Love & Peanut Butter

Hello there! It’s been awhile!

This hostess-with-the-mostess hosted her fiance’s five closest friends and two sisters this past weekend to celebrate his 29th birthday. In a one-bedroom house. With one bathroom and no air-conditioning (minus the bedroom). If you did your addition correctly, you would know that was 9 people total sharing those accommodations plus my two furry children. There was only one monster birthday cake I could think of that would be able to take on that kind of crowd:

The “Honey I’m Peanuts About You!” cake. This recipe has a terribly corny (or nutty…?) name, but it’s a fabulous concoction of chocolate ganache, peanut butter buttercream, moist chocolate cake, and honey roasted peanuts. It takes the combination of peanut butter and chocolate one step further by incorporating the honey roasted peanuts, and the salty sweetness keeps it from tasting too over-indulgent. I made the cake for the first time two years ago for my honey’s birthday when I was still an amateur baker who was more interested in decorating than creating. I guess I still am an amateur baker…unless a paid internship counts. Anyway, I’ve learned a few tips and tricks since then that doubled the appeal and quality of this cake this time around, and I’m prepared to share them with you so you can delight in the peanut buttery goodness too.

As a side note-it’s more than a coincidence that I’ve chosen to spend the rest of my life with a man who is as obsessed with peanut butter and chocolate as I am. What the heck would I do with a guy who only liked vanilla?

“Honey, I’m Peanuts About You!” Cake

Stuff You’ll Need

Makes one 9-inch cake with 12-16 servings

For the Cake

  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 1/2 cups hot, strong coffee or espresso
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 1/4 cups granulated sugar, sifted or chunks removed
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 9″ round cake pans, greased and lined with parchment paper

For the Buttercream

  • 18oz jar of creamy peanut butter
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 1/4 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted

For the Ganache

  • 24oz semisweet chocolate chips or chopped
  • 1 1/2 cup (12oz) heavy cream
  • 1 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 12oz package of honey roasted peanuts, roughly chopped or broken (see tips below)

How to Do It

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Dissolve the cocoa and the buttermilk into the hot coffee or espresso, and set aside to cool.
  3. In a medium mixing bowl, sift the flour, baking soda, and salt together, and set aside.
  4. Cream the butter and sugar together using the paddle attachment on a stand mixer at medium speed for 5-6 minutes, or until the ingredients are light and fluffy. Slowly add the eggs and vanilla extract to the mixture, and scrape the sides of the bowl as necessary to incorporate all the ingredients.
  5. Remove the bowl from the mixer, and begin alternately folding in the dry and wet ingredients. This works best if you use a heavy rubber spatula and alternate folding 1/3 of the dry ingredients with 1/2 of the wet ingredients. The batter will be lighter than an average cake batter, but be careful not to overmix. The cake should be very moist when it’s fully baked which won’t happen if the batter is overmixed.
  6. Pour half the batter in each prepared pan, and bake for 40-42 minutes, rotating the pan at approximately 20 minutes. Test for doneness by sticking a fork or toothpick into the center of each cake. Remove from the oven, and allow the cake to cool completely in the pan on a baking rack.
  7. While the cake is baking, cream the butter and peanut butter together using the paddle attachment of a stand mixer until ingredients are completely blended and very creamy, 4-5 minutes. Remove the paddle attachment, and replace it with the whip attachment (if you’re using an electric mixer, you don’t have to worry about switching). Gradually add the confectioner’s sugar 1/2 cup at a time while continuously whipping the buttercream. The buttercream should be spreadable but not soft and should be similar to the texture of a thick peanut butter. If it’s still too soft after 2 1/4 cups of confectioner’s sugar are added, add more sugar 1/4 cup at a time until the desired consistency is reached. When you’ve finished whipping the buttercream, set it aside until the cake has completely cooled.
  8. Make the ganache while the cake is cooling. Place the chocolate in a large stainless steel mixing bowl, and place the heavy cream and butter in a small sauce pan. Heat the cream over medium-high heat until it begins to thicken and boil. When the cream begins to rise quickly to the top of the pan, remove it from the heat and pour it over the chocolate immediately. Allow the chocolate to rest with the hot cream for 5-10 minutes before stirring. At this point, use a heavy wire whisk to blend the chocolate and cream until the mixture is consistent and creamy. Place the bowl in the refrigerator for 20-30 minutes before using. The final consistency of the ganache will be similar to a canned chocolate frosting-spreadable but solid.
  9. When the cake has cooled completely, gently remove it from the pan, and using a sharp knife or cake leveler, split each layer in half horizontally. Place the first layer on a cake stand or flat plate, and generously top with peanut butter buttercream. Gently spread the buttercream over the layer to completely cover it, and place the second layer on top. Repeat until you’ve place the final layer on top of the cake. Spread a generous portion of the cooled chocolate ganache on the top and sides of the cake until it’s completely covered, and while the chocolate is still soft, cover the sides with chopped honey roasted peanuts.
  10. Cover the cake (this is easiest in a cake caddy so the sides do not touch anything), and refrigerate for at least three hours up to overnight before serving. You can freeze the cake for up to 4 hours also if you’re able to let it sit at room temperature for 15 minutes before serving. This firms up all the layers and makes it extra indulgent!

Recipe adapted from FoodNetwork.com.

Tips & Treats

    Honey roasted peanuts are delightful…but they’re not easy to “chop” unless you have one of those handy-dandy slap-chop things. If you’re aren’t that lucky, put them in a gallon-sized Ziploc bag, sealed with as much air pressed out as possible, and use a rolling pin to roll over them several times. This will give you fine pieces to cover the sides of the cake with, and be sure to press them on while the ganache is still soft.

