Ricotta Cake with Raspberry and Honey Puree

It has been just too nice here the past couple of days. I have been taking Martini and Latte for extra- long walks to soak up some sunshine and shake off the long winter blues. Although who are we to complain? Compared to the rest of the country we have had a really mild winter. Latte and Martini enjoying some early spring sun outside a local cafe.

This weather makes me think of the springs I enjoyed growing up. Spring makes me think of happiness and it also brings up memories of family Sunday dinners on a warm sunny day. They were always a bit nicer than the dinners from the rest of the week. We would all sit down together, and afterwards spend some time outside. We would go for a walk or visit with other family, but after all of that…we would have a dessert! That thought of dessert lead me to make a Ricotta Cake the other night.

Ricotta Cake

It is a simple and light dessert. In my personal opinion it is not too sweet, not too heavy, and its texture & taste is fitting for a bright and sunny spring day. I always serve it up with a real simple berry sauce of some kind. This dessert reminds me of something my Aunt Kim would have made for all of us to have after one of these meals. It also reminds me of the type of dessert my maiden grandmother would have liked. So after dinner the other night (and every night after that until it was gone) Brian and I enjoyed some Ricotta Cake with a Raspberry and Honey Puree. It was light, simple, and perfect to reflect the sunny days we have been enjoying. Try it for yourself; I am sure it will be love at first taste.

Ricotta Cake with Raspberry and Honey Puree

Ricotta Cake (serves 10 – 12)

1 cup sugar

1 ½ lbs whole milk ricotta

5 eggs

1 vanilla bean, split and scraped

¼ cup AP flour

½ tsp of sea salt

Powdered Sugar (optional)

First, preheat your oven to 375 degrees and butter all sides of a 9 to 10 inch spring form pan; then sprinkle them with flour. Place your ricotta was in the bowl of a food processor and pulse a couple of times to smooth out the curds of the cheese.

Next, separate your eggs. In a large bowl place your ricotta, sugar, vanilla seeds, and yolks. Whisk them together well until it is smooth. In the bowl of an electric mixer place your egg whites and whisk on high until double the volume and holds a soft peak.

Then, sprinkle the top of your cheese mixture with your flour and sea salt. Mix it together until it is just combined. Then fold you whipped egg whites into it all. Keep folding until it it a smooth and light looking batter. Pour the mixture into your prepared pan, place in the center of your oven for about an hour. You are looking for the top of your cake to be slightly golden and set in the center (not jigglly).

Finally, when your cake is done let it cool about an hour at room temperature. Then place it in your refrigerator to chill completely (about 3 – 4 hours). Once cake is chilled you can remove it from the pan carefully, before slicing and serving. Will keep for up to four days in your refrigerator, and covered with plastic. If you like you can dust with powdered sugar upon serving.

This Raspberry and Honey Puree is so good you will want to scoop up every last bit.

Raspberry Honey Puree (makes about 1 ½ cups)

Notes: being that the berries are not quite in and ripe yet this season you can easily replace the berries with frozen ones. Just let them defrost before using.

2 – 3 cups raspberries

¼ cup honey

First, place your berries in your food processor and pulse to break it all down. Place a fine mesh strainer over a bowl and scrape your raspberry puree into your strainer.

Next, gently press on your raspberry pulp to release all the juice into the bowl below. When you feel you have all the juice that you can scrape out of the berry seeds and pulp, discard the pulp and seeds that remain in the strainer.

Finally, pour you honey into the strained raspberry mixture and whisk it all together. Once it appears that the honey has dissolved it is ready to serve. This will keep refrigerated for about a week, once covered and sealed well.

Almond Cupcakes with Italian Vanilla Bean Buttercream

Undoubtedly, the month of February is here and that holiday that so many of us swoon over is upon us. Valentine’s Day is probably the one holiday that I just don’t understand. It is possibly due to my cynical self; but I just do not fall for it. In my opinion this is one of those days that has crazy expectations but to have one day for proclaiming and showing your love seems a bit absurd to me. I know many who think I am crazy. I have been told that I am weird for feeling this way. I was even once accused of only feeling this way because I already had a husband! But if you know me you would understand how I feel - there are 365 days in order to tell, show, and express how you care for someone…why do we need just one day to do it?

Almond Cupcakes getting iced.

Since I know that there are many who disagree with me I decided to share something sweet for the sweetest of sweet days we have out of the year. As always I may not go the traditional route of chocolate to proclaim my affection. Instead, I choose Almond Cupcakes with an Italian Vanilla Bean Buttercream. I made these for Brian last week when I thought he needed something sweet to get though the week. A moist almond cake with bits of almond paste throughout only to be topped with a lightly sweet and silky icing is lovely if you ask me. I may not need Valentine’s Day to share them with Brian, but I will take the time out on this day to express to him that I love him. Okay, that is about as sappy as I get! To all of you out there, Happy Valentine’s Day! I hope you share it with someone special, and maybe make these cupcakes with them!?!

