14 Jul

All About Chiffon Cake

Ooh boy, I haven’t posted a Baking Partners Challenge since April!

In May I was busy getting ready for my weekend in New York and June. . . well, that was an epic failure that I didn’t post it because I was busy doing the yoga teacher training thing. (The theme was eclairs, and mine turned out flat as pancakes. I blame the recipe because I’ve made eclairs before without consequence. The chocolate ganache filling, however, was impossible to stop eating.)

Previous themes that I did participate in were Chiizukeiki (also a failure), Super Soft White Bread, Macarons, Pie, Christmas Cake, Kaiser Buns, Cupcakes, and Cookies.

The theme for this month is Cake!

We had 2 recipe options to choose from. I picked Lemon Chiffon which looked like the simplest one. The other option, a Russian Honey Cake, sounded tastier but I was deterred by all the layers.

I like cakes that don’t take a lot of effort to make and are decorated with a dusting of icing sugar.
My level of competency doesn’t extend beyond dusting a cake with icing sugar.
When we get into real ‘cake-decorating’ territory my creations would even be rejected by CakeWrecks.com

Lemon Chiffon Cake

What is a Chiffon Cake?

The chiffon cake was created by an insurance agent, of all things, in 1927. It became an extremely popular dessert and the technique was carefully guarded until 1947 when he sold the recipe to General Mills.

Chiffon cakes are airy and pillowy in texture with the richness of butter cake and lightness of sponge cake. They’re similar to angel food cakes in that they are leavened with egg whites and are baked in an unlined, un-greased tube pan. Unlike angel food cakes, chiffon cakes contain egg yolks and vegetable oil which keep the cake moist, soft, and tender.

Once baked, the cake tin is turned upside down and hung over the neck of a bottle to cool for 3 hours or overnight which lets the cake set at its maximum volume instead of settling.

It can be nerve-racking to make a cake that you have to hang upside down because if it doesn’t hold you’ll hear a plop as your cake falls to its doom. You need balls to make it.

Here are some links explaining how to perfect a Chiffon Cake:
Chiffon Cakes: Tips and Troubles
Chiffon Cake Tutorial
Chiffon Cake Tips
Chiffon Cake Base – Simplest, Easiest Method (Video)
Lemon Chiffon Cake (Video)

Lemon Chiffon Cake

The Good

This Lemon Chiffon Cake didn’t turn out horribly, you guys!

I was worried about working with egg whites after the chiizukeiki debacle, but I paid close attention not to over or under whip them.

The cake is relatively easy to make and it retains it’s freshness for quite a while. It has a really nice, light lemony taste making it good cake for springtime when you’re so over all those rich chocolate desserts from the winter. (…who am I kidding, I’m never over rich chocolate desserts).

Side Note: I think it would make a killer trifle as inspired by ‘the improvement’ below.

The Bad

I did slightly under-bake the cake. It was getting way too dark on top, so I took it out prematurely when I should have just covered it with tin foil or something. This took away from the lightness that I was expecting from an egg white-leavened cake, but otherwise I enjoyed it and would make it again.

The Improvement

I liked the cake on it’s own, but holy goodness it was so much better when I made this yoghurt custard to go with it. (Coincidentally the custard requires exactly the number of egg yolks you’ll be left with after making the cake. Win!).

I added limoncello to the custard to keep the lemon theme rollin’.

Topped with the custard and some fresh blueberries, this cake was wicked awesome.

Lemon Chiffon Cake


Lemon Chiffon Cake

From The Cake Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum

Chiffon cakes are airy and pillowy in texture with the richness of butter cake and lightness of sponge cake. They are baked in a tube pan and, once cooked, hung upside down over a bottle to cool. (I made mine in a bundt and it turned out but I think it would have been worth it to dig the tube pan out of my dad’s basement, to get more rise out of it.)

Dry Ingredients:
2 1/4 cups / 225g cake flour
1 1/2 cups + 2 tbsp. / 300g sugar
1/2 tsp. / 3.5g salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 – 2 tbsp. lemon zest

Wet Ingredients:
½ cup / 108g canola oil
3 large egg yolks
2/3 cup / 156g water at room temperature
2 tbsp. / 30g lemon juice
1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 1/4 tsp. / 4g cream of tartar
2 tbsp. / 30 g sugar
7 large egg whites at room temperature

Directions

Preheat the oven to 325*F.

