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!