Sometimes the best recipes are the simplest. This hazelnut baby cake is a good example of that. At first glance, it is a basic quick bread or muffin recipe whose not-so secret code was previous reviewed in the berry buttermilk cake post. In the nutshell, this type of cake batter is generally made with four basic ingredients following roughly these ratios: 2 parts flour: 1 part egg: 1 part butter: 2 parts liquid, measured in weights (ounces or grams). These cakes can be shaped and baked in loaf pans, muffin tins or sheet pans. Endless varieties, sweet or savory, can flourish from this one basic recipe.
This recipe comes from Baking with Julia. Check out what other bakers at the online group Tuesdays with Dorie think about this recipe. What I like best about the hazelnut baby loaves are: the crunchy bite of the hazelnut, the thin light crust and a satisfying crust to crumb ratio. The addition of the almond extract gives off an appealing nutty scent.
I did not make the grappa-mascarpone cream. I’m sure it makes the cakes extraordinary. My concerns are the extra fat and calories that I don’t need. (To further decrease the fat content, 3/4 cup of milk and 1/4 cup of sour cream may be substituted for 1 cup of heavy cream called for in the recipe.)
My loaf pans are larger. They are 3 1/2 x 6 x 2 inches. I got four loaves out of this recipe.
The key to success of these cakes goes beyond the ingredients. I watched Julia Child’s PBS video carefully and I’ve learnt a few tricks. The video was very helpful. I believe making a good cake is all about techniques. Following the recipe instructions from contributing baker, Johanne Killeen, I creamed the butter and sugar mixture longer than I normally do. The results are noticeable; these loaves are fluffy and light.
|Hazelnut cake served with berries and yogurt cream|
I took some notes as a reminder on how the quick butter cake batter is best handled. Next time when I am stuck in some faraway and forsaken places (with a kitchen but no internet) and want to make butter cakes, this set of instructions (which I should save in my permanent memory), and the 2-1-1-2 ratio would set me free to improvise with convincing and delicious results.
- Cream the softened butter and sugar well until they lighten in texture and turn pale. The process takes 3 to 4 minutes in a stand-mixer.
- Add the eggs one at a time. Give each a good beating and for an additional minutes or two after the last egg goes in. A wonderful airy bubble structure will form and volume tripled.
- Slow down and add the dry and liquid ingredients alternatively, starting with the dry ingredients. You want to be gentle and careful not to deflate the airy structure. You may switch from the mixer to a rubber spatula and fold in the rest of the ingredients. Stop mixing as soon as the last speck of dry ingredients disappears.
- Test early and often for doneness. Take a look at the loaves five minutes before the recipe says it might be finished baking.