Courgette Cake with Hazelnuts

Three years ago, for my mother’s 70th birthday, I brought my mother to Ireland. It was my third time visiting so I knew some places we had to visit together and Killruddery House, just outside of Dublin, was a must see. You may recognize Killruddery house from movies and television. It was a location for filming The Tudors, Excalibur, Ella Enchanted, My Left Foot, and even a new Netflix series, Fate; The Winx Saga. It really is a spectacular home. Built in 1618 it is still home to the same family. The grounds and gardens are beautiful. I walked and snapped photos for hours. Wouldn’t you love to have a huge soirée here? They host functions in the Orangery, the domed area of the house in my picture below.

This gate!

Once 3:00 rolls around it’s tea time. Naturally, they have a Tea Room with freshly baked goods for sale. It’s a beautiful building, too, with an octagonal roof and encircled with robin’s egg blue painted iron trellises. From inside, the stained glass windows radiate a warm glow and creates a homey, cozy feeling as you’re looking over all their lovely treats.

The Tea Room
The Tea Room
The Tea Room
My slice of Killruddery’s Courgette Cake with Hazelnuts

I so enjoyed that cake, savoring each and every bite sitting peacefully beside the lavender and roses. The cake had a perfectly moist crumb, a sweet and creamy cream cheese frosting studded with hazelnuts. This was not your typical zucchini cake. This was light and scrumptious. I tried to get the Killruddery recipe but that didn’t work out so I decided I could recreate it myself at home. After some experimenting I think I nailed it. Below are two pictures of my latest rendition. I had a little fun with my piping bag. You don’t need to frost it that way. I was having fun using a biscuit cutter to cut the cake into individual cakelets.

My courgette cake

Courgette Cake with Hazelnuts
Makes one 9×13 cake

Cake Ingredients:
3C flour
2 1/2C grated yellow courgette (about 2 small yellow zucchini) squeezed dry
1 1/2C sugar
1C blanched and peeled hazelnuts, rough chopped
1/2C unsalted butter
1/2C buttermilk
1/4C orange juice
3 eggs
2T orange zest
2t vanilla paste or extract
1t baking soda 1/4t baking powder

Cake Directions:
Have all ingredients at room temp before starting.
Preheat oven to 325°. Prepare a 9×13” baking pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper and use Baker’s Joy spray or butter and flour the inside.

Combine all the dry ingredients in a bowl and set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer using the paddle attachment, beat the sugar and butter until doubled in volume and fluffy, about 5-7 minutes. Add in the eggs on at a time, scraping down the bowl as needed. It will look separated. Don’t worry. Add in the orange juice, orange zest, and vanilla. Beat until smooth. Add in the flour mixture a little at a time.

Remove the bowl from the mixer and fold in the grated yellow zucchini and cup of chopped hazelnuts. Pour into the pan and smooth out the top. Give it a few tamps on the counter, too. Bake for about 50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then remove to cooling rack. Cool completely and frost with orange cream cheese frosting. Top with more hazelnuts and freshly grated orange zest.

Frosting and Topping Ingredients:
8 oz soft cream cheese
4-5 cups sifted powdered sugar
2T orange juice, strained of pulp
3/4C – 1C blanched and peeled hazelnuts for topping
2-3T orange zest for topping

Frosting Directions:
Beat butter and cream cheese until smooth. Add the powdered sugar, zest, and orange juice. If it’s too thick, add more juice. Too thin? Add more sugar.

Notes:

Toasting the hazelnuts will change the flavor focus. I don’t toast them for this recipe. Remove the skins; the skins are bitter. You can usually rub them off between your fingers using a dishtowel.

Top the cake with the fresh orange zest at serving.

When baking, always bring ingredients to room temp before starting.

Do not over-beat cake batter. Only mix long enough to combine ingredients. A few lumps are fine.

