How Baking Angel Food Cake Made Me Realize I’d Fallen in Love

I wasn’t used to the kind of date where you’d bake something together. I was used to being taken out to bars that smelled like hops and bleach and you had to yell to be heard over the music. I’d come of age at a college obsessed with fraternities and t…

I wasn’t used to the kind of date where you’d bake something together. I was used to being taken out to bars that smelled like hops and bleach and you had to yell to be heard over the music. I’d come of age at a college obsessed with fraternities and then moved to New York City just as Tinder exploded, both of which gave me the sense that dating happened exclusively at bars and parties. So when I moved to Virginia in my late twenties and a guy named Ben invited me out on a series of dates that felt too good to be true—a sunset walk, dinner at his house, and then, after those improbable first two dates, suggested we make a pumpkin angel food cake together—I assumed he must be joking.

Forget the fact that I thought dates should involve late nights and at least one kind of alcohol. I couldn’t understand why anyone would want to make an angel food cake. The ones I’d experienced came from a grocery bakery or a box mix. They were sticky and spongy, their texture a sweet cakey facsimile of a marshmallow.

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Date Cake

Date cake is a simple and delicious dessert. Flecked with chocolate chips and walnuts and topped with sparkling sugar, this cake is an old-fashioned holiday favorite. At our house, we love recipes that remind us of family and bring back childhood memories, like my nana’s pumpkin crunch cake or the no-bake cookies my mother used …

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Date cake is a simple and delicious dessert. Flecked with chocolate chips and walnuts and topped with sparkling sugar, this cake is an old-fashioned holiday favorite.

Two slices of date cake stacked on a white plate.

At our house, we love recipes that remind us of family and bring back childhood memories, like my nana’s pumpkin crunch cake or the no-bake cookies my mother used to make my brother and me. 

This recipe for date cake has been in Eric’s family for years and it’s one of his absolute favorite desserts because it reminds him of his grandma. 

In the very early stages of our relationship, Eric sent me a photo of this cake and asked me to go on a date with him. Looking back, I think his little pun and love for cake might be what sealed our fate.

Eric has such fond memories of his grandma making the holiday season extra special – merrier, brighter. 

One of his fondest memories is her Christmas Eve buffet featuring a delicious array of food like sweet meatballs, pumpkin roll, cranberry chicken and this date cake, all made with grandma’s TLC.

This is such a special recipe in our family that I can’t help but share it with all of you. Perhaps it will even become a part of your own family’s holiday traditions!

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Thanksgiving Recipes

It’s that time of the year again. When bakers, cooks, and even bartenders, are baking, roasting, and shaking things up for the holidays. Here’s a round-up of recipes from my blog, my personal favorites, that are great for Thanksgiving and winter holiday fêtes. There are cakes, cocktails, spreads, dips, candied nuts, cheesecake, ice cream…and more! Pecan Pie with Bourbon and Ginger What’s more traditional than pecan…

It’s that time of the year again. When bakers, cooks, and even bartenders, are baking, roasting, and shaking things up for the holidays. Here’s a round-up of recipes from my blog, my personal favorites, that are great for Thanksgiving and winter holiday fêtes. There are cakes, cocktails, spreads, dips, candied nuts, cheesecake, ice cream…and more!

Pecan Pie with Bourbon and Ginger

What’s more traditional than pecan pie for the holidays? (That wasn’t really a question, because most of us already know the answer.) I love this zippy variation, with a triple dose of ginger and a belt of bourbon to boot. It’s especially good with a scoop of white chocolate-fresh ginger ice cream.

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Coconut Dreamcake – Celebrating 15 Years of MNR

Happy birthday, My New Roots! We’re celebrating 15 years strong with a Danish dreamcake, and I am so grateful to you, dear reader, for following along. Whether you’ve been here since the beginning, or this is your first post, thank you for being here and […]

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Happy birthday, My New Roots! We’re celebrating 15 years strong with a Danish dreamcake, and I am so grateful to you, dear reader, for following along. Whether you’ve been here since the beginning, or this is your first post, thank you for being here and supporting my vision of a healthier, happier world.

