Learning to bake with daddyPrimate: Battenburg Cake

Baby is in bed, wife is out on the town with “the girls” and a sense of dread has settled over the country after inaugurating a reality tv host to be our president. What’s a man to do? Bake! FRIDAY NIGHT! And what kind of baking do you do at 9:00 pm? Cakes (which never seem to work out well) that require homemade marzipan (never done that before!) and toasted rice to be ground with a coffee grinder (WHAT?).

I’ve been wanting to make a Battenburg Cake for quite a while, but you know, when you have a toddler sometimes it’s a little bit difficult to get around to doing something a little more complex than normal when there’s absolutely no reason to do so. I mean, a Battenburg requires you to bake a cake, let it cool, cut it into strips, slather with jam, and wrap in homemade marzipan. Not things you can do effectively with a toddler “helping.”

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Well, not terrible. Tastes good. #baking

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I used the recipe from聽Mary Berry’s Baking Bible, and I think it would have worked better had I a 7″ square cake tin. As it turns out we only had a 9″, so I think the batter was spread a bit too thin, resulting in more of a聽flattenburg cake than a Battenburg, but it still came out kinda pretty and tasted ok.


I think the most impressive bit is how easy it was to make Marzipan. It just takes a ton of sugar and a couple eggs and ground almonds. WHO KNEW? (Mary Berry). So anyhow, I will get a smaller pan and my next one won’t be as flat, but I’m going to go ahead and call this a success right here.


Learning to bake with daddyPrimate: Weihnachts Kugelhopf (Christmas Kugelhopf)…a daddyPrimate riff on a classic Kugelhopf

If you read my previous post about Kugelhopf聽you already know it’s a 15th century Austrian yeast-raised cake that’s not really cake but not really a bread either and somewhere in between in texture and flavor. Or maybe I wrote that post poorly. Well, mommyPrimate got a gift card to Sur la Table and bought a really beautiful “bundt” pan that looks a bit more like a kugelhopf mold to me, so I decided to have a second go at it. I got the recipe once again from Epicurious聽but somehow I got the magic right a little better this time.

When I made the dough this time, I don’t think I got the milk quite as hot. I may have had a little bit of a yeast die-off last time from too-hot liquid ingredients. I also put blobs in the pan (which I sprayed with coconut oil and floured pretty aggressively) by hand instead of dropping it in like a comforter in a washing machine. Once the blobs were in, I aggressively smoothed out the dough with a lubed up spatula (Lubed Up Spatula, by the way, is the name of my new band.) I let it rise for two hours.

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Risen! #boom

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After a two hour prove it looked like this. BAM. I credit the success of this prove to my lucky tea towel that has my daughter’s name on it. There is no other secret to my success. So, now that the dough had risen, I tossed it in a 400 degree F oven for 15 minutes, slid some foil on top, and let it go another 20 minutes. It was soft and bounced back when I touched it with my finger, and a wooden skewer inserted came out clean.

After about 3 minutes or so I tipped it out of the pan and it came out cleanly. No idea how that actually happened. I credit dumb luck, the lucky tea towel, and the liberal application of coconut oil and flour on the pan. Now, while this beautiful beast cools down a little, I’ll tell you about why it’s a Weihnachts Kugelhopf instead of just a Kugelhopf.

Basically, we didn’t have a bunch of sultanas lying around, but we DID have a bunch of fresh cranberries. And oranges. So I tossed in whole fresh cranberries while it was mixing, and flavored it with orange zest. Cranberry and orange is about as wintry of a flavor combination as I can come up with. Christmas is in two weeks. BOOOOM! Weihnachts Kugelhopf. I bet your mind is BLOWN right now.

Now, to decorate this beautiful lady of a cake, I candied fresh cranberries and mandarin orange slices by boiling them in simple syrup for about an hour and cooling them in the fridge. I dusted the cake with icing sugar, then creatively placed the candied fruits in the crevasses. This may very well be the most spectacular baked good I’ve ever brought into this world, AND I WILL TAKE IT RIGHT BACK OUT.


