A picnic-worthy treat served without ants
If you’ve ever come to one of my picnics, you know that you never get closer to the great outdoors than peering at it through a window.
No itchy blankets; no pesky bugs; no beach sand, park dirt or tickly grass; no threat of rain; no sunburns and no plastic wineglasses.
I hold all my picnics indoors, on the dining room table.
I’ll always have a cake of some kind: a plain cake that’s good on its own and good with fruit or jam or ice cream. My current fave in the cake department is sour cream with a crunchy swirl. I bake the batter in mini-loaf pans, so the cakes are picnic-worthy.
The cardamom is optional, but it’s so good with the cinnamon.
Sour Cream Swirl Picnic Cakelettes MAKES 16 SERVINGS (4 MINI LOAVES)
You’ll need mini loaf pans that measure 5¾ by 3¼ inches or a bit smaller; disposable ones are OK to use here. For the swirl ½ cup mini chocolate chips (or chopped chocolate) ½ cup chopped nuts, such as walnuts, pecans or almonds 1/3 cup granulated sugar ¼ cup raisins or small bits of other dried fruit (make sure the fruit is moist and plump) ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon Pinch fine sea salt For the cakes 2 cups flour 1 tsp baking powder ¼ tsp ground cinnamon ¼ tsp ground cardamom (may substitute that much more ground cinnamon) 16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature 1 cup granulated sugar 2/3 cup packed light brown sugar ½ tsp fine sea salt 2 large eggs, at room temperature 1½ tsp pure vanilla extract 1 cup sour cream (remove from the fridge 20 minutes before using)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Use baker’s spray to grease four mini loaf pans; place them on a baking sheet.
For the swirl: Combine the mini chocolate chips, nuts, granulated sugar, raisins or other dried fruit, cinnamon and salt in a small bowl, mixing to evenly distribute.
For the cakes: Whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and cardamom, if using, in a mixing bowl. Combine the butter, granulated and brown sugars and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer or hand-held mixer; beat on medium speed, scraping down the beater and bowl as needed, until light, smooth and creamy, about three minutes.
Add the eggs one at a time and beat for a minute after each goes in; beat in the vanilla extract. Scrape in the sour cream and beat on low speed to incorporate. The batter may look curdled, but it will come together once the dry ingredients are blended in.
Stop the mixer, add half of the flour mixture and pulse the mixer on low speed to start incorporating it. Once most of the flour mixture is in, add the rest; pulse again and then work on low speed to form a well-blended batter. Scrape the bowl to make certain there are no clumps of flour lurking at the bottom.
Use a large (3-tablespoon-capacity) cookie scoop to fill the pans, or you can heap the batter on a large spoon. Put two large scoops of batter in each pan and smooth them with an icing spatula or butter knife.
Stir the swirl mixture, then sprinkle ¼ cup of it into each pan, scattering it evenly over the batter. Top with two more scoops of batter, spreading them evenly.
Turn whatever swirl mixture is left into the bowl with the remaining batter, stir to blend and then divide among the pans, smoothing the tops.
Bake (middle rack) for 50 to 55 minutes, rotating the baking sheet from front to back after 25 minutes, until they are golden brown. (They may start to come away from the sides of the pans.)
Most important: a tester inserted into the centre of the cakes should come out clean. Transfer the mini loaves to a wire rack and allow them to cool (in their pans) for five minutes before turning them out onto the rack to cool .
Sour cream swirl picnic cakelettes are easy to handle … even if you’ve skipped the picnic to eat inside.