rice pudding cake with mango caramel

It’s already our tenth bake from Dessert Person—and we’ve got just under 100 recipes left to go. This next recipe in the Loaf Cakes and Single Layer Cakes section of Claire’s book is a Rice Pudding Cake with Mango Caramel. We’d seen quite a few of our lovely fellow bakers post about this one, and there were mixed reviews, so we were curious and excited to give it a try ourselves!

Lauren’s Take

Hello hello and welcome to bake number 10! We have reached the double digits with this week’s bake which is a rice pudding cake with mango caramel. When I saw what we were making this week, I was instantly excited for a couple reasons —1) I have always had this weird and intense love of rice pudding (even though I think I’ve only had it like 3 times in my life) and 2) mango might be my favourite fruit.

So this week starts off with another classic Lauren baking debacle, but this time it is the debacle of the 10-inch cake pan. As I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts, my partner and I are in the middle of moving and everything is all over the place right now. So when I came to see him and thought I had brought everything I would need for this recipe, I realized during my drive that I had forgotten my cake pan and was instantly devastated. The next day, I went to our nearby grocery store to check the home section, but due to the emergency lockdown in Ontario, every aisle not including food was blocked off with layers and layers of tape. I was shook and didn’t know what to do. I went to the baking aisle and could only find 8-inch aluminum cake pans and thought to myself: “Well, I guess this is my fate.” So I, disgruntled and sad, bought them. When explaining this experience to my partner, he had the brilliant idea that I could order one online for pickup from another store, which I ended up doing thankfully and it all worked out in the end. But if anyone is in need of two 8-inch aluminum cake pans, hit a sister up.

Although this recipe is listed as Level 2 or easy in Claire’s book, it definitely involved more steps than any of the previous bakes. First thing you have to do is make the mango caramel; yes, you heard me right – MANGO caramel. This was a revolutionary discovery for me that you can actually make fruit-flavoured caramel. Claire says that you can substitute the fruit for anything that is in season. Essentially, you make a caramel but cook fruit into it and then puree it at the end—revolutionary, and extremely delicious. Once I finished the caramel and tasted it, I knew I was in for a great dessert.

The next step is making the rice pudding cake, which involves SO MUCH DAIRY (and I’m not one to complain about dairy). You got butter, whole milk, evaporated milk, cream—a lactose lover’s fantasy really. You put all these components plus the rice, sugar and spices together in a pot and cook it slowly as the rice absorbs the liquid. It was during this step that I had another revelation; rice pudding is essentially dessert risotto! Who knew! Well I certainly didn’t but as I was making the rice, it felt very familiar as a lover and frequent maker of risotto. This step, as anyone that has made risotto before probably knows, can be extremely finicky. You have to recognize that delicate balance of when the rice has puffed enough and isn’t too al dente but there is still liquid. My one critique of this step is I think you should add the liquid slowly as the rice absorbs it. Claire writes in the recipe to put all the liquid in right away and let it cook down, but I think you’d get better results and more distinct absorption if you added the milk a cup at a time, similar to how you make risotto. Regardless though, it does absorb eventually and then you add a bunch of butter and eggs to finish off the cake.

This cake comes out looking pretty flat, since there is no rising agent but gets a lovely light brown colour on top to indicate that it’s finished. The cake itself is so moist and tastes exactly like rice pudding and let me just say, the combination of dairy with cardamom is such an excellent smell and taste. But once you add the mango caramel and fresh mango slices to it, it is a GAME CHANGER. All in all, an excellent dessert and if you love rice pudding, you won’t be disappointed. 4 stars!

Julia’s Take

I was extremely skeptical about this recipe—I’m not a big fan of rice pudding, and there was something about turning it into a cake that really did not appeal to me. I keep waiting for my skepticism to be proven right and to get to that one recipe that just really doesn’t fly; we have a lot of baking left ahead of us, so it may just happen eventually, but so far I continue to believe that Claire is a magical genius.

There was something about the process of making this cake that was so soothing. It is a bit of a slow-burn recipe; you have to slowly and gently combine the various ingredients at each stage and gradually watch everything come together the way Claire describes. The rice pudding base of the cake (it sounds strange to call it a cake because it has none of the traditional dry ingredients) comes together with arborio rice, whole milk, evaporated milk, cream, sugar, and some special flavourings—rum, cardamom, and vanilla bean.

The smell of this and the little flecks of vanilla were so satisfying as the custard simmered and began to thicken over the course of about 30 minutes. Once you have your base, butter and a lot of egg get added in which is what helps the cake set—this is not what you would call a “light” recipe. SO. MUCH. DAIRY. I don’t think I’ve ever had so many different cartons of dairy products in my fridge in my life. Considering how rich it is, it doesn’t taste overly sweet or heavy.

