It's the first week of November and here in Karachi, we have just felt the stirrings of the winter season. A small drop in temperature - a little bit of wind in the mornings and in the evenings. The popping up of billboards displaying the many different types of textiles & designs that are oh so important for Karachi winters. My cats preferring to go outside instead of spending the night on the cold tiles. Lastly, the beautiful fresh produce in the markets - pomegranates, apples & oranges and of course the vegetables -fresh tomatoes, carrots, peas & more.
Winter is also a great time for food - not only does the kitchen stop feeling like a furnace but the cold weather is all about comfort food & hearty meals with the entire family gathered and enjoying food together. Hot soups with garlic bread on the side, Kashmiri Chai being served at weddings, Hand whisked coffee and and shelling peanuts or chilgozay/pine-nuts on the side, Degh ka Haleem & Baazar ki Nihari, they all spell winter & family.
It's a rustic looking tea-cake, with a gorgeous swirl of cinnamon, chocolate & espresso. The chocolate ganache (which I didn't do this time) would just be that extra element to turn into a delicious fit for a party cake!
from Baking: From My Home to Yours, by Dorie Greenspan
1 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon*
1 1/2 teaspoons coffee powder
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
pinch of salt
3/4 cup whole milk
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped, or 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
*Note: Cinnamon is made by grinding daalchinni/cinnamon bark in a spice grinder till its powdery. Keep it in an air-tight container in a cool place or in the refrigerator to preserve the flavor. Make a fresh batch every 2-3 months for the best flavor.
Getting Ready: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 F. Butter an 8-inch square baking pan and line the bottom with parchment or wax paper. Place the pan on a baking sheet.
To Make the Cake: Stir 2 tablespoons of the sugar, 2 1/2 teaspoons of the cinnamon and the espresso together in a small bowl.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, the remaining 1 1/4 cups sugar, the baking powder, salt and the remaining 1 tablespoon cinnamon. In another bowl, whisk together the milk, eggs and vanilla. Pour the liquid ingredients over the flour mixture and gently whisk until you have a homogenous batter. Now, using the whisk or a rubber spatula, fold in the butter with a light touch, just until the butter is absorbed. You'll have a smooth, shiny batter.
Scrape half of the batter into the pan and smooth the top. Sprinkle the chocolate over the batter and dust with the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Cover with the rest of the batter and smooth the top again.
Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the cake is puffed and beginning to pull away from the sides of the pan; a thin knife inserted into the center will come out clean. Transfer the cake to a cooling rack and let it rest for 15 minutes before unmolding it onto another rack. Peel off the paper, invert it onto the first rack, and cool to room temperature right side up.
To Make the Frosting: Put the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl and fit the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Cook, stirring gently and often, just until they melt. Be careful not to overheat the mixture so much that it thins out; the chocolate should be smooth, very shiny, thick and spreadable. (If it thins, leave the frosting at room temperature for a bit, until it thickens a little.)
Using an offset metal icing spatula or a table knife, spread the frosting in generous sweeps and swirls over the top of the cake. Allow the frosting to set at room temperature, then cut the cake into 9 squares, each about 2 1/2 inches on a side.
Serving: Serve the cake as is or, if you would like, with whipped cream.
Storing: Wrapped in plastic, the cake will keep at room temperature for 2 days. It can be frozen for up to 2 months, but it's best to put the cake in the freezer unwrapped and then, when the frosting is firm, to wrap it airtight; defrost, still wrapped, overnight in the refrigerator.
Cappuccino Squares: If you like the cappuccino flavor combination of coffee and cinnamon, you can easily switch the balance in this recipe by adding a jolt of coffee flavor to the batter. Just mix 1 tablespoon instant espresso into the milk and warm the milk in a microwave oven until it is hot enough to dissolve the coffee. Cool the milk and carry on.