Pear, Ginger and Rum Cake with Salted Caramel Frosting

This spicy and boozy cake was inspired by my recent trip to London. I love exploring culture through cuisine, and foreign grocery stores are always a pit-stop for me. I came across this pear, ginger, and white chocolate cake in Waitrose, and was intrigued by the flavor combination.

The cake is described as a “dark sticky ginger cake made with black treacle and stem ginger, filled and topped with British pear jam and white chocolate ganache with notes of caramel.” The original cake was cloyingly sweet due to the white chocolate caramel ganache, but I loved the autumnal harmony of the pear, ginger, and molasses.

I don’t see pear jam very often, and I loved how mossy and velvety it felt on the tongue. The stem ginger, which is basically ginger soaked in a sugar syrup, studded the cake and greeted my molars like spicier and more succulent versions of raisins. And the treacly stickiness of the cake felt so warm and cozy and perfect for the cold weather.

After examining the ingredients list closely, I came up with an action plan to put my own spin on this cake. While the Waitrose version used stem ginger, I used a David Lebovitz recipe that relied on fresh ginger – I wanted a less sweet effect. After reading the comments, I also halved the sugar and oil from the original recipe. The cake is spicy and flavorful, but definitely a little dry with less oil.

I didn’t find an affordable pear jam in my local grocery stores (Whole Foods had one for $10) so I decided to make my own. The jam involved dicing up less-than-ripe pears and letting it sit in sugar and a squeeze of lemon juice overnight, then heating it up while simultaneously mashing it to get a jam. I probably should’ve cut the pieces smaller, but I didn’t mind the toothsomeness.

While I found many recipes for caramelized white chocolate frosting, I decided to keep it simple and made a two-ingredient frosting from Trader Joe’s Fleur de Sel Caramel Sauce and unsalted butter. For me, the sweet, smooth and creamy frosting is what ties the whole cake together. I hadn’t planned to brush the cake with rum, but it seemed like a good idea and I did not regret it. The bite from the fresh ginger mellows after a day or two, as does the alcohol from the rum, and this is a cake that improves with time.

Pear, Ginger and Rum Cake with Salted Caramel Frosting

Makes one 8.5 x 4.5 inch loaf cake

Cake adapted from David Lebovitz in the New York Times; pear jam from Practical Self Reliance; salted caramel frosting adapted from Let The Baking Begin

Ingredients

Ginger Rum Cake
  • 140g molasses
  • 50g granulated sugar
  • 80g neutral oil, like canola
  • 150g all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 oz fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup dark rum (optional)

Pear Jam
  • 1 lb pears that are just shy of ripe
  • 100g sugar
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice

Salted Caramel Frosting
  • 4 oz butter, unsalted, room temperature
  • 7 oz salted caramel sauce

Instructions

To make the jam:

  1. Peel, core and dice pears. (Be sure to chop the pears relatively small, as they’ll remain close to that size in the finished jam.)
  2. Toss the pears in lemon juice and sugar, cover and refrigerate for overnight (12 to 24 hours). This step is important, and at an absolute minimum, they need 4 hours, preferably more.
  3. Place pear mixture into a heavy-bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil on high. The mixture will foam, so be sure your pan is big enough to handle foaming to avoid overflows.
  4. Stir the mixture occasionally, watching for overflows, and cook for about 10-15 minutes. If pear pieces are too large, crush slightly with a potato masher (optional).
  5. Cook until the pear jam reaches gel stage at 220 F, using an instant-read thermometer or testing a small amount on a plate placed in the freezer.
  6. Set aside the pear jam in the fridge for later use.

To make the cake:

  1. Position rack in center of oven. Heat to 350 degrees. Line a 8.5 by 4.5 inch loaf pan with parchment paper.
  2. Mix together the molasses, sugar and oil. In another bowl, sift together flour, cinnamon, cloves and black pepper.
  3. In a small saucepan, bring 1/2 cup water to a boil. Stir in baking soda, then mix hot water into molasses mixture. Stir in ginger.
  4. Gradually whisk the dry ingredients into batter. Add egg, and continue mixing until everything is thoroughly combined. Pour the batter into prepared pan, and bake for about 50 minutes, until top of cake springs back lightly when pressed or until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. If the top of cake browns too quickly before cake is done, drape a piece of foil over it and continue baking.
  5. Cool cake for at least 30 minutes. Run a knife around edge of cake to loosen it from pan. Invert cake onto a cooling rack, and peel off parchment paper.

