Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Cute cupcake idea from Catsparella!

These cupcakes would be awesome as Halloween treats, don't you think? I love finding things that combine two or more favorites of mine, in this case baking and cats! See the original post here:

Catsparella: Cat Cupcake Tuesdays:

A wonderful, moist chocolate cake recipe from Ina Garten would be perfect for these cupcakes. I think they're divine with my cream cheese frosting, but at the bottom I've also included Ina's chocolate frosting (I call it mocha because it includes coffee). Her recipes were originally published in Food & Wine magazine.

Double Chocolate Layer Cake

1-3/4 c. all-purpose flour
2 c. sugar
3/4 c. unsweetened cocoa powder, plus extra for dusting
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 c. vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup strong brewed coffee

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease two 8" or 9" round cake pans, then line the bottoms with parchment circles; grease the parchment. Dust pans with cocoa powder, tapping out any excess. Also makes one 13" x 9" sheet cake or approximately 24 cupcakes.

Combine the flour with the sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt together at low speed. Make a well in the center and add the buttermilk, oil, eggs, vanilla and coffee. Beat for two minutes on medium speed. Batter will be thin.

Pour the batter into the prepared pans (fill cupcake tins only 2/3 full). Bake for 30-35 minutes (20-25 min. for cupcakes), or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Allow the cakes to cool in the pans for 15 minutes, then invert onto a rack to cool completely. Peel off the parchment paper.

Cream Cheese Frosting:
4 oz. (1 stick) unsalted butter at room temp. (substitute with vegetable shortening if cake will not be refrigerated)
16-24 oz. (2-3 pkgs) cream cheese (use the higher amount if you like a lot of frosting) at slightly cool temp.
1-1/2 c. sifted powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Beat butter and sugar together in a mixer until fully blended, add vanilla, then drop chunks of the cream cheese into the mixture and beat on high until smooth. You may need to refrigerate the frosting to stiffen it up for piping decorations.

Mocha Frosting
6 oz. semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 sticks unsalted butter at room temp.
1 large egg yolk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 c. sifted powdered sugar
1 tbsp. instant coffee granules

In a microwave-safe bowl, heat the chocolate at high power in 30-second intervals, stirring until most of the chocolate is melted. Stir until completely melted, then set aside to cool to room temperature. Beat the butter at medium speed until pale and fluffy. Add the egg yolk and vanilla and beat for 1 minute, scraping down the side of the bowl. At low speed, slowly beat in the powdered sugar, about 1 minute. In a small bowl, dissolve the instant coffee in 2 teaspoons of hot water. Slowly beat the coffee and the cooled chocolate into the butter mixture until just combined.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Check this Apple Cake out!

I love my iGoogle reader panel. I can get a quick snapshot on the all the blogs I follow, which are legion. Often there's not enough time to read every single one, but damn, this post from Cafe Chocolada really caught my eye. It's an Apple Cake, but I've never seen one like it. Very unusual but pretty, don't you think? It sort of reminds me of Japanese confections. Even though apples aren't a "spring" fruit, I think the decoration style is perfectly suited for spring. Maybe make a charlotte/trifle thing with strawberries or ?? In any case, check this blog out -- the photos are just gorgeous.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Triple Lime Cake for an office birthday

This is a cake I created for a co-worker recently. Last year I made her a Lemon Mascarpone cake and the year before that a chocolate cake, so I didn't want to repeat myself. I had a bag of coconut chips from NutsOnline.com burning a hole in my pantry and had limes on the brain, so my "recipe" was a hybrid of Fine Cooking's Triple Lemon Cake (substituting limes) and a Key Lime & Coconut Cake from the Sweet Treats blog. It was well received as most office treats are but IMHO was a little dry. Why? The cake itself may have been slightly overbaked to begin with, and then the layers were frozen for a couple days. The curd filling had oozed out during assembly so there was even less moisture. And although I'd used a simple syrup to put back some of the moisture lost during freezing, it wasn't enough. If I were to do this cake again I'd only make the two layers and split them as per the original recipe, instead of doubling the recipe to make three 9" layers (and six cupcakes). That way more simple syrup would've been absorbed and one more layer of curd filling would've been added, ensuring a moister cake overall. Well, at least it looked pretty good. You may be wondering about a couple of different lime products listed in the recipes; I only used them because they were hanging around in the kitchen. True Lime and True Lemon are powdered extracts so they add a punch of flavor without watering anything down.

Triple-Lime Layer Cake
Adapted from Fine Cooking's Triple-Lemon Layer Cake

Lime Cake (makes two 8" dia. x 2" cakes):
9-1/4 oz. cake flour
2-3/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. table salt
1-3/4 cups granulated sugar
2 Tbs. finely grated lime zest
6 oz. unsalted butter, softened
8 oz. whole milk, at room temperature
5 large egg whites, at room temperature
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar

Lime Curd Filling (read notes in directions before making!):
3 oz. unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
2/3 cup lime juice
Pinch of salt
1 tsp. finely grated lime zest
1/8 tsp. Boyajian Lime Oil

Simple Syrup:
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup lime juice
1/4 cup water
1 tbsp. lime zest

Lime Frosting:
1 cup whipped cream
8 oz. unsalted butter, softened
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
2 Tbs. lightly packed finely grated lime zest
3-1/2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
3 Tbs. lime juice
2 packets of True Lime

For decoration:
1/2 lb. coconut chips, lightly toasted
Lime zest or lime slices
Silver dragees