On its own, this custardy cake is pretty subtle—it’s really hard to describe because it’s something totally unique for me. The texture doesn’t read as “cake,” and you can tell that it’s rice in a weird way, but I didn’t find that as off-putting as I thought I would. There’s a slight chew to it from the rice, but it’s also soft and sort of creamy? It both confused me and made me happy when I had my first bite. Overall, I found it really comforting and liked how the flavourings that went into the custard came through.

Now… all that being said, combining the cake with this mango caramel brings this recipe to a whoooole other level. I don’t think I would ever make the cake on its own; you really do need the sauce and the slices of fresh mango on top to make this recipe come together in the best way. When you eat it all together, it’s truly something special.

I had never made caramel before and was hit with a burst of energy at 10:30pm so decided that would be the best time to start my first try. Like the rest of this recipe, it’s a test of patience if you really want to get it right, and patience is not usually my strong suit. It could have just been the end-of-the-week exhaustion setting in, but I realized that the process of cooking sugar to create caramel is just a series of mini panic-attacks—is the heat too low? I don’t see any colour. Is the heat too high? It looks too dark. Am I swirling enough? Is it sticking? Does this taste right? Did I burn it? Too thin? Too thick? Ultimately, I just kept referring back to Claire’s indicators and was really happy with the result. I had never heard of fruit being blended into caramel before and it’s something I definitely want to do more of. The flavour was so incredible!

Altogether, I’d say this was a 4-star bake for me. If I could just give a rating to this mango caramel, though, it would get at least 50-stars. It is so delicious and something I want to have a permanent stash of in my fridge. This recipe might not be for everyone, but it’s absolutely worth trying!

Coming up next week: Ricotta Cake with Kumquat Marmalade!

rhubarb cake

Happy Easter everyone! We’re back on this bright and sunny Sunday with our ninth bake from Claire Saffitz’s Dessert Person. We’ve loved everything we’ve made so far from the Loaf Cakes and Single Layer Cakes section of the book, but this is probably the last really “simple” bake we’ll have for a while; the recipes that are left in this chapter aren’t overly complicated but definitely more unique and involved in terms of steps and preparation, and we’re so excited to make them!

After a few weeks of non-seasonal recipes, we are finally getting in to some spring flavours with this Rhubarb Cake.

Lauren’s Take

Hello friends! So a lot of big, top-tier news items to share this week. First we reached 1000 followers on our Instagram this week and I’m still in shock over it. Second, I turned 27 this week and have officially entered into my late 20s and I’m still in shock over it. And lastly, and maybe the most shocking news, my partner said he liked this cake more than the Poppy Seed Almond one (and if that’s not big news, I don’t know what is).

This week we stepped into the spring flavours with this Rhubarb Cake. Now, my only experience with rhubarb has been in a strawberry rhubarb pie, so I wasn’t quite sure how rhubarb would hold up as the main feature in a baked good. I also find the taste of rhubarb kind of hard to pin-point, so it was great to have this experience to truly let rhubarb shine. And man oh man, does Claire make it a star. You use the rhubarb in three ways in this dessert: as a mash that combines in the batter, pieces of rhubarb that are folded in, and on top as decoration.

Even though rhubarb has just come into season, I wasn’t able to find it at my local grocery store; Julia informed me that you can find it in the frozen aisle often so that’s what I used and it worked out well (also meant I didn’t have to figure out how to cut and trim rhubarb, so always a win in my book). Like I mentioned, you start off by making a rhubarb mash, which just involves heating and reducing rhubarb in a saucepan and then adding baking soda once it’s cooled; adding baking soda and watching the rhubarb foam was extremely satisfying and brought me right back to Grade 5 science class. Otherwise, this is a very easy dessert to whip up. The batter is super moist; it uses a decent amount of sugar to balance the tart of the rhubarb and the addition of Greek yogurt makes for an extremely moist batter. Claire also included orange zest in the recipe; I find orange zest decently strong, so I only used about half of what was recommended and it balanced out perfectly.

This cake checks all the boxes for me; it’s super soft and moist, very light, not too sweet, and has the perfect balance of flavour. The rhubarb taste comes through so well and the orange zest really helped to round everything out. I thoroughly enjoy this cake and will definitely make it again with fresh rhubarb. 5 stars for me! I may or may not be rhubarb’s newest fan.

Julia’s Take

I was really excited to make this loaf because I looove rhubarb. Anyone who knows me knows that I am not a big fan of overly ripe fruits or veggies; I would not call myself a picky eater at all, but if produce is too soft or too sweet, it’s just not my fave. Especially with fruit, if it’s slightly under-ripe or tart, I’ll be into it. Rhubarb is technically a vegetable (didn’t know that til this week…), and is known for its crisp, more sour flavour which is exactly why I like it so much.

