pineapple and pecan upside-down cake

Welcome back! We have been working on this project for about three and a half months now, and have officially completed the Loaf Cakes and Single Layer Cakes chapter of Claire Saffitz’s Dessert Person (with the exception of the Spiced Persimmon Loaf, which we’ll circle back to at the end of the year). We completed bake number 18 this week, which was the Pineapple and Pecan Upside-Down Cake.

Lauren’s Take

Hello and happy long weekend! Long weekends for me are a time when I can completely check out of responsibility, drink mojitos, read my book, lay out in the sun…and of course bake a fabulous dessert to enjoy. And this long weekend was no exception to that with our bake this week—the Pineapple and Pecan Upside-Down Cake!

And even more exciting than a three-day weekend… we made it through the first chapter of the book! I know I’ve remarked on this multiple times, but I really do feel grateful for this journey that my sister and I decided to take—grateful for the opportunity to be creative each week, to try new things, to connect with my sister in a cool way, and to have met so many wonderful and kind new people along the journey. To think that we’ve already had such an amazing experience and all we’ve made are single layer desserts.

Anyways, back to the bake. This week’s bake is fairly straightforward as well but does involve a few different steps. The first thing you have to do is cut and poach the pineapple pieces that will become the top of the cake. I cheated and got the pineapple from the grocery store that is already pre-peeled and cored, and honestly no regrets (see previous posts to appreciate my loathing of chopping things). You poach the pineapple in a mixture of dark rum, brown sugar, and a bit of water (delish) until the fruit gets soft and translucent. Claire says this takes about 10-15 minutes and mine took about 20 minutes to really soften. You then remove the pineapple pieces leaving the sugar-y rum mixture and the pineapple juices in the saucepan. This becomes the base of your caramel.

You add some butter to your caramel mixture and swirl the pan regularly until the liquid thickens. Now this is where I think Claire was a bit over zealous in the recipe. She writes that this will take about 5-7minutes but it took SO LONG for me to get my caramel to thicken to the point I was about to give up and just accept a thicker syrup until it finally became a caramel. But I think in total that took about 15 or so minutes, if not longer. I do think that while you can wait longer for a thick caramel, making this cake with the liquid a bit thinner would still work out okay, so no need to panic for that.

Once the caramel is done, you pour it into the bottom of your cake pan and arrange the pineapple overtop in a tight pattern. This was a super fun and satisfying part of the bake for sure. But this was also where I made a classic Lauren blunder…I mistakenly used a springform pan instead of just a normal cake pan, so a TON of my caramel seeped out of the sides, leaving remnants on my counter, stove top, and in my oven…woops!

After the top of the upside-down cake is done, you make the actual cake which was a super enjoyable process due to the smell of roasted pecans the entire time. You first roast the nuts in the oven, and once they’ve cooled, put them in a food processor with your dry ingredients and pulse them until they’re ground. This mixture smells so good and ignited a new obsession with roasted pecans for me.

You then cream the butter and sugars (both granulated and brown) in the stand mixer, add eggs, and then alternate adding your pecan mixture with some buttermilk. As you can probably imagine, this makes a sugar-rich and creamy mixture and I had to stop myself from eating all the batter. Then, you just pour this cake batter over top of your pineapple design and bake until golden brown!

Once the cake is done, you only let it cool for about 15 minutes before revealing your upside-down pattern…any longer than that and the caramel will firm too much and it will be difficult to get the cake out of the pan (unless you mistakenly use a springform of course).

This cake was very beautiful to look at—I loved the pattern and shine of the pineapple on top, and the dark colour of the cake with the pecan pieces throughout made a cool contrast. My cake was not very sweet, and I’m not sure if that’s because I lost like 45% of my caramel, but it is definitely more of a hearty cake. But I did love the texture of the soft pineapple on top with the slight crunch of the pecan cake below. All in all, I give this cake 4 stars!

Julia’s Take

I cannot believe we are already one chapter down! I feel like we just began this journey together, and yet also can’t remember a time before my grocery list and my schedule didn’t revolve around what I’m baking from Dessert Person. This entire first chapter was such a delight; a lot of people have asked how we’re liking baking the book in order rather than randomly selecting different kinds of recipes from the book as we go. Honestly, even though everything is a “single layer cake,” I have not felt any repetition. Everything has been so unique in terms of techniques, textures, and flavour profiles that it’s never been boring. I know that that’s going to continue in the chapters to come, and while it takes a little bit of patience, I am absolutely loving tackling the bakes by category.

It has also been so much fun to have this creative outlet. Writing something just for fun; working through a recipe; trying new ingredients and methods; taking photos; experimenting with social media; meeting people from all over the world who love food and Claire as much as we do; and of course having an excuse to touch base more often and share an experience with Lauren—all of it has brought me so much joy, and I can’t wait for everything that’s still to come!

