Though she be but little, she is fierce

I have long been a fan of the kumquat.  A childhood friend had a kumquat tree in her backyard and we’d dare each other to eat the tart little fruit, relishing in the novelty of eating the skin.  Last fall I posted a super tasty citrus loaf cake by Zoe Nathan. Her original recipe called for kumquats…not exactly in-season in November. So I made due and waited.

And then I started thinking.

In its directions, the recipe asks the baker to zest several citrus fruits including the kumquats. After I stopped laughing at the idea of zesting something the size of a large olive I thought, there’s got to be another way. So, I took to the internets and found a couple of recipes that use a kumquat puree. Not sure about anyone else, but in my book cutting and seeding a couple of cups of kumquats is much easier than attempting to zest them.

I used my Vitamix to puree the kumquats. Because I could. A regular blender or food processor will work as well. While the puree smelled amazing (I was tempted to dab some behind my ears), it did have just a hint of bitterness in flavor.   Luckily it baked right out.

I also saw the addition of cardamom in a couple of recipes. Cardamom!  That’s fun to say.

I love cardamom’s exotic floral scent and think it makes elevates this recipe just enough  This is a gorgeous loaf—both in looks and flavor.

You all know, I openly admit to my citrus fruit biases, but really, make this cake.

Like now before kumquats disappear until next spring.

By the way, I’m not sure what is going on with the tumbnail photo that is supposed to sit in the upper left of my posts.  I’m on the case!

Kumquat Loaf

adapted from Huckleberry stories, secrets and recipes from our kitchen

Ingredients

  • 1 C+ 2 TBS/ 255 g unsalted butter at room temp
  • 1 C/ 200 g sugar
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 C kumquats quartered and seeded
  • 2 eggs + 2 egg yolks
  • 1 1/4 C/ 160 g all purpose flour
  • 1/4 C/ 35 g pastry flour
  •  1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 TBS buttermilk
  • 1 TBS vanilla extract
  • 3/4 tsp cardamom

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and line with parchment a 9X5 loaf pan.
  2. Quarter and seed kumquats.  Puree until smooth.  This should yield about 3/4 C puree (though you’ll only use 2/3 C).
  3. Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, cream the butter,  sugar and salt  on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
  4. Incorporate the eggs and egg yolks one-at-a-time, blend well after each addition.  Scrape down sides of bowl a couple of times.  Add-in vanilla.
  5. Fold-in 2/3 C puree (save or discard remainder)
  6. Add-in the flours, baking powder and cardamom.  Mix-on low until ingredients are just combined.
  7. Scoop batter into prepared pan.  Bake for 60 minutes or until the cake springs back when touched and cake tester comes out clean.
  8. Once out of the oven, let rest for 5 minutes then remove loaf from pan.  Dust with confectioner’s sugar before serving.

I like big bundts and I cannot lie

I know, I know, I know.  I really have nothing to say for myself.

Actually, I do.

I haven’t had some sort of blogging mid-life crisis.  But, a girl only has so much free time. And most of my free time since the new year has been taken up by a little project we’re calling “Playa Remodel 15…15…15.”  As I type there are men demolishing my kitchen:

It’s very exciting.  But, as you remodel veterans know (and this rookie had NO idea), to get from idea to actual work is pretty much its own part-time job.  We started gathering bids in January and work has just begun this week.  We aren’t doing anything drastic. But because we’re living in the house at the same time, we’ve had to  break it up into nine phases.  And, I’ll let you in on a little secret: this is really just a test run for some bigger trouble we’re thinking of getting ourselves into later this year.

And then there was the matter of that hostile but totally legal URL takeover.  You may have noticed the new address.  If not, please update your feeds: www.tmhostess.com.   Let’s just say that if you ever need to be saved from your own idiocy (speaking strictly for myself), Jennette Fulda at Make Worthy Media is your gal.

I do have a couple of months worth of baking adventures to share with you all.  And of course, I took before pictures of the house so that I can share our misadventures

But, back to the bundts.

I mean really, who doesn’t like a big bundt?

This one was supposed to be a zebra cake.  A beautiful marriage of vanilla and chocolate cakes.

I thought i had the technique down while I was constructing the batter.

It looked pretty goof going into the oven.

Alas, it came out more tabby cat than zebra.

Nevertheless, this is a fantastic cake recipe.  It’s rich and moist and while I’ve included the original recipe for the ganache icing, I think it would be just a great with a dusting of powdered sugar.  It’s everything a big bundt should be.

