Posts tagged ‘buttercream’

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 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.

June 15, 2011

Key-nadian Twist On A Father’s Day Favorite

I really thought that I’d tried every Key lime dessert recipe known to man.  As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, my dad’s all-time favorite indulgence is Key lime pie, which I grew tired of making about fifteen Birthdays/Father’s Days ago.  Since then, I’ve found ways to incorporate all of those delicious Key lime pie components into many different dessert shapes and forms.  I truly believed that I’d done it all… every Key lime concoction on the planet.  But there was one region of the Earth that I missed… Canada.  Cana..DUH!

Originating from the Great White North, a Nanaimo bar is a layered dessert traditionally composed of a sometimes nutty, brownie-like layer, a custard or buttercream layer, and a chocolate layer.  There are many different versions of Nanaimo bars, leaving me with lots of options to incorporate all of the flavors of the Key lime pie.  I was sold.  As the Vancouver Canucks have demonstrated this season, Canada knows great hockey, just as my dad, a die-hard Red Wings fan, does.   And, as it turns out, Canada also knows a thing or two about dessert!

Upon grocery shopping for ingredients, I also stumbled upon a couple of products that I’d been previously unfamiliar with, pure Key lime extract and natural crystallized lime.  The extract allowed me to achieve a nice, strong lime flavor without having to add too much actual lime juice and watering down the custard.  And the crystallized lime also added an extra kick without ruining the consistency of the filling.  This is an issue I’ve dealt with in the past, having never wanted to sacrifice any of my dad’s favorite lime flavor but also not wanting to jeopardize the quality of the dessert.  Both of these great new products will be of great use to me for years to come as I continue to make Key lime confections for the world’s greatest dad.  Happy Father’s Day, Papa Lew!

Key-nadian Lime Pie Bars

Inspired by: Key Lime Pie

Adapted from “Nanaimo Bars,” The Daring Kitchen  and Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives

Graham Layer

½ cup unsalted butter              2/3 cup almond flour

3 tablespoons brown sugar     1/3 cup flaked coconut, finely ground in food processor

1 egg, lightly beaten                ¼ cup unsalted pistachios, finely ground in food processor

2 cups graham cracker crumbs

Prepare a double boiler fitted with a large glass bowl.  Melt the butter and brown sugar until the sugar has completely dissolved.  Pour a small amount of the melted butter-sugar into the dish containing the egg while whisking, bringing the egg slowly up to temperature without cooking and scrambling it.  Once the egg has been slightly warmed, pour it into the glass bowl with the remaining melted butter-sugar, stir, and continue to heat.  After the mixture is homogeneous and slightly thickened, remove the bowl from heat and stir in graham crumbs, almond flour, and ground coconut.

Key Lime Layer

3 egg yolks                                           ¼ cup cream cheese, softened

5 tablespoons granulated sugar          2 tablespoons custard powder*

3 tablespoons Key lime extract            1-2 cups confectioner’s sugar

zest and juice of 1 lime                        3 tablespoons heavy cream

1 tablespoon cornstarch

3½ tablespoons unsalted butter, cold

¼ cup unsalted butter, room temperature

-optional: crystallized lime, green/yellow gel food coloring

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan whisk together the egg yolks, granulated sugar, lime extract, juice, zest, and cornstarch.  Place over medium-low heat and continue to stir constantly with a wooden spoon.  Allow about 5-7 minutes for the mixture to thicken, and then remove it from heat and transfer it to a small bowl.  Constantly stirring, gradually mix in small pieces of the cold butter, allowing each piece to dissolve before adding the next piece.  Once all the butter has been added and the mixture is smooth and cooled, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, allowing the plastic wrap to sag into the bowl and cover the entire surface of the mixture so that it doesn’t develop a skin.  Allow mixture to set up in the refrigerator for 15-20 minutes.