The texture of this kugelhopf came out MUCH more pleasantly than the last one I baked. It’s similar to what you would expect if an angel food cake and a brioche had a baby. It’s soft, light, spongy, but not too sweet. It’s wonderful, and its rightful place is at breakfast, I think.


If you’d like to try to bake one of these, use the recipe I linked above, and swap out the raisins with fresh cranberries. Your taste buds will thank you.

Learning to Bake with daddyPrimate: B没che de Noel

Okay, making a B没che de Noel isn’t a new thing around my house. I decided this should be a tradition in 2014, when I realized that as a (then new) father, I needed to take Christmas over the top always so that my kid(s) would have the most magical winter memories聽EVAR.

Behold, the 2014 (and my first ever) B没che de Noel!

It was rich, the sponge was a little dry, and I’m pretty sure that when I presented it to my family they found it all a bit much since it wasn’t an existing tradition. To be fair, my dad had聽just passed away and our Christmas baking event that year was the saddest on record. I believe I decorated my gingerbread men to look like the dead characters from Game of Thrones.

Fast forward one year. My 2015 B没che de Noel was inspired by the Great American Baking Show, you know, the cheap knockoff of the British masterpiece that still thankfully stars Mary Berry. I made a sponge, it didn’t work, I made another, it did. I was afraid to roll too tightly and PLOP, the cake unrolled, leaving one big round lump of a log without a pretty swirl inside sitting on a pile of whipped cream.

2016 has been a little different, though. I actually learned how to bake this year. I started with easy breads, I’ve dabbled with cakes, and had more success than failure all around. I actually understand which dry ingredients are raising agents, and the basics of how to put things together to some extent. I haven’t used a box or a mix in a year, and making things from scratch doesn’t intimidate me in the least. I’d like to think I’ve even learned a little bit about style.

I started to look for a recipe, I usually use the Sorted Food recipe, but I did have a look at Mary Berry’s Baking Bible, only to turn away in disgust at the idea of chestnut puree. I would have looked at Paul Hollywood’s How to Bake, however it was across the room and I had just run a half marathon. I decided at that point that I would make two, one for work, and one for home, and change the flavors and decor a bit.

BEHOLD the 2016 B没che de Noel(s)!

My “home” B没che de Noel this year was a Swiss Roll filled with Irish Whiskey spiked whipped cream, with two snowflakes stenciled on top in icing sugar. No buttercream icing this year. In the past I’ve found it quite heavy and it makes the cake a bit too rich. Especially in combination with the whipped cream filling.

My “work” B没che de Noel was the same sponge, but rather than a boozy whiskey filling, it had vanilla whipped cream, and a single snowflake stenciled on top.

I’ve become slightly famous at work for baking things that people don’t normally bring to “potluck” events. I guess most people don’t want to mess with yeast or measuring ingredients. So much the better. Eat my baked goods. Be impressed. Give me a raise! Amirite?

Three years on, I’d say this B没che de Noel tradition is going strong, and I think this year’s edition certainly demonstrates that I’ve learned a bit more about baking than I ever knew before.




Learning to bake with daddyPrimate: Kugelhopf

One of the 聽most alluring concepts for me in baking is聽old recipes. When the Great British Bake-Off series that aired in the U.S. in 2015 explored yeast-raised continental cakes, there was one that caught my eye…the Kugelhopf. Finally presented with an opportunity that was appropriate to make this old Austrian recipe, I had a look at the ingredients, decided I had everything, and got to work.

So, Kugelhopf is a recipe from the Habsburg Dynasty in Austria that apparently got its name from the shape of the pan resembling the disembodied head of a Turk. The cake was originally baked to celebrate the Habsburg victory over the Turks at the Battle of Vienna聽in 1485. That makes this a 15th century recipe.


So basically, you melt butter in milk and dissolve sugar in it, form a “volcano” of flour and yeast in your mixer, and pour the liquid into the dry as it mixes. When it comes together you add orange zest and raisins, let it beat until the gluten forms nicely, and plop it into your kugelhopf mould. Of course, I don’t have a kugelhopf mould (yet…Christmas is coming), so I just used a bundt pan.

