Brown Butter Pumpkin Cake

French baking is delicious. The croissants, the chocolate, the bread, etc…. That being said, it’s a different kind of baking than in what I’m used to in America. After making a list of all the things I was going to need for this cake and some other things goodies I plan on baking over my stay here, we realized that there were going to have to be a few changes to the recipes.

The idea of using baking soda in food was completely foreign to everyone I said it to. All of Charlotte’s family members said they might have some for cleaning or brushing their teeth with, but never for baking. After that, I realized that buttermilk was going to pretty hard to come by as well. But perhaps the most impossible of all was molasses. Even trying to describe it was difficult – brown, gooey, syrupy substance that is used in gingerbread (not the appetizing when you think about it in those words). Needless to say, I didn’t even bother looking for it and decided to substitute honey instead.

Being the “professional chef” that I am, I brought my own cake pans and measuring cups all the way from America! Some might make fun of me, but it was a good choice as they might have been hard to come by here, as everyone measures in grams and have my favorite cake pans in the world that I would bring with me anywhere if I knew I needed to make cake. I also brought some canned pumpkin with me to make the cake as Charlotte had all but guaranteed me that we would not find that here. Baking in a kitchen that is not familiar is always a challenge, but I was able to find everything I needed and I think the cake came out just as it would have had it been made on the other side of the Atlantic. I’ve made this cake three times before and I have finally decided that brown butter makes everything better and I shall now make it with every dessert I make in the future.

BROWN BUTTER PUMPKIN LAYER CAKE

(Adapted from Fine Cooking)

INGREDIENTS:

For the cake 

  • 6 oz. (3/4 cup) unsalted butter; more for the pans
  • 9 oz. (2 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour; more for the pans
  • 1-1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1-1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • 3/4 tsp. table salt
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1-1/2 cups pumpkin puree
  • 1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk

For the topping

  • 1-1/2 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 2/3 cup pecans
  • 1/2 cup unsalted, raw, hulled pepitas (I used walnuts instead)
  • 2 Tbs. firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. table salt
  • 1-1/2 Tbs. chopped crystallized ginger

For the frosting 

  • 4 oz. (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 5 oz. (1-1/4 cups) confectioners’ sugar

DIRECTIONS: 

For the cake

  1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Butter and flour two 9-inch round cake pans with removable bottoms (or butter two 9-inch round cake pans, line the bottoms with parchment, butter the parchment, and flour the pans).
  3. Melt the butter in a heavy-duty 1-quart saucepan over medium heat. Cook, swirling the pan occasionally until the butter turns a nutty golden-brown. Pour into a small bowl and let stand until cool but not set, about 15 minutes.
  4. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, salt, and cloves.
  5. In a large bowl, whisk 1-1/2 cups of the pumpkin purée with the granulated sugar, brown sugar, eggs, and buttermilk until very well blended.
  6. With a rubber spatula, stir in the flour mixture until just combined. Gently whisk in the brown butter until completely incorporated. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans.
  7. Bake the cakes until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about 28 minutes. Let the cakes cool in the pans for 10 minutes. Turn the cakes out onto racks, remove the pan bottoms or parchment, and cool completely.

For the topping

  1. Melt the butter in a heavy-duty 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat.
  2. Add the pecans and pepitas and cook until the pecans brown slightly and the pepitas begin to pop, about 2 minutes.
  3. Sprinkle in the brown sugar and salt and stir until the sugar melts and the nuts are glazed, about 2 minutes. Stir in the ginger.
  4. Remove from the heat and let the mixture cool in the skillet.

For the frosting

  1. Melt the butter in a heavy-duty 1-quart saucepan over medium heat. Cook, swirling the pan occasionally until the butter turns a nutty golden-brown.
  2. Pour into a small bowl and let stand until the solids settle at the bottom of the bowl, about 5 minutes. Carefully transfer the bowl to the freezer and chill until just firm, about 18 minutes.
  3. Using a spoon, carefully scrape the butter from bowl, leaving the browned solids at the bottom; discard the solids.
  4. Using an electric mixer, beat the butter, cream cheese, and brown sugar on medium-high speed until light in color and the brown sugar has dissolved, 2 minutes.
  5. Gradually beat in the confectioners’ sugar and continue beating until fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes.

