Go On, Eat Cake for Breakfast

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Raise your hand if you’ve had cake for breakfast at any point (or every day) during the pandemic. Thought so. Cake for breakfast is nothing new. It’s something that countries the world over have enjoyed for centuries. Yet in the modern era of breakfasting in North America, we often limit ourselves to time‑saving granola bars and jam‑schmeared toast. I say leave the eggs for dinner and the pancakes for lunch, and instead of grabbing a cereal spoon at the breakfast table, grab a cake knife.

Cake is fast – if you made or bought it the previous day, it’s literally sitting there waiting for you. It also sometimes has all the ingredients you need to start your engine. Take orange‑ricotta cake that includes wholesome eggs, vitamin‑C‑packed oranges and calcium‑rich cheese. It’s practically health food masquerading as dessert. Then there’s rhubarb crumb cake, carrot cake, strawberry cheesecake and so on.

What I’m saying is, embrace the breakfast cake. It can take you on a winged journey to other countries while enjoying a sweet new way of living.

Here are some of the world’s best breakfast cake options.

January 12, 2021
An Austrian Sachertorte with the word Sacher drizzled in chocolate on top
   Photo: Silvia Federica Boldetti (@silviafedericaboldetti)

Austria: Sachertorte

Vienna’s coffee houses have always been a warming cultural hub for lawyers, students, artists and starlets to sip hot drinks, read newspapers and discuss the matters of the day. Some have been around since the 19th century, their fin de siècle decor largely untouched, and they charmingly remain a way of life here. I love many of them dearly, including Demel (circa 1888), famous for its pastries, which supplied the Royal Court. For us commoners, breakfast cake can be had as of 9 a.m., including Austria’s most famous cake, the Sachertorte. Layers of chocolate sponge are spread with apricot jam and draped in dark chocolate, making it a borderline antioxidant cake. P.S. You can get a taste without the travel as they ship to Canada.

Chinese sponge cake (ma lai goa) served in steam baskets
   Photo: Yeanley Oh (@bakewithpaws)

China: ma lai goa

When our lives included gathering en masse around lazy Susans for weekend dim sum, there was always someone at the table who wanted something sweet. I would argue that’s what the Coca‑Cola is for, but they’d still tick the box for the traditional steamed sponge cake. Called ma lai goa, it’s made of eggs, sugar and flour, and is a mainstay in teahouses in China and Hong Kong, such as Lin Heung Teahouse. After taking a couple of absentminded bites, it hits you that it’s more about texture than flavour: where angel food meets omelette. And you realize it’s a must‑have.

An aluminium pan filled with Spanish churros
   Photo: Jillian Luna (@eatingwiththelunas)

Spain: churros

During the Sunday market at Barcelona’s Port Vell area, one can join the cue at Xurreria Artesana, where they fry up fresh churros, snipping raw snakes of dough into burbling oil before tossing them in cinnamon sugar in a large paper bag. Hot, crispy, soft, and generous, served with thick dipping chocolate, this will serve as a memorable breakfast. And when complemented by a cup of café con leche? It’s a breakfast of campionas.

Three Portuguese custard tarts (pastel de nata) on a blue plate
   Photo: Gary Simmons (@brightonfoodboy)

Portugal: pastel de nata

When I bit into a pastel de nata at Fabrica da Nata in Porto, I knew I would never look at an egg custard tart the same way. The blistered tops and pastry shells of pastel de nata date back to the 16th century area nuns and their blessed confectionaries. Now the tiny tarts are eaten any time of day, but are a particularly great way to start the morning. Fabrica da Nata’s pink marble storefront is as elegant as it is busy, with hundreds of people and thousands of tarts coming out of the open‑window bakery each day. Mine was so hot I could barely hold it, so crunchy it almost shattered, and so delicious I almost wept.

The Italian cake Ciambella Romagnola on a serving tray on a dining table
   Photo: Marialaura Gionfriddo

Italy: Ciambella Romagnola

Sometimes baked in a ring mold, other times in a loaf pan, the Ciambella Romagnola is a simple, lemon‑zest‑forward cake with the lone embellishment of pearl sugar. Understated and elegant, it’s homey with a tender crumb, thanks in part to that OO Italian flour. The bambinos have it dipped in warm milk, while the adults take it with a cappuccino. Found far and wide in the delicious Emilia‑Romagna area of Italy, you can enjoy a slice at Vëcia Cantêna d’La Prè restaurant, in Predappio Alta, a pretty hilltop town in the mountains.

Amy’s Carrot‑Zucchini Bread with Vanilla Cream‑Cheese Frosting

A slice of Amy Rosen's carrot‑zucchini bread with vanilla cream‑cheese frosting
   Photo: Ryan Szulc

Now it’s time to join the trend at home, with my easy recipe for a loaf cake that you’ll be nibbling on all week. Carrots, zucchini and a rich cream cheese frosting? Breakfast is served.

Ingredients

Cake

  • 2 cups flour

  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon

  • ½ tsp baking soda

  • ¼ tsp baking powder

  • ¼ tsp sea salt

  • 1 cup sugar

  • 1 cup packed brown sugar

  • ¾ cup vegetable oil

  • 3 eggs

  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

  • 1 cup grated zucchini (about 1 medium)

  • 1 cup grated carrot (about 1 medium)

  • 1 cup pecan pieces, toasted and cooled

 

Frosting

  • ¼ cup butter, softened

  • ½ block (4 oz) full‑fat cream cheese, softened

  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

  • 1½ cups icing sugar

 

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter and flour a 9 × 5 × 3‑inch loaf pan.

  2. Place the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl and whisk together. In a separate large bowl, beat both sugars, the oil, eggs and vanilla until noticeably lighter and well combined. Stir in the zucchini and carrots. Add the flour mixture and pecans, and stir well.

  3. Transfer the batter to the prepared loaf pan, and set the loaf pan on a baking sheet. Bake until the top is golden brown and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about 1 hour and 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and set the pan on a wire rack to cool for 15 minutes. Then run a knife around the loaf to loosen it, turn it out onto the rack and let it cool completely.

  4. For the frosting, in a medium bowl, beat the softened butter and cream cheese with a hand mixer until smooth and fluffy, about 2–3 minutes. Stir in the vanilla, then the icing sugar. Cover and chill until using.

  5. To serve, spread and swirl the chilled cream‑cheese frosting overtop of the bread. Slice and enjoy.

 

Excerpted from Kosher Style: Over 100 Jewish Recipes for the Modern Cook by Amy Rosen. Copyright © 2019 Amy Rosen. Published by Appetite by Random House®, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.