Tags: baking, cupcakes
These adorable little two-bite Nutella Buttons (i.e., mini cupcakes) have a surprise hiding inside. If you guessed a pocket of Nutella, you win! And if you aren’t a fan of Nutella, or if you just feel like getting creative, it’s pretty easy to come up with other ideas for the hidden surprise. Jam, peanut butter, ganche, flavored ganache, cookie butter….they’d all be good things to find in the middle of this yellow cake batter. I did a mix– some filled were with Nutella and others were filled with concord grape jam that I made back in the fall.
I made half a recipe of the cake batter and just did it, whipped egg whites and all, by hand. I used the optional almond extract, so the little cakes had a kind of marzipany taste to go along with their springy texture. I split the batter up evenly between the Nutellas and the grape jams. My buttons didn’t brown on top while baking, but they were done a minute or so early.
I topped my Nutella ones with a little of the milk chocolate ganache I have left from the super-delish Black-and-White Malted Icebox Cake I made last week. (That reminds me, have you entered my Icebox Cakes BOOK GIVEAWAY yet?? If not, get on it!) Then I wanted a little flair on top, but didn’t have any hazelnuts in my fridge nut drawer. I did, however, have a single Ferrero Rocher candy, so I chopped up the crispy outside coating part (I scooped out and ate the center…mmm) and decorated with that. The grape jam ones got dunked into a white chocolate and peanut butter glaze and sprinkled with some salty peanut bits on top.
Too cute, especially when you find a smile inside!
Tags: dessert, giveaway, icebox
Now that the days are getting warm– maybe even borderline hot– wouldn’t it be nice to just reach in the fridge and pull out a cool, creamy dessert that practically made itself? That exists…it’s called an icebox cake! At its most simple and familiar, an icebox cake is just store-bought wafer cookies and sweet whipped cream, stacked in alternating layers and left to meld in the refrigerator (or icebox– my dad actually calls it that, by the way) for several hours. The cookies absorb moisture from the cream and soften during the rest, and what you get afterward is a rich, creamy dessert that falls somewhere between pudding and cake.
You can imagine that you can take this basic, yet brilliant, idea in a lot of interesting and delicious directions…like my friend and former co-worker Jessie Sheehan, who, along with her co-author Jean Sagendorph, just published a super-fun (and super pretty) new cookbook called Icebox Cakes: Recipes for the Coolest Cakes in Town. They have the basic “old school” covered, of course, and recipes for 24 other awesome-sounding icebox cakes. Espresso-chip– hello! Chai-ginger– whaat? And OMG– a black-and-white malted. That’s the first one I decided to try.
You need four main components for this malt shop-inspired treat: whipped cream flavored with malt powder (super easy), milk chocolate ganache (super easy), vanilla wafer cookies (not hard to make yourself, but super easy if you choose to buy them instead) and time (the hardest part!). Oh, and some chopped malt balls scattered over top will make it extra pretty– let’s not forget that! You just alternate layers of the cream, cookies and ganache in a springform pan and you’re ready to refrigerate. If you’ve used store-bought cookies, you can get away with just 5-8 hour chill, but if you’ve made your own cookies, you’ll need a full 24 hours in the fridge for them to properly soften. You can see I took a little artistic liberty and divided the components into individual-sized mini icebox cakes instead of a full 9″ springform.
Go find the full recipe for the Black-and-White Malted Icebox Cake on Jessie’s blog…and know that you can use shop-bought vanilla wafers (like Nabisco or Keebler) if you don’t have the desire or time to make your own. It’s rich, creamy, malty, sticky and delicious, and when you see this black-and-white zebra striped beauty waiting for you on the icebox shelf, you’ll be very happy you put it together the night before. Jessie says it’s a crowd-pleaser, and I can’t argue with that.
I’m so excited about Icebox Cakes: Recipes for the Coolest Cakes in Town that I want to send a copy to one of you! A signed copy at that! Just leave me a comment (one per person, please) on this post before 5:00 pm EST on Friday, May 15 and I’ll randomly choose a winner from the list. Be sure your e-mail address is correct so I can contact you.
***Giveaway Winner Update: I have two copies to giveaway, actually! I used random.org to generate two random comment numbers to find the winners. Congratulations to Maureen and franklyentertaining! I’ll be in touch soon.***
Tags: baking, bundt, cake, chocolate, dessert
This Crème Bruléed Chocolate Bundt is the first, no second, no make that third Mary Bergin chiffon cake we’ve made. I’ve liked them all…I think I just really like the spongy, fluffy softness of chiffon cakes. And it also helps here that I love chocolate and Bundts. And crème brulée, too…who am I kidding? I knew this would be good.
