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MICROWAVE

Cake: They Said It Couldn't Be Done

August 26, 1993|MARCIA CONE and THELMA SNYDER

Summer fruits make delicious cakes for dessert, breakfast or brunch, but at this time of year who wants to heat up the kitchen? The microwave comes to the rescue.

The most commonly asked question about making cakes in the microwave is: "Will they rise?" The answer is: "Yes." All the cakes are cooked first on MEDIUM (50% power) so that the gas and heated air can expand evenly while the cake structure is forming. Once this has happened, each cake can be safely cooked on HIGH (100% power) to finish it off quickly.

To help them cook more evenly, the cakes are placed on top of a microwave-proof cereal dish to raise them even closer to the center of the oven. If your oven comes with a metal rack, you may place the cake on the rack that is inserted on its lowest level. The cake is cooked, uncovered, to give it room to rise and let the moisture evaporate to prevent sogginess.

After cooking a cake, place it directly on a countertop so that the heat is reflected back into the cake to cook it. If it were to stand on a cooling rack, the surrounding air would take away much of the heat needed to continue the cooking.

We use a few methods that help cut the fat in the recipes while keeping the flavor and texture. Prunes added to the plum cake keep it moist without a lot of added fat. Nonfat yogurt serves the same purpose in the blueberry cake. Egg whites are substituted for whole eggs, and a cereal such as Grape-nuts adds the crunch of high-fat almonds in the plum cake.

A frozen fruit sorbet is a crowning touch for either cake. To make this, perfectly ripened plums, peaches or nectarines are cooked in their skins, then frozen and whirred into a refreshing frozen fruit ice.

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UPSIDE-DOWN PLUM CAKE

2 tablespoons plus 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed

2 tablespoons cereal, such as Grapenuts

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 pound ripe plums, pitted and cut into eighths

2 egg whites

1/3 cup prune puree

3 tablespoons oil, canola preferred

1/2 cup buttermilk

1 tablespoon Kirsch, brandy or vanilla

1 cup cake or all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

Lightly spray bottom of 8 1/2-inch microwave-safe round cake dish with vegetable cooking spray.

Combine 2 tablespoons brown sugar with cereal and cinnamon in small bowl. Sprinkle evenly over bottom of prepared pan. Arrange cut plums, overlapping, in concentric circles inside dish.

Mix together 1/2 cup sugar, egg whites (save egg yolks for another use), prune puree, oil, buttermilk and Kirsch in large mixing bowl. Sift together flour and baking powder. Fold into prune mixture until well blended. Spoon batter evenly over plums, spreading with spatula to smooth and even surface.

Place dish in oven on top of inverted microwave-safe cereal bowl. Microwave on MEDIUM (50% power) 8 minutes, then on HIGH (100% power) until cake tests done, 3 to 7 minutes, rotating 1/4 turn 2 to 3 times, if necessary. Top may appear damp but not wet. Wood pick inserted in center should come out clean.

Let cake stand directly on counter 5 to 10 minutes before turning out. Invert cake onto serving plate, firmly tapping bottom of dish to release. Serve warm or cooled with Plum Sorbet or frozen nonfat yogurt, if desired. Makes 8 servings.

Note : To make prune puree, place 1/3 cup pitted prunes and 3 tablespoons water in food processor bowl or blender container. Pulse on and off until prunes are finely chopped.

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BLUEBERRY UPSIDE-DOWN CAKE

2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries

1 teaspoon cornstarch

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

1/2 cup sugar

3 tablespoons oil, canola preferred

2 egg whites

1/2 cup nonfat plain yogurt

1 tablespoon vanilla

1 cup cake or all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

Spray bottom of 8 1/2-inch microwave-safe round cake dish with vegetable spray.

Combine blueberries, cornstarch, lemon zest and 1 tablespoon sugar in large bowl, stirring to coat berries. Spoon evenly into bottom of dish.

Mix together remaining 7 tablespoons sugar, oil, egg whites, (save egg yolks for another use), yogurt and vanilla in large bowl. Sift together flour and baking powder. Fold into moist ingredients until well mixed. Spoon batter evenly over blueberries in dish, spreading with spatula to make level surface.

Place dish in microwave on top of inverted microwave-safe cereal bowl. Microwave on MEDIUM (50% power) 8 minutes, then on HIGH (100% power) until cake tests done, 3 to 7 minutes, rotating 1/4 turn 2 to 3 times, if necessary. Top may appear damp but not wet. Wood pick inserted in center should come out clean.

Let cake stand directly on counter 5 to 10 minutes before turning out. Invert cake onto serving plate, tapping bottom of dish to release it. Spoon any berries that cling to dish onto cake top. Serve cake warm or cooled with Plum Sorbet or frozen yogurt, if desired. Makes 8 servings.

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PLUM SORBET

1 pound ripe sweet Damson plums, halved and pitted

2 tablespoons Port, Kirsch or apple juice

2 tablespoons nonfat plain yogurt

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

Combine plums and Port in 1-quart microwave-safe casserole. Cover tightly with lid or plastic wrap, turned back slightly on 1 side. Microwave on HIGH (100% power) 3 minutes, until plums are tender, stirring after 2 minutes.

Place plum mixture in bowl of food processor or blender. Add yogurt, sugar and vanilla and pulse on and off until smooth. Spoon mixture into ice cube tray with sections removed. Freeze 3 to 4 hours. Spoon mixture into food processor and whir to quickly break up ice crystals. Makes 1 1/2 cups.

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