Christmas Bakes!

Chocolate cheesecake, Pulla, canalés, rum cake, Christmas cookies

I was in charge of desserts for our family gathering, and I had a lot of fun this year. I made a chocolate cheesecake (inspired by this one from TheRobbylicious blog), two loaves of braided cardamom bread (this recipe is for Pulla from the Saveur website), canalés from the blog mamangerie, rum cake (from the King Arthur Flour site), and some cookies (sugar, oatmeal, and snickerdoodles).

It was my first time making canalés, and I was very happy with the result. The recipe is clear and easy to follow (thanks, Sabine!), and the silicone pan was well worth the $9 investment. I didn’t do beeswax, and I got this tip from the baker at a nearby coffee shop: do two coats of melted butter before baking, putting the pan in the fridge in between.

This sugary smorgasbord was partly inspired by my discovery of The Great British Baking Show on Netflix last week (the name was changed from The Great British Bake Off for American TV, for some reason). I fell in love with the show, its focus on the technical aspects of baking, and the overall niceness of the contestants, judges, setting, etc. I found it much more enjoyable to watch than most shows on the Food Network, with their emphasis on drama between contestants and swearwords being beeped every few seconds. It’s not that I have a problem with swearing–I’m from New Jersey, after all–it’s just that it can be (BEEP)ing distracting when I’m trying to (BEEP)ing learn something.

The show inspired me to try some fun decorations for the cheesecake–the idea to pipe the whipped cream and the chocolate shapes came from things I’d seen.

I’m happy that I came across the show when I did. It was just right right time to explore new desserts and learn new things. Watching something that is so dedicated to the techniques and joy of baking made my holiday baking a very enjoyable experience this year.

Mother’s Day Rum Cake

rum cake bundt pan
Rum cake for Mama!

I made a rum cake for Mother’s Day. I have made this recipe before, the first time for Christmas two years ago. It immediately became a family favorite.

rum cake bundt pan
This cake has an almond meal crust. I usually do pecan. Both are delicious.

The recipe, Carribean Rum Cake from King Arthur Flour, is a bit intimidating to people like me, who don’t often bake cakes from scratch. Not intimidating because it’s hard, it’s actually very easy, but because of the amounts of the ingredients. A stick of butter. A cup of sugar. Add another of each of those for the soaking syrup. Four eggs in the cake batter. A cup of rum overall. You just have to go for it and remind yourself that this is for a special occasion.

Heritage Bundt pan by Nordicware
Heritage Bundt pan by Nordicware

This was the first recipe I tried when I bought this Bundt pan (also from King Arthur Flour). I had never owned a Bundt pan before, and I loved this style. The brand is Nordicware, made in Minnesota!, and they have many beautiful styles of Bundts.

rum cake
The cake rises quite high while baking, but will sink down below the edge on the pan as it cools.

Part of what makes this cake so deliciously moist is the soaking syrup. Butter, sugar, rum and water are heated and poured on top of the cake after it comes out of the oven. The cake sits overnight as the syrup soaks in. This is a heavy cake.

rum cake bundt pan
The cake really will soak up all this syrup.

For all you moms out there, this slice is for you! I hope you had a great Mother’s Day.