Thursday, January 28, 2010

Hazelnut Brown Butter Cake...success!!

I made the Hazelnut Brown Butter Cake from Smitten Kitchen again after the Butter Disaster, and it turned out so well I just had to share it with you.

As suggested, I covered it with chocolate ganache, and I added some toasted hazelnut bits. It reminded me of those Ferrero Rocher candies that my Grandma always had around Christmas. Yum!

Marbled Lemon Bluberry Cake

Just LOOK at this cake. I was so sad delivering it to the restaurant...I wanted to keep it and give it a nice home where it's appreciated.

I recently made another lemon blueberry cake, but if you had to chose one of the two cakes to put in your mouth, and one to donate to a clown show where they throw cake at each other, this cake would stay every time.
It features moist lemon layers swirled with blueberry, my homemade jam filling, and a divine lemon buttercream frosting. Topped with fresh blueberries, its irresistible.

This recipe adapted from Sky High. (a cookbook filled with a million incredible recipes.)

Lemon Blueberry Swirl Layers

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened.
2 cups sugar
1.5 t lemon extract
7 egg whites (yes, 7. with the leftover yolks, you can make creme brulee or icecream or pastry cream.)
3 cups cake flour
4 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1 1/4 cup milk
1 cup blueberry jam

Preheat the oven to 350. Butter and use parchment rounds 2 8 or 9-in round cake pans.

In an electric mixer bowl, cream the butter, sugar, lemon extract and zest until light and fluffy. Gradually add the egg whites 2 or 3 at a time, beating well between additions and stopping occasionally to scrape down the bowl.

Combine the flour, baking powder and salt, whisking gently to combine. In two or three alternating additions alternating additions, beat the dry ingredients and the milk into the butter mixture, scraping down the bowl several times. Beat on medium-high speed for about a minute to smooth and aerate the batter.

Scoop one cup of batter into a bowl. Divide the remaining batter among the three pans, smoothing the top with a rubber spatula.

Add two or three tablespoons blueberry jam to the reserved cup of batter and mix well. Drizzle heaping tablespoons over the pans of batter and use a butter knife to swirl the blueberry batter in short strokes. Don't over mix.

Bake for about 25 minutes (check early) or until a knife stuck in the center comes out clean and the cake begins to pull away from the sides of the pan.
Let the cakes cool in their pans for ten minutes before inverting onto racks and allowing to cool completely.

Once cool, spread the blueberry jam on two of the layers and stack them, putting the third layer on top. Then frost the cake with Lemon Buttercream Frosting (Recipe follows).

Lemon Buttercream Frosting (adapted from Sky High)
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
2 eggs
3 sticks softened unsalted butter
2 T fresh lemon juice
2 t lemon extract
2 cups confectioner's sugar, or to taste and consistency (optional)

In a small saucepan, combine the sugar and water, stirring to dissolve. Bring to a boil without stirring until the sugar reaches approx 238 on a candy thermometer.

(I have just recently learned that sugar carmelizes around 350, so waiting until it looks like it might start turning colors is not the best method for those of us without a candy thermometer, but it has worked in my frostings so far.) (I now own a candy thermometer, purchased very cheaply at Walmart, and I must say it's nice to be sure.)

A couple minutes into the heating of the sugar, start beating the eggs in an electric mixer. When they have tripled in size and the sugar is heated, add the sugar in a thin stream while the mixer is going on high. Beat on medium high until the bowl feels cool. This can take up to 15 minutes.

Reduce the mixer to medium-low and add the butter 1 tablespoon at a time. When all the butter is added, mix until smooth and them add the lemon juice and extract. Frost your cake!! Add some blueberries!

Bittersweet Chocolate Almond Cake

Haha! Success! Success with pastry cream!

I love pastry cream and I love it hard, but the stuff can be frustrating when used as cake filling. The potential for disaster during icing and/or transport goes through the roof when this sweet cream is introduced. Therefore, when making this chocolate cake with almond pastry cream filling, I took no chances and grimly added 2 tablespoons cornstarch in addition to the flour that the recipe called for. Flour is a thickener, but cornstarch is a THICKener, if you know what I mean.
In retrospect one tablespoon probably would have done the job, seeing as the chilled pastry cream was a gelatinous mass that could never spread across the delicate surface of a cake. I had to chunk and mash it on. But the cake was solid, man, solid, in every good way.

