Cakes for the succa

Bakers have come up with a variety of tricks and techniques for easy making and baking.

cake 521 (photo credit: MCT)
cake 521
(photo credit: MCT)
Shabbat during Succot is a good time to have guests. With the succa as the holiday setting, it’s an ideal occasion to get together.
Entertaining doesn’t necessarily involve serving a multi-course dinner. Having a cake on hand is convenient in case friends, neighbors or relatives drop by. An invitation to “come over for tea or coffee,” especially when the hot drink comes with a piece of your home-baked cake, can be perfect.
For Succot I like to bake cakes with fruits and nuts to go with the holiday’s harvest theme, or with chocolate because everyone loves it.
Bakers have come up with a variety of tricks and techniques for easy cake-making. Paula Shoyer, author of The Kosher Baker, has developed quick, elegant desserts that are ready for the oven in 15 minutes and demand no fancy techniques. Some of her one-bowl cakes are enriched with oil, which doesn’t need beating to soften it the way butter and margarine do.
She makes the batter for her orange tea cake, flavored with Earl Grey tea, orange juice and grated orange zest, by beating all the ingredients in a bowl and drizzling the finished cake with a simple glaze of tea and confectioners’ sugar. For her apple upside-down cake, Shoyer pours a quick vanilla-flavored batter over sliced apples mixed with cinnamon and sugar.
“Brownies,” notes Shoyer, “are the easiest chocolate dessert you can make and are always a crowd pleaser.” The batter for her fudge brownies, which are flavored with melted semisweet chocolate, cocoa and vanilla and moistened with canola oil and parve soy milk, doesn’t even need an electric mixer; once the chocolate is melted, just stir the remaining ingredients into it.
Diana Dalsass, author of The New Good Cake Book, a collection of cakes with batters that can be prepared in 30 minutes or less, prefers cakes that can stand unadorned. Instead of making layer cakes with fillings, she enriches the batter itself with “fruits, nuts, chocolate, and other delectable embellishments” or adds a baked-on topping or a layer of streusel filling.
Her spiced carrot cake has not only grated carrots, cinnamon and nutmeg but also orange juice, raisins, walnuts and chocolate chips.
She also makes apple butter-zucchini cake with grated zucchini, apple butter, cinnamon and walnuts.
To adapt favorite family cakes to faster baking, Dalsass presents several time-saving tips. For butter cakes that begin with beating butter or margarine, using a food processor instead of a mixer speeds up the preparation considerably. She also notes that some customary practices are no longer needed. “With today’s light flours, it is not necessary to sift the dry ingredients;” just mix them together. In addition, “some recipes instruct the baker to add the liquid ingredients alternately with the dry ones; this is time-consuming, bothersome, and unnecessary.”
Dalsass also bakes a variety of “bar cakes” and comments: “although most cookbooks classify bars as cookies, to my way of thinking they are really extra-thin cakes... bars require none of that tedious shaping, chilling or dropping that are the hallmark of true cookies.”
Brownies are the best-known of these bar-shaped treats but there are others. To make trail mix squares, Dalsass briefly bakes a bottom layer of a quick whole-wheat and honey batter enriched with oil.
The cake finishes baking with a topping of walnuts, coconut, raisins, chopped prunes and dried figs.
Bar cakes have advantages over other cakes, says Dalsass.
“Because they are thin, they usually bake in a short amount of time and, therefore are ready to be consumed sooner than a regular cake... Because they are cut into individual portions, it’s easy to make a single pan and give half as a gift, while saving some for yourself.”
Faye Levy is the author of 1,000 Jewish Recipes.
This easy-to-make cake is moist and delicious on its own. If you’d like a quick glaze, you can serve each portion lightly drizzled with honey or, for extra embellishment, spread the cake with honey frosting (see next recipe) and sprinkle it with chopped nuts.
You can keep the cake, covered, for 3 or 4 days in the refrigerator.
Makes 12 servings.
