Monday, August 3, 2009

Blueberry Cobbler

Blueberries are one of my favorite berries. I've been known to pick up a pint at the farmer's market that stops by work and just snack throughout the afternoon. The husband doesn't like it so much because he knows by just looking at me (I don't know how he does it!) and is upset when nothing comes home for him. However, I managed to snack on something else a few weeks ago and brought home a nice quart of blueberries to help celebrate the hub's birthday.

Yes, the hub's birthday is at the end of June and I'm just getting around to posting this. It's not for lack of tastiness as I thought this was awesome. S thought the blueberries were a bit to sweet so I might be more aware of the original sweetness of the berries before adding all the sugar, but the cardamom in the biscuit batter made for a nice spice to offset the sweetness. This was my first time using caradmom and I really enjoyed it. It's unlike anything I've used before and despite a little spill across the kitchen floor, it won't be the last. I actually used cardamom seeds and ground them myself in our new grinder. It worked out very well and the aroma filled the kitchen for the evening.

Blueberry Cobbler (Adapted from Gourmet Magazine via
Makes 4-5 servings

2 cups blueberries, rinsed and dried
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp grated lemon zest
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp cornstarch
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp ground cardamom
pinch of salt
1/2 cup heavy cream

~Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
~Butter an 8-inch glass pie plate.
~In a large bowl, toss blueberries, sugar, zest, lemon juice and cornstarch until well mixed. Transfer blueberry mixture to the pie plate.
~Bake blueberry mixture for 5-7 minutes, using a cookie sheet under the pie plate to catch any blueberry mixture that bubbles over.
~Meanwhile, whisk together the flour, baking powder, cardamom, and salt until mixed.
~Add cream, and stir until a dough forms.
~Drop dough into 5 mounds on top of blueberries.
~Return to oven and bake for another 20-25 minutes until the biscuits are cooked through and golden.


Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Where, Oh Where have I been?

I apologize for being missing for so long. I'm not really sure where I've been. To be honest, I've been in a slump. I haven't produced anything wonderful lately, and I hesitate sharing anything less than what I find spectacular, because you deserve that. But it's not just a baking and photography slump, but a life slump. However, I seem to be on the mend mentally and will have some posts coming soon.

In the meantime, I want to say that I belong to a wonderful community of foodies on the What's Cooking board on the Nest. I haven't been there very long, but these group of people are so kind and caring. I love how we have come together to help a friend, most of us have never met.

Joe and Brook

A fellow Nestie and her husband have had a rough road these past few months, including fertility issues, multiple health scares, and three beautiful but very premature children. And although I have never met them, Brooke and Joe are amazing people with strength and faith I'm not sure I would have if I were in their shoes. You can read their amazing story on their blog at




These precious babies were born at 25 weeks and 5 days. The have shown tremendous determination in their first month of life, but they will be in the NICU for at least 2 more months. Due to Brooke's health scares, she had to stop working far sooner than expected and in addition to three children, I'm sure the medical costs are adding up fast. The wonderful community on the Nest have pulled together to help this wonderful family out.

I know that times are tough, but I wanted to show my support for these great people. I've added a link to a Chip In Page and if you're able to donate some spare change, I'm sure the family would be more than appreciative.

Have a wonderful evening and please give those you love an extra hug tonight.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Yogurt Mousse Cake

I have been eyeing The Cake Book cookbook for some time now. Lucky for me, I was eyeing it on my friends bookshelf. My friend is a professional chef, so the wealth of knowledge is unbelievable. It's probably one of my favorite past times to just cuddle up with a blanket and read cookbooks, imaging having the time to make all of the recipes in the books and those that I think of when the creative juices get flowing. One day I was hijacking my friends couch and cookbooks and found this cake. My friend was practically salivating when I was showing her this cake, as she is a dairy freak. Literally, I've seen her suck a milk carton basically inside out for the last drop of milk. Classy I tell you!

It just so happened to be close to her birthday, so I decided that a wonderful way to celebrate would be to stuff ourselves full of this cake. This cake was delicious. The cake was light and airy and the yogurt provided the perfect amount of tartness to complement the sweetness of the cake. The recipe originally calls for Earl Grey tea to be used to flavor the syrup to brush the cake layers, but I used Irish Breakfast and it was absolutely delicious. The light fresh flavors make this cake perfect for the spring. I will definitely be making this again.

