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Festive Bowl Cake


Festive Bowl Cake


Photos and Words by Fred Chang

Whenever I bake a cake, I try to find different ways to make them stand out from the standard 9x9 layer cakes or the now outdated cupcake. One of the most charming plating styles for desserts, that I absolutely adore, is dessert served in bowls. So I asked myself, “Why not bake a cake inside of a bowl?” A bowl cake would look very charming in its simplicity and would eat fairly well, as you could simply dig into it with a spoon, as a well-baked cake would still be soft enough to scoop out, especially when such a cake includes apple cider – carbonated drinks can create a fluffier texture in batters. As the holidays are approaching, I figured I’d make the flavors of this cake more festive, and one particular style of cuisine could embrace the simplicity of the dessert, as well as the garnishes I would give it: British cuisine.

British desserts feature, as stated by food critic Greg Wallace, “a stodgy sweetness and warming textures” that highlight a plethora of flavors and textures. This dessert pairs elements of a classic British trifle with the warming feel of winter ingredients; in addition to the bowl cake, there will be a spiced custard as well as an almond crumble and cranberry meringue, all of which shine with festive flavors of the holidays. As it lacks frosting, buttercream, or anything that could really melt, this sort of dessert is best eaten warm, as those spices will just perfume the gooey, warm custard and when paired with a light, tart meringue, a fluffy cider sponge cake, and nutty almond crumble, will definitely keep the cold outside.

Festive Bowl Cake
Makes 2 servings

Almond crumble:
     2/3 cups flour
     1/2 stick butter
     2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1/4 cup speculoos or ginger snap cookies, ground into a fine powder
     1/3 cup chopped almonds

Mix ingredients together and bake at 350ºF for 15 minutes on a lined sheet tray. Break apart into smaller pieces.

Cider cake:
     3/4 cups flour
     2/3 cups powdered sugar
     1/4 cup olive oil
     1/2 teaspoon baking soda
     1 tablespoon vinegar
     1 teaspoon vanilla extract
     1 1/2 tablespoons apricot preserves
     1/2 cup sparkling apple cider
     a pinch of nutmeg
     a pinch of cinnamon
     a pinch of salt

Mix dry and wet ingredients separately in two bowls, then mix together, and distribute evenly into two oven-safe bowls that are lined with oil or butter. Bake at 350º F for 25 minutes.

Ginger custard:
     2 egg yolks
     1/2 cup milk
     1/4 granulated sugar
     1/2 teaspoon powdered ginger
     1 teaspoon vanilla extract
     a pinch of salt

Mix together the yolks, salt, and sugar. In a pot, heat up the milk and ginger until it begins to release steam. Pour half of the milk into the egg yolks while whisking, and pour the egg-milk mixture back into the pot, whisking in the pot. Whisk over medium-high heat until the liquid begins to thicken. Pour into a bowl, set aside, and allow it to cool.

Cranberry meringues:
     1/4 cup cranberry juice
     2 egg whites
     1/4 granulated sugar

Reduce cranberry juice and sugar. Whip egg whites until stiff and pour the cranberry reduction (should be a thick, syrupy texture) and whip until stiff again.

Layer the custard over the cake, and then the crumble, and finally, the meringues. If desired, torch the meringue with a blowtorch or broiler. Unlike most traditional cakes, this one should be enjoyed while still warm!