When lime mixture has set, remove it from the refrigerator, peel away and discard the plastic wrap.  Set mixture aside, stirring occasionally, and allow it to come to room temperature.  In a large bowl, beat together the room temperature butter and cream cheese until thoroughly creamed.  Beat in the room temperature lime mixture and food coloring (if desired) until homogeneous.  Mix in the custard powder and gradually beat in the powdered sugar.  If an increase in lime flavor is desired, also beat in desired amount of crystallized lime (I used about 1½ teaspoons).  When desired flavor is reached, drizzle in heavy cream and whip until combined and fluffy.

*Vanilla instant pudding mix may be used here.

Chocolate Layer

2 ½  tablespoons unsalted butter

½ tablespoon heavy whipping cream

6 ounces white chocolate

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan over low heat, bring butter and cream to a simmer, whisking constantly to prevent it from scalding.  Prepare a double boiler fitted with a medium glass bowl containing the white chocolate and place it over medium heat.  Stir in the hot cream to the melting chocolate and continue to stir until fully melted.  Remove from heat.

Assembly

Line 8×8 pan with parchment paper, allowing the excess to drape over the sides  for easy dessert removal.  Press graham mixture into an even layer on the bottom of the lined pan.  Spoon on the lime layer and spread evenly across the entire surface of the graham layer.  Then, pour the warm, melted chocolate onto the top, evenly coating the dessert and reach all edges of the pan.  Let the dessert rest until chocolate has cooled and set before removing it from pan and slicing into bars.

June 2, 2011

Macaron Mess, Part III: Practice Makes Perfect

I’ve been going a bit overboard with macaron practice and production lately.  The delicate cookie that I once loathed has recently become my favorite kitchen experiment and my favorite gift to give away.  I’m constantly thinking and talking about them, and I may have even had a few dreams revolving solely around the macaron and its endless flavor combination possibilities.  It became clear to me that it was time to re-visit the chocolate-peanut butter macaron recipe from my very first attempt (emphasis on the word “attempt”) about a month ago.  Regardless of the fact that I’ve been a mac-making machine lately, making chocolate macaron shells still brought about a whole new challenge for me.  The addition of cocoa powder into the batter scared the living daylights out of me.  And as David Lebovitz suggests cutting back on almond flour while Tartelette suggests cutting back on powdered sugar when attempting chocolate macarons, I was torn and confused.  What’s the difference between unsweetened cocoa powder and Dutch-process unsweetened cocoa anyway?

Luckily, my chocolate shells turned out very nicely due to David’s recipe (although that doesn’t mean that Tartelette’s wouldn’t have turned out just as well!).  I went with my original inspiration and filled the shells with a salted-peanut butter buttercream, mimicking my sister-in-law’s peanut butter buckeyes.  I kept my promise to my sister-in-law and my brother and made sure that they got to taste these less-fragile, correctly made cookies.

In other (much more exciting) news, Evan’s great friends, Sam and Megan, were married at a gorgeous black tie ceremony in Detroit this past weekend.  Evan selected some really nice wedding gifts to be shipped to their home, but I also decided to bake them something nice and have it waiting for them in their suite after the reception.  I wanted to make them something really special and pretty… something personalized just for them on their special day.  I didn’t even find out until after I’d given them the cookies that Megan just so happens to be allergic to gluten.  Thank goodness I’d ended up making these… one of the few fancy and gluten-free treats that I’ve come to grow so fond of whipping up!

As purple was one of the theme colors of their wedding decor, I chose to make Megan and Sam some violet shells with a blackberry buttercream filling.  I hand-painted some of the macs with tiny designs and flourishes, including one with their initials.  I saw the beautiful couple two days after the wedding and found out how much they enjoyed the cookies.  Congratulations, newlyweds!

Salted Chocolate Peanut Butter Macarons

Inspired by: Chocolate-Peanut Butter Buckeyes

Chocolate Macaron Shells

Adapted from David Lebovitz’s “French Chocolate Macarons”

1 cup confectioners sugar

½ cup almond flour

3 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder

¼ cup superfine sugar

2 egg whites, aged & room temperature*

small pinch of cream of tartar

-recipe yield: about 17 filled macarons

Substituting the vanilla ingredients for the chocolate ingredients and proportions above, follow the French Macaron Shell directions portion of the recipe (as well as the extra tips listed just before the recipe).  The cocoa should be added into the food processor and ground along with the confectioners sugar and almond flour.  Baking time may need to be increased by an extra minute or so.