Yogurt Mousse Cake (Adapted from The Cake Book by Tish Boyle)
Makes 8-10 servings


Classic Genoise
1 cup (3.5 oz) sifted cake flour
1/2 tsp salt
6 large eggs
3/4 cup (5.3 oz) sugar
1/2 tsp finely grated lemon zest
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
6 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled in a 1 cup capacity bowl

1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup water
1 Irish Breakfast tea bag
1 tsp lemon juice

Yogurt Mousse
2 cups plain organic whole milk yogurt
1 tsp grated lemon zest
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups plus 1/3 cup heavy cream, divided
2 tsp unflavored powdered gelatin
3/4 cup confectioners' sugar

Honeyed Raspberries
2 Tbsp honey
6 oz fresh raspberries


Make the Classic Genoise
~ Position the rack to the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Grease the bottom and sides of one 9x3-inch springform pan or two 9x2 round cake pans. Dust the pan(s) with flour and set aside.
~ Sift together the flour and salt in a medium bowl and stir to combine.
~ In the bowl of an electric mixer, whisk together the eggs and sugar by hand. Set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, making sure that the water does not touch the bottom of the mixing bowl. Constantly stir the mixture and heat until the eggs are warm. Transfer to the bowl to the electric mixer and, using the whisk attachment, beat on high speed until the mixture has tripled in volume, about 8 minutes. Reduce the speed to low and add the lemon zest and vanilla extract.
~Sift 1/3 of the flour mixture over the egg mixture and gently fold it in with a rubber spatula. Repeat sifting and folding in flour two more times.
~ Transfer about 3/4 cup of the batter into the melted butter. Stir until blended. Return to batter and fold in. Transfer batter to the prepared pan(s).
~If using 9-inch springform pan, bake for 25 to 30 minutes and if using two 9-inch cake pans, bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until the tops spring back when lightly touched and cake tester inserted into center comes out clean.
~Cool the cake(s) in the pan(s) on a wire rack for 15 minutes.
~Invert cake(s) onto the wire rack and cool completely.

STORAGE: Store at room temperature, wrapped in plastic wrap, for up to 3 days, or refrigerate for up to a week.

Make the Syrup
~Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan and heat over medium-high heat. Stir constantly until the sugar is completely dissolved and the mixture comes to a boil. Remove the saucepan from heat and add tea bag. Allow syrup to steep for 15 minutes.
~Remove the tea bag, making sure to extract any remaining liquid from the bag. Stir in the lemon juice. Allow mixture to cool.

Make the Yogurt Mousse
~Line a strainer with 2 layers of cheesecloth and place over a bowl. Add yogurt and let drain at room temperature for about an hour.
~Move drained yogurt (just over 1 cup) into a medium bowl and whisk until smooth. Add lemon zest and vanilla extract and whisk to combine.
~In a small heatproof cup, put 1/3 cup heavy cream. Sprinkle gelatin over the cream to bloom (soften). Add 1 cup water to a small saucepan over medium heat and bring to water to a simmer.
~Meanwhile, in a large bowl beat the remaining 1 1/2 cup heavy cream until soft mounds begin to form. Slowly add confectioners' sugar and beat until stiff peaks form. Be careful to not over beat.
~Place the cup with the cream and gelatin into the saucepan of simmering water. Stir until the gelatin is completely dissolved. Pour the gelatin into the yogurt and whisk until blended. Gently fold the yogurt mixture into the whipped cream.

Assemble the Cake
~Using a serrated knife, cut each layer of the Classic Genoise into 2 horizontal layers. (If making Genoise in a 9x3-inch springform pan, cut into 4 layers. You will only need 3 layers, so the remaining fourth layer can be yours to snack on!) Place a small amount of yogurt mousse on a cake board or cake plate to help prevent slippage. Place one layer, cut side up and brush the layer generously with the syrup, using about 1/3 of the syrup. Place about 1 1/2 cups of the yogurt mousse on the cake layer. Using an offset spatula, spread mousse to the edge of the cake layer. Top with second cake layer, cut side up, and brush with 1/3 of the syrup. Spread another 1 1/2 cups of the yogurt mousse over the cake layer. Place the final layer on top, cut side up and brush with remaining syrup. Frost the cake with the remaining mousse by placing it on the top of the cake and spreading over the top and sides. Refrigerate the cake while preparing the honeyed raspberries.

Preparing the Honeyed Raspberries
~Warm the honey in the microwave (about 10 seconds on high power) or in a small saucepan over low heat. In a medium bowl, pour the warm honey over the berries. Gently toss the berries until they are evenly coated with the honey. Arrange the berries in the center of the cake, piling them up. They will start to clump as they cool.

If desired, serve cake slices drizzled with mint syrup (below).

STORAGE: Store in the refrigerator, loosely covered, for up to 3 days.

