This and That

Random bits of my life

Birthday at Work (and Some Recipes)

Posted by Avital Pinnick on October 30, 2009


It’s our birthday! When Masha, my office mate, and I discovered that we had the same Hebrew birthday, we decided to bring in cakes for our co-workers. Masha brought a cheese cake and tiramisu and I baked a chocolate-walnut and a whole wheat apple-raisin cake.

It wasn’t easy getting work done with people stopping by all day to wish us “mazel tov” but it was fun.


I received several requests for recipes, so here they are. They’re easy, no-brainer recipes, good recipes to keep around when you need to whip up something fast and you want something that is almost fool-proof (I’m assuming that you know the basics of baking, like not opening the oven or practicing your Irish dance steps next to the stove).

Side note: I ready yesterday on the Web that someone started a blog just to organize their recipes. Interesting idea! Blog postings can be tagged, categorized, and searched, and one can add photographs of the finished dishes.

Whole Wheat Apple Raisin Cake

Yield: 4″x10″ loaf pan (may be doubled for 9×13 pan)

1/2 cup canola oil
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 apples, cored, peeled and diced
1/2 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 C).

Grease a 4×10 loaf pan (Israelis call this an “English cake” pan).

Beat oil, sugar, eggs, and vanilla extract (you can use a mixer but I use a wooden spoon because I can’t be bothered washing the beaters) until smooth. Sift together flour, salt, baking powder, and cinnamon. Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients. Stir in apples and raisins.

Bake for 50 minutes. Cool for 1/2 hour in the pan, then turn out on a rack to finish cooling so that it doesn’t get soggy.

Chocolate Walnut Cake

Yield: 4″x10″ loaf pan (may be doubled for 9×13 pan)

1/2 cup canola oil
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 cup water or juice (almost any fruit juice will work)
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup cocoa
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 C).

Grease a 4×10 loaf pan.

Beat oil, sugar, eggs, and juice. Sift flour, cocoa, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients, mixing until combined. Stir in chopped walnuts.

Bake for 50 minutes. Cool for 1/2 hour in the pan, then turn out on a rack to finish cooling so that it doesn’t get soggy.

You’ll notice that the methods and proportions are very similar. Most of cooking is based on standard ratios and methods. Once you understand them, you’ll hardly ever need to consult a cookbook unless you want to make something unusual or unfamiliar.


That reminds me of a couple books:

  • Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking. I heard a review of this book on an episode of the Splendid Table podcast. The author, Michael Ruhlman, shares his recipe for warm tomato vinaigrette. It sounds easy and delicious.
  • Healthy Helpings: 800 Fast and Fabulous Recipes for the Kosher (or Not) Cook I highly recommend this book if you want healthy recipes that don’t require hours in the kitchen and just plain taste good. (I suggested it yesterday to a coworker who confided that his wife bought a “healthy” cookbook and served the family an inedible pineapple tofu pie. When a dessert is so bad that people can’t finish a serving out of politeness, well, that’s not one for the files.) Norene’s recipes are thoroughly tested, clear, and delicious. This is one of the very few cookbooks where I can imagine making almost every recipe. Although she doesn’t say that she’s a method cook, if you study her recipes, it’s clear that this is her approach. Each recipe includes nutritional information, variations, freezing info, and a large helping of corny humour, which I happen to like.

  • I think I’ll include Ruhlman’s vinaigrette recipe here, to remind me to try it.


    Warm Tomato Vinaigrette, from Ruhlman’s Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking

    This is a basic vinaigrette only instead of being cold, it’s mixed together in a medium hot pan, which intensifies the flavor of the tomato and the sweetness of the shallot. This is a great sauce for white fish, halibut or cod or tilapia (and would do wonders for the ubiquitous boneless chicken breast). But it also it works well with boiled new potatoes, salt cod, or a combination of boiled new potatoes, or other root vegetables, and salt cod or smoked trout.

    1/2 cup seeded, diced tomato
    salt to taste (about 1/2 teaspoon)
    1/4 cup sliced shallot
    1 teaspoon minced garlic
    1 tablespoon canola oil
    1 ounce sherry vinegar (2 tablespoons)
    1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
    2 1/2 ounces olive oil (5 tablespoons)

    Toss the tomatoes with the salt to begin drawing out their moisture and flavor. Sauté the shallot in canola oil over medium high heat until translucent. Add the tomato and any liquid that’s leached out to the pan and cook stirring for a minute or so to heat the tomato and reduce some of the liquid. And the mustard and vinegar and stir to combine. Whisk in the oil until incorporated then remove the pan from heat. Taste for seasoning, add salt or vinegar as needed. Spoon over chicken, fish or vegetables.


    4 Responses to “Birthday at Work (and Some Recipes)”

    1. pam said

      Thank you for sharing your recipes. I am definitely going to try both! Think I will surprise my husband with the chocolate walnut cake today!

      And I am going to try them with Splenda for Diane. I have been playing around with several recipes for her lately and figured out a few tricks that seem to be working well.

    2. pam said

      What is wrong with me? Happy Birthday!

    3. Happy Almost birthday .. this year:) These recipes look fantastic:)

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