Vínarterta – Icelandic Vienna Cake

July 15, 2020

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So wow! Just look at this amazing layered treat! What we’ve got here is Vínarterta, which translates from Icelandic to “Vienna Cake”. This cake boasts multiple thin layers of cardamom flavored shortbread alternating with spiced dried plum jam and is topped with a dusting of confectioner’s sugar.

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I’m going to not only share this wonderful recipe with you today, but also continue to tell you all about that trip to the South Coast of Iceland that the Husband and I took with our parents back in September 2018. I told you all about visiting the Golden Circle, Seljalandfoss, Skogafoss, Dyrholaey & Vik as well as our stay at the luxurious Hótel Rangá in my previous post. Today I’ll tell you all about the big adventure we had on day four of our holiday. And I’m also delighted to tell you all about one of our absolute favorite places to stay while exploring the South Coast – The Garage Studio Apartments.

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Gorgeous spot huh? But let me tell you about our adventure first. So what was our big adventure? We went on a private Super Jeep day tour of Þórsmörk with Midgard Adventures. Þórsmörk  which translates to Thor’s Valley is a stunning nature reserve located in the Southern Highlands of Iceland between the mountain glaciers of Tindfjallajökull, the world famous Eyjafjallajökull, and Mýrdalsjökull. This lush valley has so much to offer – dramatic volcanic landscapes,

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breathtaking mountain views,

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lush valley scenery

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and amazing hiking opportunities.

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The Husband and I had visited it twice before and knew Þórsmörk is not to be missed. We really wanted the parents to be able to experience it. The thing is though, in order to enter Þórsmörk, you really must have a 4X4 vehicle as you will need to go onto the “F” roads and make several river crossings. And those “F roads” (not sure what the “F” stands for in F roads, but after having been on them, I can think of a possibility…) in the reserve are pretty rough. To be honest, even if you have rented a 4X4 vehicle, you really need to be experienced with this type of driving. And I should also mention that most rental car insurance will not cover you driving through rivers. River crossings can be quite tricky, so if you make a mistake and end up in too deep of a section the river, thus damaging your vehicle in the process, you could potentially be liable to your rental company for thousands of dollars.

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This poor bus required the aid of a tractor once it became stuck trying to cross the river.

Besides the financial burden, folks have actually died trying to cross these potentially dangerous rivers. The solution here is to hire a knowledgeable, experienced local guide. We whole heartedly recommend Midgard Adventures.

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The Husband and I have been out on adventures with Midgard previously. In 2012 we went out with them in December to experience the winter wonderland of Þórsmörk.

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We were back with them in December 2013 on a private tour of Jökulsárlón.

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And in September 2017 we were with Midgard Adventures to hike the magnificent Fimmvörðuháls trail .

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Each time our adventure with them has been one of  the highlights of our trip! And they didn’t let us down this time. The itinerary that they came up with for the Parent’s Day Tour was perfect. Not only did our charming and knowledgeable Midgard guide expertly navigate Þórsmörk, but he also took us to visit a nearby black sand beach

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as well as a couple of stunning, lesser known waterfalls.

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The parents were thrilled with the experience of crossing rivers, rough volcanic terrain and black sand beaches in the Super Jeep. And our guide knew how much the Husband and I enjoyed hiking, so he had planned ahead and dropped us off for a small hike over a mountain while he drove our parents around for some sightseeing and then met up with us on the other side. A win for everyone!

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What an absolutely superb day. Everyone enjoyed themselves immensely! Take a look at this video for all of the river crossings, gorgeous scenery, hiking, blueberry picking and other live action!

After such an exciting day, we were so happy to come back to one of our absolute favorite places to stay on the South Coast – The Garage Studio Apartments. The Husband and I had stayed there previously in 2017 and we were so glad to be back! These lovely modern rustic apartments have been crafted from a former old garage that is located on a family farm belonging to Anna & Siggi. This picturesque homestead is nestled right up to the foot of the mountain topped by the Eyjafjallajökull glacier, under which the famous air traffic interrupting volcano resides.

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Siggi’s family has been living on this land for over 200 years. Now Anna & Siggi are operating a “gentleman’s farm” on the site as well as managing several apartments. Located exactly between the two famous waterfalls Skógafoss and Seljalandfoss, these exceptional apartments are the perfect central location for taking in all the South Coast of Iceland has to offer. The setting is nothing less than magical.

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You are surrounded by the most idyllic scenery – green hills, a private waterfall, a view overlooking the ocean, fields full of Icelandic horses and sheep,

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chickens, a dog (Felix) who never tires of playing fetch

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and a cat, who wouldn’t reveal their name, but was friendly nevertheless,Anna was also such an amazing host, so friendly, warm and welcoming. Her spacious apartments are stylishly decorated, sparklingly clean and filled with thoughtful little touches. And as if all of that was not enough, she served us scrumptious freshly home-baked desserts every day! Hospitality like this is hard to find!

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And the Northern Lights even decided to put on a bit of a show for us to make our stay at the Garage even more delightful.

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Want to see more of the Garage as well as those Northern Lights? Take a peek at this video:

But let me get back to telling you about this Vínarterta – today’s featured recipe.

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Although the name translates to Vienna Cake, it likely did not arrive in Iceland straight from Vienna, but rather came by way of Denmark. This grand looking cake was often served on special occasions, such as Christmas. One of the wonderful things about this cake is not only is it delicious, but it also gets better with age. So you can make this up days and days before you actually plan to serve it. You just keep it wrapped in foil stored in a cool place.

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This cake reached the height of its popularity in the late 19th to early 20th century. Back in the day, the thin layers of this cake could be easily baked in the more primitive ovens of the time or even on the stove top. And when some Icelanders emigrated to parts of Canada and the Northern United States, they brought this recipe with them. Though now a days, it is slightly different in some ways from the original, such as in North America you will often find versions with more layers and with a frosting on top. They have for the most part stayed true to the filling, whereas in present day Iceland, you are likely to find other types of filling such as rhubarb or strawberry jams.

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I baked this Vínartera using Hartshorn or Baker’s Ammonia (Ammonium Carbonate) for the leavener. You will encounter this ingredient in many older, traditional Scandinavian cookie recipes. You can substitute baking powder for it, though the cookie will not have the same crispy texture that it will get from using Hartshorn. I gotta tell you though, man is that ammonia smell strong! It is thankfully completely gone once the cookies/cake is baked, but let me just say, you will not be tempted to nibble the batter before it goes in the oven!

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The original recipe did not call for any Vodka whatsoever, but I liked the idea of a celebration cake being just a bit boozy. And I do know that good Vodka doesn’t really have much of a taste. But somehow it just makes me feel better knowing that it is there. I splurged and added a few glugs of Reyka Vodka to thin my jam just a bit as well as soak the prunes. You can virtuously soak the prunes in plain water if you are a teetotaler.

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Oh, and I guess that brings me to the dreaded “P” word. You might have noticed that I don’t call it “spiced prune filling”. No. No prunes are in this treat. Just some dried plums. I don’t know why folks freak out when they hear prune, but they do. So yeah. Spiced dried plums are what is in this scrumptious Vínarterta – and believe me you are going to love it!

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Vínarterta

  • Servings: 8 -10
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

recipe slightly from: Icelandic Food & Cookery by Nanna Rögnvaldardóttir

Ingredients:

For the Spiced Dried Plum Filling:

  • 1 1/2 Cups Pitted Prunes
  • 1/2 Cup Sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon Cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon Ground Cloves
  • vodka (for soaking the prunes as well as thinning the jam – optional)

For the Cake Layers

  • 1 Cup Butter, softened
  • 1 Cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 Cups all-purpose Flour, or as needed
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon Baker’s Ammonia (you can substitute 1 tsp. baking powder)
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground Cardamom
  • 1/2 Cup milk
  • 1 1/2 Cup Spiced Dried Plum Filling
  • confectioner’s sugar (for sprinkling over the top – optional)

Directions:

Prepare the filling:

The night before you plan to make the filling, place the pitted prunes in a bowl and cover with vodka or warm water. Leave them to plump up overnight. (optional)

Place the prunes, sugar and spices in a saucepan and add 1 cup of water. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until it comes to a boil. Continue to cook until the prunes are soft and the syrup has thickened, about 20 minutes. Let the mixture cool slightly. Place it into the bowl of a food processor and process until smooth. Set aside.

If you would like to thin the jam a bit as well as add a bit of “cheer” to it, add a glug or two of vodka and stir to combine. (optional)

Prepare the shortbread:

In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baker’s ammonia and cardamom.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.

Add the flour mixture and the milk and continue to mix until a smooth dough forms. The dough should be soft and just shy of sticky. Shape the dough into a ball and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least one hour.

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Divide the dough into five equal parts. On a floured work surface, roll each part out into a thin disc about 9″ in diameter. Arrange the circles on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake on the center rack of the oven for 12 minutes, or until they are just beginning to brown at the edges.

Assembly:

While the layers are still warm, sandwich them with the spiced dried plum filling, leaving the top of the top layer of the cake bare.

Allow cake to cool completely and then wrap in foil. The cake will keep for weeks in a cool place and will improve with age.

Sprinkle top of cake with confectioner’s sugar just prior to serving.

Enjoy!

Links for Helpful Kitchen Tools & Ingredients for Vínarterta:

Cuisinart Pro-Classic Food Processor

Kitchen Aid Artisan Stand Mixer

Baker’s Ammonia (ammonium carbonate)

Icelandic Food & Cookery by Nanna Rögnvaldardóttir

Travel Planning Guide:

Covid-19 InformationPlease make sure you familiarize yourself with all of the Icelandic Government’s travel requirements BEFORE you head out. All of the official information can be found here.

I Heart Reykjavik– An invaluable resource for all things Iceland! I Heart Reykjavik is a small, family run company that offers you personalized service. Planning a holiday can certainly be stressful which has become even more so with rapidly changing safety requirements due to Covid 19. I Heart Reykjavik is keeping up to date with all of the government guidelines and can provide guidance here. Additionally, they can help you plan a fantastic vacation to Iceland in a couple of ways. You can browse and book tours directly on their website. The advantage here is that I Heart Reykjavik has vetted all of the companies on their carefully curated list. Often they have even gone out on the tours and you can read a review of their experience on their blog. Their recommendations can save you a ton of time pouring over tours and reviews online and let you know which company you can best trust with your money . Another advantage is that if you book all of your tours through them and then a unforeseen change due to the weather or some sort of thing, I Heart Reykjavik can suggest changes to your itinerary and assist you with rebooking. And speaking of itineraries, if you are the type of person who likes to plan out everything yourself, I Heart Reykjavik can still be of assistance. They offer an Itinerary Review service, where they can take a look at your upcoming plans and make sure everything makes sense – such as if you have allowed enough travel time. They can give you feedback concerning accommodation and alert you if there is a must see in the area you are visiting which has not found it’s way into your plans. They are truly an invaluable resource!

