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.

Lemon Coconut Butter Cake (gluten-free)

I can’t get enough lemon these days: lemon water, lemon pasta, lemon rice, lemon vinaigrette, and my newest recipe – lemon butter cake. 

photo 2-5Lemon Coconut Butter Cake (gluten-free)

Makes 1 loaf

Cake Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ C Cup4Cup Gluten Free flour (or use ¾C cake flour and ¾C all-purpose flour)
  • 1 ½ C Demerara or raw sugar
  • ½ C  sour cream 2% fat, room temperature
  • ½ C unsweetened, shredded coconut
  • 1 ½ sticks of butter (6 oz.), room temperature
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1t lemon oil (or zest from 2 lemons)
  • 1 fresh vanilla bean
  • ¼t baking soda

Glaze Ingredients:

  • 1 C confectioner’s sugar
  • 2-3T freshly squeezed lemon juice (about ½ of a large lemon)

Directions: Before making this recipe, gather the eggs, measure the sour cream and butter, and allow time for them to come to room temperature.

In a small bowl, combine the flour, coconut, and baking soda. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350°. Butter and flour a loaf pan and set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment on, combine the sugar and butter and whip until light and creamy. Slice the vanilla bean lengthwise and use a knife to run down the length and scrape out the black seeds inside. Add to the bowl with the sugar and butter. Drop in the sour cream, eggs, and lemon oil (or zest) and beat for one to two minutes until light and airy. Add the dry ingredients in two parts, beating on low until combined. Do not over mix.

Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake for 50 minutes to an hour, testing with a cake tester at 50 minutes. When the cake tester comes out of the cake cleanly, remove the cake from the oven. Let cool in the pan for 15 minutes then invert cake and place on a cooling rack to finish cooling.

While the cake is cooling, prepare the glaze. In a small bowl, combine the confectioner’s sugar and fresh lemon juice. Whisk with a fork until smooth. Put your cooled cake onto your cake plate and drizzle the lemon glaze over the top of the cake.

Optional: Garnish with lemon zest.

Gluten-Free Pineapple Carrot Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

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It’s time I started baking again. I love the comfort in baking – the precise ingredients, the blending of flavors, and oh! the aromas wafting through the house. Baking brings everyone to the kitchen. Carrot cake has that earthiness and grounding quality that warms the soul this time of year.  I’ve updated my recipe with gluten-free flour (better for you if you have any inflammation in your body or are celiac) using Cup4Cup, and substituting coconut oil for organic canola oil (coconut oil is miraculous). I use less cinnamon and sugar than most carrot cake recipes because I want to taste the individual ingredients and not be overpowered by the strong taste of cinnamon and sugar.

Gluten-Free Pineapple Carrot Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

Makes one 9″

cake Ingredients:

  • 1¾C Cup4Cup gluten-free flour
  • 1½C turbinado sugar
  • 2t baking soda
  • 1½t cinnamon
  • 1t salt
  • 1C flaked, unsweetened coconut ( I use Bob’s Mill brand)
  • ½C currants
  • 1C chopped pecans
  • 4 free range eggs, beaten
  • 1C melted organic coconut oil, cooled
  • 2t vanilla  (I like Nielsen-Massey Madagascar vanilla)
  • 2C shredded carrots (about 4, depending on their size)
  • 1C crushed pineapple, drained (1 can)

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350°. Butter and dust with flour (or use Baker’s Joy spray) a 9″ round springform pan. In a large bowl, combine all dry ingredients: flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, flaked coconut, currants, and pecans. Stir to combine.

In another bowl, combine all the wet ingredients: beaten eggs, melted and cooled coconut oil, vanilla, shredded carrots, and pineapple. Stir to combine. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until just combined.

Pour into the prepared springform pan and bake for one hour. Remove from oven, cool for 3-5 minutes and release the cake. Invert cake on a cooling rack or your cake dish. Cool completely before frosting the cake.
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Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting Ingredients:

  • 4C confectioner’s sugar
  • 1# cream cheese (two bricks), softened at room temperature
  • 8oz. of unsalted butter (two sticks), softened at room temperature
  • 1t vanilla extract (I like Nielsen-Massey Madagascar vanilla)
  • 1t natural lemon flavoring

Directions: Set your mixer to high and cream the softened butter and cream cheese in a mixer until smooth and creamy with no visible butter lumps, about 5 minutes. Stop the motor to add the vanilla extract and lemon flavoring. Whip to combine. Stop motor and add two cups of the confectioner’s sugar, cover the bowl with a towel (to keep sugar from dusting your entire kitchen), turn the motor to high, and whip the confectioner’s sugar into the butter and cream cheese until completely incorporated. Stop the motor again, add the remaining two cups of confectioner’s sugar, and whip until smooth and creamy and completely incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl if you need to. Refrigerate until ready to use. If it’s too hard to spread when it’s chilled, let it rest on the counter for fifteen minutes and then frost the cake.

Sprinkle the top with a little shredded coconut and lemon zest.

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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.