Sour Cream Maple Cake with Maple Buttercream Frosting

We have enjoyed this wonderful “snack” cake on a couple of occasions this fall. It is dangerously easy to make and was incredibly moist and very tasty. I forgot to drizzle the top with maple syrup on both occasions. Not necessary!

The recipe was adapted from Bake from Scratch magazine, via the Washington Post. The frosting is a little bit salty- which we liked- but the salt level can be adjusted to taste. We ate it chilled. Great.

Yield: One 9×9-inch cake, about 16 pieces

For the Cake:

  • cooking spray or unsalted butter, softened, for greasing the pan
  • 2 1/2 cups (344 grams) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the pan
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup (240 milliliters) pure maple syrup, preferably dark grade
  • 1/2 cup (120 milliliters) canola oil
  • 1/2 cup (120 milliliters) whole milk, at room temperature
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature and lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup (50 grams) firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup (60 grams) sour cream, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the Frosting:

  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick/113 grams) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups (200 grams) confectioners’ sugar
  • 3 tablespoons sour cream, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup, preferably dark grade, plus more for drizzling
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (to taste)

To Make the Cake:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection, with the rack in the middle.
  2. Butter a 9-inch square baking pan. (I used cooking oil spray.) Line the pan with parchment paper, letting excess extend over the sides of the pan (the overhang will give you handles to lift the cake out after it’s baked). Lightly spray (or butter) the parchment.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  4. Add the maple syrup, oil, milk, eggs, brown sugar, granulated sugar, sour cream and vanilla, and stir with a rubber spatula just until combined and no streaks of flour remain. (There will be some lumps in the batter; this is okay.)
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Tap the pan on the counter eight times to release air bubbles.
  6. Bake 30 to 35 minutes, until deep golden and a cake tester or toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, covering with foil after 20 minutes to prevent excessive browning. (It may dip in the middle, don’t worry.)(I baked mine for 30 minutes but would add 2 minutes next time to decrease the amount of dipping.)
  7. Let cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Using the parchment overhang as handles, remove from the pan, and let cool completely on a wire rack.

To Make the Frosting:

  1. In the same (cleaned-out) bowl you used to make the cake, beat the butter with a handheld mixer on medium speed until creamy, 2 to 3 minutes. (You can do this in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, if you prefer.)
  2. Gradually add the confectioners’ sugar, beating until combined.
  3. Add the sour cream, maple syrup and salt, and beat at medium-high speed until smooth, 1 to 2 minutes. Do not overbeat. (Add 1/4 tsp salt, taste and add the additional 1/4 tsp, to taste.)
  4. Spread the frosting onto the cooled cake. Drizzle with additional maple syrup, if desired, and serve. (I preferred to serve it slightly chilled.)

Marcella Hazan’s Sicilian-Style Swordfish

This was such an elegant, fresh, tasty, and quick-cooking dish. It is part of a recipe collection that Food and Wine published for their 40th anniversary titled “Food & Wine: Our 40 Best-Ever Recipes.”

The recipe was contributed to this special issue by Marcella Hazan. I modified the ratio, using less swordfish but the same amount of sauce. By serving the fish over a bed of rice, the rice absorbed all of the extra deliciousness.

Yield: Serves 3 to 4

  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons table salt (I used coarse salt)
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 to 2 pounds swordfish steaks, cut 1/2 inch thick (I cut 1-inch thick steaks in half)
  1. Light a grill or preheat the broiler.
  2. Make the Sauce: In a small bowl, mix the lemon juice with the salt until the salt dissolves. (I used coarse salt- which took quite a while to dissolve.) Stir in the oregano. Slowly whisk in the olive oil and season generously with pepper.
  3. Grill the swordfish steaks over high heat (as close to the heat as possible), turning once, until cooked through, about 3 minutes per side (6 minutes total).
  4. Transfer the fish to a platter. (I covered the platter with a bed of rice first.)
  5. Prick each fish steak in several places with a fork to allow the sauce to penetrate. Using a spoon, beat the sauce, then drizzle it over the fish (and rice, if desired). Serve at once.

Pork & Asparagus Stir Fry

I loved that this was a veggie-loaded dish. Other members of my family may have complained that they wished it had more meat. 😉 Everyone enjoyed it!

I used asparagus combined with farm stand sugar snap peas and my CSA garlic scapes and bunching broccoli. Any crisp vegetable could be incorporated. We ate it over rice drizzled with Sriracha to add extra heat- perfect.

This Sichuan-inspired stir-fry recipe was adapted from Bon Appétit, contributed by Deb Perelman.

