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basic bundt series: spice cake

Hey guess what!
It’s finally officially fall, y’all!

basic bundt series | spice cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again (and again and again and again).

Fall is absolutely my favorite time of year. It’s clearly, obviously, indisputably the best season ever, and if you don’t agree with me, you’re wrong.
I told you it was indisputable okay?
The only negative thing I could ever say about fall, if I had to come up with something, is that it doesn’t last nearly long enough.

basic bundt series | spice cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

Cooler weather means we can finally turn off the air conditioner and open up the windows. It means layered clothing, and finally giving up on the “beach body” I’m never going to have. It means beautiful brightly colored foliage, falling leaves, crisp fresh air, and spending as much time outdoors as possible before it’s too late.

It also means all of my favorite foods are back in season. Squash and pumpkins and root veggies and soups and stews and braises and apples and pears and fresh sweet cider and sugar-coated cider doughnuts and everything infused with warm homey baking spices.

basic bundt series | spice cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

Now, I’m well aware that Martha Stewart thinks pumpkin spice is for basic bitches only, but I also happen to know that she has a thing for a well baked spice cake. And hey, this is the basic bundt series after all, so why not embrace the basic and just go for it?

Basic or not, the classic combination of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, & clove will never go out of style. I mean, can you think of any better flavor to usher in the best season of the year?

No.
You can’t.

basic bundt series | spice cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

Anyways, not to toot my own horn or anything (toot toot), but this is one seriously delicious freaking cake!

It’s tender and moist with a soft delicate crumb, a refined subtle sweetness, and the perfect amount of spice. I tested this recipe half a dozen times to get it juuuust right, and I seriously couldn’t be happier with the results. My coworkers, for that matter, couldn’t have been happier that I baked so many cakes to get the recipe just right either. The poor dears.

basic bundt series | spice cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

My favorite thing about this recipe though, is just how versatile it is.

The whole idea behind the basic bundt series was to come up with simple and straightforward, but completely flawless, cake recipes that can either be baked and enjoyed as is, or gussied up and personalized with a few easy additions or substitutions.

basic bundt series | spice cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

When I did my recipe testing this time around, I didn’t just play with the spice levels to perfect them, I also experimented with different “liquid” ingredients to change the flavor profile. I started with and perfected a simple buttermilk-based spice cake, but then I tried swapping the buttermilk for other ingredients like unsweetened applesauce, grated fresh apples, and canned pumpkin puree.

Without changing a single other ingredient, swapping out the buttermilk for something else produces an entirely new and distinctly different cake! I promise that I’ve tried and tested all of these substitutions and they’re all equally delicious and perfectly spiced.
The pumpkin version was definitely a favorite with my (decidedly basic) coworkers.

basic bundt series | spice cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

The endless variations you can put on this recipe don’t have to stop with swapping out the buttermilk either. This cake is just screaming for a cup of toasted walnuts or pecans, or a bit of buttery streusel. Even changing the glaze could make a difference in the flavor profile. I decided that a tangy cream cheese glaze would pair perfectly with any one of the buttermilk, apple, or pumpkin versions of the cake; but I think that a thick caramel glaze would be heavenly too. You could also do a bourbon glaze, or maybe even just sprinkle the cake with cinnamon and granulated sugar.

No matter what variation you choose to bake though, this perfectly spiced basic bundt is sure to satisfy the basic bitch in all of us this fall.

basic bundt series | spice cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

Spice Cake Bundt

3 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
4 large eggs
1/2 cup peanut oil (or vegetable or canola oil)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup buttermilk *see note below for alternatives

Preheat oven to 350F.
Butter and flour a 10 to 12 cup bundt pan (or spray with a baking spray that includes flour), and refrigerate while preparing the cake.

Whisk flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, & nutmeg together in a bowl and set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, sugar, & brown sugar together on high speed until light and fluffy, about three minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the eggs, one at a time, scraping between additions. In a small bowl or measuring cup, stir together oil, vanilla, & buttermilk (or substitution). In the bowl with the butter and sugars, alternate additions of the flour and buttermilk mixtures at low speed, beginning and ending with flour. Mix just until combined and do not overwork the batter. Scrape down the sides of the bowl to make sure all ingredients are well incorporated.