Now on to this week’s bake! A pineapple upside-down cake is such a nostalgic and classic dessert, but as always, Claire manages to give it a facelift and upgrade it to something new and extra special. The process of making this cake from start to finish was super enjoyable. I peeled and sliced my pineapple, and while I did manage to get nice, thin slices it definitely wasn’t my most uniform or aesthetically pleasing work. Making the caramel was also a little bit touch-and-go; you mix sugar, rum, and water together, then allow the pineapple slices to cook down in this liquid before removing them carefully and then waiting for the caramel mixture to thicken further. Mine was definitely not thickening in the allotted time, or even far passed that allotted time, and I could not figure out what I’d done wrong. I finally just gave up and poured the thick syrup (not caramel) into my cake pan. After allowing it to cool in the cake pan, it did thicken further and I was able to arrange my pineapple slices on top just fine.

The cake itself is very pecan-forward which I LOVED. The aroma of making this cake was just out of this world—first, pecans are roasted in the oven and then, once they’ve cooled, they get broken down in a food processer and mixed with the rest of the dry ingredients. You basically end up with half flour and half blitzed down roasted pecans which creates not only an amazing smell, but also a fantastic, rich colour. Once you have your dry blend, it gets mixed in with butter, brown and granulated sugars, egg, and buttermilk. I could have eaten this entire bowl of batter on its own!

Dollops of the delicious sugary pecany batter are placed on top of the pineapple design, smoothed out, and then the cake bakes, filling the whole house with that incredible roasted scent. Truly one of the most comforting things in the world. After the cake has cooled for 15 minutes, you flip it over to reveal the beautiful pineapple design; there is always a little thrill that comes from that flip and reveal—upside-down cakes might be my new favourite thing. Claire says you can warm up some apricot jam and brush it over the pineapple slices as a glaze; I happened to have some apricot jam in my fridge so I did this and it added such a pretty shine to the cake, as well as extra flavour.

This cake was so comforting, so delicious, so fun to make, and so beautiful to look at. It’s another 4-star bake from me!

Next week we begin our journey through the Pies and Tarts chapter and we are SO excited! Check back on Sunday for the Cranberry Pomegranate Mousse Pie!

goat cheese cake with honey & figs

This week we’ve tackled recipes 16 and 17 from Claire Saffitz’s Dessert Person—the Graham Cracker Crust, another one of Claire’s Foundational Recipes, which is used as the base for the Goat Cheese Cake with Honey & Figs. This is the second last recipe in the Loaf Cakes and Single Layer Cakes section—we can’t believe we’re already so close to finishing the first chapter in the book!

Lauren’s Take

Good morning, good morning to you all and hello to some lovely warm, spring weather in Ontario (finally).

The arrival of warm weather always brings back a memory for me…my Dad would go to the grocery store and find that the fresh boxes of figs had arrived and were in season. He’d buy a full case and bring it to my Nanna’s home for her, and upon seeing the figs, her face would light up brighter than I’d ever seen. She’d then proceed to sit in her kitchen, the light beaming into the room from her open side-door, and eat the figs, one by one until the case was gone. She’d accompany her feast with talks about her childhood in Italy where she could pick a fig off the tree whenever she wanted and enjoy it. Because of Nanna’s fondness for figs, I tried many a time to fall in love with them like she had, but always fell a bit short. However, seeing that this week’s recipe included my Nanna’s favourite thing and my favourite thing (dairy dessert…you’re not new here), I was very excited to make it and had been looking forward to it since I got the book.

In traditional Lauren fashion, we had some snags with this recipe. First mission was finding the figs. I ventured to a Produce Depot in my city which has every type of fruit under the sun and found one…slightly decrepit looking…case of figs. Having always had my parents be the ones to select the figs, I had no knowledge of what would be good or bad, so I just prayed I picked the right ones and went on with my purchase (spoiler alert—they were not the right ones). Then came the making of the cheesecake. You first make one of Claire’s other Foundational Recipes which is the Graham Cracker Crust. This was pretty simple to make and to press into your pan and smells extremely good coming out of the oven. Then you make your cheesecake base which combines goat cheese and cream cheese for a lighter, tangier flavour. Seeing all this cheese mixed together with the combo of sugar and lemon was like a religious moment for me. The batter tasted delicious and I was so excited for what was to come.

… Maybe a bit too excited because I then made some mistakes. The trickiest part of this recipe, in my opinion, is how you have to cook it. Firstly, you have to wrap the cake pan in multiple layers of aluminum foil and perhaps I should have done this more diligently in retrospect. Then, you cook the cheesecake in a water bath of boiling water that you place in a roast pan that sits in your oven. Well friends, this was tricky. I didn’t have a roast pan so had to scramble to find something that would allow enough space for the water and the cake pan—I settled on my cast iron. And it was so hard to gently place the cake pan into the boiling water when the pan wasn’t very large. Safe to say it was a bit stressful but what was more stressful was when it was done.