 Zebra Bundt Cake

borrowed and not even slightly adapted from Bakers Royale

  • 3 C cake flour, sifted
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • 2 ½ C granulated sugar, divided
  • ½ C natural (not Dutch-processed) cocoa powder
  • 6 TBS water
  • 1 ½ C unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 5 large eggs
  • ½ C whole milk

Glaze

  • 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate
  • 2/3 C heavy cream

Directions

  1. Sift flour baking powder and salt into a bowl (yes, this is a second sifting of the flour); set aside.
  2. In a separate medium size bowl add in ½ cup of sugar, the cocoa powder, and water then whisk until mixture is smooth; set aside.
  3. Place melted butter and sugar in a stand mixer bowl fitted with a paddle attachment. Beat on medium high until mixture is blended, about 1 minute. Add in vanilla and beat until combined. Add and beat eggs one at time, mixing well after each addition. Once all eggs are added, beat mixture until it becomes light and fluffy (it will resemble pancake batter, but slightly thinner).
  4. Turn mixer speed down to low and add the flour in three additions, alternating with the milk in two additions and mixing just until blended.
  5. Add 2 cups of the batter to the cocoa mixture and stir until blended.
  6. Using an ice cream scoop, pour two scoops of vanilla mixture into pan. Now alternate and pour one scoop of chocolate mixture on top of vanilla mixture. Continue to alternate between vanilla and chocolate layers until bundt pan is filled.
  7. Bake zebra pound cake for 50-60 minutes at 350 degrees F or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool cake in the pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Invert the cake onto the rack and cool completely.

To make glaze

  1. Place chocolate and cream in a pan over low heat and stir until chocolate is melted. Set aside to cool for 10 minutes before using.

 

Perfect for your Pik-a-nic Basquete

See what I did there?  No?  You will.

My mom came out to visit (and escape the interminable Montana winter) in late March.  We had lots of adventures and general shenanigans.  As someone who gets up even earlier than I do (an impossible feat according to TD), she spent some quality time perusing my little cookbook collection.

One of the recipes she pulled was for a gateau Basque out of Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table.  Sadly, this was during our “oven transition” and so my mom had to wait until her return to the Big Sky to try out this cookie-cake-pie recipe.

“You’ve got to make this” she said some weeks later.

“Sure mom, okay” was my reply and then, like most negligent children, I immediately forgot.

“Did you try out the sour cherry tart?” was her question the next time we spoke.

“Err…uhm…just waiting for the new oven to be installed,”  my excuse.

And so it came to pass that after a batch of French macarons and some chocolate chip cookies for TD, gateau Basque was the third item baked in the oven.

Have I ever mentioned that while probably the nicest lady on the planet, my mom is also the most evil?   This is a good example.  Under the pretext of encouraging baking experimentation, she bullied me into bringing this…this…temptation into my house.  Don’t let its simplicity fool you like it did me.  I got all the way to photographing this disk of sin without tasting its rich–soft–toothsome–tartness.  People find this hard to believe, but I generally am not all that interested in eating the things I make.  Baking and cooking for me is about short-term gratification in the creation and experimentation categories.

But in this case?  I was like Eve to the apple (or whatever you’d like to argue the parable referred to).  One bite.  And then another.  And, before I knew it, I’d eaten the entire wedge and found myself eyeing the remaining six (TD ate one too).  While significantly more sophisticated and elegant, there is also something about the gateau Basque that reminds me of the Hostess pies my brother and I coveted as children.   Which I think got me thinking this would be a perfect picnic dessert.  Transport it uncut and then serve up the wedges to be eaten by hand.

Original sin and evil parents aside, according to Dorie, this is the pastry in the Pays Basque region of France (and probably Spain).  There is even a museum dedicated to it (do I hear research junket?).  As if this lovely pastry isn’t enough to create drool-worthy geography, you can visit the region virtually through my talented friend Ann Mah.

While it is traditionally made with sour cherry jam (I found mine at Trader Joes) or pastry cream, I think it would be fantastic with everything from lemon curd to Nutella (which would certainly elevate this seductress from Old Testament to Dante’s Inferno).

A design note.  The top of the tart is traditionally etched with two interlocking scroll, or “S” designs.  Since Dorie said she likes a cross-hatch pattern, I tried that.  Sadly I did not make the pattern deep enough and it baked out.  I guess this means I’ll have to try again.  Darn.

Gateau Basque

Dorie Greenspan, Around My French Table

Ingredients

  • 2 C all purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 10 TBS (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter at room temp.
  • 1/4 C light brown sugar
  • 1/4 C sugar
  • 1 large egg, at room temp.
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4-1 C thick cherry jam (or cream anglais or lemon curd or….ohhh…Nutella)
  • 1 egg beaten w/ splash of water for glazing