Pour the batter into the prepared bundt pan, smooth out the top, and firmly pound the pan against the countertop several times to tap out any air bubbles. Bake in the center of the oven for 50 to 55 minutes, or until a toothpick or cake tester comes out clean from the center of the cake.

Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool for about 20 to 30 minutes before turning the cake out onto the rack to cool completely. Once cool, drizzle with cream cheese glaze (recipe below) if desired. Cake should keep, in an air tight container at room temperature, for about 3 or 4 days.

*baker’s note:
Changing the flavor profile of this cake couldn’t be simpler.
Just omit the buttermilk completely, and substitute with one of the following:

  • 1 1/2 cups unsweetened applesauce
  • an entire 15 oz can (1 3/4 cups) of pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 2 cups grated baking apples, well packed (peeled and cored before grating)

The applesauce cake should bake for the same time, and the pumpkin and grated apple cakes may take about 5 extra minutes or so.

Cream Cheese Bundt Glaze: 
4 ounces (1/2 package) cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 to 6 tablespoons milk

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the cream cheese until it’s soft and smooth and light. Add the powdered sugar, vanilla, and 3 tablespoons of milk and blend until there are no lumps. If necessary, add more milk, a tablespoon at a time, beating after each addition until the glaze reaches the desired drizzle-able consistency. It should be about the consistency of melted ice cream to drizzle correctly.

Place a tray under cake and cooling rack to catch any drips. Pour glaze over cake and let the glaze work its way down the side, gently tapping the tray on the counter to smooth it out if necessary.

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coconut lime braised chicken thighs

Why hello there old friend! Long time no see!

coconut lime braised chicken thighs | Brooklyn Homemaker

Being a food blogger and working full time for a kitchenware retailer basically means that from November to January I’m a busy little bee. With Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s coming one right after the other, I don’t have a second to even pick my nose for two whole months.

coconut lime braised chicken thighs | Brooklyn Homemaker

This holiday season officially kicked my over-padded butt, so with the coming of the new year and the official end of the holiday season, I decided to take a brief but much needed and well deserved break.

I hope you were able to find some way to manage in my absence.
You knew I’d be back eventually, didn’t you?

coconut lime braised chicken thighs | Brooklyn Homemaker

Here we are mid-January now, and things are finally feeling like they’re back to normal. In more ways than one…

Up until very recently, this “winter” has been unseasonably (and disconcertingly) warm here in Brooklyn. The day that Russell and I bought our baby little Christmas tree we passed blooming cherry trees as we carried it home. We had the windows open to enjoy the warm weather on Christmas day, but once I put the pork roast into the oven we were all fanning ourselves and dripping sweat. On New Year’s eve the begonias and impatiens in my back yard, and the rose bushes planted in front of work, were all blooming big and bright in stark contrast to the brown bare branches of Brooklyn’s trees.

Winter weather has finally caught up with us though, and the backyard is finally looking as brown and barren as it’s supposed to this time of year. Temperatures have finally begun dipping below freezing, and a few days ago winter winds knocked over the grill in my backyard as if to say, “Take that warm weather!” I even heard on the news this morning that we may soon see our first snow flakes in the next day or two.

coconut lime braised chicken thighs | Brooklyn Homemaker

With Winter’s frigid temperatures finally catching up to us, I’ve had a hankering for some rich and satisfying comfort food.

coconut lime braised chicken thighs | Brooklyn Homemaker

Chicken thighs are one of my ultimate favorite comfort foods. I’ve made lots and lots and LOTS of chicken thigh recipes over the years, and for good reason. They’re rich and flavorful and satisfying. They have way more flavor than chicken breast, and unlike breasts, thighs are almost impossible to overcook to the point where they dry out. As if that ain’t enough, they’re also significantly more affordable than breast meat.

While I’ve roasted ’em, seared ’em, and even grilled ’em, my favorite thing to do with chicken thighs is to braise them.

coconut lime braised chicken thighs | Brooklyn Homemaker

Normally I like to go for classic flavors like white wine and chicken stock, but this sudden onset of cold weather had me craving something more tropical. After a bit of thought I decided to try braising my beloved chicken things in bright Southeast Asian flavors like coconut, lime, ginger, and chili sauce.

coconut lime braised chicken thighs | Brooklyn Homemaker

I was craving something rich and hearty and satisfying, and this chicken does not disappoint.