Getting There: Icelandair! We love Icelandair and have always had great experience with them. Take advantage of their Stopover program on your next flight to Europe.

Car Rental:  Blue Car Rental: We ALWAYS rent our car from Blue Car Rental. Friendly Icelandic company, well maintained, newer, quality vehicles – they’ve never let us down and at this point we have rented from them on six different visits and have had excellent experiences every time. The price they quote on their website has all of the insurance included so there are no surprizes when you show up at their rental desk. Highly recommend!

Accommodation: The Garage – Studio Apartments – One of our favorite places to stay in Iceland! Located on the South Coast of Iceland, between Seljalandfoss & Skógafoss waterfalls. This picturesque homestead is nestled right up to the foot of the mountain topped by the Eyjafjallajökull glacier, under which the famous air traffic interrupting volcano resides. These lovely modern rustic apartments were originally built from a former old garage that is located on a family farm belonging to Anna & Siggi. Since they built the original apartments, they have expanded and built a few more in a previous cow shed and most recently have remodeled a Haytower. These cozy apartments are studios, some of which are standard and some slightly bigger with a pull out sofa bed to accommodate extra guests. The Haytower is the biggest unit and is a full one bedroom apartment. You can book with The Garage here.(booking.com)

Tour Companies:

Midgard Adventure: I highly recommend you book a tour with Midgard. Midgard is a local family run business located in Hvolsvöllur. They offer single day and multiday tours which can be either private and shared. The shared tours are always with a small group. No massive bus tours here, just thoughtful personal service.They are skilled at helping you plan your whole itinerary as well should you desire and being locals they have first hand knowledge of the area as well as the hidden gems off the beaten path. As I have mentioned we have enjoyed four different tours with them, and on each occasion it has ended up being one of the highlights of our trip. Consistent excellence is hard to find! They are a pleasure to deal with from the first email until your action packed day has come to an end. Everyone I have ever met there is friendly, helpful and professional.  And I should mention that Midgard now has a Basecamp. They can offer both hotel as well as hostel style accommodation in their beautiful facility which also boasts a restaurant, bar, and roof top hot tub and sauna. The Husband and I haven’t had the pleasure of staying with them yet, but we did grab a delicious breakfast in their restaurant before heading out for our adventure. We are planning a Highlands Adventure, which we will of course be booking with Midgard, so we will let you know!

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Restaurants:

Gamla Fjósið (The Old Cow House) – Located just off of Route 1, about 2 km away from the Garage Apartments. Cozy family run restaurant featuring delicious comfort food prepared with locally sourced (often from their own farm) fresh ingredients. Delicious homemade bread, jams and ice cream.

Midgard Basecamp – The Restaurant at Midgard Basecamp has it all! Serving food based on their Icelandic heritage, they offer everything from pasture raised lamb, to fresh caught fish, to juicy burgers. And if you are a vegetarian or vegan there are plenty of delicious offerings to choose from as well.   Check out their wonderful Breakfast Buffet and come back in the evening for a great dinner. They also carry a good selection of the locally crafted brews.

Misc:

The Reykjavik Grapevine: A witty English language Icelandic magazine. Great read whether or not you’re planning a visit! And if you are planning a visit make sure to check out their annual “Best of” edition where they give you a curated list of the best of everything to be found in the country!

Icelandic Meteorologic Office – Great for checking the weather before you go and essential while you are visiting – especially if you are visiting in the Winter! They also have an app you can have on your phone which I definitely recommend. The weather in Iceland can change suddenly. Be prepared!


Chocolate Peanut Butter Icebox Cake

June 4, 2020

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Did someone say Chocolate & Peanut Butter? Cuz those are without a doubt two of my favorites! Even better – those two delicious words were followed by Icebox? I’m in! Today I am sharing this glorious recipe for a Chocolate Peanut Butter Icebox Cake with you.

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Now I’m sure you already can tell that this confection is going to be amazing just by looking at the ingredients – chocolate, peanut butter, cream cheese, heavy cream and crispy chocolate wafers. I probably don’t even need to say another word.

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However, I would be remiss if I did not point out some other aspects of this recipe which make it so magnificent. Foremost in my mind is that you can prepare this tasty treat without ever having to turn on your oven! It is supposed to reach 95 degrees F today (35 C)! Needless to say, I am not at all happy. Swampy old Virginia summer has indeed arrived. I do not want to be stuck in the hot kitchen with the oven on for even one second. This Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake is perfect in that sense.

IMG_8188Also it is not only easy to make, but also can be made ahead of time. Yup – an icebox cake keeps very well in the icebox. And while it’s chilling in there, those Chocolate Wafers are becoming soft and wonderfully spongy. It is as if you baked the thinest cake layers. But the good news is that you had to do nothing of the sort.

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Once you are ready to dig into the cake, simply turn it out of the pan onto a serving tray and decorate it with a dusting of cocoa powder and some peanuts. This Chocolate Peanut Butter Icebox Cake is a perfect summer indulgence. Folks will be delighted!

 

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Chocolate Peanut Butter Icebox Cake

  • Servings: 8 - 10
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

recipe from: Once Upon a Chef

Ingredients:

  • 113 grams (4 oz.) cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 260 grams (1 cup) smooth peanut butter (I use Skippy All Natural, No Need To Stir)
  • 120 grams (1 cup) confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Pinch salt
  • 480 grams (2 cups) cold heavy cream
  • 50 Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers, from one box (see note)
  • Cocoa powder, for dusting
  • 35 grams (1/4 cup) unsalted dry roasted peanuts

Directions:

Line a 23×12.5-cm (9″X5″) loaf pan with two pieces of overlapping plastic wrap, allowing the excess to hang over the edges of the pan.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, whip the heavy cream until stiff peaks form. Do not over-whip. Set aside.

In another bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese, peanut butter, confectioners’ sugar, vanilla, and salt together until smooth.

Add 1/3 of the whipped cream to the peanut butter mixture and beat with the mixer until smooth. Add the remaining whipped cream and fold with a rubber spatula, turning the bowl as you go, until the mixture is evenly combined and uniform in color and texture.

Spoon about two-thirds of the cream into the prepared pan. Starting at a short side of the pan, arrange 12 cookies in the cream, standing them on their edge in a row. Do the same with a second row of cookies, slightly overlapping the cookies from the first row. Continue with two more rows for a total of four rows. Save the last two cookies for the topping.

Cover the cookies with the remaining cream. Smooth the cream with a spatula, gently pressing to make sure any gaps between the cookies are filled.

Cover the cake with the excess plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or up to 48 hours. When ready to serve, peel the plastic wrap from the top. Set a platter on top of the pan and invert the cake onto it. Lift the pan off and gently peel away the plastic wrap. Use a warm offset spatula to smooth the edges, if desired. Dust the cake lightly with cocoa powder through a fine sieve. Crush the remaining wafers and scatter the peanuts over top, pressing down on them slightly so they adhere. Slice with a sharp knife and serve cold.

 

Enjoy!

Links for Helpful Kitchen Tools & Ingredients for Chocolate Peanut Butter Icebox Cake:

OXO Good Grips Stainless Steel Food Scale

Kitchen Aid Artisan Stand Mixer

Wilton 9″X 5″ Loaf Pan

Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers – Here is a link which will show you what the chocolate wafer cookies look like. I think you should be able to find them in your local grocery, either with the cookies or with ice cream fixings. This amazon price seems a bit high to me, so definitely take a look in your local store if you can.

Once Upon a Chef, the Cookbook by Jennifer Segal – You will not find the recipe for the Chocolate Peanut Butter Icebox Cake in this cookbook, but will find a bunch of other awesome tasty recipes. I love this cookbook, as well as the Once Upon a Chef blog. All of Jennifer’s recipes are easy to make and absolutely delicious!

Valhrona French Chocolate Pearls – This is what I used to decorate the top of the cake. It is a crispy bit of cereal coated in dark chocolate. This link if for a much, much bigger bag than you would need for just this dessert, but I wanted to let you know what I had used.


Kanilterta (Icelandic Cinnamon Cake)

May 8, 2020

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Today I would like to share this Icelandic recipe for Kanilterta with you. This delicious treat boasts four layers of cinnamon spiced buttery cake separated by sweet vanilla whipped cream & topped with silky decadent chocolate. I even bet you have all the ingredients necessary to make it in your pantry right now.

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Oh, and I also want to tell you all about our visit to Iceland for an amazing Ice Cave adventure back in February 2018.

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Now I know when folks are planning a get away in February they might be dreaming of a sunny Caribbean island or something. Iceland might not be the country that comes to mind. However, anyone who knows me, or has read my blog at all knows the Husband and I are not beach people at all. We much prefer the colder climes and absolutely love Iceland at anytime of the year. We had taken a trip to Scotland to go to Up Helly Aa– Europe’s largest Viking fire festival, which takes place at the end of January. So we decided to take advantage of Icelandair’s Stopover offer. You see, if you fly to any of their destinations you can add an up to a 7 day stopover in Iceland at no charge! So it was a no brainer for us. We actually ended up spending one night in Iceland on the way to Scotland and then spent an additional 6 nights on the way back to Virginia.

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And in addition to Icelander’s fantastic Stopover offer, on certain flights they also offer the option to “Class Up” from economy seats to Saga Premium. So, how it works is 10 days prior to an eligible flight, you will receive an email asking if you would like to place a bid. You are then able to decide the amount you are willing to pay, in addition to the cost of your original ticket, to have a Saga class seat.

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You should keep in mind that it is per seat. So if you bid $200 and there are two of you on the ticket, then you have actually bid $400. And this is per segment of the flight. So if you have a roundtrip flight, you would be bidding on the flight over as well as the flight back. If your bid is not accepted, nothing changes with your original ticket. You still have the same seats. However if your bid is accepted, you will find yourself in Saga Class. We made a bid and it was accepted!

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Our flight arrived in Iceland around 6:30 am and we were not headed on to Scotland until 7 am the next morning. So we chose to stay close to the airport rather than to travel into Reykjavik. Tired after our overnight flight, we checked into the Silica Hotel at the famous Blue Lagoon.

