Archive for ‘cakes’

August 31, 2011

Vodka Cheesecake: To Chicago, With Love

My latest, greatest find in the world of food and drink is one that I’m extremely excited about, to say the least.  It excites me to the point that it’s impossible for me to waste another moment thinking up a witty introduction to build it up before actually revealing what it is.  UV Vodka: Cake.  Yes, that’s right… white cake flavored vodka.

Tracking down a bottle (or two) of this liquid heaven proved to be quite a challenge, and figuring out how to use it in a recipe wasn’t as easy as you might think, either.  What was I going to do, use it to make a “cake-flavored-vodka -flavored cake?”  I can’t even speak that phrase without slurring, especially after a couple cake-flavored cocktails.  Or should I say, “cake-tails.”

With my best friend Nina’s 23rd birthday fast approaching, I finally buckled down, stopped recipe “experimenting” (aka, playing bartender instead of baker), and cut to the chase.  I eventually came up with the idea of using the vodka in a cheesecake and was immediately sold.  Nina absolutely needed some sort of birthday cake and I knew she liked cheesecake, and as a no-bake recipe, it’s great for summer.  I combined the buttercream-fragrant vodka with velvety cream cheese filling and tons of fresh vanilla bean flecks and flavor, poured it onto a crumbly chocolate graham crust, and a masterpiece had been born.  Even airport security staff seemed tempted to sneak a taste upon learning what I was carrying in my luggage aboard my flight to see Nina in Chicago.

The cake went over so well in Chicago that I ended up making a second for my vacation with my Virginia family and their friends.  One of their friends on the trip was Maxim, who just so happens to be from Russia and grew up in the former USSR (and knows a thing or two about vodka!).  I was thrilled when he gave the cake his stamp of approval!  Whitney also insisted that it was her favorite dessert that I’ve made thus far, which makes me so happy that it was specifically created with my Nina in mind.  I hope my best friend had a fabulous birthday, loved her cake, and knows how much I love her!

Vodka & Vanilla Bean Cheesecake

Inspired by: UV Cake

1/3 cup plus ¼ cup vodka, divided
(vanilla or cake vodka works well!)

3½ teaspoons powdered gelatin

2 vanilla beans

1/3 cup granulated sugar

525 grams cream cheese, softened

¾ cup superfine granulated sugar

1½ cups heavy whipping cream

Chocolate Crust (recipe below)

–recipe yield: one 9-inch cheesecake

Prepare the graham crust as directed below.  Line the sides of the crust-pressed cake pan with parchment paper and set aside.  Pour ¼ cup very cold vodka and 2 tablespoons very cold water into a small bowl.  Sprinkle gelatin into the bowl and set aside, allowing it to dissolve completely into the liquid.Use a sharp paring knife to split the vanilla bean(s) vertically and to scrape out the seeds from the inside.  Empty extracted seeds into a small saucepan, along with the hollowed whole beans, the regular granulated sugar, and the remaining vodka.  Place saucepan over low heat to dissolve sugar into the liquid.  Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer for about 1-2 minutes before removing from heat and allowing to cool.

In a large bowl, cream together cream cheese and superfine sugar until smooth.  Beat in the cooled syrup, removing and discarding hollowed, whole beans beforehand.  Gently heat the gelatin mixture until it has reached a liquid consistency, and then beat it into the cream cheese mixture.  In a separate large bowl,  whip the heavy cream until it has reached medium-soft peaks.  Gently fold the whipped cream into the cheese mixture until homogeneous.  Pour the mixture into the prepared pan over top of the chocolate graham crust and refrigerate 3-4 hours, or until set.  Once set, it can be stored by covering the top surface of the cake with a layer of plastic wrap and keeps well in the refrigerator or freezer.  If frozen, thaw in the refrigerator before removing the cake from the pan, peeling away and discarding the plastic wrap and parchment paper, slicing, and serving.

Chocolate Graham Crust
Deliciously salty and sweet, this no-bake crust can easily be made gluten-free by use of gluten-free graham cracker crumbs, which is what I used.

6 tablespoons unsalted butter

3 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1½ cups graham cracker crumbs

3 tablespoons Dutch process cocoa

-recipe yield:
9-inch cheesecake crust

In a small saucepan over low heat, gently melt the butter, eventually stirring in the sugar and salt.  Remove from heat and allow to cool.  Combine cracker crumbs and cocoa powder in a large bowl.  Pour the cooled butter over the chocolate cracker crumb mixture and mix until all the crumbs have been coated.  Press the mixture into an even layer on the bottom of a 9-inch cake pan (either springform or with a removable bottom) and refrigerate to set.

Advertisements
July 21, 2011

Chocolate Souffle For A Happy Birthday

Here at Pumpercake, every day last week was celebrated with a Harry Potter-inspired post and recipe.  Amidst all the Harry-hype, it seems that I somehow managed to omit Evan’s birthday dessert from the recipe lineup.  Although I was able to pull together a couple fabulous desserts for the occasion, I didn’t get the chance to whip up a post with the recipe!

Evan, the talented photographer behind the lovely photos of Pumpercake, has been quite the study-bug lately (as mentioned previously) and had requested a low-key, quiet birthday at home.  He suggested that we order some Asian take-out and rent a movie.  I decided to step it up a notch and spent the day placing orders at numerous Chinese, Thai, and Japanese restaurants, selecting his favorite specific dishes from each, and gave a different specified time for every take-out order to be delivered.  With each knock on the door throughout the evening, Evan was presented with an array of his favorite foods until the apartment had transformed into a sort of Asian-buffet.  Needless to say, I knew there would be little room for dessert, so I came up with one mini-dessert, and, to be enjoyed the following day, a more indulgent treat.

Evan is an avid fruit-lover, and his favorite combination is that of white chocolate and raspberries.  As his mini-dessert, I strung together a simple array berries and ran the skewered fruit through some rich white chocolate.  And instead of an extravagant Birthday cake, I went with individual white chocolate souffle cakes, filled with a dark chocolate and raspberry molten surprise.  The cakes turned out amazing.  The light, fluffy texture of a souffle paired with the richness of the warm white and dark chocolates, and the smooth bite and tang of the raspberry made for an incredible merriment of Evan’s favorite flavors.

A very happy (late) Birthday goes out to our wonderful “food-tographer!”  I hope you enjoyed your day (and your desserts!) as much as I enjoy and appreciate all you do for me and for Pumpercake!

White Chocolate Raspberry
Molten Soufflé Cakes

Inspired by: White Chocolate & Raspberries (Evan’s favorite!)

Adapted fromWhite Chocolate Soufflé Cakes with Raspberry-Chocolate Sauce,” Fine Cooking

3 tablespoons all purpose flour

small pinch of table salt

¾ cup whole milk

3 large eggs, separated & room temperature

6 ounces white chocolate, chopped

¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

¼ teaspoon cream of tartar

2¼ tablespoons superfine granulated sugar

6 balls raspberry-chocolate ganache (recipe below)

–recipe yield: 6 six-ounce servings

Prepare 6 six-ounce ovenproof ramekins by buttering them and lightly coating them with granulated or superfine sugar, tapping out the excess.  In a heavy bottomed saucepan, stir together flour, salt and about half of the milk to form a paste.  Whisk in the remaining milk and set saucepan over medium heat.  Whisking frequently, heat mixture for 2-3 minutes, or until it forms a thick cream sauce.  As mixture heats, crack egg yolks only into a large bowl, breaking them apart slightly with a fork.  Add a small amount of the cream sauce to the yolks while continuously whisking.  When the yolks have been brought up to temperature, pour them into the saucepan and continue to heat while constantly whisking.  Mixture should soon resemble a pastry cream, and should then be transferred to a large bowl.  Whisk white chocolate into the hot pastry cream mixture until melted and smooth, and then stir in the vanilla.  Set aside to cool slightly.