Rhubarb season doesn’t start until a bit later here in Ontario, so Lauren and I weren’t sure we’d be able to make this recipe right away, but luckily we both managed to find bags of frozen rhubarb. Mine came in small pieces mixed with strawberries, so it took me a little bit of time to separate out the rhubarb chunks, and the design on the top didn’t work out as well as it would have if I was using full stalks, but overall the frozen pieces were a good substitute to the real deal.

Claire’s recipe calls for rhubarb in a few different places: the top of the cake, a rhubarb mash inside the batter, and chunks of rhubarb folded in to the cake before baking. After cooking down the rhubarb with some water to make an applesauce-like puree, the recipe says to add a teaspoon of baking soda; this apparently helps neutralize the flavour and ensures your cake will rise properly despite the extra acid. Claire warns that there will be a bit of a reaction when you do this but I still somehow wasn’t expecting for much to happen. As soon as you add the baking soda though, the whole mixture fizzes, foams up, and turns this really disgusting shade of grey—and it just gets worse the more you stir it around. Definitely the least appetizing thing I’ve seen while baking a cake.

Despite the different forms of rhubarb that are added in to the cake, I still didn’t find it was the most prominent flavour. This could have been partially my fault because I think I went a little overboard on the orange zest; when all you get in a bite is the cake itself, all you taste is orange but the chunks of rhubarb throughout the loaf help to cut through that and give you that distinct tartness that makes rhubarb desserts so great. There is a lot of sugar that goes in to this recipe, but Claire says it still doesn’t come out as an overly sweet loaf, and she was right!

I was pretty happy with how the top of the cake turned out. Since I didn’t have stalks, I cut the frozen pieces into thinner coin-size pieces and then placed them sideways down in a line, with the pink skin facing up, to sort of create the same effect. Some of the thinner pieces got a bit dark during baking, but overall I mostly achieved what I was going for!

This recipe didn’t completely blow me away, and is pretty much exactly what you would expect to get from a rhubarb loaf, but it was really delicious and the perfect thing to bake on this beautiful Easter weekend. I give this bake 3-stars!

We have a really unique bake coming up next week: Rice Pudding Cake with Mango Caramel. See you then!

double apple crumble cake

This week, we tackled the Double Apple Crumble Cake which meant we got to check two recipes off of our list – the seventh recipe from the Loaf Cakes and Single Layer Cakes section, as well as our first Foundational Recipe from the book, Claire’s All-Purpose Crumble Topping. We’re officially halfway through the first chapter in Dessert Person!

Lauren’s Take

Hello all! We’ve been at this for 7 weeks already—can you believe it?!  (I know my partner can because I keep making him eat full cakes every week, but I digress). I have really been enjoying these single layer cakes the past few weeks because you get a great outcome with not too much effort; I’m thinking the reverse may be true shortly but one day at a time. This week was the Apple Crumble Cake and once again, Claire used her genius to ensure a strong apple flavour, a deliciously moist cake, and an outstanding texture. Gotta say this cake lived up to her description and praise.

I am happy to report that there were no fiascos for me this week; I was able to find all the ingredients, I had all the right equipment, my floor remained mostly unscathed, and the cake turned out well—I know, seems very unlike my typical style but what can I say? Sometimes perfection happens.

This cake is not very complicated but does have a few different steps as Claire points out as well. You have to make both the cake and Claire’s “All-Purpose Crumble.” I made the crumble first and initially was so confused about just putting chunks of cold butter in with the dry ingredients and mixing it by hand until it all came together. I kept mixing and breaking down butter pieces but it still seemed to not mix until all of sudden it came together in a beautiful way. So fear not friends, keep mixing and you will get a crumble!

The cake itself combines fresh apple slices and apple butter to get that flavour. You first have to cut the apple slices and cook them in butter (already sounds amazing, I know), and then add those reduced apples to the batter. The batter combines the dry ingredients with apple butter (which I had gotten in the fall from a local apple orchard) and crème fraiche, so you know this cake is moist.

The crumble you make sits on top of the cake; I’ve made the mistake with some of Claire’s recipes in the past of putting ALL of the topping I make on the cake and then things don’t bake evenly, so I only used about 3/4 of the crumble which turned out perfectly! With the addition of the apples and the crumble on top, this makes a hefty cake, so mine took about 1 hour and 40 minutes to bake all the way through.

This cake is everything you would want in a single bite; a strong flavour, moist, fresh fruit to break up the texture, and a nice crunchy topping. I have always loved apple desserts so I really, really love this cake and think it would be amazing for a Thanksgiving dinner (or a rainy Spring afternoon😉).