Assemble the cake

  1. Put one cake layer on a cake plate.
  2. Spread 1/2 cup of the frosting on the layer. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of the nut mixture over the frosting and top with the second layer.
  3. Frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining frosting.
  4. Arrange the remaining topping in a ring 1-1/2 inches in from the edge of the cake and serve.

Long forgotten, but still remembered

I must apologize for my lack of updates in the recent months. I’ve had a few recent bumps in the road in terms of my health that have kept me from updating as often as I would have liked (take a look here for more information on that side of my life – http://abvdinnyc.wordpress.com/) I’ve been baking a bit here and there still, but with summer upon us, I’m looking forward to getting back into the swing of things baking-wise!

Instead of backtracking to find all the recipes I’ve used in the past month, I thought I’d just share some pictures that I have taken of my creations. We’ve had a few birthdays in the apartment, Passover, and the usual baking adventures. I also hosted a baking birthday party for some 6 and 7 year olds along with my roommate. It was loads of fun and if anyone is interested in having a baking party, let me know!  With school over in just a few days, my time will be opened up once again to try some new things this summer!

Coconut brownies made during a ski vacation in Vermont. 

Chocolate cake with caramel butter cream, chocolate ganache, and salted praline for my grandfathers birthday. 

Red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting for my grandfathers birthday. 

Adventures in juice making with our lovely new juicer. 

Carrot, pineapple, and apple juice made at home. 

Lemon cheesecake cupcakes with glazed blueberry topping for a roomies birthday party. 

The birthday spread. 

The start of the most amazing meal I had while on spring break in France. 

The most perfect steak. 

Leading a six and seven year old baking birthday party. 
A sugar cookie baking adventure at a birthday party. 

A Day of Love

Valentine’s is right around the corner and in my opinion, the Hallmarkification of this holiday is fine because it just means that I can bake all that much more without any remorse. “It’s Valentine’s Day? Chocolate? No problem!”  It’s great! I’ve also spent many hours making holiday cards and plan on running to Michael’s the moment this holiday is over to stock up on discounted Valentine’s craft things for next year. So whether you’re not a Valentine’s Day fan, or are going to be having an amorous day about town – these recipes are bound to please.

I believe that I have written of the famous Julia Childs mousse in a previous posting. Well, I have made it yet again with this sublime recipe. This mousse is just slightly labor-intensive but so worth it. It comes out the perfect texture: between light & airy and thick & creamy. And after all: isn’t chocolate the ultimate aphrodisiac?

Chocolate Mousse

(Adapted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 6 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 6 ounces unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1/4 cup dark-brewed coffee
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 3/4 superfine sugar
  • 1/4 cup orange liqueur
  • 4 egg whites
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tbs sugar

DIRECTIONS:

1) Heat a saucepan one-third full with hot water, and in a bowl set on top, melt together the chocolate, butter and coffee, stirring over the barely simmering water, until smooth. Remove from heat.

2) In a bowl large enough to nest securely on the saucepan of simmering water, whisk the egg yolks and sugar until the mixture is thick, like runny mayonnaise.(3-4 minutes) Beat in orange liquer.

3) Continue to beat mixture over an ice bath for an additional 3-4 minutes.

4) Beat the chocolate into the egg yolks and sugar.

5) In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites with the salt until frothy. Continue to beat until they start to hold their shape. Whip in the tablespoon of sugar and continue to beat until stiff peaks are formed.

6) Fold one-third of the beaten egg whites into the chocolate mixture, then fold in the remainder of the whites just until incorporated, but don’t overdo it or the mousse will lose volume.

7) Transfer the mousse to a serving bowl or divide into serving dishes, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, until firm.

8) Enjoy!

