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Retro Carrot Cake

24 Mar

Retro carrot cake partially devoured

Organic old fashion carrot cake

This Retro Carrot Cake is packed with spiced goodness and topped with a creamy cloud of *Cream Cheese Swiss Meringue Buttercream.*
(say THAT 3 times fast!).

Out walking the dog, I landed a major garage sale find last weekend. I’m not usually one for garage sales but this one was special. It was the rare garage sale where older neighbors are moving and everything had to go. Amid the linens, cheese knives, smoker and copper pans I found a Cuisinart. Not just any Cuisinart, a vintage Cuisinart! [...]

Martha Stewart’s Flourless Chocolate Cake

18 Feb

Flourless Chocolate Cake

Martha Stewart's Flourless Chocolate Cake

Looking for a simple crowd-pleasing cake? Have a gluten-free friend you’re entertaining? Try this rich Flourless Chocolate Cake from Martha Stewart!

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of hanging out with my new friend, Kristina. Being Sunday, we planned on maximizing relaxation. The game plan:

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The BEST Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes

12 Jan

Best Vegan Chocolate Cupcake PassionfruitThese are moist, tender little cupcake morsels packed with chocolate flavor. Oh yes, and these happen to be vegan chocolate cupcakes! Pair them with your favorite vegan (or non-vegan) icing for a decidedly decadent treat.

I made these little cupcakes with a fair amount of trepidation. Cake without eggs? How unnatural! Would they be terribly dry? Would the cupcakes fail to rise and instead resemble brown hockey pucks? I took the plunge with my vegan neighbor coming to dinner. I was prepared to grab my car keys and run to Whole Foods for a vegan dessert if they were a flop.

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Martha Stewart’s Fish Cake

11 Jan

Martha Fish Cake

When I saw Martha Stewart’s Fish Cake on Pinterest, I just had to do it for myself. This is a fun, whimsical cake any beginner baker can pull off…swimmingly.

To start the new year off right, I decided to try my hand at this adorable little fish cake. I don’t typically make resolutions but if I did, my resolution would be to spend more time doing the things I enjoy most – like baking ridiculously shaped animal cakes.

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Chocolate Tiramisu

23 Dec

Tiramisu Slice

So what do you do with a few dozen fresh-baked ladyfinger cookies burning a hole in your pantry? You make creamy Chocolate Tiramisu, that’s what.

Tiramisu. Chocolate. Tiramisu + Chocolate.

YES.

[...]

Lychee Ombre Rose Cake

12 Dec

Lychee Ombre Rose Cake Close Up FINAL

I just finished a fun project: the Lychee Ombre Rose Cake.

A friend and former work colleague celebrated her little one’s baptism this weekend. I was honored when she asked me to make a rose cake for the event, after seeing my first attempt back in October.

Ombre Rose Cake Top

With all the fuss putting this cake together, I didn’t get as many photos as I would have preferred. But I wanted to share the experience with you, and what I learned.

This is a crowd-sourced cake. This cake could not have been accomplished without the help of fellow food lovers. I took inspiration from many sources as I designed this cake over the past month.

I experimented with numerous cake recipes, and at least six (6) types of buttercream. [There will be a separate post on buttercream, I promise you.] Although I did modify many of them, the recipes below stood out. They are solid recipes you can trust to perform.

White Cake : Thanks to SprinkleBakes for a moist White Cake Recipe!
Swiss Meringue Buttercream: Great SMB recipe from Smitten Kitchen
Lychee Filling: Adapted this Lychee Mousse filling from Raspberri Cupcakes
Color Styling: Inspired by 52 Kitchen Adventures‘ similar ombre version

All told, I probably spent five hours on this final cake. You can’t rush genius.

Baking the cakes, whisking fluffy Swiss Buttercream in my little mixer, whipping up lychee mousse and tinkering until I found the perfect color of pink. It takes time, people!

Frosting ColorsRose pink, petal pink, burgundy, red…so many options for pink.

Once I had all the requisite cake components, I was ready to build my Lychee Ombre Rose Cake! You can see there are quite a few tools you’ll want close at hand.

Rose Cake ToolsLet me know if you are curious about any of these tools. A cake turntable is really nice to have. The wax paper is simply to protect the cardboard round from being stained by the buttercream.