Position a rack in the lower 1/3 of the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  In a large bowl, beat egg whites until slightly foamy.  Add in cream of tartar and continue to whip until the whites just barely reach soft peaks.  Gradually beat in the superfine sugar and whip the meringue into medium-soft peaks.  Gently fold the meringue gradually into the tepid pastry cream until the mixture is combined.  Spoon the lightened mixture into each prepared ramekin until each is just about 1/3 full.  Place one chilled ball of raspberry-chocolate ganache into each ramekin on top of the first layer of the souffle mixture.  Spoon the remaining souffle mixture on top of and around each ball of ganache until the ganache has been completely covered and each ramekin is completely full.  Use the dull side of a butter knife to scrape the very top of each ramekin, leveling off the mixture.

Place ramekins on a baking sheet and bake until the tops of the souffle cakes are golden and they’ve risen and are beautifully puffed, about 16-18 minutes.  They should quiver slightly when tapped and be warm and soft in the centers.  Let cool slightly before serving, but note that the longer they sit, the more they’ll deflate.  Dust with powdered sugar to serve.  Assembled and unbaked souffle cakes can be covered tightly with plastic wrap and stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.


Raspberry-Chocolate Molten Ganache Filling

½ cup fresh raspberries

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

3 ounces dark chocolate, chopped

Place a small metal pan in freezer.  Pour raspberries in a food processor and pulse until pureed.  Push through a fine mesh sieve, discarding seeds.  Prepare a double boiler with a small glass bowl, and combine in the bowl the butter, sugar, and 2 tablespoons of raspberry puree (remaining puree can be discarded or used as garnish).  Heat until dissolved and hot, remove from heat, and stir in chocolate until melted and combined.  Pour mixture into the chilled pan and freeze for 20 minutes.  Use a small scoop to scrape the mixture into 6 balls.  Refrigerate ganache balls until ready to bake dessert.

July 15, 2011

Merlin’s Beard! The Day Is Here!

Today marks the premier of long-awaited movie, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows; Part 2, a film very much worth waiting for and an event worth celebrating!  As we wrap up our Potter Week festivities, I must admit that it’s a bittersweet day here at Pumpercake.    As the battle has ended and  the loose ends have been tied, there will be no more books, movies, or exciting plot twists in our favorite wizarding world.  While the incredible final movie was everything I hoped it would be, I’m sad to see this saga come to an end.  And, I must admit, I’m also a little sad to see the Pumpercake Potter Week  come to an end.  Many of the recipes of this past week have been some of my favorite to think up and create, and the introductions to each of the posts have been, by far, my favorite to write.

Today’s recipe is inspired by “butterbeer,” every Witch’s and Wizard’s beverage of choice.   I created a dramatic and delicious “Butterbeer Layer Cake,” complete with three layers of fluffy, moist cake and multiple frostings and fillings, all flavored in themes of rich and salty butter, sweet and fragrant butterscotch and even a splash of liqueur.  To accompany the extravagant cake, cute little cake-pops take the form of the “golden snitch,” the tiny, fluttering ball from Harry’s favorite wizarding sport, Quidditch.  It wasn’t until after I made up the treats that I recalled Mrs. Weasley creating a magical snitch-themed birthday cake for Harry’s 17th in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

I’d like to give a heartfelt “thank you” to those loyal Pumpercake readers and Harry-loving fans who’ve followed along all week.  This week’s new subscribers and viewing numbers have taken a gigantic jump up from Pumper’s average stats, making me the happiest girl in the world, as I truly feel that my hard work this week was well worth it.  I hope you enjoyed being a part of Potter Week half as much as I enjoyed organizing it.

Butterbeer Layer Cake
& Golden Snitch Cake Pops

Inspired by: Butterbeer

“I notice that your birthday cake is in the shape of a Snitch,” Scrimgeour said to Harry. “Why is that?”

Hermione laughed derisively.

“Oh, it can’t be a reference to the fact Harry’s a great Seeker, that’s way too obvious,” she said. “There must be a secret message from Dumbledore hidden in the icing!”

-Rufus Scrimgeor of the “Ministry of Magic” questions Harry, Ron and Hermione in order to uncover the secret mission left to them by Albus Dumbledore in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

Butterbeer Cake

One batch of this recipe creates the base for the layer cake and also for the cake-pop filling.

1¾ cup cake flour

1½ cup all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

¾ cup buttermilk

¾ cup cream soda

¾ cup (1½ sticks) unsalted butter

¾ cup granulated sugar

¾ cup light brown sugar

4 eggs plus 1 white, room temperature

2½ teaspoons vanilla extract

1½ teaspoons butter extract

–recipe yield: 1 three-layer cake (trimmed to 7½ inches in diameter), and about 18-22 cake pops.

Butter and flour three 9-inch pans and preheat oven to degrees.  In a medium bowl, sift to combine the flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Set aside.  In a small bowl stir together the buttermilk and cream soda, and set aside.  In a large bowl, beat butter on medium speed to soften.  Beat in both sugars and cream together until sugars have dissolved completely and mixture is fluffy and pale yellow, about 5 minutes.  Add eggs, one at a time, additional egg white, and vanilla and butter extracts, beating well after each addition.

Slowly add the dry ingredients in 3 equal parts into the creamed mixture, alternating each addition with half of the liquid ingredients (buttermilk and cream soda).  Divide batter between the three prepared pans (about 2 cups of batter in each pan), and tap the bottom of the pans against counter-top to help release air bubbles.  Place pans into oven for 20-22 minutes, or until cake is springy and edges are light golden.  Allow cakes to cool in pans on wire rack for about 10 minutes before removing and placing directly on rack to cool completely.

Butterbeer Butterscotch-Chocolate Ganache Topping
& Butterscotch-Chocolate Whipped Ganache Filling

2 cups heavy whipping cream, plus 2-3 tablespoons

3 tablespoons butterscotch schnapps

3 cups butterscotch chips

1 cup white chocolate chips

Heat the 2 cups of whipping cream in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring frequently to prevent burning.  Once cream has been brought to a simmer, turn off heat, and stir in butterscotch schnapps.  Dump butterscotch chips and chocolate chips into a large bowl, and add in the hot liquid, pouring it directly over the chips.  Whisk to melt the chips completely.  Pour about 1/3 of the smooth ganache into a separate bowl, and let sit at room temperature.  This is the ganache topping.

For the whipped ganache, cover the bowl containing the other 2/3 ganache with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to set up (at least 4 hours).  When ready to use, remove the hardened ganache from the refrigerator, let sit at room temperature for about 10 minutes, and whip until fluffy, adding 2-3 extra tablespoons heavy cream if needed.

Butterscotch Buttercream Frosting

 

1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin

¾ cup unsalted butter, room temperature

¼ cup cream cheese, softened

¼ cup vegetable shortening

½ cup butterscotch chips, melted & cooled

1½ teaspoons butter extract

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

½ teaspoon salt

3 teaspoons butterscotch custard powder*

3½-4 cups confectioner’s sugar

2 tablespoons milk

1 tablespoon lemon juice

2 tablespoons heavy cream

In a small cup or dish, sprinkle gelatin powder over 1 tablespoon very cool water.  Set aside to allow gelatin to fully dissolve in water, about 5 minutes.  In a large bowl, cream together butter, cheese and shortening until soft and combined.  Add in melted butterscotch, butter and vanilla extracts, salt, and custard powder and mix on a high speed until combined.  Gradually beat in about half of the confectioner’s sugar until dissolved, then pour in the milk and lemon juice, mixing well until homogeneous.  Gradually add in the remaining confection’s sugar.  Heat the dissolved gelatin until just melted, and beat it and the heavy cream into the mixture until fluffy and homogeneous.

*butterscotch flavored instant pudding will work here, too.