All in all, definitely one to try! I give this one a solid 4 stars!

Julia’s Take

Welcome back everyone! This week’s Double Apple Crumble Cake was exactly what you would expect – really simple to put together, really comforting, and really, really delicious. The recipe was a two-parter; first I mixed together Claire’s All-Purpose Crumble Topping (a combo of flour, oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, and cold butter) and then let that sit in the fridge while I made the cake.

I’m noticing that Claire is a big fan of her wet ingredients! This cake also called for sour cream or crème fraiche, so I was able to use up what I had left over from the Pear and Chestnut Cake last week. I also realized that it’s called “double” apple cake because both apple butter and slices of apple go into the batter. The flavour of the apples really did come through (something I was missing a little bit with the pears in the last recipe), which I loved. The apple butter I used was actually a jar I’d picked up at an orchard outside of Ottawa when I was visiting Lauren last fall; it seemed appropriate to use it up for this bake!

It was a drama-free bake—but to be honest, like I said last week, I’m kind of excited to get to some drama (I know I’ll regret saying this…). I can’t believe it’s been almost two months already since we started this baking journey, and that we’re at the midway point of this first section of the book. I am really pumped to get to pies and tarts next; they’re one of my favourite types of dessert and it’ll give us a chance to start working with some pastry. In the meantime, these single layer cakes have been low effort/big reward, fun to make, pretty stress-free (as long as chestnuts aren’t involved), and always delicious.

I learned my lesson from the almond butter “non-swirl slash layer” issue I had with the banana bread and didn’t go too heavy handed on the crumble. This recipe made a LOT of batter, and then when you add the crumble on top it ended up being a much taller cake than what I was expecting. Having a giant apple cake to share was the perfect excuse to meet up with a couple of friends this weekend for a walk and some pandemic-friendly outdoor catch-up time.

I really loved this cake and I knew that I would—it’s all those classic flavours of an apple crumble, but has that extra little something that all of Claire’s recipes so far seem to have, so you really can’t go wrong. I would also definitely make the crumble topping on its own again and put it on anything. Overall, I give this bake 4 stars!

Next week, we are finally getting into spring-mode with Claire’s Rhubarb Cake!

pear & chestnut cake

We’re back again with our sixth bake from the Loaf Cakes and Single Layer Cakes section of Claire Saffitz’s Dessert Person. It’s officially spring, and what better way to celebrate than with a cozy bake full of wintery flavours… (pitfalls of baking recipes in the order they appear vs. seasonally). This Pear and Chestnut Cake looks so pretty coming out of the oven in a cast iron skillet with thin slices of pear fanned out over the top.

Lauren’s Take

Tis the week of the Pear and Chestnut Cake! Despite being the beginning of spring, it was nice to bake something with these familiar holiday flavours. After having to skip the persimmon cake, Julia and I were determined to find chestnuts in order to complete this bake! We valiantly went to Amazon and ordered a pre-roasted can of chestnuts (surprisingly not my most random Amazon order of the pandemic). I definitely enjoyed this cake but it was not my favourite both in terms of taste and my experience making it.

This recipe provided some struggles for me once again. My partner and I are in the middle of moving homes, so things are all over the place in terms of location/accessibility. Suffice to say, assuming that you can make this cake without the recommended stand mixer was a fatal mistake. The recipe, aptly so, describes using the stand mixer to break down the chestnuts and sugar into a paste, which will be the building block of the batter/wet ingredients. Me, once again not taking Claire’s directions as Bible, naively thought using a hand mixer would provide the same result; it did not. Chestnuts were not breaking apart, sugar was flying everywhere, and my house looked like a hot mess. I felt defeated but decided to try and use my immersion blender to break down the mixture, which eventually did work after also spraying sugary chestnut pieces into the air and all over the kitchen.

After I survived the chestnut debacle of 2021, the rest of the bake was smooth sailing. The cake itself is fairly simple but once again extremely moist; I’m realizing Claire often adds dairy to her cakes and this time crème fraiche was the dairy product of choice. The cake adds pears in two ways—small chunks cooked inside the cake and thin slices placed over top. The arranging of the pears was extremely fun and satisfying.

In terms of taste, I would say I didn’t get a lot of the chestnut flavour. Whether that was because I lost about 80% of them or because they were from an Amazon can is hard to say, but I was definitely left searching for it. I also didn’t get an overwhelming pear flavour either which may have been because my pears weren’t super ripe.

On its own the cake is definitely delicious but wasn’t really a “pear and chestnut” cake in my opinion, so I’m giving it a 3/5 stars. I will for sure make it again with a stand mixer, real chestnuts, and ripe pears though, so stay tuned for a recall decision.