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My First Time Making Whoopie

Relax kids, this is a family show.

I’m talking whoopie pies, of course! After I had an epic failure for a chocolate cream pie with a Thin Mint crust (I used coconut milk to make the whipped cream, which would not whip, and therefore the “mousse” was just slush…and I wasted a box of Thin Mints I’d been saving for months for the right recipe…looks like that wasn’t it), I had to redeem myself. I’ve decided to embark on my newest project using recipes from cook books I already own. Yes, actual cook books, which are piling up on my shelves, can be used for more than just decoration. There are so many incredible recipes out there, and I probably have 25% of them already sitting in my kitchen, silently vying for my attention. It just so happens that the first recipe I pulled out on the first page of the book United Cakes of America was for chocolate whoopie pies with a rum meringue frosting straight out of whoopie pie-obsessed Maine.

Whoopies are actually much easier than I’d imagine, at least in this case. This recipe is your traditional whoopie pie with a slight twist on the frosting, and the entire process can be done under a half hour. I used vanilla and almond extracts and Mount Gay Eclipse Rum (an amazing gold rum from Barbados), but it would be easy enough to completely transform the frosting by adding raspberry or strawberry extracts or something even warmer, like cinnamon. I’ll have to get back to you on changing the cakes…pumpkin whoopies in the fall are enough to make me wish for the cold.

Whoopie Pies

 

Stuff You’ll Need

Makes 8 pies

For the Cake

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 3 Tbsp cocoa powder
  • 3 Tbsp corn starch
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup milk (either 2% or whole or almond)
  • 2 Tbsp molasses
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup or 1 stick unsalted butter or Earth Balance, softened
  • 1/2 cup superfine granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • Baking sheets, parchment paper

For the Filling

  • 1 1/4 cups superfine granulated sugar
  • 3 egg whites
  • 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 1 tsp rum
  • Hand-mixer, stainless steel mixing bowl, and small saucepan-you’re gonna do some cooking here!

How to Do It

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Spray each sheet lightly with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. Sift the dry ingredients for the cake together in a mixing bowl, and set aside. Combine the milk, molasses, and vanilla extract in a separate bowl, and set aside.
  3. Begin creaming the butter and both sugars together with the paddle attachment of a stand-mixer at medium speed for 2-3 minutes. Add the egg, and scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula as necessary.
  4. Alternately add the dry and wet ingredients in 3-4 steps each into the mixer, and scrape down the sides and into the bottom of the bowl to ensure all the ingredients are blended. Whip for an additional 15-20 seconds.
  5. Drop 1/4 cup-sized scoops of batter 2-3 inches apart onto the prepared baking sheets. Bake for 15 minutes, or until the cakes are firm and a fork or tooth pick comes out mostly clean when placed in the center of the cake.
  6. Remove the cakes from the oven, and let them cool completely on the pan.
  7. While the cakes are cooling, make the filling. Fill a small sauce pan with 1-2 cups of water, and bring to a simmer on the stove. Combine all of the ingredients except for the extracts and rum into a stainless steel mixing bowl that can be placed on top of the saucepan, and prepare your hand-mixer. An oven mitt would be helpful here as well.
  8. Place the bowl over the simmering water, and beat with the electric mixer on low speed. Gradually increase the speed of the mixer to its highest setting, and continue whipping the filling for a total of 7 minutes. The filling should thicken and develop stiff peaks. Carefully add the extracts and rum, and whip for another minute. Quickly remove the bowl from the heat, and set aside to cool.
  9. When the cakes and filling have cooled, use a pastry bag to pipe approximately 2-4 tablespoons of filling on the flat side of half the cakes. Place the flat side of the remaining cakes on top, and enjoy yourself a whoopie pie!

Tips & Treats

  • A note on sugars-this recipe calls for “superfine granulated sugar”. If you’re stopping by the local grocery store, you may not be able to find “superfine granulated sugar”, so you’ll have two choices to compensate: a)do what I did and purchase fine organic sugar, like Florida Crystals, which has a smaller granule than generic granulated sugar, or b)throw your granulated sugar into a food processer and pulse for 30 seconds to cut it up. The finer texture actually helps to cut through the butter when creaming more easily, which provides for a more consistent product.

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Lemon Blueberry Cream Cheesy Goodness

I’m not sure what it is about lemon and blueberry that makes such a delightful combination. Perhaps it’s the blend of fragrant citrus and the natural juicy sweetness of the blueberries that makes this such a refreshing summertime flavor, or maybe it’s the fact that blueberries are loaded with antioxidants and lemons provide a heavy dose of vitamin C, which is reason enough to indulge.

If you don’t care about the health benefits of blueberries and lemons, perhaps you’ll just appreciate that they’re delicious together, especially if there’s a range of textures in the dessert as there is in this one.

And if you can’t appreciate that, well maybe you’ll just like that you can layer the dessert in a wine glass. 😉

I mixed several different recipe ideas to create this little parfait with the thought that none of them could be too heavy or rich. After all, this is swimsuit season. I stumbled on this lemon-vanilla pound cake recipe when I was searching for ideas for Mother’s Day, and I scribbled a little note on it that said “blueberry compote or strawberry?”. I pushed it aside when my mother told me she wanted something “healthy” for Mother’s Day and didn’t think of it again until I ran into this: blueberry and cream cheese trifles from Sweet Revelations. That’s when I started thinking about how delicious it would be to do it with lemon pound cake…you know, so I could get all that vitamin C.

So the following is an original creation with a few influences and a lot of deliciousness.