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The Blue Lagoon is located near the town of Grindavik and is only about a 15 – 20 minute drive from the airport. The Silica Hotel is only about a 3 minute drive, or a short stroll through the beautiful green moss covered lava fields, from the Blue Lagoon. Needless to say, we arrived well before our check-in time, but were able to take advantage of their abundant breakfast buffet while we waited for our room. Since the hotel was not very busy, being February and all, they were able to get us into our room a bit early.

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View from our room at The Silica Hotel

After some shut eye, we took a stroll over to the Blue Lagoon

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Strolling through the lava fields

to enjoy a delicious dinner at the Lava Restaurant.

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We did not spend any time in the actual lagoon at the Blue Lagoon on this trip. We have several times in the past and truly enjoy it and do recommend it, even if it is a bit touristy. There is a reason why folks love it! And I should mention that when you book a room at the Silica Hotel, premium entrance to the Blue Lagoon is included. That is really quite a perk, especially in the summer time. The Blue Lagoon has become so popular at this point, it is unlikely that you could gain entrance without booking in advance. But there is also even another perk to staying at the Silica Hotel – they have their own private lagoon for folks staying with them! How awesome is that!!!

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Now there isn’t a swim up bar, like there is in the main Blue Lagoon, however you can place a drink order with one of the Silica employees and they will deliver it to you while you soak in the Silica Lagoon. The Husband and I loved this little private oasis. Not crowded at all, very quiet. We spent quite a while relaxing and unwinding here on the first night of our trip!

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After all of our adventures in Scotland, we arrived back in Iceland and taxied into Reykjavik. We had been dreaming of visiting an Ice Cave for sometime and February was the perfect time to go on an Ice Cave adventure. You see, it needs to be cold to safely visit an Ice Cave, so most of these tours take place from October – March. February was just perfect! So I booked a two day tour, which would take us and a small number of other guests (no more than 8) out along the South Coast, stopping to visit Seljalandfoss & Skógafoss Waterfalls, the Reynisfjara Black Sand beach, and Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon. Then we would spend the night at the tour group’s cottage, have a traditional Icelandic dinner and enjoy the Northern Lights if possible. The second day we would visit the Diamond Beach, Jökulsárlón, walk on a glacier, go to an Ice Cave and then be back in Reykjavik by around 21:00 – 22:00. Two full days without a doubt! Even though we had seen a lot of the South Coast, we were happy to see it again. And even happier to sit back and let some other folks do the driving. On the day our tour began it was raining. And I don’t mean just a little drizzly, just spitting a bit…I mean all out, cats and dogs, RAINING! Sure, it will let up soon I thought…HA! If anything it intensified throughout the day! But we didn’t let it stop us! We had all our waterproof gear at the ready.

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Drenched at Seljalandfoss.

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Soggy at Skógafoss

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Soaked before the Basalt columns at Reynisfjara Beach

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Drowned at Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon

 

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We arrived in a big water-logged heap at the cottage, which was quite charming and thankfully warm.

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The tour company had prepared a lovely Icelandic lamb dinner for us. But first they wanted us to try an Icelandic national delicacy – Hákarl, which translates to rotten or putrefied shark. Yup, you read that right. You see Greenlands shark meat is actually poisonous when fresh due to its high levels of urea and trimethylamine oxide. However after it is buried in sand and pressed down by stones, hung to dry for weeks and then cured for a month or so more, it is just fine! Usually eating a bit is followed quickly by taking a shot of Brennivín – an Icelandic liquor also known as Black Death. The Husband is allergic to seafood, so he got a pass on the putrefied shark and merely concentrate on the shots of Death. Lucky me, I got to sample both. Hmmmm… Rotten Shark & Black Death…what could go wrong?

So how did it taste? Well, the smell was worse than the taste. The taste wasn’t great, but probably not the worst thing ever, though I certainly have not found myself craving either. Needless to say, the Northern Lights did not make an appearance that night. Or if they did , the heavy cloud cover and pouring rain obscured them. But, good news, when we woke in the morning the rain had decided to move on. It was cold and windy, but all things considered and knowing what it was like just the day before, not too bad for February in Iceland. We ate breakfast and then set out for the day. First stop, Diamond Beach & Jökulsárlón.

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And finally, the time had arrived! We met up with some local ice cave guides, boarded their modified 4X4 and set off on a very bumpy ride towards Vatnajokull to explore an ice cave!

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Ice caves in Iceland are formed from beneath by the canals of water which run under the glaciers. In the summer these caves are often filled with water and impassible, but with the coming of cold water they freeze and voila – ICE CAVE! Incredibly otherworldly and stunningly beautiful – I’ll just let my pictures do the talking:

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We not only got to see a traditional ice cave, but after a short walk across the glacier, we got to see a convertible type of ice cave – you know…one with the roof off. Really, it was more like a fissure in the glacier. Also, incredibly beautiful.

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And the great news is that new caves form every year, so you could likely go again and again and it would always be different!

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Alas, it was time to head back to Reykjavik. We stopped for a short look see at Svínafellsjökull (the glacier where the scenes from North of the Wall in Game of Thrones were filmed), but then got right on the road.

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I had been monitoring the weather on my phone throughout the day and was worried about a storm that was moving in. Sure enough, the weather soon turned bad. We thought rain was a problem, but not so much. What we ended up with on the way back to the city was much worse – very windy and driving snow. There was little visibility, multiple cars had gone off the road and driving was treacherous!

When we finally arrived in Hveragerði at the foot of the Hellisheidi Mountain Pass, the one that we needed to take to get back into Reykjavik…yeah, that one…we found that it was impassable and closed.

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We sat and waited to see if a plow might make it across the mountain somehow, but after about an hour and some consulting with other stuck tour drivers as well as the police, we realized that we were going to have to go around. Yeah….go around a mountain! Thus turning what should have been about a 40 minute drive over the pass into a 2 hour + blizzard driving odyssey! But I gotta give it to our driver. He was awesome. Calm and confident. We finally showed up back in the city around 2 am! Let me tell you, that was the point where we were really glad we weren’t the ones doing the driving, but rather were in the expert hands of a driver who was experienced driving in Iceland’s tricky, ever-changing winter weather. Although this two day Ice Cave trip turned out a little different than we might have imagined, we ended up having a fantastic time and quite an adventure!

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The rest of our time in Iceland we spent relaxing in Reykjavik. We stayed in an AirBnB which was in a great location and had a lovely view.

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We went shopping and wandered about town

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took in the street art

stopped for coffee at Reykjavik Roasters,

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visited our favorite restaurants like Íslenski Barinn and Snaps,

enjoyed a kanilsnúðar or two from Brauð & Co.

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and stopped by our favorite bars

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and of course, ate a hot dog or two or so…

 We were lucky that the Winter Lights Festival was taking place while we were there. This festival is an annual February event in Reykjavik which celebrates both the Winter world and the growing sunlight after a long period of darkness. Every night during the festival various buildings throughout the city have light installations. You can get a map and stroll through the city to see them all.

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And we got even more snow, which made me a very, very happy camper. So yeah, February is a great time to visit Iceland! To see all the action as it happened, take a look at this video:

But oh yeah, I was supposed to tell you about his Kanilterta. This traditional Icelandic cake was often baked around the Christmas holidays and served with hot chocolate on Christmas Day. However, in recent years it has lost some of its popularity, being seen as rather old fashioned. Old fashioned it may be, and perhaps not very polished or fancy looking, but it is truly delicious!

IMG_0019I know I’ve told you before that the Husband doesn’t really like sweet desserts. Well, he absolutely LOVED this cake. Has asked for multiple slices!

IMG_0109The layers are more like a cookie or soft shortbread than a traditional layer cake. They are incredibly buttery and decadent. The vanilla whipped cream between the layers serves to light each bite.IMG_0024The top layer of silky dark chocolate is absolutely amazing. Where has this cake been all of my life?!!

 

IMG_0135Wonderfully rich and buttery with warm cinnamon and chocolate notes, this Kanilterta is absolutely irresistible! It is welcome all year round in our house. Once you give it a whirl, I’ll bet you’ll be hooked too!IMG_0029

 

Kanilterta - (Icelandic Cinnamon Cake)

  • Servings: 12- 14 slices
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

recipe slightly modified from: Þjóðlegt með kaffinu

Ingredients:

  • 260 grams salted butter
  • 350 grams sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 300 grams all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 4 dl  (400 ml or 13.5 oz) cream
  • 3 Tablespoons confectioner’s sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract)
  • 75 grams dark chocolate
  • 1 Tablespoon butter

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350° F (175° C).

In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, mixing until incorporated.

In a separate bowl, sift the flour and cinnamon together. Add flour mixture to the butter mixture. Mix until just combined.

Butter four to six 8″ round cake pans and line with parchment. Divide the dough equally between the pans and spread it out into an even layer. Or, if you do not have the round pans, you can draw 4 – 6 circles measuring 8″ in diameter on parchment paper and bake on a cookie sheet.

Bake each layer for 12 -15 minutes or until set. I baked four layers. If you are making six layers, the baking time will likely be closer to 8 – 10 minutes. Allow to cool completely on wire rack.

Whip cream until it starts to thicken. Add confectioners sugar, cream of tartar and vanilla bean paste and continue to whip until stiff peaks form. Spread whipped cream mixture evenly between each layer of the cake, leaving the top layer bare.

Place layered cake in refrigerator or freezer briefly while you prepare chocolate for the top layer. Melt chocolate and butter over low heat.

Once chocolate has cooled to room temperature, spread chocolate over the top layer of the cake.

Enjoy!

Kanilterta brought to you today by: Runcible Eats (www.leaandjay.com)

Links for Helpful Kitchen Tools & Ingredients for Kanilterta:

OXO Good Grips Stainless Steel Food Scale

8″ Round non-stick cake pan

Nielsen-Massey Pure Vanilla Bean Paste

Valhrona French Chocolate Pearls – This is what I used to decorate the top of the cake. It is a crispy bit of cereal coated in dark chocolate. This link if for a much, much bigger bag than you would need for just this dessert, but I wanted to let you know what I had used.

Links for Planning your vacation in February in Iceland:

Getting There: Icelandair! We love Icelandair and have always had great experience with them. Take advantage of their Stopover program on your next flight to Europe.

Accommodation: 

Silica Hotel at Blue Lagoon: Lovely hotel with its own private lagoon for guests. Extensive breakfast buffet and very close to Keflavik Airport as well as (of course) the Blue Lagoon.

Once in Reykjavik, we stayed in an AirBnB on this visit. Planet Apartments were the folks who managed the unit we stayed in. They have several lovely apartments with great views of the sea. Very friendly & helpful folks to work with.