Layer Cake Assembly

Using a 7½-inch round pan or a cardboard cutout as a guide, trim down the 3 cake layers, placing the excess cake edges into a separate bowl to be used later for cake pops.  Using a serrated knife, slice away the very top dome-shaped portion of each trimmed cake layer, leaving a flat and level surface on each cake.  Cake layers can be thinned and leveled to any desired thickness.   The leftover cake pieces should, again, be added to the bowl of excess pieces.

Place one trimmed, leveled cake layer onto serving dish or cake plate.  Spoon a few large scoops of the whipped ganache filling into a pastry or zip-top bag fitted with a medium round tip, and pipe a circle of the filling onto the cake layer following the perimeter of the round cake.  Spoon some more whipped filling into the center of the cake and spread the filling with an angled spatula into an even layer reaching the piped circle of filling.  Spread extra whipped ganache, if needed, to ensure that the center portion of ganache is level with the piped circle edges.  Gently place second cake layer directly onto the whipped ganache layer, lining it up evenly with the bottom layer.  Repeat the piping and spreading techniques with the whipped filling atop the second cake layer, and cover the layer of filling with the final, top layer of cake, lining it up accordingly.

Spoon onto the stacked cake, a few large, heaping scoops of buttercream frosting.  Using an angled spatula, spread the buttercream into an even layer on the top surface, as well as the sides of the stacked and filled cake.  Add any additional buttercream needed to completely cover the assembled cake, smoothing it cleanly and evenly.  Gently re-whisk the ganache topping once or twice, warming it slightly in the microwave if needed, until it has reached a thick, pour-able consistency.  Slowly pour some of the ganache topping onto the center of the frosted cake, allowing the ganache to just barely reach the edges of the cake.  Using an angled spatula, carefully push the poured ganache over the edges of the perimeter of the cake, allowing the topping to spill over onto the sides of the cake.  More smooth ganache topping can be added to the top of the cake, if necessary.

If desired, a quarter cup each of buttercream and ganache (filling or chilled topping) can be re-whipped and transferred into a pastry bag to be piped decoratively around the bottom perimeter of the assembled, frosted cake.  Cake can be kept, covered, in the refrigerator.

Golden Snitch Cake Pops

Adapted from Amy Bites

Reserved cake pieces (see above)

Leftover frostings/fillings (see above)

1 cup white chocolate chips

¼ cup butterscotch chips

1 pound gum paste mix

optional: edible opalescent powder (gold)

Use your hands or a butter knife to gently slice through and break down the reserved cake pieces into crumbles.  Combine leftover buttercream frosting with a few tablespoons ganache (filling or chilled topping), and gradually add the mixture, one or two scoops at a time, to the bowl of cake pieces.  Continuously mix the cake crumbles with the frosting mixture, adding frosting as necessary, until the consistency is pliable enough for moist, sticky cake balls to be formed.  Form heaping tablespoons of the sticky mixture into round balls and place onto a parchment-lined sheet.  Stab each cake ball with a lollipop stick.  Chill the tray of cake balls in the refrigerator to allow them to set and securely fasten to the sticks.

Prepare a double boiler fitted with a small glass bowl containing the white chocolate and butterscotch chips, and melt until smooth.  Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly before dunking in the chilled cake balls, one at a time, to be completely coated.  Placed coated cake balls back onto lined tray and allow the outer-coating to slightly set, but not completely harden.  Use a paring knife to create two small, vertical slits into two sides of each cake ball, and allow coating to finish hardening.  Prepare gum-paste as directed on package instructions and roll out to about ¼-inch in thickness.  Draw a narrow wing shape on a piece of heavy card-stock or cardboard and cut it out to be used as a template to eventually create the wings of the “snitch.”  Use a sharp paring knife and the template to cut out gum paste wings.  Store the wings in an airtight container until ready to push into the slits of each cake ball.  If desired, use a small, soft paint brush to dust each “snitch” with edible opalescent gold powder.

July 14, 2011

Kosher Kupcakes

         

As if publishing Pumpercake’s Seven-Layer Cake this week wasn’t exciting enough, I’m absolutely thrilled to be a guest blogger at  Joy of Kosher today!

A Joy of Kosher representative contacted me asking for a guest post and a couple summery cupcake recipes that could be made pareve (without dairy).  My guest post features Pumpercake’s cocktail-inspired “Margarita Cupcakes,” and “Black & White Cupcakes,” inspired by the well known Jewish cookie.

Make sure you stop by Joy of Kosher today to take a look at Pumpercake’s cupcake article, recipes, and pictures, as well as the many other great articles and wonderful everyday recipes throughout the site!

July 5, 2011

Happy 4th Of Jell-y!

Proud American that I am, I decided that one Patriotic dessert wasn’t enough to celebrate Independence Day this year. In addition to the Red, White, & Blue Bombe Glacée I made for this weekend’s festivities, I prepared another colorful cake to help set the celebratory tone. I couldn’t resist another opportunity to use the refreshing flavor trio of the beloved Bomb Pop (cherry, lime, blue raspberry) in one more treat. Inspired by Sprinkle Bakes‘ lovely “Crown Jewel Cake,” I decided to revamp her cheerful version of the retro “Broken Glass Cake” by using the flavors of the Bomb Pop and the shapes and colors of our flag.

Sweet cherry sponge cake hugs a fluffy lime cream filling, speckled with playful bursts of blue raspberry and cherry Jello stars. The seemingly odd mixture of tart-sweet flavors and jiggly-smooth textures comes together in a harmonious, silky bite.

My favorite part about this cake is the exciting element of surprise that comes with cutting into it.  With different shapes and sizes of red and blue stars, no two slices are alike.  Each cut into the cake brings about an excitement comparable to the incredible National fireworks show… there’s no telling what pretty star pattern will be uncovered next.

Starry Stained Glass Cake

Inspired by: Bomb Pops & Sprinkle Bakes’ “Crown Jewel Cake

Adapted from Heather Baird’s Crown Jewel Cake,” SprinkleBakes

Cherry Joconde Sponge Cake

1¼ cups almond flour

1/3 cup plus 1½ tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 cup confectioner’s sugar

3 eggs

2 egg yolks

¾ teaspoon cherry extract

1-1½ teaspoons red gel food coloring

4 egg whites

¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon superfine sugar

2½ tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

–recipe yield: one 11½ x 17½ sheet cake to be fit as a shell into one 8-inch round cake pan

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Line an 8-inch round springform cake pan with parchment paper and set aside.  Prepare an 11½ x 17½ sheet cake pan by buttering it, lining it in parchment paper, and buttering the paper.  In a food processor, pulse together the almond flour, all-purpose flour and confectioner’s sugar to remove any lumps and to further grind down the almonds.  In a large bowl, beat the whole eggs until frothy, and then gradually add in the combined dry ingredients from the food processor while continuing to beat and scraping down the sides of the bowl in between additions.  Beat in egg yolks and extract, and gradually add food coloring until desired color is reached.

In a separate bowl, whip egg whites until frothy.  Gradually add in superfine sugar while continuing to whip the mixture into a thick meringue.  Once sugar has been added and meringue has reached stiff peaks, fold it gently into the batter.  Pour in the cooled, melted butter, give it two or three more folds, and then pour the batter into the prepared sheet pan.  Tilt the pan to distribute the batter into an even layer and tap the bottom of the pan against the counter top to allow any air bubbles to escape.   Place pan into the oven to bake for 5-7 minutes, checking it frequently as it burns quickly and easily.

While cake is baking, lay out a clean pastry cloth or non-patterned tea towel next to a wire cooling rack.  Sprinkle the cloth with a few tablespoons of confectioner’s sugar, smoothing it out into an even layer with your hands.  Immediately upon removing it from the oven, turn out the hot cake onto the sugared pastry cloth.  Peel away and discard the parchment paper from the top of the cake.  Using the round cake pan as a guide, cut a long strip of the cake to fit inside around the pan, making up the cake edges.  If the strip doesn’t cover all the way around the inside of the pan, a shorter strip may be sliced, added and pressed in to fill the gap.  Cut a circle from the sheet cake to make up the bottom of the cake and press it into the pan inside the cake edges.