Mint Syrup
1/4 cup loosely packed mint leaves
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1 tsp water

~Combine all the ingredients in blender or small food processor and process until mint is finely chopped. Transfer the syrup to a plastic squeeze bottle for easy plating.

STORAGE: Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.


Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Outrageous Brownies!

I think this brownie recipe was made for Ray. Ray is my coworker and a very close friend and loves to tell how he likes to make brownies and mid-way through baking, take them out and hit the pan on the counter to make a really dense brownie. Well today is Ray's birthday and I wanted to make something for him that he would really really enjoy. Happy Birthday Ray!

I am not the hugest chocolate fan, especially in baked goods, but these brownies do live up to their name...they are definitely outrageous. They are extremely dense but melt in your mouth. The walnuts provide a nice contrast in texture. The coffee lends a subtle flavor under the main chocolate attraction. And they have just the right amount of sugar to keep my sweet tooth happy while still providing a rich, tasty treat.

I will warn you that this recipe makes a lot of batter and a really large bowl is needed to make these. I had to switch out bowls when I things got to be too much. I made a full recipe and used 2 9x13 pans which seemed to work well. You can easily halve this recipe and bake in 1 9x13 pan.

Ina's Outrageous Brownies (from Ina Garten via Food Network)
Makes 20 large or about 40 smaller brownies, depending on cutting preference

1 pound unsalted butter, softened
1 pound plus 12 oz semisweet chocolate chips (divided into 1 pound for melting and 12 oz chips)
6 oz unsweetended chocolate
6 extra-large eggs
3 Tbsp instant coffee powder
2 Tbsp vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (1 cup for batter, 1/4 cup mixed with nuts and chocolate chip)
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt
3 cups diced walnut pieces (I roasted whole walnuts for about 8 min before cooling and dicing)

~Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 13 x 18 x 1 1/2-inch sheet pan.
~Melt together the butter, 1 pound of semisweet chocolate chips, and unsweetened chocolate on top of a double boiler. Cool slightly. In a large bowl, stir together the eggs, instant coffee, vanilla, and sugar. Stir in the warm chocolate mixture and cool to room temperature.
~Stir together 1 cup of the flour, baking powder and salt. Add to cooled chocolate mixture. Toss the walnuts and 12 ounces of chocolate chips with 1/4 cup flour to coat. Then add to the chocolate batter. Pour into prepared pan.
~Bake for about 30 minutes, or until tester just comes out clean. Halfway through the baking, rap the pan against the oven shelf to allow air to escape from between the pan and the brownie batter. Do not over-bake. Cool thoroughly, refrigerate well and cut into squares.


A Flock of Peeps

Growing up, I really really disliked Peeps. And I mean really. Probably because the only ones we had in the house were from last year, since my mom liked them rock hard. However after seeing this post on Erin's Food Files, I thought I get in the spring spirit and try these.

These were quite easy to make, although these photos are from my second batch because I changed my technique a bit and thought these were significantly better. The first batch, I followed the piping directions from Erin's blog and accentuated the tail, but I felt the two-peice chicks left somthing to desire. With the second batch, I did one continuous motion, starting at the tail, piping a 1 inch wide oval. At the front of the chick, I raised the tip and continued to pipe while forming the head. Then I started to reduce the pressure on the bag and brought the tip down to form the beak.

I did use a piping bag with Wilton tip # 1A (about a 1/2-inch wide), but a ziploc bag with a corner cut off will work just as well. I would suggest pulsing your sugar crystals in a food processor a bit to get a finer texture. I did this with the second batch and I felt it was a much more pleasurable experience to eat.

It's an added bonus to say these are fat-free. (Ignore the whole empty calorie thing)

Marshmallow (From Martha Stewart, seen on Erin's Food File)

1 pkg unflavored gelatin (2 1/2 tsp)
1/3 cup cold water
1/4 cup water
1 cup sugar

~In the bowl of an electric mixer, sprinkle gelatin over 1/3 cup cold water. Let gelatin sit for about 5 minutes to soften.
~Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, mix 1/4 cup water and sugar. Heat over medium heat, stirring until sugar is completely dissolved. Stop stirring to prevent sugar crystals from forming, and place candy thermometer in sugar syrup. Wipe sides of saucepan with a wet brush to if sugar cyrstals have splashed onto the sids. Boil sugar until the syrup reaches the soft ball stage (238 degrees).
~Remove from heat and add to gelatin. Gently stir the mixture to combine and cool slightly. With the whisk attachment, beat on medium high speed until soft peaks form and the marshmallow holds its shape, about 8 to 10 minutes.
~Transfer marshmallow to a large piping bag fitted with a 1/2-inch round tip and use immediately.