But of course, mousse wasn’t enough for this holiday: I also made these sumptuous Red Velvet Cake Balls. After a trek through New York City to find red velvet cake mix on Valentine’s Day (it’s worse than finding a pumpkin on Halloween!), I was able to purchase the last box the store had. The deep, lustrous red of the cake mix was really necessary for these cake balls. The rich and chocolatey texture of the inside (my roommates even referred to them as truffles) with the firm white chocolate outside made for a perfect Valentine’s combo. I even sprinkled some pink luster dust for a festive finishing touch.

Red Velvet Cake Balls

(Adapted from Bakerella)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 box red velvet cake mix (cook as directed on box for 13 X 9 cake)
  • 1 can cream cheese frosting (16 oz.)
  • 1 package chocolate bark (regular or white chocolate)

DIRECTIONS:

1) After cake is cooked and cooled completely, crumble into large bowl.

2) Mix thoroughly with 1 can cream cheese frosting. (It may be easier to use fingers to mix together, but be warned it will get messy.)

3) Roll mixture into quarter size balls and lay on cookie sheet.

4) Chill for several hours. (You can speed this up by putting in the freezer.)

5) Melt chocolate in microwave per directions on package.  (Or over a double boiler as I did, being careful not to burn the chocolate)

6) Roll balls in chocolate and lay on wax paper until firm. (Use a spoon to dip and roll in chocolate and then tap off extra.)

7) Enjoy!

January Daring Baker’s Challenge: Biscuit Jaconde

I feel like I keep tacking onto my New Year’s Resolutions, but since it’s still only January – at least for one more day – I think that it’s okay. To add on to more baking, more blog updating, and more bread, I know want to go the whole year and do every single Daring Baker’s Challenge. I can already foresee some problems that I will face as the year wears on, but at least I can say I will try.

The January 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Astheroshe of the blog accro. She chose to challenge everyone to make a Biscuit Joconde Imprime to wrap around an Entremets dessert. I’m not going to lie, this was one of the more difficult challanges that I have done. I’m not even going to go into what went wrong with my biscuit jaconde, because I myself don’t quite know what was wrong with it, but the truth is that the mousse inside was what made the dish amazing. I made some of Ms. Julia Childs’s classic chocolate mousse that was the perfect accompaniment to the spongy jaconde cake that I tried to make.

As we sat around the table eating the mousse, my roommates pointed out that it was like eating fluffy dough – the denseness of cookie dough with the fluffiness of mouse. I’m not quite sure what that means, but it sounds good! The cake didn’t make it in the fridge for more than a day or two before it was licked clean off the plate. I always have Mastering the Art of French Cooking at the back of my cookbook shelf and never quite take advantage of all the amazing recipes it has to offer.

At the end of the day, I realized that while the jaconde didn’t quite turn out how I wanted it, the whole process, which took more than a few hours, was well worth it as I discovered the most amazing mousse recipe in the entire world. I plan on making the mousse again very soon, sans jaconde, and am hoping that it works out just as well.

Double Chocolate Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies

It’s snowing once again in New York. I don’t think it snowed last year for the first time until February and now it only the beginning of January and we’ve already gotten almost 30 inches of snow this winter. Crazy! It’s a good thing I don’t have anywhere to be today, because I don’t plan on leaving the house.

I would love to say that I plan on staying tucked in my bed all day, but given the extreme heater that I have no control over, my room is actually boiling hot, making it necessary that I get out of bed. It’s insane how hot my room gets. It used to be an actual sauna, but the steam seems to have been turned off, thank goodness! No matter the heat in my room, as the idea of cold snow outside still makes me just want to bake.

These cookies pack in a few of my favorite ingredients – pumpkin, oatmeal, and dried cranberries. With the addition of both regular and white chocolate chips, these cookies are a sure crowd pleaser for every taste bud. I didn’t actually have enough of either dark or white chocolate chips, so I just decided to mix them both in instead of just white. I’d say it was a good idea. These were the perfect treat to make on a day stuck indoors. I almost thought I was going to run out of sugar, but luckily had enough, as I would not have been a happy camper going outside just for a cup of sugar.