Almond Cupcakes iced with Italian Vanilla Bean Buttercream (and pretty pink sprinkles)

Almond Cupcakes (makes about 16 – 18 large cupcakes)

Note: This is one of those recipes that you really need to use a scale for. Although I have tried to convert it the cups, but it never really works out. After years of tweaking this recipe is best when weighed out on a scale.

15 oz of AP flour

1 tbsp of baking powder

1 tsp of sea salt

8 oz of butter

10 oz of sugar

11oz of brown sugar

4 oz of almond paste

2 tsp of vanilla extract

1 tsp of almond extract

4 whole eggs

1 ½ cup of Milk

First, line your cupcake pans with your wrappers and pre-heat your oven to 325 degrees. In a small bowl whisk together your flour, baking powder, and sea salt then set aside.

Next, in the bowl of an electric mixer place your butter and sugars and mix together with your paddle attachment until it is light, fluffy, and well combined. To this add your almond paste and mix until your almond paste is broken down and well combined with the butter and sugars. You might need to stop and scrape down the bowl a couple times while doing this. To this add your vanilla extract, almond extract, and eggs. Be sure all is incorporated well before moving on.

Then, in iterations add your flour mixture to your butter mixture and then the milk. Do so in three intervals and be sure to scrape down the sides in between that all gets incorporated when mixing. Continue until all your batter is cohesive and well combined.

Finally, poor your batter into your cupcake wrappers until they are anywhere from 2/3 to 3/4  full. Bake your cupcakes until they are slightly firm to the touch and golden. About 25 – 30 minutes. (You might want to test by inserting a toothpick into the center and checking that it is clean when removed.) Let cool on rack and top them with icing recipe that follows.

Silky Italian Buttercream flavored with Vanilla Beans is perfect for  these Almond Cupcakes.

Italian Vanilla Bean Buttercream

6 egg whites

1 ¼ cup of sugar

2/3 cup of water

1 pound of butter, room temperature

1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped

First, in a clean saucepan place the sugar and water together and mix lightly until the sugar is moistened. Place it over medium heat and wait until the sugar begins to boil. Using a candy thermometer be sure that the mixture reaches 238 degrees (also known as the soft ball stage of cooking sugar).

Meanwhile, in the bowl of an electric mixer place your egg whites and whisk on high speed until it begins to foam and doubles in size. Once doubled in size you can turn your mixer off until your sugar is ready.

Then, when your sugar reaches its temperature; and with the mixer running again on high, slowly pours the hot sugar syrup down the side of the bowl in a steady stream. Continue pouring the sugar syrup until it is all in the bowl of your mixer. Mix it all on high until your bowl begins to feel cool to touch. You will see that your egg whites will be at a nice stiff peek and glossy.

Finally, little by little add your butter to the mixture. You will want to be sure that each piece of butter is almost fully incorporated until you add the next one. At this point you will also add your vanilla bean. Your mixture might look like it is “broken” or un-smooth, but keep mixing and it will all come together as it cools down in temperature. When butter is fully mixed in and your mixture it glossy and smooth your icing is ready to use. You can smooth the icing on with an offset spatula or piped with a pastry bag fitted with a tip. (This can be held in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days.)

We have come a long way. (Brownie Cupcakes with White Chocolate Ganache)

I cannot believe it, but this week Brian and I are celebrating a big anniversary. Twenty years ago we went on our first date. I can remember it like it was last month, and besides our move to Seattle I think we would both agree that it was the best decision we ever made. Brian and I, autumn 1993

When Brian asked me out I honestly thought I would have a nice night out with someone who I found interesting. I was ready to go off to college and move on with my life. I was not looking for anything more, and why would I - I was only 18. But that night I realized I was actually having a conversation with someone who was a really listening to me. He was asking me questions, sharing things about himself, and laughing along with me. A couple of weeks later I was ready to go off to school and Brian said to me that he wanted me to go off and have fun and experience college, and if it works it works. That is just what we did. We kept in touch, called often, and saw each other on breaks. We were three states away from one another but it worked for us. We had our lives, our school, our hobbies, and then we had each other.

Brian and I in Maine, in the late 90's.

Now I can wax on forever expressing how much I care for him and how I knew he was the right person for me, but that would be boring for most to read. (I know we are not that interesting!) The thing is, we always mutually respected and cared for one another. I know it may seem weird to some - celebrating the anniversary of our first date when I personally can never remember our wedding date. But to us, nothing else really matters. Yes, I can truly say that the care and love we have has grown as time has passed; but that is when you know you have it good. Somehow we got it right. Relationships are never easy, but when you have the right person next to you and hold your hand it is more like a the icing on a cake. If you take your time, it will go on smoothly.

Early 2000 (We have come a long way!)