To form Chicks
~Sprinkle some coating sugar on the bottom of a lipped baking sheet.
~Pipe a 1-inch wide oval that is about 2 inches long. At the end of the oval, continue piping while raising the tip to form the head. Slightly move the tip back towards the tail of the chick. After the head is formed, bring the tip forward and down while releasing the pressure to form the beak.
~If desired, coat your finger tips with some confectioner's sugar and use your fingers to form more of a tail on your chicks.
~Immediately pour more sugar over the chick. Using a small icing spatula, lift more sugar onto uncovered spots on the chick. (I also used the spatula to prepare small mounds of sugar to turn the chicks into to help get complete coverage)
~Move completed chicks to another cookie sheet to allow to set.
~Use either royal icing or cocoa powder mixed with water. I applied the cocoa mixture with the tip of a toothpick.

~You'll probably be able to have to soften the marshmallow in the microwave a couple times in the process to keep it pipeable. I reheated it for 10 seconds and the consistancy returned, but it's best to work fast.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Almond Cupcakes with Raspberry Filling

These were the second type of cupcakes that I made for my monthly Stamp Camp. I think these were my favorite, only because I love almond and cream cheese. I mean, what's not to love.

The cakes were sweet and light. The almond wasn't overpowering but complimented the raspberry filling well. I think the only thing I would change is to not add Amaretto to the frosting, but actually add almond extract to bring more consistent flavor throughout the entire cupcake.

Almond Cupcakes with Raspberry Filling (Adapted from Apple a Day)
Makes 24 cupcakes

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup butter, at room temperature (1 1/2 sticks)
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp almond extract
1 cup milk
5 egg whites, at room temperature
1 cup raspberry preserves, slightly melted

~Place oven rack in middle of oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Prepare pans by lining with cupcake holders.
~In a medium bowl, add flour, baking powder, and salt and whisk to combine and aerate.
~In a large bowl, beat butter until fluffy on medium-high speed.
~Gradually add sugar to butter, and cream until well combined. Beat in vanilla and almond extracts.
~Reduce mixer speed to low and alternately add flour and milk into batter until just combined, in 3 batches.
~In a seperate bowl and with clean beaters, whip egg whites into stiff peaks.
~Fold the egg whites into the batter in three batches. With a spatula, mix the first batch in to lighten the batter. With the remaining batches, fold carefully, trying not deflat the batter.
~Using a standard-size ice cream scoop or large spoon, divide batter into cupcake liners.
~Bake approximately 20 minutes until cake tester inserted in center comes out clean. Let cupcakes cool in pan for 10 minutes before removing and continue to cool on racks.
~Once cool, remove a small cone of cupcake from the center. Add raspberry preserves with a piping bag or a spoon.
~Top with cream cheese frosting (to follow) and garnish with a fresh raspberry or toasted sliced almonds.

Cream Cheese Frosting (Adapted from Apple A Day)
16 oz cream cheese, softened
6 Tbsp butter, softened (3/4 stick)
1 1/4 cup confectioner's sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp almond extract (I used Amaretto but probably should have used the extract)
~In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and butter together on medium-high speed.
~Beat in vanilla and almond extracts.
~Reduce speed and add confectioner's sugar a spoonful at a time.
Store compiled cupcakes in air-tight container in refrigerator for up to a day. Bring to room temperature before serving. Enjoy!

Lemon Strawberry Cupcakes

Once a month, I meet up with a group of lovely women to stamp and make cards. As an engineer, my work life is extremely regimented and technical, so my baking and stamping have become my creative outlet. I've been trying to bake for these ladies for months, and finally the stars aligned and my calender cleared up the few days before and what else would be perfect than cupcakes to munch on while cutting, folding and stamping!

I spent a week trying to decide what type of cupcakes to make and with the help of some of my internet friends I decided to make two...these Lemon Strawberry Cupcakes and Almond Cupcakes with Raspberry Filling.

These lemon Strawberry Cupcakes were delicious. I made them a little more lemony that the inspiration recipe, but after tasting the batter with the zest and juice of 2 lemons, I decided to add more zest and juice because I was looking for a fresh and bright taste. I finally found Meyer lemons in our grocery store and after hearing raves about them from multiple blogs, I decided to splurge and used them in this recipe. It turned out great.

These cupcakes have a little surprise inside...if you so desired, you can add a fruit filling inside the cupcakes. I decided to use some decandant Strawberry Champagne jam that we brought back from a vacation to Ireland. It was a great choice because the sweetness balanced the bright lemon flavor extremely well.

