September 26, 2013

Honey and cinnamon plum cake for turning two!

My little blog turned two, last week!  And, you know, this journey would hardly be so much fun without all of you, dear readers!  And for that, I want to give you all a very big THANK YOU!!!  Thank you for reading my stories, trying my recipes, sending lovely and super sweet words of encouragement, and simply being out there and enjoying my blog!  You can’t imagine how much this all means to me!

Strangely, it seems that every year on this big, celebratory occasion I’m being followed around by the same type of plums – the cloudy purple Italian prune plums that I so long for all summer until they finally make it to the markets and into my kitchen and into sinful desserts.  Last year, I stuffed them into perfectly soft dumplings; this year, I dropped them into a deep, dark, nicely sweet and moist Pudding Cake of Honey, Cinnamon and Plums that was nothing short of legendary!

This year, my parents also enjoyed a glorious plum harvest.  The plum tree in my grandparents’ garden resembled a willow tree and almost gave in to the heavy weight of its overloaded crown of ripe plums.  Most of them found their way into simmering jams, pickled compotes, beloved cakes, and some were left for eating raw.  But while my parents, conveniently, went plum picking in the backyard, I went to the market where, luck struck, and a very generous lady put an overflowing box of swiftly ripening prune plums in my lap for virtually nothing. 

So, what do you do when fortune strikes?  You say ‘thank you very, very much’, run home and stash your freezer with multiple bags of plums to make deliciously oozing potato plum dumplings until most likely next year; and with the several remaining pounds of plums you make pan after pan of Nigel Slater’s spectacular plum cake: a pan for a second birthday, one for a Sunday brunch with friends, one for a casual wedding anniversary celebration, another one for a midweek-night sweet treat, and one more because you still have a glut of plums leftover and you like this cake way more than you care to admit!  

To be quite honest, I first made this cake about a year ago with the last fresh prune plums I had languishing around and ripening too fast for me to keep up.  But I haven’t gotten the chance to tell you about it until now.  Obviously, it’s not your posh and fancy birthday cake; it’s a charming-little-every-day-kind of cake.  It’s a sweetly mix of gingerbread and moist spice cake; spongy and sticky, deeply dark in color, loaded with warm cinnamon and tart, juicy plums that turn a vivid reddish color and slowly descend and soften into the soggy batter as the cake rises and bakes into perfection and intense flavor.  It’s a no muss, no fuss yet perfect cake for a second birthday!  

Pudding Cake of Honey, Cinnamon, and Plums
Adapted from Ripe by Nigel Slater

Makes: 16 squares


·         2 cups (250 g) all-purpose flour
·         1 slightly heaping teaspoon baking powder
·         1 teaspoon baking soda
·         1 slightly heaping teaspoon cinnamon
·         2/3 cup (200 g) agave nectar
·         2 heaping Tablespoons honey
·         ½ cup (125 g) butter
·         ½ cup packed (125 g) light brown sugar
·         12 ounces (350 g) plums, pitted and halved (or quartered if they are very large)
·         2 large eggs
·         1 cup milk (240 ml)


Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Line an 8- or 9-inch square cake pan with parchment paper. 

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon, and whisk well to combine. 

In a saucepan, warm the agave nectar, honey and butter over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally until the butter melts.  Once the butter has melted, stir in the light brown sugar and whisk well.  Remove the pan from the heat, and allow the mixture to cool slightly for a couple of minutes.

Break the eggs into a medium bowl, add the milk, and whisk to mix.

Pour the agave nectar mixture into the flour mixture and stir with a large, sturdy spoon until combined, and the batter is thick.  Pour in the eggs and milk mixture and continue to stir until the eggs and milk mixture is fully incorporated, and you have a loose batter without any traces of flour.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and arrange the plums on top.  The plums will drop as the cake bakes.  Bake for 35 minutes.  Place a piece of foil loosely over the top of the cake and leave to cook for 15 minutes longer.  Switch off the oven, but leave the cake in the oven for 15 more minutes.  Remove the cake from the oven and leave to cool completely before slicing.           

Poftă Bună! (Bon Appétit!)

September 12, 2013

Ginger Tea Lemonade

I’ve completely neglected the beverage department for a good while, which is somewhat disappointing considering that I’ve been happily sipping on this one particular drink all summer long.  But I’m here to make up for it by sharing with you the recipe for this wonderful Ginger Tea Lemonade that has kept me refreshed and hydrated throughout the scorching season.  And it’s still my non-alcoholic drink of choice stepping into fall!    

I hardly drink tea and hardly ever pay any attention to lemonade especially when it’s pink or comes in a dreadful cardboard container.  But pairing black tea with fresh lemon juice can put things in a very happy perspective!  This drink makes me want to comfortably lay by the pool at the Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas, baking under the torrid dessert sun and getting crispier by the minute, while slowly sipping this lemonade before jumping in the water to cool off.  But wait!  It was only a few days ago that I was doing just that while in Vegas!  (Except that I was actually gulping a strawberry smoothie that I’ll tell you more about another time.  But you get the idea.)

This Ginger Tea Lemonade is tea and lemonade all in one.  It’s sweet and lemony, bubbly and invigorating with a subtle spicy note from the ginger, and a full boost of energy from the black tea.  Skip the afternoon pick-me-up cup of coffee or can of soda and opt for a chilled and fizzy homemade Ginger Tea Lemonade to calm down your thirst during any season!  Cheers, everyone! 

Ginger Tea Lemonade
Adapted from Ginger Tea Lemonade by Giada De Laurentiis

Makes: 6+ servings

Ingredients for the Tea:

·         2 cups water
·         3 black tea bags
·         2/3 cup fresh lemon juice, from about 3 juicy lemons
·         Ginger Simple Syrup, ingredients and recipe follow
·         1 liter sparkling water, chilled
·         Optional: lemon slices, for garnish

Ingredients for the Ginger Simple Syrup:

·         1 cup granulated sugar
·         1 cup water
·         1 (2-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and chopped

Instructions for the Tea:

In a small saucepan, bring the water to a boil over high heat.  Remove the pan from the heat and add the tea bags.  Stir and allow the mixture to cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes.  Remove the tea bags and discard them. 

In a large pitcher, pour the tea mixture, lemon juice, Ginger Simple Syrup, and sparkling water.  Add the lemon slices and serve the lemonade over ice. 

Instructions for the Ginger Simple Syrup:

In a small saucepan, over medium heat, combine the sugar, water and ginger.  Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer stirring occasionally, until the sugar has dissolved, about 5 minutes.  Remove the pan from the heat and allow the syrup to cool, about 30 minutes.  Strain before using the syrup.  

Poftă Bună! (Bon Appétit!)