I could say something cliché, like “I cannot believe it’s been 15 years already” but I CAN! Haha, I’ve packed so much into this last decade-and-a-half, that I’m actually shocked it hasn’t been 30 years! Two cookbooks, countless international cooking classes and workshops, an online membership platform, a TV show, a TED talk, a wellness retreat business, and a global community of hundreds of thousands of fine folks just like yourself. WOW. 

This space has seen me through two overseas moves, four restaurant jobs, a marriage, a baby, home renovations, major health challenges and triumphs, and the personal evolution that comes along with all of it! I knew I needed to create a recipe that celebrated all of it and I’m so excited to share this Coconut Dreamcake with you.

Honouring a Classic

It was pretty fun deciding what I was going to bake for this anniversary and how I was going to photograph it. Those over-the-top layer cakes I made for previous birthdays felt fun and celebratory, but I also wanted something nostalgic and reverent for this one.

I have been wanting to try making a Sarah B-version of the classic Danish dessert, drømmekage (translation: “dreamcake”) for a very long time. When I lived in Copenhagen, this was one of my favourite treats because it is just so darn delicious and satisfying. The sponge is a moist and tender vanilla cake, with a topping of gooey, coconut caramel. Typically baked slab-style, and served in squares at bakeries all over the country, dreamcake is one of the most ubiquitous and well-loved desserts for a good reason – it truly is a dream! 

Playing with an a time-honoured recipe is challenging, because why mess with a good thing?! But I’ve built a career on making healthy-ish, more nourishing swaps in traditional dishes, so why not attempt a drømmekage of my own?

Happy Hemp

If you’ve been here a while, you know that one of my favourite ingredients to work with is hemp! These light-tasting and creamy seeds are the perfect addition to so many meals, boosting the Omega-3 fat and protein content. They also contain good amounts of magnesium, iron, and zinc, and we could all use more minerals! Best of all? They’re grown locally here in Canada!

I love hemp seeds sprinkled onto my Revolutionary Pancakes and granola, blended into a rich and delicious milk, made into a mock-parmesan cheese, and of course blended into hemp butter. I knew I had to include hemp seeds in this celebratory dessert since I feel it’s my *signature move*. So I incorporated them in two ways: first as part of the flour mix for the vanilla sponge; this adds a beautiful tooth and moisture to the cake, keeping it fresh for days! And I made a hemp cream to replace the dairy cream in both the cake and the topping (just for fun – nothing against dairy cream!).

Celebrating Coconut

Other notable variations include toasting the coconut for the topping, which really brings the coconut flavour to the max! I used two kinds of coconut, since I love having just a few larger pieces for a textural change-up, but if you only have finely desiccated coconut, that’s *fine* too 🙂 Using coconut sugar in the topping adds an incredible depth of flavour and complexity that I suggest you don’t miss out on – it brings so much more to the party than plain old brown sugar.  

Helpful Notes

I used unbleached cane sugar instead of coconut sugar in the dreamcake because I wanted to maintain the light colour of the cake. If you want to use another granulated sweetener, go for it! Substituting with a whole food liquid sweetener is a different ball game and I haven’t experimented with that yet. If you do, make sure to share in the comments and let us know how it goes!

You can use whole or light spelt, or a combination of those flours for the sponge – the combo was my favourite, a mix of half and half. You can substitute these with any other gluten-containing flours, or with a gluten-free mix that mimics all-purpose flour for baking (or make your own!). 

Now I gotta tell you about the topping, because there is a moment when you’re making that caramel that I know will make you think you’ve failed and you haven’t! The butter and coconut sugar are stubborn to meld. The whole thing will split and look chunky and strange, and the excess butter will be oozing around, not wanting to play with anyone. THEN! it will magically come together if you just keep stirring. Make sure the heat is very low, and stick with it. If you’re going on 8 to 10 minutes even… just keep stirring – you got this (and it’s SO worth it)!