The coconut milk adds a perfect creaminess without feeling heavy, and the acid of the lime brightens things up and cuts through the richness of the chicken. The fresh ginger, garlic, & sriracha add a gentle heat and a depth of flavor, which is perfectly complimented by the umami saltiness of a bit of soy sauce. After simmering for almost an hour, another squeeze of fresh lime and a heavy handed sprinkle of cilantro and green onion add a summery freshness that’s more than welcome in these chilly winter months.

coconut lime braised chicken thighs | Brooklyn Homemaker

Coconut Lime Braised Chicken Thighs

  • Servings: 4 to 8, depending on size of thighs
  • Print
3 to 4 lbs (about 6 to 8) chicken thighs (bone-in, skin-on)
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon coconut oil (or olive oil)
1 small onion, finely diced
3 to 4 cloves garlic, crushed or very finely chopped
2 tablespoons finely grated fresh ginger
1 to 2 tablespoons Sriracha chili sauce
1 cup low sodium chicken stock
2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce (or 1 tablespoon regular soy sauce)
1 (13.5 oz) can coconut milk
zest and juice of 2 limes, separately
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves, roughly chopped or torn
1 small bunch green onion, thinly sliced

Season the chicken thighs generously with salt and pepper. Let the chicken absorb the seasoning at room temperature for about 30 minutes before proceeding.

Heat coconut oil in a large lidded skillet, braising pan or dutch oven over high heat. Brown for about 5 minutes on both sides, starting with the skin side down first. Depending on the size of your thighs the chicken thighs, you may need to do this in two batches. Remove and transfer to a plate.

A lot of fat will likely render out of the skin, pour all but 1 tablespoon out of the pan. Reduce heat to medium and sauté onions for about three to five minutes, or until soft and translucent but not brown. Stir in garlic, ginger, and Sriracha and sauté for one minute more. Stir in chicken stock, turn heat back up to high, and reduce by at least half, for about five to ten minutes. Stir in soy sauce, coconut milk and zest and juice of one of the limes. Arrange chicken thighs, skin side up, in a single layer. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to low, cover with a lid, and simmer for half an hour. Remove lid and simmer for fifteen to twenty minutes more.

Stir in cilantro, green onion, and zest and juice of remaining lime. Serve over a bed of white rice or rice noodles, with a ladle of sauce and sprinkle of more fresh cilantro and green onion if desired.

orange carrot ice pops

Lately I’ve been trying really hard to stay away from foods with lots of refined sugar.

orange carrot ice pops | Brooklyn Homemaker

I confessed a few weeks ago that all my baking and bundt-ing had me feeling a little lethargic and down, so I’ve been trying my best to eat a little healthier and concentrate on fresh whole foods rather than baked goods and sweets.

I’ve actually been doing really well too!

orange carrot ice pops | Brooklyn Homemaker

That is, I was anyway, until Lindsay over at If the Spoon Fits had to go and post this Orange Creamsicle Ice Cream recipe. There I was, minding my own business, eating fruit instead of cake, and walking home after work every day, when boom!
Ice Cream!
Irresistible orange creamsicle ice cream! During last week’s damned heat wave mind you, when I couldn’t have been craving something icy and sweet any more than I was in that exact moment.

orange carrot ice pops | Brooklyn Homemaker

Not wanting to completely undo all the good choices I’ve been making lately, I started thinking about what I might be able to make to satisfy my intense craving without actually busting out the ice cream maker.

I recently saw these juice ice pops at the grocery store that had me really curious. They were made with flavor combinations you’d expect to find at a fancy juice bar- apple, celery, & ginger; or blueberry & beet. You know, that kind of thing.
I figured that trying something kind of like that could be healthy-ish and tasty-ish. I’m sure there’s plenty of sugar in them but it’s like, natural and stuff. Right?

I didn’t want to copy the fancy juice bar flavors exactly though, so I started trying to come up with a flavor that would A) taste great and satisfy my sweet tooth, and B) not taste like a health-food alternative to something I’d rather be eating.

orange carrot ice pops | Brooklyn Homemaker

Suddenly I thought of something called “Orange Carrot Elixir” that I used to drink when I was a teenager. I can’t even remember who made it, and I’m not sure the company is even around anymore, but I used to drink the stuff by the gallon.

