Tags: baking, birthday, cake, dessert, giveaway
Sometimes I just want a piece of birthday cake…even if it’s no one’s birthday. Know how that is? I do feel I’m embarrassingly late to the imaginary party with this confetti cake. I don’t even know if I’ve ever had the Pillsbury version. And it seems everyone’s made a homemade one but me (till now). What I thought was some magical secret to the colored bursts of confetti is really just jimmies stirred into cake batter. A cute book called Sprinkles!, which helps turn all things sparkly or rainbow-colored, showed me that. My own sprinkles collection borders on the absurd. Apparently I really needed this book– I’m filing it in the “self-help” section of my bookshelf.
Back to the cake! The base here is a delicate white cake flavored with almond extract, although it would be also great flavored with lemon, so I included that as an option. The sprinkles folded into the batter explode in the in oven (not in a dangerous way, I promise!) into little pops of color scattered throughout each slice. I think any frosting you like with white cake would work well here, so use your favorite. I made an American-style powdered sugar buttercream with a blob of cream cheese added in to temper the sweetness just a bit. The sides of the cake are exposed to show off the fun inside, and don’t forget the extra sprinkles on top!
The kind folks at Quirk Books sent me a copy of Sprinkles!, and now I want to jazz up your baking by sending a copy to one of you. Just leave me a comment (one per person, please) on this post before 4:00 pm EST on Tuesday, March 18 and I’ll randomly choose a winner from the list. Be sure your e-mail address is correct so I can contact you if you’re chosen.
***Giveaway Winner Update: I used random.org to generate a random comment number to find the winner. It selected comment 24, so congratulations to Barb T. I’ll be in touch and sending your book soon!***
Confetti Layer Cake– makes a 9-inch triple layer cake
adapted from Sprinkles! by Jackie Alpers
Steph’s Note: Obviously I didn’t bake my cake in 9-inch rounds. I scaled it back to a third and baked it as a quarter-sheet (adjusting baking time accordingly), which I then cut into three strips and frosted.
1 1/2 cups milk
9 large egg whites, lightly beaten
1/3 cup applesauce or Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract or lemon extract
4 1/2 cups cake flour, sifted, plus extra for flouring pans
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup rainbow jimmies, plus extra for decoration
4 cups (approximately) your favorite buttercream or cream cheese frosting
-Preheat oven to 350°F. Line three 9-inch round cake pans with parchment circles, grease, then dust with flour.
-In a medium bowl, stir milk, egg whites, applesauce or yogurt and extracts. Into another bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and salt.
-Beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Reduce speed to low; add flour and milk mixtures alternately, starting and ending with the flour. Fold in the 1/2 cup sprinkles.
-Divide batter among pans. Bake until a tester inserted in the centers comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes.
-Cool cakes in pans set on wire racks for 5 minutes. Run a knife around the sides of each pan, then invert cakes onto a cutting board. With a serrated knife, carefully cut off the tops and “crusts,” exposing the confetti sprinkles (this is optional).
-Place first layer on a plate. Spread 3/4 cup frosting evenly over top. Repeat with second and third layers, leaving the sides exposed. Decorate the perimeter of the top with the remaining jimmies. Serve, or refrigerate up to 3 days.
Tags: baking, cheesecake, dessert
I wouldn’t want to eat David Ogonowski’s Chocolate Mascarpone Cheesecake in any type of weather other than the type we’ve been having (i.e., “two blizzards a week” weather). It’s true hibernation food…if you told me it was a thousand calories a slice, I wouldn’t be surprised. This is a dense and creamy cheesecake with cream cheese, of course, mascarpone and sour cream. Oh, and there’s chocolate, too, although frankly it gets a little lost in all the dairy. Adding a dark chocolate ganache layer on top of the cooled cake is an option, but might send this cake over the top.
The recipe doesn’t call for a crust. Well, actually, it calls for baking the cheesecake without a crust and then patting cookie crumbs onto the bottom and sides once it’s set. My inner baker’s voice told me that was weird and that I’d probably have some sort of disaster in the process, so I went ahead and made a real crust for mine. I had a baggie of homemade chocolate-hazelnut cookie crumbs in the freezer that need to be used up (and I love crumb crusts!) anyway. Also, I’ve always liked making my cheesecake batter in the food processor rather than in a stand mixer. Faster mixing and fewer lumps.
Tags: baking, dessert, pie
I grew up in Virginia. Just as soon as I moved up to Boston for college, my family moved out to Seattle. I go visit once or twice a year (I was just there a couple of weeks ago, in fact), so have a fondness for Seattle. Being a born Southerner, I also have a fondness coconut and for cream pies, and, interestingly enough, Seattle has a legendary combo of the two– Dahlia Bakery’s (and Lounge’s) Triple Coconut Cream Pie. It is dangerously good, and I’ve been holding off making it at home until I had a real excuse. The Seahawks’ Sunday performance was good enough for me.