Lime Cream Filling

3-ounce box blue raspberry gelatin
(ex. Berry Blue Jello)

3-ounce box cherry gelatin
(ex. Cherry Jello)

1¼ cups pineapple juice

¼ cup lime juice

1½ tablespoons powdered gelatin

¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons cold water

2 cups heavy whipping cream

¾ teaspoon vanilla extract

Prepare both packages of flavored gelatin as directed on box.  Once gelatin is completely set and chilled, it is ready to be sliced into shapes.  Using different sized star-shaped cookie cutters, slice set gelatin into very thick stars (see picture).  The thicker the stars are cut, the more likely they will appear in cake slices.  Set aside.

In a small saucepan, combine pineapple and lime juice.  Sprinkle powdered gelatin into the juice and let it sit for 2-3 minutes, or until the gelatin has completely dissolved.  Once dissolved, place the saucepan over medium-low heat for another 2-3 minutes, or until the mixture has melted into a smooth liquid.  Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the cold water.  Pour the mixture into a small bowl and set it on the counter top to cool slightly for about 5 minutes.  Place it into the refrigerator for another 5 minutes to allow it to cool completely, but remain in liquid form (not set up into a gelatin).  In a large bowl, whip cold cream into soft peaks.  Pour in the vanilla extract and continue to whip until it has reached stiff peaks.  Whisk cooled gelatin mixture well into whipped vanilla cream.

Assembly

Add a few spoon-fulls of the lime cream filling into the pan containing the prepared, pressed sponge cake shell.  Place a few flavored gelatin stars into the pan on top of the filling.  Add more filling, followed by more stars, and continue until desired amount of gelatin stars have been added, leaving enough filling for a final, thick layer of filling to cover the stars and top off the cake.  Gently spread the top layer of filling into a smooth mound.  Cover cake with plastic wrap and allow it to set up in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours.

If desired, decorate set, firm cake with colored candies and/or a half batch of Best Vanilla Buttercream piped from a pastry or plastic zip-top bag fitted with a large star tip.  If using colored candies, do not place the candies directly on the surface of the filling, as the color will bleed though the white gelatin cream.

July 2, 2011

Bombes Away On Independence Day!

Happy 4th of July!  Sure, I may be a few days early, but that’s part of the beauty of this dessert… that it can be made days ahead of time.  Another part of the beauty of this dessert is, well, the beauty of the dessert!

I’ve known for months that this year’s Independence Day treat would be inspired by everyone’s favorite patriotic popsicle, the Bomb Pop.  The ice-cold striped snack, layered with bold, crisp flavors of blue raspberry, lime, and cherry left me with many possibilities.  The more I brainstormed, the more excited I got, leaving me with way too many dessert ideas.  I finally narrowed it down to two red, white, and blue desserts, and decided to make both of them.  Luckily, I will have an apartment full of visitors for the weekend who, I’m hoping, will help tear through these dishes (and the refrigerator full of other dessert leftovers, too!).

As I have two fabulous, patriotic desserts to share, I decided to post one a few days early (possibly giving an inspired reader a chance to make a quick copycat before Monday?).  During the bulk of my brainstorming, I focused mainly on dishes that showcase color, as it was important to me to display red, white, and blue in an exciting, attractive way.  As I was scribbling notes in my recipe journal, I glanced at where I’d written “Bomb Pop” on the page and noticed an accidental flourish resembling an “e” at the end of the word “Bomb”.  A bomb explosion went off in my brain.  A layered ice cream cake, or a “bombe glacée,” would be a perfect way to playfully mimic a Bomb Pop, showcasing the three flavors and colors, and also playing off the title of the treat itself!

Bombes are mainly made up of ice cream or sherbet, but some versions include a cake layer, mine included.  I layered homemade lime and homemade sweet dark cherry ice cream and enveloped both in a layer of bright blue raspberry cake.  I chose Swiss cake roll slices because I thought that the white buttercream swirls would pop against the blue cake.  And maybe also because I was somewhat hesitant as to how, exactly, a blue raspberry flavored cake would taste and wanted some vanilla buttercream to fall back on in case the cake wasn’t as pleasant-tasting as I’d hoped.  Luckily, the flavors of the cake and both ice creams came out wonderful, the cohesive dessert creamy and refreshing…  a perfect tribute to the Bomb Pop and a sweet way to celebrate (two days before) the 4th.

Patriotic Ice Cream Cake Bombe

Inspired by: Red, White & Blue Bomb Pops

Blue Raspberry Swiss Cake Roll

Adapted from Heather Baird’s Pink Velvet Roulade,” SprinkleBakes

4 eggs                                      ¼ teaspoon raspberry extract

¾ cup superfine sugar              ¾ tablespoon blue gel food coloring

3 tablespoons vegetable oil      1-2 drops purple gel food coloring

1½ tablespoons whole milk       1 cup all purpose flour

½ tablespoon lemon juice          1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon cider vinegar           ¼ teaspoon salt

1½ tablespoons blue raspberry syrup

–recipe yield: 9-12 slices

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a 9½x13½ pan with buttered parchment paper.  Beat eggs for five full minutes, then,  slowly beat in superfine sugar and vegetable oil.  In a small bowl, whisk together milk, lemon juice, vinegar, raspberry syrup, and extract.  Gradually add the liquid into egg mixture while continuing to mix on a high speed.  Add food coloring until desired color is reached.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl.  In small batches, add the sifted dry ingredients into the batter, mixing after each addition.  When completely combined and smooth, pour the batter into the prepared pan, tilting the pan to evenly distribute the batter.  Tap the bottom of the pan against the counter top to allow any air bubbles to escape before placing into the oven to bake for 12-15 minutes, or until the cake is spring-y to the touch.

Lay out a pastry cloth or tea towel next to a wire cooling rack.  Sprinkle cloth with a confectioner’s sugar and smooth it into an even layer.  Immediately upon removing it from the oven, turn out the cake onto the sugared cloth.  Remove paper from the cake and gently roll cake and cloth into a tight log, starting at a shorter end of the cake.  When cake log is rolled with and wrapped in the cloth, place it on the wire rack and allow to cool completely.

Best Vanilla Buttercream

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

¼ teaspoon salt

2½-3 cups confectioner’s sugar

2 tablespoons vanilla almond milk

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1½-2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream

–recipe yield: about 2 cups frosting

In a large bowl, beat together butter and salt until soft and creamed (about 2-4 minutes).  Add in about half of the sugar and the almond milk, and beat until combined.  Add in the remaining sugar, as well as the vanilla, and beat until smooth.  Drizzle in heavy cream while continuing to beat until desired fluffy consistency is reached.

Swiss Roll Assembly

When cake roll is cool, gently unroll it and pull away the cloth.  Spoon frosting onto the surface of unrolled cake and smooth in an even layer, leaving a thin, border unfrosted.  Gently roll cake back into log and wrap securely with plastic wrap. Freeze for 4 hours before cutting into slices with a serrated knife.

Lime Ice Cream

Adapted from Key Lime Ice Cream,” Food.com

10 ounces frozen limeade concentrate, thawed

zest and juice from 2 limes

14 ounces (1 can) sweetened condensed milk

3 cups heavy whipping cream

1 tablespoon clear vanilla extract

1 teaspoon key lime extract

Line a 9×9-inch pan with plastic wrap and chill in the freezer.  In a medium bowl, whisk together limeade concentrate, zest, juice, and condensed milk.  Set aside.  In a large bowl, whip the cream on a low speed until just slightly thickened.  Add both vanilla and lime extracts while continuing to mix.  When medium soft peaks form, fold in condensed milk mixture.  Spoon the combined mixture into prepare pan and freeze until firm, at least 4 hours.