So what might this anniversary and time have to do with food? Nothing really. But it was Brian who pointed me in the direction of culinary school. Without that I do not think I would be as pleased or happy with my career. There is one dessert I created and would make at the bakery we had in Phoenix that was Brian’s favorite. It was a brownie cupcake topped with a white chocolate ganache and seasonal fruit. He loved it and often asked at the end of the day or week if I could bring one home for him. So I am making it special for him to celebrate. He deserves it. I don’t know how we did it, but we did. We have come a long way! For twenty years with me, he can have all the cupcakes he wants.

Happy Anniversary Brian, thank you for two happy and wonderful decades!

Brownie Cupcakes with White Chocolate Ganche and topped with seasonal berries.

Brownie Cupcakes (makes 13 cupcakes)

6 oz unsweetened chocolate (chopped)

1 ½ cups of butter

1 cup of A P flour

1 cup of almond flour (or almond meal)

1 tsp of baking powder

pinch of Salt

4 eggs at room temperature

2 cups of sugar

2 tsp of vanilla extract

First, pre-heat the oven to 325 degrees. In a double boiler over medium to low heat. melt together the chocolate and the butter until smooth. Let cool slightly.

Next, sift together the dry ingredients (flour, almond flour, baking powder, & salt) and set aside. In a large bowl whisk together the eggs and the sugar. Once mixed add the vanilla and the chocolate mixture and stir well.

Finally, fold your dry  dry ingredients into your chocolate mixture until evenly combined. .Fill into cupcake wrappers 1/2 way full. Bake about 35 minutes, until your brownie cupcakes are still oft but set in the center. Remove from the oven and cool bout and hour before topping with White Chocolate Ganache.

Brownie Cupcakes being coated with the White Chocolate Ganache

White Chocolate Ganache

*Note: this is enough for 2x's the recipe above, but cutting the recipe in 1/2 is just as easy.

1 lb of white chocolate (28% cocoa butter)

6 tbsp of butter, at room temperature

5 oz of heavy cream

1 tbsp of vanilla extract

First, over a double boiler melt the white chocolate and the butter together. Once all melted and cohesive add the cream and combine. Be sure all is heted through and stirred well.

Next,add the vanilla extract to the mixture and stir well.  The mixture will start to become somewhat set so you need to work with it quickly at  this point.

Finally, pour a bit of the ganche at a time over each cupcake. Do not over fill! Pour until your ganache reaches the top of your cupcake wrapper. Let cool slightly before topping with seasonal berries / fruit.

** NOTE: Once cupcakes are done you can store them uncovered or loosely wrapped in plastic in the refrigerator. Be sure cupcakes are at room temperature when serving. When the cupcakes are cold they are quite firm and hard.

When life hands you lemons, make a Lemon Lavender Yogurt Pound Cake. (And some Fresh Brandied Cherries!)

It has been a really long and stressful week. As much as you would like to plan life, you never can. Things come up and you have to deal in order to move on. If you do not, you get stuck and nothing good will come of it. Like the saying - “When life hands you lemons, make lemonade!” My mom and dad, on their 2012 Seattle visit.

I had to make a trip back to New Jersey this past week because my father had a heart attack. I did not tell the family I was coming, I just packed my bag and flew out early the next morning. I went straight from the airport to the hospital. I surprised my father and mother standing in the doorway of his hospital room and stayed by my mom and dad’s side the whole week. I made sure my dad was comfortable, and that my mom was taking care of herself. I made many phone calls, countless texts, numerous emails, and checked Facebook constantly (as it was a main source of getting in touch with so many).

My mother and I spent about 14 to 16 hours a day in the hospital. We came home only to get a bit of sleep, shower; turn around and to do it again. As it turns out, all seems to be much better with my father. His cardiologist made sure of it. Knowing that, and my mom telling me she was just as well, I grabbed a flight back to Seattle to head home. As I was back I explained to Brian I was happy to go and help, but I was happy to be home. I was drained, tired, and had eaten nothing but hospital cafeteria food all week. I needed to bake something.

Lemon and Lavender Yogurt Pound Cake with Fresh Brandied Cherries

I walked to the market with my two dogs and looked for inspiration. I saw the bags of cherries on display…oh, how I love cherry season. I had to get them and make something. But then I started to think how nice they would go with a lemon pound cake. I headed home with my dogs and started in on baking. I whipped up a lemon and lavender yogurt pound cake. On the side, I mixed the cherries (after pitting them) with some sugar and brandy. It was great together, and I cannot wait to eat a little bit each night until it is gone. I guess sometimes when life hands you lemons you need to make a pound cake.

So yummy, I wanted to keep eating and not take this picture.