Lemon Strawberry Cupcakes (adapted from Things Alauna Makes originally from Martha Stewart)
Makes 24 cupcakes

1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature (2 sticks)
2 cups sugar
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
4 large eggs
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
zest and juice of 3 lemons

Between 1/4 and 1/2 cup of strawberry preserves, jelly or jam (depends on the size of holes you make)

~Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
~Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Using a whisk, stir dry ingredients to aerate and mix.
~Cream butter on medium speed until fluffy. Slowly add sugar and beat on high speed for 3 minutes until the color lightens and the sugar is fully incorporated.
~Add eggs, one at a time, incorporating each egg into the batter fully before continuing.
~On low speed, alternate adding the flour and buttermilk in about 3 batches, starting and ending with the flour.
~Beat in lemon zest and juice.
~Dive cake batter into lined cupcake pans and bake for approximately 19 minutes.

~After the cupcakes have cooled, use a small melon baller or sharp knife to make a small cone/bowl in the center of each cupcake.
~Melt the filling in the microwave for about 30 seconds.
~Using a spoon, fill the holes with the fruit filling.
~If desired, replace the cake removed over the filling.

~Top with Strawberry buttercream (see below) and garnish with sliced strawberries.

Strawberry Buttercream (Adapted from Things Alauna Makes)

1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, at room temperature (3 sticks)
3 cups confectioner's sugar
4 Tbsp strawberry preserves, jelly or jam

~Beat butter on high speed until fluffly.
~Add strawberry preserves.
~Reduce speed to low and add confectioner's sugar slowly. I added 1 spoonful at a time which produces a very smooth, non-gritty buttercream.

I used a large star tip and a pastry bag to pipe the frosting on, but a gallon ziploc bag with a corner cut off will do just fine.


Thursday, March 19, 2009

Chocolate Guinness Cake

I decided to make this cake on a whim since I was already making the Car Bomb Cupcakes. I was planning on following the recipe to the t, but in my excitement and/or time crunch I was unable to find the appropriate size pan. So I decided to use a 9x2 inch cake pan and a 8x2 inch cake pan which turned out wondeful. I filled the 9-inch pan about 2/3 full so that I would have a more substantial cake for my husband to take to work and filled the 8-inch pan for us to nibble on at home. I started to check on the cake after an hour of bake time and the 8-inch was done. A few minutes later and the other pan was done.

This cake was also was a little bit more airy than the cupcakes. All of my husbands coworkers were exteremly happy with the cake. However, I think my husband was still looking for more of the Guinness flavor. I have to agree. The pecans added an even more nutty flavor and I could really only taste the nuts and chocolate. Due to my select blindness, I had to use my Dutch-process cocoa powder which the original recipe didn't recommend, so I think the overly rich chocolate flavor was a result. Oh well, I will just have to try again.

I sent a long a little bowl of Brown Sugar Whipped Cream that I spiked with a bit of Baileys Liquor after making the frosting for the Car Bomb Cupcakes. This was exteremly delicious and it's fighting for the spot (against Creme Brulee) of the one thing I would need if I was stranded on a dessert island.


Note that the directions below are for a 9x3-inch pan, so adjust the cooking time if you will be using a different size pan.

Chocolate Guinness Cake (Adapted from The Cake Book by Tish Boyle)
Makes one 9-inch cake, Serves approximately 10

1 3/4 cups (7.4oz/212g) all-purpose flour
3/4 cup (2.2oz/61g) natural (not Dutch-processed) cocoa powder (I ended up using Dutch-process because I couldn't find my other cocoa powder until AFTER the cake was in the oven)
1 3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
21 Tbsp (10.5oz/298g) unsalted butter, softened
2 1/4 cups (17.2oz/488g) firmly packed light brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups Guinness stout (do not measure foam)
1 cup (4oz/114g) coarsely chopped pecans

Confectioner's sugar for dusting

~Prepare a 9x3 cake pan or 9-inch springform pan by greasing and dusting with flour. Move oven rack to center position and preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
~Add flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon into a large bow. Whisk to combine and aerate. (I rarely sift my ingredients since I use the weight measurements when given)
~With your electric mixer, beat butter with paddle attachment until light and creamy, about 2 minutes. Slowly add the brown sugar and beat for additional 3 minutes. Continue mixing and add one egg at a time until completely incorporated. Add the vanilla extract. Take a moment to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula and mix for an additional 30 seconds to make sure the batter is well mixed.
~With the mixer on low speed, alternate adding the flour mixture (3 batches) and the Guinness until just blended. Use a spatula to scrape down sides of mixing bowl and make sure the batter is well blended. Add batter into the prepared pan.
~Bake cake for approximately 70 minutes, until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean.
~Allow the cake to cool for approximately 20 minutes on a wire rack. Use a thin knife to run around the edge of the pan, loosening the sides of the cake. Turn cake onto a rack and invert immediately and allow to cool completely.
~Dust cake with confectioner's sugar immediately before serving.