Julia’s Take

I think I made it pretty clear how I felt about the cake and red wine sauce from last week, so whatever recipe came next was going to be held to a very high standard. Ultimately, this Pear and Chestnut Cake had a very tough act to follow.

I was excited about giving this one a try because it looked gorgeous in the book and was full of flavours I really enjoy. Pears – love. Chestnuts – love. Brandy – love. Like Lauren, I wasn’t able to find chestnuts in my grocery store at this time of year, but Claire recommends using canned or jarred pre-roasted and peeled chestnuts anyway, so I took her advice and ordered some online.

Overall, the process of making the cake was straightforward—especially when compared to the chestnut debacle of 2021 (see above). The most dramatic thing that happened was that I had to go to four different grocery stores to try and find crème fraiche (I could not), and ended up having to use sour cream instead. I am really liking baking the book in order overall—it’s been fun to tackle recipes by category and has been an easy way to track our progress—but I’m definitely starting to itch for more of a challenge.

The batter came together with chestnut puree, a small amount of flour, the sour cream (in my case), eggs, a decent amount of butter, brandy, and the chunks of pear—definitely on the wet side which made for a nice, moist cake. The batter actually tasted DELICIOUS; I almost preferred the batter to the actual cake. I loved getting to bake the cake in a cast iron skillet and creating a design on the top with fanned out slices of pear.

Like Lauren, the flavour didn’t blow me away and I found that the predominant taste I had was “sweet.” In my case, my pears were ripe and I had no chestnut causalities—however the skillet is lined with butter and sugar, and another 2 TBSP of sugar is sprinkled on top of the pears; while this creates a delicious crust, I found it did take over the other delicious flavours in this recipe. This was a 3-star bake for me too!

Join us next week as we continue our celebration of spring with a classic, fall favourite: Double Apple Crumble Cake 😉

mascarpone cake with red wine prunes

We’re back with another recipe from our gal Claire Saffitz! We are still trying to bake the whole book in order as much as possible, but there will be times when seasonal ingredients aren’t available and we’ll need to make shifts. The fifth recipe in Dessert Person is the Spiced Persimmon Loaf, however at this time of year in Ontario persimmons are impossible to find (we’ll come back to this one at the end of the year). That means our next bake from the Loaf Cakes and Single Layer Cakes section of the book was this incredible Mascarpone Cake with Red Wine Prunes.

Lauren’s Take

Recipe #5! Anyone that knows me knows that I’m a sucker for dairy—and dairy in dessert?! Sign me up. So when I saw that this cake had mascarpone in it, you could say I was a little pumped. And then you read that there’s not only dairy in it but wine too? Geez, that Claire is an actual genius. This cake would be the perfect thing to bring to a dinner party to impress people with your sophistication, so keep that in mind.

The ingredients of this cake were a bit more specialized than any of the previous recipes and definitely included things that most people wouldn’t always have in their fridge/pantry, but nothing was too expensive or hard to find in my case.

There were two main aspects to this cake: the red wine prunes and the mascarpone cake. I decided to make the prunes the day before and reserve the syrup for later (as Claire outlines in the book). I learned one very important thing from this endeavour—there is a difference between syrup and jam and a very fine line in-between. I definitely left the prune mixture reducing for too long because I was left with prunes in jam, which are still delish but do not allow you to drizzle the cake in syrup as intended. Instead, I had jammy prunes that I put on the side!

The other issue with over-reducing the prunes was they had more of a bitter taste, so when taking a bite of my cake, I was hit with a bitter wine taste that was not terrible, but also not the most enjoyable. I also may just not really like the taste of prunes which is a definite possibility.

Other than my prune failure, the cake itself is absolutely amazing. It has a bit of tanginess from the lemon, and is so moist and creamy from the whipped eggs and mascarpone. I feel like you could substitute any fruit into this cake and it would be an incredible dessert.

All that being said, I’d give this cake 3 stars—but I may need to make it again and make actual syrup before I can give it a complete rating.

Julia’s Take

Happy Sunday everyone! I think Lauren and I had slightly different experiences with and feelings about this particular recipe, but I have to say it may be my favourite bake so far (a very close tie with the now infamous Poppy Seed Almond Cake!). I wouldn’t consider myself a fan of prune-flavoured things, and really dislike prune juice, but I thought the prunes did work really well in this recipe.

The prunes were cooked down for about 45 minutes in a blend of red wine, sugar, and warming spices (I used cinnamon sticks and star anise) which gave them a soft, chewy texture and also created a really incredible syrupy sauce. The next time I make this recipe, I will 100% be tripling the amount of sauce because it was SO GOOD. I would put it on anything.