Lemon and Lavender Yogurt Pound Cake (Serves at least 10)

2 ½ cups of AP flour

¼ tsp of kosher salt

¼ tsp of baking soda

2 cups of sugar

8 oz of butter (room temperature)

1 tsp of vanilla extract

2 tsp of lemon zest

1 tbsp of fresh lemon juice

4 eggs

1 cup of Greek yogurt

1 tbsp of lavender, heaping

First, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9 by 5 loaf pan and set aside. In a bowl whisk together your flour, salt, and baking soda and set aside. In a large bowl, or the bowl of a standing mixer, place your butter and sugar and mixed together until light and fluffy.

Next, add in your vanilla, lemon zest, lemon juice and mix it all in well. Add in one egg at a time while you are scraping down the sides of your bowl constantly to ensure that all is incorporated well.

Then, once your butter mixture is all light and fluffy add in your flour mixture. Mix it until just incorporated. Then stir in your yogurt and lavender. Be sure all is well blended and pour into your prepared loaf pan. Place it in the center of your oven and bake about an hour until a toothpick is inserted in the center of it and comes out clean.

Finally, let cool in the pan at least an hour before removing it. Slice and serve. Can be eaten alone; or with the Fresh Brandied Cherries. This pound cake can be made a day ahead, and/or wrapped in plastic wrap and left at room temperature for up to 4 days.

Fresh Brandied Cherries along side a Lemon and Lavender Yogurt Pound Cake

Fresh Brandied Cherries (makes 3 cups)

*I know that this process can be tedious, and your fingers will be cherry stained, but there is nothing like a bright and fresh cherry. It is well worth your time to stem and pit them. I usually use and old movie to pass my time while I do something like this!

4 cups of cherries, well washed

1 tbsp of sugar

1 oz of brandy (or more if you wish)

First, remove stems and gently cut youth cherries in halve. Once they are halved you can remove the pit with your fingers. You might need to slice the side of the cherry holding on to the pit in half again in order to get the pit removed. Place all your pitted cherry halves in a bowl.

Next, sprinkle your pitted cherries with the sugar and the brandy and toss well. Let it all macerate in the refrigerator at least an hour before serving. You are looking for the sugar and brand to flavor the slight tartness of the cherries and have the cherries release a bit of their juice.

Finally, toss your mixture again before serving. Place in a jar or container and keep refrigerated for up to 4 to 5 days.

Note: These cherries are great with this recipe, but also great when served with something chocolaty or even ice cream.

48 hours in Phoenix with good friends and an Angel Food Cake

With a couple days off of work this past week I hopped a flight to Phoenix to spend some quality time with a wonderful friend and her mom. My friend Kay and her mother Evelyn were customers of mine at my bakery there and we grew into wonderful friends. We would go out for coffee, grab dinner, spend holidays, and even birthdays together. When my father was ill they were there with great support along with advice (Kay is a retired doctor) and when Brian lost his job Evelyn was lighting candles and praying for him to find a job quickly. My husband and I are lucky to have the two of them in our lives. Kay and her mother Evelin

I walked off the plane to see my friend Kay’s smiling face. I was in Phoenix for 48 hours and she and her mom took me everywhere you could imagine. We popped in on old friends and they showed me some new changes in the valley. We ate, and tasted, and ate some more. We also ate a lot more desserts then I probably should have; it was definitely a vagabond adventure. As we drove across the city streets I sighed as I gazed out at the beautiful cacti and Camelback Mountain. The desert looked pretty again. The valley and the city were picturesque. It all looked beautiful, and then I realized that it was all intimate and familiar. About four years ago life here was not great, nothing was going right, and with each direction I looked I saw the desert’s brown dusty dirt, rugged cacti, with the hot sun in my eyes – it became too mundane. Driving around in my quick visit back none of that bothered me. It was just wonderful to be back in the company of an intimate city with two great friends by my side. What a difference a few years makes.

Saguro soaking in the sun.

Forty-eight hours later I was boarding a plane back to Seattle. I was happy and sad at the same time. I was happy to have spent the time with my friends, happy to be going home, sad to say goodbye, looking forward to seeing my puppies, and leaving behind what was once ordinary for the new life my husband and I have started. I will always have a special place in my heart for my memories, friendships, and the places I adore in Phoenix. I must admit that I love the life we have created in Seattle but I almost had forgotten the connections we made in Phoenix.

When I arrived back in Seattle I was so happy to see my husband. I told him all the tales of my whirl wind vagabond trip. As I snuggled with my puppies, I told him all the wonderful things I tasted. I went into the kitchen a bit later to see what I should make for dinner. Seeing I had plenty of eggs, my first thought was to make an Angel Food Cake. I wanted to scent the cake with Orange and Rosewater (okay, dinner wasn’t really on my mind – dessert was). Then I realized why I was making it. I made this cake for my friend Kay’s mom on her birthday before we moved to Seattle. It was just as wonderful this time around as it was then. I think it connects the memories of the great friendships we have made and how time and space will never replace them. No matter how far away, friendships stay and fondness grows. I am so lucky to have made these friends; my heart (and belly) is full!

