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.

 

That which should never enter my house rides again

I blame Costco.  After a near five year reprieve from membership at the warehouse mecca, TD and found ourselves wandering its (too busy for a Friday night) aisles.  Wandering the aisles at Costco is never a good idea.  I can’t remember what we went in for but am fairly certain the case of beer, apple chips, baby naans and two huge containers of Nutella were not on the original list.

There are only two things that I don’t trust myself to casually keep on hand.  The first is Cheez-Its.The second, as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, is Nutella.  Late on the night of the Costco trip I could hear the chocolate-hazelnut spread calling to me from the garage in little Italian voices accompanied by an accordian.  I swear.

Something needed to be done with the Nutella…before I was done with it.

Cue the cupcakes.  I started with a great basic vanilla and buttermilk cupcake recipe from Sunset Magazine.  The recipe is simple and the resulting cupcakes have enough integrity (structurally speaking) to take on an inch or two of frosting.

Starting with my go-to buttercream recipe, I added a generous blob of Nutella.  And then I added some more for good measure.

After a quick roll in chocolate jimmies, I had, what I thought was a pretty good misdirection for the serious error in judgement that was the purchase of Nutella.  As a bonus, the cupcake recipe makes exactly 12 little cakes.  So, I didn’t even have an excuse to try one since my carrying container holds one dozen and my own sense of social propriety didn’t want to explain what happened to the missing one.

Malted Vanilla Cupcakes with Nutella Buttercream Frosting

cake adapted from Sunset Magazine

For the Cake

Ingredients

  • 6 TBS  unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 C plus 2 TBS sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 TSP vanilla
  • 2 C all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 C malted milk powder
  • 2/3 C buttermilk at room temp.

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line pan with 12 cupcake wrappers.
  2. Sift flour, baking powder, malted milk powder and salt into a medium bowl, set aside.
  3. In a bowl, with a mixer on medium speed, beat butter and all the sugar until well blended.
  4. Add eggs and vanilla and beat on high speed until well blended.
  5. With mixer on low speed, beat about a third of the flour mixture into butter mixture, then about a third of the buttermilk. Repeat to beat in remaining flour mixture and buttermilk, alternating in thirds. When all the flour is incorporated, beat mixture on medium speed just until well blended.
  6. Fill paper-lined or buttered muffin cups (1/3-cup capacity) about three-fourths full with batter (about 1/4 cup in each).
  7. Bake in a 350° oven until tops spring back when lightly touched in the center, 20 to 25 minutes.
  8. Cool on racks 5 minutes; remove from pans. Cool completely.

For the frosting

 Ingredients

  • 5 large egg whites
  • 1 C plus 2 TBS sugar (superfine)
  • pinch of salt
  • 12 ounces (3 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temp, cut into tablespoons
  • 1 tsp cold espresso (optional)
  • 3/4 C Nutella

Directions

  1. 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.
  2. Attach 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Switch to the paddle attachment.  Add-in espresso and Nutella mixing on low until everything is combined.
  5. Generously frost cupcakes.

 

 

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.

Some fillings for French macarons

Vanilla Bean Ganache

Will fill about 40 1.5″ macarons

  • 12 oz white chocolate (chips or chopped)
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 1/2 C heavy cream

Split vanilla bean. Add vanilla seeds and cream to a small, heavy saucepan. Heat mixture until the edges barely simmer.  Add white chocolate swirling pan until everything is covered with cream.  Let sit for one minute.  Whisk melted mixture until smooth.  Store in fridge until ready to use.  Ganache will be very thick and be beaten to add air before piping into macaron shells.

Pumpkin Spice Cream Cheese Filling

Will fill about 40 1.5″ macarons

  • 1 oz canned pumpkin
  • 4 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 2 C confectioners sugar
  • 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • orange food coloring if desired

Cream cream cheese in a standing mixer fitted with a paddle or hand-held beater.  Add-in pumpkin and combined.  Mix in confectioner’s sugar .5 C at a time until frosting reaches desired consistency.  Start with .5 tsp of spice and add-in until reaches desired taste.  Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before filling macarons.

Lemon Cream Cheese Filling

Will fill about 40 1.5″ macarons

  • 4 oz cream cheese softened
  • zest of a large lemon (1 TBish)
  • juice from a large lemon
  • 2 C confectioner’s sugar

Cream cream cheese in a standing mixer fitted with a paddle or hand-held beater. Add in zest and about half of the lemon juice.  Mix in confectioner’s sugar .5 C at a time alternating with lemon juice until frosting reaches desired consistency. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before filling macarons.