Lemon-Vanilla Pound Cake



Stuff You’ll Need


Makes one 10″ Bundt pan

  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup or 1 stick unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 cups granulated sugar plus 1/4 cup
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp lemon extract or lemon juice
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 10″ Bundt pan, pastry brush


How to Do It

  1. Generously brush a 10″ Bundt pan with melted butter, and refrigerate pan until butter hardens, about 15 to 20 minutes. Brush any uncovered spots, and place in the fridge again while you prepare the other ingredients.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  3. Bring milk and butter pieces to a boil over medium heat in a small saucepan. Remove from the heat , and set aside.
  4. Sift flour and salt together in a small bowl, and set aside.
  5. Beat the eggs until very light and fluffy at medium-high speed for about 5 minutes in a stand-mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or with an electric hand-mixer. Reduce the speed to medium, and gradually add 2 cups of granulated sugar until blended. Add the extracts (or 1/2 tsp lemon juice).
  6. Reduce the speed to low, and add the flour and salt slowly until the ingredients are just blended. Slowly pour the hot milk mixture into the batter, and add baking powder. Beat until blended, and remove the bowl from the mixer.
  7. Using a rubber spatula, fold the lemon zest into the batter. Pour the batter into the prepared Bundt pan, and bake for 50 to 55 minutes, or until the cake is golden brown and a cake tester or fork inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove the cake from the oven, and cool in the pan for 5 minutes.
  8. While the cake is cooling, pour the lemon juice over the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar. Lightly whisk the ingredients with a fork, and set aside.
  9. Invert the cake to a wire cooling rack to finish cool, and using a fork, gently poke holes throughout the surface of the cake. Use a pastry brush to brush the lemon/sugar syrup over the entire surface of the cake. Cool completely before serving.

Recipe adapted from Redbook.


Baker’s Tip

The original recipe calls for 1/2 tsp lemon extract, which can be very strong. I used lemon juice (mostly because I forgot to pick up extract at the store…), and the lemon flavor was PERFECT-subtle without being overly sweet or citrus. Don’t waste your money if you don’t have it already on hand, and use some of the juice you squeeze for the syrup.


Extra Baker’s Tip

To get the most juice possible from a lemon, quarter, rather than halve, the lemon, and squeeze each piece until there’s nothing left.


Blueberry Compote



Stuff You’ll Need

  • 1 pint fresh blueberries, washed and dried
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice


How to Do It

  1. Heat 3/4 pint blueberries, lemon juice, and 1/2 cup sugar over medium-high heat until the liquid begins to boil. Stir and turn the heat down to low. Simmer for 8-10 minutes until the blueberries soften. Remove from heat, and let the syrup cool briefly.
  2. Put the mixture into a food processor or blender, and whip until smooth. When completely cool, stir the remaining 1/4 pint blueberries into the compote.



Whipped Cream Cheese Frosting



Stuff You’ll Need

  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp butter, unsalted and softened
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 12 oz heavy cream


How to Do It

  1. Whip butter and cream cheese until fluffy with the paddle attachment of a stand mixer for 1-2 minutes. Add vanilla extract, and whip again until blended. Scrape the sides of the bowl, and switch to the whisk attachment.
  2. Add 12 oz of heavy whipping cream, and whip at high speed for 4-5 minutes. Add the salt and lemon juice, and whip until blended.
  3. Put the mixer on high speed, and begin adding the confectioner’s sugar 1/4 cup at a time, stopping the mixer as needed to scrape the sides. Whip until the mixture is creamy and slightly stiff. Add additional confectioner’s sugar 1/4 cup at a time if needed to reach desired consistency. Remove from the mixer, and refrigerate while assembling other ingredients.


Layer the parfait by laying pieces of the pound cake on the bottom, top with blueberry compote, and scoop some cream cheese frosting on top. Add as many layers as you think you can handle, and always serve in a wine glass. 😉

 

Almond Angel Food Cake

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, avoiding grocery stores and drug stores, and ignoring all sorts of social media, you know Mother’s Day just passed. If you weren’t aware of that and you missed it, then perhaps you should save yourself the desperation and guilt, and consider a culinary treat for your mum rather than fighting to find a lame gift and card on clearance. Lucky for me, my mother, or Momma or Moogle (who needs a Google when you have a Moogle?) as I affectionately refer to her as, prefers thoughtful treats and ideas over flowers and candy.

I attempted to make her favorite dishes-a delicious mac and cheese with spinach, smoked gouda, sharp cheddar, and a little parmesan with an angel food cake for dessert. Unfortunately I attempted to make the mac and cheese at 11:00 at night after a very long day, and rather than adding flour to make a roux for the cheese sauce, I added confectioner’s sugar. Needless to say that, while edible, the pasta didn’t come out quite as creamy and delicious as planned. The angel food cake though was a different story. I honestly thought it would be tricky to make the light and fluffy cake, which I planned to serve with a strawberry compote and fresh whipped cream, but the end result was worth the effort and the less-than-fabulous dinner. I may not be the greatest cook in the world (or perhaps I just shouldn’t attempt to cook a meal when I’m exhausted and have been going nonstop for 18 hours…), but I sure can make one heck of a dessert. 😉

Onto angel food cake…it’s more simple than you can imagine, but in order to get the right texture, you need to have patience and time. It involves more than having the right ingredients and the right measurements. You need to use baking knowledge and experience to judge texture and timing also, especially when making the meringue, which is the base of the cake. Whipping meringue is similar to whipping whipped cream, but it takes twice as long for the right chemical reaction to happen so runny egg whites turn into soft fluff. If the meringue isn’t the right texture, the angel food cake won’t turn out quite so angelic so it’s important to get it right. My best suggestion is to ensure that the egg whites are at room temperature and follow the recipe for additional ingredients exactly, and be patient. Egg whites may look frothy nearly immediately, but they won’t turn to meringue for several minutes.

