Like Alison Roman, Her Desserts Are Just Sweet Enough

Food & Drink

Alison Roman is a force.

Much has been written about Alison Roman. Whether you like her or don’t like her—most people like her—you have to agree that she has a point of view.

This point of view gives her cookbooks an authoritative and confident tone. That’s a good thing IMO because when you set out to make a new recipe, you want the author to instill confidence in you (and the recipe) as you make it for the first time.

This confidence also allows her to write about the things that many of us do—in the privacy of our homes—but might not ever think that it was Important (with a capital I) enough to include in a manuscript. For example, in her new dessert cookbook, Sweet Enough, she has a spread devoted to how to eat leftover cake. Toasted Cake and Cold Cake. It includes a treaty on toasting slices as well as refrigerating cake and cutting it cold, “to shave off a little at a time, all day long. A delicious, delicate snack.” Who hasn’t done both?!

When I first got the book, I browsed through it, and many of the recipes were familiar, but had been “Roman-ified.“ What I mean by that is the titles are stronger, the headnotes are sassy and many of them include the word salt in some form. Most of the recipes have also been simplified and modernized and nothing is too sweet—thus the title—which is a welcome change from so many contemporary dessert cookbooks.

Seeing these recipes with her twist on them brought them back to the top of my list. I put sticky notes on the Cottage (Cheese) Cake with Apricots, Plummy Pudding which is like a Clafoutis; Milk and Honey Semolina Pudding, Toasted Rice Pudding—served cold; Salted Pistachio Shortbread, Cinnamon Sandies, Creamsicle, and the Many Mushroom Pot Pie because I am a sucker for all things mushroom to name a few.

But there was one recipe that immediately struck my fancy. It wasn’t that familiar and it appealed to my love of all things seeded and granola like. The Seedy Breakfast Cake is a loaf-pan cake/quick bread filled to the brim with sesame seeds, poppyseeds, and a number of options for additional seeds. I read the recipe and thought, “I have to make this now! And, it will either be delicious and my new favorite recipe, or a disaster.”

It is one of those recipes that once you make it, you wonder why didn’t I think of that? There are lots of recipes for Victorian Seed Cake or Poppyseed Muffins, which are both along the same idea as Roman’s Seedy Cake. But they are so much more restrained that it isn’t obvious that they are related. For her to take the idea of a lightly sweet quick bread with one seed, and turn it into a many-seeded splendor of a breakfast cake is a perfect example of how Alison takes something old and traditional, and makes it new again.

Throughout the book, there are options, and Roman encourages her readers to freestyle, which is perfect for this Seedy Cake. I used wheat germ instead of flaxseed, and caraway seeds instead of fennel seeds. I added a handful of Scottish oatmeal and a couple tablespoons of pumpkin seeds and chopped pecans that were left over from another recipe. I did not use the optional banana, because I really wanted to taste the seeds.

The cake mixes up very quickly without the need to use a stand mixer as there is no creaming of butter and sugar. The cake calls for a combination of sour cream or yogurt, and oil in place of all oil or butter.

It baked beautifully, and as you can see from my photograph looks very much like the one in her cookbook. One note is that my loaf pan is a standard loaf pan, and I had a little batter left over which I baked separately into a mini loaf.

I’m a huge fan of granola and in her head note Roman says that this breakfast cake has “excellent granola energy” and it does.

It is an unlikely but delicious cake and one that I can see myself making over and over again. And incidentally, the cake is delicious toasted and slathered with either salty French butter or crunchy natural peanut butter, and a generous sprinkling of Fleur de Sel.

Seedy Breakfast Cake

By definition this cake should contain a lot of seeds, but you can mix and match based on availability. Additions are also encouraged, including but not limited to: a large handful of rolled oats or ½ cup chopped nuts or pumpkin seeds.

Makes one 9 × 4-inch loaf

Cooking spray, for the pan

1½ cups/220g all-purpose flour

2–3 tablespoons poppy seeds, plus more for sprinkling

2–3 tablespoons white sesame seeds, toasted, plus more for sprinkling

2 tablespoons flaxseeds (optional)—I used Wheat Germ

1 tablespoon/12g baking powder

2 teaspoons fennel seeds (optional)—I used 1 teaspoon caraway seeds

1 teaspoon/4g kosher salt

½ cup/110g granulated sugar, plus more for dusting

¼ cup/50g light brown sugar

1 cup/180ml whole-milk Greek yogurt or full-fat sour cream

2 large eggs

½ cup/115g neutral oil, such as grapeseed or canola

1–2 ripe bananas (optional), smashed with a fork

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray a 9 × 4-inch loaf pan with cooking spray and line the long sides with parchment (for easy removal).
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the ‑our, poppy seeds, sesame seeds, flaxseeds (if using), baking powder, fennel seeds (if using), and salt.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together both sugars, the yogurt, eggs, and oil (now is when you’d add the banana, if using). Add the ‑our mixture and using the same whisk (or switch to a spatula), gently mix until you don’t have any visible dry spots or lumps, taking care not to overmix the batter.
  4. Transfer the batter to the prepared loaf pan and sprinkle with a bit more poppy seeds and sesame seeds, followed by a good dusting of granulated sugar.
  5. Bake the cake until it’s puffed, golden, and springs back when pressed on the surface and the sides visibly pull away from the sides of the pan, 1 hour 5 minutes to 1 hour 15 minutes (on the longer side if you’ve added a banana—loaf cakes take a long time!).
  6. Let cool completely before slicing. This cake stays good for about 5 days, stored tightly wrapped at room temperature.

Recipe adapted from “Sweet Enough” Copyright © 2023 by Alison Roman. Published by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of Random House.”

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