Believe it or not, this was my first time buttering and flouring cake pans. I am usually the kind of person who sprays the pans with vegetable oil spray (bakers everywhere gasp in horror), but I am learning the importance of proper pan prep.
The cake left residue on those little spots without flour, but nowhere else in the pan. Amazing.

Monday, January 25, 2010


I received this amazing personal library kit for Christmas. Present of my DREAMS, really.

It comes complete with a date stamp and the pouches with cards for the front of the book.

The hardest part is deciding which books I should bless with this honor. I need one of the refill kits already!

Somebody please come check out a book from me so I can use my stamp!

Mom ordered it from a sweet site,, and here's the link to the library kit.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Black and White Checkerboard Cake

My Grandmother gave me a set of checkerboard pans for Christmas; a set of three 9-in pans with a plastic insert that allows me to pour alternating circles of flavors and create this impressive checkerboard cake. And I wanted an impressive cake to bring to the restaurant along with my old standby, the Hummingbird Cake.

I used a recipe from Sky High Cakes called "Black and White Park Avenue Cake" and it features layers of white and dark chocolate with White Chocolate Buttercream and Chocolate Ganache. The recipes uses buttermilk, which I always take as a good sign, and mixes the ingredients in a way I haven't encountered before...dry...butter...wet...then eggs.
My batter didn't rise very much, and it was SUPER messy and very difficult to ration the batter to have enough for each circle, so my layers came out sort of lopsided, but the end result was fantastic.

3 cups cake flour
2 cups sugar
4 1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
4 whole eggs
2 egg yolks
2 t vanilla extract
2 oz unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
2 oz white chocolate, melted and cooled

Chocolate Ganache, for filling.

Preheat Oven to 350, butter and line 3 8 or 9-in pans with parchment rounds.

Place sugar, flour, baking powder and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer. Blend on low for 30 seconds. Add the softened butter and one cup of buttermilk; beat until just combined and evenly moistened. Raise the speed to medium and beat until fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the whole eggs, egg yolks, remaining 1/4 cup buttermilk and vanilla. Add to the batter in 2 or 3 additions, scraping down sides of the bowl. Beat until just mixed.

For the dark chocolate batter, whisk 1 cup of the batter into the melted chocolate, then gently whisk in another 3 cups.
For the white chocolate, whisk 1 cup of batter in to the melted chocolate, then gently mix that into the rest of the batter.

Use your cake divider and a pastry bag to fill the pans. You will need two layers with 2 circles of chocolate and one with 2 circles of white chocolate.

Bake for about 25 minutes (mine was less). Allow cakes to cool a bit in the pans and then turn onto wire racks to cool completely.

Make your Chocolate Ganache by heating a half cup of heavy cream and mixing in 6 oz of semi-sweet chocolate. Let sit for a minute to melt, then whisk until smooth.

White Chocolate Buttercream
(I changed this a little bit from the book.)

4 egg whites
4 oz good quality white chocolate
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
3 sticks unsalted butter

Melt the white chocolate in a double boiler, being careful not to scald it. Set aside to cool.

Combine sugar and water in a heavy saucepan and bring to a boil. Heat until the sugar reachs 238 degrees on a candy thermometer, or what I do is wait until just before it starts turning dark. A few minutes into boiling your sugar, start whipping your egg whites on high speed.

When the sugar is hot enough and the eggs are at medium-to high volume (soft peaks), slowly pour a steady stream of boiling sugar into the egg whites, still whipping on high. Whip for at least 5 minutes on medium-high, until the bowl has cooled to near room temperature.

Reduce the speed to medium low and add the butter, one tablespoon at a time. The mixture may appear to curdle at some point, but keep whipping and it will come together. When it is smooth, add the melted white chocolate and mix well.

Assemble the layers so the checkerboard pattern can form. Spread chocolate ganache on top of the first and second layers, then freeze for 15 minutes to set. Frost the cake using the white chocolate buttercream, and add chocolate disk decorations, if desired.

