I’m a food nerd. I know everyone is surprised (shocked, really). So, when Caitlynn comes to me with a recipe for a 2000-year-old cake from ancient Rome, well, I’m intrigued.
And since I seem to have more time on my hands these days due to the that pesky virus invading the planet, she and I spent an afternoon trying two different versions of this cake. I’ll be honest, this recipe is not mine (obviously, since I’m not an ancient Roman). We took a cue from this site: https://www.howtocookthat.net/public_html/2000-year-old-cake-recipe-ancient-rome/. If you watch through the video, you’ll see that the cook tried three different versions of the cake and ended up liking the one with yeast the most.
Yeast in cake. This makes total sense as there weren’t many options for creating leavening in cakes back then and it got me thinking. I’m not convinced they would have had dried yeast back then. They likely would have had a sourdough starter. And they may have had wine with some fizziness, like Moscato.
In the absence of a chemical leavening agent like baking soda or baking powder, perhaps they used a fizzy wine, along with a sourdough starter to make their cakes. Or maybe they didn’t use the starter at all and just used the wine. All this speculation makes me want to travel back in time to find out for sure. Me in ancient Rome? What a sight to behold!
All this leads me to my version of the cake. I chose not to use yeast but to use Moscato Wine either by itself or with my trusty sourdough starter. And… since everyone is baking at home these days, finding whole wheat flour is impossible (really, people? All the flour?). In my hunt for whole wheat flour, I found the next best thing – whole farro, which happens to be an ancient grain. Yeah, it went old school real quick.
Our verdict: the version with the Moscato was the winner. Fair warning -- the cake is not that sweet. It’s dense with savory notes and a hint of sweetness. It’s actually quite delicious with a glass of Moscato. I baked the cake in a 9x5 loaf pan but you could certainly bake this in a smaller cake or loaf pan.
And you can make this cake however you see fit – all Moscato or using a blend of Moscato and sourdough starter, or maybe you want to use instant yeast with the Moscato. You can also use whole wheat flour if that’s what you have. In that case, can I borrow some?
Note the quantities for the recipe are in metric (grams, milliliters). If you have a scale, this will be perfect for you.
Yield: 1 cake
^We used a food processor to grind the wheat berries and almonds (separately). OR you can use whole wheat flour if you have it.
*For sourdough use these quantities for the Moscato wine:
Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Generously grease a small cake or loaf pan.
In a small bowl, whisk together the ground wheat, almonds, rosemary, and cinnamon. Set aside.
In another small bowl, whisk together the wine, honey, grape juice concentrate, and milk. Pour the wine mixture into the dry ingredients. Let sit for 15 minutes at room temperature.
Bake for 20-35 minutes, depending on the depth of the pan or until the cake starts to pull away from the sides of the pan. In a 9x5 loaf pan, the cake baked for 23-25 minutes.
Remove cake from pan. Drizzle with honey and sprinkle with hazelnuts. Serve at room temperature.
A few weeks ago, my husband met a chef who was trained in France. This chef brought a cake to a get together and my husband simply asked for the recipe to bring home to me. What I received was a recipe written most in French using grams (no cups or ounces) with minimal instructions.
Even though I prefer to bake by weight anyway, most of the products sold in the US are according to the US system (ounces, pounds) and most recipes are written using standard measurements like cups. So, I not only had to translate the French into English, which I did without any problems, thanks to years of reading French recipes and knowing French cooking terms but I also had to adjust the "grams" to the more recognizable "ounces."
This is a great cake to throw together. It's simple, straightforward and deliciously chocolatey. For the recipe, I did not covert the weighted ingredients into volume (cups). If you like to bake, this a good time for you to spend a few dollars on a scale and learn that baking by weight is much more accurate. I have both a digital scale and a standard scale with a dial. Either one will work. No measuring cups required, except to use as a scoop.
Yield: 1 9-inch cake
Lightly grease a 9-inch cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper (grease the paper). Set aside.
Preheat oven to 350ºF.
In the top of a double boiler, melt the chocolate. Stir until smooth. Add the amaretto. Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. In a small bowl, stir together the dry ingredients. Add the dry ingredients the egg mixture. Mix well. Pour in the melted chocolate and mix well to combine.
Pour batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until the cake begins to pull away from the sides of the pan. Remove from oven and cool completely. Invert cake onto a plate. Set aside while you make the ganache.
To make the ganache, warm the cream over medium heat until it begins to steam (right before it boils). Remove the cream from the heat and add the chocolate. Stir until melted. Pour the ganache over the cake. Allow to set for 30 minutes before serving.
