do a bit of research still on a recipe to master anything like the cake of my memory, but in the present I will have to settle on the Almond Poppyseed Loaf I created. The flavor profile hit very close to home, and the loaf had the loveliest texture and chew to it. I will admit I had two slices and another one the next day. I am grateful that Brian brought the remainder of this loaf in for his coworkers to try or I could have easily sat down and finished it while watching a Netflix marathon of any kind! I will report back in the future on a Poppyseed Cake, in the meantime this Almond Poppyseed Loaf will behold my heart.

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Almond Poppyseed Loaf (Makes one 8 inch loaf)

8 oz butter, cut into small cubes, plus extra for greasing your pan

3 large eggs plus 3 large yolks

2 tsp Vanilla extract

1 3/4 cup flour, plus extra for flouring pan

1/2  tsp sea salt

2 tbsp poppyseed

1 1/4 cup sugar

7 oz almond paste, broken up into chunks

1/4-1/3 cup sliced almonds, optional

First, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Grease you loaf pan well and line it with parchment paper (I like to lay a long enough sheet of parchment paper into the pan so it covers the bottom of the pan, the sides, and has a bit of an overhang. This will help you lift the loaf out of the pan easily once it is cooled.) Flour the sides of the pan that is exposed.

Next, in the base of a food processor place your sugar and your almond paste and pulse until the almond paste is broken down and evenly distributed amongst the sugar.You want to be sure the almond paste is no longer in clumps, and as finely broken down as the sugar is. Also in a bowl whisk together your flour, sea salt, and poppyseed.

Then, in the bowl of a mixer place your butter along with your almond sugar mixture. Mix this until it is well combined and fluffy. Add the eggs and the yolk one at a time. Be sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl while doing so. Once it is mixed cohesively and smooth, gently stir in the flour mixture. Mix until it is blended - but no further.

Finally, pour the batter into your prepared pan. Sprinkle the sliced almonds evenly over the top if using. Place on a sheet tray and then place in the center of your oven. Bake about an hour, rotating it half way though. Be sure to test the cake after an hour. This is a very rich and dense loaf, so you want to be sure that a tooth pick comes out clean once it is inserted for testing. Mine baked for about an hour and fifteen minutes, but it can vary from oven to oven. Remove from oven and let cool an hour before removing it from the pan. Slice and serve once cool but at room temperature. (Will store at room temperature, wrapped in plastic, for up to four days.)

Fruity Pebble Cake Fascination

A couple of moths ago a coworker showed me a cake she was thinking of making for her son’s birthday. It was a colorfully speckled cake similar to that of a confetti cake but the intriguing thing about this cake was that the “confetti” was actually Fruity Pebbles! it was three layers of a vanilla fruity confetti cake with vanilla buttercream enrobing it all together. The sides of the cake were coated with more Fruity Pebbles adorning the cake like sprinkles. The cake was cute, looked like it oozed fun, even though you could tell it was sugary - but it was the kind of sugary goodness you know children dream about. I walked her through the recipe and she was excited to make it. Fruity Pebble Cake cake getting adorned with sugary cereal goodness.

Unfortunately, her son came down with a bad cold before his birthday and she never ended up making the cake. Shortly afterward, while walking the grocery store, I noticed I was on the cereal isle. Out of curiosity I looked for Fruity Pebbles, but there were none! Let me admit that my curiosity was piqued because I was never allowed to have sugary cereals growing up. I started to wonder: What do Fruity Pebbled taste like? Then a few weeks later I was in Rite Aid to get allergy meds when I noticed they had a cereal isle. I walked down the isle and there it was! Boxes of Fruity Pebbles, they do exist!!! I purchased the box and hurried home. I couldn’t wait! I was going to make this cake and bring it in as a surprise for the staff.

A quick look at the "fruity confetti"  cake layers.

Now those of you who know me I am sure are wondering: Why was I so excited about this cake and buying this cereal? I mean it is extremely colorful in an artificial way, the so called “fruity” flavoring was fruity in a nondescript fruit way, and it is more sugar in one intake for a breakfast item then I care to think about. But, I felt there was something extremely reminiscent of reliving childhood when I saw this cake. This cake looked like fun. It reminded me of running around playing musical chairs, wearing fun paper hats, and getting goodie bags with all of your friends - you know the average stuff we use to do when we were 7 years old. I needed to be a kid again, at least just for this one time.

I will admit to snacking on a few Fruity Pebbles as I placed finishing touches on the cake.