Angel Food Cake scented with Orange and Rosewater

The Angel Food Cake scented with Orange and Rosewater I made for Evelyn's birthday.(Vanilla glaze, fresh Rose petals, candied orange rind, and Sugar Butterflies.)

 

Angel Food Cake scented with Orange and Rosewater (serves 12)

1 cup of flour, sifted

¼ tsp of kosher salt

1 ½ cups of sugar, divided in ¾ cup

1 ½ cups of egg whites (about 10 eggs)

1 tsp of vanilla extract

1 tsp of cream of tartar

Zest of 1 orange

1 tbsp of rosewater

First, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl add your flour, ¾ cup of sugar and salt together and set aside.

Ingredients all ready, best to be prepared when baking.

 

Next, in the bowl of an electric mixer place your egg whites and whip on high speed until fluffy. Add in your vanilla and cream of tartar and beat well. Slowly add about 1 tablespoon of sugar (from your remainder ¾ cup of sugar) to your egg whites at a time while you are whisking them on high speed. Continue until you use all of your sugar and your egg whites are fluffy, double in size, and at a stiff peek.

Then, add your flour mixture in 1/3’s into your whipped egg whites. Fold it gently until all your flour mixture is completely mixed into the whites. Once combined sprinkle in the orange zest and rosewater and again, gently fold all together.

Finally, pour your batter into an Angel Food Cake pan and bake about 40 minutes until the cake is firm to the touch. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack upside down. Once cool loosen the cake around the edges until it easily falls out of pan. Let your cake sit at room temperature for up to 4 days wrapped in foil.

*Serving: I have served this cake with a light vanilla glaze drizzled over the top made from about 2 cups of powdered sugar, 1 tsp of vanilla extract, and enough water whisked together until smooth and pourable. I then topped it with rose petals, candies orange rind, and sugar butterflies I had made. You can also serve with fresh fruit…I like raspberries and orange segments but any combination you might like will compliment it. 

Applesauce Spiced Chocolate Chunk Cupcakes

Sometimes when I go for a hike through my neighborhood I like to listen to Pandora or an old podcast from the Splendid Table. I try to hike about 3- 5 miles depending on the day and the amount of time I have available. What I like about Pandora is I can always find an inspiration in the music to keep me going no matter what my mood. The music pushes me onto the next mile when I really want to just walk into the bakery I just passed and get a latte and a croissant. When I listen to an old podcast of the Splendid Table I feel like I am gaining knowledge on all things food related, but I do feel there is a downside to it. They sometimes discuss something that I cannot get off my mind and then I have to have it. When I listened to the podcast that was about tofu we ended up with a spicy tofu dinner. There was a segment with Chef Lidia Bastianich, and of course I needed to make a dish of ziti similar to what she described. But this week when I was listening to them talk about a bakery in Oregon that has a wonderfully moist applesauce cake I was deeply intrigued. This is a cake I never tried before…I must have that cake; maybe not the best thing to be thinking about after a long hike. I am sure there are better things I could be eating, but now I felt I needed it!

I did my research like always and found a recipe that was in Gourmet Magazine several years back and it was highly recommended. I used that as my base and added extra spice, along with some chocolate chunks. I had this desire to have this slightly spicy, moist, and balanced cake with a nice sugary spiced topping to it. Instead of baking it into a loaf or cake round I opted for little cupcakes. This way I had some sort of portion control. This is my rational because if the cake turned out half as good as I had hoped for I would not be cutting it into small slices, and then what good does the hiking really do?

Applesauce Spiced Chocolate Chunk Cupcakes, cooling out of the oven.

So how did it turn out you might wonder? Fantastic! It was all that I dreamed it could be. It was definitely moist, a bit spicy, well balanced in its flavor, and the sugary topping was a nice crunchy contrast to the cake. In my opinion it was perfection, and the portion control aspect worked out just as I had hoped for. I think I need to make this again, it was that good!

Warm Applesauce Spiced Chocolate Chunk Cupcake, partially devoured.

Applesauce Spiced Chocolate Chunk Cupcakes (makes 16 cupcakes)

Cake

1 ¾ cups of cakes flour

1 tsp of baking soda

½ tsp of kosher salt

2 tsp of ground cinnamon

1 tsp of ground cardamom

1 tsp of ground ginger

½ tsp of nutmeg, freshly grated

1 cup of sugar in the raw

6 oz of butter, room temperature

1 egg

1 tsp of vanilla extract

1 heaping cup of applesauce (unsweetened)

1 six oz. bag of semi-sweet chocolate chunks

Topping

1 ½ cups of brown sugar

2 tsp of cinnamon

½ tsp of ground ginger

½ tsp of ground cardamom

¼ tsp of nutmeg, freshly grated

Pinch of salt

First, preheat your oven to 350 degrees and line your cupcake pan with cupcake liners of your choice. In a bowl whisk together your flour, baking soda, kosher salt, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, & nutmeg and set it aside.