You have to let the cheesecake sit and cool for a very long time—two hours with the oven door open, and two hours in the fridge. When I took the cake out of the tin, I realized that despite all my layers of foil, a lot (and I mean A LOT) of water got through and my cake was, in a word, soggy AF. I was super sad but decided to persevere and add the fig and honey topping, assuming that this would add a nice flavour and the cheesecake would still taste fine. My boyfriend had never tried figs and I was so excited to see his face light up in the same way my Nanna’s had when he took that first bite…well, that didn’t happen. The figs were not good and the cheesecake was soggy. I threw out the figs from the top, put the cheesecake back in the fridge and left it for 2 days out of pure frustration. Then something magical happened—the cake was no longer soggy, the rancid figs were gone and the cake tasted amazing, and I loved it. So, safe to say I will be making this recipe again, just probably with figs my Dad picks out for me and with so many layers of aluminum foil, I lose count. 4 stars for me for taste, although I will say, I believe that this cake baking is a tad more complex than it needs to be with the water bath, so I give the recipe itself 3.5 stars.

Julia’s Take

Welcome back, everyone! Another week, another cake—my friends, family, and neighbours are very much on the Dessert Person train at this point and are always wondering what I’m baking up next and divvying up between them. Very grateful for all my taste-testers so I don’t have to consume full cakes myself on a weekly basis!

This week’s recipe was the Goat Cheese Cake with Honey & Figs. I was really excited to make it because I love cheesecake and was really curious to try this particular spin on a classic dessert. Making this cake also made me think about our Nanna. When I think of cheesecake, I think of The Golden Girls, which was one of her favourite shows and something my siblings and I always watched with her; figs also happen to be her favourite food (arguably her favourite thing ever just in general – see Lauren’s detailed account above). I think she would have been a big fan of this bake!

All of our bakes so far in this chapter have been relatively low on the technical scale, but this one was definitely more complex. The cheesecake is made using the hot water bath method, and we’d heard from fellow Dessert People that there could be some issues with water leaking in to the cake. The first step was easy—make Claire’s Graham Cracker Crust using a food processer, mold it into a springform pan, and bake. Once the filling is made (a combination of both cream cheese and goat cheese—about equal parts of each—with sugar, some cream, lemon, vanilla, and eggs), you pour it into the baked crust, and this is where the stress sets in.

First, I was convinced I’d messed up my filling because it is a LOT thinner than I’d expected it to be. My crust had also slightly come away from the sides of the pan while it baked, so I was concerned about the loose filling spilling over and causing textural issues. Once you have the batter poured in, you wrap the springform pan in tinfoil; I’d been warned about the potential water leakage/soggy crust problems, so I wrapped that baby up as tightly and in as many layers of tinfoil as I could, laying the tinfoil along the bottom of the pan and then folding it up along the sides. Once it’s tucked away in its foil cocoon, the springform pan is placed in a roasting pan that’s had boiling water poured into it, and bakes for about half an hour. Then, the oven is turned off and you leave your cake in the hot water bath with the oven door slightly ajar for another two hours, allowing the cake to fully set. After THAT, the cake sits in the fridge for at least two hours to firm up even more. Never did I ever think I would dedicate 5 hours to making one cheesecake…

After the two-hour rest in the fridge came the moment of truth. Releasing the cheesecake from the springform pan was a bit of a debacle; although my cake filling did set properly, it was still extremely soft, and so I did get some breakage as I tried to get it out of the pan, and cutting clean slices was basically impossible.

On a positive note though, I did NOT get any water leakage (don’t ask me how… I honestly think this just comes down to luck vs. any real skill), I didn’t have any cracks on the top of the cake (a common issue with cheesecakes), and my crust stayed so nice and crispy. While the whole process was a little more involved and finicky than I think is necessary, the texture and flavour of this cake was unreal. It was light, soft, and silky smooth; it wasn’t too sweet; there was such a nice tang from the addition of goat cheese; and the little hit of lemon balanced the whole thing out so well. The cheesecake is topped with figs that are drizzled in olive oil and honey, which I wouldn’t have thought of myself, but it was a fantastic combo.

This cake was messy, anxiety-inducing, but absolutely delicious! I had really great feedback from my taste-testers on this particular recipe. I’m not sure I’ll be beating down doors to use the hot water bath method again any time soon, but I absolutely loved this cheesecake. If I’m going just on flavour, it’s a 4-star bake for me!