This pie has a coconut crust, a coconut filling and toasted coconut on top…hence the whole “triple” thing. You’ll notice the recipe instructions are…ummm….lengthy. Nothing’s hard, though, especially if you break it up a bit. With a multi-step pie like this, I like to get ready the day before by processing my crust, letting it chill a bit and then getting it in the pan. That way it can really set in the fridge overnight, which not only helps it hold a better crimp while baking, but it means a lot less work the following day. Another crusty trick I have up my sleeve is that after the crust is fully baked, but still piping hot, I paint a touch of egg white on the bottom. It gives it a little barrier of protection from the soft filling and helps keep it crisp. Usually the residual heat coming off the pie shell will set the egg white straight away, but you can always pop it back in the oven for about a minute to make sure. You can also make the coconut pastry cream a day ahead if you’d like…just keep it airtight in the fridge overnight with some plastic wrap pressed on the surface.
This coco pie is soft but crisp, rich but light. It’s no wonder, really, that Dahlia has sold something like 350,000 of these things.
Dahlia Triple Coconut Cream Pie— makes a 9-inch pie
adapted from The Dahlia Bakery Cookbook: Sweetness in Seattle by Tom Douglas and Shelley Lance
for the coconut pastry dough–makes a 9-inch piecrust
Steph’s Notes: The crust must be baked and cooled before you can fill your pie. If you’d like, you can “seal” the bottom your just-out-of-the-oven hot crust with a little thinly brushed on egg white…this will help keep it crisp when it’s filled. I also like to go ahead and toast the coconut chips for garnish while I have the oven on during this step. 400° is a little high for coconut, so I do this while the oven is coming up to temp or after I’ve turned it off and it’s coming back down (watching closely so it doesn’t burn).
1 cup plus 2 tbsp flour (165 g), plus extra for rolling dough
1/2 cup (50 g) shredded sweetened coconut
1/2 cup (113 g or 1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch dice
2 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/3 cup (75 g) ice-cold water, or more as needed
-In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade, combine flour, coconut, sugar and salt and pulse two or three times to combine. Add the diced butter and pulse to form coarse crumbs. Gradually add water, 1 tablespoon at a time, pulsing each time. Use only as much water as needed for the dough to hold together when pressed gently between your fingers (don’t work dough with your hands, just test to see if it is holding). The dough will not form a ball or even clump together in the processor, it will be quite loose.
-Place a large sheet of plastic wrap on the counter and dump the coconut dough onto it. Pull plastic wrap around dough, forcing it into a rough flattened round with the pressure of the plastic wrap. Refrigerate 30 to 60 minutes before rolling.
-When ready to roll dough, unwrap round of coconut dough and place it on a lightly floured board. Flour rolling pin and your hands. Roll out dough in a circle about 1/8-inch thick. Occasionally lift dough with a bench knife or scraper to check that it is not sticking, and add more flour if it seems like it’s about to stick. Trim to a 12- to 13-inch round. Transfer rolled dough to a 9-inch pie pan. Ease dough loosely and gently into pan. You don’t want to stretch dough at his point, because it will shrink when it is baked.
-Trim any excess dough to 1- to 11/2-inch overhang. Turn dough under along rim of pie pan and use your fingers and thumb to flute the edge. Dock the bottom of the shell with a fork. Refrigerate unbaked pie shell for at least 1 hour before baking (this prevents the dough from shrinking in the oven).
-When ready to bake piecrust, preheat oven to 400°F. Place a piece of parchment in pie shell, with sides overhanging the pan, and fill with dried beans or wieghts (this prevents the bottom of the shell from puffing up during baking). Bake piecrust for 20 to 25 minutes, or until pastry rim is golden. Remove pie pan from oven. Remove paper and beans and return piecrust to oven. Bake for an additional 10 to 12 minutes, or until bottom of crust has golden brown patches. Remove from oven and allow pie shell to cool completely.
for the coconut pastry cream:
1 cup (230 g) milk
1 cup (230 g) canned unsweetened coconut milk, stirred
2 cups (170 g) shredded sweetened coconut
1 vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise
2 large eggs
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp. (125 g) sugar
3 tbsp. (26 g) AP flour
4 tbsp. (57 g or 1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
– In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, combine milk, coconut milk and shredded coconut. Using a paring knife, scrape seeds from vanilla bean and add both scrapings and pod to milk mixture. Stir occasionally until mixture almost comes to a boil.
-In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, sugar and flour until well combined. Temper eggs by pouring a small amount (about 1/3 cup) of scalded milk into egg mixture while whisking. Then add warmed egg mixture to saucepan of milk and coconut. Whisk over medium-high heat until pastry cream thickens and begins to bubble. Keep whisking until mixture is very thick, 4 to 5 minutes more. Remove saucepan from heat. Add butter and whisk until it melts. Remove and discard vanilla pod.