Enjoy the oohs and aaahs!

Hazelnut Brown Butter

When I'm on a roll, I'm certainly rollin'. I seem to go through recipe fail phases. I love the picture below because it perfectly illustrates the letdown that was this cake.

After finding myself with an abundance of egg whites after making the Poppyseed Lemon Cake, I rejoiced in that fail by tackling this highly recommended recipe from Smitten Kitchen. And really, how can you go wrong with hazelnuts and brown butter?

Well, I'll tell you how:
I went through all the motions of the recipe; whipping the eggwhites, browning the butter, folding everything together, and I was cleaning up my counter after sticking the cake in the oven, when I noticed something strange:

I was missing half a pound of butter.

I knew I opened a 1 pound package of butter to make the cake, and there, staring up at me from the counter, was a completely empty wrapper.

I didn't waste much time looking for the missing butter- with a sinking heart I realized that I'd browned that whole pound of butter and mixed it into this poor cake.
I did hold out little hope that it would emerge from the oven unscathed, but the thing was just oozing butter. It dripped down my fingers when I squeezed it.

Given the fact that several people still like the cake, even with the 1,620 calorie boost, I will give this recipe another shot. So here it is, for your baking pleasure, from Smitten Kitchen (originally from Sunday Suppers at Lucques by Suzanne Goin).

Hazelnut Brown Butter Cake
5 ounces (about one heaping cup) hazelnuts, blanched to remove dark skins (or, I used chopped Hazelnuts)
1/2 pound unsalted butter (plus 1 tablespoon melted extra for greasing the pan)
1/2 vanilla bean
1 1/3 cups powdered sugar, plus extra for dusting the cake
1/3 cups all-purpose flour
6 large egg whites

3 tablespoons granulated sugar

Preheat to 350; line and butter a 9 or 10-in cake pan.

Spread your hazelnuts out on a cookie sheet and toast them in the oven for 12-15 min, until fragrant. (mine, which were chopped and smaller, I only toasted for about 7 min). Let cool.

Place TWO sticks of butter in a medium saucepan, scrape the seeds out of the vanilla bean and add them to the butter along with the pod. Cook until the butter is brown and nutty-smelling, about 6-8 minutes. (I pull mine off the stove before it gets too brown, because it cooks for a little longer after you take it off. Also, stirring the butter the last couple minutes helps it brown evenly.) Then discard the vanilla bean pod and set aside the butter to cool.
Grind the hazelnuts and confectioner's sugar in a food processor until fine, then add the flour and pulse to combine.

Whisk the egg whites and the granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer in high speed until very stiff, about five minutes. Transfer them to a large mixing bowl.

Alternate folding dry ingredients and butter into the egg whites, a third at a time. Pour the batter in to the cake pan and bake for 40 min to an hour (right, I know it's a big difference in times, but I can't really gauge mine properly because there was a pound of butter in it, remember?)

(my test cupcake)

Deb covered hers in chocolate ganache, which sounds phenom. Chocolate and hazelnuts are a winning combination.

In retrospect....I thought the batter seemed a little runny.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Poppyseed Lemon

Deb at Smitten Kitchen recently posted this Poppyseed Lemon Cake recipe, raving about the nutty flavor, the lemon scent and the airiness. I couldn't wait to try it; I love winter citrus recipes. This cake recipe was originally found in Food and Wine by Chef Kurt Gutenbrunner.

Unfortunately, I have to admit that I was disappointed. I loved all the little crunches that the poppyseeds made, and the first bite, all covered in powdered sugar was very nice, but after that I found it sort of bland. My mouth expected sweetness and lemon flavor that just wasn't there.

I looked at the recipe again and again, trying to tell just where I went wrong, and I'm 90% sure I followed it to the letter.
Maybe this cake requires a certain palette. But before I'd go and use 8 egg yolks on this cake again, I will definitely up the sugar and probably throw in some lemon juice.