Filling the Ombre Rose CakeTorting and filling the cake. Make sure you pipe a dam of frosting to hold in the mousse filling – or you may experience ooze.

Ombre Rose Cake Crumb Coat

I applied an ombre pink crumb coat (dark to light). I didn’t worry about the crumbs visible in this icing since I was just going to cover it all over with roses.Ombre Rose Cake Crumb Coat Finished

I really like the effect. Perhaps I’ll do a simple cake this way in the future. [Note: this is prior to smoothing the frosting...which is why it looks a tad lopsided.]

Iced Cake Before Gold TintThe photo above is before I applied the gold tint. I used the Wilton Gold spray tint to airbrush the cake.

Pink and Gold Ombre Rose Cake with TintThe gold airbrush gives the cake an iridescent glow.

Lychee Ombre Rose Cake

My “Learnings” [Don't make my mistakes!]

  • Don’t Bother with American Buttercream. Just don’t. NO Crisco either. Use Swiss Meringue Buttercream. It’s so much better.
  • Make a LOT of frosting. For this cake, you will need a lot of frosting, particularly for icing the top layer of roses. I almost ran out of the lightest pink icing. Reserve some uncolored icing for emergencies.
  • Keep your icing cool. The rose consistency changes as you ice and warm the icing in the bag. So take breaks and briefly chill the icing to avoid this.
  • Deliver your own cakes. I heard the cake encountered some smudging during transportation. Next time I’ll deliver or find a surefire way to keep the cake from moving. [One good suggestion is museum putty.]

Each time I make this style of cake, I get a little better at it. Still plenty of things to learn and improve upon. 10,000 hour rule, right?

Overall, I really appreciate my friend taking a chance on me as a newbie baker. And I hope you take a chance on yourself and make this cake, too!

– Beth

French Silk Pie

29 Nov

I did an absolute ton of baking for Thanksgiving! I even made this French Silk Pie twice. A family recipe, this pie is silky smooth with robust chocolate flavor.

For me, Thanksgiving is typically a week-long affair. And this Thanksgiving did not disappoint. There were multiple family events throughout the week — a surprise birthday party, mini crab-feed, T-Day (with no T, actually) and a post-Thanksgiving-dinner dinner. So it was easy to whip up a few of my favorite desserts!

It’s difficult to photograph food when you have guests salivating behind you. They just don’t appreciate that you need a few minutes alone with the holiday pie! While I appreciate artistry in my food, I don’t think anyone wants to eat a piece of art. Too destructive, too many guilty feelings.

That’s why I love ugly food.

It’s the food we were all raised on. I think of how my Grandma and I enjoyed gooey hot fudge sundaes together.

Ugly food is over-the-top and messy. It tastes like childhood. And that’s what this French Silk Pie tastes like to me.

Random Fact: Incidentally, my first word was “Cookie.” [Thanks, Grandma!]

Making this pie is really easy. This is adapted from my mother-in-law’s amazing recipe. You may know this pie as Chocolate Satin instead of French Silk.

Please be aware, this French Silk Pie does contain raw eggs, which are unsafe for some groups of people. Try a different pie if you are pregnant, have a compromised immune system or feeding young children. Or, if you can find pasteurized whole eggs, that would work!

French Silk Pie
Prep Time: 30 minutes (needs to chill for at least 4 hours)
Makes 1 Pie

1 Pre-made Chocolate Pie Crust (or make your own HERE)
1 cup / 2 sticks Butter (room temperature)
1.5 cups White Sugar
4 oz Bittersweet Chocolate (I used Guittard) OR 2 oz Unsweetened Bakers Chocolate
4 Eggs (fresh and uncracked)
2 tsp Vanilla Extract
1/8 tsp Kosher Salt
Whipped Cream for Topping
Oreos or Shaved Chocolate for Topping (optional, have fun with it!)

Begin by preparing your chocolate pie crust. Once prepared, chill the crust in the fridge or freezer.

Next, chop up your chocolate and microwave in 15 second intervals until fully melted, stirring after each interval. Set aside and let cool.

Add your softened butter to the bowl of your stand mixer or large mixing bowl. Cream the butter on medium until lightened, about 1-2 minutes. Slowly add your sugar while beating on medium speed. Beat butter and sugar mixture until fluffy, about 2 minutes.