Yield: 4 servings

  • 1 to 2 T peanut or vegetable oil, divided (I used 6 teaspoons)
  • 2+ lbs crispy green vegetables (I used 1 lb asparagus, trimmed, cut on a diagonal into 1″–2″ pieces with 1 lb bunching broccoli, cut into 2″ pieces, and 2 cups sugar snaps)
  • 8 oz ground pork
  • pinch or dash of red pepper flakes, optional
  • 4 to 6 scallions, white and pale green parts only, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic scapes, finely chopped, optional
  • 5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 2″ piece ginger, peeled, finely chopped
  • 2 T Shaoxing wine (Chinese rice wine) or medium-dry sherry
  • 2 T soy sauce
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • white or brown rice, cooked, for serving
  • store-bought chili crisp or sriracha, for serving, optional
  1. Heat 1 or 2 teaspoons of peanut oil in a large skillet over medium-high to high. (I used a 14-inch stainless steel skillet.)
  2. Once pan is hot (oil will be lightly smoking), add half of the vegetables and a couple pinches of salt and cook, tossing only once or twice so the pieces have a chance to blister, until crisp-tender and lightly browned, about 4 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Add another 1 or 2 teaspoons of peanut oil to skillet (no need to wipe it out) and repeat process with remaining vegetables.
  3. Reduce heat to medium-high; add remaining 1 or 2 teaspoons of peanut oil to skillet, then add pork, spreading out into an even layer. Season with a couple pinches of salt and a pinch of red pepper flakes, if desired. Cook, undisturbed, until meat begins to brown underneath, about 2 minutes.
  4. Break up meat with a wooden spoon and add scallions, garlic scapes (if using), garlic, and ginger. Cook, stirring, until pork is crisp and mixture is very fragrant, about 2 minutes. (I used a mini-food processor to finely chop the scallions, garlic, garlic scapes, and ginger.)
  5. Add wine and soy sauce and return the vegetable to the skillet. Cook, turning to coat with pork mixture, until heated through, about 1 minute.
  6. Transfer stir-fry to a platter or large shallow bowl and drizzle with sesame oil. Serve with rice and hot sauce.

Shrimp & Basil Stir-Fry

My herb garden has been beyond fabulous this year. I wanted to make sure that I made this dish before my beautiful basil faded away.

This dish was described as being “more addictive than Doritos.” 🙂 The recipe is from Bon Appétit, contributed by Andy Baraghani. I don’t usually follow a recipe precisely, but did on this occasion because I had never used Fresno chilies. Oops. The dish was tasty but beyond spicy. I regret not tasting my chilies for heat intensity. I will certainly do that next time, and will follow the recipe as written with milder chilies or remove the seeds and ribs for spicier chilies.

The spicy-sweet sauce was delicious and I still enjoyed it. This dish also comes together very quickly and is perfect for a weeknight meal. We ate it over brown Basmati rice with tomato slices on the side. The tomatoes really helped offset the heat. 🙂

Yield: Serves 3 to 4

  • 3 Fresno chiles, coarsely chopped (seeds and ribs removed, to taste)
  • 6 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 T fish sauce
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 4 T vegetable or grapeseed oil, divided
  • 1 lb large shrimp, peeled, deveined, patted dry
  • 2 cups basil leaves (about 1 bunch)
  • lime wedges, for serving
  • 1 cup of rice (cooked in 2 cups stock or water), for serving
  1. Blend chiles, garlic, sugar, fish sauce, salt, and 3 T oil in a blender until smooth. (I used a Vitamix.)
  2. Transfer marinade to a medium bowl and add shrimp; toss to coat. Let sit 10 minutes.
  3. Heat remaining 1 T oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high.
  4. Using tongs, just when oil begins to smoke and working in batches if needed, add shrimp, leaving marinade behind, and cook, turning once, until lightly charred around the edges, about 1 minute per side.
  5. Remove pan from heat. Add basil and toss vigorously until basil is wilted.
  6. Transfer shrimp mixture to a platter. Serve with rice and lime wedges alongside.

Double Mustard Sheet-Pan Chicken with Potatoes and Greens

I have a couple sheet-pan dinners to share. Cooking an entire meal on one sheet pan may be the ultimate method for easy back to school dinners. Love it.

This dish uses Dijon mustard in the marinade and whole grain mustard in the dressing. Perfect for all of the mustard chicken fans in my house.

This recipe was adapted from epicurious.com, contributed by Anna Stockwell. I used boneless, skinless chicken thighs, reduced the oil, and substituted my beautiful CSA arugula for the frisée. We ate it with Ritzy Summer-Squash Casserole. Great.

Yield: 6 servings

For the Chicken Marinade & Potatoes:

  • 2 T Dijon mustard
  • 2 T honey
  • 3 T extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 8 to 10 boneless, skinless chicken thighs or 4 whole chicken legs (thigh and drumstick; about 2 lbs total), patted dry (I used 9 boneless, skinless chicken thighs)
  • 2 tsp kosher salt, divided
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 1 to 1 1/2 lbs baby Yukon Gold potatoes, halved lengthwise
  • 4 rosemary sprigs

For the Dressing & To Serve:

  • 1 large garlic clove, finely grated
  • 3 T freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 4 tsp whole grain mustard
  • 4 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tsp honey
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 6 to 8 cups arugula, 1 small head of frisée, or 1/2 small head of escarole, trimmed, torn into bite-size pieces
  • 1/2 cup parsley leaves
  1. Place a rack in top third of oven; preheat to 375°F, preferably on convection roast.
  2. Whisk Dijon mustard, 2 T honey, and 1 T olive oil in a medium bowl to combine.
  3. Season chicken on all sides with 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper. Transfer to bowl with honey mustard and toss to coat. (I marinated the chicken for 4 hours in the refrigerator.)
  4. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss potatoes with remaining 2 T olive oil, 1 tsp salt, and remaining 1/2 tsp pepper.
  5. Arrange chicken, “skin side” down, in the center of the sheet pan; discard excess marinade.
  6. Arrange potatoes around outside of pan in an even layer, then turn cut side down (this will help them brown better). Arrange rosemary over potatoes.
  7. Roast until chicken, flipping over to “skin side” up after 15 minutes, and potatoes are golden brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of chicken registers 165°F, 20 to 25 minutes for boneless, skinless thighs or up to 30–40 minutes for bone-in meat.
  8. Meanwhile, make the dressing. Whisk garlic, lemon juice, whole grain mustard, olive oil, honey, and salt in a small bowl. Adjust seasoning, to taste.
  9. Divide greens and parsley among plates, drizzle with dressing, then top with chicken and potatoes. Drizzle additional dressing over chicken and potatoes. Garnish with chopped parsley, as desired.

Do Ahead: Chicken can be marinated 8 hours ahead. Cover and chill.

Shortbread Jammers

Over the summer, I brought these fabulous cookies to the beach when we went to enjoy the sunset. They transported very well and everyone loved them. 🙂 Any type of thick fruit jam or marmalade can be spread over the top of the cookie base. By using raspberry jam, I thought that they could be renamed “Easy Linzer Cookies.”

The recipe was adapted from The King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion via The New York Times, contributed by Vanessa Vichit-Vadakan. I baked the cookies in a 9×13-inch pan, per the original recipe; The NYT recently modified the recipe to bake in an 8×8-inch pan. I thought that they were perfect as is, but may “have to” try the thicker version to compare. 😉

Rice flour is suggested to make the cookies more tender. I used all-purpose flour instead and was pleased with the results.

Yield: 24 cookies (9×13-inch pan) or 16 cookies (8×8-inch pan)

  • 1/2 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup rice flour (all-purpose flour may be substituted)
  • 1 cup thick fruit jam, preserves or marmalade (I used raspberry preserves)
  1. Heat oven to 325 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. Lightly butter a 9×13-inch or 8×8-inch baking dish. Line with parchment and butter the parchment. (I used a lined, metal 9×13-inch baking pan.)
  3. In the bowl of a standing mixer (or in a large bowl if using a hand mixer), beat the butter and sugar at medium speed for about 3 minutes.
  4. Add the salt and vanilla and continue to beat until well combined.
  5. Add the flours and continue to beat until the dough comes together.
  6. Press the dough evenly into the prepared pan, smoothing the surface. Prick it with a fork in about 20 places.
  7. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through cooking, or until golden around the edges. Slide a dull knife along the edges. Cool for 5 minutes. (an 8×8-inch pan may require a longer baking time)
  8. Using the parchment, lift the slab of shortbread out onto a clean surface.
  9. With a knife, trim 1 inch from one of the sides. Crumble the trimmings into a bowl and cover with plastic wrap.
  10. Cut the rest of the shortbread into 24 squares (9×13-inch pan) or 16 squares (8×8-inch pan) and allow to cool.
  11. Spread a thick layer of jam on each square. (I kept the cut cookies together and spread the jam over the top of the entire surface.)
  12. Sprinkle the reserved crumbs over the top.

Note: Layered between plastic wrap or wax paper in an airtight container, the cookies will keep for 3 to 4 days.

Prosciutto Carbonara with Spinach

Another weeknight pasta dish- another rigatoni dish! 🙂 Adding greens to this classic dish is a healthy upgrade.

This recipe was adapted from Martha Stewart Living. I used a combination of beet greens and spinach and kept the crispy prosciutto pieces intact instead of crumbling them. Nice.

Yield: Serves 4

  • 1 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 oz prosciutto, sliced lengthwise into 1/2-inch wide strips (I used 7-8 slices)
  • 2 large eggs, plus 2 yolks
  • 1 oz Pecorino Romano, grated (about 1/4 cup), plus more for serving
  • 12 oz rigatoni
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 oz baby spinach or other tender greens (I incorporated sliced beet greens)
  1. In a large skillet, heat oil and half of prosciutto over medium; cook, stirring occasionally, until prosciutto is crisp, 3 to 4 minutes. Drain on paper towels.
  2. In a bowl or (2-cup) glass measuring cup, whisk together whole eggs, yolks, and grated cheese.
  3. Cook pasta in a pot of salted boiling water 1 minute less than package instructions. Reserve 1 cup pasta water, then drain.
  4. Slowly whisk 1/4 cup pasta water into egg mixture.
  5. Add pasta and spinach to skillet, then slowly add egg mixture to pasta.
  6. Stir constantly over low heat until sauce thickens and clings evenly to pasta and greens wilts slightly, 3 to 5 minutes; add more pasta water as needed to create a silky sauce.
  7. Stir in all prosciutto. Serve with more cheese and pepper, as desired.

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