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Coconut Dreamcake 

Author Sarah Britton

Ingredients

Sponge:

  • cup / 50g hemp seeds
  • 1 cup / 150g wholegrain or light spelt flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • ¼ tsp. fine sea salt
  • 50 g salted butter preferably organic
  • 4 eggs preferably organic
  • 1 cup / 250g unbleached cane sugar
  • cup / 80ml hemp cream see recipe below
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract

Topping:

  • 100 g salted butter preferably organic
  • 1 ⅓ cup / 200g coconut sugar
  • 3 Tbsp. hemp cream see recipe below
  • ½ tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp. flaky salt such as Maldon
  • 1 ½ cups / 150g unsweetened desiccated coconut
  • ½ cup /25g unsweetened large flake coconut

Hemp Cream:

  • 1 cup / 250ml water
  • cup / 50g hemp seeds

Instructions

  • Start by preheating the oven to 400°F / 200°C. Prepare a 7” / 18cm round springform cake pan by greasing the interior with a little butter, and placing a parchment paper circle in the bottom (I find it easiest to trace the bottom of the cake form, then cut it out to fit perfectly).  Stir in the flour mixture, then fold in the butter, hemp cream and vanilla. Pour batter into the prepared springform pan and place in the oven to bake for 20 minutes. Then reduce oven temp to 350, and bake for another 20 minutes until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
  • Make the hemp cream by placing the hemp seeds and water in a blender and blend on high for 30 seconds, or until the cream is smooth. Set aside.
  • In a food processor, blend hemp seeds until they’re the texture of sand (but don’t blend too much or you’ll end up with hemp butter!). Add the flour, baking powder, and salt. Pulse to blend and set aside.
  • Melt the butter over low heat and let cool. Meanwhile, beat the eggs and sugar together until light and fluffy (either with an electric mixer or your arm muscles!).
  • While the sponge is baking, make the topping by toasting the coconut in a large skillet over medium heat (work in batches if necessary, and toast the two types of coconut separately). Once golden and fragrant, set aside. Melt the butter over low heat, then stir in the coconut sugar. Stir frequently until they combine into a thick caramel (this make take a few minutes, but keep stirring!). Add the hemp cream and vanilla, stir to incorporate. Remove from the heat, then add the flaky salt, toasted coconut, and fold to thoroughly combine. 
  • Once the sponge is baked, remove from the oven and spread the topping over as every as possible. Place back int the oven for another 5 minutes, just until the topping is bubbling. Remove from oven and let cool completely, then place in the fridge to firm up, at least 2 hours. Remove cake from the fridge, then using a sharp knife, cut around the edge to release caramel that is stuck to the sides. Unlock the springform to reveal! Slice, say thank you, and enjoy. Leftovers can be stored covered, at room temperature for about a week.

Photographing this dreamcake was just as much fun as eating it. Since I was re-creating a Danish recipe, and those flavours got me all nostalgic for my Copenhagen home, I decided to try emulating that very special Nordic light that I truly miss. I feel like I succeeded! This was not an easy feat, but after 15 years of teaching myself how to take photos of food, I think I figured it out. This is all to say, that I’m still challenged by this ongoing project, and in love with everything I’ve learned along the way. What a trip! 

And one final thanks to you, for being here, for the time and energy you’ve spent here on the blog, engaging on social, on Grow, in my cooking classes and retreats, zoom hangs, or even those passing moments on the street when you come up and say hello (don’t ever NOT do that by the way. I love meeting you!). The thing I value most from the last 15 years of creating this space, is the people that I’ve had the privilege of connecting with inside of it. Words could not describe how big and full my heart feels when I remember the meaningful conversations, hugs, high-fives, tears and smiles that we’ve shared, while navigating this wild ride of life, and trying our best to look after our miraculous, individual bodies, together as one. 

Immense gratitude and love. Your friend always,

Sarah B

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Pumpkin Spice Donut Cake

This cozy and sweet pumpkin cake is a riff on the super popular powdered donut cake from my book Snacking Cakes. All you need is a bowl, whisk and pan to put this perfect little fall cake together in less than an hour. It is packed with lots of fall (pumpkin!) spices, pumpkin puree and buttermilk just enough sweetness to be a treat. This cake keeps well for a few days on the counter so you can enjoy it one sliver at a time, you can also freeze the cake without the topping for a rainy day.