I love all the recipes on Deb's site, as you can tell by the abundance of references to them on this blog. I would head right on over to Smitten Kitchen and check it out. And check out this cake- because the profound exuberance of the poppyseeds here is not to be ignored. There is something to it- be adventurous and figure out how you like it.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

It was the best of was the worst of times....

This is the best chocolate cake I've ever had. Ever, ever, ever.

This cake is also the hugest pain in the butt ever...I should know, I've made it three times this week. Hidden inside it's beautiful dark layers are streaks of white chocolate mousse, and therein lies the rub. It tastes phenomenal, but I am sick and tired of cakes with creative fillings that just slide apart and make your life miserable!!

I even froze it for over 30 min before frosting and it still insisted on sliding around and ruining the chocolate sour cream frosting, and in the car on the way to the Restaurant the top two layer removed themselves from the bottom layer. Barf. Next time I will double the amount of white chocolate in the mousse and run through my freezing routine to allow it to stiffen more.

BUT...seriously guys, this cake is amazing. I would eat it every day for breakfast. The secret ingredient is....brace yourself...mayonnaise. I've disgusted several people with that information (while they had the cake in their mouths.) But it's just that that makes so moist and rich! So....good luck with it.

The Triple Chocolate Fudge Cake from Sky High.

Preheat the oven to 350, butter the bottom of three 9 in cake pans and cut 3 parchment paper circles. Line the bottoms of the pans and butter the papers, too.

TAKE NOTE: Normally, I would completely ignore the parchment paper step. It just seems excessive. HOWEVER, with this cake, it is a MUST. The first time I made the cake I left it out and the cake came out in clumps. With the parchment though, no problems.

Ingredients for the cake:

2 1/4 cups AP flour
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 1/4 t baking soda
1 1/4 baking powder
1 t salt
1/2 t cinnamon
2 1/2 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 cup milk
1 1/4 cups hot, strongly brewed coffee
2 eggs
1 cup best-quality mayonnaise
1 1/2 t vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups sugar

Sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and powder, salt and cinnamon; set aside.
Put the chocolate in a large heatproof bowl and heat the milk to a simmer. Pour the hot coffee and milk over the chocolate and let sit to melt. Whisk until smooth.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together the eggs, vanilla and mayonnaise until well blended. Gradually beat in sugar. Add the dry ingredients and the mocha mixture in two or three additions; beat til smooth and well blended.
Divide the batter among the three cake pans and bake for 25-28 minutes (until tester poked in middle comes out clean)
Let cakes cool on racks.

White Chocolate Mousse

6-8 oz white chocolate
1 cup heavy cream
1 egg white
1 T sugar

Melt the white chocolate with 1/4 cup of the heavy cream in a double boiler, whisk until smooth. Let cool to room temperature.
When cool, beat the remaining 3/4 cups cream until soft peaks form. In a clean bowl, whip tje egg white with the sugar until stiff peaks form.
Fold the beaten egg into the white chocolate cream, then fold in the whipped cream until just blended.

I changed the amount of white chocolate to 6-8 oz, which makes a stiffer mousse. It's very important to chill the stuff until its stiff enough, so I'd recommend making the night before you plan to make the cake just so you don't have to stress out about it.

Sour Cream Chocolate Icing

12 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 stick unsalted butter
2 T light corn syrup
1/4 cup half and half
1/2 cup sour cream, room temperature

Melt the chocolate with the butter and corn syrup in a double boiler over barely simmering water or in a heavy pan over very low heat. Remove from heat and whisk til smooth.
Whisk in the half and half and sour cream. Use while soft.

To Assemble:

Fill the layers with the chocolate mousse, leaving a 1/4 in border on each other layers. (and then I say, freeze the thing.)
Spread the chocolate sour cream icing all over the cake (first making a crumb coat and refrigerating if desired, about 30 min.)
Decorate with melted white chocolate, if desired.


Saturday, January 16, 2010

The KING Cake

Elvis "The King" is known for eating grilled peanut butter and banana sandwiches; an immortal combination.

I just read that he often ate 12-15 sandwiches in ONE SITTING...that is DISGUSTING. According to wikipedia, he sometimes included bacon on his sandwiches as well.