Next, place your butter and raw sugar in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment or in a large bowl (you can mix this by hand if you wish). Combine your sugar and your butter until it is light and fluffy. Be sure it is well combined, and then add your egg and vanilla and mix well. Be sure your mixture is smooth and evenly stirred. Add in your flour mixture and stir until it all moist and evenly mixed.

Then, add in your applesauce and stir well. Once all is combined fold your chocolate chunks into your batter. Scoop your batter into your cupcake liners up to about halfway full. In a bowl, mix together the topping for the cupcakes (brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, nutmeg, and salt) and spoon about 2 tbsp of this mixture over each batter filled cupcake liner. When done tap and shake your pan to be sure the topping is evenly distributed.

Finally, place your cupcake pans in the middle of your oven and bake about 20 – 25 minutes. Test the cupcakes to be sure they are firm and not under baked in the center. When cupcakes are done let cool in pan about 15 minutes before trying to remove them. Let cool about 10 minutes more before trying to eat. Can be held in an air tight container for 4 days at room temperature.

Gingerbread Stout Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Icing

At this time of year I crave a good piece of ginger bread. Over the years I have tinkered with a gingerbread cake recipe. I had a great one that I would make into cupcakes at my bakery.  When I had my bakery I would get these great compounds and flavorings to enhance the items I made. I would get a ginger compound that was fantastic and would use in this cake. Unfortunately, I no longer have those compounds and flavoring. I could get them, but the size they come in and the small amount I bake at home does not make it worth my while. Gingerbread Stout Cupcakes with Lemon Cream Cheese Icing

I am still craving a good gingerbread cake…what to do??? I head into my kitchen of course. I start mixing and baking to get something that was resembles that cake I made. After a couple of tries I ended up with something that is pretty identical to the original. The original recipe did call for beer. I know it may sound weird; but the complexity of the ginger, spices, honey, and molasses play off lovingly with a stout. Trust me on this one! It is also an intriguing selling point to get someone to try a gingerbread cake made with beer! (Be sure to see the note below about the beer of choice.)  I always top off this cake with some lemon cream cheese icing. Now, if you were not sold on the beer portion of this cake you should be sold on the lemon cream cheese icing. I am not lying when I tell you that it is fantastic! I am not a big fan of icings and “sweet stuff” but I love this icing. (Shocking from a person whose profession is working in icing and sugar daily- I know.) The zip that the lemon gives this lightly sweet and somewhat sour icing compliments the gingerbread cake perfectly.

Making this recipe into cupcakes are the perfect little bites and treats for any table. It is great for a simple afternoon treat, the conclusion to a nice dinner, or even at a nice holiday brunch.  I think you should dive right in and make them for the holidays. Think of all the people you will impress with a gingerbread stout cupcake and lemon cream cheese icing. They will be talking about it, loving it and wanting the recipe; I am sure. Happy Holidays!  Enjoy some gingerbread and eat a cupcake!

Yummy Gingerbread Stout Cupcpake

Gingerbread Stout Cupcakes (makes 12 – 14 cupcakes) 

1 3/4 cups Flour

1 tsp of baking soda

1 tbsp ground ginger

2 tsp cinnamon

¼ tsp ground cloves

¼ tsp of All Spice

¼ tsp salt

1 cup butter

½ cup brown sugar

1 tsp grated fresh ginger

1 Egg

¼ cup of honey

¼ cup molasses

¼ cup of ginger syrup

½ cup Stout Beer

¼ cup Crystallized Ginger, minced

First, preheat oven to 325 degrees. Combine you dry ingredients in a boel and set aside.

Next, in the bowl of a mixer combine the butter and the brown sugar until well mixed and fluffy. Add in the egg and fresh ginger mixing it until well combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl to mix well and evenly. Add the molasses, the honey, and the ginger syrup and mix again; scraping down the sides of the bowl to be sure all is incorporated.

Then, add in your dry ingredients. Mix until combined, scraping the bowl down to be sure all is fully incorporated. Once that is done, slowly add the Beer and mix until it all comes together. After all is mixed you can fold in the Crystallized Ginger.

Finally, scoop into cupcake molds until they are half way full. You should end up with at least a dozen cupcakes. Bake for about 25 minutes until done. You are looking for the tops of cupcakes to be soft but not too firm. Let them cool about an hour before icing.

**Note: If you have a stout that you prefer by all means go ahead and use it. When I had my bakery I always made it with Guinness. This year I consulted with a friend who manages a local tavern. She suggested using The Black Frog Nitro Stout from Snoqualmie Falls Brewing Company. This particular beer had a richer, more complex flavor with an almost chocolate like flavor than that of the Guinness. But feel free to use any stout that your heart desires.