So I spent one evening baking the cake, and then in the next evening decorating it. It was fun I will admit. It was quite easy too. I boxed up the finished cake and headed into work with it in the morning. Three separate people stopped me on the walk to work at 5:30 AM to ask about the cake. Once I got to work I placed the cake on my co-workers station, by the time everyone else rolled in they were all asking about the cake. It’s funny really, it is like they all turned in to children again with cake and sugar their mind. Once they heard it was made with cereal they were even more fascinated. Once the co-work who started this Fruity Pebble Cake Fascination got in she started to laugh! We all took pictures and feasted on sugary cereal cakey goodness with our tea or coffee. It may not be something I will want to eat again; although, it was fun to experience the enthusiasm and giddiness over this cake with my coworkers. Sometimes you just need to feel like a kid again.

My first and last slice of Fruity Pebble Cake! It was fun to be a kid for a moment.

Fruity Pebble Confeti Cake (makes one 8 inch round, three layer cake)

***This recipe is from the blog Butter Lust. You can link directly to the blog from here! The following directions are from that recipe. Although, I do not own three 8 inch pans, so I baked it on 8 inch pan for about an hour at 325 degrees. Then sliced it into three layers for icing.

CAKE

1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 1/4 cups sugar

6 large egg whites, at room temperature

2 tablespoons clear imitation vanilla

6 tablespoons vegetable oil

3 3/4 cups cake flour (see headnote)

3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups whole milk, at room temperature

3 cups Fruity Pebbles cereal

BUTTERCREAM

2 cups (4 sticks) butter, at room temperature

1 tablespoon clear imitation vanilla

3 tablespoons milk or cream

4 cups powdered sugar

First, preheat your oven to 350 degrees and grease and line 3 8-inch cake pans with parchment paper. In the bowl of a standing mixer, whip together butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the egg whites one at a time, mixing well between each addition. Add the oil and vanilla and mix until well combined.

Next; in a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. With your mixer on low, add the dry ingredients in thirds, alternating with the milk (you should start and end with the dry ingredients). Mix until batter is just combined and smooth - don't over mix.

Then, fold in the Fruity Pebbles cereal then divide the batter between the three greased cake pans. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Remove from the oven and cool in the pan for about 10 minutes, then turn out into a cooling rack to cool completely before frosting. (I like to chill the cake overnight and ice the following day.)

The next day, in the bowl of a stand mixer, whip butter on medium-high for about 1 minute. Add the powdered sugar, mix on low until incorporated, then turn the mixer up to high and beat for about 2 minutes. Add the milk and vanilla, mix on low again until incorporated, then turn mixer to high and beat for 4-5 minutes or until frosting is very fluffy.

Once the icing is made, If desired, level your cakes to remove domed tops and create a more even, professional-looking cake. Place one layer of cake on a cardboard round or flat serving surface and top with about 1/2 cup of buttercream. Top with another layer off cake then add another layer of frosting. Top off with the last layer of cake.

After, once all your layers are stacked, frost the cake with a very thin crumb coat layer of icing (this will help achieve a smooth finish) and refrigerate until icing is set (about 10 minutes).

Finally, use the remaining icing to frost the outside of the cake. To coat the sides with Fruity Pebbles, take a handful of cereal and gently press into the side of the cake. Repeat until completely covered. Note that this is a messy process, but the end result sure is pretty!

Moist Banana Cake with Chocolate Chips and Peanut Butter Cream Cheese Icing

One of the huge advantages of living and working in Seattle is that you have a vast array of vendors at your fingertips over at Pike’s Place Market. I really love it and I have gotten to know several of the vendors quite well. It is not uncommon for me to get hugs from some of them, some shout out “Hello chef” as I pass by (a bit embarrassing I will admit), they will always tell you the latest and greatest of what they have that day, and often they are eager to hand you samples to taste. It is not uncommon on days that before 11 A.M. I have smelled mushrooms, sampled cheeses, tasted herbs, and have taken bites of fruit so fresh and ripe I swoon. Some of the ripe bananas and the oranges I picked up from the market.

I often stop off at some of the vendors on my way home from work. Sometimes I  come home with different fruits and veggies for the week. There are other days I come home with anything from fresh truffles, ramps, green garlic, and just about anything that you wouldn’t find at your average corner market. We (Seattlites) are so lucky to have this all a pulse away. Most importantly, I love that I can walk up at any given time and ask any vendor “What is good this week?” and they openly tell you what you should and should not get. While I was being told at how fabulous some of the new oranges were the vendor looked at me and said, “I have bananas so ripe right now I need to get rid of them. I will give you a bunch for $1-.” You do not need to ask me twice about something like that.

The makings of really good peanut butter cream cheese icing.