3 cups all-purpose flour 2 1⁄2 tsp. baking powder 1 kg. (21⁄4 pounds) sweet apples, such as Gala or Golden Delicious, peeled, halved, cored and finely diced 11⁄4 cups sugar 1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. (255 gr. or 9 ounces) unsalted butter or margarine, softened 1⁄4 cup honey 3 large eggs 2 tsp. finely grated orange zest 1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
Preheat oven to 175ºC (350ºF). Lightly grease a 33- x 23- x 5-cm. (13- x 9- x 2-inch) cake pan, line base and sides of pan with a sheet of foil and grease foil.
In a bowl, mix flour with baking powder.
Thoroughly mix apples and 1⁄2 cup of sugar and let stand while preparing batter.
Beat butter until smooth. Add remaining 3⁄4 cup sugar and beat until fluffy. Beat in honey. Add eggs one by one, beating after each addition.
Stir flour mixture into egg mixture. Stir in grated orange zest.
Stir in apple mixture, which will be syrupy, and nuts.
Spread in prepared cake pan. Smooth top. Bake for 45 minutes or until cake tests done with toothpick or tester. Cool in pan on a rack about 20 minutes or until just warm. Turn out onto a rack. Cool to room temperature before serving.
Honey frosting
This frosting is good on apple cake and on chocolate cakes.
Makes enough for a 33- x 23-cm. (13- x 9-inch) cake, or about 12 servings.
2 large eggs, room temperature 1⁄2 cup honey 1 cup (225 gr. or 8 ounces) unsalted butter or margarine, slightly softened but cool 1⁄2 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped (for garnish)
Beat eggs in a large bowl until smooth and fluffy.
Bring honey to a boil in a small saucepan. Gradually pour honey onto eggs, whisking constantly. Whip at high speed of mixer until completely cool and thick, about 5 minutes.
Beat butter in a large bowl until smooth and fluffy.
Beat in honey mixture gradually, beating thoroughly after each addition.
Spread frosting over top and sides of cooled cake.
Sprinkle top with chopped walnuts.
Refrigerate cake about 2 hours before serving to firm the frosting. Serve cool or at room temperature.
A cobbler is a fruit dessert with a cake-like topping.
This recipe is from The Kosher Baker.
Author Paula Shoyer writes: “I like to make this cobbler for Sukkot, the fall holiday when we eat outside in temporary huts, when the air is cool at night and I can bring a warm dessert outside to my chilly guests. I also make this when I want to feed a crowd. To re-warm the cobbler, I put it in a low oven that I leave on during Shabbat or on holidays, after I take out my main course, and it is warm enough by dessert time. You can be as creative as you want with the combinations of fruit. This recipe is a good way to use up fruit that has been sitting around a while. It works with any combination that totals about 6 to 7 cups of chopped fruit.”
Store covered with plastic in the refrigerator for up to four days. This reheats well in a 95º to 120ºC (200º to 250ºF) oven for 30 minutes.
Makes 20 servings.
Filling: 5 pears, cored (peel on) 2 cups fresh berries or 280 gr. (10 ounces) frozen (blueberries, blackberries and/or raspberries) 3⁄4 cup sugar 2 tsp. pure vanilla extract 1⁄4 cup all-purpose flour
Topping: 3⁄4 cup raw oats (rolled oats or old-fashioned oats, not quick-cooking kind) 12 Tbsp. (170 gr. or 6 ounces) parve margarine 11⁄2 cups sugar 2 large eggs 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract 3⁄4 cup all-purpose flour 3⁄4 tsp. baking powder Dash of salt
Preheat the oven to 190ºC (375ºF). Cut the pears into 2- to 2.5-cm. (3⁄4- to 1-inch) pieces. Place the pears and berries in a 28- x 36-cm. (11- x 14-inch) oven-proof glass dish or other pretty oven-to-table baking dish. Add the sugar, vanilla and flour. Toss to combine.
To make the topping: Place the oatmeal in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade and process until finely ground. In a large bowl, beat the margarine and sugar with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until creamy. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat again.
Add the flour, ground oatmeal, baking powder and salt.
Beat briefly to just combine.
Using 2 large spoons, spoon clumps of the dough on top of the fruit mixture. The dough will not cover the entire pan; the dough clumps will melt and spread while baking.
Bake for 45 minutes, or until the top is browned and looks crisp. Serve warm or at room temperature.