Sunday, April 12, 2020

Nana Cake

 N used to eat a variation of this cake every year for his birthday, when his nana made it for him. Today's revamp is a rich, whole grain spice cake topped with homemade blueberry pie filling and Chantilly cream. Different yet decadent!

In the midst of all this last-minute "re-learning" with online schooling - as both teacher and student - March and April have basically been non-starters for writing on this blog. If you are still tuned in, thank you for your patience! I have been cooking here and there (despite how difficult grocery shopping has become) and you can always find my latest yums on Instagram as well - I will get to the recipes on here one day!

Anyways, this cake is far more than it's relatively simplistic construction. N's birthday was back in December (see how far behind I am?) but when I asked him what kind of cake he wanted, he told me a story of the kind his grandmother used to make for him right up until she passed away. It was simple in essence - a baked box-mix cake topped with a can of pie filling and a tub of Cool Whip - but he adored it and confided that he wished he could have it again. When I asked if a homemade version would suffice (I hate box cake mix as a rule - not because of the ingredients but because of the sound our hand beaters make mixing it) he was excited and gave me free reign, as long as it wasn't chocolate. Perfect - I had a ton of odds and ends around the pantry and fridge after a month of sweet baking with Home Economics, so I quickly settled on a spice cake, and the ends of that fall's blueberries that I had frozen became the filling. 

Of course, I can't set out baking something and not tweak it! I knew I wanted to keep the flavour profile relatively rustic and traditional, so I went with a combo of oats and whole wheat flour in addition to the "white" stuff and used my own (homemade) pumpkin pie spice to add fresh and pronounced flavour. The pie filling was kissed with spices and orange and capped off with a tiny dose of orange flower water for just a little touch of flair. Both components also took advantage of the toasted sugar I had made up every few months after discovering the recipe and I'm glad I made that call - everything smelled cozy and warming. 

I toted all three components - cake, filling and whipped cream - separately to his place and assembled the "nana cake" there. Let me tell you - it didn't last very long, even with the rest of the seasonal sweets abounding!

Nana Cake
Serves 8 
Spice Cake
1 cup flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/3 cup quick oats
1 tbsp pumpkin spice
1 cup toasted sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp white vinegar
1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 cup milk (I used Ripple vanilla)

Filling / Topping
2 cups blueberries, divided (fresh or frozen is fine, don't thaw)
1/4 cup toasted sugar
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp tapioca flour
2 tbsp orange juice
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp orange flower water
pinch each cinnamon and nutmeg
1 1/2 cups sweetened whipped cream
  1. Heat the oven to 350F and grease a 9" square pan.
  2. In a bowl, whisk together the dry cake ingredients (flour through salt).
  3. Pour in the vinegar, vanilla, oil and milk and whisk to combine thoroughly.
  4. Pour into the cake pan and bake 35 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  5. Meanwhile, place 1 cup of the blueberries, sugar and honey in a small saucepan and cook until the mixture is syrupy and the blueberries have burst.
  6. Whisk together the tapioca flour, orange juice, vanilla and orange flower water and stir into the berries. 
  7. Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture is clear and thickened.
  8. Remove from heat and fold in remaining berries, cinnamon and nutmeg. Set aside to cool completely.
  9. When cool, at least 1 hour before serving (and up to 8 hours), spread the blueberry filling generously over the spice cake and dollop with whipped cream, spreading gently to ensure even coverage. 
  10. Store in the fridge.

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