Coming up next week: the finale of the first chapter of the book – Pineapple and Pecan Upside-Down Cake!

blood orange olive oil upside-down cake

Welcome back! We’ve checked off our 15th bake from Claire Saffitz’s Dessert Person and continue to inch our way closer to the end of the Loaf Cakes & Single Layer Cakes chapter. This week, we made Claire’s Blood Orange Olive Oil Upside-Down Cake, which also happens to be the cover star of the book!

Lauren’s Take

We baked the cover!! I remember when I first got the book, I was surprised that I’d be baking the cover so soon—surely the cover bake must be something more extravagant and complicated than a loaf or single layer cake?! But once again, Claire showed me that for something to be utterly delicious and satisfying, it doesn’t need to be complicated. This olive oil cake is so rich, moist, and the deep flavours of the olive oil and semolina flavour combined with the citrus make this cake a winner.

The hardest part of this cake, hands down, is slicing the blood oranges. I am the first to admit that I may be the worst chopper, slicer and dicer in the world—I get too impatient and things are never sliced evenly or finely enough (I now chop everything in my food processor and it has been life changing). When my partner and I make meals together, he is always on chopping duty. So, being the resourceful person that I am, I called my boyfriend in to do the slicing for me. IT WAS TOUGH. We sharpened our knives, we put the blood oranges in the freezer… but regardless, it was so difficult to get a cut that was thin enough for the peel, but not too thin that the insides didn’t break off. Kudos to him for having the patience and the gumption to persevere for me! We ended up getting about 15 pieces that were thin, but many still had a significant peel to them. Honestly, I’m not quite sure how to get around this and have no advice to offer other than it is super hard and make sure you have a sharp knife. What was super fun about slicing the blood oranges is that each one was a different colour inside which made me excited to create the pattern on top.

The blood orange slices are arranged on top of a sugar-y, citrusy juice that stabilizes them to make the upside-down pattern. The next step is to make the cake batter in the stand mixer, which was fairly simple but requires the most olive oil I have ever used at one time. You also have to slowly add it to the batter and I swear I was standing there, holding my JUG of olive oil for 15 minutes. I believe that this recipe may single-handedly contribute to the EVOO shortage happening in the world right now. Then you pour the batter on-top of the orange slices and bake!

Once the cake is done and still warm, you take it out of the pan and flip it over to reveal your upside-down topping. This was a nerve-racking moment for me, but the bottom actually came off super easy (probably because of all the olive oil and parchment paper) and revealed a beautiful pattern! I definitely had spots where the oil came through or where I could see the cake, but it still looked great.

THE HARDEST PART OF THIS BAKE is that you have to wait at least 24 hours before you can eat it. Okay, HAVE TO is a strong statement, but it was encouraged so that’s what I did. And I think it was worth the wait; this cake tasted better with each day it sat out. It tasted so light and rich—it was a winner for me. The larger peels were definitely bitter and could take away from the cake itself, so next time I just might make the cake and use a different fruit topping, but it was fun to explore with blood oranges for the first time! 4.5 stars from me!

Julia’s Take

Wow! I can’t believe we’re already at our 15th bake from the book—it feels like we just started this project, but also I don’t remember a time when my schedule and grocery list didn’t revolve around what I need to bake from Dessert Person each week. I was SO excited for this week’s recipe because we got to bake the COVER! I have seen soooo many people making this cake since Claire published the book, and couldn’t wait to finally give it a try myself.

Like Lauren mentioned, the trickiest part of this bake is definitely getting the blood orange slices thin enough. I kept my oranges in the freezer for quite a long time—almost a full day—and I did find that this really helped. I also used a paring knife, which has a curve to it and hugged the shape of the orange nicely; I’m no pro, but I think that this made a difference. There was the odd piece of rind that was still a bit too thick depending on the shape of the orange, but overall I was able to get pretty nice slices without my kitchen counter looking too much like a crime scene.

I love a recipe that involves a little bit of creativity and design work; one of the best parts of making the Pear & Chestnut Cake was getting to create the fanning of pear slices on top, and I found the same thing with this cake. A slurry of blood orange juice and sugar gets poured into the bottom of the springform pan, and after that I was able to arrange the orange slices into the pattern that would eventually become the top of my cake. Call me crazy, but I find that kind of thing sooo soothing. #pandemiclife

Upside-down component aside, the ingredients and flavours in this cake was INCREDIBLE. I’m not an experienced or knowledgeable enough baker to really know the difference between all the different kinds of flour floating around out there, but after making this cake (which specifically called for cake flour) I can absolutely see why someone would choose one over the other. I learned that cake flour has a lower protein content and a finer consistency which makes for a more tender bake; that, combined with the portion of semolina flour that the recipe called for, created such an incredibly light and soft texture. The recipe also called for orange zest, Grand Marnier, and orange blossom water (my new favourite ingredient), so the orange flavour REALLY comes through. I definitely want to try making this cake again with different liquors and flavourings and am already dreaming up different combinations!