STORAGE: Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week.

Brown Sugar Whipped Cream (Adapted from The Cake Book by Tish Boyle)
Makes about 2 cups

1 cup chilled heavy cream
2-3 Tbsp packed light brown sugar
3/4 tsp vanilla extract (I omitted the vanilla and added about 2 tsp of Baileys Liquor)

~Chill bowl and beaters in freezer for about 20 minutes.
~Add whipping cream, brown sugar, and extract and whip on high speed until soft peaks form.

Car Bomb Cupcakes

Happy Belated St. Paddy's Day! I was a busy baker leading up to St. Patrick's Day, as I felt the need to bake not only for my husband's work but for mine as well. When I saw these from Deb at Smitten Kitchen I knew exactly who would appreciate these.

I brought these to work and delivered them to my old project teammates. I knew they would appreciate them after seeing them party in Ireland during our large annual meeting in '07 (one of the perks to working on an international project). After about 30 minutes in the break room, my inbox started to flood with emails of thanks.

Ready for the drive into work (sorry for the poor lighting...this was at about 6 am)

I managed to save one to split with the husband, since I know he appreciates all things Guinness. He really liked them but I think deep down he was looking for more of a Guinness flavor. I agree that the Guinness turned into more of a nutty flavor that enhanced the chocolate taste more than standing up next to it. I might try to experiment a few more times since this might be something he would like for his birthday in June.

I think my favorite part was the frosting. I am not a fan of American style all. I always feel the sugar between my teeth and have not been able to find a recipe that is smooth...that is until now. Apparently it wasn't the recipe, it was the method. Adding the sugar a few spoon fulls at a time made all the difference. I plan to make all my buttercreams like this from this point on. As noted below, I added 2 sticks of butter to my mixer and realized I only needed one, so I proceeded like I was going to double the recipe (who doesn't like extra frosting). When I added the first 4 cups of confectioner's sugar, I was liking the consistency and I was extremely pleased with the taste test, so I added the Baileys into the frosting and piped the frosting onto the cupcakes. I added a few green sprinkles for a little St. Paddy's Day flair.

Guinness Cupcakes (from Smitten Kitchen)
Makes 24 cupcakes

1 cup Guinness stout
1 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch-process)
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
2 large eggs
2/3 cup sour cream

~Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 24 cupcake cups with liners. Bring 1 cup stout and 1 cup butter to simmer in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add cocoa powder and whisk until mixture is smooth. Cool slightly.
~Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, and 3/4 teaspoon salt in large bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat eggs and sour cream in another large bowl to blend. Add stout-chocolate mixture to egg mixture and beat just to combine. Add flour mixture and beat briefly on slow speed. Using rubber spatula, fold batter until completely combined. Divide batter among cupcake liners, filling them 2/3 to 3/4 of the way. Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, rotating them once front to back if your oven bakes unevenly, about 17 minutes. Cool cupcakes on a rack completely.

Ganache Filling

8 oz bittersweet chocolate
2/3 cup heavy cream
2 Tbsp butter, room temperature
3 tsp Irish Whiskey (optional)

~Chop the chocolate and transfer it to a heatproof bowl. Heat the cream until simmering and pour it over the chocolate. Let it sit for one minute and then stir until smooth. (If this has not sufficiently melted the chocolate, you can return it to a double-boiler to gently melt what remains. 20 seconds in the microwave, watching carefully, will also work.) Add the butter and whiskey (if you’re using it) and stir until combined.

Let the ganache cool until thick but still soft enough to be piped (the fridge will speed this along but you must stir it every 10 minutes). Meanwhile, using your 1-inch round cookie cutter or an apple corer, cut the centers out of the cooled cupcakes. You want to go most of the way down the cupcake but not cut through the bottom — aim for 2/3 of the way. A slim spoon or grapefruit knife will help you get the center out. Those are your “tasters”. Put the ganache into a piping bag with a wide tip and fill the holes in each cupcake to the top.

Baileys Buttercream Frosting *It was getting late when I was preparing the frosting, so the notes in italics are from me.