So I headed home with my oranges and bananas and pondered what to make. I placed the bananas in a bowl at home and gave it a day to think about it. By the next morning I had my heart set on a cake. Why it was just a couple weeks ago I made banana muffins, so it was logical that I graduate on to CAKE! And not just a plain old banana cake, I was thinking of a chocolate chip banana cake with peanut butter cream cheese icing. I stopped in at the dairy vendor at Pike’s Place Market on my way home to get some fresh buttermilk for the cake. In my opinion, if you want a moist banana cake you need buttermilk!

Banana Chocolate Chip Cake filled and topped with Peanut butter Cream Cheese Icing.

By the time evening rolled around my apartment smelled fantastic as that banana cake baked. I let the cake cool and chill over night and the following day I prepared the icing. Slicing the cake to fill and also top it with the icing was perfection. The banana cake is really moist and a rich peanut butter cream cheese is not too sweet and compliments it perfectly. The bits of chocolate chips through out the cake offset the buttery sweetness of both the cake and icing. Brian and I each had a slice after dinner and savored every bit. I brought a big portion to work the next day to share with others in the kitchen. Brian brought a reasonably large piece with him to the office as well. My kitchen staff and Brian’s office enjoyed it so much many came back for seconds. I’m not judging…it is pleasing to see so many enjoy something you loved to make. And to think: If the vendor at the market didn’t let me know how great the bananas were this whole cake might have never happened!?!

Indulging in this delicious cake! (I think I need seconds.)

Banana Chocolate Chip Cake with Peanut Butter Cream Cheese Icing (serves 30)

Banana Chocolate Chip Cake (one 10 inch and one 6 inch cake)

3 cups AP flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 cups sugar

1 cup light brown sugar

8 oz butter (room temperature)

3 large eggs

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 cups mashed very ripe bananas (4 bananas)

1 cup buttermilk

1 bag of dark chocolate chips (10 oz)

First, preheat your oven to 325 degrees. Grease, parchment line, and flour two pans (shape of your preference) and set aside.

Next, in a bowl mix together you flour, baking soda, and salt - place tit aside. in the bowl of a standing mixer place your butter and both your sugars and mix with a paddle attachment until it is smooth and well combined. Add the vanilla and eggs (one at a time) until well combined. Be sure to stop and scrape down the sides of the bowl so that it is well combined. Add in your mashed bananas and mix evenly.

Then, add a bit of your flour mixture and mix until just combined. Follow with a bit of you buttermilk and gently mix until combined. Repeat the process in two more steps until all your batter s well combined. Fold in your chocolate chips. Pour the batter evenly into your two pans and place in the center of your oven. Bake about 45 minutes rotating half way though. You are looking for the cakes to be firm and set, and have a thin knife or toothpick test the cake cleanly - with no gooey cake batter stuck to it.

Finally, let the cake cool to room temperature in the pan for about two hours. Then, place it in your refrigerator over night. The next morning, pop your cake out of the pan, remove the parchment, and slice each cake in half horizontally. Proceed with the icing recipe below.

NOTE: It is always best to pop a cake out of the pan once chilled in it overnight. You will see it almost always will pop out smoothly and in one piece. Also, it is best to slice a cake when completely chilled. It will result in your cake slicing more cleanly, neatly, and without many crumbs.

Peanut Butter Cream Cheese Icing

12 ounces cream cheese (room temperature)

8 oz butter (room temperature)

3 cups confectioners' sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 cups creamy peanut butter (organic)

1 tbsp pure vanilla extract

First, in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment place you butter and cream cheese and mix on medium until the butter and cream cheese are well combined. You want to be sure there are now lumps of either ingredient and that it is all smooth. Add in your peanut butter and mix again to combine. Be sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl so that all your mixture is well combined and smooth.

Next, add in your vanilla and combine well. Then slowly add your powdered sugar with the salt, a little at a time until all is mixed and well combined. You are looking for the mixture to be smooth and easily spreadable. If you feel the mixture is too stiff you can add 1 - 2 tbsp of milk at a time while mixing to thin out the icing and make it as soft and spreadable as you like.

Finally, scoop some of the icing you mixed onto one half of the cut sides of the cake. You will want to do this for both sized cakes, Spread the icing out to all the sides of your cake evenly. Top the icing you spread with the other half of the cake  for each size, Again spread the reminder of the icing over the top of each cake. If your like you can swirl the icing to make it look pretty, but smooth works just as well. You can top the smaller cake above the larger one, chill if not serving right away, but let sit out at room temperature for an hour before eating. (Cake should last for up to a week.)

NOTE: If you feel necessary you can place the smaller cake on a piece of plastic wrapped card board cut to match, but only if you are worried about the two cakes touching. one another. I let them sit directly on one another and they separated finely.