Grab a 10-inch tube pan with a detachable bottom (I used a bundt pan and it worked out okay) but do not grease it as the batter needs to climb up the sides.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the 300g of sugar and the lemon zest. With your fingertips, work the zest and sugar together until the sugar is grainy and very aromatic. Add the cake flour, baking soda, and salt to the bowl.

If using a stand mixer, use the beater attachment and beat on low until the ingredients are well incorporated. You can also do this by hand with a whisk.

Make a well in the center of the ingredients and add the oil, egg yolks, water, lemon juice and vanilla. Mix for about one minute on medium speed until the batter is smooth and there are no lumps.

In a second large mixing bowl, beat the egg whites until they are foamy. Do it slowly though, it’s not a race. Add the cream of tartar and continue to beat on medium speed until they reach soft peak stage. You will know your egg whites have reached this stage when the beaters start to leave a trail or when the peaks fall over when the beaters are raised. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar, and continue to beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks when the beaters are raised.

Using a balloon whisk, add 1/3 of the egg whites to your cake batter and gently stir them until they are incorporated. Add the remaining egg whites to the batter and very gently fold them into the batter until they are incorporated and no traces of egg whites remain.

Pour the batter into the ungreased pan and run a small metal spatula or knife through the batter to prevent air pockets.

Bake for 50 to 55 minutes or until the cake bounces back when lightly pressed in the center.

Once cooked, take the cake out of the oven and immediately turn it upside down over a bottle* or similar to it until it is completely cool, 3 hours up to overnight.

DSCF2862
My bundt pan has handles so I jerry rigged it upside down atop 2 baking pans

Using an up and down motion, use a palette knife to loosen the sides of the cake away from the tin. Pull out the cake and use the palette knife around the bottom of the cake to release it from the base. Turn it over so that the base becomes the top and sprinkle with a dusting of icing sugar to serve.

Stays fresh for 3 days in room temperature, 10 days refrigerated, 2 months frozen.

* I suggest you test some bottles when the cake tin is empty to make sure you have one on hand that fits.


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17 Apr

Torta Margherita Recipe

While I’m talking about cakes, here’s one that was leaps and bounds more successful than the last.

This recipe comes from Pellegrino Artusi, the author of the veritable bible of recipes from all regions of Italy: La Scienza in Cucina e l’Arte di Mangiare Bene (The Science of Cooking and the Art of Eating Well) which he published in 1891.

Torta Margherita

As an uber-geek interested in both food and history, I get overly excited by historic recipes like that time I found out that the National Archives has a full copy of The New Galt Cookbook on their website(!)

I like to think about how much more work it would have been 100 years ago to prepare food compared to today. I think’s it’s amazing both how little and how much recipes have changed over the years. And I think eating food from historic recipes gives you a real connection to the past.

In my grade 12 Modern European History class, we had a project where we had to prepare a dish typical of revolutionary France. I still recall showing up to school smelling like fried bacon and onions from the roasted squash dish that I made that morning. Best. Project. Ever.

Torta Margherita

Italians love simplicity– seriously, just ask my Nonna. If she calls you “simple” it really is the utmost compliment.– even in their desserts. In this sense, Torta Margherita is classically Italian.

It’s an unintentionally gluten free and dairy free cake that has only 4 ingredients. It is made with potato starch (not potato flour) and leavened with egg whites. It’s cheap to make, it’s easy to make (although it would have arguably been a hell of a lot more labour intensive before the age of electric mixers and beaters), and it is a really great, light cake.

The taste and texture sort of reminds me of ladyfinger cookies which makes me think it would be awesome in a tiramisu. I ate mine with a very hefty drizzling of coconut curd (which is also coincidentally gluten free and dairy free).

Pellegrino Artusi’s Torta Margherita Recipe

This is a very simple cake that can be served in many ways. Simply with a dusting of icing sugar and dunked in a caffe, or served with a berry compote, or as part of a trifle or tiramisu, or you can drizzle it with an Asian coconut curd called Kaya if you want a really cool cross-cultural fusion like I did.

You can also play around with the flavours, swapping orange zest or vanilla or perhaps even a little rum for the lemon zest.