Lemon Cream Cheese Icing (enough for a double batch of cupcakes)

8 oz Cream Cheese (at room temperature)

4 oz butter (at room temperature)

1/2 tsp of vanilla extract

Zest and juice from 1 lemon

1 lb of Powdered Sugar

1 – 2 tbsp of milk

First; in a bowl place your Cream Cheese, butter, and vanilla. Mix it all together and then add in your lemon zest.  Mix well and slowly add in the powdered sugar. Mixing well until all combined.

Next, add in your lemon juice and mix well. If you feel your icing is too thick you can add in the milk. A little at a time, until all mixed together.

Finally, chill icing about an hour in the refrigerator before spreading on your cupcakes. If not eating right away chill your iced cupcakes…due to the cream cheese you do not want the icing sitting out for an extended period. A couple of hours at the most.

Tres Leches Cake w/ Coconut

So my quest for more food that reminds me of Phoenix continued this past week. Brian came home from work explaining that it was his turn to help supply lunch for the lunch club he belongs to. What is lunch club you might ask? It is a group of people from his office that get together about every two weeks and share a themed lunch.  Each lunch club meeting rotates for both who is in charge, and what the theme will be. Brian came home explaining that they decided on a “Mexican” theme and he was bringing in guacamole and a dessert. “So, any ideas on a dessert?” he asked me. I see where this is going, I am making the dessert. As we did a little brain storming on ideas I was left unsatisfied with what we came up with. How could we have lived in Phoenix for as long as we did and I am left empty in the Mexican dessert department? So I started to think of all the desserts we ate and loved there.  We thought of a few but I knew I was clearly missing something. While I was at work rolling out some challah it hit me – Tres Leches! It was our favorite dessert at a tappas restaurant we would frequent.  The owner made this fantastic Tres Leches that Brian and I adored. It was light and moist without being soggy. It was not terribly sweet, and it was topped with toasted slivered almonds that crunched against the moist cake. To describe it as delicious does not do it enough justice. But there was a catch; I did not have a recipe for one. Although, I would tell the owner of the restaurant how much I loved it and was willing to trade up the recipe for one of mine I knew she liked I never got it out of her.  I guess it was time for me to do some experimenting.

So I was doing my research and came across many recipes before I worked on my own.  I tried my best to channel that lovely cake we miss. As I was in the kitchen this weekend working on my version we ended up with a close second to the love of our past. In my own opinion it was a bit sweeter then I remember; and yet Brian thought it was equally good. (I know, I am my own worst critic.) Of the three milks used (hence: Tres Leches); I settled on the traditional evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, and to switch it up - Coconut Milk! Plus the addition of some delicious dark rum!!! After letting it soak to absorb its three milks I topped it off with some toasted sweetened shredded coconut. I thought it was delightful; yet not the same as the memory of our first love. Brian had seconds and the next day ate some more. I think that says it all. I just hope Brian’s lunch club enjoys it as well.

Tres Leches Cake w/ Coconut (makes one 8 – 9 inch cake) 

Cake

1 cup of All Purpose flour

½ cup of sugar

1 ½ tsp of baking powder

Pinch of kosher salt

5 eggs (4 of them separated)

¼ cup of vegetable oil

½ tsp of vanilla

½ tsp of cream of tartar

¼ - ½ cup of sweetened, shredded coconut –toasted (for topping)

Tres Leches

1 cup of Coconut Milk

1 (12oz) can of evaporated milk

1 (14 oz) can of sweetened condensed milk

1 oz of Dark Rum

First, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. In bowl place your oil, ¼ cup of sugar, the yolks, the 1 whole egg, and your vanilla. Whisk it all together well until mixture is smooth. To it add your flour, baking powder, and salt. Whisk this all together well ad be sure it is not lumpy.

Next; either in the bowl of a standing mixer or in a large bowl, place your egg whites with the cream of tartar. With either the standing mixer or a hand held mixer whip your whites on high until fluffy. Add in the remaining ¼ cup of sugar and continue to whip on high until your whites are at a stiff peak.

Then, take about a 1/3 of your whites and add it to your flour and egg mixture. Fold it together until it is lightened. Continue adding your egg whites until they are all incorporated and your mixture is well blended and not streaky.  Pour your batter into a buttered and floured 8 – 9 inch pan lined with parchment. Smooth out the top and place it in the middle of your oven for 35 – 40 minutes. When your cake is firm and not to springy remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.

Finally, in a heavy bottomed pan place your coconut milk, evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk and the dark rum. Place over medium heat, stirring it constantly until it is heated through and has small bubbles forming. Remove from the heat, and set aside. Flip your cake out of the pan and remove the parchment. Place in a deep plate or platter and pour the warm Tres Leches mixture over it. Let the cake soak up the mixture and place covered in the refrigerator for at least an hour.