Meringue with soft peaks

Meringue with stiff peaks

Think of it this way: if your egg whites look and feel like  you can throw them on a sandwich with peanut butter, then they’re ready to use in your batter.

My next bit of advice goes against most things you’ve ever heard about baking cakes-do NOT grease your pan. Angel food is so delicate that if you grease the pan, your cake will come out greasy and hard rather than light and fluffy. Cool it in the pan for 20-30 minutes before attempting to remove the pan, and it should maintain its shape nicely.

I made this cake with an almond extract, but if you’re not crazy about almond, feel free to replace it with vanilla extract for a more traditional taste. Enjoy!

Almond Angel Food Cake with Strawberry Compote and Whipped Cream

Stuff You’ll Need

Makes one 10″ fluted tube pan

  • 12 large egg whites (actual egg whites, not out of a carton please)
  • 1 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 1/3 cups granulated or superfine sugar
  • 1 tsp almond extract (or vanilla if you prefer, or orange if you’re really daring)
  • 1 cup cake flour
  • 1 non-stick 10″ fluted tube pan
  • Baking sheet
  • Strawberry compote (recipe to follow)
  • Whipped cream (recipe to follow)

How to Do It

  1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Let the egg whites stand and get to room temperature. Add the cream of tartar and salt.
  2. Beat the egg whites until frothy, and begin gradually adding the sugar 2 Tbsp at time until stiff and glossy peaks form, about 5-7 minutes. Beat in the vanilla extract. When the meringue is finished, it should resemble the photo above.
  3. Gently fold the cake flour into the egg whites in two additions until completely incorporated. Be careful not to deflate the meringue, but be sure that the flour is not still in dry clumps.
  4. Spoon the batter into the tube pan, and bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes or until the top of the cake has risen very high and is lightly browned and cracked. Remove from the oven, and immediately invert the cake onto a baking sheet to cool. Cool completely before attempting to remove from the pan.

Gently fold in the flour

Recipe adapted from Recipebridge.com.

Strawberry Compote

Stuff You’ll Need

Makes approximately 1 cup

  • 1 1/2 pint strawberries, washed, dried, and sliced
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • Small saucepan
  • Food processor or blender

How to Do It

  1. Combine 1 pt strawberries, sugar, and lemon juice in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring the liquid to a boil, reduce heat to medium, and simmer until the strawberries are soft, about 8-10 minutes. Remove from the heat, and set aside to cool.
  2. When the syrup is cool, place it in a food processor or blender, and puree. Add the remaining strawberries, and mix (not puree) well so there are still large pieces of strawberry in the syrup.

Recipe adapted from Food.com.

Whipped Cream

Stuff You’ll Need

Makes approximately 2 cups

  • 12 oz heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 Tbsp cream cheese
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla

How to Do It

  1. Begin whipping the cream on low speed in a stand mixer or with a sturdy hand mixer. Add the sugar and cream cheese, and increase the speed to high. Add the cream thickens and begins to form soft peaks, add the vanilla, and continue to whip until it thickens. If you need more tips on making whipped cream, check out this.

Fall Flavored Cake Still Works in the Spring

Certain flavors and foods are associated with specific seasons-strawberries in the summertime, gingerbread in winter, pumpkin in the fall. I’ve always thought of anything spiced, pumpkin, or really anything else with an orange hue as an autumn treat, but I recently came across a few delightful recipes that I had hidden away that incorporated some of those flavors. I bought a box of spice cake mix a few months ago when I was feeling inspired to make a caramel apple spice cake, but lo and behold, life happened and I never made the cake. As I flipped through an older recipe book that I had to brush some dust off of (really, who uses cook books anymore when there are so many fantastic choices online?!), I fluttered several pages of cakes using spiced cake mix. I found one that used mashed sweet potatoes and Cool Whip that sounded beyond easy but extremely tasty and comforting. I tend to think of spice cake and sweet potatoes as something for the cool, gray days of fall, but the weather here has been a bit dreary lately. Plus I’m moving in a few weeks, and I’d sure like to avoid bringing anything extra that could be used first.

Turns out, this cake is a hit. I brought the extra pieces into work, and they were gone before lunch. I followed the recipe below exactly as described, but I managed to find some seasonal cinnamon Cool Whip at the local grocery store, which only leads me to believe that I wasn’t the only one thinking about autumn yummies.

Sweet Potato-Ginger Cake

Stuff You’ll Need

  • 1 pkg spice cake mix (18.25 oz)
  • 1 1/3 cups water
  • 1 15 oz can of yams packed in syrup, drained and mashed
  • 6 large egg whites or 3/4 cup egg whites
  • 2 Tbsp canola oil
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 8 oz frozen whipped topping, thawed
  • 13″ x 9″ cake pan, parchment paper

How to Do It

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F, and line a 13″ x 9″ cake pan with parchment paper and non-stick cooking spray.
  2. Combine cake mix, water, mashed yams, egg whites, oil, and ground ginger in a large bowl. Mix until combined, and pour into your prepared pan.
  3. Bake for 32-34 minutes or until a toothpick or cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool completely on a wire rack.
  4. Frost with whipped topping immediately before serving.

Recipe from Cake Mix Magic by Favorite Brand Name Recipes, Vol. 1, No. 8, May 26th, 2009

Boston Cream Cake

Hello friends! It’s been too long since I’ve written 😦 but I promise I have a grrrrrreeeat recipe to make up for it!

