Category Archives: Desserts

Happy Birthday to Me!

Another new year, another promise to myself that I will actually post consistently. As the holidays usually are, this season was a bit hectic, though on the plus side I managed to actually do all of the things I had wanted to get done, and also got my gifts taken care of pretty early. I think I managed to actually enjoy more of the holiday season in doing so – something I haven’t really managed to do in a few years. It always seems to go by too quickly, and it doesn’t feel like a proper holiday season like it used to when I was a kid. There’s just something about being an adult that is rather draining.

While the new year is here, I have not made any resolutions. Well, not formally. I have hopes. I hope that this new year brings opportunities to change up my work situation, in the hopes that I can do something that allows me more energy for my own life. If those opportunities present themselves, I have promised myself I will seize them. Though I have enjoyed working in my position and in this industry, I’m the type of person who will invest much of herself into it, and it has gotten to the point where that doesn’t pay off. So here’s to a new year full of excitement.

In other news, my birthday has also come, and with it a new cake. I hadn’t really given much thought to what I would make myself this year when Mikal decided to send me an image of a really awesome-looking cake. It was absolutely beautiful, and topped with Rocher, which I am rather fond of. And by rather fond of, I mean I ate half of a 24-pack the first day I had them. Luckily I only needed a dozen for the cake.

I was a bit apprehensive as the cake turned out to be a chocolate cheesecake. Aside from the one attempt I made at pumpkin cheesecake last fall, I generally only go for naked cheesecake. None of this fruit topping BS. Fruit and cheese….weird. I don’t think I would mind the flavors together, but the texture differences just don’t quite go in my mouth. WEIRD.

Anyway, Mikal wouldn’t let me not make the chocolate cheesecake, so I did it. Turned out pretty well, though a bit more moist than I have generally had my cheesecakes. I can’t tell if it was because I had to substitute Nutella for the hazelnut butter, or perhaps it’s just supposed to be that way.

Chocolate Hazelnut Cheesecake with Ferrero Rocher

from Spiced Up Baking

Crust
2 cups flour
160g butter at room temperature (approx. 1 1/3 cups)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon

Filling
800g cream cheese (four packs will give a bit more than this)
4 large eggs
3/4 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cups sour cream
3/4 cups hazelnut butter
1/2 cup cocoa powder
2 tbsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp flour
1/2 tsp salt

Ganache
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate (I used a mix of dark & milk Dove chocolates)
80g butter at room temperature
2 tbsp heavy cream

Icing
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/4 cup butter at room temperature
3 tsp vanilla extract
1-2 tbsp heavy cream

Ferrero Rocher – 8-12 pieces

Crust
Preheat the oven to 325°F. Combine all ingredients in an electric mixer and mix at low speed for 5 minutes, until well-blended. Press into a 12″ springform pan, and bake for 10 minutes. Allow to cool while preparing the filling.

Filling
Cut the cream cheese into 1″ cubes and place them in electric mixer fitted with flat beater blade. Combine cheese and sugar until well-blended, about 2 minutes.

Add eggs one at a time, ensuring each is well-blended before adding the next.

Add sour cream and mix for two minutes. Add hazelnut butter and mix for two minutes. Add vanilla extract and mix for two minutes.

In a separate bowl, combine cocoa powder, flour, and salt. Add dry ingredients 1 tbsp at a time to the wet ingredients, ensuring that the mixture is fully incorporated before adding the next tbsp. After last tbsp, continue mixing until well-incorporated.

Pour the filling into the pan with the cooling crust. Bake at 325°F for 50-60 minutes, until the top is no longer sticky, but the cheesecake still jiggles. (I had to look up what it was supposed to look like on YouTube, because it looked like it was just too under-done with all the jigglies. According to the videos I looked at, it was perfectly fine.)

Allow to cool at room temperature for 20 minutes while you prepare the ganache.

Ganache
In a small saucepan, heat all ingredients together over low heat, whisking until smooth.

Reserve 3 tbsp of the ganache mixture, and pour the rest over the cheesecake mixture after removing the sides of the springform pan. Allow to cool for 10 minutes. (I would put it in the fridge – that way the coating sets nicely before adding the drizzle. Mine was still rather warm, so the drizzle integrated into the ganache and just made vague lines.)

Drizzle the remaining ganache mixture over the cake in zig-zags or whatever pattern you choose.

Icing & Decoration
In an electric mixer with the whisk attachment, combine powdered sugar and cocoa powder at low speed. Add butter and mix at low speed for 3 minutes. Add vanilla mixture and mix for a few minutes. Add heavy cream in tsp increments until you achieve the desired icing consistency. (My butter was at room temp, but the icing just wasn’t creaming up the way it was supposed to. The original recipe does not call for the heavy cream, but I found it quite useful to make it properly icing-ish.)