Ingredients

120 grams potato starch, sifted (not potato flour)
120 grams granulated sugar
4 eggs, separated
Zest of 1 lemon

Directions

Butter a round cake pan and line with parchment. I used a 6″ pan for a taller cake but you can also use an 8″ pan for a wider cake and bake it for less time.

Preheat the oven to 350*F

In a large bowl, beat the yolks together with the sugar until very pale and creamy. Add the lemon zest and the potato starch and beat until combined. Note: the potato starch will make the batter very tough and tacky, but don’t worry the egg white will lighten it up so it’s smooth and pourable.

In a separate clean bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form then fold the whites gently through the batter a little at a time. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake at moderate heat for an hour or until the cake is firm and passes the toothpick test.

Remove from the pan to a wire rack and let cool. Serve as desired with a dusting of confectioner’s sugar or with whatever accompaniment that you like (like coconut curd, for example).

Torta Margherita

15 Apr

Chiizukeiki – Japanese Cheesecake

It’s the 15th of the month, that means it’s time for this month’s Baking Partners Challenge.

Previous themes were Super Soft White Bread, Macarons, Pie, Christmas Cake, Kaiser Buns, Cupcakes, and Cookies.

The theme for this month is Cheesecake!

I personally love rich desserts, so I can never say no to cheesecake (not that I ever say no to any dessert). Plus, it’s super versatile and lends itself well to countless different flavours and varieties.

I’ve made a handful of cheesecakes before and they’ve all been delicious, rich, creamy cakes. So I was excited to try a cheesecake of a very different variety: chiizukeiki or Japanese cheesecake.

(Sidenote: How fun is it to say chiizukeiki? Honestly, I’m never going to call it cheesecake again.)

What’s the story?

Chiizukeiki is the Japanese version of cheesecake.

Unlike American cheesecakes which are thick, crusted custards, Japanese cheesecakes have no crust and are made in the style of a soufflé instead, that is, it has a base of eggs yolks and cream cheese and is leavened with whipped egg whites. But, don’t worry, there is sufficient enough flour, sugar, and cornstarch in a chiizukeiki recipe that it won’t deflate like a soufflé does.

As a result of this technique, the chiizukeiki is light and airy unlike any American cheesecake you’ve ever had.

chiizukeki - what it should look likeIt should look like this (source)

. . . that is, unless you fuck it up like I did and your chiizukeiki ends up with the consistency closer to fudge than soufflé. Wah waaaaaah. Sad smile

ChiizukeikiThis is what mine looked like . . . not quite right.

The Result

I’m not exactly sure where I went wrong with this. Admittedly, I did sub all purpose flour for cake flour (I never have cake flour on hand) and then I accidently forgot to bake the cake in a water bath, so it could have been one of those 2 changes. The chiizukeiki ended up rising quite nicely in the oven, but then when I took it out it fell flat and was super dense.

Chiizukeiki

Oh well.

I’m not sure whether I want to go through the effort to try making this again. I found the flavour a bit egg-y and not as sweet as I’d like, so I’d need to have a nice sweet sauce to pair it with.

Granted, lots of people in the baking partners group did execute this recipe effectively, so maybe it was just me. Maybe it’s totally worth making.

The Recipe

Chiizukeiki – Japanese Cheesecake

2 ounces (4 tablespoons) butter
8 ounces cream cheese
3 ounces (1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon) milk
2 ounces (generous 1/2 cup) cake flour
1 ounce (1/4 cup) cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
6 egg yolks, room temperature
6 egg whites, room temperature
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
5.25 ounces (3/4 cup) granulated sugar

Preheat your oven to 325F and line an 8″ springform pan with parchment paper and wrap the outside with aluminum foil (as the pan will be placed in a water bath before baking).

Combine the cream cheese, butter, and milk in a microwave-safe bowl microwave on high long enough to melt the cream cheese and butter, stopping and stirring occasionally, until you have a homogenous mixture. Set aside to cool.

Whisk the egg yolks and lemon juice together, then whisk that into the cheese mixture.

In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, cornstarch, and salt then whisk that into the cream cheese mixture.

In the bowl of a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whip the egg whites until they’re foamy. Add the cream of tartar and all of the sugar and whip the mixture to soft peaks. With the machine on low, add the cheese mixture and stir until combined.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pan, place the pan in a water bath, and bake for 45 minutes, until the cheesecake is browned, firm, and set.