It truly blew my mind just HOW. MUCH. OLIVE. OIL goes in this cake. It really does result in a pretty amazing flavour and super rich cake, but wow. I think my cake was slightly under-baked because there were a few places that remained more oily than I would have liked inside, and I did get some slight sinking in the middle of the cake after it came out of the oven, but overall it tasted incredible and just got better and better the longer it sat out.

There is no doubt in my mind why this cake made the cover. The reveal you get when you peel off the parchment and see those vibrant slices of blood orange is so beautiful, and it’s one of the most unique and delicious things I’ve ever had. I can’t wait to make this cake again. I’ve been on a major kick with the high ratings but I can’t help it—these last few weeks have just been top-notch, and this is a 4.5 star bake for me!

Check back next week for the Goat Cheese Cake with Honey & Figs!

salty nut tart with rosemary

We’re back with two more recipes from Claire Saffitz’s Dessert Person! This week we tackled our second Foundational Recipe, which was the Sweet Tart Dough. This was then used to make the Salty Nut Tart with Rosemary. For those that have been following along weekly, you may be confused about why we’ve suddenly skipped ahead before completing the Loaf Cakes and Single Layer Cakes chapter, but it was for a very special reason. Keep reading!

Lauren’s Take

Wow, what an exciting and unique baking experience for us this week! As we’ve mentioned before, baking through this book has introduced us to such a lovely, welcoming, and generous community of people all around the world who share our love of baking and of the queen herself. We’ve had the chance to get to know a lot of these people virtually, exchanging baking tips/success/fails, but this week, the group of us decided to pick a recipe and bake it together over Zoom! It was so cool to “meet” everyone, discuss our shared passion, and bake together. It was a beautiful reminder to both Julia and myself, especially in these difficult times, that there are good people everywhere and you can always find community.

That being said, the recipe from the book we all voted to make was the Salty Nut Tart with Rosemary. It was a bit of a skip ahead for Julia and I (wooooops) but not that far ahead so we figured it was okay 😉. It was a fairly simple recipe again, but allowed us to make our first dough from the book—Claire’s Sweet Tart Dough. This dough is made using a combination of roasted almond flour and All-Purpose flour which gives it a nuttier flavour. I also chose to substitute almond extract for vanilla extract to really bring the almond flavour out. This dough is very similar to the process of making pie dough, but includes more wet ingredients to really bring all the components together like more of a cookie dough. I did not have the recommended food processor to mix the dough together so used my stand mixer instead which worked out well! After letting the dough chill, you press it into the tart shell (thank you Jackie for letting me borrow yours!). Claire has a very easy method for pressing the dough into the shell that worked extremely well (check out her Meyer Lemon Tart video to see it!).

 

You then parbake the crust for about half an hour. Man, just this crust with nothing in it smells so incredible—it took everything I had to just let the crust sit there and leave it overnight to cool. My crust did shrink a tiny bit and had some cracks along the bottom that I just patched up with my leftover dough.

The next morning, we jumped on Zoom and made the filling with everyone! It was nice to have people there in real time that could reassure you when you thought you were messing something up! Making the filling is a pretty painless process; you first roast the pine nuts and walnuts (and oh man did I keep an eye on that oven for fear I would burn my pine nuts and therefore burn through so much of my cash money). Then you make the caramel mixture by heating honey, cream, olive oil, and corn syrup and then add some rosemary and you’re roasted nuts to that. Then you pour it into the tart and bake!

This tart coming out of the oven looked and smelled amaaaazing. I have never been so impressed with something I’ve made so far. The caramelized mixture of top just glistens and the rosemary spread over top adds some beautiful colour. And the aroma of honey, nuts, almond…just can’t be beat. The tart tasted a lot like a baklava; the combination of nuts with the honey provided a familiar and delicious taste. I did find it a bit sweet for me (probably will just add more salt next time!) so you really only need a small piece to hit that craving. The pastry is delicate and buttery and cuts super easily and is extremely satisfying both aesthetically and in taste.

I loved making this dessert with all of my dessert people and it tasted great, so really, it’s a win in my books! 4 stars for me!

Julia’s Take

As much as I’ve loved everything we’ve made so far in our Sisters & Saffitz project, this bake will always be extra memorable for me! For anyone who follows along with us on Instagram, you may have already seen that on Saturday morning, Lauren and I participated in a virtual bake-along with 15 of our fellow Dessert People. It’s obviously been so fun to bake through the book and compare results with each other, but what’s made the experience that much cooler has been this opportunity to find and connect with bakers from all over the world who are also baking their way through Claire’s book.