To make the frosting:

  1. Start with room temperature butter. For this, remove butter out of the fridge for about 3 hours.
  2. Add the butter to the mixer bowl and whip for about 5 minutes, scraping down the sides several times throughout. Then add salted caramel sauce until just mixed.

To assemble the cake:

  1. Slice cake into three layers. Brush each layer with rum, if desired.
  2. Spread pear jam onto two of the layers.
  3. Assemble cake into a three-layered stack.
  4. I recommend freezing the cake for about 30 minutes for easier frosting. Spread salted caramel frosting all over the cake.

Dark Chocolate Rum Cake Balls

IMG_4159

I made some of these incredible chocolate rum cake balls for a work party and judging by how only two out of 60+ balls were left at the end of it, I’m guessing they were a big hit. Chocolate and booze just never goes wrong!

IMG_4154

As someone who prides herself on making things from scratch, I opted to make the chocolate cake and the glaze from scratch, even though I would be mashing them up into little balls later. The original recipe didn’t include rum, but I subbed some of the hot water that went into the cake with rum for some added booze. The cake itself was pretty darn delicious and moist and rich, but I knew I couldn’t just bring in a sheet cake to the party. No, that wouldn’t have been nearly as impressive nor delicious. I saved half the cake for non-party eating purposes, giving it away to appreciative friends who don’t get no homemade goodies all that often.

IMG_4155

As for the other half, I smushed it all up into little balls, while also throwing in some rum, heavy cream, and chocolate sauce, the proportions of which I eyeballed until the cake mixture became suitably compact.

While the original recipe called for a dark chocolate coating, I knew it was going to be a bit too bitter, so I used half milk chocolate and half dark chocolate instead. It was an excellent call.

IMG_4162

Dark Chocolate Rum Cake Balls
Adapted from Cookie Madness
Makes 60~ balls

Ingredients
1 3/4 cups (8 oz) all-purpose flour
2 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, natural type (try Dutch)
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup milk, room temperature
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup boiling water (or coffee)
1/2 cup rum

Ganache
3 ounces of chopped semisweet chocolate
3 ounces of heavy cream
6 oz milk chocolate
6 oz semisweet chocolate

Instructions
Preheat oven to 325 F. Spray a 13×9 inch pan with flour-added baking spray.
Mix together flour, sugar, cocoa, soda, baking powder and salt in large bowl. Add oil, milk, eggs and vanilla. Beat two minutes with electric mixer at medium speed. Stir in water and rum until blended. Batter will be thin.
Pour batter in the pan and bake for 45-50 minutes or until skewer or pick inserted comes out clean.
Let the cake sit in the pan for about 10 minutes, then carefully turn it from the Bundt.
Let the cake cool and then drizzle it with ganache. To make ganache, heat 3 ounces of heavy cream in microwave or saucepan. Pour over 3 oz chopped dark chocolate and stir until smooth. Let cool until thick enough to drizzle.

When you are ready to make the cake balls, set aside half the cake in a large mixing bowl. Mash up the cake. If you used all the ganache in the recipe, you won’t need any extra. Add rum, heavy cream and/or chocolate sauce until cake balls hold together. I recommend adding more rum than the other two ingredients.

Line a baking sheet with wax paper or parchment. Shape the scoops into smooth balls. Line the balls up on a tray, cover the with plastic wrap and put them in the freezer until firm.

In a chocolate melting pot, top of a double boiler or in the microwave, melt the milk and semisweet chocolate.

Dip cake balls into melted chocolate and lift with two forks, allowing extra chocolate to drip back into the pot. Put the balls on a wax paper lined cookie sheet to set.