Car Rental – We did not actually rent a car this time, but relied on taxis. When we do rent a car, here is the company we love:

Blue Car Rental: We ALWAYS rent our car from Blue Car Rental. Friendly Icelandic company, well maintained, newer, quality vehicles – they’ve never let us down and at this point we have rented from them on six different visits and have had excellent experiences every time. The price they quote on their website has all of the insurance included so there are no surprizes when you show up at their rental desk. Highly recommend!

Tours: So visiting an Ice Cave was a lot of fun. We definitely recommend it. I did want to take this time though to impart some advice. Visiting an ice cave is weather dependent in a couple of ways. First of all you need to visit between the months of November – March, when the weather is cold enough that the caves are more stable. Second of all, weather in Iceland is unpredictable. Tours are often cancelled in the winter, so you need to try to remain flexible and go into it knowing your tour might be cancelled due to the weather. That being said, you have to consider how you will be getting to the ice cave. Some of the best caves are located in Vatnjökull, which is about a 5+ hour drive from Reykjavik. You could drive yourself out that way to meet up with a tour – a lot leave from Jökulsárlón. However, keep in mind you will be driving in Iceland during the Winter, so you might end up having to deal with less than favorable to downright dangerous winter driving conditions.  Rather than driving yourself, you could book a tour which leaves from Reykjavik and let a local do the driving, like we did. A word of caution here – although they do offer day tours out to Jökulsárlón, I do not recommend them. You will spend at least 10 hours driving – so that is a long day in a car. And keep in mind, the days have less daylight hours at this time of year, so most of it will be in the dark. I think a two or three day tour is a better option. I bet you think that the two day Ice Cave & South Shore tour that we took looked like a lot of fun. It really was and I would have recommended the tour company that we used with out hesitation. The problem is that they sadly ended up going bankrupt in 2019. However, I know a lot of other tour groups out there do similar tours to this one. Which brings me to my actual recommendation here: I Heart Reykjavik! If you are familiar with my past recommendations for Iceland, you will be familiar with this company. We have gone on a couple of walking tours of Reykjavik with them which were fantastic! It was as if you had a local friend there who was able to give you the inside tip on the best restaurants, pubs and shops while telling you all about the city. And I also follow their blog, which offers just a ton of useful advice and tips for your visit.

I Heart Reykjavik– An invaluable resource for all things Iceland! I Heart Reykjavik is a small, family run company that offers you personalized service. They can help you plan a fantastic vacation to Iceland in a couple of ways. You can browse and book tours directly on their website. The advantage here is that I Heart Reykjavik has vetted all of the companies on their carefully curated list. Often they have even gone out on the tours and you can read a review of their experience on their blog. Their recommendations can save you a ton of time pouring over tours and reviews online and let you know which company you can best trust with your money . Another advantage is that if you book all of your tours through them and then a unforeseen change due to the weather or some sort of thing, I Heart Reykjavik can suggest changes to your itinerary and assist you with rebooking. And speaking of itineraries, if you are the type of person who likes to plan out everything yourself, I Heart Reykjavik can still be of assistance. They offer an Itinerary Review service, where they can take a look at your upcoming plans and make sure everything makes sense – such as if you have allowed enough travel time. They can give you feedback concerning accommodation and alert you if there is a must see in the area you are visiting which has not found it’s way into your plans. They are truly an invaluable resource!

Here is a link to an excellent, informative blog post I Heart Reykjavik wrote about visiting Ice Caves just last year. They can help you find the best tried & tested company to take you on an Ice Cave Adventure, according to your individual needs.

Destinations:

Seljalandfoss – A beautiful waterfall located just off of Route 1 on the South Coast. If the weather is good and you don’t mind getting a bit wet, you can walk behind this waterfall.

Skógafoss – Another beautiful waterfall located just off of Route1 on the South Coast. Due to the amount of spray from the falls, if the sun is out you will likely see a rainbow in front of it.

Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach– Famous picturesque black sand beach located near the village of Vík. Please be careful at this beach. The waves and rip currents are quite powerful. There are sneaker waves which can seemingly come out of nowhere and travel much further up the beach than expected, knocking you off your feet and potentially pulling you out to the freezing sea. Never turn your back to the waves. Unfortunately there have been several fatalities at this beach.

Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon – Stunning canyon located near the village of Kirkjubæjarklaustur in South Iceland. In Season 8 of Game of Thrones you can see the Dragons fly through this snow covered canyon. The vegetation in the canyon suffered from the amount of tourists and it was closed until June 2019, to allow it to recover.

Svínafellsjökull– An outlet glacier of Vatnajökull located in Skaftafell Nature Reserve. Game of Thrones filmed many of season 7’s North of the Wall scenes here.

Jökulsárlón – is a large lake which was formed by a glacier (glacial lagoon). It is located in southeast Iceland, on the edge of Vatnajökull National Park. Bits of the Vatnajökull glacier break off (calve) into the lake, forming icebergs. These icebergs float around until they melt enough to fit through the narrow opening of the lake and drift out into the ocean.

Diamond Beach A black sand beach near Jökulsárlón often peppered with icebergs which have calved from the glacier, traveled out to the ocean and then washed back up on the beach.

Restaurant/Bars:

Íslenski Barinn– Love, love, love! Delicious food & local brews in a comfortable, cozy setting.

Kaldi Bar Fun & hip Bar featuring beers from the Kaldi Brewery

Ölstofa Kormáks og Skjaldar (Kormakur’s and Skjöldur’s alehouse) – Or just plain Ölstofan –house brew Brío is not to be missed!

Baejarins Beztu Pylsur – Legendary Icelandic Hot Dog stand in Reykjavik. A one a day must for the Husband while we are visiting the city!

Reykjavik Roasters– Best coffee & vibe. Love the cinnamon scones!

Brauð & Company– Bakes my most favorite in the world kanilsnúðar!

Snaps Bistro– Laid back, French style bistro, serving up delicious cocktails and amazing breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinners. A favorite with locals and tourists a like.

Misc:

Þjóðlegt með kaffinu – Besides being a Facebook page, there is also a cookbook penned by Jón Símonía Bjarnadóttir & Gudfinna Hreidarsdóttir. It is available in English, Danish & German. You can purchase it when you visit Iceland or contact them at icelandiccakes@google.com

The Reykjavik Grapevine: A witty English language Icelandic magazine. Great read whether or not you’re planning a visit! And if you are planning a visit make sure to check out their annual “Best of” edition where they give you a curated list of the best of everything to be found in the country!

Icelandic Meteorologic Office – Great for checking the weather before you go and essential while you are visiting – especially if you are visiting in the Winter! They also have an app you can have on your phone which I definitely recommend. The weather in Iceland can change suddenly. Be prepared!

 

 


Beltaine Spiced Honey Cake

May 1, 2020

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Today is May 1st or May Day as it is known. Now when I say “May Day”, I am not referring to the more modern, political International Worker’s Day type thing. Or the distress call – though given the state of the world currently, I can understand why you might have thought I was calling for help. No, I am talking about the ancient festival of Spring that is/was celebrated throughout many countries. For my part, I’m going to celebrate with this Beltaine Spiced Honey Cake.

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You might be familiar with May Day celebrations held in England. There, a May Queen is crowned and you will likely see Morris Dancers and folks dancing around a Maypole. Today I am looking back in time to Irish traditions.

IMG_9947In Ireland the day is known as Lá Beltaine, which roughly means “the day of the fires of Bel” – Bel being a Celtic God. Halfway between the Spring and the Summer solstice, Beltaine celebrates the arrival of summer and the fertility of the coming year. Yellow flowers such as primrose, rowan, hawthorn, gorse , hazel and marsh marigolds were placed at windows and over doorways. A Maybush, often a hawthorn tree, was decorated with flowers, ribbon and bright shells and sacred wells were visited to pray for health.

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Photo from Facebook Page May Day – Bealtaine

This was also the time in Ireland, back in the day, when cattle were driven to their summer pastures. And quite significantly it was believed that the veil between our world and the world unseen was very thin. It was more likely that you might encounter fairies or other supernatural beings out and about at this time. That notion made folks very nervous. So lots of the Beltaine traditions were done to protect oneself, livestock and crops from any mischief or ill will. Bonfires were lit throughout the country. It was believed that flames, smoke and ashes have protective properties. Livestock were driven between the fires and people walked between them as well, Indeed they sometimes even leap over them. All fires in the house were extinguished and then relit from the communal Beltaine bonfire.

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The festival was associated with fertility, not only of the land, but also the people. Just think about that Maypole…yup, symbol of fertility. In order to have a more youthful and beautiful complexion, women would wash their face in dew, preferably gathered from beneath a hawthorn tree at dawn on May 1st. I have been trying to do this for years here in Virginia, but I don’t have a hawthorn tree. I have a crab apple, which is in the hawthorn family, so that is my go to. Unfortunately, I’m not really an early riser, so the dew is almost nearly all burned off by the time I schlep on out of the house. Furthermore, I’m often quite suspicious of any wetness I do find under the tree. Anybody out there have any idea what washing your face in fox or cat urine accomplishes? But I digress…

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Maybe I should make the effort to get out of bed earlier this year…

Interestingly enough, I had originally considered doing a recipe for little fried honey cakes. I found an article online (so you know it had to be true…) that said they were made for Beltaine and left out as a gift for the fairies the night before. I really did not want to fry any dough, since that would not only use up all my oil (pandemic quarantine concerns….) but would also make my house smell like a chipper. So I reached out to some friends in Ireland to ask if they knew of any traditional Beltaine recipes. They did not, but were horrified to hear that anyone would consider leaving treats out for the fairies. As far as they are concerned, doing anything whatsoever to draw any sort of attention from the fairies was to say, at the very least, quite foolish. Having recently read The Call by Peadar O’Guilin (creepy and somewhat terrifying, Hunger Games-esque modern Irish fairy story – have you read it? You should!) I can definitely see the wisdom in that line of thought!

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So I arrived on the idea of baking, not frying, a honey cake. Honey has long been associated with Beltaine. Not surprising since it is considered to have aphrodisiac qualities and is often associated with fertility. So I figured a honey cake would be a great match for the holiday.

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Truth be told, this recipe is from Smitten Kitchen. Deb calls it the Majestic & Moist Honey Cake and she baked it for Rosh Hashannah – Jewish New Year. In Jewish tradition, honey symbolizes excitement for a sweet New Year. Hey given what 2020 has dished out so far, a “Sweet New Year” sounds really good right about now! Can we just hit reset and have a do over sans deadly pandemic?