 Directions

  1. Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt, set aside.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle (or hand mixer), beat the butter and sugars together on medium for about 3 minutes.
  3. Add the egg, beat for another 2 minutes scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.  The mixture may look curdled and that’s okay.
  4. Reduce mixer to low, add-in vanilla.  Then add-in dry ingredients in 2-3 additions mixing in between until just combined.
  5. Place a large sheet of plastic wrap, wax paper or parchment on your work surface.  Put half of the dough (it will be sticky) in the middle and shape into  a disk (get it as round and flat as possible…maybe…4-5 inches).  Repeat with second half of dough.
  6. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours (overnight is always good).
  7. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Generously butter an 8X2 round cake pan.
  8. Remove rounds of dough from fridge and let them rest for a couple of minutes.  Then, roll each out into an 8 inch rounds (to avoid adding flour, I like to layer the dough between sheets of parchment and then roll).  If the dough breaks or cracks, not to worry, just piece it back together like you would pie dough.
  9. Fit one round into the bottom of the dough.  If it rides up the sides a little, this is good and will help to seal the top layer.
  10. Spoon 3/4 C of your preferred filling onto dough.  Start at the center and spread until you have about a 1-inch margin.
  11. Moisten the bare ring of dough (around the jam) with water.
  12. Add the second piece of dough, pressing around the edges to seal it.  Dorie says that no matter how tightly you press the dough, a little of the filling is bound to escape during baking.  This will give your gateau some character.
  13. Brush the top of the dough with egg wash.  Using the tines of a fork or a sharp pairing knife etch a cross-hatch pattern into the top (in the one pictured above I did not press deeply enough and the patten baked-out).
  14. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until the top is golden brown.  Transfer to a cooling rack, let cool for 5 minutes.
  15. Carefully run a blunt (dinner) knife around the edge of the cake. Turn the cake over onto the cooling rack and then quickly flip it right-side-up so that it can cool to room temp.
  16. I think this is best enjoyed within the first day or two.  While the taste isn’t compromised, the pastry looses some of its crispness the next day.

 

 

Dee-lich-chus Cake

I think I’ve talked about our adventures in cake-tasting and the beautiful but epic fail of a wedding cake that came out of them.  Thinking of that 100 degree day in San Diego combined with the smell of buttercream across many bakeries still make me cringe a little.

Let’s say the average wedding cake tasting consists of seven samples.  If my memory holds true, we visited four bakeries that faithful summer day.  A little air arithmetic, carry the one and it comes to about 28 different taste tests.

And after biting into each morsel, TD would say, “that’s dee-lich-chus cake.”

About a dozen samples in, my curiosity (and annoyance) got the better of me and I asked what the hell he was talking about.

The details were a bit fractured (probably all that sugar) but what I gathered from his story is that there was a wedding, an elderly woman, some loose dentures and a cake that was decidedly not “dee-lich-chus.”

In my witness, every times he’s eaten cake since, he says the same thing: “that’s dee-lich-chus.”

It only took nearly ten years to wonder, if “dee-lich-chus” cake was a flavor, what would it be?

I decided a cake of this caliber would start with a buttermilk base.   In to which roasted strawberries would be gently folded.

And accessorized with clouds of pillowy pink strawberry and balsamic buttercream.  Stay with me here.  Adding balsamic to strawberry is like adding coffee to chocolate.  You don’t actually taste the extra ingredient, it just really enhances everything.

And so was born dee-lich-chus cake.

Roasted Strawberry and Buttermilk Cake with  Strawberry Balsamic Buttercream

cake adapted from Joy of Cooking, frosting adapted from The Foodies Kitchen

for the cake

Ingredients

  • 4 C fresh strawberries
  • 2 1/3 C cake flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking sode
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 3 large eggs at room temp.
  • 6 ounces (10 TBS or 1 stick plus 2 TBS) butter
  • 1 1/3 C sugar (I use superfine)
  • 1 C buttermilk, at room temp.

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Gently wash and cut strawberries into quarters. Place berries on a cooling rack, seeds-side-down over a sheet pan. Bake until strawberries are partially dried, about 45 minutes. Let cool, the chop (they’ll be sticky).  Divide into 3/4 and 1/4 portions.  Set aside 1/4 for the frosting.
  2. Grease (use your use butter wrapper) two 9-inch cake pans and set aside.
  3. Sift together the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Set Aside.  In a small bowl (I also like to use a 2 C pyrex liquid measuring cup), whisk together eggs and vanilla.
  4. Using a mixer  (standing or hand) on medium speed, beat the butter until creamy.  Beat-in the sugar slowly over the course of 3-minutes.  Beat- in egg-and-vanilla mixture one egg-at-a-time.
  5. Reduce speed on mixer to low and mix-in flour and buttermilk in three parts, beginning and ending with the flour.
  6. Gently fold-in strawberries by hand.  Distribute batter into pans and bake in middle rack of oven for 25-30 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes up clean.
  7. Once out of the oven, allow cakes to cool on rack for 10 minutes.  Carefully un-mold and allow to cool completely.

for the frosting 

Ingredients

  • remaining chopped roasted strawberries from cake recipe
  • 5 large egg whites
  • 1 C plus 2 TBS sugar (superfine)
  • pinch of salt
  • 16 ounces (1 pound, 4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temp, cut into tablespoons
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 TBS balsamic vinegar

Directions

  1. Add balsamic vinegar to reserved strawberries, puree mixture and set-aside.
  2. In the heat-proof bowl of a stand-mixer, combine egg-whites, sugar and salt.  Set over a pan of simmering water and whisk constantly by hand until the mixture is warm to the touch and the sugar has dissolved.  The temp on an instant-read thermometer should read between 150-160 F.
  3. Attached the bowl to the stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Starting on low speed, and gradually increasing to medium-high speed, beat until the mixture is fluffy and glossy and completely cool (you can tell by touching the side of the bowl).  Process will take about 10 minutes.
  4. With mixer on medium-speed, add the butter a few tablespoons at-a-time, mixing well between each addition.  At some point the frosting will start to look curdled.  Don’t worry, just keep on going.
  5. Switch to the paddle attachment.  Add-in vanilla and strawberry puree and incorporate with paddle on low. Scrape-down sides and mix until frosting is completely smooth.
  6. Frost cake as desired. Enjoy and try not to think about how much butter is in the frosting.