Pumpkin Spice Donut Cake

Makes 1, 8-inch square or 9-inch round cake

Cake

3/4 cup (150g) granulated sugar

2 large eggs

3/4 cup (165g) pumpkin puree

1/2 cup (100g) well shaken buttermilk

1/2 cup (113g) unsalted butter, melted

1 teaspoon pumpkin spice blend

1/2 teaspoons freshly grated nutmeg

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 3/4 cups (225g) all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

Topping

1 tablespoon unsalted butter melted

3 tablespoons confectioners' sugar or 2 tablespoons granulated sugar mixed with 1 teaspoon pumpkin spice

Make the cake: Position an oven rack to the center of your oven and preheat the oven to 350F. Butter or coat an 8-inch square baking pan with nonstick spray. Line the pan with a strip of parchment paper that hangs over two of the edges. 

In a large bowl, whisk the granulated sugar and eggs until pale and foamy, about 1 minute. Add the pumpkin, buttermilk, butter, pumpkin spice, nutmeg, and salt. Whisk until smooth and emulsified. 

Add the flour, baking powder, and baking soda. Whisk until well-combined and smooth. 

Pour the batter into the pan and bake the cake until puffed and golden, and a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Set the pan on a rack to cool for about 15 minutes. Then use the parchment paper to lift the cake out of the pan and set it on to the rack to cool almost completely.

To Assemble: While the cake is just warm to the touch, brush the top with the melted butter and dust with the confectioners' sugar or spiced sugar you should have a nice thick layer of sugar - more than you think might be necessary. (Store the cake, covered, at room temperature for up to three days. The cake will absorb the sugar on top, so it might need a fresh dusting of confectioners' sugar after the second day.

James Beard’s Amazing Persimmon Bread Recipe

Like most Americans, even French people aren’t so familiar with persimmons. They may see them at the market, look at their curiously, but don’t stop to buy any. Or if they do, they take them home, bite into an unripe one, make a face, and toss them out. One of my friends living north of San Francisco in Sonoma County had an enormous persimmon tree….

Like most Americans, even French people aren’t so familiar with persimmons. They may see them at the market, look at their curiously, but don’t stop to buy any. Or if they do, they take them home, bite into an unripe one, make a face, and toss them out.

persimmon bread recipe

One of my friends living north of San Francisco in Sonoma County had an enormous persimmon tree. Each fall, the leaves would drift off the tree, leaving bright orange globes of fruit dangling off the sparse branches. The beautiful, gnarled wood was quite a contrast to the smooth, brilliantly-colored orbs of fruit. (The wood of the persimmon tree is not just beautiful but it’s prized by makers of many of the finest golf clubs in the world and is considered superior to most others woods or man-made materials.)

The most common persimmon you’re likely to find is the Hachiya, a slightly elongated fruit that tapers to a point. They’re incredibly tannic and astringent when not ripe and need to be squishy-soft and feel like a full water-balloon before using. Once ripe, the sweet jelly-like pulp can be spooned out and pureed through a blender, food processor, or food mill, although some folks like to eat it as is or frozen. The pulp freezes beautifully, and in fact, I’ll often freeze some for late-winter use. To ripen Hachiya persimmons, simply let them sit on your countertop until very soft. If they don’t riped at the same time, you can store the puree in the refrigerator until the others have ripened. You can hasten the process by putting persimmons in a well-sealed container; adding an apple, which gives off a lot of ethylene gas, which will speed things up.

The other common persimmon is the Fuyu, which is squatter than the Hachiya and matte-orange. Unlike the Hachiya, the Fuyu is meant to be eaten hard and is delightfully crunchy. I peel them, then mix pieces into an autumnal fruit salad along with dates, slices of Comice pears, pomegranate seeds and yes…even some bits of prunes. Finding recipes for using persimmons can be difficult. I invented a recipe for a quick Persimmon Cake for my book Room For Dessert, which I make often for Thanksgiving. And I also like James Beard’s Persimmon Bread, a nifty recipe from his classic book on breadmaking, Beard on Bread, published over 30 years ago.