 

The cake itself was really easy to make. There isn’t a lot of flour (only 1 cup) and so it comes together with mostly wet ingredients—the mascarpone, egg yolks, vanilla, and sugar. There isn’t a really distinct flavour to the cake itself, but it was super soft with an awesome crust around the outside. You end up with a really thick batter and when you smooth it into the pan, it looks like you’re going to end up with a really thin cake, but once you place the prunes on top and let it bake, you get a lot of lift and the batter bubbles up and bakes nicely around the prunes. You’re then left with the bomb red wine sauce to drizzle on top of the cake when serving. Have I mentioned how much I loved this sauce?!

Most of this cake went to my neighbours, who are also big bakers and foodies. They are my winter angels; my tiny shovel and I would barely survive through the mountains of snow that we get if it weren’t for their help. After a week of warm temperatures and feeling like spring is now around the corner, this cake was the perfect way to thank them. It was a major hit!

This was one of those cakes that actually got better the longer it sat out. I definitely plan on making this one again; the mulled wine vibes were so awesome and I think it would make a great dessert for a holiday party (one day soon hopefully when parties are a thing again!). It’s a 5-star rating from me!

Thanks so much to everyone who is following along! Five bakes down, and 100 recipes to go. Next week we’ll be making the Pear and Chestnut Cake. See you then!

kabocha turmeric tea cake

Another week and another bake from the Loaf Cakes and Single Layer Cakes chapter. The fourth recipe in Claire Saffitz’s Dessert Person is Kabocha Turmeric Tea Cake. We’d seen photos of this cake from fellow bakers who are working through the book, and the colour was electric, but aside from this we were both a little skeptical about this recipe.

Lauren’s Take

Hi friends! Another week, another loaf. I’m feeling conflicted because these loaves have all been super tasty and easy to do, but I’m itching for more of a challenge…however I know very soon that challenge will come and I will look back longingly at the simple loaf and remember it fondly.

This week we tackled Claire’s slightly altered interpretation of a pumpkin loaf. At first when you look at the recipe list, it’s a bit intriguing how all these more savoury flavours (pumpkin seed, turmeric, garam masala, squash) are going to come together to make a dessert. But no fear friends, because the flavours come together beautifully to make such an excellent smelling and tasting loaf with enough complexity to keep your tastebuds excited.

For this loaf, I was running low on time to make it so I got some leftover pumpkin puree from my boyfriend’s mom (thank you Jackie!) to use in substitution of the squash. I love pumpkin flavour so I probably would have made this substitution regardless but it definitely made it a lot easier.

I got stumped on a couple things that maybe I shouldn’t have; do I need to take the shell off of the pumpkin seeds? And when Claire says a half cup of warmed coconut oil, does she mean solid and them warmed or liquid? Despite my tired brain trying to complicate things for me, the loaf still turned out amazingly well (and no room temperature eggs were harmed this time around).

The loaf leaves your house with a wonderful, warm aroma which you won’t regret. And cutting into the loaf is also super pleasing to the eye due to the wonderfully bright yellow colour created by the turmeric. I also really loved the sugar crust on the top; it creates a beautiful looking crackle but also tastes delicious. I don’t know if I’ll make this loaf consistently, but it was definitely fun to try and expose myself to different baking flavours I don’t normally use (but I mean, it’s hard to live up to the poppy seed almond cake, am I right?).

Julia’s Take

I have to admit that this was not one of the recipes I was dying to try. Even though the bright yellow colour looked amazing, I wasn’t excited about the flavours and had sort of written this off as a loaf that would be “just OK.” I was so pleasantly surprised with how it turned out and how much I liked it!

I’ve seen kabocha squash in my local grocery store before, but usually only around Thanksgiving, so I decided to substitute acorn squash for a similar earthy flavour. I followed the same steps outlined in the recipe and roasted the squash whole, then mashed it up to add in with the rest of the wet ingredients. It would be easy enough to use anything else in the pumpkin family for this recipe; it makes for a great texture but isn’t the flavour that comes through most so is an easy swap to make.

You do get the flavour of the garam masala, which I loved, but it’s subtle enough to not completely overwhelm the cake. The best part of this recipe for me was a toss-up between cutting in to the loaf and getting that amazing bright yellow colour (so fun and unique!), and the incredible sugary crackly crust along the top.

The taste of this may not be for everyone, but I really enjoyed it and thought it was a great spin on a regular pumpkin loaf. For anyone who’s on the fence about garam masala, it would be easy enough to use cinnamon or nutmeg instead, which is something Claire recommends in the book. If you’re not afraid of trying something new though, this recipe will not disappoint. All that said, trying to get a photo of this cake without ruining everything in my kitchen was a struggle; the lingering turmeric stain is no joke. You’ve been warned!