Sweet Black Cherry Ice Cream

Adapted from Spumoni Ice Cream,”
The Prepared Pantry

½ pint dark sweet cherries

2 tablespoons cherry preserves

2 cups whipping cream

½ cup sweetened condensed milk

1 teaspoon pure cherry extract

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon red gel food coloring

Line a 9×9-inch pan with plastic wrap and chill in the freezer.  Rinse and remove pits and stems from cherries.  Pat dry and give cherries a thorough, rough chop, or pulse a couple times in a food processor.  Combine chopped cherries and preserves in a small bowl and set aside.  In a large bowl, mix the whipping cream on a low speed until just slightly thickened.  Gradually pour in the condensed milk and both cherry and vanilla extracts, and continue to whip until soft peaks form.  Add food coloring until desired color is reached.  Gently fold the cherry-preserve mixture into the cream.  Spoon the combined mixture into the lined, chilled pan and freeze for at least 4 hours, or until firm.

Assembly

Line a round-bottomed bowl (preferably aluminum) with plastic wrap.  Using a serrated knife, cut chilled cake roll into slices about 1-1½ inches thick.  Arrange slices in the lined bowl into a layer at the bottom of the pan and up the side of the bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and freeze till the slices are firm, at least 30 minutes.

Remove the lime ice cream from the freezer to allow it to soften for about 10 minutes.  Then, take the cake-roll lined bowl out of the freezer, remove outermost layer of plastic wrap and smooth the lime ice cream on top of the cake slices.  Spread ice cream into an even layer to cover the bottom third of the inside of the bowl.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and freeze until firm, at least 1 hour.  Repeat the softening process with the cherry ice cream, and spread it into the bowl onto the chilled lime ice cream and cake rolls.  Allow the cherry ice cream layer to reach another third of the way up inside the bowl, leaving the very top third portion of the bowl empty for the last layer.  Re-cover the bowl with plastic wrap and freeze for another hour or so until firm.  Repeat the softening and smoothing process with the third and final layer of lime ice cream.  Smooth it into an even layer reaching the very top of the bowl and sides of the cake slices.  Re-cover the bowl with plastic wrap and freeze til completely set and firm, 4-5 hours or overnight.

About 10 minutes before ready to serve, remove the bowl from the freezer and discard plastic wrap.  Invert the dessert onto serving plate and peel away and discard plastic wrap.  If the dessert doesn’t release from the bowl with ease, run a kitchen towel dampened with hot water across the sides of the bowl before attempting to pull it away.  To serve, submerge a sharp knife into hot water before cutting into slices.

May 27, 2011

Tangy Drink Turned Tasty Dessert

Summer heat may bring about many cravings for those finding themselves with a sweet tooth… ice cream, popsicles, and maybe a tall, cool glass of tart lemonade.  Or, better yet, strawberry lemonade.  The average high in DC this week has been about 93 degrees with humidity that could cause even the most poker-straight hair to go completely Hugo Reyes.  Needless to say, refreshing treats have been on my mind.  With a craving for something tangy and little inspirational help from those tantalizing McDonald’s commercials, these strawberry-lemonade cupcakes were born.

These muffin-like cakes were sweetened up with a tart, bright burst of strawberry-lemon curd filling.  The citrus-y sweet cupcakes turned out great and were shared with many.  My favorite reaction of any of the tasters was my friend Claire’s, who after biting into the cake exclaimed, “That filling tastes just like strawberry lemonade!”  Sounds like a successful recipe if I’ve ever heard one.

Strawberry Lemonade Cupcakes

Inspired by: Strawberry Lemonade

Strawberry-Lemon Cakes

Adapted from Gail Wagman’s “Strawberry Cupcakes,” Cupcakes Galore

1 cup chopped strawberries                2 eggs

1 tablespoon honey                            ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 tablespoons lemon juice                  2 ½ cups all-purpose flour

zest from 1 lemon                                ¾ cup granulated sugar

6 tablespoons unsalted butter             2 ½ teaspoons baking powder

1 cup milk                                             1 teaspoon baking soda

recipe yield: about 18 cupcakes

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare cupcake pans with paper liners.  Place finely chopped strawberries in a small bowl with honey, 1 tablespoon of lemon juice and lemon zest.  Set aside to macerate.

Prepare a double boiler fitted with a small glass bowl containing the butter.  Gently melt the butter over low heat, remove from stove top, and allow to cool slightly.  In a medium bowl, combine the remaining tablespoon of lemon juice and the milk.  Add the eggs, breaking apart the yolks slightly, as well as the vanilla extract.  Mix in cooled, melted butter.  Whisk all ingredients together and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder and baking soda.  Form a small “well” in the center of the dry ingredients and pour the butter-egg mixture into the well.  Mix ingredients together until just combined.  Gently stir in the macerated strawberry mixture until strawberries are dispersed throughout the batter.

Spoon the batter into the cupcake papers until each is about ¾ full.  Place pans into the oven and bake cupcakes for 17-20 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.  Allow to cool on racks in pans for about 10 minutes before removing from pans and allowing to cool completely on racks.

Strawberry-Lemon Curd

Adapted from pumpercake‘sPineapple-Lemon Curd

6 egg yolks

zest of ½ lemon

1 cup seedless strawberry pulp*

¼ cup lemon juice (2 lemons)

½ cup sugar

2 ¼ tablespoons cornstarch

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ cup unsalted cold butter

-recipe yield: about 2 ½ cups

In a small, heavy bottomed saucepan, lightly break apart egg yolks with a small whisk.  While whisking, add in the zest, fruit juices, sugar, salt, and cornstarch.  Place saucepan over medium heat and, using a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, constantly stir mixture for 4-6 minutes, or until it thickens up to the point where it coats the spoon and holds its shape when you run your finger across the spoon.

At this point, immediately remove the saucepan from heat.  Constantly stirring, gradually mix in small pieces of butter, allowing each piece to dissolve into the curd before adding the next piece.  Once all the butter has been added and the mixture is smooth, transfer the curd to a small bowl and continue to stir until it has cooled.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, allowing the plastic wrap to sag into the bowl and cover the entire surface of the curd so that the curd doesn’t develop a skin.  Store cooled, covered pineapple-lemon curd in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

*To make strawberry pulp, place clean, fresh strawberries into a food processor and pulse until fully broken down.  Transfer ground strawberries into a mesh strainer and allow pulp to strain through into a clean bowl.  To help pulp fall through strainer, use a small whisk.  Discard any seeds or rough pieces remaining in the strainer and use only the smooth, seedless pulp.

Strawberry-Lemonade Buttercream

Adapted from “Lemon Kissed Buttercream Frosting,”
The Cupcakery Blog

This is a very versatile buttercream recipe that can be prepared and presented in a couple different ways.  Depending on your preferences of sweet vs. tangy, the amount of curd added can be adjusted or even omitted all together.  The curd can be swirled, marbleized, or fully combined into the buttercream.

½ cup unsalted butter                 3 cups confectioner’s sugar

2 tablespoons lemon juice           1 tablespoon whole milk

1 teaspoon lemon zest                1 teaspoon vanilla extract

½-¾ cup reserved strawberry-lemon curd (recipe above)

In large bowl, cream butter until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Drizzle in lemon juice and zest and beat well. Gradually add sugar, ½ cup at a time, beating on medium speed and scraping sides of bowl often.  After sugar has been incorporated, continue to beat the mixture while drizzling in vanilla and milk. Beat at medium speed until homogeneous.

At this point, the buttercream can either be piped onto the cupcakes or combined in the curd in some way.  For a homogeneous strawberry lemonade frosting, beat curd into the buttercream until combined.  The curd can also be gently swirled into the buttercream with a spatula before being piped onto cakes.  To create a marbleized effect, fill the pastry bag on one side with buttercream and on the other side with curd so that they’re somewhat separated in the bag.  Pipe the frostings out as normal and the two together in the bag will create pretty ribbons of color.  Swirled or marbleized cupcakes should be served immediately, or the milk may start to lump and look curdled due to the acid in the juice.