Coconut Rum Banana Bread

I’m not a fan of ripe bananas. If it a banana has even a HINT of a brown spot it’s inedible to me. Dead to me. I won’t eat it. I know, I know. It’s a quirk, but hey, I’m OK with it. The bananas I use for a quick bread are ripe but don’t have lots of spots. I prefer the less sweet taste and firmer texture of a yellow banana. If you like brown bananas go for it! It will be sweeter and probably taste more familiar. Not many people use yellow bananas for banana bread. That’s my special banana weirdness.

I recommend only lightly mashing the bananas. You will get some more tasty chunks of banana in the bread. If you prefer brown bananas you may end up with more of a liquid after mashing. It will still come out great, it’s more a matter of texture and what you prefer.

Note: With quick breads the standard is creaming butter and sugar, adding eggs one at a time and then alternating the dry and liquid ingredients, being mindful of not over-mixing. This recipe follows the same pattern. Measure out all ingredients before starting. I learned this lesson many years ago: mise en place, everything in its place. Read the recipe first, collect and measure ingredients, and THEN start your process.

Coconut Rum Banana Bread

Makes 1 large loaf or 3 mini loaves

Ingredients:

  • 2C pastry flour
  • 1C sugar
  • 1 1/2C gently mashed bananas, about 3 medium-sized
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2C shredded, sweetened coconut + 2T for topping
  • 1/4C unsalted butter, room temp (4T)
  • 1/4C plain full-fat yogurt
  • 3T spiced rum
  • 3/4t baking soda
  • 1/2t salt
  • 1t vanilla extract

Optional Glaze Ingredients:

  • 1/2C confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 1/2T freshly squeezed lime juice

Directions:

If you are making one 9 x 5″ loaf, preheat oven to 350°.

If you are making the smaller loaves, preheat to 325°.

Prepare your loaf pans with Baker’s Joy spray or butter and flour them. Set aside.

In a medium sized mixing bowl, add the flour, 1/2C coconut, baking soda, and salt. Give a quick stir to combine.

In a small bowl, combine bananas, yogurt, rum, and vanilla. Stir to combine.

In the large bowl of a mixer (or deep bowl good for hand mixer) cream the butter and sugar until light and airy. Use a rubber scraper to scrape down the sides if the sides are not mixing well. Add the eggs one at a time and continue creaming them together until combined and light in texture.

Alternate adding the dry and liquid ingredients to the creamed butter, sugar, and egg mixture. Do not over beat.

Spoon the batter into your loaf pan or mini loaf pans (filling 3/4 full). Sprinkle the top with the 2T of shredded coconut that was set aside earlier.

Bake one large loaf for 60 minutes or until golden and a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Bake the mini loaves for 30 minutes or until golden and a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Let sit in the loaf pan for 5-10 minutes until inverting onto a cooling rack. Once completely cool, make a glaze with the sugar and lime juice and drizzle over the bread.

 

 

 

 

 

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Gâteau à L’Orange for my birthday!

The best thing about a birthday is the cake. I’ve been searching for 20 years for the perfect cake. Why 20 years? Well, 23 years ago I hired Ruth Angorn to bake my wedding cake…then she made our daughters’ Christening cakes and then their birthday cakes until she retired and limited her cakes to only weddings. We could barely afford to go out for a fancy dinner back in those days when Todd was a new auditor at KPMG and I was home with two daughters, but we certainly splurged on good cakes. It was a sad day when I made the call to order a birthday cake and she said she was cutting back on baking. Tears were shed. Some minor hysterics ensued, but I vowed to find a replacement. I haven’t found it yet. Her cakes were magnificent. TRULY. They were as delicious as they were creative and beautiful. I haven’t had cake like that since. And I’ve tried. and tried.

My love affair with cake began on this day 6/10/89: Two lemon cakes with raspberry filling and one groom’s cake that was chocolate with raspberry filling.

Cake needs to be the perfect combination of moist crumb and delicate flavor. The icing needs to be an all-butter buttercream, but most bakeries don’t use butter because of the cost; they use shortening or a combination of butter and shortening. It’s easy to tell if your eating buttercream (100% butter) or a shortening “buttercream” frosting. yuck. The frosting is slimy and leaves a nasty coat in your mouth. Buttercream simply melts and releases flavors with each bite – real buttercream tastes sooooo much better.