-Transfer pastry cream to a bowl and place it over another bowl of ice water. Stir occasionally until pastry cream is cool. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on surface of pastry cream (to prevent a skin from forming) and refrigerate until completely cold. The pastry cream will continue to thicken as it cools.
for the whipped cream topping:
Steph’s Notes: This is a ton of whipped cream! If you’d like to be a little less extravagant here, cut it in half and you’ll still have plenty of topping.
2 1/2 cups (600 g) heavy cream, chilled
1/3 cup (63 g) sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
-In an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whip heavy cream with sugar and vanilla extract to peaks that are firm enough to hold their shape.
for the garnish:
2 oz (57 g) unsweetened chip or large-shred coconut (about 1 1/2 cups), or shredded sweetened coconut (about 2/3 cup)
a chunk of white chocolate (4-6 oz ,to make 2 oz of curls)
-Preheat oven to 350°. Spread unsweetened coconut chips (or large-shred coconut, or sweetened shredded coconut) on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for 7 to 8 minutes, watching carefully (coconut burns easily) and stirring once or twice until lightly browned. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
to finish the pie:
-When pastry cream is cold, fill pastry shell, smoothing the surface with a rubber spatula.
-Transfer whipped cream to a pastry bag fitted with a star tip and pipe it all over the surface of the pie (or just mound it on top and swirl with a spoon).
-Sprinkle toasted coconut over top of pie. Use a vegetable peeler to scrape about 2 ounces of white chocolate curls on top of the pie (or you can cut pie into wedges, garnish each wedge individually on the plate) and serve.
-Store the pie in the refrigerator.
Tags: baking, cake, dessert
I start this post with a warning: after I made Mary Bergin’s Vanilla Chiffon Roll, I took a look in the sink and internally freaked out. I think I used every bowl, whisk and spatula I own to make the cake and mousse filling, not to mention the food processor and all its bits and pieces. Well, I was really glad that this cake was totally worth that mountain of dirty dishes I had to tackle! And also that assembly was much easier than washing up. The soft vanilla chiffon cake was really easy to roll around its delicious chocolate-walnut mousse filling. I didn’t get any tears or cracks…just a little sticking, which was easily disguised with a dusting of cocoa and powdered sugar.
I made a half recipe of the cake in a quarter sheet pan. I think it took a few minutes longer to fully bake than the time indicated for the full-sized cake, so go with your good judgment if it looks underdone. I noticed when I watched the video that there was a lot of leftover mousse in Mary’s bowl after she filled her cake, so I decided that I’d just make a third of the mousse recipe (I keep typing “mouse” BTW). The full cake supposedly yields six servings…if you’re feeding giants…I easily cut six slices from my smaller cake. Once this roulade has had time to chill out in the fridge, it’s really divine, not to mention classy. I loved the chocolate-walnut mousse (and was psyched to use my special black walnuts and fancy walnut oil for it). If I had had any extra left, I most certainly would have polished it off with a spoon.
Tags: baking, dessert, holiday, pie
I’m not making Thanksgiving dinner myself this year. You never know what you’re gonna get when you’re not in charge, so I had to make a pre-Thanksgiving pie for the two of us here at home.
I mixed things up from the typical pumpkin pie by making a sweet potato one. To tell you the truth, I think that pumpkins and sweet potatoes can make pretty interchangeable pie fillings in terms of taste, because they’re often identically spiced. This pie, though, mixes it up a bit in the spice department. It’s a little more ginger-heavy than most– a little more zippy– and leaves out the traditional cloves entirely. When I make a pumpkin pie I normally reach for a can-opener, but this filling uses a fresh-roasted sweet potato. If you have a big potato left over from last night’s dinner, you can use that, no problem. Using a fresh sweet potato for a custard pie gives a slightly different texture than canned pumpkin does. The sweet potato filling is not quite as velvety smooth as pumpkin filling– it’s a little more dense and substantial.
Sweet Potato Ginger Pie– makes a 9-inch pie
adapted from the wonderfully reliable Melissa Clark
Steph’s Note: To speed things along, you can cook the sweet potato in advance or use a leftover one for this pie. Just bring it to room temperature before processing the filling.
single-crust recipe of your favorite flaky pastry dough, well-chilled
1 c cooked sweet potato
3/4 c heavy cream
1/2 c milk
2/3 c light brown sugar
2 tbsp brandy, bourbon or rum
1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp salt
-To make the filling, cut a slit into one large sweet potato and wrap tightly in foil. Bake at 400°F until sweet potato is very soft, about an hour. Let cool.