Sachertorte – A Success

DSC00304

About a year ago, I attempted my very first Sachertorte – a classic Austrian chocolate cake with an apricot jam filling and a chocolate glaze. Unfortunately, my version failed miserably. This cake is a really old-school recipe that doesn’t involve any chemical leavening, and since I didn’t have an electric mixer at the time, whipping egg whites into stiff peaks was an utter bitch by hand.

But things are different now. This recipe is in fact, quite a piece of cake with a stand mixer.

IMG_4108

My cake ended up with a tight crumb that was still light in texture, and soaked up all that rummy Stroh-apricot jam goodness. The chocolate cake itself is rather dry and not very sweet by itself, so liberal amounts of apricot jam mixed with rum (if you can use authentic 160 proof Stroh, even better) is imperative. Let the glaze harden and set before eating even though it might be tempting – I promise it will be worth the wait.

DSC00309

I chose to go by Wolfgang Puck’s recipe because I knew he was Austrian, so he must know what he’s talking about. It didn’t fail me, but I have some edits that I made and I’ll recommend going forward.

  1. I used XL eggs, and hence just used an equal number of egg yolks and egg whites.
  2. My cake ended up rather thin, and without a specialized cake layering tool, it’ll be nearly impossible to cut it horizontally into thirds. Just make a half cake by slicing it all the way through and stacking it, like I did.
  3. To that note, I would halve the amount of apricot jam filling I make. I had quite a bit left over.
  4. I cannot emphasize more the importance of sifting your flour before mixing. This is a tight-crumbed cake that’s relatively low in fat compared to American cakes, so the texture of the flour will make an appreciable difference to the outcome of the cake.

Sachertorte
Makes 1 half 9-inch cake
Adapted from Wolfgang Puck

Cake:

6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, cut into small pieces
3 ounces butter
4 egg yolks
1 ounce sugar, plus 3 ounces
5 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup flour, sifted

Apricot Filling:
3/4 cups apricot preserves
1/2 tablespoon apricot brandy or rum

Glaze:
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, cut into small pieces
1 ounce butter
2 ounces heavy cream
Schlagobers, or whipped cream

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour a 9 by 2-inch cake pan.

In a bowl, combine the chocolate and butter and melt over a double boiler. Set aside to cool. In a mixer, using a wire whisk, whip the egg yolks with 1 ounce sugar until light and ribbony. Beat in the chocolate mixture.

In another bowl, beat the egg whites and salt until soft peaks. Slowly add the remaining 3 ounces of sugar and continue to beat until stiff peaks. Fold in the flour and then fold in 1/3 of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture to lighten it. Fold in the remaining egg whites, gently but thoroughly. Pour into prepared cake pan.

Bake for 40 minutes or until done. To check for doneness, insert a paring knife in center of cake. It should come out dry. Remove from the oven and cool on a rack.

To make the apricot filling: puree the apricot preserves. Stir in brandy.

Slice the cake into half to get two half-moons. Spread half of the apricot filling on the bottom layer. Top with a second layer of cake. Spread a thinner layer of apricot filling on top, but scrape off any protuberant preserve pieces. Chill for at least 30 minutes.

To make the glaze: in a bowl, combine the chocolate and butter. Melt over a double-boiler. Bring the cream to a boil. Stir into the melted chocolate. Cool until it reaches glazing consistency. Spread over and around the cake. Chill for another 30 minutes before serving. Serve a slice with Schlagobers or whipped cream.

Red Velvet Rum Balls


I was having one of those days where I was really jonesing to make something but I knew that I should be studying instead. In an attempt to compromise, I chose to make these red velvet rum balls: they don’t take a lot of care or attention, can be done in stages, and require such little thought that I could recite test material in my head while I shape the balls. And of course, nothing like the waft of rum to ease my tense nerves.


I happened to have a box of red velvet cake mix bought a long time ago, in the event of situations like these. Making the cake was easy enough, and mashing it up was kind of fun too. This recipe is no-bake too, so it’s probably kid/kitchen-noob friendly.