My brother-in-law is a fantastic chef from Italy who can do everything but dessert. I promised him that the next time we came over for dinner, I’d bring him a Boston cream pie, his favorite, to thank him for the fabulous dinners he cooks. Honestly, other than the doughnut, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a real Boston cream “pie” so I wasn’t sure where I’d find a recipe for one either.

I came across this recipe from King Arthur Flour a little hesitant because it called for packaged pudding mix for the topping on a from-scratch cake filled with from-scratch chocolate ganache. Not only did I find that an odd place to cut corners, but I’ve found that packaged powdered pudding mix is quite atrocious once you learn how to make your own.

So I did this…

Vanilla pastry cream. Pastry cream, mousse, and pudding are all made in the same general way. Milk and sugar are cooked, used to temper whisked eggs and cornstarch, and cooked again. The addition of whipped cream after cooling creates a mousse or a lighter pastry cream. It’s easy enough to master using the easy recipe for vanilla pastry cream below, and it will sure as hell impress your friends more than a prepackaged powder.

Pastry Cream

Stuff You’ll Need

Makes approximately 5 cups

  • 3 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch, sifted
  • 1 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 4 Tbsp butter, cut into chunks
  • 1 cup heavy cream, whipped
  • Medium saucepan, sieve or strainer

How to Do It

  1. In a medium saucepan, stir 2 1/2 cups of milk, sugar, and salt together until the sugar is dissolved. Place over medium heat, and bring the mixture to a boil.
  2. Whisk the cornstarch, flour, 1/2 cup of milk, and egg yolks together in a stainless steel mixing bowl.
  3. Temper the egg yolk mixture with a small amount of the hot milk. When the milk and sugar mixture begins to boil, remove it from the heat and slowly pour a steady stream into the egg yolk mixture while continuously whisking. Pour the entire mixture back into the saucepan, and bring to a boil while constantly stirring. Boil for 30 seconds, and remove from the heat.
  4. Work the mixture through a strainer or sieve to smooth it out. Add the chunks of butter and vanilla extract, and continue to stir until the butter has melted and the cream is smooth.
  5. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until cool. Fold in the whipped cream until blended.

Recipe from King Arthur Flour.  

Tip: Make it chocolate by adding 4 oz of semisweet chocolate when adding the butter, or change the extract flavor (almond, orange, etc) to change the flavor of the pastry cream. This can be used as filling or can be enjoyed alone as pudding. Mmmmm.

Boston Cream Cake

Stuff You’ll Need

Makes one 9″ cake

For the Cake

  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp almond extract
  • 4 Tbsp butter
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • Parchment paper, 9″ round pan

For the Chocolate Topping

  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips or chunks
  • 1 Tbsp light corn syrup or agave nectar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar, sifted

How to Do It

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, and line and lightly grease a 9″ round cake pan.
  2. Whisk the eggs, sugar, vanilla & almond extract, baking powder, and salt until thickened and light in color. Set aside.
  3. Combine the butter and milk, and heat in the microwave (or on a stove top if you prefer) until the butter is melted and the milk is hot.
  4. Take turns adding the milk and the flour to the egg mixture, whisking between each addition.
  5. When the batter is blended, pour into the prepared pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a cake tester or fork comes out clean and the sides have pulled away from the pan.
  6. Allow the cake to cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes, and then remove it from the pan and place on a wire cooling rack to finish cooling.
  7. While the cake is cooling, make the chocolate topping by adding the chocolate, corn syrup or agave nectar, vanilla, and cream to a medium stainless steel mixing bowl. Place the bowl on top of a small saucepan half filled with water, and simmer over medium heat. Continue to stir the mixture until the chocolate is melted and the cream begins to bubble slightly.
  8. Remove the chocolate from heat, and allow it to cool for 2-3 minutes. Whisk in confectioner’s sugar until the chocolate has thickened.
  9. Cut the cake into two layers by slicing through it horizontally. Place one layer of the cake (cut side up) on a plate, and cover the half with the vanilla pastry cream. Place the second layer of cake on top of the pastry cream (cut side down), and cover the half with the cooled chocolate topping. Smooth the chocolate with a spatula.
  10. Refrigerate the cake for 20-30 minutes to absorb the flavors and soften a bit. Let it sit at room temperature for 20-30 minutes before serving.

Recipe adapted from King Arthur Flour.

It may not be any fewer calories than a Boston cream doughnut, but at least you won’t get that funky stale doughnut shoppe taste when you eat it. It will be gone way too fast for that.

 

 

Citrus Cake Truffles

So there’s this trend that’s become popular known as “cake pops”, which sounds a little funky and odd to me. I just picture cake-flavored lollipops or pieces of cake on sticks, which, not surprisingly, is exactly what cake pops are, but people do some insanely creative things with them. I’ve never tried these cake pop things before, but I’m always up for trying something new. I decided to try these little biddies when I was home sick for a few days (don’t worry, I didn’t serve them to anyone…not really anyway), and I got the idea of a citrus combination from another blog.The sun is shining more here in New England so it’s about time to start using fun ingredients that brighten the day, like lemons, oranges, and strawberries anyway. I start to crave these juicy fruits more often as the weather gets warmer so I figured I might as well start playing with some new ideas.

I don’t really have the desire to make cake lollipops, but I kinda like the idea of cake truffles (the pop without the stick). Who needs the stick anyway? These are simple enough to create without them though they may be a little easier to handle in some of the steps with a sturdy toothpick or lollipop stick.

Through my research of cake pops, I found that you need just a few simple ingredients:

  • Cake mix & the ingredients to make it
  • Frosting (canned or your own…I always prefer my own because I dislike large amounts of sugary goo…unless it’s the chocolate stuff)
  • Candy melts or baking chocolate

Easy. I have most of those ingredients on hand anyway, but I went a little further than the basic requirements. I used a lemon cake mix, but I added the zest of two lemons and a very large orange (using my new favorite kitchen tool-the zester I got for my birthday). I also replaced some of the water in the recipe for fresh-squeezed lemon and orange juice.