Cake Apple

I ran across this recipe on Sunday morning while perusing Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table.

Simple and rustic, the batter in this recipe serves only to keep the apples together.  Dorie suggests using a variety of apples and, so I did, throwing in a granny smith, fuji, braeburn and even a honey crisp.

The only spring form pan I have is fit for a giant at about 10 inches.  For a deeper cake, I’d reccommend going with an eight-inch pan.

Perfect with a scoop of ice cream or drizzle of cream anglaise and caramel sauce, this gateau would be lovely for Thanksgiving.  Or a brunch. Or, just because.  One word of caution: this cake is so full of apples that the moisture begins to transform this baked good into a pudding by the next day.  So, I think it is best served that same day it is baked.

If you like this, you might like these

Russian Grandmother’s Apple Pie Cake

Misanthropic Hostess Apple Pie

Marie-Helene’s Apple Cake

as appeared in Around by French Table by Dorie Greenspan

Ingredients

  • 3/4 C all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 4 large apples of mixed variety
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 C sugar
  • 3 TBS dark rum (or sub-in 1 TBS vanilla extract)
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract (omit if not using rum)
  • 8 TBS (1 stick) unsalted butter melted and cooled

Directions

  1. Center rack in oven and preheat to 350 degrees.  Butter 8-inch springform pan.  Line baking sheet with parchment paper.  Set springform pan on top of baking sheet.
  2. Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl.
  3. Peel and core apples.  Cut into 2-inch chunks.
  4. In a medium bowl, beat the eggs with a whisk until foamy.  Pour in sugar and whisk for a minute to blend.  Whisk in rum and vanilla.
  5. Whisk in half the flour mixture until just incorporated.  Whisk in butter.  Repeat these two steps with the remaining flour and butter.
  6. Switch to a rubber spatula and fold-in the apples making sure each piece of fruit is covered in batter.
  7. Scrape mix into prepared pan and push around the apples until you have an evenish layer (evenish is Dorie’s word…this is why I love her so much).
  8. Slide the pan (still on the baking sheet) into the oven and bake for 50-60 minutes until the top of the cake is golden brown and a knife, inserted deep into the center, comes up clean.
  9. Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool for 5 minutes.
  10. Carefully run a blunt knife around the perimeter of the cake and remove springform, making sure to open it slowly so that no apples stick to it.

 

 

Old and New

It wouldn’t be January in the Misanthropic kitchen without a grapefruit recipe.  In fact, I started thinking about what to make way back in November (I am convinced there is a relationship between losing the light as the year grows old and craving the brightness of vitamin C-packed fruit).  This year there were two front-runners.  However, as it is my enduring goal to have my cake and eat it too, I decided to use one with a different kind of citrus (to be continued in February) and chose a new twist on an old recipe for my beloved grapefruit.

We’ll start with the twist: grapefruit and basil syrup. I know, I know basil is generally a summer flavor.   But, I couldn’t shake the idea and so decided that if I could find it at my local, generally understocked grocery store, it might be something others could also find this time of year.  For frame of reference, on the day I went in search of ingredients, there were no mushrooms to be found at the store we lovingly refer to as Ghetto Ralphs.  But, there was basil.  It was on the expensive side.  But remember, it’s grapefruit season which means they were practically giving them away.

Grapefruit rind+ a couple of cups of fresh basil leaves+sugar and water+heat=the kind of smell you’d like to dab behind your ears.

Now for an oldy but a goody, Ina Garten’s lemon yogurt cake.  Riffing on a recipe is always easier when you know the original is a ringer.

I just swapped-out the lemon zest for grapefruit zest and, because I was feeling adventurous, used a runnier, European style full-fat yogurt.  Both substitutions were a success.

The loaf on its own is lovely.  But, we know the key to this cake is the syrup poured over the top while still warm.  And this is where our basil and grapefruit syrup makes its debute.  The result?  Refreshing!  The basil adds complexity to the flavor without being overwhelming.

For an added bonus, the leftover syrup will store nicely in the fridge for a few weeks because really, who wouldn’t want a little grapefruit-basil-vodka cocktail on a Friday afternoon?

If you liked this, you might like these

Grapefruit Whoopie Pies with Avocado Filling

Triple-Quadruple Grapefruit Cupcakes

Soundtrack

Vampire Weekend

Grapefruit-Basil Loaf

adapted from Ina Garten

Grapefruit and Basil Simple Syrup

Ingredients

  • 2 C basil leaves
  • 1 C sugar
  • 4X1 inch strips of pink or ruby red grapefruit zest
  • 1 C water

Directions

  1. Bruise the basil leaves bit with your hands to release the oils.
  2. Place basil, sugar, water and zest in medium heavy-bottomed saucepan.  Turn on medium heat and let it come to a boil and allow the sugar to dissolve.
  3. Turn off heat.  Allow mixture to steep for at least an hour while it cools to room temperature.
  4. Strain syrup through a fine-meshed sieve and store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a month.