Spoon the icing into a piping bag outfitted with a star-shaped nozzle, and pipe mounds in even increments around the edge of the cake – you want them large enough to pillow the Rocher, but you don’t want it to be so big that your cheesecake slices are too large. Unwrap the Rocher and place atop the icing mounds.

Allow cake to set for 6+hours in the fridge before serving.

Orange- and Vanilla-Scented Mini Bundts

I finally made a pretty bundt. I made a series of pretty buds. Of course, Mikal made them even prettier, but I feel pretty proud of myself. Especially since my first attempt at the red velvet bundts a while ago, which were not very happy. Very much pieced together once they came out.

After that, I read up on the proper de-panning of bundt. It’s quite the process. The secret with this one, luckily, did not involve cooling and water and such – just lots of cooking spray and flour in a non-stick pan.

I found this recipe in the Bon Appetit Desserts book. It has a wonderfully light flavor, and a beautiful texture. Just a bit of icing and you’re good to go.

Orange-and Vanilla-Scented Mini-Bundt

from Bon Appetit Desserts

3 cups unbleached all-purporse flour
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 2/3 cups sugar
1 tbsp finely grated orange peel
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, room temperature
3 large eggs
2/3 cups fresh orange juice
2/3 cups buttermilk

Icing
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 tsp fresh orange juice

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour mini bundt pan. Whisk flour, salt, and baking soda in medium bowl to blend. Using an electric  mixer, beat sugar and orange peel in large bowl at low speed to release essential oils from peel. Scrape seeds from vanilla bean into sugar mixture and beat to blend well. Add butter and beat until light. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix in orange juice (mixture will look curdled). Stir in flour mixture, then buttermilk. Transfer batter to prepared pan; smooth tops. Bake cakes until tester inserted near center comes out clean, about 30 minutes.

Place powdered sugar in small bowl. Mix in orange juice, 1/2 tsp at a time, until a thick pourable consistency forms. Drizzle icing decoratively over cake. Let stand until icing sets.

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Birthday!

Birthdays are exciting. In my world, they are not a single-day thing: the whole week is an excuse for celebration. This is much harder to achieve when working full-time, I have found. Work schedules do not always coincide, and creating surprises and delightful moments can be quite the feat.

I am lucky in that I have a supportive honey and wonderful boss who allow me the leeway to go out of my way to deliver yummies.

Last year for Leslie’s birthday, I made a yogurt cake with blackberry sauce – an understatedly rich cake. This year I went with something a bit lighter and healthier. It’s been rather warm this week (I know, I really should expect this in June in California, but apparently I’m still getting used to the novelty of it), and fruit sounded so good. I did attempt to kick this tart up a notch by using chocolate mousse as my base, but for whatever reason it just didn’t come together right – so I went with my also awesome backup plan of Honey Orange greek yogurt combined with crème fraîche. I may attempt to mousse this weekend, or perhaps in the future. I’m not terribly a fan of chocolate with fruit (I just don’t see the draw of chocolate-covered strawberries, and yes I have tried it), but I think that particular twist on it would be appealing to at least some people.

Fresh Berry Tart

prep time: 2+ hrs.

Crust

1 1/4 cup flour
3 tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup cold butter, cut into small pieces
3-8 tbsp iced water

In a large bowl, sift together flour, sugar, and salt. Add the butter and rub in using your fingertips, until fine crumbs form. (You can also perform this step and the following in a food processor.)

Slowly add the water, mixing until a crumbly dough beings to form; do not overwork the dough or it will be tough. Pinch a piece of dough: it should hold together. Add water or flour as necessary (in very small bits) to achieve the correct consistency.

Turn the dough on to a piece of plastic wrap. Hold the film with one hand and use your other hand to push the dough away from you until the dough is smooth and pliable. Flatten the dough to a round and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill for 2hrs or overnight. Leave to soften for 10 minutes before rolling out.

To bake: Preheat the oven to 375°F. Roll the dough out to 1/8″ thick, then line the pans you are using – whether one large tart pan or multiple small ones – with the dough. Use excess dough to reinforce any areas where the dough may have ripped.

Line the pastry case with foil and fill with pie weights or dry beans. Bake for 15 minutes, until the edges are set and dry. Remove the foil and weights and continue baking 5-7 minutes until golden.

Set aside crust to completely cool while preparing the filling.

Filling

1 cup greek yogurt (I used Greek Gods Orange Honey)
1/2 cup crème fraîche

Fruit Jam (optional) If you are using this option, spread the jam across the bottom of the crust while it is still warm – that way it is easier to spread, and will have a chance to solidify a bit before adding the filling.