If you watch the video of the BWJ episode, you’ll see that this chocolate chiffon Bundt gets its center stuffed with raspberries and then a big glug of vanilla crème brulée custard is poured over top of the whole shebang and torched. I figured that as soon as the brulée was poured on, the cake pretty much needed to be eaten up…This would be very dramatic and impressive for a crowd, but since I was just making it for two of us, I had to both reduce the recipe and settle for adding the custard to order. I made a half recipe of the cake (in my 6-cup Bundt pan) and a half recipe of the brulée cream, too. I was convinced, even though I’d sprayed the heck out of my Bundt pan and coated it well in cocoa (which I prefer to use instead of flour for a dark chocolate cake), that the cake would stick like crazy and rip when I tried to unmold it. It didn’t! I made sure to kind of gently nudge it from the sides with a little offset as it started to cool and shrink in a bit, and it released perfectly– phew!
I used my darkest cocoa powder (Valrhona) and my Bundt had great flavor. The chiffon was easy to make, too…in fact, I did the whole thing in my bathrobe (TMI??). I’d happily make it again on its own, just to have with ice cream or whipped cream. I liked the stovetop water bath method for thickening the crème brulée…that was new to me, and it came out nicely. After the better part of a day in the fridge, the brulée had thickened up well and I was able to pour it over a single slice without it looking a mess. All in all a winning dessert for Valentine’s Day weekend.
For the recipe, see Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan (it’s also here, along with a video). Don’t forget to check out the rest of the TWD Blogroll! (Update: I see from the blogroll that some folks wound up with a thinner custard, in which case I’d just serve it as an anglaise sauce on the plate.)
Tags: baking, cake
A weekend cake- I love it! A good cake does make the weekend even better, if you ask me. (Hopefully it will make the nor’easter we’re about to get socked with better, too!) This one’s a simple loaf cake, but it’s flavored with brown butter, vanilla bean and rum. Simple but special.
I have a French blue steel loaf pan, and I thought it naturally appropriate to use for a French cake. I like that the pan has perfectly straight, not flared, sides. It’s longer and slimmer than the standard 9×5, so I was sure to check it in the oven plenty early.
The ingredients are lovely and fragrant, and the cake smells so good out of the oven, that it’s hard to wrap it up and let it sit overnight like Dorie suggests. It’s less buttery and heavy than a pound cake but has a similar delicious crust. This cake is good on it’s own or with a sauce. (I’m going to try it in early summer as a strawberry shortcake base.) If you can’t eat it all up over the weekend, don’t worry because it freezes nicely. Dorie also says stale slices are good toasted, although I don’t plan on testing that out this time.
Tags: baking, cake, dessert, holiday
It’s almost Christmas, and that means it’s time to get fancy in the kitchen! Something like a Gingerbread bûche de Noël sounds like the right way to celebrate. Way back in the early days of this space, I made another bûche. That one was all done up with stumps, meringue mushrooms and faux wood grain…this one’s easier in that it’s just a roulade but it’s still a showstopper and, of course, it still has several steps. In addition to a gently-spiced geniose-style gingerbread sponge cake, there’s a cream cheese filling, a marshmallow meringue frosting and, for crunch and sparkle, a pecan praline.
If you’re the organized type, you can actually break up the steps and knock out the praline and filling a day in advance, but I did it all start to finish in one afternoon, so I can tell you that it’s procrastinator-friendly, too. I did kind of goof up the cake a bit, and you can see it in the center of the spiral. I deflated the cake batter while mixing in the butter at the end. I was pretty annoyed with myself, and worried it would be like eating a rubber mat, but there’s a lot going on with this cake and we also had it with a scoop of eggnog ice cream, so it really wasn’t that noticeable. Next time, I’ll do better with that. Although the marshmallow makes a stunning, glossy, snow-white frosting, I had a lot left over…next time, I’ll also try cutting that amount in half. I’ll reduce the cream of tartar in the frosting a bit as well because I think it gave the marshmallow a slightly acidic taste. If you’re on the fence about gingerbread (I know not everyone is crazy about it), the flavoring here is very subtle…no molasses or cloves or other dark and mysterious flavors.
Tags: baking, cake, dessert, fruit
These Oven-Roasted Plum Cakes from Marcel Desaulniers were an easy little treat to make with my CSA plums. The batter was a simple butter cake, flavored with orange zest. I made half a recipe (6 cakelettes), so I just mixed it by hand. I had to sub some plain yogurt for the buttermilk, but that worked out fine. The recipe calls for the cakes to be baked in ramekins or custard cups…I was worried that I’d never get them out (although sounds like I needn’t have been), so I used some shallower mini pie tins instead, buttered and floured.
These were good, although the plums (even though they turned very soft in the oven) wanted to jump onto our forks all in one piece. I liked them best with whipped cream. For the recipe, see Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan (there’s also a video). Don’t forget to check out the rest of the TWD Blogroll!
Tags: baking, cake, dessert
Markus Farbinger’s Viennese Poppy Seed Torte is one of the more unusual things I’ve baked. Now, I’m aware that poppy seeds are widely used in foods all over the world and are not unusual at all, but we Americans– especially those of us who are many generations and more than a couple hundred years removed from our ethnic roots– normally just mix a mere tablespoon of them into lemon muffins or white cake, or sprinkle them on top of bagels or crackers. Maybe it’s because we’re afraid we’ll fail a drug test, but any recipe that calls for two cups of poppy seeds sounds a little strange. The Austrians sure know their pastries though, so I knew this would be tasty, no doubt.