Slice and serve. Great with either vanilla ice cream or whipped cream. Or heck, just have it by itself.
If you are looking for a recipe that is easy to put together, gluten free, and extremely delicious, then look no further. This is a classic recipe for a flourless cake. The best part -- you don't need to have a bunch of gluten free flours sitting around. All you need are eggs and chocolate. Seriously simple ingredients.
I paired this with a raspberry chocolate sauce. It isn't necessary but it sure is delicious. The sauce would work great with ice cream, too.
Flourless Chocolate Cake with Raspberry Chocolate Sauce
Makes 1 9-inch cake
Preheat the oven to 275ºF. Grease the bottom and sides a 9-inch cake pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper. Butter the paper. Set aside.
Melt the butter and chocolate together in a microwave or in a pan on the stove set on low heat. Stir until melted. Cool the mixture until it's lukewarm, about 5 minutes. Pour into a large mixing bowl. Whisk in the egg yolks, vanilla, and Kahlua. Set aside while you whip the egg whites.
In a mixing bowl, whip the egg whites on high speed until soft peaks form. Gradually add the sugar. Whip the whites until stiff peaks form.
Add one cup of the egg whites to the chocolate mixture. Stir to mix well. With a large spatula, gently fold in the rest of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture, making sure to completely incorporate the whites into the chocolate. To fold properly, do not stir the mixture. Move the spatula in the same direction, gently flipping the batter and whites over each other until it's homogenized.
Pour batter into the prepared cake pan. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until the cake feels firm in the center and begins to pull away from the sides of the pan. Cool completely. Dust with powdered sugar.
Heat the cream, raspberries and sugar over a medium heat until the berries have broken down and become mushy. Add the chocolate chips; stir until melted. Remove from heat and pour mixture through a fine mesh strainer. Refrigerate sauce until ready to serve. If sauce is too thick, stir in a little water to thin it out slightly.
A while back, I was shopping in a little market that specialized in Mediterranean products. As I perused the shelves, I found a jar of date syrup. Intrigued, I purchased it and took it home. And then it sat in my cupboard for a few months until I decided that I needed to use it. But how exactly, I didn't know.
There aren't many recipes floating around on the web using date syrup (or date molasses), so I had to piece together a couple different recipes to make my own. I realized that this syrup can be used like regular molasses and it gave me the idea to make a spice cake. Date syrup differs in flavor compared to molasses. It is fruitier and lighter in flavor. Even though I use it in a cake, it would also be good in a sauce served with meat or poultry. From what I can tell, it has many uses, much like molasses.
You can find date syrup in specialty grocery stores or on Amazon. You can also make your own if you have dates and sugar. I encourage you to go out and find a jar. You won't be disappointed.
Date Syrup Spice Cake
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Generously grease and flour a bundt pan. Set aside.
In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cardamom, and cinnamon. Set aside.
In a mixing bowl, cream together the butter, sugar, and date syrup until light and well mixed. Stir in the eggs, sour cream, orange juice, and orange zest. Mix well. Add the dry ingredients and combine well. Pour batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Cool the cake for 10 minutes in the pan. Invert the pan to remove the cake. Allow it to cool completely on a wire rack.
Make the glaze:
In a small bowl, stir together the orange juice, date syrup, and butter. Add enough powdered sugar to make a thick glaze (not too thick and not too thin). Pour glaze over the cake.
Right now, I'm addicted to anything containing brown butter. Why? Brown butter is just sooooo good, adding a nutty flavor to any recipe. Recently, I made Brown Butter Blondies, which were quickly devoured by my family. While I could have made blondies again, I decided to bake a cake. We had strawberries hanging around just waiting to be served with cake. And who doesn't like cake with strawberries?
This is a simple recipe to put together. However, you need a 10-inch cast iron pan for best results. You can make this recipe without the cast iron skillet, but it just won't be the same. Well, ok, it will still turn out fine, but the pan adds a little something extra to the appeal. Just be sure to grease the pan you are using to bake the cake.
Also, I served the cake with lemon Greek yogurt* but you can serve it with whipped cream. Whichever you choose.
Brown Butter Cake
Yield: 1 10-inch cake
Preheat oven to 350ºF.
In a 10-inch cast iron skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Continue to cook the butter until it turns amber in color. Pour the butter into a mixing bowl. Refrigerate for about 15 minutes while you gather the rest of the ingredients. Set the cast iron pan aside (do not wipe it out).
