• Tommy Centola

Made from scratch cakes better

A baker is something I will never claim to be. While I am capable of producing baked goods, I don’t have the mentality of a pastry chef. A good pastry chef requires exact measurements and adjusting to the conditions around you. My style of cooking is always to add spices and seasonings without measuring.

Every now and then, I head to my stove to fight my instincts and bake. As easy as it is to make a cake with a mix, the flavor of a made from scratch cake cannot be duplicated by a mix. If you have never made one without a mix, I have a couple of recipes to help you fix that. My recipes for you this week are Cane Syrup Cake, Orange Pound Cake and Buttermilk-Pecan Coffee Cake.

Here is a wonderful South Louisiana favorite. This cake is sweetened with only cane syrup. While cane syrup is basically sugar, the cooking process adds flavors that are not found in any sugar. Always use a good quality cane syrup, my preference being Steen’s.

Cane Syrup Cake

2 sticks Butter

1 cup Cane Syrup

3 large Eggs

3 cups Cake Flour

Pinch of Salt

1 tablespoon Baking Powder

1 teaspoon Cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon Allspice

1/2 cup Raisins

Whipped Cream

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Lightly grease a 9-inch square baking pan. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter until light and fluffy. Beat in the cane syrup. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Sift together the flour, salt and baking powder. Add the dry ingredients to the syrup mixture. Add the cinnamon and allspice. Fold in the raisins and pour the mixture into the prepared pan. Bake for about 40 minutes, until a cake tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. After it has cooled, cut into squares and serve topped with whipped cream.

In Plaquemines Parish, south of New Orleans, there are a few citrus farms. Every year in December, the parish holds their annual Orange festival at Fort Jackson, in Buras. It is a great celebration at the end of the annual harvest. Here is a down-home delicious cake.

Orange Pound Cake

For the Cake

3 sticks (1 1/2 cups) Unsalted Butter, softened

2 cup granulated Sugar

6 Eggs

2 1/4 cups Cake Flour

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed Orange Juice

1 tablespoon freshly grated Orange Zest

1 teaspoon Vanilla

For the Glaze

3 tablespoons freshly squeezed Orange Juice

1 cup Powdered Sugar

Preheat oven to 300℉. Grease and flour a tube pan.

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add flour in two additions and mix until combined. Stir in orange juice, orange zest and vanilla. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, approximately one hour. Remove from oven, cool for 30 minutes, and turn out onto a plate.


In a bowl, whisk together orange juice and powdered sugar. Pour glaze evenly over cake.

This cake is not just for dessert. It is also an excellent breakfast or snack cake. While this recipe can be made year round, I think it taste even better in early November when pecans are falling from the trees. Fresh is always better that packaged.

Buttermilk-Pecan Coffee Cake

2 1/4 cups Flour

1 cup Brown Sugar

3/4 cup Granulated Sugar

2 teaspoons Cinnamon, divided

1/2 teaspoon Salt

1/4 teaspoon Ginger

3/4 cup Vegetable Oil

1 cup pecans, chopped

1 teaspoon Baking Powder

1 teaspoon Baking Soda

1 cup Buttermilk

1 large Egg

Preheat oven to 350℉.

Lightly grease a 9×13-inch baking pan. Sift together flour, sugars, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, salt and ginger. Stir in oil until mixture is crumbly and evenly moistened. In a small bowl, reserve 3/4 cup of the flour mixture for the cake topping and set aside. Stir in baking powder and soda into the large flour mixture. Beat together buttermilk and egg. Add to flour mixture, stirring until batter just forms. Pour batter into prepared pan. Combine reserved 3/4 cup flour mixture with pecans and remaining teaspoon of cinnamon. Sprinkle topping over pan evenly. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool completely in the pan on a wire rack before cutting.

Don't wait for a special occasion to make a cake. Make one on Sunday evening for the early part of the week. Just remember, you can’t have your cake and eat it too.

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