Grapefruit Loaf

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar, divided
  • 3 extra-large eggs
  • 1 TBS pink or ruby red grapefruit zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup grapefruit and basil simple syrup

For the glaze:

  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed grapefruit juice

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8 1/2 by 4 1/4 by 2 1/2-inch loaf pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper. Grease, flour and line pan with parchment.
  2. Sift  together the flour, baking powder, and salt into 1 bowl.  In another bowl, whisk together the yogurt, 1 cup sugar, the eggs, grapefruit zest, and vanilla. Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. With a rubber spatula, fold the vegetable oil into the batter, making sure it’s all incorporated. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 50 minutes, or until a cake tester placed in the center of the loaf comes out clean.
  3. When the cake is done, allow it to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Carefully place on a baking rack over a sheet pan. While the cake is still warm, pierce cake all over with a bamboo skewer than pour the grapefruit and basil syrup over the cake and allow it to soak in. Cool.
  4. For the glaze, combine the confectioners’ sugar and grapefruit juice to desired consistency and pour over the cake.

Devil’s Food with Hazelnut Crunch Cake

Just in case you’ve forgotten, here is where we last left off:

Inspiration for recipes on The Misanthropic Hostess come from all over the place.  Sometimes I’m attracted to a new idea, ingredients or technique I haven’t worked with.  Other posts are inspired by memorable meals and childhood favorites.  And then, sometimes, I try a recipe for this singular reason: get in my belly!  This is one of those recipes.  Bon Appetit has this new thing going on where they offer additional recipes via mobile/tablet interface that don’t appear in the print magazine or, as far as I’ve seen, Epicurious.  They show you the picture and then send you to the mobile.  Such a tease.  Anyhow, this is one of those recipes.

Who doesn’t love chocolate and coffee together?

A single recipe makes three eight-inch cakes.

The crumb is pretty fine and loose.  If you are going whole-hog and decide to frost these babies, I suggest freezing them first.

While I liked the frosting included in this recipe, I still haven’t found the perfect chocolate frosting.  Good thing I like research.

Here is what makes this recipe special.  That hazelnut crunch pictured above?  It finds its way into each layer of the cake.  It’s like a little crunchy Nutella surprise!

Remember to leave some for the top.

Now, who needs a glass of milk?

The only suggestion I have is to maybe chop the hazelnut crunch to a finer grain for the middle cake layers.  As you can see from the piece below, the generous chunks sort of got in the way of the layer-flow.

This is a great special occasion cake indeed! And no TD, no peppercorns.

If you like this, you might like these

Chocolate Love Cake

Chewy Chocolate Cookies

Soundtrack

I discovered this new dude name Phillip Phillips.  Guess who doesn’t watch American Idol?

Devil’s Food Cake with Hazelnut Crunch

Bon Appetit, September 2012

Devil’s Food Cake

Ingredients

  • 2 1/3 C cake flour
  • 1 C unsweetened cocoa powder (I use Vahlrona)
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp instant espresso powder
  • 1 C hot coffee
  • 1 C buttermilk
  • 2 1/2 C sugar
  • 1 C (2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temp
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 oz semi-or-bittersweet chocolate, melted, cooled slightly

Directions

  1. Grease 3 8″ cake pans, line bottoms with parchment.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  3. Sift cake flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, salt and baking powder into a medium bowl.
  4. In a separate bowl (better yet, if you have it, use a multi-cup pyrex liquid measuring cup), dissolve espresso into hot coffee, whisk-in buttermilk, set aside.
  5. In a stand mixer (or with an electric mixer), beat sugar and butter until light and fluffy (5ish minutes), scraping-down bowl as needed.  Add eggs one-at-a-time, beating in between additions. Beat in egg yolk and vanilla.  Beat on high speed until doubled in volume and very fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Scrape bottom of bowl well making sure all ingredients are incorporated.  Beat 1 more minute.
  6. With mixer on low, beat in flour and coffee mixtures in alternating pattern, starting and ending with flour.
  7. Divide evenly among pans.
  8. Bake until tester inserted into center comes out clean (about 20 minutes).  Transfer to wire racks, let cake cool in pans for 30 minutes.
  9. Invert cakes onto racks, peel off parchment and let cool completely.  I like to do this step in advance, wrap each cake tightly in plastic wrap and then freeze.  These cakes will be much easier if frosted while frozen.

Frosting

Ingredients

  • 8 oz milk chocolate, chopped
  • 8 oz semi-or-bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 1/2 TBS light corn syrup
  • 1 1/2 C heavy cream
  • 1 C (2 sticks) chilled, unsalted butter, cut into 1/2″ pieces.