May 9, 2011

Turkish Java & Molten Lava

This past Holiday season, upon opening a Christmas card from a family that I’d gotten to know shortly after moving to the area, I was surprised to discover a gift card to their favorite place to get Middle Eastern food.  When Evan and I visited the little Lebanese restaurant, we were very strategic in placing our appetizer and entree orders and made sure to leave room for a dessert selection as well.  On impulse, I decided on a chocolate molten lava cake, mainly because the menu described it as being served alongside homemade  marshmallow cream.  Little did I know, although the pair was absolutely delicious, it was neither the lava cake, nor my beloved marshmallow fluff that would turn out to be the star of the dessert (as well as the entire dinner experience).  There was another component to this little dessert trio, and that was a dollop of an unbelievable pistachio and orange ice cream.  Sounds strange, a chocolate “Turkish Coffee” cake served alongside marshmallow, pistachio and orange flavors, I know.  But, when gathered onto one spoon, the combination of the different flavors, textures, and temperatures seemed as deliciously obvious as a pairing of spaghetti and meatballs.

This unforgettable dessert has very frequently been the topic of conversation between Evan and I since our visit to that restaurant.  Clearly, I had to recreate this dish, but very delicately.  There was no way I was going to tweak any of the perfect flavors in the slightest degree and risk compromising the divinity of this dessert.  I decided, instead, to deconstruct the assembly of the cake.  The result is what I’m calling a “semifreddo lava cake,” composed of a rich, spiced chocolate sheet cake wrapped around a pistachio-orange semifreddo creme.  The “hot lava” took the form of a hot-fudge sauce and was drizzled atop the dessert, and with the obvious inclusion of my favorite marshmallow frosting, the reconstructed dish was complete and just as euphoric as we’d remembered it the first time.

Semifreddo Lava Cake

Inspired by: “Molten Chocolate ‘Turkish Coffee’ Cake”

-Lebanese Taverna (Arlington, VA)

Mocha-Spice Sheet Cake

Adapted from “Mocha Cake,” Gourmet – August 2009

Rich and chocolate-y with a subtle hint of coffee and spice, this flourless cake stays fluffy, moist and soft when frozen… perfect for a semifreddo dessert.

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate

3 teaspoons  espresso powder

6 eggs, separated

½ cup granulated sugar, separated

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon ground cardamom

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and butter and line a 13×9 inch pan.  Prepare a double boiler fitted with a small glass bowl to melt the chocolate.  Before turning on the heat under the double boiler, dissolve the espresso powder by stirring it into 3 tablespoon of hot water.  Once dissolved, strain the espresso into to bowl of chocolate, turn on the heat, and melt the chocolate together with the espresso.  Once almost completely melted, remove bowl from heat, stir to melt completely, and set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, beat together the egg yolks, ¼ cup of the sugar, the salt and the cardamom until the mixture is pale yellow and thick, about 8 minutes.  Beat in the cooled chocolate.  In a separate bowl, beat the room temperature egg whites until they’ve reached soft peaks, gradually add in the remaining ¼ cup of sugar and continue to beat until the meringue just creates stiff peaks.  Gradually and gently fold the egg whites in small batches into the chocolate mixture.

Spread the batter as evenly as possibly (without deflating it) into the prepared pan and bake for 12-14 minutes, or until it has puffed and is dry and springy to the touch.  Transfer the pan to a wire rack and cover the cake with two layers of damp paper towel.  Let the covered cake rest for about 3 minutes, remove the towel (allowing the crispy top layer to peel away with it), and allow the cake to cool completely in the pan.  Once the cake has completely cooled, loosen the edges of the cake with a knife and invert onto a large cutting board or sheet pan that has been lined with parchment paper.  Transfer the cake (still covered with parchment atop the cutting board) to the freezer for 2-3 hours for easy slicing and assembly.

Pistachio-Orange Semifreddo

Adapted from Tim Nugent’s “Pistachio Semifreddo,” Top Chef

This semifreddo is simply divine and can stand alone as a truly delectable dessert.  The flavors are amazing, but it’s the texture that makes this semifreddo so special.  Make sure to whip each layer of ingredients carefully as directed and fold as gently as possible for a beautiful, airy-light finish.

4 eggs, separated                               1 cup heavy whipping cream

½ cup superfine sugar, separated       zest from half an orange

1/3 cup pistachio paste*                      1 tablespoon fresh orange juice

Prepare a double boiler fitted with a large glass bowl and, over medium-low heat, whip together the egg yolks and ¼ of the caster sugar.  Continue to whip on a high speed until as much volume as possible has been achieved, about 5-8 minutes.  At this point, remove from heat and, while still warm, add the pistachio paste and gently swirl it into the yolk mixture.  Set bowl aside to cool.

In a large bowl, whip the room temperature egg whites until they’ve reached soft peaks.  Gradually add in the remaining superfine sugar and continue to beat until stiff peaks have been achieved.  In small batches, gradually fold the stiffened egg white meringue gently into the yolk-pistachio mixture.  In a separate bowl, beat the cold whipping cream to soft peaks, add in the orange zest and juice, and continue to whip slightly until they’ve reached medium-stiff peaks (do not over-whip or the cream can turn into butter).  In gradual batches, gently fold the whipped orange cream into the fluffy pistachio mixture.  Once the semifreddo base has been combined and poured into properly lined pan (as directed below), allow to freeze overnight before serving.

*I made my own pistachio paste for this dessert, but it actually ended up being quite a bit of work and not as easy as the recipe makes it seem.  I would suggest just purchasing some pre-made pistachio paste and adjusting the amount of sugar in the semifreddo accordingly, as it may not be quite as sweet as my homemade paste turned out.

Hot Lava Fudge

Adapted from the Old Occidental Hotel’s “Hot Fudge Sauce,”  -Muskegon, Michigan

1 cup superfine sugar          1/3 cup cocoa powder          2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 tablespoons flour              1 cup milk                             1 teaspoon vanilla extract

-recipe yield:  1 ¾ cups sauce

In a small bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour and unsweetened cocoa powder.  In a heavy bottomed saucepan over medium heat, combine and stir together the milk, butter and vanilla just until the butter has melted.  Add in the dry ingredients to the milk mixture, constantly whisking.  Bring mixture to a boil, stirring constantly, until thick and smooth, about 5 minutes.  Remove from stove and transfer to serving cup or gravy-boat to allow to cool.  Refrigerate unused portion.   Leftovers be reheated in a double-boiler or microwave as needed.

For the marshmallow fluff, make a half-batch of my favorite marshmallow frosting recipe.

Assembly:

Once the sheet cake has chilled in the freezer, remove it and peel back the top layer of parchment paper.  Using a large loaf pan as a guide, trace onto the removed parchment paper the shape of the top, bottom, and two longest sides of the loaf pan.  Cut the shapes out of the parchment paper and arrange them on top of the sheet cake.  Using a sharp paring knife, slice the cake in the shapes of each of the parchment paper to (eventually) fit along the inside of the loaf pan.

Line the large loaf pan with two large pieces of parchment paper, allowing the paper to drape outside of the pan, creating “tabs” that can eventually be pulled up to remove the dessert from the pan.  Handling the cake very gingerly, place into the bottom of the lined loaf pan the slice of cake that fits accordingly and gently press it so that it’s lying across the entire bottom of the pan.  Place both long side pieces of cake into the lined loaf pan along the matching sides and gently press.  Pour the semifreddo base into the cake-lined loaf pan and cover the semifreddo with the final slice of cake fitting the very top of the loaf pan.  If the semifreddo doesn’t reach the top of the pan, slice this piece of cake to fit into the pan atop the semifreddo accordingly.  Cover the loaf pan with plastic wrap and allow assembled dessert to freeze overnight.
To serve, remove the dessert from the freezer and lift the parchment tabs to loosen the dessert from the loaf pan.  Place plate or serving tray on top of loaf pan and flip to invert the dessert onto server.  Peel back the parchment paper.  Cut dessert into slices, drizzle the hot fudge, and spoon a dollop of marshmallow fluff on or next to the dessert or slices.  Serve immediately.