Growing up in a small town in Upstate New York, my exposure to new and interesting flavors and foods left a lot to be desired. Fortunately, one of my first high school friends with a car shared my desire to branch out and try something new, and rather than doing drugs or causing mischief, we and our friends used to drive around checking out grocery stores and searching for their “International Foods” sections.
We’d drink Mexican Goya sodas (I especially loved tamarind flavor), eat carob “chocolates” by the fist-full, wolf down whole baguettes, and munch on marinated canned octopus. We’d drive almost an hour to Ithaca, NY to go swimming, visit Indian or vegetarian restaurants, and browse the prepared foods section at Wegmans where I’d stare at trays of sushi that I was too chicken to try.
In the grand scheme of things the Orange Carrot Elixir wasn’t nearly as exotic as some of the other things I was eating and drinking, but I seriously couldn’t get enough of the stuff.

Carrots, in sweet beverage form! Mind blown.

I decided it was worth a shot to try to capture that sweet orange-carrot combination but in frozen ice pop form instead.

orange carrot ice pops | Brooklyn Homemaker

It actually took me a few tries to get these right. First I just tried pureeing whole carrots with orange juice, but the end result was bitter and pulpy. Then I tried peeling the carrots to remove the bitterness and juicing them rather than pureeing to remove the pulpiness. This was a start but the pops still weren’t sweet enough and the flavor was kind of flat and boring. Next I added a bit of fresh ginger for kick and apple juice for sweetness. Muuuch better but the pops still weren’t quite sweet enough, and were icy hard rather than bite-able and tender like store bought ice pops.

I did some reading online and found out that since ice pop manufacturers are able to freeze their pops much faster at lower temperatures that home freezers, some type of thickener like cornstarch or gelatin is needed to help give homemade ice pops a better texture. This also keeps the juices from separating before they freeze, and helps prevent the pops from dripping while you eat them. Since ice pops (and ice cream) are frozen, they also need a little bit of extra sugar because freezing-cold foods slightly dull your sense of taste. I went ahead and added juuuust a little extra sugar, and a little bit of cornstarch, and bingo! Success!

If you don’t have a vegetable juicer you can still easily make these at home using store bought juices. Most grocery stores these days (at least here in my neck of the woods) carry bottled carrot juice, so I don’t think it should be too hard to find. The only thing you’ll need to do differently is to add grated ginger in with the sugar and cornstarch, and then strain out the pulp just before pouring into  your molds. I promise I tried this during one of my experiments and it worked great.

These puppies are TASTY! They’re bright and citrusy and summery, with just a touch of fresh spicy zing from the ginger. The carrot juice and orange juice are a match made in heaven and the apple juice just helps sweeten things up. They’re just sweet enough, with a really great bite-able texture, and the absolute last words that come to mind is “health food” or “diet”.

Craving satisfied. Officially.

orange carrot ice pops | Brooklyn Homemaker

Orange Carrot Ice Pops

  • Servings: makes ten 3-ounce ice pops
  • Print
3/4 cups apple juice (I used fuji apples)
1 3/4 cups orange juice
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
pinch of salt
zest of 1 orange
1 cup carrot juice (from about 2 lbs peeled carrots)
1 to 2 inch peeled chunk of fresh ginger (juiced with carrots if possible, finely grated if not)

In a medium saucepan, combine apple juice, orange juice, sugar, cornstarch, salt, & orange zest. If you don’t have a juicer at home you’ll also need to add your grated ginger now as well.

Bring mixture to a boil over medium heat, whisking regularly to prevent lumps. Once the mixture has boiled and thickened to a citrus-curd-like consistency, remove from heat. Add carrot juice and ginger juice (if you aren’t using grated ginger) and whisk to combine. If using grated ginger, strain mixture through a fine mesh strainer to remove pulp.

Pour the mixture into ice pop molds (makes enough liquid to fill ten 3-ounce pops). If your ice pop maker comes with plastic sticks, insert now and freeze at least 4 hours or until solid. If using wooden sticks, cover the mold and freeze for 45 minutes to 1 hour before inserting sticks and freezing for at least three hours more.

