Friday, April 16, 2010

Happy Birthday!

It’s time to get out the fancy celebration apron and bake a cake! That’s right, The Messy Apron is one year old! Happy birthday to us!

I am so grateful to you all for reading these pages over the last year. It’s hard to remember what I thought this space would be when I started it. I had vague notions of testing recipes through the seasons, snapping a few photos, and sharing them in a relevant and organized fashion. It has come to feel more like a letter that I’m writing to you all, whether I know you or not. I think I may have learned that from my grandmother, who still handwrites brilliant and amusing correspondences, in which she nearly always describes something she just had to eat, or something she just made. She would be a great food blogger if only she’d consider acquiring a computer!

What I’ve been doing on The Messy Apron works pretty well for me right now, so I don’t see any big changes in the future. I do hope to post even more often, but we’ll see how that goes when things get busy. I also think, although I changed the colors of the template with the seasons last year, I’m going to stick with the pink and green scheme I’ve got going right now. It suits me somehow, and I hope it works for you too. Since I now have posts that are a whole year old, I’m going to add a link with the title of the recipe I posted a year ago at the bottom of each post. I also will post links to similar recipes or recipes with similar ingredients in the same place. Don’t forget, if you want to find something in posts and recipes past you can also search the Recipe Index by clicking on the link in the Messy Apron Extras list at the upper right, search the Archives by going to the list at the right, or use the Google search box at the right.

To celebrate my first year of food blogging, I baked a Maple Cake with Walnuts and Dates. First of all, it’s delicious, which is foremost what a cake should be, despite what any Food Network competition or reality show may suggest. I’m saying this because my cake didn’t end up coming out of the pan in one piece, which may have kept it from being as photogenic as I would have liked. It also makes it difficult, in good conscience, to tell you to make this cake exactly how I did. Sadly, I couldn’t find the original recipe online so I could refer you there.

I used a different size pan than the original maple cake recipe suggested, and, since I also added walnuts and dates, I really was pushing the maximum capacity. The cake didn’t spill out of the pan while baking, which was a relief, but did take considerably more baking time. I also used some whole wheat pastry flour in the batter to help bump up the WFQ*. I’ve found that adding whole wheat pastry flour to cakes can make them slightly more crumbly, which may make them more delicate when removing from the pan. Another big contribution to such messes in my kitchen is my lack of proper talent and coordination when doing things like flipping hot cake pans over onto cooling racks.
When I told my brother on the phone that I was making a cake, he asked if it was someone’s birthday. When I sheepishly told him I was celebrating one year of blogging, he just laughed at me (he’s not a regular reader). Oh well, some people celebrate their pet’s birthdays, and the average one-year-old child doesn’t really know what’s going on at his own party any more than this blog does. It’s all really just an excuse to eat cake. Happy 1st birthday to the Messy Apron! And special thanks to all of you for all your kind words and support, especially Harry, who really does eat all of these experiments!

Maple Cake with Walnuts and Dates
Adapted from Martha Stewart Everyday Food Magazine
The icing for this cake is super simple and super good.

For the Cake
1 ½ cups plus 1 tablespoon all purpose flour, divided
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
½ teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
2 sticks (16 Tbs) unsalted butter, room temperature
¾ cup pure maple syrup
½ cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¾ cup sour cream
¾ cup chopped walnuts, toasted
¾ cup finely chopped pitted dates

For the Icing
¼ cup pure maple syrup
2 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
pinch of cinnamon
1 cup powdered sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit the bottom of a 9-inch round cake pan. Line the bottom of the pan with the parchment and liberally oil, butter, or spray with cooking spray the sides of the pan.

2. Combine 1 ½ cups all purpose flour, whole wheat pastry flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl. Whisk together to distribute ingredients evenly. Set aside.

3. In the bowl of a heavy duty mixer with a paddle attachment (or a large bowl for use with a hand mixer beat the butter, maple syrup and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy.

Add eggs one at a time and beat well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla.

4. With mixer on low speed, alternately add flour mixture in 3 parts and sour cream in 2 parts (begin and end with flour mixture). Mix well to combine after each addition.

5. In a medium bowl, combine the walnuts and dates. Stir in the remaining 1 tablespoon all purpose flour to coat them. Gently stir the walnuts and dates into the batter.

6. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Spread the batter evenly and smooth out the top.

7. Bake at 350 F 55 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, without any wet batter clinging to it.

8. Remove from the oven and cool 10 minutes in the pan. Turn out of pan onto a wire cooling rack. Turn the cake so that the rounded side is facing up. (All this turning out and turning over can be tricky, and is usually where I run into problems.)

9. To prepare the icing, combine ¼ cup maple syrup and melted butter. Add the powdered sugar and whisk until completely combined and smooth.

10. Pour the icing over the cake, spreading to edges (it’s okay if it drips down sides of cake). Cool completely (or almost completely) before cutting and serving.

Makes 8-10 servings.

*WFQ: Whole Food Quotient

Other recipes like this: Rhubarb Yogurt Cake

One year ago: Italian Chickpeas


  1. Happy Birthday, Apron! (Or would that be Messy?) What is a blog's proper "given name" versus "surname"? I guess I'll go with...

    Happy Birthday, Messy Apron! It's been a great year, and my taste buds look forward to many more!

  2. Thanks, Jake!

    I'm surprised at how much fun this has really been, and I'm gratful that you've been reading this whole year! (Although, if you're not on these pages much over the next few months, that's completely understandable! :) )