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This Beltaine Spiced Honey Cake is quite tasty., filled with spices and incredibly moist with crispy chewy delicious caramelized crust. I used Irish Whiskey in the mix for my Beltaine nod to Ireland. This recipe does make quite a lot of cake. Although I baked it in cutesy little beehive pans, you should probably consider doing a big ole bundt! Happy Beltaine ya’ll!

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Beltaine Spiced Honey Cake

recipe very slightly adapted from: Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients:

  • 3 1/2 cups (440 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon (5 grams) baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon (5 grams) baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  •  teaspoons (about 8 grams) ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 cup (235 ml) vegetable oil
  • 1 cup (340 grams) honey
  • 1 1/2 cups (300 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (95 grams) brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract
  • 1 cup warm (235 ml) coffee or strong tea
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) fresh orange juice
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) Irish whiskey (I think Jack Daniels would work well too)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Generously grease pan(s) with non-stick cooking spray. For tube or angel food pans, line the bottom with lightly greased parchment paper, cut to fit.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and allspice. Make a well in the center, and add oil, honey, white sugar, brown sugars, eggs, vanilla, coffee or tea, orange juice and rye or whiskey, if using. (If you measure your oil before the honey, it will be easier to get all of the honey out.)

Mix on slow speed, stir together well to make a thick, well-blended batter, making sure that no ingredients are stuck to the bottom.

Spoon batter into prepared pan(s). Place cake pan(s) on two baking sheets, stacked together (this will ensure the cakes bake properly with the bottom baking faster than the cake interior and top).

Bake until cake tests done, that is, it springs back when you gently touch the cake center. For angel and tube cake pans, this will take 60 to 75 minutes, loaf cakes, about 45 to 55 minutes. For sheet style cakes, baking time is 40 to 45 minutes.

Let cake stand fifteen minutes before removing from pan.

Enjoy!

Beltaine Spiced Honey Cake brought to you by: Runcible Eats (www.leaandjay.com)

Useful links for Kitchen Tools & Ingredients for Beltaine Spiced Honey Cake:

Kitchen Aid Artisan Stand Mixer
Nordic Ware Bundt Pan
Nordic Ware Bee Hive Cakelet Pan – This is the pan I used for the cakes in my pictures. However, this pan only makes 6 cakes at a time and they are pretty small. With the amount of batter this recipe makes you will be baking these for hours with just the one pan! You might also want to use a bundt pan or 9″x13″ pan in addition to this pan.
The Call by Peadar O’Guilin – creepy modern day Irish fairy store I mentioned above. Technically you do not need this to make the Beltaine Spiced Honey Cake, but it really is a good read if you like scary fairy stories, Hunger Game, Game of Thrones type things.
The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman – This recipe is not actually in the book, but I have never been disappointed in a Smitten Kitchen recipe, so you might want to get a copy!

Sponge Cake with Cranberry Curd

February 14, 2020

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Happy Valentine’s Day! This year I made my Valentine this gorgeous light & airy sponge cake which is layered with cranberry curd and frosted with a delicate whipped cream. The Husband (who also happens to be my Valentine… come on! You know that isn’t always the case with all married folks out there….) generally doesn’t like any chocolatey super sweet sugar bombs that seem to be all the rage for this holiday.  Which is totally unlike me. That is exactly what I would want. Truth be told…in a the shape of a cupcake if all were going my way. Just saying…He, on the other hand, prefers fruit forward desserts such as this lovely Cashew Crusted Blackberry & Lime Tart:

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Or these Luscious Lemon Squares,

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And then there was that Poached Pear Tart with Lemony Cream.

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You see…being a good wife, I make him thing that I know he will enjoy the most. I do not bake cupcakes for him on Valentine’s Day…generally that is. You see one year I did manage to get away with it. He loves a good Gin & Tonic so I made him Pink Grapefruit Gin & Tonic Cupcakes:

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Pretty sly huh? This year I decided on this cake because of that Cranberry Curd. He does love cranberries. He raves about my Boozy Orange Cranberry Sauce which shows up at Thanksgiving every year.

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And was thrilled when I took some of that leftover Cranberry Sauce and made the cranberry butter to go on these Popovers:

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So I figured this cake was a pretty good bet. And luckily I was right!

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The sponge, being full of whipped egg whites, had a very delicate crumb and was light and fluffy. The cranberry curd was amazing – buttery and velvety with just the perfect amount of tartness to balance the sweet.

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The one piece of advice I would give, having made the cake, is that if I were to make it again, I would forego slicing the cakes in half to make four layers. I would simply spread about 1/2 cup of the curd between the two layers of cake and be done with it. The cake is wonderfully delicate and the curd very heavy. I am not very good at splitting cake layers in half and I think the thinner delicate cake layers had a hard time holding up to the heavy curd. Not to mention, I wouldn’t mind having a bit of that curd left over to spread over toast and scones. Just saying… If you are great with splitting cake layers in half and want that impressive four layer appearance – proceed with the recipe as noted. However, if you might be a bit more like me….well….. you know what I’m saying!

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This cake would look great on your Thanksgiving or Christmas table as well, when fresh cranberries are plentiful. But believe me, it would be welcome by all year round. I must say, both the Husband and myself were well pleased with it! Happy Valentines Day!

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Sponge Cake with Cranberry Curd

  • Servings: one 8
  • Difficulty: easy - but several steps - perhaps make over a couple of days
  • Print

recipe from: King Arthur Flour

Ingredients:

For the curd:

  • 3 cups (298g/ 10 1/2 oz) fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 1 cup (198g/7 oz) granulated sugar
  • juice and grated rind (zest) of 1 orange
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 small sprig fresh rosemary, optional
  • 6 tablespoons (85g/3 oz) unsalted butter
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 large egg yolks

For the Cake:

  • 6 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
  • 1 cup (198g/ 7 oz.) superfine sugar, divided
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (120g/4 1/4 oz) unbleached cake flour

For the Whipped Cream Frosting:

  • 2 cups (454 g/16 oz.) heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup (28g/1 oz) confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the Sugared Cranberries:

  • 3/4 cup (149g/5 1/4) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (113g/4 oz) water
  • 1/2 cup (50g/1 3/4 oz.) fresh or frozen cranberries
  • superfine sugar, for rolling

Directions:

To make the curd: Place the cranberries, sugar, orange juice and zest, salt, and rosemary (if using) in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the berries pop and start to break down, abut 10 minutes.

Remove from the heat, remove and discard the rosemary sprig, and purée with an immersion blender or in a food processor. Strain the purée into a clean medium saucepan.

Whisk in the butter, eggs, and egg yolks. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon.

Remove the curd from the heat and transfer it to a bowl. Cover with plastic wrap that touches the surface, and refrigerate until cold.

To make the cake: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease your choice of two 8″ (at least 2″ deep) or 9″ round pans. Line the bottoms with parchment, then butter and flour the parchment.

Combine the egg yolks and 3/4 cup of the sugar in a large bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat on medium-high speed until the mixture becomes pale and thick, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the vanilla and salt.

In a clean bowl with a clean whisk attachment, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually add the remaining 1/4 cup sugar, beating on medium-high speed until the whites are stiff and glossy, about 2 minutes. Fold the yolk mixture, one third at a time, into the whites.

Sift the flour over the mixture and fold gently until incorporated.

Divide the batter evenly between the pans. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the edges just begin to pull away from the pan and the center springs back when lightly touched.

Remove the cakes from the oven and let cool in the pans on a rack for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes turn the layers out of the pans, peel off the paper, and return to the rack to finish cooling right side up.

To make the whipped cream: In a large mixing bowl, beat the heavy cream with the confectioners’ sugar and vanilla until stiff peaks form.

To make the sugared cranberries: Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil, cooking until the sugar dissolves. Add the cranberries and return to a boil; simmer for 1 minute.

Remove from the heat and, with a slotted spoon, take the cranberries out of the syrup and roll them in superfine (Baker’s Special) sugar until coated. Place on a rack to dry.

To assemble: Split the cake layers horizontally (see my comments above… basically I would go with a simple two layer cake, spreading 1/2 cup of the curd between the layers and reserving the rest for scones or toast) and place half of one on a serving plate. Spread with 1/2 cup cranberry curd.

Place the other half of the layer on top and spread with another 1/2 cup of curd. Repeat with half of the second layer. Top with the remaining curd and cake, then frost the top and sides with whipped cream. Garnish with the sugared cranberries. (optional)

Store the cake, covered in the refrigerator, for up to four days. Freeze for longer storage.

Enjoy!

Sponge Cake with Cranberry Curd brought to you by: Runcible Eats (www.leaandjay.com)

Links for helpful Kitchen Tools & Ingredients for Sponge Cake with Cranberry Curd:

Kitchen Aid Artisan Stand Mixer

Oxo Good Grips Stainless Steel Food Scale

Wilton Cake Leveler


Malted Nutella & Biscoff Brownie Torte

February 5, 2020

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So I gotta ask….are there any Nutella fans out there? Cause let me tell you I love me some Nutella! I actually didn’t even know it existed until I was living in Ireland and my friend Theresa had a jar. I watched with amazement as she spread it over her toast. I was like “What! You can eat chocolate on toast!” I had no idea it was a thing. Yup, love at first bite. And Biscoff? Well I first encountered those little Biscoff cookies when an air host handed me a packet for a snack when I was on a flight. I loved them. At first I thought maybe it was just because I didn’t have very high expectations for any snack given out on a flight, but then they magically appeared in grocery stores and I found that I also enjoyed them when I wasn’t a captive audience, shoehorned into a tiny uncomfortable little seat.

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When I found out that there was a cookie butter version that I could spread on toast, I cannot tell you how excited I was! This amazing treat that I’m going to tell you about today features both Nutella and Biscoff – both the cookies and the cookie butter AND it is not only malted but it is also salted!!! GET. OUT!!! So without further ado (insert drum roll here) – I present the magnificent Malted Nutella & Biscoff Brownie Torte! Just look at this big boy!

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This treat has got it all going on – Three – that’s right I said THREE – layers of oooey, gooey chocolatey brownies interspersed with malted Nutella & Biscoff-y goodness, all frosted with salted Biscoff frosting, further adorned with malted milk balls

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and Biscoff cookie crumbs

IMG_8807 and finally lightly sprinkled with Maldon sea salt flakes. Are you drooling yet? You should be!

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It is not by chance that I’m blogging a recipe which features Nutella today. Today February 5th is World Nutella Day. This celebration of all things Nutella was started in 2007 by Sara at Ms. Adventures in Italy and Michelle at Bleeding Espresso as a day to celebrate, get creative with and most importantly, to EAT Nutella.