To un-mold your pops, run them under warm water to 10 to 15 seconds each. Pops should slide out of molds easily and can be quickly refrozen and stored in a ziplock bag or individually wrapped in plastic wrap.

thai style chicken noodle soup

March is here, which means that winter is finally on it’s way out!

thai style chicken noodle soup | Brooklyn Homemaker

The other day I got off the train after work and looked up to notice the last warm fingers of daylight still touching the tops of the buildings in my neighborhood. I can’t tell you how warm and fuzzy that made me feel after walking home in the dark all winter long.

The days are getting longer, the air is getting (ever so slightly) warmer, and while the snow still seems to keep falling, spring will be here in just a few short weeks.

thai style chicken noodle soup | Brooklyn Homemaker

For now though, it’s still winter. If I ever had any doubt, all I’d have to do is look out my bedroom window to see the blanket of white snow perforated in tight tracks by the paws of little pups.

thai style chicken noodle soup | Brooklyn Homemaker

I’m no stranger to long winters. I lived in the Adirondacks for my college years, and grew up in Central New York, the land of lake effect snow and highway clogging blizzards.

Winters in the city have always paled in comparison, being more about rain and slush than actual snow accumulation. When I first moved to Brooklyn I would laugh when people complained about winter weather, but after living through more than a few New York City winters, I realize that freezing rain and grey haze are just as depressing and awful as snow that won’t quit piling up.

thai style chicken noodle soup | Brooklyn Homemaker

This winter has been one of the coldest on record here in Brooklyn, and has felt like one of the longest.

I have to admit, I’m over it.
Officially.

thai style chicken noodle soup | Brooklyn Homemaker

The idea for this recipe came from my desire for something warm and homey and satisfying, like old fashioned chicken noodle soup, mixed with my yearning for bright summery flavors that might draw me out of my cold weather funk.

I thought it was worth a shot to try marrying the idea of chicken noodle soup with the flavors of a Thai Tom Kha Gai coconut soup.

thai style chicken noodle soup | Brooklyn Homemaker

Let me tell you, this soup is amazing. It’s rich and satisfying while somehow also feeling light and healthy.

It’s got a mildly sweet tanginess from the acidic lime juice, a nice bright tropical creaminess from the coconut milk, and just a hint of spice from the fresh ginger and sriracha. The chicken thighs and stock add a nice richness and the carrots give it that traditional chicken soup feeling. The torn cilantro and green onion round out the flavor with green summery freshness, and the al dente rice noodles add a nice bit of texture and substance.

All together every bite is a bright vibrant burst of the tropics in the midst of a dreary grey winter.

thai style chicken noodle soup | Brooklyn Homemaker

2 tablespoons coconut oil (or olive oil)
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons finely grated ginger
4 carrots, thinly sliced into disks
1 1/2 lbs skinless boneless chicken thighs
sea salt to taste
4 cups chicken stock
1 14 oz can coconut milk
juice of 1 to 4 limes *see note
1 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons sriracha
1/2 cup sliced scallions
1/2 cup torn cilantro leaves
6 oz package of rice noodles, softened or cooked according to package

Preheat oil over high heat in a large heavy bottom stockpot. Add garlic & ginger and cook, stirring often, for 1 minute. Add carrots and cook for 1 minute more. Add chicken thighs and cook for about 3 or 4 minutes. Add chicken stock & salt bring to simmer. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove chicken thighs with a slotted spoon and set aside to cool for 5 minutes or until cool enough to handle. Skim any foam off of the stock. Slice or shred chicken into bite sized pieces. Add the chicken pieces back to the stock along with coconut milk, lime juice, fish sauce, & sriracha. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Bring just back to a simmer, remove from heat, add scallions and cilantro. Ladle into bowls, serve with a generous handful of rice noodles.

*cooks note: I am crazy for citrus so when I developed this recipe I used the juice of 4 limes. I was thrilled with the flavor and posted the recipe the way I liked it.
Over time, a few readers expressed that it was too much for them and they’d prefer it with less lime if they made it again. I’d suggest you that start with the juice of one lime and give it a taste before deciding if you’d enjoy more.