Coming up: we need to skip over the Spiced Persimmon Loaf for now—not a persimmon to be found anywhere at this time of year—so we’ll come back to it at the end of the year, and take on the Mascarpone Cake with Red Wine Prunes.

poppy seed almond cake

It’s Week 3 and we’ve tackled another stellar recipe from Dessert Person. We knew it would be fun getting to collaborate on something together and have even more of a reason to stay in touch during the pandemic lockdown. Not only has Sisters & Saffitz done just that, but it’s also allowed us to meet so many other incredible Dessert People!

The third recipe under Loaf Cakes and Single Layer cakes was Claire’s childhood favourite: Poppy Seed Almond Cake.

 

Lauren’s Take

Wow! Can I just once again reiterate how much fun we are having doing this blog and how wonderful it has been to virtually meet and speak with so many lovely and kind home bakers across the globe. The internet is a truly wonderful thing!

Third bake down and oh my, was it a good one. I decided to pair this bake for the blog and for my partner’s birthday cake and I’ve never seen him enjoy a cake more. As soon as I took a bite out of this cake, I told my partner it was the best cake I’ve ever had and it was not an over-exaggeration. I knew this cake was going to be wonderful based on Claire’s praise of it and the fact that it was one of the first Dessert Person videos, but I did not expect to be this blown away by such a simple cake.

Seriously, this cake was so easy and so quick to make; the only thing that held me back timing-wise was that I kept dropping my room temperature eggs on the floor and then needing to wait for them to warm up again. You just mix everything together, put it in a beautiful bundt pan, and let it bake. The mix of poppy seeds and almonds and citrus is a timeless combination that is utilized so well in this recipe and I love that Claire did not shy away from using ample amounts of almond extract to get there.

My one recommendation would be to definitely keep an eye on your bake in the oven; the recipe says 80-90 minutes but mine needed about 95 minutes to get the deep golden brown bake over the top. As Claire says, “bake to the description and not the time!”

 

Once you take it out, it is super important to let the cake cool for at least 15 minutes before taking it out of the pan; this allows the cake to settle before adding the glaze. And speaking of the glaze… it is delish and you do not want to skimp out on it. Claire wants you to use every last drop and she is so correct in that. I wish I had made more holes to allow more of the glaze to seep in but ah well, lesson learned for next time. And you know there’s going to be a next time because I might just need to make this cake every week.

I hope you all enjoy this cake as much as we did!

Julia’s Take

Another week, another stellar recipe from our gal Claire Saffitz! I realize we are only three weeks and three bakes into this, but so far all this project has done is reaffirm my opinion that the Queen can do not wrong. Everything she makes is pure genius and pure deliciousness.

This cake comes to us courtesy of Mrs. Grossman, a family friend who passed this recipe on to Claire’s mom. For those that watch the weekly Dessert Person videos (shoutout to Felix and Count Spatula), you’ll know that this is Claire’s all-time favourite cake and the recipe her mom baked the most while Claire was growing up. We can absolutely see why!

This first section of the book continues to be fairly straightforward. It didn’t take long at all to gather the ingredients, mix everything together, and throw it in the oven. I am a big fan of almond, and the scent of the almond extract really came through and filled my house as the cake was baking. The only stressful part of this bake was that cringy moment when you’re waiting for your cake to release from the bundt pan and hope that it’s kept its shape. I’m sure I’ll look back on this in a couple of months once we’ve tackled more complex bakes and think how ridiculous it sounded to be stressed about a bundt pan…

The citrusy almond glaze that goes over the cake created a sweet and delicious crust; I love when something is soft inside with a crunchy texture on the outside and this delivered. Like Lauren, I wish I had made more holes in the cake and really allowed the glaze to soak in. Regardless, it still tasted amazing and this has become a new go-to recipe. I think I have said that every week so far, so it looks like I have a lot of baking in my future.

Coming up next week: Kabocha Turmeric Tea Cake. See you then!

almond butter banana bread

We are already having so much fun baking through this first section of Dessert Person and connecting with other people who are making their way through the whole book. We’re going to aim for weekly bakes while the recipes are still simple and less time-consuming.

The second recipe under Loaf Cakes and Single Layer Cakes was Claire’s Almond Butter Banana Bread and it did not disappoint!

Lauren’s Take

Another week, another recipe! Thank you so much to everyone who has already started following along on this journey! It’s been so cool to see how many people are a part of this baking community and how lovely and supportive everyone is.

This week was another easy (but super delicious) one. I mean, who doesn’t love banana bread? But Claire once again has taken a simple, common recipe and elevated it to the nth degree! I was panicking a bit when I had to make this loaf this weekend because I didn’t have and couldn’t find ripe bananas. Well, thank goodness for Google; I learned that you can bake bananas in the oven to ripen them. They turn super dark which is a bit unsettling but it worked!