April 27, 2011

Pineapple Sunshine On Easter Sunday

Even as a little girl, I was always “in charge” of providing the dessert at family gatherings for every birthday or holiday.  And even though the desserts have gotten more and more complex and dramatic over the years, my family was just as proud of and impressed with my box-mix concoctions back then as they are of the more labor-intensive treats I serve now.  One cake I can specifically remember making numerous times, as it was a family favorite and repeatedly requested, was the “Pineapple Sunshine Cake.”  It was a simple recipe involving a box of yellow cake mix and a can of crushed pineapple, and it was my sugary-sweet masterpiece.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I was unable to make it out to spend this Easter with my family this past weekend.  However, I was able to spend Easter Sunday with my little local church family.  Every Sunday morning I help run a nursery at a church in Alexandria, Virginia.  The congregation is super warm and friendly, and those with children are a tiny but tight-knit and family-oriented group that I’ve truly grown to love.  I look forward to seeing them and their beautiful children every week and wanted to share with them a little treat that reminds me of holidays with my family.

I decided to revamp the overly-sweet recipe from my childhood and make something a little more special and gourmet.  I  incorporated some vanilla bean and citrus into the sweet pineapple to make a refreshing and tropical-tasting treat.  I started with a pineapple chiffon cake recipe as a base, made it a little less stiff and a lot more moist, filled it with my very own pineapple-lemon curd, and topped it off with a sweet citrus buttercream.  As it was Easter, I decorated some of the cakes with lemon jellybeans and some with buttercream roses for spring.  I was very pleased with how the cakes turned out and was even more pleased to be able to provide an Easter treat to the families that I spend my Sunday mornings with.

Pineapple-Citrus Curd Cupcakes

Inspired by: Pineapple Sunshine Cake

Pineapple & Vanilla Bean Cakes

Adapted from Diana Rattray’s “Pineapple Chiffon Cake,” Southern Food

8 egg whites, room temperature             1 ¼ cup granulated sugar

2 cups all purpose flour                           5 egg yolks

1 tablespoon baking powder                   2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste

½ teaspoon salt                                      1 teaspoon orange zest

¼ cup unsalted butter, softened             ½ cup pineapple juice*

¼ cup vegetable oil                                 ¼ cup crushed pineapple*

-recipe yield: about 24 cupcakes

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line cupcake pans with paper liners.    In a very large bowl, whip all egg whites to stiff peaks, starting on a lower speed at first and increasing mixer speed as the whites start to stiffen.  Set bowl aside.  In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt.  Set aside.

In another large bowl, cream together the butter, oil, and sugar until the sugar has dissolved into the mixture and is no longer grainy, about 5 minutes.  Add egg yolks one at a time, beating well after each addition.  While continuing to beat, add in vanilla bean seeds or paste until the vanilla flecks have distributed throughout the mixture.  Mix in the pineapple juice until incorporated.  When mixture is homogeneous, stir in the crushed pineapple and the orange zest.

In small, alternating batches, sift in about 1/3 of the dry ingredients, fold, and then fold in about 1/3 of the stiffened egg whites.  Continue folding in the sifted dry ingredients alternating with the egg whites until all have been gently incorporated.  Distribute the batter into the pans, filling each of the cupcake papers almost completely full (about 5/6 full).  Rotating the pans halfway through the cooking time, bake the cakes for a total of about 20 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center of a cake comes out clean.  Allow cakes to cool in the pans for about 15 minutes, and then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

*To ensure even measuring of crushed pineapple and pineapple juice, I like to first empty the contents of a can of crushed pineapple into a strainer over a small bowl to collect as much juice as possible.  Then, I place only the crushed pineapple into a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse the fruit a few times to break it down further.  The finer-ground pineapple helps to infuse the flavor throughout the entire cake and adds a lot of texture, but without weighing down the entire cake.  Next, I put the ground, crushed pineapple through the strainer one more time, extracting even more juice, leaving only the fluffy pulp of the pineapple.

Pineapple-Lemon Curd

Adapted from Marlene Sorosky’s “Lemon Curd,” Easy Entertaining

6 egg yolks

zest of ½ lemon

1 cup pineapple juice

¼ cup lemon juice (2 lemons)

½ cup sugar

2 ¼ tablespoons cornstarch

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ cup unsalted cold butter, cut into small pieces

-recipe yield: about 2 ½ cups

In a small, heavy bottomed saucepan, lightly break apart egg yolks with a small whisk.  While whisking, add in the zest, fruit juices, sugar, salt, and cornstarch.  Place saucepan over medium heat and, using a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, constantly stir mixture for 4-6 minutes, or until it thickens up to the point where it coats the spoon and holds its shape when you run your finger across the spoon.

At this point, immediately remove the saucepan from heat.  Constantly stirring, gradually mix in small pieces of butter, allowing each piece to dissolve into the curd before adding the next piece.  Once all the butter has been added and the mixture is smooth, transfer the curd to a small bowl and continue to stir until it has cooled.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, allowing the plastic wrap to sag into the bowl and cover the entire surface of the curd so that the curd doesn’t develop a skin.  Store cooled, covered pineapple-lemon curd in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Sweet Citrus Buttercream

Adapted from Wilton’s “Lemon Buttercream Frosting”

½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature           1 teaspoon lemon zest

½ cup vegetable shortening                                 ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

1 ½ tablespoons lemon juice                                4 cups (about 1 pound) confectioner’s sugar

1 tablespoon pineapple juice                                1 tablespoon heavy cream

In large bowl, cream together butter and shortening until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Drizzle in fruit juices and zest and beat well. Gradually add sugar, ½ cup at a time, beating on medium speed and scraping sides of bowl often. After sugar has been incorporated, continue to beat the mixture while drizzling in heavy cream. Beat at medium speed until homogeneous and fluffy. Keep icing covered with a damp cloth until ready to use and, if needed, re-whip before using.

Optional Ingredients for decorating:

Yellow food coloring, sprinkles, jelly beans, etc.

Assembly:

Once cupcakes are completely cooled, I use an apple corer to remove the inside of each of the cakes and a pastry bag to fill the cakes with the pineapple-lemon curd.  Fill the cakes with as much of the curd as desired, rip off the bottom half of the removed piece of cupcake, and replace the top over the curd.

The sweet citrus buttercream can be gently spread on the cakes with a small spatula or piped on with a pastry or plastic bag.  Decorate as desired.

April 22, 2011

Traditional Seven Layer Cake for an Untraditional Passover

It’s been pretty busy in my apartment lately, as celebrations and preparations for Passover as well as Holy Week and Easter Sunday have all taken place this week.  Since Evan and I aren’t able to visit our families in Michigan this holiday season, I wanted to bring as much festivity as I could to our quiet home.  Each day of Passover I tried to prepare a different dish that followed either a family or Jewish tradition, including a matzo ball soup, Evan’s family’s favorite Caprese salad, and a kugel (more to come on this soon!).

Ever since I first heard of them, I’ve been anxious to try to make a Jewish seven layer cake.  Regardless of the fact that customary Passover foods aren’t supposed to contain any chametz (leavening agents), I decided to use the high holiday as an opportunity to bake the cake.  Yes, an entire seven layer cake may be a ridiculous dessert to make for a celebration involving a total of two people, but I justified this by making it at the very beginning of the week in hopes that the cake would be consumed a little at a time throughout the length of Passover.