A couple of months ago, one of the bakers started a group chat on Instagram, and since then plans have been in motion to “meet” virtually and bake together. So this weekend, we did just that! There were Claire fans from all across Canada, the US, and as far as Dublin and Mumbai on the Zoom call. We’d arranged in advance to find a recipe that took less than 2 hours to bake, and ideally one that most of us hadn’t already made. That’s how we ended up at the Salty Nut Tart (definitely worth skipping ahead in the book for!). We had SO much fun getting to chat and bake with so many wonderful people. A little over half of the group was able to participate, and we look forward to more bake-alongs as we keep working through the book!

As far as the tart itself goes, this one was a MAJOR winner! I know I say this basically every week, but this one truly is one of my absolute favourites to date. Like we mentioned already, this was a two-part bake and allowed us to check off two more recipes from the book. First up was Claire’s Sweet Tart Dough, which we’d heard great things about. I made the dough and parbaked my crust the night before the bake-along; everything gets mixed up in a food processor, so was quick and easy. You start off by toasting some almond flour in the oven (had never heard of toasting flour before but let me tell you, it is a genius technique and you end up with the most incredible smell!). The toasted flour is combined with regular AP flour, powdered sugar, some salt, vanilla, an egg yolk, some cold water, and a whole bunch of cold butter!

I had a slight moment of panic after this because, as I started to spread my dough into the tart pan, I realized it was an 11” instead of the 9” pan the recipe called for. Cue me texting Lauren to see if she thought it would still work, calling my Mom to see what size pans she had, and texting a whole crew of friends asking if anyone had a 9” tart pan handy. Turns out this piece of equipment is harder to come by than you’d think—everyone I talked to only had either an 11” tart pan or a 9” springform pan. So, I decided to just wing it with the 11” inch, make a bit of extra dough in case anything cracked too much, and hope for the best. It ended up working out just fine! My crust was just a tiny bit thinner, which I didn’t mind.

The filling came together during our Zoom call, and was incredibly easy. Pine nuts and walnuts get toasted in the oven (you could easily substitute any nut you like); I was slightly frantic about burning my pine nuts because those things cost a small fortune, but there were no casualties! While they toasted, we brought the caramel ingredients together to a low simmer in a saucepan; the recipe calls for honey, sugar, some corn syrup, olive oil, and some heavy cream so definitely not a traditional caramel and it stays pretty loose until you toss in the nuts. Some fresh rosemary gets mixed in right at the end, which smells incredible, and then the tart shell is filled and everything bakes for about 25 minutes.

The whole tart is topped off with more fresh rosemary and flaky sea salt. The smell was unreal and it tasted even better! This tart is basically a bougey, better version of pecan pie. You get that same nutty, toffee-like filling but the addition of rosemary and salt makes it borderline savoury and helps cut through what could otherwise be that overwhelmingly sweet sensation you can get from other caramel-filled desserts. I loved this tart so, so, so much. I shared most of it with family, but could have easily eaten the whole thing myself. It’s a no-question 5 stars from me and I’ll be making it again and again!

Next week we’re back on track as we inch closer to finishing the first chapter of Dessert Person. We’ll be baking the Blood Orange Olive Oil Upside-Down Cake, which also happens to be the cover star of the book!

flourless chocolate wave cake

Welcome back friends! This week is our 12th bake from Claire Saffitz’s Dessert Person as we continue to make our way through the Loaf Cakes and Single Layer Cakes chapter of the book. This section has been packed full of incredible and unique flavours and textures, and this week’s Flourless Chocolate Wave Cake was yet another delicious bake to add to that list!

Lauren’s Take

Hello hello! We’ve reached our dirty dozen bake and we’ve slid into it with the Flourless Chocolate Wave Cake! I saw many examples and heard praise of this cake before making it, so it was one I was looking forward to attempting to bake, especially with the challenge of making something without flour. However, as someone who isn’t a very big fan of chocolate desserts, I wasn’t too too excited about eating this week’s cake. I find a cake that is just chocolate is too heavy and I’m left searching for other flavours that aren’t there.

Making this cake was fun since it introduced some new and technical steps that we haven’t had to do too much in the previous bakes. You need a dece amount of chocolate (10 ounces) and you melt it over a double broiler with some rum (delish) and water. Once that has cooled, you add some egg yolks and almond flour. I was so glad this recipe called for almond flour ‘cause I have a massive bag from Costco that I bought during my macaron making phase that has been sitting dormant for many moons.

You then make a meringue by beating egg whites and sugar; now here is where I always psych myself out…is this a stiff peak? What is truly the difference between glossy and matte? Does this seem under-whipped? Did I just over-whip? Making meringues for me is like having a tedious and insecure mental monologue where I keep doubting. In this case, I do think I over-whipped the egg whites; when I went to fold in (insert Schitt’s Creek meme here) the meringue, it wasn’t incorporating very well with the chocolate mixture and was leaving large globs throughout. I ended up leaving quite a few streaks because I didn’t want to over-mix.