The combination of flavours and spices (particularly the cardamon) creates such a delicious aroma in the kitchen. I would also highly encourage including the chopped almonds to add some texture and crunch.

My one recommendation for this recipe would be to not use the full amount of the almond butter swirl that Claire gets you to make to decorate the top of the loaf. I put all of the mixture on the top; this led to two small “disasters”—I wasn’t able to make a swirl on top and the top of the loaf didn’t cook as well because it was just a layer of almond butter. Otherwise, another 10/10 dessert by our pal Claire. Will 100% be making this my go-to banana bread recipe from now on.

Julia’s Take

Banana bread was one of the first things I ever baked for someone, plus it’s a quarantine-life fan favourite, so I was really looking forward to trying Claire’s take on this classic loaf.

As we’ve already come to expect from Dessert Person, the combination of flavours (boosting up the ripe banana with almond butter, roasted almonds, and cardamom) and Claire’s incredibly precise instructions (whisking ingredients together in stages to get the ultimate texture from the bake) work to elevate even the simplest recipe. This approach took an old staple like banana bread and managed to make it taste totally new!

Lauren and I had similar issues with the almond butter swirl topping. I ended up with a full layer on the top of my cake that just kept spreading the more I tried to play around with it. I ended up scraping some of the almond butter off, and this meant that the “design” (I use that term loosely…) on the top of my loaf ended up looking like more of an indent than a swirl. Our other sister is most definitely still the artist in the family.

Minor mishaps aside, I loved this loaf so much and will be making it over and over again.

Coming up next week: Poppy Seed Almond Cake!

spiced honey & rye cake

Dessert Person starts off with Loaf Cakes and Single Layer Cakes, easing us in slowly before the real pain of fancy pastries sets in. We’re hoping to do biweekly bakes as we make our way through the book (our wallets and our pants will thank us), and the first one today was Spiced Honey and Rye Cake, a straightforward loaf that Claire says is an upgrade of the traditional honey cake served during Rosh Hashanah.

Lauren’s Take

Well, here we are. Recipe #1, the start of something new and hopefully something exciting in these less than exciting times. Spiced Honey and Rye Cake. After making this recipe, I definitely came to appreciate the accuracy and honesty in Claire’s recipe matrix. This one is very easy, very quick, and very delicious. I couldn’t find rye flour at my local grocery store, so I subbed-in whole wheat flour as per one of the suggestions in the recipe. But I did use a local and expensive honey, which I would recommend (as does Claire) because honey is definitely the flavour that comes through the most.

The mixture of spices also gives off a “holidays vibe,” so that brought me some joy as it baked. Simple recipe for sure but worth it. It did two things for me in particular: it made me feel extremely excited and more confident about baking through this book (might be in some denial there), and it left me with a delicious, moist, and flavourful loaf to eat. Not a bad combo.

Julia’s Take

It was both really awesome and unnerving to kick things off with this Spiced Honey and Rye Cake. It was so fun to bake something simple, warming, and delicious on a snowy Sunday afternoon, but it also makes me afraid for how much harder things are going to get 50 pages from now. I liked that this loaf was pretty low in sugar, featured some of my favourite spices like nutmeg and cloves, and had a really strong honey flavour that came through. I wasn’t able to find rye flour (I’ll need to start stocking up on some of Claire’s common ingredients) so I substituted spelt flour like it suggests in the book. I think rye would have probably had a more distinct taste, but this still turned out great.

The recipe called for a little bit of unsweetened apple or pear sauce; I could only find apple but I think the taste of pear would be really good in this. I’d love to try making this cake again with different kinds of fruit puree like peach, mango, or even pumpkin. With this combo of spices, you really can’t go wrong. Two things I’ve learned so far: Claire is meticulous when it comes to techniques, and is a boss with flavour combinations. Can’t wait to see what else is in store!

We’ll be back in two weeks with the second loaf-style recipe in Dessert Person: Almond Butter Banana Bread!

Welcome to sisters & saffitz

Welcome to sisters & saffitz!

We’re two sisters who are big fans of dessert and big fans of Claire Saffitz. Since we’re not able to see each other as often as we’d like, and we’re stuck inside thanks to a global pandemic, we thought we’d follow Claire’s lead and make these long days a little more delicious.

Join us as we bake our way through Claire’s new cookbook, Dessert Person. We’ll be taking on the whole book, start to finish, recipe by recipe, from the simplest muffins to the most technical pastries (already scared for the Croquembouche…).

We’ll be comparing our successes and failures with each other, and sharing with you as we go.

Wish us luck!