Directions

  1. Combine both chocolates and corn syrup in medium bowl.
  2. Bring cream to barely a boil in a small saucepan; pour over chocolate mixture.  Let sit for 2 minutes. Whisk until chocolate is melted and mixture is completely combined.
  3. Using a standing or electric mixer, beat chocolate mixture until cool, 5-6 minutes.
  4. Add-in butter a few pieces at a time, beating until incorporated between additions.  Continue to beat until thick and lightened in color (between 5-15 minutes).  If kitchen is hot or frosting feels thin, refrigerate.

Hazelnut Crunch

Hazelnut crunch

Assembly

  • Level-off cakes using a serrated knife.  Place 1 cake layer on a large plate or stand.
  • Using an offset spatula, spread about 1 cup frosting on bottom layer.  Spring 1/2 cup hazelnut crunch over frosting.  Place second layer over crunch.  Repeat.
  • Top third layer with frosting and decorate as desired.  Finish with hazelnut crunch.
  • Chill until frosting is set (3-4 hours).

 

But isn’t cake always fun?

March is a heavy birthday month in my family.  TD’s is the 3rd and my brother’s is the 17th.  So, we needed cake.  Lots of it.  While perusing the March issue of Bon Appetit, I spied a recipe for Chocolate Peanut Butter Fun Cake.  Well yeah, chocolate and peanut butter are always fun.  This is a single-layer cake made in a 8X8″ pan.  And, it starts with chocolate.

This is also one of those no-heavy lifting or serious kitchen tools required sort of recipes.  At least, the cake part is.

The resulting batter will be very dark and very thick.

And really difficult to not stick your fingers into.

Out of the oven, the cake looks a lot like a brownie.  But don’t be fooled.  This baby is all cake.

The frosting is a basic buttercream recipe with a lot of peanut butter thrown in.  Be prepared to be able to smell nothing but peanut butter for the rest of the day after making a batch of this confection.

Enough whipping (and air) and the color fades to a nice, mellow Tuscan beige.

And then the real fun begins.  We happened to have house guests the weekend of TD’s birthday.  So, I enlisted a mini-pastry chef to decorate.  She used salted peanuts, mini peanut butter cups and chocolate curls.

Here our chef spreads a nice thick layer of buttercream.

A border of baby cups.

She spelled-out the birthday boy’s name in peanuts…but was very artistic about it.

And that my friends, is a very fun cake.  I would have liked to hire Kate on permanently but her dad said something about kidnapping and child labor laws.

Soundtrack

All kids songs all the time.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Fun Cake

Bon Appetit, March 2012

Ingredients

Chocolate cake:

  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped semisweet or bittersweet chocolate (3 1/2 ounces)

Peanut butter buttercream:

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup egg whites (from about 2 large eggs)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/4″ cubes
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup chopped semisweet or bittersweet chocolate (about 1 3/4 ounces)
  • 1/4 cup chopped unsalted, dry roasted pinenuts  (TMH note: I believe this is a typo–I used salted peanuts)
  • Mini peanut butter cups (a TMH addition, optional)

Directions

For chocolate cake:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat bottom and sides of pan with nonstick spray; line bottom of pan with parchment paper. Whisk flour and next 4 ingredients in a large bowl. Add oil, vanilla, and 1 1/4 cups water; whisk until smooth. Fold in chopped chocolate. Scrape into prepared pan; smooth top. Bake until a tester comes out clean when inserted into center, 35-40 minutes. Let cool completely in pan on a wire rack.

For peanut butter buttercream:
Combine sugar and egg whites in a medium metal bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water. Whisk constantly until sugar dissolves and mixture is hot to the touch, 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat; using an electric mixer, beat on high speed until cool and thick, 5-6 minutes. Beat in vanilla, then peanut butter. With mixer running, add butter a few pieces at a time, beating to blend between additions. Season with salt.

Run a thin knife around pan to release cake. Invert cake onto a serving plate. Spread peanut butter buttercream over top. Garnish with chopped chocolate and peanuts. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.

Cut into 2″ squares.

 

 

Chocolate Stout Cake

Let’s get this month started properly.

Guinness Stout.  Chocolate.  Buttercream.

Shall I continue?

A work colleague (and fantastic baker) introduced me to this cake recipe several years ago. And I’ve been exploiting it ever since.  This is by far my favorite way to make chocolate cake.  It is dark and not as sweet as some chocolate cakes, which makes it a perfect foil for the globs of buttercream I like to slather on top.  And, if you are so inclined (as I am from time to time), it gives you a good excuse to pop the little widget on the Guinness can or bottle and enjoy a pint or two while baking.

This cake recipe is a little unusual in that you start it by boiling together a couple of cups of a good stout beer, butter and cocoa.  Strange brew indeed.

While the brew cools a bit, beat together eggs and sour cream.

Then the beer mixture is added to the sour cream.

After this, the dry ingredients are incorporated.

The result is a gorgeous, silky cake batter.  I’ve made layer cakes, sheet cakes and cupcakes with this recipe.

Here is the do what I say, not what I do portion of the post.  I thought it would be cute to make mini cupcakes without the wrappers so that when I topped them with the frosting they’d look like little beers.  Good idea in theory, a little short-sighted in operation.  First, if making cupcakes, only fill each cup about 2/3 full.  In the picture below they are filled to the top.  Not a good idea.  Second, these guys need wrappers.  Despite oiling the already non-stick pan, I had a heck of a time getting the little buggers out of the pan. This recipe will make about three dozen full-sized cupcakes, six dozen babies or two eight-to-nine inch cakes.