-Meanwhile, on a lightly floured surface, roll out the piecrust to a 12-inch circle. Transfer the crust to a 9-inch pie plate. Fold over any excess dough, then crimp as decoratively as you can manage.
-Prick the crust all over with a fork and freeze it for at least 15 minutes. Cover the pie with aluminum foil or parchment and fill with pie weights. Bake at 400°F for 20 minutes (you can do this while the sweet potato is also in the oven). Remove the foil or parchment and weights and bake until golden, about 5 to 10 minutes more. Cool on a rack until needed.
-Scoop 1 cup of cooked, cooled sweet potato into food processor, discarding skin. Reduce oven temperature to 325°F. Add all remaining filling ingredients to food processor and puree until smooth. You can skip this, but if you want to smooth the filling out a bit more, strain it by pressing through a fine sieve.
-Spoon filling into pie crust and spread until flat and even. Place pie on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until the custard is mostly firm and set but jiggles slightly when moved, 45 to 55 minutes. Let cool to room temperature and serve with whipped cream.
Tags: baking, cupcakes, dessert
Some days I do not know what the heck I’m doing. I put toothpaste on my Clarisonic. I almost forget the pumpkin in my pumpkin cupcakes. Luckily, I usually realize something’s amiss before it’s too late, so both my face and my cupcakes wound up alright…this time.
Speaking of forgetting the pumpkin, I once had a British guy point out to me that all this “American baked pumpkin stuff” just tastes like spices, so why bother with the pumpkin at all? I’d never really thought about that before, and I guess he was almost right about the taste, but I certainly do think there’s reason to bother. Not only does pumpkin puree make quickbreads and cakes nice and moist, (and orange, of course), but I think that pumpkin has a bit of earthiness to it, keeping them from being just sweet spice cakes. Also squash makes cupcakes healthier?? Maybe I’m kidding myself there. I do happen to love the fall spices, though, and these cupcakes have just the right amount. And what do I need to say about cream cheese frosting, except for “yes please”?
These are a great treat anytime in the cooler weather, but add a few black and orange sprinkles and they turn into Halloween cupcakes. Happy Halloween!
Pumpkin Cupcakes- makes 18-20 cupcakes
from Leite’s Culinaria, but seen all over the interwebs in both cupcake and layer cake form
Steph’s Note: Don’t need that many cupcakes? Make a half-batch to get 9-10, and halve the frosting as well.
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for the pans
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 cups cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 large eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk mixed with 1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/4 cups canned solid-pack pumpkin
-Preheat the oven to 350° (180°C) and prepare your cupcake tins with paper liners.
-In a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugars on medium speed until fluffy, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, salt, and pepper into a medium bowl.
-Add the eggs to the mixer, one at a time, scraping down the sides after each addition. Alternate adding the flour and buttermilk mixtures, beginning and ending with the flour. Beat in the pumpkin until smooth. Divide the batter equally between the lined cups–they should be about 3/4 full.
-Bake the cakes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 18 to 24 minutes. Cool the cupcakes in the tins for 10 minutes. Remove them from the tins and onto a rack to cool completely before frosting.
Maple Cream Cheese Frosting
Steph’s Note: You can see from my photo that this frosting is soft…the kind to spoon on instead of pipe. Using a small amount of natural maple flavor instead the larger amount of maple syrup helps, as does preparing the frosting while the cupcakes are baking and then refrigerating it until the cakes are cool. Cutting back on the powdered sugar (oddly) also helps stiffen up a cream cheese frosting if that’s what you prefer..
1 (8 ounce) package of cream cheese (full-fat or reduced-fat Neufchâtel), at cool room temperature
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at cool room temperature
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
1/4 cup of maple syrup or 1 tsp natural maple flavor
pinch of salt
-In a food processor, zip the confectioner’s sugar first to break up any lumps. Add the other ingredients and process until smooth, scraping as needed. Refrigerate for 30 minutes before using.
Tags: baking, choux, dessert
Choux paste treats have been well-covered here. Gougères, éclairs, cream puffs and even crullers–wait, something’s missing. How could I forget profiteroles, one of my most favorite desserts? I’ll take care of that one now with Norman Love’s Espresso Profiteroles.
Despite my love of profiteroles, I admit that I didn’t have high hopes for these. Quite frankly, I thought the picture in the book looked terrible (the choux looked bready, not light). I’m happy to report that they turned out better than expected. I’m not sure how much flavor was really contributed by adding coffee to the choux puffs themselves, but they puffed and hollowed nicely. I used espresso ice cream (instead of cinnamon) and boozed up the chocolate sauce with Kahlua (instead of Grand Marnier), so that took care of the missing coffee flavors.
These are best cut and filled right before serving, when the puffs are crisp and the ice cream is just beginning to soften. Pre-scooped and frozen is a profiterole no-no for me. And the sauce should be warm. Mmmmm…sauce…