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16 Dec

Plum Cake

It’s time for this month’s Baking Partners Challenge. The theme for this month was Christmas Cake.

Plum Cake Fruitcake

There were 3 cakes to choose from in the challenge. I passed on the Brazil Nut Cake and the Neapolitan Cake because they both were frosted and pretty-looking and as you know, I don’t bake pretty things.

So I went with the Plum Cake which, curiously, has no plums in it. The ingredients included lots of dried fruit and nuts so I was expecting (and excited for) a really dense fruitcake (I honestly love fruitcake).

This cake is actually a bit lighter than I expected it to be so if a super dense fruitcake isn’t your cup of tea, then this might be a better option. It has the texture of a dense muffin instead of a dense fruitcake.

Plum Cake Fruitcake

All the booze, dried fruit, and nuts in the cake make it a pretty expensive endeavour so it’s a ‘once-in-a-while’ treat instead of a regular one.

Matt was a fan of it, surprisingly; I didn’t think fruitcakes were really his thing.

Plum Cake Fruitcake

I took this cake to a house-warming party at the beginning of the month and got quite a few compliments on it. But, then again, almost everyone there was wasted and doesn’t everything taste good when you’re drunk?

So I liked this cake, but next time I might make a panettone or even Food for the Gods instead.

If we’re being frank, I still prefer a really dense, loaded fruitcake that’s been regifted 18 times. But, that’s just me.

BakingPartners

Plum Cake

Ingredients

1 c Raisins
1 c Chopped Dates
1/4 c Candied Orange/Lemon Peel
1/2 c Brandy or Rum
1 c Unsalted Cashew Pieces
6 T Sugar
3 T Water
Lemon Juice ( a few drops)
1/2 c Boiling Water
8 oz Unsalted Butter, room temperature
2 1/2 c Powdered Sugar
3 Eggs, separated
1 t Vanilla Extract
2 c All-Purpose Flour
1 t Baking Powder
1/2 t Ground Cinnamon
1/4 t Ground Ginger
1/4 t Ground Clove
1/4 t Ground Nutmeg

Directions

In a medium pan, add Brandy/Rum, Dates, Raisins and Orange Peel. Cook for 1 minute on
medium heat. Add Cashews and continue to cook for 1 minutes until heated through. Keep aside.

In a small pot, add 6 Tbsp Sugar and 3 Tbsp water and few drops of lemon juice. Swirl pan to
mix – do not use spoon. Heat until sugar changes color and becomes caramelized. (approx 7-8 minutes). Add 1/2 cup boiling water and swirl pan again to mix well. Keep aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine softened butter and powdered sugar and beat with hand
blender.

Add one egg yolk at a time to the mix and blend well. Add Vanilla Extract and blend.

Combine all dry spices, baking powder and flour and sift it into the bowl, adding little at a
time and blending.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly coat a 9×5” loaf pan with spray cooking oil or regular oil.

Add caramelized sugar syrup a little at a time into mixing bowl and blend. Add fruit/nut mixture into mixing bowl and mix with a spoon.

In a separate bowl, beat egg whites until they are fluffy and soft peaks form. Fold beaten egg whites into the cake batter.

Pour batter into greased baking pans and bake for approx 1 hour at 325 dgrees F. For
smaller pans, baking time may vary.

26 Oct

Juniper Chocolate Cake for Nonna’s Birthday

Today is my Nonna’s birthday. She’s a young 89.

Nonna's Birthday

Everyone comments on how cute she is. All. the. time. There’s something about her Italian accent combined with her emotional expressions of gratitude and her height of 4’10” that makes people find her adorable.

I hope people think I’m cute at 89.

Anyway, I made her a cake because 1) It’s her birthday (obviously), and 2) she likes sweets almost as much as I do.

The Cake

I used this recipe for Juniper Chocolate Cake which I thought sounded delicious (I love the pinecone-y taste of juniper berries). It burnt a little at the top, but I wasn’t worried because I was going to cut the top off to even it out and frost it. Matt sampled some of the trimmings last night after I baked the cake.

“Umm. . . it tastes really burnt.”

I taste it.

“It’s not that burnt, are you sure that’s not the juniper that you’re tasting?”

“Oh. So, it’s supposed to taste like that?” . . . followed by a disgusted face that Matt was trying very hard to disguise.