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A couple of years ago, the founders have transferred Nutella Day to Ferrero the companywho owns that most beloved spread. Take a peek at their Facebook page and see how folks are celebrating the day! I love Nutella so I usually try to participate with a Nutella laden recipe every year. One of my favorite Nutella creations was this Nutella, Double Chocolate & Banana Tart which was quite stunning if I do say so myself.

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Last year I gave you this gorgeous Nutella Star Bread:

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And there was the amazing Nutella Chocolate Chip Babka:

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And for quite a few years I was on a cookie streak. I made some Nutella Sea Salt Stuffies:

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And there were these irresistible Salted Peanut Butter & Nutella Sandwich Cookies – sweet salty bliss I tell you!

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I was still loving the salty / sweet thing when I blogged about  Salted & Malted Nutella Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookies. These cookies feature silky, decadent Nutella, creamy caramel, nostalgic malted goodness and rich chocolate chips, all rolled up together in a crunchy chewy salted cookie.

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Yeah quite obviously I have a malted, as well as a sweet salty flavor obsession. So it is easy to see why I chose this year’s Nutella Day offering: Malted Nutella & Biscoff Brownie Torte. This is undeniably one impressive looking cake!

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Needless to say, this decadent treat is truly rich. So slice it thinly and serve with whipped cream and maybe a tall glass of milk. There will be enough to feed an army I tell you!

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Although there are several steps, this amazing creation comes together quite easily. You can make up the various components over several days and then put them all together rather quickly right before whatever gathering at which you hoping to amaze folks with your baking prowess. So what are you waiting for? Step one – eat some Nutella. Step two –  eat even more Nutella while making this jaw-dropping indulgence! And have a Happy Nutella Day!

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Malted Nutella & Biscoff Brownie Torte

  • Servings: 0ne 8
  • Difficulty: easy - but several steps
  • Print

recipe from: Heather Baird of Sprinkle Bakes

Ingredients:

For the Brownie Layers;

  • 1 1/2 cups butter
  • 6 ounces unsweetened baker’s chocolate, chopped
  • 3 cups granulated sugar
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda

For the Malted Nutella & Biscoff Layers:

  • 6 cups powdered sugar, divided
  • 1 cup (about 9 oz.) Biscoff spread
  • 1 cup (about 9 oz.) Nutella spread
  • 1/2 cup malted milk powder
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted, divided
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream, divided

For the Salted Biscoff Frosting:

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup (about 9 oz.) Biscoff spread
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 2-3 tablespoons milk or cream
  • 3/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt

For the Nutella Frosting:

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup (about 9 oz.) Nutella spread
  • 1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1-2 tablespoons milk or cream

For Assembly:

  • 15 chocolate malt balls
  • 6 Biscoff cookies, pulverized
  • Maldon flake salt for garnish

Directions:

For the Brownie Layers:

Preheat the oven to 350°F.
In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, melt butter and chocolate; stir until smooth. Transfer to a large bowl and whisk in sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, whisking well after each addition. Whisk in vanilla, flour, salt and baking soda.
Pour into three greased and floured 9-inch (or 8″) round baking pans. Bake for 23-25 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes in the pans; remove from pans to a wire rack to cool completely. Wrap in plastic wrap or store in air-tight containers until needed.

For the Malted Nutella & Biscoff Layers:

Line two round 9-inch (or 8″) pans with plastic wrap (the same ones used to make the brownie layers, if possible).

Biscoff Layer: Mix together 3 cups of the powdered sugar, 1 cup Biscoff and 4 tablespoons melted butter in a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mixture will be crumbly. Add 2 to 3 tablespoons of cream 1 tablespoon at a time until the mixture becomes consistent workable dough. It should not be crumbly or stick to your fingers. The mixture should hold together easily when a small amount is squeezed tight in the palm of your hand. Press the dough evenly into one of the lined pans. Cover and chill for 30 minutes.

Malted Nutella Layer: Mix together 1 cup Nutella, malted milk and remaining 4 tablespoons melted butter in a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the 3 cups of confectioner’s sugar slowly. About 1/4 cup at a time, mixing until each addition is incorporated before adding the next. Mixture will be crumbly. Add 2 to 3 tablespoons of cream 1 tablespoon at a time until the mixture becomes consistent workable dough. It should not be crumbly or stick to your fingers. The mixture should hold together easily when a small amount is squeezed tight in the palm of your hand. Press the dough evenly into the remaining lined pan. Cover and chill for 30 minutes.

For the Salted Biscoff Frosting: Combine the butter and Biscoff in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whip attachment. Beat until fluffy. Add the powdered sugar slowly, about 1/4 cup at a time, mixing until each addition is incorporated before adding the next. Add cream 1 tablespoon at a time until the mixture is thick and fluffy; add the salt and whip again. Scrape down the bowl and beat for 2 minutes longer, or until the salt is well dispersed throughout the batter.

For the Nutella Frosting: Beat the butter and Nutella in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whip attachment. Beat until fluffy. Add the powdered sugar slowly – no more than 1/4 cup at a time, mixing until it is incorporated before adding the next 1/4 cup. Add cream 1 tablespoon at a time, if needed. Transfer the frosting to a large piping bag fitted with a large closed star piping tip.

For the Assembly: Place a brownie layer on a serving plate or cake stand. Turn out the Nutella candy layer on top of the brownie; top with another brownie layer. Turn out the Biscoff layer onto the brownie layer and top with the final brownie layer. Frost the entire cake with the salted Biscoff frosting, using an offset spatula to swirl the icing. Pipe 12 to 14 rosettes of Nutella frosting on the top edge of the cake. Garnish each with a malt ball. Place the cake on a baking sheet and gently toss pulverized cookies onto the bottom edge of the cake, allowing the excess to fall onto the baking sheet. Finally garnish the top of the cake with Maldon flake salt.

Store the cake covered at room temperature

Enjoy!

Links for helpful Kitchen Tools & Ingredients for Malted Nutella & Biscoff Brownie Torte:

Kitchen Aid Artisan Stand Mixer

Biscoff Cookie Butter Spread

Biscoff Cookies

Nutella Spread

Maldon Sea Salt Flakes

Premium Dark Chocolate Malt Balls – these look great, but truth be told I used Whoppers on my cake.

Sea Salt Sweet by Heather Baird – The recipe for Malted Nutella & Biscoff Brownie Torte is from the Sprinkle Bakes blog by Heather Baird. If you love that salty/sweet flavor combination like I do, you will love Heather’s “Sea Salt Sweet” cookbook. This book is a treasure trove of recipes for the salty sweet lover!

 

 

 


Guinness Chocolate Cake with Baileys Buttercream Frosting

March 17, 2019

 

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Woo-hoo! Today is St. Patrick’s Day!!! It is here, it is here! But this year I am parting with tradition a bit. I have always shared a cupcake recipe for my last post of my St. Patrick’s Day blog-a-thon. However, today you are getting a full-sized cake! And when I say full sized, I mean it. This Guinness Chocolate Cake with Baileys Buttercream Frosting is a whopper!

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Kind of like my waist size after I gobbled it all up…but whatever! It was completely worth every inch it added as well as every additional minute I spent in the gym afterwards working it off. This imposing cake features a layer of silky, dreamy Baileys swiss meringue buttercream nestled between two big, tall layers of moist, rich and intensely chocolatey cake which has been frosted with a decadent chocolate ganache. The Baileys Buttercream makes another appearance as the garnish on top of the cake. A chocolate lovers bliss I tell you!

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Even the Husband, who doesn’t really go in for chocolate desserts, couldn’t get enough of it. He must have asked me a dozen times to make sure I saved this recipe. This Guinness Chocolate cake will definitely make an impression!

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So I do apologize for not sharing a cupcake recipe. Once I made this cake and got my first little taste of it, I just couldn’t wait to share it with you. I suppose you could make it into cupcakes if you wished, but I gotta admit I am a fan of the stature of this full sized decadent delight!

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Well it looks like I’ve gotta get going…my blogging is done for a while. I’ve got some Patrick’s Day festivities to attend to. So see you in a week or so, Lá Fhéile Pádraig Sona Daiobh (Happy St. Patrick’s Day)!

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Guinness Chocolate Cake with Baileys Buttercream Frosting

  • Servings: 1 (excuse my french ) - Big Ass Cake, 16 servings or so depending how you slice it
  • Difficulty: moderate - nothing too difficult, but lots of steps!
  • Print

recipe adapted from: King Arthur Flour

Ingredients:

For the Cake

  • 2 cups stout or dark beer, such as Guinness
  • 2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups Dutch-process cocoa
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup sour cream

For the external Chocolate Ganache frosting

  • 1 pound bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the internal Baileys Buttercream frosting

  • 2 Extra – Large Egg Whites
  • 3/4 Cups Sugar
  • 1 Cups (2 sticks) Butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes, cool but not cold
  • 1/8 tsp Salt
  • 2 Tablespoons Baileys Irish Cream

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour three 8″ or two 9″ cake pans, and line them with parchment paper circles. Be sure your 9″ pans are at least 2″ deep.

For the cake: Place the stout and butter in a large, heavy saucepan, and heat until the butter melts. Remove the pan from the heat, and add the cocoa powder.

Whisk until the mixture is smooth. Set aside to cool to room temperature.

Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl; set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, beat together the eggs and sour cream.

Add the stout-cocoa mixture, mixing to combine.

Add the flour mixture and mix together at slow speed. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl, and mix again for 1 minute.

Divide the batter equally among the prepared pans.

Bake the layers for 35 minutes for 8″ pans, or 45 to 50 minutes for 9″ pans, until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove the cakes from the oven and cool on a rack for 10 minutes before turning the cakes out of their pans and returning to the rack to finish cooling completely before frosting.

For the Ganache frosting: Place the chopped chocolate in a large heatproof bowl. Bring the cream to a simmer in a heavy, medium-sized saucepan.

Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and stir until the mixture is completely smooth.

Stir in the vanilla. Refrigerate until the icing is spreadable, stirring occasionally, about 2 hours.

For the Baileys frosting:

In a medium bowl, whisk the egg whites and sugar together. Set the bowl over a pan of simmering water but do not let the water touch the bottom of the bowl. Heat the mixture until the sugar is completely dissolved and the color is milky white, about 2-3 minutes.