Salted Peanut Butter Buttercream

½ cup smooth peanut butter           ½ teaspoon table salt

2 tablespoons unsalted butter        ½ cup confectioner’s sugar

½ teaspoon vanilla extract              2 tablespoon heavy whipping cream

In a medium bowl, cream together peanut butter and  butter until fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Beat in vanilla and salt.  Gradually add confectioner’s sugar and continue to beat.  When the sugar has been combined, drizzle in heavy cream and whip until fluffy, being careful not to over-whip.

-Optional:

Once macaron shells have baked and cookies have assembled and sandwiched with buttercream, prepare a small batch of simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water brought to a boil over the stove, reduced to a syrup and cooled) to brush over top of the shells.  Sprinkle a little kosher or flaked sea salt over top of the syrup-brushed cookies for an extra salty bite.

Blackberry Wedding Macarons

Pretty Purple Macaron Shells

For purple (or any other color) macaron shells, follow the French Macaron Shell recipe (as well as the extra tips listed just before the recipe).  Desired amount of gel food coloring can be added to macaron batter just after dry ingredients are sifted in and just before starting to fold dry ingredients into the meringue.  A good way to do this is to squeeze the gel directly onto a clean spatula before using the same spatula to fold the batter.

Blackberry Buttercream

Adapted from sammyw‘s “Raspberry Buttercream Frosting”

½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature

¼ cup seedless blackberry preserves

2-3 cups confectioner’s sugar

1 tablespoon heavy whipping cream

In a medium bowl, whip butter until fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Add in blackberry preserves and beat until homogeneous.  Gradually beat in confectioner’s sugar until desired sweetness has been achieved.  Once sugar has been dissolved, drizzle in heavy cream and whip until fluffy.

-Optional

To make the designs, I diluted some more of the purple food coloring with a drop or so of water and used a fine paintbrush to apply a small amount of the thick purple liquid to the tops of the cookies in different designs.  Allow painted shells to dry completely before stacking, packaging, handling or serving.

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.

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.

April 20, 2011

Thank Heaven (continued)

I knew that there was going to be a decent amount of children at the luncheon of Talia’s Christening and even though I find the pink champagne cupcakes to be super yummy, they do have a pretty prominent champagne taste… maybe not the most appealing flavor for those under the age of 6.  I decided it would be a good idea to do something a little more kid-friendly, but equally as dressed up and delicious.

In keeping with the cherry blossom theme of the week, and in my excitement and longing to use the delectable Michigan black cherry preserves I’d been so overjoyed to find, I decided on a rich, chocolate cupcake wrapped around a black cherry buttercream… a semi-spin on a chocolate covered cherry.  I hoped that this classic combination of flavors could be appreciated by party attendees of any age, but in order to further entice the younger crowd just a touch, I completed the cakes with colored sprinkles and chocolate candies atop the whipped white chocolate ganache.

The festive chocolate cakes were a huge hit at the luncheon, maybe even more so than the pink champagne cakes!  I especially loved the overall texture and chocolate flavor of the slightly-sweet cakes…  this just may be my new go-to chocolate cake recipe.  And the subtle hint of cherry in the girly-pink buttercream filling was the perfect choice to honor the week of the Cherry Blossom Festival, the arrival of spring, and to celebrate the beautiful little girl who brought us all together that afternoon.

Chocolate Cupcakes with Black Cherry Filling & Whipped White Chocolate Ganache

Inspired by: Chocolate Covered Cherries

Chocolate Cupcakes

Adapted from Magnolia Bakery’s “Chocolate Cupcakes,”  The Magnolia Bakery Cookbook

6 ounces unsweetened chocolate

1/2 tablespoon instant coffee granules

2 cups all purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

4 large eggs, room temperature

1 cup buttermilk, room temperature

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

–recipe yield: about 24 cupcakes

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line cupcake tines with cupcake papers.  Prepare a double boiler fitted with a small glass bowl filled with the unsweetened chocolate.  Melt the chocolate over the double boiler and remove from heat.  Stir in the instant coffee granules and set aside to cool to lukewarm.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour and baking soda.  Set aside.  In a large bowl, cream together the butter and both sugars, beating until fluffy (about 5 minutes).  Add in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.   Slowly drizzle in a small amount of the cooled chocolate, as to bring the mixture up to temperature without cooking and scrambling any of the egg.  Continue to then add in the remaining chocolate, mixing until well-incorporated.