There are many different versions of  the seven layer cake, including a Hungarian and a German version.  I found a Jewish recipe and adapted it a little to fit Evan’s description of what he remembers.  The cake is made up of six thin layers of a yellow sponge cake stacked in between six thin layers of a rich chocolate buttercream, and then topped with the seventh layer of cake,  which has been sliced and covered in caramel.Evan had described the cake to me as being a little “mocha-y,” so I added a good amount of coffee to the buttercream.  And even though he didn’t recall the caramel layer as being a part of the cake that he’d enjoyed as a kid, I decided to do it as I thought it would add a cool, dramatic look to the cake.  That simple little caramel layer actually ended up being my favorite part of the cake…  I’m certainly glad that I didn’t pass-it-over! : )

Traditional Jewish Seven Layer Cake

Inspired by: “Seven Layer Cake” -Diamond Bakery (West Bloomfield, MI)

Adapted from Gil Marks’ “7-Layer Cake,” The World of Jewish Desserts

Chocolate-Mocha Buttercream

I highly suggest making the buttercream the day before, as baking and assembling the actual cake is a pretty big project that can easily take up an entire day.  Store the buttercream in a covered container in the refrigerator, and let it sit at room temperature for at least an hour before attempting to assemble the cake.

10 ounces semisweet chocolate                     1  pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

3 ounces unsweetened chocolate                  ½ cup vegetable shortening

3 tablespoons instant coffee granules            1 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 ½ cups sugar                                               ½ teaspoon rum extract

¾ cup water                                                    ¼ teaspoon salt

6 egg yolks

Prepare a double boiler fitted with a medium glass bowl and melt the semisweet and unsweetened chocolate.  When chocolate is melted, stir in the coffee granules and remove from stove top to allow to cool slightly.  In a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine water and sugar and place on the stove over low heat.  Stir mixture for about five minutes or until the sugar has dissolved, and increase the heat to medium and, without stirring, bring the syrup to a boil.  Allow boiling syrup to reach 250 degrees on a candy thermometer (also called the “soft-ball stage”), before removing from heat.

While syrup is boiling, beat egg yolks in a large bowl until pale and thick, about 4 minutes.  Once sugar syrup has reached 250 degrees, very slowly drizzle the syrup into the eggs by allowing it to flow in a steady stream down the side of the bowl gradually into the eggs while continuing to beat the mixture.  Once all the hot syrup has been added, continue to beat on high until the mixture has thickened and cooled to room temperature (about 10 minutes).

Once the thick mixture has cooled, continue to beat while adding in, a couple tablespoons at a time, the butter and shortening.  After both have been fully incorporated, gradually beat in the melted, cooled chocolate-coffee mixture, followed by the salt, vanilla, and rum extracts, beating well with the addition of each ingredient.  Once all ingredients have been incorporated, push entire mixture through a strainer and discard any undissolved coffee granules or solid egg parts.  Cover and store the buttercream frosting in the refrigerator until an hour before ready to frost the cake.  Spoon ¼ of the buttercream into a zip-lock or pastry bag and leave the rest in the bowl to be spread onto the cakes with an angled spatula.

Sponge Cake Layers

12 egg whites, room temperature

2 ¼ cups granulated sugar

12 egg yolks

¼ cup buttermilk

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

½ teaspoon salt

3 cups all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line bottom of 9-inch round cake pans with parchment paper and butter and flour paper and sides of pans.  It’s very important that the buttering and flouring be done extremely thoroughly or the baked cakes will be very difficult to remove from the pans, as there is no butter in the batter itself.  Unless you have 7 cake pans, you’ll have to bake the cake layers in batches (which isn’t a big deal since the cakes bake pretty quickly) and re-prepare the pans this way each time.

In a medium bowl, beat room temperature egg whites until they have formed soft peaks, and set aside.  In a separate, large bowl, beat egg yolks and sugar on a high speed for 5-9 minutes, or until the mixture is thick and pale yellow.  Reduce mixing speed to low and add in the buttermilk, a tablespoon at a time, along with the vanilla extract and the salt, and replace mixing speed to high.  Once the mixture has been beaten and has re-thickened, remove electric mixture and gradually and gently fold egg whites into the yolk mixture.  Once all the whites have been incorporated, slowly and in small batches, sift in the flour, folding after each addition of flour.

Measure out 1 cup of the batter for each cake pan and gently spread the batter into a thin, even layer in each pan.  Measuring the batter will ensure that each layer be exactly the same thickness, creating a pretty finished product and also allowing each layer to have the same baking time.  Tap the bottom of the cake pans against the countertop to help some of the larger air-bubbles to release so that the cakes bake evenly.  Bake the layers either one or two at a time (any more than two cake pans in the oven will bring the temperature down) for 6-8 minutes, rotating pans halfway through baking time.  When cakes are finished baking, the edges will turn light golden and will pull away slightly from the sides of the pan.  Allow cakes to cool in the pans for 1-2 minutes before transferring to cooling racks.

Caramel

Covering the seventh layer of the cake with this caramel is optional, but encouraged!  The caramel shouldn’t be made until ready to cover cake.  Without the caramel, the last cake layer can be stacked between buttercream with the other layers.

1 ½ cups granulated sugar

¼ cup water

½ tablespoon unsalted butter

In a small skillet, stir together sugar and water on high heat.  Once the sugar has dissolved into a syrup (about 5 minutes), add butter and allow mixture to come to a boil.  Continue to stir the syrup so the caramel browns evenly.  Once the caramel has reached desired color, remove from heat and immediately pour onto prepared cake layer (see specific directions below).

Assembly:

First, I like to slice off the outer edges of each of the cake layers using a perforated knife (or even a pizza cuter) and a round tupperware top or cardboard cutout as a guide.  It’s important to wait to trim the cakes this way until just before ready to frost them, as the exposed edges will dry out if left uncovered for too long.

Smear a dollop of the room temperature buttercream onto the center of cake plate or server to secure the cake and center one cake layer atop the buttercream dollop.  Using a pastry or zip-lock bag, follow the edges of the cake and pipe a ring of buttercream on top of the layer.  Measure out 1/3 cup of the buttercream (from the bowl) and spoon onto the center of the layer.  Using a small, angled spatula,  push the buttercream out towards the ring of piped buttercream until it has been spread into an even layer covering the top of the cake.  Add the second layer of cake on top of the layer of buttercream, pipe another ring of buttercream, and measure and spread 1/3 cup of the frosting into another even layer.  Continue this process until the sixth layer of cake has been stacked and covered in buttercream.  Slip a few small strips of parchment paper under the bottom layer of the cake to catch any drips of buttercream.  Spread the remaining buttercream from the bowl onto the sides of the cake into an  even layer.  Once the entire cake has been evenly covered in buttercream, transfer cake to the refrigerator to cool and slightly harden the buttercream while you prepare the caramel and seventh cake layer.

Using the back edge of a large knife, score the seventh layer of the cake into 8 or 12 portions, making grooves into the cake but not cutting all the way through.  Lay the scored cake onto a layer of parchment paper and prepare the caramel as directed above.  Pour the hot caramel evenly onto the cake layer and spread using a buttered spatula until the layer has been fully covered by the caramel.  Before the warm caramel cools and hardens, use a large, buttered knife to slice the caramel-covered cake into slices along the score marks.  Re-buttering the knife as needed, trim off any excess caramel that has spread outside the cake.  Allow caramel-covered cake slivers to cool completely before topping the frosted, assembled cake.

Once the frosted cake has cooled and hardened slightly, remove it from the fridge.  Using an angled spatula dipped in very hot water, smooth out any imperfections in the buttercream, making a even surface for decorating.  Remove parchment strips from the bottom of the cake.

Transfer any extra buttercream to a pastry or zip-lock bag with a decorative tip and pipe a border on the bottom and/or top edges of the cake, or decorate however you wish.  Depending upon how many slices the caramel-cake layer has been sliced into, I would suggest piping the same number of buttercream dollops or rosettes onto the top of the frosted cake to serve as little pillows for the caramel-cake slivers.  Arrange the slivers on top of the cake, resting them on the rosettes.  Pipe one final rosette in the center of the cake, if desired, and serve.