Those two cups of poppy seeds are whizzed up in a coffee/spice grinder, and along with cake crumbs (I used a frozen slice of leftover Vanilla Pound Cake, also put through the same coffee grinder) become the dry ingredients for the cake. The crowning jewels on top are poached apricot halves. I found the cutest little apricots with rosy cheeks at the Greenmarket. I didn’t bother to blanch and peel them before poaching…the skins slipped right off anyway once they cooled, and I think poaching them skin-on helped infuse the flesh with that rosy color. I’m saving the poaching liquid, btw, which I think will be nice as a fruity simple syrup for drinks or poured on top of raspberries and vanilla ice cream.
Based on visuals alone, I’d assume a dark colored cake like this would be dense and heavy. But it’s quite light and springy (thanks to the meringue that’s folded into the batter), moist and not too sweet. It really tastes like poppy seeds (as it should), and since they are ground into flour, they don’t get stuck in your teeth! I made a half-recipe..a full makes a big 10-inch cake…and debated the pan size for a while before settling on a 8-inch round.
Tags: baking, bundt, cake, dessert
I love a good Bundt, and I think Flo Braker’s Vanilla Pound Cake recipe makes a particularly handsome one. I’ve been sort of afraid that my nice little 6-cup Bundt pan (that I always use to make half recipes) has been losing its non-stick abilities, but with a good spraying and flouring this cake fell right out, no problem. The cake was no problem to mix either– super straightforward. The only trick I had up my sleeve was to swap the vanilla extract for a smear of vanilla paste.
The cake is really tender…it’s not dry at all. Because I only made a half-sized cake, I really watched the baking time and took it out of the oven at just under 40 minutes. I think this cake would go with just about anything, but summer fruit sounds particularly good to me. I had jar of dark cherries that I poached in the fridge, so we had half our cake with those. The other half’s in the freezer, but the recipe mentions toasting stale slices as the base for ice cream sundaes, which makes me think about recreating a yummy, fancy affogato concoction my husband had at Brooklyn Farmacy a couple of weeks ago.
Tags: baking, cake, citrus, dessert, fruit
It might technically be spring, but it sure doesn’t feel like it yet. I’m still wearing a scarf inside, my down parka outside, and there was even talk of pulling snow boots out again last night. Oh, bother. A bright spot here, while I wait for spring to really show up, is that the citrus is still good. I think we’re at the tail-end of the preciously short blood orange season. Blood oranges are so sweet and vibrantly colored– I still feel surprised every time I cut one open.
I’ve made lots of yogurt cakes here (and even yogurt cupcakes, too). They stay moist for days, feel less guilty than pound cakes and they’re a great match for citrus, so I looked around on-line to see if anyone had a good one using blood oranges. Most cakes that I saw seemed to resemble another one I’d made, Ina’s Lemon Yogurt Cake, swapping out the lemon zest and juice for blood orange. At its core, so did this one but it has a few tweeks that set it apart for me. Subbing some of the AP four with cornmeal gives the cake a more rustic taste and texture. Swapping the plain vegetable oil for olive oil adds to its fruitiness. Cutting out just a bit of the sugar and forgoing the powdered sugar glaze keeps it from being overly sweet. Don’t worry– a jewel toned blood orange juice soaking syrup drenches the top and seeps into the cake, so you still get enough of that sticky sweetness to call this dessert.
P.S.: If you like cocktails, add a little vodka and a splash of simple syrup to blood orange juice, top it off with seltzer and ice, and you’ll have the most brilliantly colored drink you’ve ever seen.
for the cake
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal,
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
3/4 cup granulated sugar
zest of two blood oranges
1 cup yogurt (Greek or regular, but preferably not non-fat)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup olive oil
for the soaking syrup
1/3 cup freshly squeezed blood orange juice (from the two zested oranges)
2 tbsp. granulated sugar
-Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease an 8 1/2″ x 4 1/4″ loaf pan and line the bottom with parchment paper. Grease and flour the pan.
-In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt. In a large bowl, rub the 3/4 cup sugar and the blood orange zest together with your fingers until fragrant. Whisk in the yogurt, eggs, vanilla and olive oil. Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, switching to a spatula, if needed. Mix until just fully combined.
-Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake until a cake tester placed in the center of the loaf comes out clean. Start checking for doneness at 40 minutes.
-When the cake is done, allow it to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. While you’re waiting, make the soaking syrup by combining the 1/3 cup blood orange juice and remaining 2 tbsp sugar in a small pan. Bring it up to the boil and simmer until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is clear, about a minute. Set aside.
-Carefully place the cake on a baking rack over a sheet pan. Use a skewer to poke holes in the top. While the cake is still warm and the syrup is hot, pour the syrup mixture over the cake and allow it to soak in. (You can get all the syrup to absorb into the cake or reserve a little bit of it for drizzling over the cut slices, if you’d like).
-Cool completely before slicing.