For the frosting, which is mixed in with the cake pieces to form the cake balls, I made my favorite cream cheese frosting and added orange extract instead of vanilla. I made a full batch, but I only used a cup of it for the cake truffles. I used the rest for some leftover pumpkin cupcakes 🙂

Finally, instead of candy melts or baking chocolate, I went with white chocolate chips. I desperately wanted to use white chocolate to coat these, but finding white chocolate candy melts or baking chocolate at your local grocery store isn’t the easiest feat. If you have a craft store or a specialty cake store nearby though, I highly recommend picking up a decent supply of candy melts if you want to make cake pops. White chocolate, while theoretically fabulous for dying different colors, has horrible melting properties. It doesn’t have the fats and properties that chocolate does so it won’t melt the same. It will often burn before it will melt enough to coat anything smoothly.  I managed to frost the tops of approximately 10 cake truffles off of a whole bag of chips…so I’ll need to remember that for next time…

Citrus Cake Truffles

Stuff You’ll Need

Makes 30 cake truffles

For the Cake

  • Lemon cake mix & ingredients to make the mix
  • 2 lemons
  • 1 orange
  • 1-2 cups cream cheese icing (canned or home-made)
  • White chocolate chips or candy melts
  • Zester, 9″ x 13″ pan, parchment paper, baking sheet

For the Frosting

  • 12 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup or 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp orange extract
  • 5 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted

How to Do It

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, and line and lightly grease a 9″ x 13″ cake pan with parchment paper.
  2. Mix the ingredients for the cake mix, but omit 1/3 cup of water that’s required for the recipe. Zest two lemons and one orange, and juice one lemon and one half of the orange directly into the mixing bowl. Whisk the ingredients until smooth, and pour the batter into the prepared pan. Follow package directions for baking time.
  3. While the cake is baking, prepare the cream cheese frosting (or open your can if you haven’t already). Cream the butter and cream cheese until soft and completely smooth using a paddle attachment. Add the salt and orange extract, and whip for another 30 seconds. If you’re using a stand mixer, change from the paddle to the whip attachment, and begin adding the confectioner’s sugar one cup at a time. Whip between each addition of the sugar, and continuously scrape the sides of the bowl. When the frosting is done, set aside.
  4. Remove the cake from the oven, and let it cool completely in the pan.
  5. When the cake is cool, break it into large pieces to put into a mixing bowl. It doesn’t have to be fancy, it just has to be manageable. Mix the pieces with a heavy spoon to break them into crumbs.
  6. Add 1 cup of cream cheese icing to the cake crumbs, and throughly blend it in. If the texture still appears dry, add another half cup of cream cheese icing. The texture should be soft and moist but not sticky and wet. The cake crumbs need enough icing to stick together but not so wet that they’ll melt quickly. Quite frankly, they should be stiff enough to form balls easily.
  7. Use a large spoon or ice cream scoop to measure hunks of the mixture, and form them into rounded balls. Place them on a baking sheet. If you’re using tooth picks or lollipop sticks, now is the time to insert them into the truffles. Place the baking sheet in the freezer for 30 minutes.
  8. Before removing the truffles from the freezer, melt the baking chocolate or candy melts according to package directions. Either dip each truffle individually into the melted candy, or use a pastry bag with a round tip to ice the top. Refrigerate the truffles for 30 minutes, or until the candy sets.

Valentinesday

If you say that the way the way I’ve spelled it out rather than the traditional way it’s usually written, you’ll understand why I’ve put this post up on a WINESDAY! 😉

I spent a lovely and romantic evening with my boyfriend last night that was totally and completely us-takeout sushi, San Sebastian Vintner’s Red wine, loving greeting cards, orchids (my favorite), and red velvet.

And it was perfect. Who needs to spend a ton of money on roses, candy, and dinner out when you can have all this?

Anyway, let’s get to that red velvet. I found the idea of the little mini cake on Pinterest, but since some of my fun pastry and decorating supplies are still locked away in storage, I had to improvise. I baked a full 13″ x 9″ red velvet cake and used the lid of a peanut butter jar to create symmetrical circles in the cake and a paring knife to cut through. Normally, I would’ve used a biscuit cutter…but that’s sitting in a bin, locked away in my very cold storage unit.

The cake recipe comes from Paula Deen, and surprise, surprise, it has no butter. Her signature ingredient is only found in the frosting recipe that accompanies the red velvet, but I decided that 1/2 lb of butter was just a little rich after a full sushi meal. Instead, I used a whipped cream that had a bit of cream cheese whipped into it and a small amount of granulated sugar. It was light enough to make you feel only slightly guilty for indulging, but it was rich enough to enhance the red velvet. To make the frosting, you’ll need to make a fresh whipped cream. If you’re not sure how to do that, check my posting on the technique.