DOUBLE CHOCOLATE PUMPKIN OATMEAL COOKIES

(Adapted from Annie’s Eats)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • ¾ tsp. ground ginger
  • ¼ tsp. ground cloves
  • ¼ tsp. grated nutmeg
  • Dash of allspice
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1½ cups old-fashioned oats
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 cup white chocolate chips
  • 1 cup dried cranberries

DIRECTIONS:

1) Preheat the oven to 350˚ F.  Line baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper.

2) In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, spices and salt.  Whisk to blend.

3) In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together the butter and sugars on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Blend in the egg and vanilla.  Beat in the pumpkin puree until well incorporated.

4) With the mixer on low speed, mix in the dry ingredients just until incorporated.  Beat in the oats until combined.  With a rubber spatula, fold in the white chocolate chips and dried cranberries until evenly mixed.

5) Drop in small scoops (about 1½-2 tablespoons) onto prepared baking sheets, spaced 2-3 inches apart.

6) Bake 12-14 minutes, or until the cookies are lightly browned, rotating the sheets halfway through baking.

7) Allow to cool on the sheets about 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.  Store in an airtight container.

8) Enjoy 🙂

Honey Cake

Shana Tova to all! I know it’s already passed, but honey bread is the essential dessert for any Rosh Hashanah dinner, so I just had to share my experience making it last week. I spent the first evening of the New Year at my mom’s new apartment in Brooklyn. Going there reminds me that there is a world outside of Manahattan – only 20 minutes away mind you – that feels like a completely different city. Small brownstones on every street, a main road with small shops and so much less noise than outside my window. It’s quite amazing.

Honey cake is incredibly simple to make, but care must taken after it’s put in the oven so as not to over-bake and becoming dry, which it tends to do. I used a pretty generic store brand honey, but I’m sure it would be very tasty to test out some more interesting farmers market honeys to see if there is any difference. I doubled the batch, as we were having multiple meals and had to juggle the ingredients in many different bowls as my mother does not yet have a proper set of mixing bowls. This is certainly a true holiday cake that fits at any Rosh Hashanah table.

HONEY CAKE

(Adapted from epicurous.com)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 cup honey (preferably buckwheat)
  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup freshly brewed strong coffee, cooled
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons whiskey or bourbon (I left this out, since my mom didn’t have any)

DIRECTIONS:

1) Put oven rack in middle position and preheat to 350°F. Oil loaf pan well and dust with flour, knocking out excess.

2) Whisk together flour, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, baking powder, and ginger in a small bowl.

3) Whisk together honey, oil, and coffee in another bowl until well combined.

4) Beat together eggs and brown sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at high speed 3 minutes. Reduce speed to low, then add honey mixture and whiskey and mix until blended, about 1 minute.

5) Add flour mixture and mix until just combined. Finish mixing batter with a rubber spatula, scraping bottom of bowl.

6) Pour batter into loaf pan (batter will be thin) and bake 30 minutes. Cover top loosely with foil and continue to bake until cake begins to pull away from sides of pan and a wooden pick or skewer inserted in center comes out clean, about 30 minutes more. Cool on a rack 1 hour.

7) Run a knife around side of cake, then invert rack over pan and invert cake onto rack. Turn cake right side up and cool completely.

August Daring Bakers’ Challenge: Baked Alaska

What a month this has been! I finally moved into my amazing new apartment and at long last, all the roommates are together. There are four of us in a great two bedroom in the most perfect location in all of New York. It’s easy to get to work and I’m anticipating that it will be easy to get to classes once they start next week. I can’t believe that school starts in just a little over a week. In some ways, this summer has flown by, but at the same time it seems like ages ago that we were moving out of our dorm last May.

With all the moving, IKEA trips (which there were many), setting up of furniture, beating the heat and the rain, there has been little time for baking. Our kitchen hasn’t been completely set up until just the other day as we were missing a lot of kitchen gear that our final roommate was bringing down with her. I love our stove – it’s a brand new gas stove. At the same time, that means we have a gas oven, which I am not the greatest fan of, but it seems to work better than other gas ones I have worked with. So, as we finally put the finishing touches on the kitchen the other day, with the addition of a garbage can, microwave, and a few more pots and pans, I realized it was time for this months challenge!