Here’s a few or Ruth’s cakes she baked for us before she retired.

A Christening cake.

Kelsey’s 1st Birthday. I asked Ruth for a basket of roses.

Kate’s 1st Birthday. Big Bird was a cupcake.

After some time off (years) from baking my family’s birthday cakes, I’ve decided that I’m getting back into it. Forget about finding the elusive perfect bakery cake. I’m going to make my own.

As my dad used to tell me: “If you want something done right do it yourself.”

This is the best part, but don’t over mix or you will create gluten with the flour and the crumb won’t be light and fluffy.

My 45th birthday cake is Julia’ Child’s Gâteau à L’Orange à la Crème d’Orange ( Orange spongecake with orange-butter filling) from Mastering The Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle, and Simone Beck. The cream cheese icing is my old recipe. I doubled Julia Child’s gâteau recipe and baked two 9″ round cakes so that I could make a double layer cake. You can also split the cake using a serrated knife to get your layers, but the layers will be very thin. The Crème d’Orange is so delicious. It’s like lemon curd only better. You will have plenty for another cake or to plop on some scones.

 

Make one 9″ round cake

~ Gâteau à L’Orange Ingredients:

9″ round cake pan

⅔C + 1T sugar

4 egg yolks

4 egg whites

The grated rind of 1 orange

⅓C strained, freshly squeezed orange juice

pinches of salt

¾C cake flour (scooped and leveled, turned into a sifter)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Butter and flour the cake pan. Measure out ingredients.

Gradually beat the sugar into the egg yolks and continue beating until the mixture thickens to form the ribbon. Add the grated orange peel, orange juice, and pinch of salt. Beat for a moment or two until mixture is light and foamy. Then beat in the flour.

Beat the egg whites and salt together in a separate bowl until soft peaks are formed. Sprinkle on the sugar and beat until stiff peaks are formed. Stir one fourth of the egg whites into the batter, delicately fold in the rest. Immediately turn into a prepared cake pan and run the batter up to the rim all around. Bake in middle position of preheated oven for 30 to 35 minutes. Cake is done when it has puffed and browned, and shows a faint line of shrinkage from the edge of the mold.

Let cool for 6 to 8 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the pan and reverse cake on a rack. If not to be iced, immediately reverse again, puffed side up. Allow to cool for an hour or two. When cake is cold, sprinkle it with powdered sugar or fill and ice the cake.

~ Crème d’Orange Ingredients:

6T butter

1⅔C sugar

2 eggs

2 egg yolks

The grated rind of 1 orange

¼C strained, freshly squeezed orange juice

1T orange liqueur

Directions:

Place all ingredients in a saucepan and beat with wire whip over low heat or no-quite-simmering water until mixture thickens like honey. When it is cooking properly, the bubbles that first appeared on its surface as it is heated will begin to subside, and if you look closely you will see a little whiff of steam rise; it will be too hot for your finger. You must heat it enough to thicken, but overheating will (of course) scramble the yolks.

When ready, set saucepan in cold water and beat for 3-4 minutes until filling is cool. (8) May be refrigerated for 10 days, or may be frozen.

My note: When assembling the cake, spread the crème between the two layers but leave at least ½” from the edge of the cake or it will leak over the sides.

 ~ Cream Cheese Icing Ingredients:

8oz. cream cheese

4C confectioners’ sugar

6T unsalted butter

1t orange extract

Directions:

In a medium bowl, cream together the cream cheese and butter until creamy and the smooth. Add the orange extract , then gradually stir in the confectioners’ sugar, beating in between additions until smooth and creamy. Ice the cake.

Store extra in the refrigerator for a week.

You can see little bits of orange zest. I added a scoop of the Crème d’Orange to the cream cheese icing.

Pretty and simple. It’s perfect.