Red Velvet Mini Cakes

Stuff You’ll Need

Makes 11-12 mini cakes

For the Cakes

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
  • 1 cup buttermilk at room temperature
  • 2 large eggs at room temperature
  •  2 Tbsp red food coloring (which I don’t recommend) or 1/4 tsp red food coloring gel (which I do recommend)
  • 1 tsp white distilled vinegar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 13″ x 9″ cake pan, parchment paper

For the Frosting

  • 1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 4 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar

How to Do It

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, and lightly grease and line a cake pan with parchment paper.
  2. Sift the flour, sugar, baking soda, cocoa powder, and salt in a small mixing bowl, and set aside. Whip the eggs, buttermilk, vegetable oil, food coloring, vinegar, and vanilla extract in a large mixing bowl with an electric hand mixer or stand mixer. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the mixture, and scrape the sides of the bowl as needed.
  3. When the ingredients are blended, pour the batter into the greased cake pan. Bake in the center rack for 25-28 minutes or until a cake tester, toothpick, or fork come out clean when pressed into the center of the cake. Remove from the oven, and let it cool in the pan for 15 minutes before moving to a wire rack to finish cooling.
  4. When the cake is cooled, use a biscuit cutter (or peanut butter jar lid if you don’t have one), and gently press the cutter into the cake to cut symmetrical circles. I only made an impression of the shape when I used the peanut butter jar lid, and then I used a paring knife to gently cut through the cake. I sliced the thick cake in half so that I had two circles for each cut. Place half of the circles on a baking sheet or serving dish.
  5. Make the frosting by creaming the softened cream cheese with the paddle attachment on a stand mixer. When the cream cheese is light and fluffy, switch to the whip attachment and add the heavy cream. You can use an electric hand mixer to whip this as well, but the cream cheese may not reach the same fluffy texture.
  6. Whip the heavy cream at a medium-low speed at first to incorporate the cream cheese, and then increase the speed to medium-high and then high. Add the granulated sugar as the cream is whipping, and continue to whip until it’s become thick and fluffy.
  7. Use a pastry bag fitted with a round tip or a spoon to add approximately 1-2 Tbsp of frosting to the circles on the baking sheet or serving dish. Place the second half of the cake circles on top of the frosting, and refrigerate them for at least two hours.
  8. Remove the cakes from the refrigerator, and top them with additional frosting by using a pastry bag or a spoon. If the frosting has deflated, whip it again at high speed for 1-2 minutes. Serve immediately.

Recipe adapted from Paula Deen.

Tip: I recommend gel coloring rather than liquid food coloring because the liquid can alter the texture of a cake or frosting while the gel doesn’t. However, the gel, especially the red gel, has a slightly funky taste in large amounts so if you need to alter the color of your red velvet, begin by increasing the cocoa powder. Alternate additions of that with additions of red coloring to achieve that fabulous red shade you’re looking for. I’ve heard beet juice can be used also, but…I’m not sure I want beets flavoring my cake.

Chocolate Covered Strawberries in Cake Form

Lately, I’ve been trying really hard to make healthy choices, including drinking more water, exercising more, and staying away from unhealthy foods. That’s really hard when I love to bake foods that make other people (who don’t care about calories and veggies) happy. This cake doesn’t have a single healthy ingredient in it, besides fresh strawberries, but every bite of it is worth the billion calories that are in it, especially the frosting.

If you don’t know how to make chocolate ganache frosting…well, you’re going to learn now, so pay attention.

Milk Chocolate & Strawberry Cream Cheese Cake with Chocolate Ganache Frosting

Stuff You’ll Need

Makes one layered 9″ cake

For the Cake

  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs at room temperature
  • 1 cup milk chocolate (Hershey’s chocolate chips are perfect), chopped and melted
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups cake flour
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup hot cocoa mix
  • 1 cup buttermilk at room temperature
  • Two 9″ round cake pans, parchment paper

For the Filling

  • 1 stick or 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1/3 cup pureed strawberries
  • 5 cups confectioner’s sugar

For the Frosting

  • 12 oz milk chocolate (again, Hershey’s milk chocolate chips are perfect), chopped-this is about two cups or one whole bag of chocolate chips
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • Small saucepan and heat safe mixing bowl
  • Stand mixer or electric hand mixer
  • 6-7 large fresh strawberries
  • Pastry bag with a star tip (if you want to be fancy)

How to Do It

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, and grease each cake pan. Line them each with parchment paper on the bottom of the pans only, and lightly grease the paper.
  2. Beat the vegetable oil, butter, sugar, and eggs on medium speed for two minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, and add the melted chocolate, salt, flour, baking soda, vanilla, hot cocoa mix, and 1/2 cup of buttermilk.
  3. Beat on medium speed for another minute, and scrape the sides of the bowl as necessary. Add the remaining buttermilk, and beat for another 30 seconds.
  4.  Pour the batter into the prepared pans, and bake 28 minutes, or until a cake tester or toothpick comes out clean when pressed into the center of the cake. Remove the cakes from the oven, and cool in the pan for 10-15 minutes. Remove the cakes from the pan, and move to a wire cooling rack to cool completely.
  5. While the cake is baking, pour the 12 oz of chopped chocolate or chocolate chips into a heat safe mixing bowl. Pour the heavy cream into a small saucepan, and place it over medium heat. Let the cream heat until it begins to gently boil. Remove the pan from the heat, and pour the cream over the chips. Let the chocolate rest for 3-5 minutes while the cream warms it, and then gently mix it with a wire whisk until it’s completely blended and smooth. Refrigerate the chocolate while the cake continues to bake and cool, about 30-40 minutes total.
  6. To make the filling, cream the butter and cream cheese together until smooth with a paddle attachment, about 3 minutes. Add the pureed strawberries, and continue to mix for another 30 seconds. Switch to the whip attachment if you’re using a stand mixer, and gradually begin adding the confectioner’s sugar one cup at a time.
  7. This cake is best served with multiple layers (you can get more cream cheese frosting in there that way) so you’ll need to cut the layers in half. Do not attempt this until the cake is completely cooled. The easiest way to do this is by using a handy-dandy cake leveler, which you can also use to level the surface of the cake when it’s rounded too much while baking. If you don’t have access to one of these, you can use a warm serrated knife to slice through the center of the cake. Cut half way through each cake, and you’ll end up with four layers. If you’re feeling especially brave, cut through the cakes twice to get six layers.
  8. After you’ve cut the layers, remove the chocolate ganache from the refrigerator. Use an electric hand mixer, or transfer the ganache to the bowl of a stand mixer, and whip the icing for 3-4 minutes. It should be light and fluffy with an appearance similar to whipped cream and a texture similar to chocolate pudding…and a taste similar to Heaven. Honestly.
  9. You can use a pastry bag with a round tip or a resealable plastic sandwich bag with a small cut in one of the corners to pipe the chocolate ganache around the edges of the first cake layer. This is an optional step, but by adding the ganache around the edges, you’ve greated a little fence for the filling so it doesn’t leak out of the sides of the cake.
  10. Spread a large dollop of strawberry cream cheese icing on top of the layer but no closer to the edges than the chocolate ganache. Place the second layer of cake on top of this, and repeat the process. Do not put cream cheese icing on top of the final layer.
  11. Frost the cake with a layer of chocolate ganache icing, and let it rest in the refrigerator for 10 minutes. Frost with the remaining chocolate ganache, and smooth the edges.
  12. If you’d like to make the cake really fancy, hull 6-7 ripe, fresh strawberries, and slice them vertically to get even, rounded slices. Layer them to make a heart shape on the top (if you’re sappy like me) or cover the top generously with the slices (if you’re a Valentine’s Day Grinch). Use a pastry bag fitted with a star tip to pipe rosettes around the top so it’s even prettier.