The August 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Elissa of 17 and Baking. For the first time, The Daring Bakers partnered with Sugar High Fridays for a co-event and Elissa was the gracious hostess of both. Using the theme of beurre noisette, or browned butter, Elissa chose to challenge Daring Bakers to make a pound cake to be used in either a Baked Alasa or in Ice Cream Petit Fours. The sources for Elissa’s challenge were Gourmet magazine and David Lebovitz’s “The Perfect Scoop”.

I decided to go with the Baked Alaska because the prospect of glazing a bunch of teeny petit fours seemed like too much of a hassle. That being said, the Baked Alaska wasn’t a walk in the park either. I started the process at the begining of the week, making the pound cake and the ice cream. I strayed away from the originial recipe and made a mint ice cream, as I had just found some peppermint extract in my basket of spices and baking items. Having made ice cream for last months challenge, I was prepared for the task of making ice cream with out an ice cream maker, but this was much more complicated. The addition of the eggs meant you had to heat and cool the milk and cream more often and the eggs gave the ice cream a much more custardy flavor. I added some green food coloring so no one would forget it was mint.

The task of browning the meringue without a blowtorch was daunting because I was certain that my ice cream would melt in the broiler. But, WE ACTUALLY HAVE A BLOWTORCH! One of my roommates had one in a creme brulee set and we went and bought some butane fuel, and voila, we had a funtioning blowtorch. Now that I know we have one, I’m going to try to use it for everything that I make 😉

Overall, this was a fun challenge. The pound cake was probably my favorite part – I love burnt butter. The moral of the last two challenges is that I think I really need a an ice cream maker because making it without is much harder and it never turns out quite as good as it would with a machine.

July Daring Bakers’ Challenge: Swiss Swirl Ice Cream Cake

My first Daring Bakers challenge is finally ready! I’m always reading my blogroll and seeing all the amazing recipes that come from the Daring Bakers. A few months ago I applied to become one myself and was finally admitted into the club 😉 to start baking for the month of July.

The July 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Sunita of Sunita’s world – life and food. Sunita challenged everyone to make an ice-cream filled Swiss roll that’s then used to make a bombe with hot fudge. Her recipe is based on an ice cream cake recipe from Taste of Home. At first, I looked at the recipe – which was 13 pages long – and said to myself “this will be my one and only Daring Bakers challenge.” I had no idea how – between work, going to Israel this past week for a wedding and everything else on my plate – I was going to be able to complete this multi-step recipes. After spending a lot of time reading the recipe on the subway rides to and from work, I realized that, while there were many components to this cake, they were actually not that difficult to make, you just had to give yourself freezing time.

Because of the freezing times needed for the ice cream, I split up the recipe into multiple days. I made the ice cream one day, the cakes another, and put it all together on the day of a dinner party my roommate and I put together in order to feed the cake to some friends. We quickly realized that even five of us were not going to be able to eat all of it and almost two weeks later there is still some sitting in our freezer.

As I said before, the different components of the cake were not actually that difficult to make; in retrospect, they were quite simple (although as usual, my faulty oven never fails to overbake the edges of my cakes.) I’d never thought of making ice cream before without an ice cream machine, but this method of mixing up cream and sugar makes you realize how easy it is to make your own ice cream. I even bought a vanilla bean! Something I had never done before. I know that you’re allowed to modify the recipes to a certain extent, but given that this was my first challenge, I decided to follow the original recipe to a tee. Even after following the recipe exactly, for some reason, my chocolate ice cream decided not to freeze all the way through, so while the fudge sauce froze solid, the chocolate ice cream turned more into a sauce.

After having completed this first challenge, I now understand why so many people call themselves Daring Bakers. It’s such a fun way to learn new and exciting things about baking – I’d never even heard of a swiss roll before – and there are so many other people making it, that someone has likely made the same mistake you did and is willing to help. I’m really looking forward to next month’s challenge, which will be made in my new apartment. WOOT WOOT!