You then top the cake with sugar and let it bake! Watching this cake bake was potentially more fun than eating it. The cake gets so much height on the top layer with the sugar and looks like a little mushroom top floating above the rest of the cake. Once the cake is done baking and you leave it to cool, it starts to fall and create all these pits and peaks throughout the cake which look so gorgeous.

This cake is, in a word, FUDGE-Y. To me, it tasted as if a brownie and a chocolate pudding had a love child. It is airy, moist, delicate, and has a super soft and interesting texture. And the top sugar layer adds a really fun and needed crunch to the cake. As I mentioned at the beginning, my classic qualm with chocolate desserts was present with this cake too—I just found that it was too much chocolate and nothing to break it up, but I do give mad props for the texture. I shared this cake with some chocolate lovers though who did not have the same concerns as me. With all that said, I’d give this cake a solid 4 stars—a delicious and rich chocolate cake that’s gluten-free friendly is a win.

Julia’s Take

I’d been really looking forward to making this cake for a while for a few different reasons: I LOVE chocolate; I’d seen so many of our fellow Dessert People make this one already and everyone had raved about it; and our other sister, who lives in the same city as me, is gluten intolerant and I was happy to finally have a bake that I could share with her!

For those that don’t already know, I teach Language & Communications courses at a college here in Ontario, and this past week was exam week for my students. That means hundreds of tests and final research reports coming my way, and sitting in front of my computer screen for hours reading through work (no multiple choice or scantron sheets for this girl!). It was so nice to get to bust out of my marking bubble, slow down for a beat, and enjoy the process of making this cake.

The ingredient list was pretty simple for this bake compared to some of the others we’ve made so far: just some good quality chocolate, salt, sugar, oil, lots of eggs, and a little almond flour. Claire also calls for some rum or amaretto which gets added in to the melted chocolate. I used amaretto in mine, which made for a really nice flavour. This bake was similar to last week’s in the sense that the batter comes together in a few different steps: melting down the chocolate, whisking in egg yolks, flour, and other ingredients, then making the meringue and slowly folding that in. Watching egg whites and sugar come together to create something smooth, beautifully glossy, and magically stiff yet soft has to be one of the great simple pleasures in life. Anyone else share this sentiment? Just me? This is what grading hundreds of papers can do to a person…

The other thing that made this cake similar to last week’s was that it gets quite a bit of height while it’s baking, but then gradually sinks down after it comes out of the oven, which is so satisfying to watch. Because of the sugar that gets sprinkled on top of the cake before it bakes, you also get this crackly, crunchy top which adds some delicious, much-needed texture and also creates the “wave” affect that gives this recipe its name.

The taste and texture of this cake was SO delicious. The rich, fudgy flavour of the semisweet chocolate absolutely shines through, so if you’re a chocolate lover like me, you won’t be disappointed. This recipe is basically a variation on a chocolate soufflé; considering how rich it is, it’s also insanely airy and soft which just brings it up to a whole new level and makes it distinct from your average chocolate cake. My taste-testers loved it as much as I did. This is another 5-star bake for me!

Next week, we’re taking a slight deviation to bake up something extra special. Be sure to check back on Sunday!

ricotta cake with kumquat marmalade

We’re back with our 11th bake from Dessert Person, which is Claire’s Ricotta Cake with Kumquat Marmalade. We have only a handful of recipes left in the Loaf Cakes and Single Layer Cakes section of the book; we can’t believe how delicious everything has been and are so excited to start tackling Pies and Tarts as we head into summer!

Lauren’s Take

Whenever someone asks me what was favourite dessert is, I always say cheesecake without hesitation. I mean, what’s not to love about cheesecake—creamy, sweet, slightly savoury and usually served with fruit? Sign me up any day. What I was not anticipating was that ricotta cake, the lesser known and popular sister of the cheesecake, would enter into my life and shake up my long-term relationship with cheesecake. I cannot stop talking about my love for this cake and I promise if you make it, you will not be disappointed.

Once again, it is not a super complicated bake. You start off by making the ricotta mixture in a food processor, combining the ricotta, heavy cream, sugar and lemon zest into a delicious batter. You then make a meringue with egg whites and gently fold it in to make a super light and delish batter. The cake bakes for about 40 minutes; I think I took my cake out too early because it didn’t really become golden brown, but it still baked all the way through, so don’t fret if you don’t get the colour you expect.

