That’s how we roll: Freedom Cakes

9 Jan

Dear Zoe,
So, it’s no longer autumn.  There’s a foot of snow on the ground here and we finally composted what was left of the pick-your-own-apples.  I looked at those sun-filled pictures of Cider Day in Iowa and was filled with longing.  But, the days are getting longer and, while we’re waiting for Spring, there’s no better excuse than the cold to eat hibernation food like these ridiculous pancakes!

In brainstorming what to make for Sunday brunch this week, Nina and I wanted to make something healthy.  Thus, I rejected out of hand the idea of making bismarcs, which get baked in a pan with 1/4″ of butter.  We decided that we should try to make healthy pancakes.  Whether or not this feat is even possible, we failed miserably.  The result was, nonetheless, delicious (although now I feel a little sick).

Freedom Cakes

Here was the Healthy Pancake plan:

We would make stuffed pancakes!  Nina had heard of this from her fellow grad student Megan, so we started looking through our cookbooks for advice and found a recipe (predictably) in the Joy of Cooking for creamed seafood-stuffed pancakes.  This sounded gross to me, but I thought we could probably substitute other fillings for the seafood.

This is where everything went horribly, and deliciously, wrong.

Nina had some whipped cream left over from a post-holiday party for to truss up some minted pears she had preserved.  Nina being Nina, she was looking for a way to use what was left of the whipped cream, and suggested a beach plum jam/whipped cream filling.

Okay, so not really healthy, but fruit and cream…it could be worse.

And then, suddenly, it was.  Much worse.  Because I was struck with the genius idea of boiling butter and brown sugar and cinnamon and coating some toasted pecans and then stuffing the pancakes with those!

So, off  to the store I go, where I am instantly accosted by an adorable jar of nutella that, when you have finished the chocolate-hazelnut spread inside, turns into a drinking glass!

Useful-seeming useless thing

After all, Americans love options (and useless things masquerading as useful things, as the above-mentioned glass), and three types of stuffed pancakes are better than two.

The Joy of Cooking suggested using their recipe for French Pancakes for stuffing.  Here is our take on French (Freedom*) Cakes:

Freedom Pancakes:
Taken from The Joy of Cooking by Irma Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker

Sift 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
Resift the flour with 1/2 tsp salt, 1 tsp baking powder and 2 Tbsp powdered sugar
Beat 2 eggs in a separate bowl and stir in 2/3 cup milk, 1/3 cup water and 1/2 tsp vanilla

1) Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the wet.  Mix with a fork or a whisk until combined.  Don’t worry if there are some lumps.
2) Heat a skillet (cast iron is great, but whatever you have will work) that is the size of the pancakes you want.  Ours was 10″, but the Joy calls for a pan half that size.  You want a medium heat.
3) Throw some butter in the pan and, once it’s melted, add a little batter and tip the pan to allow the batter to spread to the size of the pan.  Decide how thick or thin you want your pancakes and add that much batter (too thick and you won’t be able to roll the cakes later; too thin and it’ll be hard to flip).

pancake is ready to flip when there are lots of bubbles in the middle

4) When it’s brown on the bottom and there are lots of bubbles in the middle of the batter, flip the pancake and brown the other side.

the butter browns lovely patterns into the batter when it's cooked

While you are cooking the freedom cakes, prepare the fillings:

Toasted Pecan Caramel Sauce

butter, cinnamon sugar, toasted pecans, oh my!

Toast chopped pecans in a pan in the oven at 300 degrees (F) until they are slightly browned and aromatic.  The true test of whether the pecans are toasted is to taste one.  You’ll know when they’re done, but they burn quickly, so monitor this process.  Five to ten minutes should do it.
Heat three Tbsp butter and one Tbsp packed brown sugar in a small sauce pan with a tsp of cinnamon.  Stir constantly.  Once the mixture is bubbling, turn off the heat, add the toasted pecans and toss.

(If you feel inspired and have some cream to spare, add about a teaspoon to the mix once it’s cooled near room temperature before you add the nuts.  Then, stir vigorously until combined.  Add nuts and reheat.)

Cream and Fruit Preserves Sauce

creme fraiche or whipped cream plus your favorite fruit preserve or jam

Whip heavy cream with a bit of powdered sugar (2 tsp maybe) until it peaks.
Choose your favorite fruit jam or preserve.  Nina made the preserve we used out of beach plums we picked last summer…yum!

Nutella and Banana

we recommend using less nutella than this in order that you might taste the other flavors a little

This one’s pretty straight forward: buy nutella; slice bananas.
(If you are awesome and make your own chocolate hazelnut butter, please let us know!)

Assembling the cakes:

On each pancake, spread one of the mixtures above (or one of your own imagination) over the whole pancake.  Then, roll the pancake into a tight log and chop into thirds.  You can decorate the tops, or just eat them as is (are?).  They are beautiful and (sickeningly) delectable.  Serve with coffee.

The best thing about these freedom cakes, besides getting to devise fancy fillings, was the taste of the almost crepe-like pancake.  The delicate, eggy texture and flavor was masked by the nutella, which was by far the weakest of the filling options.  If you love nutella and want to do this one anyway, go easy with the spread.  I wonder what it would taste like to mash the bananas into the nutella and sort of dot the pancake with the mix instead of spreading it over the whole cake.  The point is: don’t smother the lovely pancakes.

I also want to try these with, like, cheese!


If you try this with other filling variations, or have healthy filling ideas, do please share.


*In 2003, a North Carolina restaurateur gained national attention in the United States for renaming his French fries “Freedom Fries.”  This act was interpreted as a statement of anti-French sentiment while the French were stating staunch disapproval in the United Nations of the US plan to invade Iraq.  We have renamed our pancakes “Freedom Cakes” as a largely sardonic attempt to claim our country and all of its ridiculousness.  We have nothing against the French and celebrate their determination to stand in the way of war.  We also raise our glasses to the only other country with a culture remotely as arrogant as ours.

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5 Responses to “That’s how we roll: Freedom Cakes”

  1. moonbeam January 10, 2011 at 1:48 pm #

    yum! you’re back!

  2. Julia January 10, 2011 at 2:14 pm #

    In Corsica they make these pancake-like cakes that feature brocciu, a fresh Corsican whey cheese made from sheep’s or goat’s milk (hard to find in the States, but a similar cheese can be found, I’m sure). Adding the light, fluffy cheese as well as grated lemon peel makes a sensational combination.

    • Bec January 10, 2011 at 4:16 pm #

      Holy cheese that sounds delicious! I wonder how hard it would be to *make* that cheese…
      You can also substitute grated lemon peel for vanilla in the pancakes, which would be a good option for this filling.

  3. Emily January 14, 2011 at 4:24 am #

    I miss living with you for many reasons, but wandering into the kitchen and being offered food like this is definitely one of them

  4. Marie January 17, 2011 at 7:08 pm #

    Love the * disclaimer at the end, love the way you managed to make crepes and not call them crepes AND just wanted to let you know that real Germans put butter under their Nutella- so you did make it a little healthier by skipping that step!

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