If you have never made rum balls before, you would probably freak out when you taste some of the rum-infused balls right after you add the rum. I definitely did. It tasted very strongly of rum, and I tried everything I could to make it less strong. Initially, I only used 1/2 the cake and 1/2 cup of rum, and after realizing that snacking on these rum balls could probably knock me out, I proceeded to add the next half the cake, 1/3 cup of sugar, and 1 cup of white chocolate chips. After lots of Googling, I realized that the rum balls mellow out if you let them sit, uncovered. The alcohol evaporates, and all you’re left is a subtle alcoholic flavor.


I coated the rum balls in dulce de leche, which I made out of milk that was past its expiry date. Note: homemade dulce de leche is a great way to use up milk especially if it’s starting to smell/taste a little bit off. The sugar/caramelization takes care of any rancidness and I’m sure the heat kills off any potential germs. I made some rum balls with a chocolate coating, some with a dulce de leche coating, and some with dulce de leche THEN chocolate. The dulce de leche coating was certainly quite messy to apply but it made the rum balls so much better. I realize that the dulce de leche coating sort of seeps into the rum ball, making it moister and sweeter.

Don’t you want to put the whole thing in your mouth and feel the textures dance on your tongue? Noms.

Red Velvet Rum Balls
Makes at least 50, I didn’t count

1 red velvet cake from mix, prepared (I used Duncan Hines and did the low-fat version; thought it was ok)
1/2 cup rum
1/3 cup white sugar
1 cup white chocolate chips
2 cups dulce de leche (I used Alton Brown’s recipe here, you probably could leave it out or sub with caramel coating from here)
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Crumble cake with a fork. Add sugar and rum, mix well. Mix in white chocolate chips. Shape into little balls, approximately 1-inch in diameter. Coat in dulce de leche, and then stick it in the freezer for half an hour or whenever you feel like it. The dulce de leche; in my experience, doesn’t really freeze anyway. Melt the chocolate chips and coat the balls. Chill in the fridge.

Tres Leches Cake

Tres leches translates into “three milks”, and that’s what makes this nondescript cake so delicious. The three milks are heavy cream, condensed milk and evaporated milk, and this mixture is poured over the light, airy cake that then soaks up the milks overnight. Conceptually, this cake is similar to a tiramisu, where a cake is left to soak up a liquid. The reason why this cake doesn’t get soggy is because it uses a recipe very similar to a sponge cake, which makes use of whipped egg whites.
Sad to say, my own version didn’t turn out quite so airy. I don’t have an electric mixer, and beating egg whites to a soft peak by hand is not easy. (Which reminds me of this mise en place relay race in Top Chef Just Desserts…) Despite the slightly gummy texture, it still tasted good. And I’m going to have to attribute that to the liberal amounts of rum I used. The recipe I used didn’t actually include rum in it, but the tres leches cake that inspired me to make it was from a restaurant called Amor Cubano and I had detected rum in it.

Also, my cake is frosting-less. I figured all that moisture from the milks would be enough to give it good moisture. I did NOT want to whip cream after having to whip egg whites.

Tres Leches Cake
Makes one 9-inch round cake
Adapted from Emeril Lagasse

  • 3 large eggs, separated
  • 1 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 cup skim milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup clear rum

Cream topping:

  • 1/2 14-ounce can fat-free evaporated milk
  • 1/2 14-ounce can fat-free sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/2 cup fat-free half-and-half (feel free to use full fat heavy cream for this and non-fat free for everything else)

Directions

To make the cake: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease and flour a 9 inch round pan and set aside.

In the bowl of a mixer, beat the egg whites on low speed until soft peaks form. Add the sugar gradually with the mixer running and peak to stiff peaks. Add the egg yolks 1 at a time, beating well after the addition of each.

Sift together the flour and baking powder and add to the egg mixture, alternating with the milk. (Do this quickly so the batter does not lose volume.) Add the vanilla. Bake until golden, 25 minutes.

To make the cream topping: In a blender, combine the evaporated milk, condensed milk, and heavy cream and blend on high speed.

Remove the cake from the oven and while still warm, pour the cream mixture over it. Let sit and cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 4 hours or overnight.