While this cake would be fantastic topped with a cream cheese or sour cream frosting, my go to is an Italian buttercream recipe from Gourmet magazine.  Hey–you know how some people have the dates of their deceased loved-ones in decals across the back windows of their cars.  Do you suppose there is a foodie out there with a Gourmet Magazine RIP on their car?  Just wondering.

Anyhow, Italian buttercream starts by creating a sugar syrup.  Yes, you’ll need your candy thermometer.

While the syrup is coming up to temp, egg whites get whipped into soft peaks with a little sugar and salt.

Then things get really fun.  Start up your standing mixer and slowly add the hot syrup in a steady stream.

This is going to heat things up a bit.  Don’t worry though, keep that whisk attachment (or handmixer) going.

It wouldn’t be buttercream without the butter. The butter gets added a tablespoon at a time.

At some point it will start to look like something has gone horribly wrong.  It hasn’t, keep on whisking.

A little later you’ll think, really, this isn’t right.  It is.

Eventually, the whole mess will come together and you’ll have beautiful, smooth butter cream frosting.

What you do after is up to you.  Me?  I topped my little stout cupcakes with a dollup of butter cream and dusting of sanding sugar.

If what TD says is true about there being a sandwich in every beer, there is definitely a cake in every pint!

Chocolate Stout Cake

Bon Appetit, September 2002

Ingredients

  • 2 C stout (such as Guinness)
  • 2 C (4 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 C unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 4 C all purpose flour
  • 4 C sugar
  • 1 1/2 t salt
  • 1 T baking soda
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 1/3 C sour cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare pans

In a saucepan, bring stout and butter to a simmer over medium heat.  Add cocoa powder and whisk until mixture is smooth.  Cool slightly.

Whisk together flour, sugar, baking soda and salt in large bowl.  In a separate bowl or standing mixer, beat eggs and sour cream to blend.  Add stout mixture to egg mixture and beat to combine.  Add-in flour mixture and blend briefly on slow speed until just combined.  Divide batter as desired.  Bake cakes until tester inserted into center comes our clean, 18-35 minutes.

Vanilla Buttercream

Gourmet, January 2004

This recipe makes about 6 cups frosting

Ingredients

  • 4 large egg whites at room tempurature
  • Rounded 1/4 teaspoon of salt
  • 2/3 C water
  • 1 1/3 plus 2 T sugar
  • 4 sticks (2 C) butter, cut into tablespoon pieces and softened
  • 2 t vanilla

Combine whites and salt in a very large bowl. Stir together water and 1 1/3 cups sugar in a 3- to 4-quart heavy saucepan until sugar is dissolved, then bring to a boil over moderate heat, without stirring, brushing any sugar crystals down side of pan with a pastry brush dipped in water.

When syrup reaches a boil, start beating egg whites with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until frothy, then gradually add remaining 2 tablespoons sugar and beat at medium speed until whites just hold soft peaks. (Do not beat again until sugar syrup is ready.)

Meanwhile, put thermometer into sugar syrup and continue boiling until syrup registers 238 to 242°F. Immediately remove from heat and, with mixer at high speed, slowly pour hot syrup in a thin stream down side of bowl into whites, beating constantly. Beat, scraping down side of bowl with a rubber spatula, until meringue is cool to the touch, about 10 minutes in a standing mixer or 15 with a handheld. (It is important that meringue is properly cooled before proceeding.)

With mixer at medium speed, gradually add butter 1 piece at a time, beating well after each addition until incorporated. (Buttercream will look soupy after some butter is added if meringue is still warm. If so, briefly chill bottom of bowl in a large bowl filled with ice water for a few seconds before continuing to beat in remaining butter.) Continue beating until buttercream is smooth. (Mixture may look curdled before all of butter is added but will come back together by the time beating is finished.) Add vanilla and beat 1 minute more.

Note: buttercream will freeze very well in an air-tight ziplock bag.

Chocolate Love Cake

Here is how this story begins:

TD: Can you make one of those chocolate cakes?

ME: Like what kind?

TD: The brown kind.

ME: Can you be more specific?

TD: That doesn’t have pink peppercorns.  And is big with chocolate cake and chocolate filling and chocolate frosting.

ME: But no peppercorns?

TD: No peppercorns.

For my valentine? Anything.  And so chocolate love cake was born.

The concept for this cake isn’t particularly unique or even fancy. You’ve seen this cake a hundred times.  In fact, when you  get down to it, this cake is a darned cliche.  Like chocolate molten cake or New York cheesecake. But. A cliche is a cliche for a reason and as well worn as this cake is, it does deliver.

The recipe that follows combines what I think is the best of all fudge recipes.  The cake has a buttermilk and unsweetened chocolate base (as opposed to a cocoa base) to which I have added mini chocolate chips.  The filling/frosting also begins with unsweetened chocolate.  Then the whole thing gets covered in toasted almonds (or walnuts or pecans…or well, you get the picture).  Shall we get started?

