Buttermilk Spice Cake

The perfect autumn cake and one of the reasons I love this season. (Happy birthday to me!)

1 3/4 cups cake flour
4 large eggs, room temp
1/2 cup buttermilk, room temp
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 cups loosely packed brown sugar
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1 heaping tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp all spice
1 1/2 sticks butter, softened but still cool, cut into 12 pieces
1 recipe maple frosting (below) OR your favorite frosting

1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat to 350º. Generously grease two 8- or 9-inch round pans and line with parchment or wax paper circles. Grease paper circles and dust with flour, tapping out the excess.

2. Beat the eggs, milk, and vanilla with a fork in a bowl and set aside. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt ans spices in the bowl of a mixer and beat for 30 seconds to combine. With the mixer running on low speed, add the butter one piece at a time; mix until the butter and flour begin to clump together and look sandy and pebbly with some pieces the size of peas after all the butter is added.

3. With the mixer still at the lowest speed, add approximately one cup of the egg mixture then increase the speed to medium high and beat until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Add the remaining egg mixture in a slow, steady stream. Stop mixer, scrape down sides and bottom of the bowl. Beat again a medium high until thoroughly combined, about 15 seconds.

4. Divide batter equally between two pans; spread to the side of the pans and smooth with a rubber spatula. Bake until cake tops are light gold and an inserted toothpick comes out clean, 22-25 minutes (add ~5 minutes for 8-inch rounds). Cool on wire rack for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the perimeter of the pan to loosen. Invert cakes on to a large plate, peel of the paper and reinvert to cooling rack. Cool completely before icing.

Maple Frosting
1/3 cup butter, softened
3 cups powdered sugar
pinch salt
3 Tbsp milk
1/2 tsp maple extract

Beat butter in a small bowl until light a fluffy. Add 1 cup powdered sugar, salt, maple extract and 1 Tbsp milk. Mix slowly as the sugar incorporates then faster as is becomes smooth. Add remaining sugar and milk and repeat mixing. Beat until smooth and creamy. Add more sugar or more milk to achieve desired consistency (but no more than 1/4 sugar or 1 tsp milk).


Pickled Jalepeños w/ Onions and Carrots (Escabeche)

While these jars may not be as showy as the jewel-like peach jam, they are packed full of flavor and my favorite way to preserve jalepeños, not to mention carrots! Superb on tacos or as a garnish for mole.

1 lb (10-12 good sized) jalepeños
3 regular sweet onions (or 2 large)
4 medium carrots
4 cloves garlic
1/3 cup olive oil
2 tsp dried Mexican oregano
4 cups vinegar (apple cider or white)
2 Tbsp kosher salt
1 Tbsp sugar

1. Prepare 5 pint jars, lids, and rims and a hot water bath for canning.

2. Remove stems from jalepeños, quarter and clean out seeds. (Wearing rubber gloves for this is very helpful.) Peel garlic and cut in half. Slice onions and carrots into thick slices.

3. Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add jalepeños, onions, and carrots and sauté for 7 minutes. Add oregano and sauté an additional three minutes.

4. Add the vinegar, salt, and sugar and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes or until the jalepeños are cooked through (a dull olive green - no longer vibrant green).

5. Fill 4 - 5 pint jars with jalepeños and veggies. Pour vinegar mixture from the skillet equally into jars and seal. Process in the hot water bath fro 10 minutes.

Keep sealed jars on pantry shelf for up to one year. Once opened, keep refrigerated for up to 2 months.


Peach Jam w/ Variations

I am updating this from the 2012 post because I have achieved much better results using the regular pectin. I know it's more sugar, but it just sets up better. Also, I have perfected a couple of the variations below.

8 cups peeled and finely chopped ripe peaches (~12 good-sized peaches, Lemon Elberta peel the easiest)
1/4 cup lemon juice (2 lemons)
2 boxes Sure-Jell pectin*
11 cups sugar (measured into a separate bowl)

- - Makes about 14 half-pints

1. Prepare canning jars and hot water bath / canning pot first. Blanch peaches by submerging each peach in a large pot of boiling water for 30 - 60 seconds; remove with a slotted spoon and submerge in an ice water bath. Remove skins and pits, and finely chop.

2. Pour peaches into a large, heavy bottom stock pot. Add 1/4 cup lemon juice and stir until combined, then pectin and stir until combined.

4. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally to prevent burning. Bring to a full boil that cannot be stirred down (bubbles still rise while stirring well). Add remaining sugar quickly, bring to a full boil again and boil for one minute. Remove from heat.

5. Ladle preserves into hot, sterilized jars (a wide-mouthed canning funnel is oh, so helpful) and seal, allowing for 1/4-inch head space between the preserves and the rims of the jars. Use proper canning procedures if you would like to store jars outside of the fridge. Process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes (half-pints).

• Bombay: add 4 tsp Garam Masala before the pectin
• Jalepeño: add 4 roasted, peeled, cored, diced jalepeños
• Ginger Lime: add 1 Tbsp fresh grated ginger + substitute lime juice for lemon juice

* The directions in the Sure-Jell pectin box really emphasize measuring fruit and sugar exactly and timing the post-sugar one minute boil exactly for best results.


Freezer Breakfast Sandwiches

Freezer sandwiches that are surprisingly delicious!

Recipe makes 6 sandwiches, but I've found I can squeeze 12 sandwiches out of the recipe with ease.

10 large eggs
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon salt
6 slices Canadian bacon (optional)
6 slices cheese
6 English muffins

Heat the oven to 375°F

Whisk the eggs together with the milk and salt in a large mixing bowl. Film a 9x13 baking pan with cooking spray, and pour the eggs into the pan. Place on the lower rack in the oven. Bake until the eggs are puffed around the edges with golden spots, and a paring knife inserted in the middle comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool completely.

When the eggs are finished, place the English muffins cut-side-up on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for just a few minutes, until the edges are toasted. If desired, you can brush the muffins with butter before toasting.

Use a spatula to lift the eggs out of the pan and onto a cutting board. Using a large biscuit cutter or drinking glass (roughly the same size as your English muffins), cut 6 rounds out of the eggs.  I’ve found that I can get 8-10 rounds, so I can easily make 12 sandwiches using the scraps.

Top each muffin with an egg round, a slice of cheese, and bacon (if using). Finish by adding the muffin tops.

Wrap the sandwiches for freezing: Wrap each sandwich in a square of aluminum foil. Use a permanent marker to write the contents and date on the sandwich. Put all the sandwiches in a freezer bag or container. Freeze for up to 1 month.

Reheating instructions: Unwrap the frozen sandwich and place on a microwave-safe plate lined with a paper towel. (The towel helps absorb some of the melting ice so the bread doesn't get soggy.) Heat at full power for 1 to 1 1/2 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the egg is warmed through. 

modified from this recipe