Salty Caramel Cake

It is currently 92 degrees at 8 o’clock in the evening! What has this world come to? The heat forecast for tomorrow is 98 with a heat index of 106. I think it’s about time that I make a trip to Iceland. I’m really hoping that I can get to the beach with my cousins this weekend, because when it’s so hot there is nothing better to do then lounge by the pool and walk down to the beach. The heat has also caused my poor herb plants to wilt horribly. I try and water them every evening, but even one night in this heat without h20 and they shrivel up. Oh well. My mint plant, that sits right on my window sill, somehow seems to beat the heat and grows so big that I’m worried about how I’m going to transport it when I move at the end of the summer.

Anyway, this past weekend, my dad and step-mom came up to New York for a bar-mitzvah in New Jersey. It also happened to be the day after my dad’s birthday, so Friday night we threw a little soiree. It was loads of fun! I’d say we had about 18 people over who all enjoyed little snacks and champagne while enjoying the coolness of the dining room that had been pumped with air conditioning all afternoon. My contribution to the evening was obviously a dessert, but specifically a birthday cake!

I don’t think I can go on much more about how much I loved the BAKED cookbook. It’s quite possibly my favorite thing ever. This cake came straight from those pages. I’d actually eaten this cake before when I went to the bakery itself in Brooklyn and wrote a review about it here, but now was my chance to tackle it myself. This cake is not that difficult in theory to make, but given my teeny kitchen and limited time I had, it obviously turned into a bit of a hassle. I made it in different parts, putting it all together Friday morning. If you have a nice long afternoon, putting it all together at once will probably save you some time and dishes.

It’s an incredibly rich cake that is offset wonderfully by the caramel that is soaked into the layers. I was worried that the caramel was not the right consistency since it look really white and milky and I don’t have a candy thermometer to gauge the temperature in a sauce pan, but the milkiness was just from the sour cream and it turned out fine. I baked the cakes just a bit too long, but I still blame this on the faulty gas ovens. Once it was put all together, it had the perfect chocolaty taste with a hint of caramel throughout the cake and ganache. Of course, the fleur de sel sprinkled on top added the perfect after taste. I think that it was a big hit at the party!

SWEET AND SALTY CAKE

Adapted from BAKED: New Frontiers in Baking

INGREDIENTS:

cake:

  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 2/3 cup sour cream
  • 2 2/3 cups cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened, plus more for pans
  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla
  • caramel:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon fleur de sel
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • ganache:

    • 1 pound dark chocolate, chopped
    • 1 cup sugar
    • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
    • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
    • 1 pound (4 sticks) butter, cut into tablespoon-sized pieces, softened but still cool

    DIRECTIONS:

    cake:

    1) Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter three 8-by-2-inch round cake pans. Line each pan with a parchment paper round, butter parchment paper and flour; set aside.

    2) In a large bowl, whisk together cocoa, 1 1/4 cups hot water, and sour cream; set aside to cool, about 10 minutes.

    3) In another large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

    4) In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and shortening together until smooth and it appears to create strings inside the bowl, about 7 minutes. Add both sugars and continue beating until light and fluffy, about 7 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, and beat until well incorporated. Add vanilla, scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula, and mix again for 30 seconds. Add flour mixture alternating with cocoa mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture.

    5) Divide batter evenly among the three prepared pans. Bake until cake is just firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, 18 to 24 minutes. Let cool completely.

    caramel:

    1) Combine 1/4 cup water, sugar, and corn syrup in a medium saucepan; stir to combine. Bring to a boil over high heat. Cook until the mixture reaches 350 degrees on a candy thermometer, about 10 minutes.

    2) Meanwhile, in another small saucepan, mix together cream and salt. Bring cream to a boil and cook until salt has dissolved, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

    3) When the caramel mixture has reached 350 degrees, remove from heat and allow to cool for 1 minute. Carefully add the hot cream to the caramel; stir to combine. Whisk in sour cream. Cool, and store in an airtight container, refrigerated, for up to 3 days.

    ganache:

    1) Combine 1/4 cup water, sugar, and corn syrup in a medium saucepan; stir to combine. Bring to a boil over high heat. Cook until the mixture reaches 350 degrees on a candy thermometer, about 10 minutes.