I don't care what people say about it, I love wikipedia. I love it when one topic leads you to another, and before you know it, you're twenty pages deep, reading about Sid and Nancy or about the fattest 2 year old in the world, and you don't even remember how you got started, but boy are you well-informed.

Anyway, there is some very interesting information on Elvis...I would check it out.

This cake was inspired by three things: 1. The leftover caramel and pb frosting from our party. 2. The banana cupcakes from the party. 3. Elvis Presley.

The salted caramel and pb cream cheese frosting together was fantastic. I added a bit more pb, but the caramel gave it depth and a great flavor and the peanut butter wasn't overpowering as it can be sometimes.

I made the banana cupcakes into 2 9-in layers and it turned out beautifully. I spread chocolate ganache between the layers before the frosting, and I glopped it on top, too.

The people who are brave enough to try it in the restaurant just love it.

Banana Cake recipe by Baked.

Preheat to 325 and grease 2 9-in cake pans.

2 3/4 cup AP flour
1 1/4 t baking powder
1 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) softened unsalted butter
1/4 cup vegetable shortening, at room temperature
1 3/4 cup sugar
2 t vanilla
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cup mashed very ripe bananas (for me it was 3.5 bananas)
1/2 cup buttermilk

Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together in a large bowl and set aside
In an electric mixer, beat the butter and shortening together until creamy. Add sugar and vanilla and beat on medium speed until fluffy (about 3 minutes). Scrape down the bowl and add the bananas...beat until just mixed. Turn mixer to low, add the flour mixture, alternating with the buttermilk. Scrape down the bowl and beat again for a few seconds.

cupcakes: makes 24. Bake for 20-25 minutes.
9-in cakes: bake about 35 minutes.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

My Pretty Things

This may be one of those self-indulgent posts I roll my eyes at on other blogs, but I had so much fun taking these pictures, and these things are so dear to me, that I had to throw them out there.
Here are some of the pretty little things I have around the house. I love plants and glass and little worlds in which to keep them.

The dried flowers about are from our wedding reception. My vision was for flowers and blueberry sprigs in old blue glass mason jars everywhere at the reception. In typical fashion, the morning of the wedding found us scrambling all around town, clipping blooms from friends' bushes and stealing them from the side of the highway. The shells in the bottom of the jar are from Costa Rica; our honeymoon.

Everyone has asked me, don't you want to get rid of that jar of dead flowers that keeps shedding everywhere? And my answer people, once and for all is No! I do not want to get ride of it! I want to keep it forever!
And not so much because it's from the wedding, but because I love the faded, crinkly look of the dried hydrangeas and the scraggly elegance of my blueberry sprig.

This is my newest terrarium, and it houses moss and ferns and stones and plastic ants and a porcelain duck pitcher.

It makes me want to step in and sink into the moss and walk along the stones and sit under the fern and put my hand on the cool smooth neck of the duck.

Green all winter :)

Our kitchen window- I am so blessed to have this herb window! Right now it has cilantro, parsley, mint, and two types of little succulents. Oh, and some fruit and reviving celery.

mmm...just waiting to be able to harvest this guy.

Around Christmas, I procrastinated by hollowing out light bulbs (there's a great tutorial on Instructables) and filling them with dried babies breath and other dried flowers. They made great (year-round!) ornaments and I gave them to my family for Christmas.

Think of all the things you can do with an empty light bulb!

A terrarium in a large ball jar capped with an old handkerchief, planted with shells and ferns.

At the end of college, I search high and low to find little globes to house my island-worlds. I located these clear bulbs on only one site on the whole interenet. I made the islands from clay and fired them with an iron red glaze on the bottom, then painted the tops like sand and rock and planted them with model rail-road supplies. I filled the globes with with baby oil dyed with moped oil (which is blue.) Water made them fog.

I made several, but I emptied this one because it leaked everywhere.

And this one sadly broke soon after we moved in.

While I sculpted them, I imagined walking up the little rock steps and perching on the island, looking out to the oily sea...

Are you still here? Well, here's one more terrarium.

Just a little fern in one of my blue jars. I usually keep it by our bed. The heavenly space that is our room is a whole 'nother post.