Add vanilla extract, salt and cooled chocolate mixture to mixing bowl. Beat the mixture until combined. Make sure to scrape the bowl thoroughly. (Any uncombined ingredients will leave streaks in your finished pie.) Your mixture will look something like this:

Now, the fun part (and the reason a stand mixer makes your life easier). You are going to add your first two (2) eggs, and beat the mixture on medium-high speed for five (5) minutes. Scrape periodically. After 5 minutes, your mixture will look something like this:

Go ahead and add the final two (2) eggs, and beat the mixture on medium-high speed for five (5) more minutes. Continue to scrape the bowl periodically to ensure everything is evenly mixed. You’ll end up with a smooth, mousse-like mixture.

After you’ve finished mixing, pour the mixture into your chilled pie crust. Smooth out the filling with a spatula. Refrigerate for at least four (4) hours. Lick the mixing bowl and spatula thoroughly.

Once the pie is thoroughly chilled, cover with whipped cream and any topping of your choice. Served well chilled.

Where’s the other slice, you ask? The husband got to it!

I know you’ll love this pie, especially if you enjoyed my Grasshopper Pie post. This pie is a down-to-earth dessert, just waiting to become your holiday tradition. I hope you enjoy it!

Do you have an ugly food recipe that you love, too? Tell me about it in the comments!

– Beth

Minty Grasshopper Pie

18 Nov


A homemade spin on this classic freezer pie.  Decadent Dragon’s Grasshopper Pie uses homemade marshmallow cream, creme de menthe and creme de cacao liqueur. Smooth, rich and minty.

Growing up, my sister’s favorite birthday cake was a Grasshopper Pie from Baskin Robbins. This Grasshopper Pie is a little different – it uses freshly whipped marshmallow cream instead of ice cream. But I think you’ll find its silken texture and flavor make for a great grown-up version.

When you find yourself with a bunch of extra egg whites, like I did after making my Holiday Egg Nog Grog, this is a perfect pie to use them up.

On the whole, this pie is straightforward to make but there are some bad recipes floating on the internet, so beware! As I found with my first attempts, freezer pies are extremely sensitive to water content. Ice crystals ruin the texture of this pie. Think ice cream instead of “icee.”

Alright, this recipe involves two parts: first, we need to make our homemade Marshmallow Cream. Then, we need to combine it with our minty pie ingredients.

Part 1: Whip up your Marshmallow Cream. This will be the base to your lovely Grasshopper Pie.

Marshmallow Cream
Recipe from Bon Appetit
Makes 4 cups

3/4 cup + 1/4 cup Sugar (divided)
1/4 cup Water
4 Egg Whites
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
Pinch of Salt

Combine 3/4 cup of the sugar and 1/4 cup water in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Attach a candy thermometer to the side of the pan and simmer the syrup without stirring until it reaches 240F. You can occasionally swirl the pan gently but no stirring with a spoon, please! Stirring with a utensil can cause crystallization.

While the sugar syrup is cooking (be sure to monitor it closely), you can prepare the eggs.  Carefully separate the eggs, making sure no yolk gets into your egg whites. Reserve the egg yolks for another use [like my Holiday Egg Nog Grog]. Add the egg whites, vanilla and salt into the bowl of your stand mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment. Whip on high until the eggs are frothy. Slowly begin adding the 1/4 cup sugar. Whip until medium peaks form. Reduce speed to medium, then carefully pour hot syrup into egg mixture in a slow, steady stream while whipping. Increase mixer speed to high and whip to stiff peaks. Reduce speed to medium and whip until marshmallow cream is cool. Use immediately.

Random Fact: My husband detests peppermint. So much that he uses kid’s strawberry toothpaste. 

Alrighty, on to pie-making!

Part 2: Let’s freeze us some Grasshopper Pie. The key to a silky pie is fully mixed and COLD ingredients.