    2) In another small saucepan add cream and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and set aside.

    3) When the caramel mixture has reached 350 degrees, remove from heat and allow to rest for 1 minute. Add the hot cream to the caramel; stir to combine. Let cool 5 minutes. Place chocolate in the bowl of an electric mixer and pour caramel sauce over chocolate. Let sit 1 minute before stirring from the center until chocolate is melted.

    4) Attach bowl to electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on low until the bowl feels cool to the touch. Add butter and increase speed to medium-high until mixture is well combined, thickened, and slightly whipped, about 2 minutes.

    assembling cake:

    1) Using a serrated knife, trim tops of cakes to make level. Place four strips of parchment paper around perimeter of a serving plate or lazy Susan. Place the first layer on the cake plate.

    2) Using about 1/4 cup of the caramel, spread a thin layer on the cake, allowing some of the caramel to soak into the cake. Follow the caramel layer with a layer of about 1 cup of the ganache icing. Place the second layer on top and repeat process with another layer of caramel followed by a layer of ganache icing. Place the remaining layer on top of the second layer bottom side up.

    3) Spread entire cake with remaining ganache icing. Sprinkle with fleur de sel.

    Strawberry Shortcake

    What a week! I had work everyday, saw a show with my roommate, made some amazing dinners and went upstate yesterday for my cousins birthday party. I was so excited to get out of the city for a day. As much as I love NYC, it is always nice to get out of the city for a little bit, even if only for the day. Ten kids went up in the morning and ran themselves ragged playing kickball, swimming, eating food, and smashing a piñata to smithereens. I mostly hung out in the kitchen and manning the barbeque. I also took a quick bike ride down the mountain with my uncle, which once again proved that I need to get my butt into shape.

    Not only was it my cousin’s birthday (it’s actually tomorrow but we celebrated a little early) but it was also my aunt’s birthday. Since we were getting a Crumbs birthday cake for my cousin, I decided to make a strawberry shortcake for my aunt because she told me how much she loves fresh berries and May is certainly the month for strawberries. I made the shortcake Friday evening in the city and then cut up fresh strawberries and made whipped cream when I got to their house on Saturday morning.

    I’ve never made a strawberry shortcake before, but after looking at the recipe, I realized it was quite similar to making scones, which are one of my favorite things to make, so I was quite excited. I usually think of strawberry shortcake as being made with angel food cake, but this is much more dense – just like a scone. I’m not sure I liked it so dense, so if I make it again, I will probably head the angel food cake route. I was planning on cutting the cake in half to put the whipped cream in the center, but given how little the cake had risen I was worried I wouldn’t have enough cake to cut. I realized soon after I bit into it that I should have cut it in half to soak in more of the juices, but it was too late, so oh well.  This is certainly a quick and easy dessert to whip up, especially if you get your hands on some fresh strawberries and whipped cream 🙂

    STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE

    (Adapted from allrecipes.com)

    INGREDIENTS:

    • 3 pints fresh strawberries
    • 1/2 cup white sugar
    • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
    • 4 teaspoons baking powder
    • 2 tablespoons white sugar
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    • 1/3 cup butter
    • 1 egg
    • 2/3 cup milk
    • 2 cups whipped heavy cream

    DIRECTIONS:

    1) Slice the strawberries and toss them with 1/2 cup of white sugar. Set aside

    2) Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Grease and flour one 8 inch round cake pan.

    3) In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking powder, 2 tablespoons white sugar and the salt.

    4) With a pastry blender cut in the shortening until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Make a well in the center and add the beaten egg and milk. Stir until just combined.

    5) Spread the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool partially in pan on wire rack.

    6) Slice partially cooled cake in half, making two layers. (I didn’t do this part, but I recommend it)

    7) Place half of the strawberries on one layer and top with the other layer. Top with remaining strawberries and cover with the whipped cream.