It bakes for 15 minutes, gets covered with foil so the bottom doesn’t develop too much of a tan, and then continues to bake another 25 minutes or so. I “topped” mine with apricots, but they burnt to 聽a crisp so I pulled them out and pretended that the inlaid pattern of light and dark was done on purpose. Pro-tip: people will believe anything you tell them about baking because they don’t do it themselves.


So it turned out pretty well. It’s not a cake, per se, because it’s not very sweet and has a much more bread-like texture. I think next time I may double the orange zest, and use cranberries instead of raisins. You know, for Christmas.

At any rate, kugelhopfs are good, and I recommend them to anyone who has to take something to work for a potluck.

The end.


Learning to Bake with daddyPrimate: Victoria Sponge – lack of failure is success!

The grand finale of the Great British Baking Show as shown in the US (last year’s version, for my British Friend) featured a challenge of baking traditional British cakes. Given my complete lack of success with Victoria Sponge, I felt inspired. I used mommyPrimate’s new book as the recipe was slightly different than Paul Hollywood’s, well the ingredients were the same, however the process was a bit difference.

While I didn’t get a domed top, I at least didn’t get a saggy middle. I think the domed top will happen when I either adjust the recipe to make just a touch more batter or use smaller tins. At any rate, it’s delicious. I’m slightly concerned about the fresh strawberries I used for the filling (along with strawberry jam) turning into, uh, fermented strawberries before we can finish the cake, but if we don’t put all of this butter and sugar into our systems I guess it’s okay.

Is this a聽Victorious Sponge? I’d say yes. Seeing as it took 4 tries, and probably about $15 worth of butter/flour/sugar to finally get a decent result, I think I’ll call it a Pyrrhic victory.



Learning to bake with daddyPrimate: Yiaourtopita (Greek Yogurt Cake)


Continuing my聽why wasn’t I born Greek baking saga was pretty easy. Baklava was a huge success, family and coworkers were duly impressed. It was delicious. While my mother-in-law was in town we had planned to grill, but that was canceled聽by a torrential downpour. One thing that didn’t get cancelled was my Greek Yogurt Cake, or apparently in greek, Yiaourtopita.

This cake was interesting. The recipe I used from mygreekdish.com was fairly straightforward, but it called for self-rising flour and baking powder. I thought the two didn’t go together, but whatever. Per the recipe I started out by whipping egg whites into a meringue, then I folded in the dry ingredients, set it in a cake tin, and popped it in the oven.

When I was done it popped right out of the tin, and cooled off. It was dense, like a pound cake (another english-name for this cake is聽Greek yogurt pound cake apparently) and was a well balanced sweet but not too sweet. The lemon and orange zest gave it a nice fresh scent.


Now, if you’re less interested in the cake than in the continuing saga of my Greek obsession, you’d be amused to know that we’re redoing the front yard. While shopping for flowers for our new flower bed, I found a 5′ tall or bigger statue of Atlas holding up the sky. The sky was a planter box. I was willing to drop the $$$ to buy this thing, but mommyPrimate (who is wise and responsible) managed to distract me away from it with her fine understanding of distraction.

Learning to bake with daddyPrimate: Victoria Sponge, ROUND TWO!

After my first attempt at a Victoria Sponge, I waited until it was my turn to bake desserts again…then I declared loudly and proudly, “PEOPLE OF THE WORLD, I WILL BE SUCCESSFUL THIS TIME. I WILL MAKE A聽VICTORIOUS SPONGE!” And so began my second try at making Queen Victoria’s favorite cake.


The directions in Paul Hollywood’s book say that you should beat the dry ingredients (equal parts flour, sugar, butter, eggs, and 4 tsp of baking powder) just until they are evenly combined. I think that my first attempt I took that too literally and didn’t get them combined well enough, so I turned on the mixer and let it do its thing for a couple of minutes until the batter was smoother, though the butter wasn’t completely smoothed out. I paid a bit more attention to spreading it into the baking tins evenly, too. Then I put it in the oven and did some squats and deadlifts.


I checked on it about 20 minutes into the bake and it looked like it was rising evenly. 25 minutes later it wasn’t quite even any more, but rather it looked as if it was rising slightly quicker around the edge than in the middle. I let it stay in the oven for a full 30 minutes, then pulled it out (hehe) to let it cool.