*Sigh*.

Disregarding Matt’s opinions, I thought the texture of the cake was great. It was nice and dense and substantial (which I really like in a cake). I didn’t mind the taste, and actually the more cake that I ate the more I liked it. But, yeah, the juniper flavour was a tad on the strong side and I could have lived without it.

The Frosting

I topped the cake with this recipe from Joe Pastry for Heritage Frosting, which is buttercream for poor people (or calorie conscious people, if that’s your bag). It uses a cooked flour&milk combo beaten into the standard butter&sugar combo of buttercream. It’s dead simple to make and while it doesn’t taste quite as rich as American buttercream, it is still very sweet—just the way frosting was meant to be.

Juniper Chocolate Cake

It’s nothing fancy, but you all know I can’t make anything look nice.

The Result

So I made a dense chocolate cake with sugary frosting that was surprisingly quick and easy to pull together. Were it not for the strong juniper taste this would have been the perfect cake.

Nonna liked it, but she likes just about anything that contains sugar and butter (and, God bless her, she’s 89 and not diabetic. I hope I have her genes.).

Back in the old country in the 1920s, if you were lucky, for your birthday they would make pinza: just flour mixed with figs and cooked under embers until you got a rock hard ‘cake’ that would, according to Nonna, “break your toes if you dropped it on your foot.”

I guess anything is better than the pinza.

15 Oct

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Spiced Buttercream

Pumpkin cupcakes with spiced buttercream (5)

It’s time for this month’s Baking Partners Challenge. The theme for October is Pumpkin Cupcakes & Muffins and there were a few recipes to choose from

pumpkin chocolate cupcakes with orange buttercream, or
pumpkin cupcakes with spiced buttercream and candied pecans, or
pumpkin chocolate chip muffins

I went with the pumpkin cupcakes with spiced buttercream because I wanted a cupcake instead of a muffin and I thought the chocolate in the first recipe would overpower the taste of the pumpkin. I wanted a spiced, pumpkin tasting cupcake to bring to my Thanksgiving dinners last weekend.

Pumpkin cupcakes with spiced buttercream (1)

Generally I prefer cake to cupcakes. I want layers of cake and frosting, to maximize my frosting consumption (yeah, I’m one of those people) that you just can’t get from a little cupcake. I never really understood the cupcake craze. So, I was tempted to make this into a cake instead, but I figured cupcakes would be a better choice since I could split the batch and bring half to each of 2 different Thanksgiving dinners.

Pumpkin cupcakes with spiced buttercream (6)

I really liked the resulting cupcakes, especially when topped with the spiced buttercream, because when they were naked I found that the cupcakes tasted more like muffins. They were dense and not quite as light as I expect from a cake. It was something you could easily cut in half and smear with butter or jam for breakfast.

Which begs the question . . . Does crowning a muffin with frosting turn it into a cupcake?

Pumpkin cupcakes with spiced buttercream (2)

Not in my opinion. There’s a clear and obvious difference between cake texture and muffin texture that any amount of frosting won’t change.

Don’t get me wrong, these ‘cupcakes’ are really good, but only if you’re looking for a cake with a substantial texture. If a light and delicate cake is your preference then maybe you should give this one a pass.

Pumpkin cupcakes with spiced buttercream (3)

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Spiced Buttercream and Candied Walnuts

The recipe comes from a blog for Earth Balance margarine but I subbed all the earth balance for butter instead. Also I doubled the buttercream recipe because I felt it didn’t make nearly enough.

Makes 24

Cake Ingredients

3 c all purpose flour
1 1/2 t cinnamon
1 t ground ginger
3/4 t ground cardamom
1/2  t ground nutmeg
2 t baking powder
1 1/2 t baking soda
2 1/2 c pumpkin purée
3/4 c butter
1/2 c light brown sugar
1 3/4 c cane sugar
1 c milk
1 t salt
2 t apple cider vinegar
2 t vanilla extract

Spiced Buttercream Ingredients

1 c butter
2 t vanilla extract
4 c powdered sugar, sifted
2 t cinnamon
1/2 t ground nutmeg
2 T maple syrup
4 T milk

Candied Walnut Ingredients (optional)

1/2 c walnut halves, toasted
2 T butter
3 T sugar
2 T maple syrup
1 t vanilla extract
pinch of salt

Directions

For Cupcakes:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F, and line 2 cupcake pans with cupcake papers and spray with pan spray.