Grasshopper Pie
Makes 1 Pie

1 Pre-made Chocolate Pie Crust (or make your own HERE)
4 cups Marshmallow Cream
1 cup + 3 tbsp Heavy Whipping Cream (divided)
1-2 tbsp Creme de Menthe
1-2 tbsp Creme de Cacao
2-4 drops Green Food Dye (Optional)
Sweetened Whipped Cream for topping (Optional)
Crushed Andes Mints or Oreos for topping (Optional)

Start by pre-chilling your Chocolate Pie Crust. Next, take your Marshmallow Cream and combine with 3 tbsp of heavy cream. Stir to combine until mixture is smooth (if you need to, you can microwave or heat the mixture gently to help with melting the marshmallow). Stir in 2 drops of the food dye until uniform. Chill the mixture in the fridge or freezer while you beat the cream.

Take the remaining 1 cup of heavy cream and 2 more drops of food dye and whip until medium peaks form. You want structure but don’t over-beat and make butter!

Gently fold in the whipped cream to the marshmallow mixture. Add liqueurs to taste [don't add too much as you don't want your pie to be icy]. Gently scrape the mixture into your chilled pie crust. Pop immediately into the freezer for 4-6 hours.

While impatiently waiting for your pie to freeze, make yourself a Grasshopper martini like I did. Truly decadent!

Just prior to serving, you can whip some cream to frost the pie. I used a Fat Daddio Pastry Bag and Wilton 4B Open-star tip to pipe my whipping cream.

If you have Andes mints or oreos, you can top the pie with them for artistic effect.

And now…the big reveal.

Ta-daaah!

[Wait, did I already show you that photo? Oh well, here it is again.]Remember, the liqueur in this pie means the melting point is higher and it never fully freezes [you can see how fast it melts in the shot below]. So, keep it cold and eat it quickly!

The Takeaway: You don’t have to use my recipe but be on the lookout for freezer pies with lower fat ingredients or too much liquid (water, liqueur, milk, etc.). My first attempt at this pie included regular milk and a lot more creme de menthe/cacao. All that liquid added up to a slushy pie. By limiting the liquid and upping the fat content you’ll get a much smoother result. Good luck!

Beth

Meadowfoam Baklava

9 Nov

Like the many varieties of good wine, honey comes in a spectrum of flavors and colors. This nutty baklava is made with California Meadowfoam honey, which has caramel-marshmallow tasting notes. Baklava can be made with any variety of honey you have on hand but I highly recommend using a locally-produced varietal you enjoy.

Over the past few years, I’ve sampled my way through the local honey available at our farmer’s markets. Varietal honey is created when honey bees forage primarily from one type of plant, bringing its nectar back to the hive. Thus varietal honey comes in many forms: clover, sage, star thistle, buckwheat, tupelo…the list goes on.

Far and away my favorite honey, Meadowfoam is made from the pretty, white meadowfoam flower.  But the honey is a deep, amber color. I thought the color and rich vanilla-marshmallow flavor would complement Alton Brown’s Baklava recipe. As hoped, my baklava [the second batch, that is] turned out beautifully nutty, crunchy and with the caramel honey sweetness of this lovely varietal.

These cut baklava even resemble honeycomb.

Alton’s recipe is quite good, if a little over-complicated and, ehm…pretentious.  [No, I don't have a spritz bottle just for rose water!]  Also, his written instructions would have turned the syrup into a hard candy.  So, I made a few changes.

Most importantly, cut the baklava before baking.  It will make your life SO much easier. I also recommend cutting back on the sugar in the syrup slightly to let the honey shine. If you don’t have three kinds of nuts, feel free to substitute. Personally, I do think the rose water is important but if you are in a jam it won’t ruin the dish to leave it out. Here’s his recipe with my modifications.

Meadowfoam Honey Baklava:
Adapted from Alton Brown’s Baklava recipe.
Makes one (1) 9X13 pan OR two 8X8 pans or baklava.

For the filling:
1 (5-inch piece) cinnamon stick, broken into pieces (or 2 teaspoons ground)
15 to 20 whole allspice berries (2 teaspoons ground)
6 ounces blanched almonds
6 ounces raw or roasted walnuts
6 ounces raw or roasted pistachio
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon rose water
1 pound phyllo dough, thawed
8 ounces unsalted butter, melted

For the syrup:
1 1/4 cups Meadowfoam Honey (or your favorite varietal)
1 1/4 cups water
3/4 cups sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1 (2-inch) piece fresh orange peel

Begin by pre-heating the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease your pan(s) with butter.