Fresh Fruit – (I used 2 pints strawberries, 1 cup blueberries, and 1 cup raspberries)

Combine greek yogurt and crème fraîche (or just use one or the other – all depends on how you want the flavor) in a bowl and set aside.

Prepare fresh fruit as you desire. I hulled the strawberries, then cut a number in half, and the rest into slices. The raspberries and blueberries I rinsed.

Once the crust is completely cooled, spread the yogurt/crème fraîche mixture over the bottom of the crust. You can spread as thick of a layer as you would like. Next, arrange fruit artfully (plopping things on there is also considered artful, honest).

Voilà, you have an amazing fruit tart. The crust takes the most time – I tend to forget that it needs to chill for hours before doing things. I also still have the tendency to not read a recipe fully before embarking on it – especially if it’s something I have made before. Probably not the greatest idea. cocofancy2014061201 cocofancy2014061202

Red Velvet Mini-Bundt

Bundt! It’s such a fun word to say, don’t you think? Just has a certain something about it.

Prior to the first time I made this recipe, I had never had red velvet cake. To some that would seem blasphemous, and considering how much I like both chocolate and the color red, it seems rather strange that I would have not taken the opportunity. I think it all stems from me asking someone or another what red velvet cake was, and they explained that it was just chocolate cake with food coloring. Okay, that’s a little weird, but mostly straightforward.

The more I think about it, though, the more I realize that I never terribly liked cakes. I mean, they’re ok, but the the frosting usually has a bitter taste from too much powdered sugar and food coloring, and store-bought cakes are usually mediocre at best. Even boxed cakes that you do yourself….just not quite my cup of tea. Back when I first realized how happy baking made me feel, I got it into my head to make my own birthday cake. It seems counter-intuitive, doing work on my birthday or whatever, but it was an excuse to make something utterly extravagant, and I had so much fun with the adventure. The first year I made a mousse-cake, which went decently well. The cake portion turned out a little deflated, but then that was my first time making what amounted to an angle food cake-like batter. The second year I made BonAppetit’s Ribbon Cake, which was again a similarly airy cake with an AMAZING buttercream filling and a glaze. Not really what you would call normal cakes, but I think it was at that point that I realized cakes aren’t half bad if you do something interesting.

I have recently become more tolerant of cakes, mostly because I love making people stuff for their birthdays. So I figure I’ll branch out. Which brings me back to red velvet cake – never really tried it, but I wanted to do something vaguely easy (not filled chocolates) for the office for V-day while on my vacation. My thought was coffeecake muffins, but of course I had to gussy it up for the holiday. I couldn’t remember ever seeing anything about a red velvet coffee cake, so I did a little search and found a gem. Apparently the Culinary Institute has developed various recipes incorporating coffee into them, and teamed up with Starbucks to do so – a nice little marriage of two things I can’t get enough of.

The recipe I found added instant coffee to the red velvet recipe – maybe that’s what makes me love it, because it has a wonderfully rich, dark flavor that I can just munch on until the cows come home. I’m not 100% sure about run-of-the-mill red velvet, but I have a feeling this will be my go-to red velvet cake recipe for a while yet.

Red Velvet Coffee Chocolate Cake

from Brewing, Tasting, Cooking Coffee

2 cups sugar
2 sticks butter at room temperature
2 eggs
2 tbsp dark cocoa powder
2 tbsp espresso coffee or instant coffee powder
2 oz. red food coloring
2 1/2 cups cake flour
1 tsp salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp vinegar

Icing
12 oz. neufchâtel (low-fat) cream cheese
1 stick butter, softened
1 cup white chocolate, melted and warm
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup chopped sweetened shredded coconut (optional)
1/2 cup chopped pecans (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Prepare baking pans. (Apparently with bundt cakes you’re supposed to grease and flour them – I’ve been doing it wrong. Might explain why I suck at getting them out. Also, there’s apparently a specific way to get them out of the pan – you should totally google it.)

In a mixing bowl, cream together sugar and butter, and beat until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time and mix well after each addition.

Mix the cocoa, coffee, and food coloring together. (If you’re using gel food coloring, squeeze a goodly amount in, then add the vanilla at this time to dissolve the cocoa and coffee.) Add to the sugar mixture and mix well.

Sift together the flour and salt. Add the flour mixture to the creamed mixture alternating with buttermilk. Blend in the vanilla.

In a small bowl, combine the baking soda and vinegar and add to mixture.

Pour the batter into your prepared pans. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from the heat and cool completely before frosting.

For the icing: Whip cream cheese, butter, warm white chocolate, sugar and vanilla together in mixing bowl. Fold in optional ingredients if desired. Spread on top of cooled cake.

Happy Birthday Rebecca!

I have never really been fond of making what could be called “traditional” cakes – I think it has something to do with the fact that I’m still a lousy decorator.  My thought is this: without the whole looking pretty thing, why would you make a normal cake?