Serving, when you are ready to serve your cake you can spoon the Tres Leches mixture over the cake to remoisten it a bit. Sprinkle it with the toasted shredded coconut and serve. When slicing and plating be sure to spoon some of the Tres Leches mixture directly onto the plate or over the cake slices. I feel this cake is best when served chilled. Enjoy!

Olive Oil makes the best Cake!

I made this cake about two weeks ago with all intentions of posting it on here. Unfortunately, it was while my blog was hacked and could not log in to post anything. But this cake has got to be my most favorite dessert to make. It is simple, lightly sweet, really moist, and loved by all who come in contact with it. The best thing about it is you can mix it together with a whisk in a bowl - no special kitchen equipment needed. The citrus zest you can change up with your mood weather you want the undertones of lemon, orange, even grapefruit if you wish. I have doubled the recipe on many occasions and it works just fine. Because this cake is made with olive oil it gives the cake a luscious velvety texture. This is not the time to skimp on your quality of olive oil. It is the olive oil that gives the cake its wonderful texture and unique flavor. Also, because olive oil is heavy it does take a while to bake but it is so worth the wait. Trust me; everyone will thank you. That is if you are sharing!

 

Olive Oil Cake (makes one 8 – 10 inch cake)

3 eggs

2 ¼ cup of Sugar

1 ¼ cup of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 ½ cup of Milk

1 tsp of Vanilla Extract

Zest of 1 Lemon (or seasonal citrus)

2 cups of Flour

½ tsp Baking Powder

½ tsp Baking Soda

Pinch of Sea Salt

Powdered Sugar, for dusting

First. Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees. In a large bowl whisk your eggs and sugar until they are well blended. Whisk in your olive oil, milk, zest, and vanilla until well combined and even.

Next, in a separate bowl whisk together your flour, baking powder, baking soda, and sea salt. Sprinkle that over your olive oil mixture and whisk it all together until a smooth and even batter is formed. Do not over mix!

Then, pour into prepared 8 - 10 inch prepared cake pan. Bake until tooth pick comes out clean. (about 1 hour and 15 – 30 minutes). Let cool about 30 minutes before removing from the pan unto a cake plate.

Finally, serve the cake at room temperature and dust it with powdered sugar and sliced citrus for garnish. Cake will keep about four days. You can refrigerate after eating, just be sure to wrap well.

Chocolate Cake (What better way to show love?)

I was asked to go to Miami for two and a half week with work. To many of you this may sound glamorous and exciting. The reality: I will be seeing the inside of a resort kitchen for the entire time. The company I work for is going there to cater a special “get away” for Passover. It will be an exciting challenge, but I will be gone for two and a half weeks without my husband & puppies. I will miss them terribly, so I wanted to make them something special they could snack on while I was gone. (By them I mean Brian…I know chocolate is not good for dogs!) So a chocolate cake comes to the rescue! What better way to show my love and the fact that I will miss them? The chocolate cake recipe here was always a big hit at my bakery. It was commonly ordered for wedding cakes and real popular at every holiday. I prefer a fruit filling layered in the cake to compliment and contrast the rich moist chocolate flavor of the cake. I used a strawberry preserve that is not too sugary and not artificially tasting. The simple buttercream icing is perfect for the rich chocolaty inside. I hope you try if for your loved ones.

(I am not sure I will have to time to post over the next couple of weeks. I hope you all are enjoying the start of spring. Happy Cooking to you all!)

 

Chocolate Cake

2 cups of AP Flour

1 tsp of baking soda

½ tsp of salt

1 ¾ cup of hot coffee, freshly brewed

¼ cup of Jack Daniel’s

6 oz of unsweetened chocolate (chopped)

8 oz of butter (cut into small pieces)

2 cups of sugar

2 eggs (at room temperature)

1 tsp of vanilla

1 batch of Buttrcream

First, pre-heat your oven to 300 degrees. Grease and line (w/ parchment) 2 baking pans 8 to 9 inches. Sift together dry ingredients into a bowl.

Next, combine the hot coffee, Jack Daniels, chocolate and butter in a large bowl. Cover and let sit until chocolate has melted. Once all melted, uncover and whisk in the sugar and let cool.

Then, whisk in the flour mixture little at a time. Once the flour mixture is combined whisk in the eggs and vanilla. Be sure all is combined! Pure your batter into prepared pans and bake for 30 - 45 minutes, or until cake is firm and a tooth pick comes out cleanly when inserted in its center.

Finally, remove from oven and place on a surface to cool. Once cool run knife around edge of pan before removing cake. Pop out of pan and chill completely until ready to decorate and serve.

Note: I chose to put three layers of filling in the cake. If you would like to do this slice your cake length wise after it is well chilled. Fill with a thin layer of jam and stack the cakes evenly. Chill about an hour in your refrigerator before coating it in the buttercream.