In a medium bowl, sift together flour, spices, baking soda and powder. Stir to mix together and set aside.

Cream butter until smooth and creamy. Add in the sugars and vanilla extract and mix on a higher speed until fluffy. Add in the pumpkin puree, salt, vinegar, and half of the milk. Scrape the sides of the bowl with a spatula and in 1/2 cup increments add in the flour/spice mixture, also adding in the remaining milk in between additions.

Fill the cupcake liners about 2/3 full with batter and bake for about 20-25 minutes. Check them at about 18-20 minutes and give a light press with the tip of your finger, if it springs back they are done, if not- bake them for a few more minutes. They will be a beautiful golden color when finished.

For the frosting:

Cream the butter until smooth. Add in the vanilla extract, maple syrup, spices, and milk and mix until combined. On a low speed, slowly add in the powdered sugar and mix well after each addition. Keep mixing until all is well incorporated and the frosting is smooth and fluffy.

For the candied walnuts:

In a small saucepan, melt the butter on a low heat and add in the sugar and maple syrup. Bring the mixture to a boil, and boil for 2-3 minutes stirring constantly. Turn off the heat and stir in the toasted walnuts, vanilla extract, and salt. Make sure the nuts are well coated with the sugar mixture. Pour them out onto a sheet tray lined with parchment and allow to cool.

Decorating:

Once the cupcakes are cooled down, fill a pastry bag with the spiced buttercream and with a circular hand motion, pipe the frosting into a mound atop each cupcake. Garnish with candied nuts.

11 Apr

Sugar-Free Lent

My sugar-free Lent went fairly well. I cheated a few times with hard candies if my sugar craving was really bad and I started to get lax about the sugar-laden condiments, like ketchup or plum sauce, the closer it got to Easter but for the most part I did okay.

I broke my fast at my family’s dinner celebration on Good Friday. Actually, that’s a lie. I broke my fast on Holy Thursday when someone at work offered me a mini cinnabon and I thought, “eh, why not? I’ve never had one before” and gave it a try. Oh heavens! That frosting they use is delicious.


So I broke fast again on Friday with my sister’s homemade birthday cake (that I somehow neglected to take a picture of, I swear I took one!)

2 layers of delicious chocolate cake

filled with strawberry curd

and frosted with white buttercream

Mmmmmm…cake.


And I also had some of the Colomba di Pasqua that I made.

Colomba di Pasqua means Easter Dove. It’s an Italian yeasted bread with candied fruit and raisins that is shaped like a dove and served at Easter. My favourite part is the topping which is a sweet paste of ground almonds, egg whites, almond extract, and sugar that makes the colomba taste like it’s covered in amaretti cookies.

Colomba di Pasqua

I tried to make my colomba tropical by adding in shredded coconut and candied pineapple that I soaked in coconut rum straight from the Philippines. I thought it turned out quite good!

And I actually learned to properly shape the colomba so it actually looks like a dove.

Sort of. Kind of. You see it don’t you?


dairy freez

Saturday I broke my fast again with Matt when we drove all the way out to the Dairy Freez in Cottam for ice cream. I haven’t been to the Dairy Freez since I was a kid.

It may be blasphemous to say but I think I prefer the sundaes at Dari DeLite on Howard Ave.


On our way home from the Freez we stopped at Schinkel’s in Essex where I found the most delicious thing I’ve ever eaten (and yet another way to break my sugar fast):

Speculaaspasta

Speculaaspasta!

What is speculaaspasta you ask? It’s a creamy, smooth spread made from speculaas, you know, the Dutch gingerbread that I deemed to be my new favourite cookie this year. Yes, a spread made from cookies. It’s genius.

It’s a little on the pricey side at $6.50 for this wee jar, but it was definitely worth the money to taste it. I’m not entirely sure how to use it. Mostly I’ve just been eating it by the spoonful out of the jar. I tried some on my colomba and it was heavenly. I can imagine it being very good stirred into vanilla ice cream. My Dutch friend Heather said that her grandparents ate it on thick round crisps.

Speculaaspasta

Matt said he like it, but he is still firmly rooted in Camp Nutella, whereas I might be a Camp Speculaaspasta convert. I apologize to my Italian heritage.