It seems it would be prudent of me to expand my abilities, though, because making traditional cakes is pretty fun. If you have ever seen Cake Boss or Ace of Cakes, you’ll understand that a traditional cake is a blank canvas on which you can create nearly anything. It’s pretty awesome. As much as I love making more intricate cakes like the Bon Appétit Ribbon Cake or a Milk Chocolate Mousse Cake with Hazelnut Crunch – and believe me, they are amazing to eat and very fun to make – well-made traditional cakes have a simple elegance to them. If you were to take a look at my pinterest boards, you would see I have one of them dedicated to Food Decoration and Presentation; it’s half-filled with beautiful cakes.

In the mean time, I have made a pretty awesome cake for my friend Rebecca. As I have done with nearly all the newer people I have met and will be in close contact with for a while, I asked her pretty early on what kind of cakes/sweets/desserts she likes. She had mentioned what I would call a seven-layer cake, with each layer comprised of a different item – cookie crust, brownie, chocolate cake, white cake, etc. As much as I would enjoy that challenge, it was just a little much to wrap my brain around having just come off the holiday season and baked my mind away. After consulting people, I decided on a visually striking cake that would be much easier to execute.

You can make this cake with any non-colorful base, really – you could use boxed cake mix if you wanted. I decided on a butter cake, as it would be hearty enough to deal with having a bunch of food coloring mixed in, and would retain a good bit of moisture. If I could have, though, I totally would have done a lemon chiffon, but I don’t think it would be sturdy enough to endure the food color additive aspect and keep its levity.

I briefly thought of adding a flavoring to the cake to give it some interest, but realized it really wouldn’t need it; instead, I added it to the icing and it came out pretty amazing.

Below you will find the recipes I used and the techniques. I didn’t take any pictures during the process, but I will provide links to the pages I used as reference for it.

Yellow Butter Cake

from Baking at Home with The Culinary Institute of America

3 1/2 cups cake flour*
2 cups sugar
1 tbsp baking pouder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, diced, at room temperature (dice while cold – it’s easier)
1 cup milk, divided
4 large eggs
2 large egg whites
2 tsp vanilla extract

*to make cake flour, substitute 2 tbsp cornstarch for 2 tbsp flour for each 1 cup flour; be sure to sift to ensure adequate distribution

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Coat two 8-inch cake pans lightly with cooking spray, or wipe down with vegetable oil or butter and finely coat with flour.

Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Add the butter and 1/2 cup of the milk. Mix on medium speed until smooth, about 4 minutes, scraping down the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed.

In a separate bowl, blend the eggs, egg whites, remaining 1/2 cup milk, and vanilla extract. Add to the batter in 3 addition, mixing for 2 minutes on medium speed after each addition to ensure incorporation.

Divide the batter evenly between six (or however many colors you’re doing) smaller bowls. Each bowl should have its own stir stick of some sort, unless you want to be washing the same stirring implement over and over again. Add a small amount of color to each bowl, stirring to distribute evenly. In whatever order you desire, add spoonfuls of each color to a pan, each time putting it into the center –  check out Siriously Delicious’s image below and click the link if you would like to see her explanation:

siriously delicious: Rainbow Cake

Once finished with the color plopping, place pans in oven and bake until the layers spring back when touched lightly in the center, 35-40 minutes.

Remove the layers from the oven and cool completely in their pans on wire racks. Release the sides and bottom of the layers from the pans with a narrow metal spatula or a table knife before unmolding.

And now for the fun! Because I prefer to surprise – and also frankly because the colors are VERY INTENSE in this cake – I opted to have it look very unassuming from the outside. Thus I went with a simple buttercream frosting, though I gussied it up with a bit of orange extract.

Simple Buttercream

from Baking at Home with The Culinary Institute of America

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted, plus extra as needed
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp orange extract
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 cup heavy cream, half & half, or whole milk

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter on medium speed until it is very light in texture, 2 minutes. Add the confectioners’ sugar, extracts, and salt and mix on low speed until the sugar and butter are blended, scraping down the bowl with a silicone spatula as needed. Increase the speed to medium and, with the mixer running, add the cream in a thin stream. Increase the speed to high and whip the buttercream until very smooth, light, and a good spreading consistency. Adjust the consistency if necessary by adding a bit of confectioners’ sugar or cream. Use to fill, ice, and decorate the cake.

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Ok, I couldn’t help but put the confetti sprinkles on the outside to give a little hint – it looked to plain without it, and I just don’t have the skills yet to make plain icing look super-awesome.

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The finished product from the inside – I did put WAAAAY too much icing on the top – need to refine my technique there. We’ll see how I do on my next cake.