So they weren’t perfect, but they weren’t quite聽VICTORIOUS either. I let them cool and then made the whipped cream. I added a little Elderflower Liqueur to make it just a little more posh and Northern Euro-Exotic. Once it was whipped I slathered on jam, and then kinda stacked the cream a little higher in the middle to fake out the shape of the cake.

I dusted her down with icing sugar, and took a look. It’s way way way better than the first attempt, but definitely not a clear victory. I think this is just a Victoria Sponge, not a聽VICTORIOUS Sponge.聽I shall overcome this challenge.

Learning to bake with daddyPrimate: Victoria Sponge, a lesson in failure

I’ve been waiting and waiting and waiting to make something out of my new copy of Paul Hollywood’s聽How to Bake, and it finally arrived at the beginning of the week. The book is great, the recipes are laid out exactly in the fashion that I like and measurements are given by weight instead of volume. Wonderful. Since I’m on a dessert week, I thought I’d start with a cake that is apparently the聽quintessential basic-baker cake of England; the Victoria Sponge.

The description of a Victoria Sponge made it seem like something really special, and when I just searched for the image above (hahaha, wait until you see what MINE looked like) I realized that a Victoria Sponge is a cake-sized Madeleine! How delightful (it also means I got the texture right-ish!)
This leads to the actual baking. He (my good friend Paul Hollywood) said to put all the ingredients in the mixer and mix on low speed until everything is mixed, but not too long or the batter would tighten up as it cooked and become tough. So how long 聽is 聽long enough and how long is too long?
I decided to err on the side of too short of a mix. I put it all in my stand mixer, turned it on, and waited until I could no longer see globs of butter, then I put the batter into the cake tins and into the oven. It needed to bake for 25-30 minutes. I watched. I watched as the batter started to rise. I worried as I realized that it wasn’t rising as fast in the middle. WTF was happening? Well. It never rose in the middle.
It doesn’t look too bad when photographed from this angle, but from straight on, holy hell.

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Victoria sponge #fail #bakingfail #cake #cakewreck #lol

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LOL. It’s the most depressing looking Victoria Sponge on the internet. That said, it tastes pretty good. I need to try again, and do all the cream and stuff that Paul Hollywood said wasn’t classic, but this was a good start. Next time it will be a聽VICTORIOUS SPONGE.

Learning to bake with daddyPrimate: Black Forest Cake (Schwarzwald Kirsch Kuchen)

I’ve made cakes before. From boxes. I’ve even made a cake from scratch before, but that got rolled up into a swiss roll for a Buche De Noel. I’ve never made a three layer cake and stuffed it with booze-soaked fruit until today. As promised in my last post, I’ve made a Schwarzwald Kirsch Kuchen, or for you non Deutschsprecheren, a Black Forest Cake.


This cake is German, and as I have some German blood in my veins and minored in German language in college, I wanted it to be as damn authentic as possible. I found a recipe that really spoke with me, because the post started out with聽As a German woman…and though I am neither German nor a woman, I was looking for an authentic recipe from Deutschland for this cake. Also the description was for a dessert that wouldn’t be too sweet but would really kick you in the head with alcohol. HELLO.


So I baked the cakes. Rather than using baking powder the recipe called for buttermilk and baking soda, a combination which I learned yesterday is just mixing an acid (buttermilk) with a base (baking soda) which is how the cake gets its rise. I evenly divided the batter by weight into 3 9″ baking tins and popped them in my oven for about 20 minutes, let them cool, and then covered them with kirschwasser that I soaked the cherries for the filling in overnight.

So I stacked it, assembled it with a layer of booze-soaked cherries in between each layer of sponge, and iced it with whipped creme (and more booze) icing. By the way, holy shit does an offset spatula make it easy to ice a cake or what. WHO KNEW?

So after dinner we sliced it open, and I looked on with trepidation as mommyPrimate took a bite. She liked it! I was really worried that the cherry flavor was making it too sweet, but honestly with the chocolate-not-too-sweet sponge and the bite of the alcohol in the cherries it wasn’t too sweet at all. Good thing, because we’re eating this thing until later this week when I take on a Victoria Sponge.