Slowly and in three equal batches, add the dry ingredients into the chocolate-butter mixture, alternating with two equal additions of the buttermilk and vanilla.  With each addition, scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula and beat until the ingredients are incorporated, but do not over-beat.  When the batter is smooth and homogeneous, carefully spoon the batter into the cupcake liners, filling them about 3/4 full. Bake the cakes for 20-25 minutes, or until a cake-tester or toothpick inserted in the center of the cakes comes out clean.  Allow the cupcakes to cool in the tins for 15 minutes before removing them from the tins and transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely.

Black Cherry Cream Cheese Buttercream Filling

6 ounces cream cheese, softened

1/2 stick unsalted butter, room temperature

3-4 tablespoons Michigan black cherry preserves

about 1 ½ – 2 ½ cups powdered sugar

3/4  tablespoon heavy cream

In a large bowl, beat together cream cheese and butter until creamy and soft (about 3 minutes).  Add in the preserves and continue to beat until well-incorporated. While mixing on a low speed, slowly add in the powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary and continuing to add in the sugar until desired consistency and flavor is achieved.  Drizzle in the heavy cream and increase the mixer speed to medium-high.  Beat buttercream for another minute or so, or until fluffy. Transfer buttercream filling into a pastry or zip-lock bags to prepare to fill cupcakes.

Whipped White Chocolate Ganache

This is a basic whipped ganache recipe that compliments the chocolate cakes very well.  Preparation should begin the day before serving.

24 ounces white chocolate chips

1  1/4 cups heavy cream

Prepare a double boiler fitted with a large glass bowl.  Combine and melt together the white chocolate and 1 cup of the cream in the large bowl.  Once fully melted and smooth, remove the mixture from the heat and allow to cool.  Once the mixture has cooled, cover the bowl and transfer to the refrigerator to chill overnight.

Just before ready to frost cupcakes, remove the slightly hardened ganache from the fridge and allow to sit out and come to room temperature.  Then, beat the softened mixture on medium-high speed, adding about 1/4 cup heavy cream to moisten the mixture, if necessary.  Continue to whip the gananche until desired fluffy or stiffened texture is achieved.  Remember to be careful not to over-whip the mixture, as over-whipping heavy cream can create butter.

When ready to frost cupcakes, transfer ganache into  a pastry or zip-lock bag.

Optional Ingredients for Decorating:

M&M’s, candy coated chocolate covered almonds, jelly beans, colored candies, colored sprinkles, jimmies, etc.

Assembly:

Using a round apple corer or a small paring knife, hollow out the centers of each cupcake.  Snip off the tip or a corner of the pastry or zip lock bag filled with the cherry-cream cheese buttercream and prepare to fill the cakes.  To do this, insert the tip of the bag into the hollowed cake and squeeze a small amount of the filling into the cake, just until it plumps and the filling barely reaches the top of the cake.  Continue to fill each cake, and when all cakes have been filled, replace the very tops of the inside “guts” that have been taken out of the cakes.  I prefer to tear off the bottom half of the “guts” before plugging each of the cupcake holes with only the top piece.

To frost the cakes, I used pastry bags with a round tip and also one with a large star tip to pipe different swirls on the cakes.  I used the M&M’s, almonds, jelly beans and other chocolate candies to create flower patterns, butterflies and dragonflies on the cakes, as well as some more simple decorations with a dusting of jimmies or sprinkles.  Get creative!