I was fortunate to meet James Beard several times when he came to dinner at Chez Panisse. In the years after he passed away, we’d get all sorts of luminaries coming through our kitchen, people like James Beard, Jane Grigson, and Richard Olney, who were really wonderful cooks and writers.

The most charming thing about this simple Persimmon Bread recipe is that Beard gives bakers an inexact amount of an ingredient: sugar. So go ahead just this one time to improvise a little. Although I recommend using the higher amount of sugar, feel free to use whichever quantity you’d like…after all, you have permission from the granddaddy of all cooks, James Beard himself.

persimmon bread recipe-2

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Persimmon Bread

Adapted from Beard on Bread by James Beard. Using the higher amount of sugar will produce a moister and, of course, sweeter bread. I often use bourbon, as I like the flavor, but cognac and brandy work well, instead. I'm often asked about making this cake without the liquor and haven't tried it, as the liquor is an integral flavor in the cake. If you want to try it with something else, perhaps black tea or root beer could take its place. But I haven't tried either.

Ingredients

  • 3 1/2 cups sifted flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 to 2 1/2 cups (400-500g) sugar
  • 1 cup (8oz, 225g) melted unsalted butter and cooled to room temperature
  • 4 large eggs at room temperature, lightly beaten
  • 2/3 cup (160ml) Cognac or bourbon whiskey (see headnote)
  • 2 cups (500ml) persimmon puree (from about 4 squishy-soft Hachiya persimmons)
  • 2 cups (200g) walnuts or pecans toasted and chopped
  • 2 cups (270g) raisins or diced dried fruits (such as apricots, cranberries, or dates)

Instructions

  • Butter 2 loaf pans. Line the bottoms with a piece of parchment paper or dust with flour and tap out any excess.
  • Preheat oven to 350ºF (180ºC) degrees.
  • Sift the first 5 dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
  • Make a well in the center then stir in the butter, eggs, liquor, persimmon puree then the nuts and raisins.
  • Bake 1 hour or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Notes

Storage: Will keep for about a week, if well-wrapped, at room temperature. The Persimmon Breads take well to being frozen, too.

Blueberry Coffee Cake

Blueberry coffee cake is full of fresh blueberries with just a hint of lemon. With a perfect streusel topping, this cake tastes just like your favorite blueberry muffins! Follow the alternate directions for a gluten-free version. This post contains affiliate links. We’re having some work done on our house starting this week and I’m here …

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Blueberry coffee cake is full of fresh blueberries with just a hint of lemon. With a perfect streusel topping, this cake tastes just like your favorite blueberry muffins! Follow the alternate directions for a gluten-free version.

Plated slices of blueberry coffee cake on a countertop next to coffee creamer and a bowl of blueberries.

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We’re having some work done on our house starting this week and I’m here to tell you that the dogs and I are already exhausted.

Well, one dog is terrified and exhausted. The other one is totally unbothered.

If I’m going to have workers in my house disrupting my peace and quiet, I may as well bake. Right?

At least then I can have a slice of afternoon coffee cake.

This blueberry coffee cake is another absolute winner from my friend Erin at Texanerin Baking. Between the sweet blueberries in every bite, the hint of lemon, and the streusel on top, it’s hard to pick my favorite thing about this recipe.

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Caramel Apple Cake with Salted Caramel Frosting

Caramel apple cake is perfectly spiced, moist, and topped with a decadent salted caramel frosting. Make with all-purpose flour or follow the alternate method for a gluten-free version.  This post contains affiliate links. We’re deep into apple season over here. A visit to the apple orchard is a fall must around here. Even if we …

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Caramel apple cake is perfectly spiced, moist, and topped with a decadent salted caramel frosting. Make with all-purpose flour or follow the alternate method for a gluten-free version. 

Slices of caramel apple cake arranged on a piece of parchment paper.

This post contains affiliate links.

We’re deep into apple season over here.

A visit to the apple orchard is a fall must around here. Even if we don’t have time to pick the apples ourselves, we at least have to run by and pick up bags of fresh apples for everything from apple crumb pie to apple fritter bread.

This caramel apple cake is another great recipe from my friend Erin at Texanerin Baking. This cake is so simple to make but is so flavorful and moist, it will be a must for all of your fall gatherings.

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