While the cake is cooling, you make the topping which is a marmalade. Claire makes hers with kumquats, but says you can use any seasonal fruit. I could not find kumquats ANYWHERE despite calling numerous grocery stores and farms. So I decided to use gooseberries because I had never tried them and they looked pretty similar to what I saw in the Dessert Person photo. Gooseberries have THE MOST tiny seeds I have ever seen and despite taking 40 minutes to try and remove them all, many remained (but didn’t seem to affect the taste or texture so I wouldn’t waste your time). You reduce the fruit with some water, sugar and vanilla until it reaches a “maple syrup consistency.” I was endlessly confused by this—I kept taking my maple syrup out of the fridge to get a better idea what the consistency should be because I couldn’t tell if the mixture was thickening. I looked online and saw that marmalade should cook to about 217 degrees Fahrenheit so once it got there I took it off the stove, still looking extremely loose, and hoped for the best. I left it overnight and it thickened up BEAUTIFULLY and tasted amazing.

This cake is everything and so much more. I loved every bite. I dropped the cake off to a friend and the results were unanimous—this cake is unreal and should get an award for being so perfect. This might be my new favourite dessert and I am not ashamed about it. Make this and you will not be disappointed…but maybe don’t share it because you’ll wish you had more 😉. 5 stars for sure.

Julia’s Take

Welcome back friends! I am still not totally over the joyful experience that was making and eating this week’s cake. It was SO. GOOD. For me, these last couple of weeks have been so much fun because we’ve upgraded from the really simple, basically one-step loaf-style bakes from the earlier half of this section of the book, but we haven’t moved into the more complex, multi-day, panic-inducing bakes that are yet to come. These more recent single-layer cakes, and the ones that we’ll be tackling over the next few weeks, have given me a chance to bake recipes that are slightly more involved in terms of process, and super unique and delicious in result, without causing me too much anxiety!

The first step in making this cake was to try and track down kumquats. I had heard of kumquats before but wasn’t entirely sure what they looked or tasted like. Living in a smaller-sized city in northern Ontario, I was pretty certain I would never get my hands on an ingredient like this. While we do have several higher-end grocery stores that will often carry speciality or international ingredients, I felt like between citrus season coming to an end and the rarity of something like kumquats in Ontario in general, I’d have to resign myself to coming up with a really good substitute for the marmalade topping.

But I am not a resign yourself kind of girl! After checking several of the grocery stores in town, I decided to call around to a few produce wholesalers. Most of them let me know that they make almost-daily trips to produce markets in the Toronto area to bring up stock and that they’re always happy to bring up speciality items when requested (will be keeping this in mind when we need to bake with quince…). After a few phone conversations on a Monday, I had a call back that Thursday letting me know there was a case of kumquats waiting for me! (No way you’re reading this, but shout-out to Shane from TCM Produce!). I never thought I’d get so excited about a case of citrus.

For anyone like me who’s never had a kumquat before, they are the coolest little things! They look and taste like a mini, more oval-shaped, and slightly more tart version of a tangerine. You eat them with the skin on, and they make the most incredible marmalade! I made this part of the recipe the day before—seeding and halving the kumquats and cooking them down with sugar, vanilla bean, lemon juice, and some water—and I was really glad I did because the marmalade became much thicker and more delicious the longer it sat. I was also so glad that I had a full case; the amounts Claire calls for in the book are surprisingly minimal, and you will definitely want extra of this magical golden sauce (is marmalade a sauce?). I’ve clearly been a big fan of all the accompanying sauces so far, and you can now consider me a big fan of kumquats too!

When it came to making the ricotta cake, the process was really satisfying. You start by blending most of the ingredients in a food processer—not totally sure why Claire called for this particular piece of equipment, because I think you could just as easily mix everything together in a stand mixer or even a blender. Once you have your batter, which is so smooth and luxurious, I used my stand mixer to whip the egg whites to stiff peaks, and then those get gently folded in to the batter (anyone else immediately think of David and Moira Rose from Schitt’s Creek every time you see the words “fold in” ?!). My cake needed a slightly longer bake time than what Claire called for, but came out with a nice deep golden brown colour. It was also SO cool to see the centre of the cake slowly deflate after it came out of the oven; this created a beautiful sort of crown shape with a well in the middle for the marmalade to sit in.

Because it’s called a ricotta cake, I was expecting a cheesecake-like taste and texture; it some ways, this cake is similar to a traditional cheesecake, but it’s also something completely different. The addition of some flour, and the texture of the ricotta itself, make this cake much less dense and sweet than a regular cheesecake, which I personally loved. It was light, fluffy, smooth, had the perfect hint of lemon, and made for the most amazing pairing with the kumquat marmalade. I will definitely be making this cake again—it’s a 5-star bake for me!

Next week: Flourless Chocolate Wave Cake. We’ve seen A LOT of people in our Instagram community make this one, and we’re so excited to give it a try! If you don’t follow along with us there already, check us out @sistersandsaffitz.

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 😉