April 18, 2011

Red Velvet, Fit For A “Wing”

One of the best things about growing up in Michigan, for me, was being brought up as a passionate fan of the Detroit sports teams.  Similar to the economy in Detroit, it seems that lately the Pistons and the Lions have seen better days.  And don’t even get me started on the tragedy that was the dismissal of the 3-time WNBA championship winning team, the Detroit Shock, now the “Tulsa Shock.”  But, there is one sports organization that we can always count on for consistently impressive wins, guaranteed trips to the playoffs year after year, and more Stanley Cups than you can count on two hands, the Detroit Red Wings.

The start of the NHL Playoffs has brought about mixed emotions for me.  Excitement, of course.  A little nervousness at times.  But most of all, a longing to be near the excitement in Detroit and the team that I love.  A small group of us hockey fans from Michigan get together to watch Red Wings’ games from time to time here in DC, and it seemed only appropriate that we be together to watch the Wings tear Phoenix apart in Game 1 last Wednesday night and celebrate what is sure to be a great playoff season for our team.  I wanted to bring something that was somewhat Red Wing-themed for my friends to munch on while we watched the game, but couldn’t decide which direction I wanted to take.  While considering a few options, another friend of mine came to me in search of a good red velvet cake recipe.  Red velvet! While I was without a ‘go-to’ recipe of the red velvet persuasion, I jumped on the opportunity to do a little recipe testing.  And red velvet cake seemed like a very appropriate treat to serve to those fans of the best team in the whole wide world.

Although I’ve made a few red velvet cakes in my day, I was having a hard time recalling any really great red velvet recipes that I’d tried.  And as I didn’t want to pass along a mediocre recipe to my good friend, I decided to try three different cake recipes (baked into cupcakes) paired with three different frostings and have everyone vote on their favorite of each.  In the red velvet playoffs, the frostings included a traditional cream cheese buttercream, a non-traditional, white chocolate-cream cheese ganache and my favorite marshmallow frosting.  I chose three very different cake recipes that called for three different types of vinegar, amounts of cocoa, amounts of sugar, and different food color mixing/pasting techniques.  The tested recipes were the Magnolia Bakery’s recipe, an adapted version of Martha Stewart’s recipe and, as a wild card, Bobby Flay’s red velvet recipe.  For those of you who don’t tune into the Food Network and don’t know who Bobby is or why his recipe is a wild card, I’ll explain.  Bobby Flay, although a world renowned chef, specializes in Southwest flavors and cooks most famously with different varieties of spicy peppers.  He is, in no way, famous for his pastry skills.  A while back, however, he challenged a New York City pastry chef and baker of an award-winning red velvet cake to a “Red Velvet Throwdown,” during which, a panel of judges deemed Bobby Flay’s red velvet cake the winner.  I was curious as to how his simple recipe beat out that of the famous “Cake Man Raven,” and decided to try it out for myself.  And, to my surprise, Bobby’s Throwdown-winning cake was also winner of my little red velvet recipe battle, overwhelmingly receiving the most votes by far!  I will include two frosting recipes, as votes for the best were split between the buttercream and the ganache, with my yummy marshmallow frosting receiving only one vote… mine.  I think the hockey fans must have just been reluctant to vote for anything resembling “icing.”  (Sorry, I had to.)

The delicious, luxurious texture and flavor of Bobby’s cake is outstanding.  Red velvet, indeed.  And, while the other two recipes had me sifting cake flour, splitting vanilla beans and concocting red-coloring pastes to be mixed into intricate batters, Bobby’s recipe was refreshingly straightforward and simple.  I think you’ll be surprised as to how easy it is.  Almost as easy as sweeping the Coyotes in Round 1 will be for the Red Wings.

The Ultimate Red Velvet Cake

Inspired by: Red Velvet Cake & the Detroit Red Wings

Adapted, just barely, from Bobby Flay’s “Red Velvet Cake,” Throwdown With Bobby Flay

3 ¾ cups all purpose flour

3 tablespoons cocoa powder

1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

1 ½ sticks unsalted butter, softened

2 ¼ cups granulated sugar

¾ cup vegetable oil

3 large eggs, room temperature

1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract

3 tablespoons red food coloring

1 ½ cups buttermilk, room temperature

1 ½ teaspoons red wine vinegar

1 ½ teaspoons baking soda

recipe yield: 1 three-layer 9-inch cake, or 36 cupcakes

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pans with papers or prepare three 9-inch cake pans by lining them with parchment paper and buttering and flouring the bottom and sides of each pan.  Set aside.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt.  Set aside.  In a large bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until creamed, about three minutes.  Add in the oil and continue to cream for another couple minutes until the sugar has dissolved into the mixture.   Add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl and beating well after each addition.  Add in the vanilla and the food coloring and continue to beat until the mixture is homogeneous and the color is evenly incorporated.