Transfer the egg mixture to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, and beat on medium-high speed (start slowly at first) until smooth and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Remove the whisk attachment and replace with the paddle attachment. Add the cubed butter and beat on medium-high speed (start slowly at first) until smooth and fluffy, about 5 minutes. If the buttercream looks like it is breaking, don’t worry, it will eventually come together.

Add the salt and Baileys Irish Cream and beat for 5 seconds to combine.

To assemble: Trim one cake layer to have a flat top, if necessary (otherwise the layer will crack when you place it upside down on your cake plate).

Line the edges of a serving plate with parchment or waxed paper to keep it clean, and then place the layer upside down on top. Spread 2/3 cup of the Baileys Buttercream over just the top of the layer.

Top with another cake layer, top side down. 

Spread the chocolate ganache frosting to cover the top and sides of the cake. Remove the parchment or waxed paper. 

Place remaining Baileys Buttercream frosting in piping bag and pipe onto the top of the cake. Garnish with chocolate candies if desired.

Enjoy!

Useful links for Kitchen Tools & Ingredients for Guinness Chocolate Cake with Baileys Buttercream Frosting:


Apple Cider Donut Cake

October 18, 2018

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It looks like Fall weather has finally arrived! I can not tell you how exceedingly happy that makes me!!! This is definitely my kind of weather. There is a crisp chill to the day, the leaves are changing, and there is often a whiff of bonfire smoke in the air. Time for toasting marshmallows, making s’mores and over indulging in every kind of apple, cinnamon, pumpkin-y type of dessert that exists. Which leads me to do something I have never done before. I am going to re-blog a recipe. And not just any recipe…Oh no. This is the recipe that has received the highest number of views EVER in the history of my blog. That’s right! With over 500,00 views, I am choosing to share the recipe for this Apple Cider Donut Cake with all you kind folks once again. I originally published this back in 2014 and its popularity is still going strong! And I want to tell you about a new feature I have added to my blog. Now, when you click on the Runcible Eats/Recipes tab you will notice that I have added a “Favorites” category. What you will find here are recipes that folks have said are their favorites. Many had mentioned to me that they often had difficulty finding their favorite recipes among the plethora of recipes that I have published. So now here they are, easy-peasy to find, right at the beginning of the recipe lists. If you don’t see your favorite there, drop me a line and let me know. So without further ado, I give you: Apple Cider Donut Cake (which you will find at the top of the favorites category)! Could I have crammed any more deliciousness into that recipe title? I’ve already told you how I love apples. And Apple Cider…especially the type that is a bit more medicinal…if you know what I’m saying…is exciting. Donuts! Who doesn’t love cinnamon sugar laden apple cider donuts?! Well you get all of those mouthwateringly yummy flavours all wrapped up in one gorgeous big old bundt cake.

IMG_9804This cake is amazingly moist and tender, just bursting with apple flavour. It would be delicious simply unadorned, but it is completely over the top when brushed with some boozy cider glaze and dusted, quite liberally with crunchy cinnamon sugar.

IMG_9750It is great anytime of the day, for breakfast, tea-time snack, dessert or even when eaten in the dark in the middle of the night while everyone else is sleeping. What? Like you haven’t done that?

IMG_9735And I must say, this cake is a breeze to make. I love Apple Cider Donuts, let there be no doubt. But a gotta say, they are a bit fiddly to make, what with the rising and the frying etc. Definitely a labour of love. Now, this cake will lead folks to believe you slaved away all day….when really you were outside enjoying the beautiful Fall weather. And I won’t tell them otherwise. Mum’s the word.

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Apple Cider Donut Cake

  • Servings: 15 -18 slices - depending on how you cut them
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

recipe slightly adapted from: Two In the Kitchen

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup of unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 large Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups apple cider *(see information below)
  • 1/2 cup milk, at room temperature
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil, melted (you can substitute vegetable oil – but coconut tastes better!)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla bean paste (can substitute in extract if you don’t have paste…put get some paste, you won’t regret it!)

For the Cider Glaze:

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/8 cup water
  • 1/8 – 1/4 cup hard cider *(see below for substitutions)

For the Cinnamon Sugar Coating:

  • 6 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350ºF and spray a bundt pan with baking spray. (Recently I have had a couple of folks mention that they haven’t had much success with the baking spray saying that the cake stuck to the pan. Then I recently experienced the same thing myself. When I made the cake again the following day and greased the pan with butter & flour and the cake came out perfectly. Don’t know why this is, but just thought I’d share.)

In a medium saucepan, bring chopped apples and cider to boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until apples are fork tender. About 10 to 12 minutes. Remove pan from heat, cool for a few minutes, then pulse in a food processor or blender until pureed. Measure out 1 cup apple mixture and stir the milk into it. Set the apple/milk mixture aside for later. (As for the remaining cider/apple puree, it is left over. I usually save it and put it over yogurt, or oatmeal. It is also fabulous heated slightly and drizzled over ice cream.)

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, cloves and cinnamon and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter, sugar, and brown sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing until incorporated. Add the oil and mix well. CAUTION: If you are planning on using coconut oil, make sure those eggs are at room temperature or slightly warmer if your house is chilly. If the eggs are cold and you add coconut oil to the mixture, the coconut oil will solidify and you will end up with a clumpy mess!

Add the flour mixture and apple/milk mixture alternatively in three additions, scraping the bowl as needed and mixing after each addition. Add the vanilla and beat once more, just to combine.

Scrape batter into prepared pan. Bake for 35-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Place the cake in its pan on a cooling rack for ten minutes before removing the cake itself to a cooling rack for at least 30 minutes.

While cake is baking, prepare Cider Glaze. Melt butter, sugar and water over medium high heat. Bring mixture to a boil and let boil for 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat and immediately add the cider, stirring to combine.

Place baking sheet under wire rack. Using a pastry brush or marinate brush, cover cake with glaze. I usually do this in several passes, letting one application of glaze sink in and then going back over the cake with another.

Prepare the Cinnamon Sugar Coating. Combine sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a small bowl. Sprinkle the warm, glazed cake with cinnamon sugar, using fingers to rub it onto the sides of the cake. (I usually place my cinnamon sugar mixture in an empty spice bottle, or salt shaker and then sprinkle it over the cake.)

*Since I originally posted this recipe, I have had quite a few questions about hard cider vs. fresh cider. So let me just start out by saying fresh cider is the juice from pressed apples. It is unfiltered and often appears cloudy. Unless you buy it directly from an orchard it has likely also been pasteurized. Hard Cider occurs when unpasteurized fresh cider is allowed to ferment. It becomes carbonated and alcoholic. This cider can be found wherever beer is sold. Now as far as substitutions: If you do not wish to use hard cider in the glaze, you can substitute in fresh cider. However, fresh cider is often sweeter than hard cider and the glaze will be a bit sweeter, but still delicious I’m sure. You can also just leave the cider out of the glaze, which would then just be a sweet buttery glaze, but lack apple flavor. Another possibility for a substitution that lacks alcohol, but still gives you an intense apple flavor is boiled cider. Boiled Cider is fresh cider which has been boiled down to produce an intensely flavored apple cider syrup. I have provided a link below if you wish to try that ingredient. I always use hard cider for my glaze, so I’m not sure how much boiled cider you should use as a substitution. I would start with 1/2 Tablespoon and taste it until it reaches your desired level of apple-y goodness.

Enjoy!

Apple Cider Donut Cake brought to you by: Runcible Eats (www.leaandjay.com)

Links to Useful Kitchen Tools & Ingredients for Apple Cider Donut Cake:

Kitchen Aid Artisan Stand Mixer

Microplane Grate & Shake Nutmeg Grater

Oxo Silicone Pastry Brush

Nordic Ware Bundt Cake Pan

Oxo Dusting Wand for Sugar

Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Bean Paste

Boiled Cider


Skúffukaka – Icelandic Chocolate Cake

August 24, 2018

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I can’t believe that I didn’t experience Skúffukaka until our 7th visit to Iceland, considering it is a traditional dessert. Indeed nearly every Icelandic family has their own version of the recipe, complete with closely guarded secret ingredients. Basically it is a dark chocolate cake with chocolate frosting, sprinkled with coconut flakes. It isn’t fancy per se – in fact skúffukaka means “oven pan cake” or “baking tray cake”. They have a similar version of this recipe in Sweden which is called Kärleksmums (love-yums), but folks in Iceland are pretty practical, so they’ve decided to call it Baking Tray Cake. But don’t let its rustic name put you off, this cake is delicious! I was served my first slice at The Garage Apartments by our lovely host Anna. The Husband and I didn’t know we were eating Skúffukaka at the time, we just knew we loved it!

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The Skúffukaka baked for us by our lovely host Anna at the Garage Apartments.

Anna served us wonderful baked goods every day of our visit. The first being that amazing Varmahlíð Apple Cake that I told you about in my previous blog. I was able to search around the internet and figure out that the chocolate cake she served was called Skùffukaka and then I researched a recipe, which I will share here with you today.

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But let me also take this opportunity to both tell you more about that fantastic trip to Iceland that the Husband and I went on last September as well as alert you to a new feature on my blog. If you look up at the top navigation bar, there is now a “travels” section you can choose. I have organized all of our travel posts here. So it will be much easier to find that trip we took to Prague way back in 2013, should you be searching. These posts not only feature a delicious dish that we experienced on our trip, but are also chock full of lovely pictures and recommendations with links for hotels, restaurants, guides, shops etc, should you be inspired to visit the destination yourself. But back to this Iceland trip from 2017. After we had so much fun on the South Coast, we headed towards the East Fjords. The East Fjords are really a hidden gem in Iceland. Well, I guess they aren’t really hidden. They are right there in plain sight. They are just often overlooked by tourists. Most visitors don’t venture that far from Reykjavik and the Golden Circle. That, and the fact that only roughly 3% of Iceland’s population lives in this area of the country, ensures you will be able to experience some peaceful, beautiful isolation.

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On our way north-east, we stopped by the stunning  Jökulsárlón. Actually we stopped by on our way north and then again when we came back south. We just can not get enough of its breathtaking beauty.

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Jökulsárlón is a large lake which was formed by a glacier. It is located in southeast Iceland, on the edge of Vatnajökull National Park. Bits of the Vatnajökull glacier break off (calve) into the lake, forming icebergs. These icebergs float around until they melt enough to fit through the narrow opening of the lake and drift out into the ocean,

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though some do wash up on the nearby black sand beach, known as Diamond Beach.

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The first time we visited it was in December of 2013. It was really chilly that day, I’m talking like 12°F (-11°C). We braved the temps as long as we could, but we were pretty dang cold! So visiting in September was quite a different experience. It was sunny and warm both days. We really lucked out!