Place the cinnamon stick and whole allspice into a spice grinder and grind.

Place the almonds, walnuts, pistachios, sugar and freshly ground spices into the bowl of a food processor and pulse until finely chopped, but not pasty or powdery, approximately 15 quick pulses. Set aside.

Combine the water and rose water in a spray bottle (or a small bowl if you don’t have a spray bottle) and set aside.

Trim the sheets of phyllo to fit your pans.  Take the phyllo out of its wrapper and quickly cover with a damp (but not too wet) paper towel.  This will keep your dough hydated and easy to work with as you build your layers.  Otherwise, it’s a race against the clock, so please use the paper towel!

If you are doing the two 8X8 pans, separate your nut mixture into two bowls equally.  Set one aside for your second pan of baklava.

Place a sheet of phyllo in your pan.  Brush with butter to coat.  Lay another sheet on top and brush with butter.  Repeat until you have ten (10) sheets of buttered phyllo layered in your pan.  (Don’t skimp!  I’m serious, you want every delicious layer.)  Top with 1/3 of the nut mixture (really 1/6 if you are doing two smaller pans instead of the large sheet).  Spray or, using fingers, flick with the rose water mixture.  Repeat phyllo layering with another six (6) sheets of phyllo dough, brushed with butter.  Add the next 1/3 of the nuts and spritz with rose water.  Repeat with another six (6) sheets of phyllo, butter and last 1/3 of the nuts and rose water.  Top with eight (8) sheets of buttered phyllo.  Butter top generously.

If doing a second pan, repeat the steps above.  Cut the baklava into serving-sized pieces using a sharp knife BEFORE placing into the oven .

Put pan(s) in the oven and bake for 45-60 minutes.  Remove when the phyllo is a medium brown color and crispy.  The nuts should be toasted throughout.  Let cool for 2 hours.

Make the syrup during the last 30 minutes of cooling. Combine honey, water, sugar, cinnamon stick and orange peel in a 4-quart saucepan and set over high heat. Stir occasionally until the sugar has dissolved. Once boiling, boil for 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and discard orange peel and cinnamon stick.

After the baklava has cooled for 2 hours, re-cut the entire pan following the same lines as before. Pour the hot syrup evenly over the top of the baklava, allowing it to run into the cuts and around the edges of the pan. Allow the pan to sit, uncovered until completely cool. Cover and store at room temperature for at least 8 hours and up to overnight before serving. Store, covered, at room temperature for up to 5 days.

What’s your favorite type of honey?

– Beth

Pineapple Upside Down Cake

2 Nov

When your husband works as an agricultural Biologist, you get used to “produce surprises” appearing in your kitchen on a semi-regular basis. Sometimes it’s a pound of local, fresh honey, others a little bean sprout begging to be planted.  This week, it was a box of three, extremely ripe pineapples. And one of them became this scrumptious rum-laced cake.

Whenever these culinary surprises show up, I imagine myself a star on Iron Chef, tasked with creating a meal from our new found bounty. Silly? Probably.

With the pineapple, I was looking to highlight the sweet and tart flavors of fresh pineapple – almost like a tribute to the end of summer now we’re firmly in fall. And so the inspiration for this Pineapple Upside Down Cake was born.

This pineapple was a truly beautiful thing.  Incredibly sweet and ripe, with low acidity (well, for a pineapple anyway).

I found a lovely recipe on Smitten Kitchen’s blog. Like her, I chose to omit the ground cardamom from the cake — though I did go back and garnish with cardamom afterward.  Cardamom does a good job of balancing the rather intense sweetness of this cake.

I also added more RUM than she called for in her recipe. Excellent Appleton Estates rum. I swear, this blog should be call the Drunken Dragon sometimes. I put rum in the caramel topping, rum in the batter and garnished with rum once the cake was baked!

Overall, this produced an excellent cake.  I highly recommend it. My one suggestion would be to lessen some of the sugar in the recipe: perhaps a 1/4 cup less in the batter (beware as I haven’t tested this). Particularly if you are using a sweet pineapple, the sugar can likely be cut back a bit.

This cake emerges from your cast iron skillet with the most beautiful caramel and pineapple topping. And on a side note: does anyone else think the picture above looks like a spiral galaxy? Haha, I do!

Have a good one!

Beth