Slowly add in 1/3 of the flour mixture to the batter, mix well, and then add half of the buttermilk, again, mixing well afterward.  Continue to add the other two batches of the flour mixture alternating with the remaining buttermilk, scraping down the sides of the bowl and mixing well after each addition.  In a small bowl, combine the baking soda and the red wine vinegar, and add the mixture to the batter.  Mix well until the vinegar mixture has been incorporated and the batter is smooth.

Spoon the batter into the cupcake papers or divide it evenly between the three prepared pans.  Bake cupcakes for about 18-20 minutes or until the cakes are just set and are slightly springy to the touch.  Bake 9-inch round cakes for 25-35 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center of each cake comes out with a few moist crumbs.  Cool cakes in the pans on a cooling rack for 15 minutes before removing from the pans and allowing to cool completely.

White Chocolate-Cream Cheese Ganache

This rich, smooth, slightly whipped ganache is absolutely delicious and was actually slightly favored over the buttercream during the taste tests.  As a ganache, its’ thinner texture is probably better suited for covering cupcakes than for spreading in between layers of a full 9-inch cake.

12 ounces white chocolate chips

¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon heavy cream, divided

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

¼ cup confectioners’ sugar

Prepare a double boiler fitted with a medium glass bowl containing the white chocolate chips.  As the chocolate is melting, in a seperate,  small, heavy-bottomed saucepan place the softened cream cheese (broken up with a wooden spoon) and the ¼ cup heavy cream.  Put the saucepan over medium-low heat and, constantly whisking, allow the cream cheese to break apart and melt into the heavy cream, being careful to keep it moving and not allow the milk or cheese to curdle.

Once the cream is smooth and hot, add a small amount into the melted chocolate and stir.  If the chocolate beings to seize, the cream is not hot enough.  Return the cream back to the hot stove top, turn the burner on low and don’t panic!  Use an electric mixer to try and smooth out the seized chocolate mixture.  Once the chocolate is as smooth as you can get it and the temperature of the cream mixture is brought up, slowly add small amounts of cream to the chocolate and continue to beat until it has all been added and is beaten into a homogeneous mixture.  Allow the smooth mixture to cool slightly before covering it and refrigerating it overnight.

Once the chocolate-cream cheese mixture has chilled, take it out of the fridge and let it sit out and soften at room temperature.  Once it has become manageable, start to whip the mixture  until desired consistency is achieved,  adding extra heavy cream if necessary.  Slowly add in the confectioners’ sugar and beat until combined.  Depending on the consistency the ganache is whipped to, it can either be piped, spread, or poured onto the cakes or cupcakes, or, the top of the cupcakes can be dunked directly into the bowl of ganache.

Cream Cheese Buttercream

The stiffer texture of this frosting makes it an ideal choice for spreading in between layers of 9-inch layer cakes, or for piping decorative patterns using a pastry bag and tip.

¼ pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature                2 tablespoons heavy cream

8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature                                1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 ¼ -4 cups confectioners’ sugar

In a large bowl, beat together cream cheese and butter until creamy and soft (about 3 minutes).  While mixing on a low speed, slowly add in the powdered sugar ½ cup at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary and continuing to add in the sugar until desired consistency and flavor is achieved.  Drizzle in the heavy cream and vanilla extract and increase the mixer speed to medium-high.  Beat buttercream for another minute or so, or until fluffy.

Transfer to a pastry or plastic zip-lock bag to pipe onto cakes, or, use an angled spatula to spread on cupcakes or on and in between layers of 9-inch cakes.