24 Jan

Guinness Chocolate Cake with Bailey’s Buttercream

Happy Birthday to my awesome husband. To my best friend. To the person who makes me happy every day.

I asked Matt what kind of cake he wanted for his birthday and he replied with chocolate as if it were the most obvious answer in the world. I was kinda hoping to make a white cake, but I obliged.

I’ve had the recipe for Dark Chocolate Guinness Cake with Bailey’s Buttercream bookmarked ever since it was posted on Global Table Adventure and have been waiting for an occasion to make it. I figured since I would be serving cake to Matt and his brother (who’s birthday is tomorrow) on Sunday night during the football game, a cake with beer in it would be an appropriate choice.

I really liked this cake recipe and will keep it on hand to make it again. The cake comes out rich and dense (which I much prefer to a light and fluffy cake). The Guinness enhances the chocolate flavour (the same way that adding espresso to chocolate cake does) but doesn’t make the cake taste like beer at all.

I’ve never made buttercream before and this one turned out really well. Sometimes buttercream can be gritty but this one wasn’t. It was smooth and sweet and had a great Bailey’s flavour. I wish I would have left the cake out at room temperature before serving though because the buttercream really firmed up and I prefer it to be a little creamier.

Instead of baking two 8″ layers, I made one 9″ round cake and used a sharp bread knife to cut the cake in half so I could fill it with buttercream. As a result, and because I ate a bunch of buttercream while the cake was in the oven, I had to double frosting recipe.

This is a perfect celebration cake.

Dark Chocolate Guinness Cake with Bailey’s Buttercream

Makes one 8″ layered cake, or one thinner 9″ layered cake

Ingredients:

3/4 cup butter

3/4 cup unsweetened Dutch process cocoa

1 cup Guinness Extra Stout

1 Tablespoon vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 1/4 cups flour

1 tsp baking soda

2 eggs

For the buttercream (double recipe if making a 9″ cake):

3 sticks unsalted butter, softened

3 cups powdered sugar, sifted

4 Tbsp Bailey’s, as needed

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Melt the butter in the microwave then whisk in the Guinness, vanilla, and cocoa. Allow to cool.

Grease and line the bottom of one 9″ cake pan (for a 9″ cake) or two 8″ cake pans with parchment paper.

Stir together the dry cake ingredients. When combined, pour the Guinness mixture onto the dry ingredients, then whisk in the 2 eggs.

When the batter is shiny and smooth, pour evenly into two prepared cake pan(s).

Bake for 30-35 minutes for 8″ cakes or 45-50 minutes for 9″ cake, or until a skewer comes out clean.

While the cake bakes, prepare the buttercream. In a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whip the softened butter and sugar and add in just enough Bailey’s to get it loose and fluffy. Allow to whip for 5-10 minutes until light and fluffy.

Once the cake is done baking, cool completely.

For a 9″ cake, cut the cake in half lenghtwise with a sharp serrated knife. Top the bottom layer with frosting (~1/3 of the buttercream).

Top the frosted bottom with the second layer.

Line them up and then spread a crumb coat of frosting on the entire cake. This is optional but highly recommended, so you don’t get brown crumbs in your white frosting. Coat top and sides with another 1/3 of the frosting mixture. Spread it all over, nice and thin. Refrigerate to set it. At this point, you can refrigerate the cake overnight. Easy, peasy.

Once the crumb coat is firm to the touch, add the final 1/3 of the frosting to the cake — top first, then sides. Spread it around evenly.

Celebrate!

30 Oct

Caramel Apple & Pumpkin Cake

Caramel Apple Pumpkin Cake

It’s been a few weeks since the unfortunate apple picking of thanksgiving weekend. I have since picked through and eaten all the crisp and tart mutsus and am left with several pounds of mediocre empires and golden not-so-delicious.

I’ve been scrambling to think of some things to make with my apples.

I’ve made some apple sauce that was so good because it was far too sweet to be apple sauce and was venturing close to pie-filling territory.

I’ve made some apple and sweet potato fritters with poached eggs. A favourite dinner of mine, but I imagine it would be just as delicious for breakfast.

I also made some pumpkin dip for sliced apples that I put out for a Hallowe’en party that Matt and I hosted.