Unsweetened chocolate, sugar and vanilla are added to water and cooked until combined.

The fudge is then cooled down in an ice bath.  Stir the cooling sauce often or you get grainy fudge (I know this from experience).

Once chilled, the fudge is added to the usual list of great cake suspects: sugar, butter, yadda yadda yadda.  Then the buttermilk and dry ingredients are incorporated by alternating between the two beginning and ending with the flour.

Oh, let’s back up a minute.  While your butter is creaming, butter your pans.  Then, line the bottoms in parchment and finally “flour” each pan with cocoa.  Using cocoa instead of flour keeps your chocolate cake looking chocolatey.

Okay, now back to the finished batter.  For this recipe, I’ve used six-inch cake pans.  The recipe easily yields enough batter for three six-inch pans or two eight or nine-inch pans.  To get evenly sized cakes, I zeroed-out my scale with a separate empty bowl and then transferred the batter to said bowl.  I divided the total weight by three and then added the appropriate amount to each of my pans.  Alternately, you could just eye-ball it.

Here comes extra-special cake tip #2 (#1 one was the thing about the cocoa if you are keeping track).  Once the cakes are completely cool, double wrap them in plastic wrap and freeze them solid.  Frozen cake is much, much easier to work with than cake at room temperature.

Level out each frozen cake.  Then decide how many layers you’d like your finished cake to be.  And then, very carefully, cut each cake with a large serrated knife (I use a bread knife).  It’s okay if you don’t get them completely level: that’s what frosting is for.

Now it’s time to frost.  The frosting recipe I’ve included below makes plenty for a two-layer cake.  For three layers, consider one-and-one-halving the recipe.

After filling your layers, you may want to add a crumb layer to the whole cake before frosting the entire construction project.  This is super duper cake tip #3.  A crumb layer is a very thin layer of frosting–kind of like putting down a layer of primer before painting a room.  It makes your final layer of frosting much neater looking.

Of course, I did this and remembered that I was going to cover the entire cake in almonds.  But, I did feel better knowing how nice the frosting looked under the almonds.

Here is cake tip #4.  To keep your cake plate clean, slip parchment paper under the edges of the cake.  Frost and then carefully remove the parchment.  The result is a nice, un-frosted cake plate.

I have to admit, I don’t really have any advice on how to successfully stick your nuts to the outside of the cake (oh, good grief TD, we are still talking about cake).  I just took handfuls and carefully pressed the nuts into the side of the still-soft frosting.  It worked well save for the huge mess I made on the kitchen counter.  Word to the wise: do this over a rimmed baking sheet and you will save  quite a bit of time in clean up. I don’t know why I didn’t think of this in advance.  Must have been distracted by the nuts.

Behold: Chocolate Love Cake.

Love, love love.

All you need is love.

Love in an elevator…oh wait.  Have I gone too far?

Still stuck on the part about the peppercorns?  For reasons I don’t exactly understand, TD is convinced that I have an evil plan to infuse peppercorns into all of my baked goods.  Pink peppercorns to be specific.  Setting aside the fact that we don’t even have any peppercorns in the pantry (pink or otherwise),  I’ve decided that this is code for something.  I’m just not sure what…

Chocolate Fudge Layer Cake with Chocolate Fudge Frosting

Cake Ingredients

(adapted from Cooks.com)

  • 2 C sifted cake flour
  • 2 t  baking powder
  • .5 t baking soda
  • .5 t salt
  • 3 squares unsweetened chocolate
  • .66 C water
  • 1.5 C sugar
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 10 Tbs butter at room temp.
  • 3 eggs
  • .33 C buttermilk
  • 1 C mini chocolate chips or chunked chocolate of your favorite variety

To make cake

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Butter, line with parchment and flour (or cocoa) your pans.

Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt into bowl, set aside.

Cook chocolate, water and .25 C of sugar in saucepan over low heat stirring constantly until thick and smooth.  Transfer to a bowl set in ice water, stirring often.  Add vanilla.

Beat butter and remaining sugar in large bowl until fluffy.  Beat in eggs one-at-a-time.  Add chocolate fudge mixture and blend.

Beginning and ending with your sifted ingredients, add in flour and buttermilk alternating beating well after each addition.  Fold in chocolate chips.

Pour into prepared cake pans and bake for 35 minutes or until the tops of the cakes spring back when touched.

Remove from pans, cool completely and freeze if desired.

Fudge Frosting

(according to the recipe I pilfered this from it is an adaptation of a recipe from Sky High)

Ingredients

  • 6 ounces unsweetened chocolate melted and cooled
  • 4.5 C confectioner’s sugar
  • 24 Tbs  (3 sticks) unsalted butter at room temp
  • 6 Tbs whole milk, half-and-half or heavy cream
  • 1 Tbs vanilla
  • 2 cups toasted and chopped nuts of choice

To make frosting

Cream together butter, sugar and milk.  Add in chocolate and vanilla, beat until desired consistency.  Makes about 5 cups.