Add the eggs, yogurt, brown sugar, and sugar to the melted butter. Stir to combine well. Add the lemon zest. Stir in the flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir to combine well. Pour batter into the cast iron skillet. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the cake starts to pull away from the side of the pan and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Cool cake. Serve with fresh strawberries and sweetened whipped cream or Greek yogurt.*
*Lemon Greek Yogurt
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon honey
1-2 teaspoons sugar (optional)
Stir ingredients together. Refrigerate until ready to use.
I love replacing butter in recipes with olive oil. Even though I'm a fan of butter, extra virgin olive oil brings a nice fruity flavor to cakes and other recipes. Butter can be heavy at times in flavor and texture. By using olive oil, this cake is light and the perfect end to a meal. Aside from cutting the lemon into segments (pictures below), this recipe is relatively easy to put together. Serve with fresh berries and you have a nice, lovely cake to be enjoyed any time.
Note about the olive oil: Use extra virgin olive oil for the best flavor. Extra virgin is the first pressing of the olives resulting in the most fruity, fresh flavor of all the olive oils. Subsequent olive oils (virgin, pomace, etc) are made by pressing the olives a second or third time to extract the oil.
I baked this in a bundt cake pan but you can use any cake pans you want or even use muffin tins.
Lemon Olive Oil Cake
Yield: 1 10-inch bundt cake (or 1 9 or 10-inch cake)
Supreme or segment the lemons (pictures below):
Remove the zest (the yellow skin) of the lemons with a fine grater. You should have about 1-2 tablespoons lemon zest. Set the zest aside.
Cut each end of the lemon enough to revel the flesh. Cut between the pith (the white part) and the flesh of the lemon to fully remove the outer skin. Hold the lemon over a bowl. Cut out each segment of flesh between the membranes and place in a bowl. When all the lemon segments have been removed, squeeze the lemon over the bowl; discard any seeds. In all, you should have about 1/2 cup lemon segments and juice. Set aside until ready to use.
Make the Cake:
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Grease and flour a bundt pan, cake pans, or muffin tins. Set aside.
In a food processor, combine the lemon zest and sugar. Pulse for 10-15 seconds to blend together. Place the sugar in a mixing bowl. Add the olive oil, honey, eggs, and yogurt. Whisk to thoroughly combine. Stir in the lemons and juice.
In a small bowl, whisk together white whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, salt, and poppy seeds. Add dry ingredients to the olive oil mixture. Stir to combine ingredients well.
Pour batter into prepared pans. Baking time will vary depending on the size of the pans. For muffins, bake for about 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. For bundt or cake pans, bake for about 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Cool in pans for 10 minutes. Remove from the pans and cool completely on a wire rack.
Make the icing by mixing together the powdered sugar and milk to desired consistency. Pour over cooled cake. Serve with fresh berries.
This cake contains lentils. Yes. Lentils. But... you won't know there are lentils in the cake. They provide a little structure and moisture to the cake since it calls for whole wheat flour while hanging out in the background. Trust me, you cannot taste the lentils. My son, who happens to shun most vegetables (except for tomato sauce), devoured this cake.
I would venture to say that this cake just might be healthy. But I won't say that, should my kids be reading this. I'll just say that it tastes delicious. Served with a dollop of sweetened whipped cream and fresh berries and you have a lovely little dessert that is the perfect end to a meal.
Heck, you can even double the recipe, make a chocolate frosting, and have yourself a chocolate layer cake perfect for birthdays.
In case you are wondering, I have a gluten free version of this cake. I just have not made it yet. Will get on that soon.
One thing to note: I spent a few years developing lentil recipes. You can soak the lentils overnight if you want to in order to release more nutrients.
Chocolate Lentil Cake
Yield: 1 9-inch cake
1/2 cup yellow or red lentils
1 1/2 cups water
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup honey
1/3 cup olive oil
2 large eggs
3/4 cup lentil puree
2/3 cup water
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon Espresso powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
Place the lentils and water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to low. Cook until the lentils are tender, about 25 minutes. Drain. Reserve a couple tablespoons of liquid. Place the lentils in a food processor. Pulse until smooth. Add a little of the reserved liquid if the puree seems too dry. Allow to cool slightly before making the cake. The puree will keep in the refrigerator for 3-4 day or can be frozen for later use.
Preheat oven to 350ºF. Grease the bottom and sides of a 9-inch cake pan. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper. Lightly grease the paper.
In a mixing bowl, combine the sugar, honey, and olive oil. Add the eggs, lentil puree, water, and vanilla extract. Whisk until smooth. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, espresso powder, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture, mixing well. Whisk until smooth. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Remove from the oven and cool completely on a rack for 10 minutes. Remove the cake from the pan. Cool. Dust with powdered sugar and serve with sweetened whipped cream and fresh berries.