Cake recipe adapted from King Arthur Flour, ganache recipe from King Arthur Flour, and strawberry cream cheese icing recipe from The Adventures in Cooking Blog.

The Only Cake I’d Request for my Birthday

So since it was my birthday last week, I requested that my friend Michelle make me my favorite cake, a flourless chocolate number with a few hints of Kahlua and espresso. Lucky for me, she complied. It’s actually difficult for me to write about it right now because I have a piece waiting for me in the refrigerator, but I’ll try my best to write a full post without salvating too much. Actually…hold please while I just have a little bit…

…okay, fabulous, now I’m feeling perfectly inspired to write. 😉 Michelle made this cake for me last year for my birthday as well and even gave me the recipe, but I only cashed in on it being in my custody once. It was the recipe I was searching for when I made a lesser version, the mini flourless chocolate cake. Though, since finishing the large slice I cut, I’m remembering why I made a mini version…flourless chocolate cakes are the Trumps of dessert. (They’re really rich…get it?). Anyway…

While taste and ingredient quality are important in making this cake, technique is substantial. If you’ve ever baked creme brulee, traditional cheesecake, or custard, you’ll recognize the importance of baking the cake in a larger pan filled with hot water. It may sound odd if you’ve never tried it before, but you’ll need a large roasting pan or cake pan that’s big enough to contain a springform pan and still have additonal space on the sides. I apologize for not having photos of this because I didn’t bake the cake, but they would have been helpful! I’ll describe the technique more below in the “How to Do It” section. Also, on another note, other than Michelle, I’m not sure where this recipe originated from so I apologize for not giving the proper shout-outs to the brilliant baker who came up with the concoction.

So enjoy, with a glass of bold red wine of course, and remember not to take too big of a slice.

Flourless Chocolate Cake

Stuff You’ll Need

Makes 1 8 or 9″ cake

  • 1 lb semisweet chocolate, chips or bars
  • 8 oz or 2 sticks of unsalted butter, cut into 1/2″ cubes
  • 1 nip of Kahlua or other coffee liquer
  • 1 Tbsp instant espresso powder
  • 8 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Springform pan, 8 or 9″
  • Large roasting or cake pan
  • Optional garnishes like confectioner’s sugar, cocoa powder, whipped cream, strawberries, or chocolate syrup

How to Do It

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F, and grease a springform pan with butter. Grease and line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper.
  2. Cover the pan underneath and along the sides with aluminum foil, and set inside a larger roasting or cake pan. Set aside.
  3. Set up a double boiler by bringing a medium saucepan of water to a boil. Combine the chocolate, butter, Kahlua, and espresso powder in a metal mixing bowl, and place it over the boiling water. Stir the mixture constantly as it begins to melt, and continue until it’s smooth and creamy. Set aside to cool.
  4. Combine the eggs, sugar, vanilla, and salt in a large bowl, and mix with an electric hand mixer or a stand mixer fitted with the whip attachment until the mixture is frothy and almost doubled in volume.
  5. Fold 1/3 of the egg mixture into the cooled chocolate with a rubber spatula. Repeat twice more until all of the egg mixture is folded completely into the chocolate.
  6. Pour the batter into the springform pan. Pour enough hot water into the larger roasting pan so that it reaches about halfway up the sides of the springform pan.
  7. Bake until the cake has risen slightly and the edges are just beginning to set, about 40-45 minutes. Remove the springform pan from the roasting pan, and cool the cake on a wire rack until room temperature.
  8. Remove the foil and the sides of the springform pan, cover, and refrigerate overnight.
  9. Remove the cake from the refrigerator approximately 30 minutes before serving to soften, and garnish with any of the optional garnishes. Or enjoy alone. 🙂

Tip: When filling the pan with water, be careful not to get any water in the batter. The water will keep the edges and bottom of the cake from overcooking while the rest of the cake bakes evenly. This is the same technique used to bake traditional cheesecakes and individual custard desserts, like creme brulee or pots de creme. It will be easiest (and cleanest) to slide the top oven rack out a few inches, and place the pan (without water) on it. Pour the water in the pan, and carefully slide the rack back into the oven. You’ll avoid spilling water and ruining your batter this way.

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