Sunday, November 30, 2014

Settlers of Chazy Lake

Literally YEARS ago (four maybe?), I asked for and received a board game for my birthday, Settlers of Catan. But the instruction booklet was so thick and intricately detailed that everyone was sorely afraid and no one would play it with me. When I was complaining about this at some point, my friends, Joanna and Donnie, told me that their family plays, and that their son, Josh, was particularly good at being the explainer/moderator. Thus, we have been saying for a couple of years now that we should get together and play when Josh was in town. Well, it FINALLY happened! Tonight, the Jacksons invited me and another dear friend, Tracy, over for a rousing post-Thanksgiving evening of Settlers of Catan. They made the poor newbs play as a team, but Tracy and I didn't do too badly for our first time. We managed to build a few settlements and a city, but that dreaded robber kept thwarting our expansion plans. Still, they told us that we came in second place out of four teams. YAY! And I enjoyed the game. It's kind of like Agrarian Monopoly.

Of course, the real reason to get together with friends is the smorgasbord of snacks, especially as the Jacksons and their daughter and son-in-law, the Vaillancourts, own Woven Meadows Farm in Saranac, NY and make delicious cheeses from the milk from their dairy cows. As for my own contributions to the party, I made a roasted bacon and corn dip that was tasty, but looked rather unsightly and more than a little vomitous. (No one seemed to mind, though, and I brought home an empty dish.)

However, I was most proud of the cake that I made especially for the party's hostess and my dear friend, Joanna, who is a big Anglophile (she and her husband actually lived in England for awhile while they were both in the service). It was a pumpkin cake that, instead of being heavily spiced with traditional flavors like cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg, was flavored more delicately with Earl Grey tea. I know, right? I didn't think the delicate tea flavor would come through, but it did so beautifully and added lovely notes of citrus. Just DELICIOUS! I followed the recipe pretty closely, except that I doubled it and baked it in a Bundt pan so that the cake was party-sized.

My only boo-boo was trying to turn out the extremely tender and moist cake too soon and losing some of the top of it on the dismount. So I just covered my sin with a voluminous cloud of tea-spiked cream cheese frosting, and none was the wiser. (Tee hee.)

Earl Grey Pumpkin Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
(Source: Dianna Muscari, Honest Cooking)

1/4 cup milk
2 Earl Grey tea bags
1 cup all-­purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
scant 1 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup vegetable oil

Earl Grey Cream Cheese Frosting:
2 tablespoons milk
1 Earl Grey tea bag
4 tablespoons butter, softened
3 ounces cream cheese
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8x8 inch baking pan with foil and spray with non­stick cooking spray. Set aside.
2. Heat milk to steaming and steep tea bags in it for about 5 minutes. When finished steeping, squeeze out the tea bags carefully with the back of a spoon to get maximum flavor from each bag.
3. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
4. In a small bowl, beat together eggs, vanilla extract, pumpkin puree and vegetable oil until thoroughly combined.
5. Add wet mixture to dry mixture and stir until just combined.
6. Pour batter into prepared baking pan. Bake for about 35-45 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before frosting.

1. Heat milk to steaming; steep tea bag in milk for about five minutes. When finished steeping, squeeze out the tea bag carefully with the back of a spoon to get maximum flavor. Set aside.
2. In a medium bowl using a hand mixer, cream together butter and cream cheese until mostly smooth. Slowly beat in powdered sugar until incorporated.
3. Add about one tablespoon of tea­steeped milk. Add vanilla extract. Beat until smooth. (If the consistency is too runny, add a bit more powdered sugar. If it's too thick, add some more milk.)
4. Frost cooled cake completely. Sprinkle with cinnamon for garnish, if desired. Slice and serve.

Note: This recipe can easily be doubled and baked in a Bundt pan (increasing the cooking time, of course--I think mine took just over an hour, but I would start checking at 55 minutes and every five minutes thereafter until a tester comes out with just moist crumbs). 

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