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A couple of seals swimming about

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Once we were able to finally tear ourselves away from Jökulsárlón, we continued on our northeast journey, taking a bit of time out to soak up the beauty that is Vestrahorn. Vestrahorn is one of the most photographed mountains in Iceland. It is located on the Stokksnes peninsula. One of Iceland’s earliest settlement farms was located in this area. The 454 meter high Vestrahorn mountain rises up from the lava dune strewn shore line. Truly a photographer’s paradise!

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We spent the night in an adorable little cabin

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where we were lucky enough to see a quick glimpse of the Northern Lights through the clouds.

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The next day we continued on towards Seyðisfjörður where we would be spending several days. On the way, zigzagging along the fjords on route 1, we saw many sleepy fishing towns surrounded by rugged mountains and dramatic coastlines. When we reached Egilsstaðir, we ventured off the ring road, up and over the Fjarðarheiði mountain pass, descending down into charming Seyðisfjörður (population 675). Nestled at the end of the fjord and surrounded by often snow peaked mountains and cascading waterfalls, picturesque Seyðisfjörður delights. Populated by many artists, musicians and craftspeople, this friendly town feels so welcoming.

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On our second day there we set off on a hike to see Tvísöngur, the sound sculpture created by german artist Lukas Kühne.

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This concrete structure consists of five interconnected domes, each with its own resonance that corresponds to a tone in the five tone harmony of traditional Icelandic singing.

After exploring the structure, we continued hiking on the Tvísöngur loop which took us up onto a plateau where we were treated to a bird’s eye view of the town and the fjord.

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Later that night we were delighted when the Northern Lights again made an appearance.

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After leaving Seyðisfjörður we headed south again, stopping at the Fosshotel Glacier Lagoon where the Aurora put on an amazing show. It was so intense, it was actually difficult to get a good picture because rather than a wispy trail of green against the black sky, the entire sky turned green.

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Our final adventure on this action packed trip was going on a glacier walk on Svínafellsjökull glacier in Skaftafell National Park with Icelandic Mountain Guides. They showed us how to use crampons and ice axes and then off we went.

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Svínafellsjökull glacier is where the scenes that took place “beyond the wall” in Game of Thrones were shot.

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So I’m sure you must be really inspired now to plan your own adventure in Iceland. Please take a look at the helpful links below if you need some assistance in planning. And do whip up some moist and decadent Skúffukaka while pouring over maps and booking sights. With a slice of that chocolatey goodness and mug of coffee, hepped up on all that sugar and caffeine, there’ll be no stopping you!

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Skúffukaka

  • Servings: 24
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

recipe adapted from: Belle -ÆÐISLEG SKÚFFUKAKA

Ingredients:

For the Cake:

  • 280 grams sugar
  • 125 grams butter- room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs – room temperature
  • 200 grams flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 50 grams natural unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 100 ml milk

For the Frosting:

  • 130 grams salted butter, room temperature
  • 1 egg
  • 250 grams confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 100 grams dark chocolate, melted
  • 2 Tablespoons cream
  • 1 -2 Tablespoon strong coffee – cooled
  • coconut flakes to sprinkle over the cake

Directions:

For the Cake;

Preheat the oven to 355° F (180°C).

Butter and flour one 9X9″ baking tray.

In a bowl sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and cocoa. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar together for 1 -2 minutes. Add the eggs, mixing well after the addition of each egg. Add the vanilla extract. Mix on medium high-speed for 6 -7 minutes until light and fluffy.

Add the dry mixture to the butter & sugar. Mix until just combined.

Add the milk and mix until just combined.

Scrape the batter into the prepared baking tray and spread evenly. Bake for 30 – 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Set on a wire rack to cool before frosting.

For the Frosting:

In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix the butter and egg together until combined. With the mixer on low-speed, add the confectioners sugar slowly, 1/4 cup  at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add the cocoa and vanilla. Add the melted and cooled chocolate and continue mixing.

Mix in the cream and 1 – 2 Tablespoons of the cooled coffee to taste. Continue mixing until the frosting is smooth. If the icing is not the correct consistency for frosting the cake you can either add a bit more confectioner’s sugar or refrigerate for a short time to allow it to set.

Spread frosting over the cooled cake. This recipe makes a good amount of frosting, so you may not use all of it on the cake. Add as thick a layer of frosting as you prefer. Sprinkle with coconut flakes.

Enjoy!

Skúffukaka brought to you by: Runcible Eats (www.leaandjay.com)

Links for Helpful Kitchen Tools & Ingredients for Skúffukaka:

Kitchen Aid Artisan Stand Mixer

Oxo Good Grips 7 Piece Nesting Measuring Beaker Set

OXO Good Grips Stainless Steel Food Scale

Links for Planning your vacation in the East Fjords Iceland:

Accommodation:

Bragdavellir Cottages: located 10km from Djúpivogur, just off of Route 1, these cottages are clean, cozy and offer a fantastic view. Our only regret is that we had just one night’s stay.

Lónsleira Apartments: located in Seyðisfjörður these apartments are perfection! Stylishly furnished, sparklingly clean with amazing location and view!

Fosshotel Glacier Lagoon: We loved this hotel! So chic and stylish, not only are the rooms beautiful, but it is also located between Jökulsárlón and Skatafell National Park, two amazing destinations. We can not wait to visit again!

Restaurants/Bars:

Íshúsið Pizzeria: Located in Höfn, right on the harbor, this friendly pizzeria serves up some outstanding pies! We stopped on our way north and again on the way back south.

Kaffi Lára – El Grilló Bar: Located in Seyðisfjörður. Warm and friendly, you will love relaxing in this local bar/restaurant. Everything we tried here was very good, burgers to barbecue, but there was one standout item….they serve the BEST baked potatoes I have ever eaten. I kid you not. One night when we were there, we saw a couple who had just finished their meal. The lady ordered a slice of pie for dessert and her companion ordered another baked potato! Amazing!!!

Tours:

Icelandic Mountain Guides: Want to go on a glacier adventure? Contact these professionals! They won’t let you down!

Rental Cars:

Blue Car Rental: We ALWAYS rent our car from Blue Car Rental. Friendly Icelandic company, well maintained, newer, quality vehicles – they’ve never let us down and at this point we have rented from them on six different visits and have had excellent experiences every time. The price they quote on their website has all of the insurance included so there are no surprizes when you show up at their rental desk. Highly recommend!


Batley Cake

March 11, 2017

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Here we go, here we go, here we go! I’ve got my fourth St. Patrick’s Day recipe for you today and from now until March 17th I’ll be posting a new one every single day. Today’s gem is Batley Cake.

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If you’ve never heard of it before, believe me you’ll be so glad I’m introducing you. Batley Cake consists of two layers of a soft shortbread cookie or a more cake-like scone with a layer of luscious jam sandwiched between them, all dusted with confectioners sugar. Absolutely perfect with a cup of tea, or coffee if that’s your thing.

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Now you can use whatever jam for the filling that you like, provided it is a thicker, firmer jam, otherwise you risk it leaking out during the baking, leaving you with a rather amazing mess. Me? I chose that lovely Irish Whiskey Marmalade that I told you about when I made those Irish Whiskey Marmalade Tarts. The recipe for the Whiskey Marmalade, those adorable little Whiskey Marmalade Tarts, as well as the refreshing Irish Whiskey Marmalade Cocktail  that I just blogged about last week, all came from my friend Theresa’s debut cookbook Fruit on the Table: Seasonal Recipes from the Green Apron Kitchen.

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Theresa’s company, The Green Apron, is an award winning artisan preserve company which she runs from her family’s orchards at Derryclough located near Ballingarry, County Limerick in Ireland.

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All of her preserves are made in small batches by traditional methods using locally sourced, organic produce where possible and without artificial preservatives, colours or setting agents. Her Irish Whiskey Marmalade is a three fruit marmalade consisting of grapefruit, oranges and lemons and a good glug of Irish Whiskey. It is one of The Green Apron’s best-selling jams and won a bronze Blas na h’Eireann in 2015. As you can see, jams are pretty versatile, delicious not only spread over bread and scones but also scrumptious when used in a variety of other dishes. And Theresa’s book is simply jam-packed full (har, har, har…-forgive me…) with her award winning preserves recipes. Just think of all the culinary masterpieces you can create… You simply must get a copy today!  So anyhoo, now that I’ve finished my shameless promotion of T’s book (for the moment that is…you might see another fantastic recipe of hers before St. Patrick’s Day arrives…) back to this Batley Cake.

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The cake was so soft and tender, sweet but not too sweet. And what really put it over the top was that gorgeous thick layer of Irish Whiskey Marmalade – bright and fresh like a lovely spring day, which I think we’d all like to see at this point! And with that hint of whiskey flavor…well it’s just the thing to get you movin’ on a chilly March morning!

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Batley Cake

  • Servings: One 8-inch cake
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

recipe from: Fruit on the Table: Seasonal Recipes from the Green Apron Kitchen by Theresa Storey

Ingredients:

  • 225 grams all-purpose flour
  • 110 grams butter
  • 110 grams sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 Tablespoon milk
  • 3 Tablespoons firm jam ( I used the Green Apron’s award winning  Irish Whiskey Marmalade)
  • 1 Tablespoon icing (confectioner’s) sugar

Instructions:

Grease a 20-cm. (8 inch) round cake tin and preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F).

Put flour in a bowl and rub in the butter until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar and baking powder.

Beat the egg, vanilla extract and milk together in a small bowl and then add to the dry ingredients. Blend together using a fork to form a soft dough.

Divide the dough into two and roll or pat out each piece into a 20 cm (8 inch) circle to fit the baking tin. Place one piece of the dough into the tin.

Using the back of a spoon, spread the jam over the dough in the tin to within a half inch of the edge. (If you spread it right up to the edge, the jam will escape out the sides, burn to the sides of the pan and make a mess.) Cover with the second round of dough.

Bake for around 50 minutes, until well risen and golden brown. Leave to cool for about 10 minutes, then remove from the tin and leave to finish cooling on a wire rack.

Just before serving, sprinkle with icing sugar to make it pretty.

Enjoy!

Batley Cake brought to you by: Runcible Eats (www.leaandjay.com)

Links for helpful kitchen tools & ingredients for Batley Cake:

Fruit on the Table: Seasonal Recipes from the Green Apron Kitchen by Theresa Storey

Mason Cash The Forest Owl Mixing Bowl

Norpro Silicone Pastry Mat

Fat Daddio’s Anodized Aluminum Round Cake Pan – 8″

 


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