3 to 4 cups confectioners sugar (I used closer to 4 cups)
1 stick (4oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature (I used 2 sticks)
3 to 4 Tbsp Baileys Liquor (or milk, or heavy cream, or a combination)

~Whip the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, for several minutes. You want to get it very light and fluffy. Slowly add the powdered sugar, a few tablespoons at a time. (I measured out 3 cups of confectioner's sugar in a large bowl and used a whisk to separate any clumps before adding it to the butter)
~When the frosting looks thick enough to spread, drizzle in the Baileys (or milk) and whip it until combined. If this has made the frosting too thin (it shouldn’t, but just in case) beat in another spoonful or two of powdered sugar.
~Ice and decorate the cupcakes. [I used a star tip and made little "poofs" everywhere and sprinkled it with various colors of sanding sugar to keep it looking festive for New Years. I bet shaved dark and white chocolates would look gorgeous as well.]

Do ahead: You can bake the cupcakes a week or two in advance and store them, well wrapped, in the freezer. You can also fill them before you freeze them. They also keep filled — or filled and frosted — in the fridge for a day. (Longer, they will start to get stale.)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Cherries Jubilee Cheesecake

Hi there! Today, I bring you a cheesecake that I've been meaning to make since Christmas. Today was Steve's boss' birthday, so I finally had a reason. As much as I love dessert, it's always nice on my waistline when we don't keep them in the house. So, before I get into the recipe...Happy Birthday Amy!

I don't know if it's me and my general distaste for hard liquor, but I felt that the whiskey flavor in the cheesecake was strong enough, so I omitted the whiskey from the cherry topping. I've provided the recipe as intended, but since I was not going to be able to flambe in front of the recipients, it added to the decision to leave the topping plain this morning. In the future, I might reduce or omit the whiskey in the cheesecake and just prepare the topping as intended. Mind you that my judgement was based on pre-baked tastings. It's not like I can send the cheesecake with a slice missing. The final reviews were all great. As Steve put it, "he had to keep the wolves at bay until Amy could have her slice."

Cherries Jubilee Cheesecake
Makes 12 servings

25 chocolate wafer cookies (I used Oreos and omitted the sugar)
3 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp butter, melted

3 (8oz) pkgs cream cheese, softened
1 cup sugar
4 eggs, at room temperature
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
1/3 Jack Daniel's whiskey

Cherry topping (recipe follows)


~Using a food processor, process cookies to a crumb texture. Add the sugar and butter and mix until combined. Firmly press crust mixture into bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch springform pan that has been lightly coated with no-stick cooking spray.* Wrap foil under bottom and around outside of pan; set aside.

~Preheat oven to 325 degree F with a large roasting pan filled with 1 inch of warm water.

~In large mixing bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar at high speed until smooth. Scrape down sides of bowl frequently. Reduce mixer to low speed, and add eggs one at a time, jut until blended. Beat in cream and whiskey on medium speed and scrap down sides one more time. Pour filling into prepared crust. Place pan in water bath and bake for 45 to 50 minutes until edges are set but center has a slight giggle to it. Turn off oven. Using a sharp knife, loosen edges of cake from pan. Leave cheesecake in oven for about 30 minutes. Remove cake from oven and allow to cool to room temperature.

~Cover and chill for 8 hours or overnight before removing from pan. Serve with Cherry topping.

Cherry Topping

1 (12oz) bag frozen pitted dark sweet cherries (unsweetened), thawed
2 Tbsp butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1/4 cup Jack Daniel's whiskey (I omitted)
1/4 tsp almond extract


~Drain cherries into bowl, reserve the juice. Add enough water to cherry juice to equal 1/4 cup and set aside. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add cherries and sugar and cook until sugar is dissolved. Whisk cornstarch together with reserved cherry juice. Stir mixture into cherries. Cook, stirring constantly, until slightly thickened, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat.**

~To flambe: Place whiskey in 1-cup glass measuring cup. Microwave for 20 seconds. Immediately pour over warm cherries. Do not stir. Ignite sauce with match and swirl pan carefully until flames subside. Stir in extract. Spoon over cheesecake slices.


* I do not like using springform pans. No matter how much foil I use, water from the bath still seeps in and makes the crust soggy. I use a method introduced to me by good old Alton Brown. I use a 8 or 9-inch by 3-inch cake pan that I lightly coat with cooking spray or butter. I add a parchment round for the bottom and a parchment collar for the sides, which I then lightly coat with spray/butter. To depan, I place a cardboard round/large plate over top of cake. I flip the cake out and remove parchment round from the bottom of cake. Then I flip the cake onto the serving plate and remove the parchment collar.

**This is where I deviated and omitted the whiskey to flambe. I just added the almond extract here and allowed to cool before topping the cheesecake.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Chocolate Peppermint Cake

My holiday baking got a late start but then stalled due to a nasty cold I developed. However, I did manage to make this Peppermint Chocolate Cake for a holiday party at work.