Cake: Place a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350°F. Butter and flour two 8" x 2" round cake pans. Sift the cake flour, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl. Pulse 1/4 cup of the sugar with the zest in a food processor until well combined. In a large bowl, beat the butter and lime sugar with an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy (about 1-1/2 minutes). Add the remaining sugar and beat until smooth (about 1-1/2 minutes). Beat in a quarter of the milk just until blended. On low speed, add the flour mixture alternatively with the milk in three batches, scraping the bowl with a rubber spatula; beat just until blended. In another bowl, beat the egg whites with an electric mixer (with clean beaters or a whisk attachment) on medium speed just until foamy. Add the creme of tartar, increase the speed to medium high, and beat until the whites form stiff peaks when the beaters are lifted. Add a quarter of the whites to the batter and gently fold them in with a rubber spatula; continue to gently fold tin the whites, a quarter at a time, being careful not to deflate the mixture. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans. Smooth the tops with a spatula. Bake until a pick inserted in the centers comes out clean, about 35-40 minutes. Let cool in the pans 10 minutes. Run a table knife along the sides of the pans and carefully invert each cake out onto the rack. Flip them right side up and let them cool completely.

Curd: Beat the butter with the sugar until it’s light and fluffy. Slowly beat in the eggs and yolks. Beat for 1 minute more, then stir in the lime juice. The mixture will look curdled. Cook the mixture over low heat until it becomes smooth, then increase the heat to medium and cook, stirring constantly, without letting it boil, until it thickens enough to leave a path on the back of the spoon when you drag your finger through it (170°F). Remove from the heat and stir in the lime zest. Press plastic wrap on surface to prevent a skin from forming and chill in the refrigerator. Note: my curd ended up being very thin even after refrigeration and most of it oozed out during assembly. If this happens to you, I suggest fixing it right away with cornstarch dissolved in lime juice and cooking the curd gently until thickened; or use a couple more egg yolks to begin with.

Simple syrup: In a saucepan, combine water, lime juice and zest. Stir sugar in to dissolve. Bring the mixture to a boil on the stovetop and cook for one minute. Allow to cool.

Frosting: Beat the whipped cream until stiff peaks form and set aside. In another bowl, beat the butter, cream cheese and lime zest until light and fluffy. Add the confectioners sugar in batches and beat until light and fluffy. Add the lime juice and beat for one minute. Fold in the whipped cream until completely blended.

Assembly: Split cake layers. Poke each layer liberally with a skewer, brush with simple syrup and spread curd filling between layers while stacking. With the frosting, fill in gaps and apply a crumb coating. Chill the cake until the frosting firms up, about 1/2 hour. Spread remaining frosting decoratively over the top and sides of cake. Apply coconut to the sides of the cake. Scatter the top with lime zest and silver dragees, or garnish as shown with extra dollops of frosting, quartered lime slices and dragees.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Ay, Chihuaha!

I must be entering a certain astral cycle that involves brownies. Please let me explain. First, because I'm in the midst of a mild infatuation with Steve Marriott (the late Small Faces/Humble Pie frontman), I was wondering why I couldn't remember a single blessed thing about a Humble Pie concert I knew I went to in the 70s. A quick check of my diary revealed that concert happened in November 1973 at the Forum in L.A. and included Foghat and the James Montgomery Band. And also those wonderful relics of hippiedom "magic brownies." Aha! Well, that explains the memory loss. One of the last things I remember about 1973 was discovering how much easier it was get magic brownies into a concert than joints. Um, yeah, well, after that things get kind of fuzzy.

Second (bet you almost forgot this was a list), I just received one of those chain emails where you have to list four of something. My friend the sender listed one of her four favorite smells as brownies. You'd have to know my friend Karen to understand how serious a brownieholic she is. Has been for years. Totally understandable.

Third, for some reason I keep buying boxes of Hershey brownie mix at Costco even though I haven't made them in months in an attempt to lose weight. Every time I open the pantry several boxes of brownie mix stare back at me as if to say "WTF! Why did you buy us if you're on a diet?" Now this entry over at Baking Obsession just popped up on my Google Reader radar: Mexican Brownies. What???? Must... investigate. I'm beginning to understand now that if I don't do something soon, I may stay in this constant astral brownie cycle. Looks like making this recipe could just be the ticket!

Monday, January 24, 2011

National Soup Swap Day 2011 in Seattle!

Delicious fun was had by all! Thanks to Pam of Nerd's Eye View, with assistance from Bill, for the fine videography.

My soup inspiration this year came from 101cookbooks, via soupchick. To "sell" my humble soup, I offered a free loaf of Potato/Rye bread, freshly baked just two hours before the swap. I used the ABin5 recipe from the first book, seeding the crust with caraway, sesame and poppy seeds.

Rustic Cabbage Soup with Smoked Chicken Sausage
adapted from a recipe by Heidi Swanson, 101cookbooks.com
3 T extra virgin olive oil
2 t salt
5 lbs potatoes, cut in 1/2" cubes
3 lbs smoked chicken sausage, diced
3 onions, chopped
10 cloves garlic, minced
3 48-oz boxes of low sodium chicken broth
4 15-oz cans white beans, drained and rinsed
3 heads of cabbage, cored and sliced into 1/2" ribbons
Seasonings: bay leaf, thyme, fennel, salt, pepper

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large pot. Stir in the potatoes and salt, toss to coat with the oil, cover and cook for about 8 minutes, stirring a few times. Add the onion, garlic, sausage and herbs, sautéing for about 3 minutes. Add the broth and beans and simmer for 20 minutes, skimming any bean froth off the surface if necessary. Check to see if the potatoes are cooked, but still firm; if not, continue to simmer until they are. Stir in the cabbage until just wilted. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove the bay leaf.

Serving suggestion: drizzle with more extra virgin olive oil and grated Parmesan cheese

Makes about 12 quarts