But for the most part I have been lazy and have decided to just eat them raw with some peanut butter (more as an excuse to eat peanut butter in a more refined way than off a spoon from the jar, to be honest).

I think this caramel apple & pumpkin cake is the best thing that I’ve made with my apples so far. This past week, as I mentioned, was my Nonna’s 88th birthday. I had printed out a few recipes for cakes that I thought she might like. I narrowed it down to a sachertorte, a chocolate bread cake with nuts and booze, and an apple upside down cake.

I asked Matt’s opinion but it was one of those cases where I was really asking for no reason—I was planning on making the apple cake regardless. Luckily he told me to go with the apple upside down cake because Nonna loves apples and everyone was happy. This recipe seemed the easiest to make of the three and plus, I could get rid of some of those apples.

    This cake is very moist with a rich, spiced flavour. It makes a good coffee cake (or birthday cake, as the case may be)

      Topping

      2 apples
      4 tablespoons butter
      3/4 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
      1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
      1/2 cup light corn syrup

        Cake

        • 3/4 cup canned pumpkin puree
          1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
          2 large eggs
          1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
          1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
          1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
          1/2 teaspoon salt
          1 teaspoon baking soda
          1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
          1 apple, finely chopped

          Directions

          Preheat the oven to 350°F. Prepare a 9" round cake pan by greasing it, lining it with parchment paper, and then greasing the parchment.

          Cut the top off of one apple and set it in the middle of the pan, skin up. Cut the remaining apple into wedges and place them in the bottom of the pan in a ring around the apple top. I used one and a half apples for the top and cut up the remaining half to use in the cake.

          Topping:

          In a saucepan over low heat, cook the topping ingredients until the sugar is dissolved. Pour 1/2 cup of the topping over the apples into the pan, and set the rest aside.

          Cake:

          Combine pumpkin, sugar, eggs, spices, and salt together in a mixer at medium speed for about 2 minutes. Stir in the flour and baking soda. Add the chopped apple and stir until just combined. Drop scoops of the batter over the apples in the cake pan, and spread evenly.

          Bake the cake for 35 to 50 minutes (my oven gets very hot so the cake only took 35 minutes, but the original recipe called for 50)

          Let the cake cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then invert it onto a serving plate, bottom side up. Reheat the remaining caramel topping and pour it over the cake.

          25 Oct

          A Crumble and Cake

          Tonight I felt that I had a lot of energy on my run. Even though the weather was quite nice, I worked out on the treadmill today so that I could do some uphill work (hills are hard to come by in Essex County).

          I ran at about 6.5mph to warm up. Then I ran 5 consecutive minutes on a 5% incline. I decreased the speed a bit every minute, but I was really happy that I was able to keep up the incline run for that long.

          My pace was between 8:30 and 8:00 minute miles for the rest of the run which was really strong.

          I’ve been pretty happy with my speeds on my short and medium distance runs lately. I really think all the interval training that I’m getting from kickboxing is helping a lot.

          Oh, and I may or may not have deadlifted 185lbs today(!!!) No big deal, only the best ever. I was able to squeak out 2 reps, and it felt good.


          Last night I made this dish:

          Root Vegetable Crumble

          root vegetable crumble

          It’s exactly what it sounds like—a savoury crumble instead of the more common sweet version. I liked it a lot, but think that the recipe needs some tweaking.

          Here’s a rundown of what I did, in case you want to run with the idea in your own kitchen:

          – I cooked finely chopped onion, garlic, sweet potato, celery root, and bok choy, with a little oil and some rosemary
          – I toasted slivered almonds and flax, sesame, and sunflower seeds.
          – I mixed the nuts/seeds with whole wheat flour and cold butter to make a crumb. Spread it over the veggies, and baked it in a hot oven.

          What I would change:
          I think that it came out a little dry and next time I need to add either a vegetable with more water content or add some broth to the root veggies.
          Also, I think I skimped a bit on the butter in the crumble. It was a bit too crumbly.

          But, anyway it was a good dinner idea and side for Perfect Baked Tofu.

          Another thing I made last night was this thing of beauty:

          Caramel Apple Upside Down Cake

          caramel apple upside down cake

          It was for this little lady’s 88th birthday which was today.

          Me and Nonna
          Me and my Nonna

          I’ll share the recipe within the next couple of weeks. I have a few other delicious recipes that I’ve made lately! There’s so much to share.