This cake is extremely rich, but is definitely a crowd pleaser. The chocolate cake is a plain chocolate cake, and I might try to experiment to add a bit more moisture to it. The three layers are separated by a peppermint buttercream frosting and a chocolate ganache glaze is used to coat the cake. This has been requested for next year already, but I might make it a bit sooner, as my sweetie has indicated he wouldn't mind this in the house again....His waistline disagrees.

Chocolate Peppermint Cake - from Ladies' Home Journal

Makes 12 servings

For the cakes:
4 sticks (1lb) unsalted butter, softened, plus additional for pans
3 cups cake flour, plus additional for pans
1 3/4 cups boiling water
1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch processed)
1 bar (4oz) bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 tsp baking soda
2 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups firmly packed dark brown sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature

For the buttercream:
2oz (12 to 13) whole round hard peppermint candies, plus 1/2 cup chopped for garnish
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1 pkg (12 oz) cream cheese, at room temperature
4 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
2 tsp vanilla extract

For the chocolate ganache:
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
3 bars (4oz each) bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened

~ Make cake: Preheat oven to 350 degree F and arrange racks in upper and lower thirds; butter 3 round 9x2-inch cake pans. Line bottoms with rounds of parchment paper and dust pans with flour, tapping out excess.
~ Whisk boiling water into cocoa in a heat proof bowl until smooth. Add chocolate and let stand 1 minute. Whisk until smooth; let cool 5 minutes. Whisk in buttermilk and vanilla extract.
~ Whisk together flour, baking soda and salt in another bowl. Beat butter and sugars together in a large bowl on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well and scraping down sides of bowl with a spatula after each addition. Reduce speed to low; alternately add flour and chocolate mixtures, beginning and ending with flour mixture, beating until just combined. Divide batter evenly between prepared pans (about 4 cups each) and smooth tops.
~ Bake until a toothpick inserted in center of each cake comes out with a few crumbs clinging to it and cakes begin to pull away from sides of pan, 40 to 45 minutes. Transfer cakes in pans to a rack and let cool 5 minutes.
~Run a thin knife around edges of pans and place racks over pans; invert cakes onto racks. Peel off paper and invert cakes again so they are right side up on racks; cool completely. (you might have to level cake layers after cooling)

~Make filling: Meanwhile, place whole peppermint candies and confectioners' sugar in a food processor; pulse until finely ground. Transfer to a bowl and stir in cream cheese, butter, and vanilla extract. (I beat cream cheese, butter & extract with mixer before adding peppermint/sugar)

~Make glaze: Bring cream to a simmer in a small saucepan over moderate heat. Remove from heat; add to chocolate and butter in a large bowl. Stir until smooth, about 5 minutes. Let cool 15 minutes.

~Assembly: Meanwhile, place 1 cake layer on an 8-inch cardboard round. Spread 1/2 of filling on top and cover with second cake layer, right side up. Spread with remaining filling and top with remaining cake layer, bottom side up. (I do this to ensure a smooth and flat top of the assembled cake) (At this point, I also use an icing spatula to remove excess filling that squeeze out sides and use it to fill in any gaps in between layers - this will help give you a smooth covering of glaze) Place cake on a wire rack over a baking pan (to catch any drippings) and pour some glaze over top, smoothing on sides with a small metal spatula. Continue to pour and spread glaze, using drippings in pan if necessary, until cake is evenly coated. Chill cake on rack until glaze is just set, about 15 minutes. Cake can be stored in refrigerator, but do not garnish with chopped candies until ready to serve (refrigerator softens candies).

~Transfer cake on cardboard round to a cake stand or plate. Bring to room temperature before serving and garnish with chopped candies around top edge of cake, if desired.

It seems like a lot of work, but really takes only a few hours to bake and assemble. I especially like how the cake doesn't have to look pristine, but really looks homemade. Enjoy!

Happy New Year!

I hope the holidays treated everyone well. I apologize for the lack of posting...In addition to getting used to this whole needing to post thing, the holiday's were extremely busy with traveling and entertaining.

Home (Wisconsin) was a blast and I was able to get my snow fix...Let's jus say a 5'3" girl running around in 3 feet of snow is exteremly entertaining for said girl's husband. Seeing family was great, but way too short, and I'm determined to develop a transport machine because the 18+ hours of "traveling" (for 2 1/2 hours of flight time), including a switch in airports, delays, and sleeping in O'Hare's ticketing area does not make me want to go home again.

After the complicated traveling, I hosted the in-laws for the week in between Christmas and New Year's. It was very nice to see them, but the additional 4 people and 1 dog in the house made it a bit tight. It did give me time to cook, so I have plenty of posts coming up. Stay tuned!