Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Southern Banana Pudding Cake

I have to admit this cake was not the prettiest cake, in fact it was a bit messy but its deliciousness more than made up for its lack of aesthetics. With all the pudding, bananas and whipping cream between the layers the assembly process was a bit tricky. If you'd rather, you could make this cake a two layer cake instead of cutting the layers into four. I think this cake would be perfect for a backyard picnic or barbecue because it tastes just like the classic southern banana pudding only in cake form.

Vanilla Butter Cake 
2 Large Eggs, Separated
1 3/4 cup Cake Flour, Sifted
2 teaspoons Baking Powder
1/4 teaspoon Salt
1/2 cup Unsalted Butter, Softened
1 cup Granulated Sugar, Divided
1 1/2 teaspoons Vanilla
1/2 cup Milk
1/8 teaspoon Cream of Tartar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray two 8 inch round cake pans with baking spray then line with parchment. Separate egg yolks from egg whites then allow them to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. In a medium sized bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt, set aside until needed. In the bowl of an electric mixer beat the butter until smooth, then add 3/4 cup of sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolks one at a time, beating well after each addition and scrapping down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed. Beat in the vanilla. On low speed add 1/4 of the flour mixture then 1/3 of  the milk and continue alternating between the two, ending with the flour. Transfer batter to a medium bowl and clean the bowl of the electric mixer. In the clean bowl of an electric mixer beat egg whites until foamy then beat in the cream of tartar until soft peaks form then beat in the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar until stiff peaks form. Gently fold 1/3 of the egg whites into the batter, once incorporated fold in the rest of the egg whites until just combined, careful not to over mix.  Divide the batter evenly among the prepared cake pans. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean. Cool cakes in pan on a wire rack.

Recipe slightly adapted from Joy of Baking

Vanilla Pudding
1/3 cup Granulated Sugar
1/4 cup Corn Starch
1/8 teaspoon Salt
2 3/4 cup Milk
2 tablespoons Unsalted Butter
2 teaspoons Vanilla

In a medium sized sauce pan whisk together all of the dry ingredients. Gradually stir in the milk and cook over medium to medium-high heat until mixture comes to a boil. Let boil for 1 minute, whisking constantly. Remove from heat and stir in the butter and vanilla. To cool quickly make an ice bath, put pan in ice bath stirring constantly until steam subsides. Then transfer pudding to a shallow dish place plastic wrap right on top of pudding to prevent skin from forming and refrigerate until needed.

This recipe is from my mom :)

Whipped Cream Frosting 
8 ounces Cream Cheese, Room Temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons Vanilla
2 cups Whipping Cream

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment beat together the cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla on medium speed until smooth. Continue beating and slowly add the cream. Mix until whipped cream frosting holds a stiff peak.

Recipe from slightly adapted from All Recipes

Order & Assembly
First prepare the cakes, while cakes are baking make the pudding. Make the frosting just before you are ready to assemble the cakes. To assemble first remove the fully cooled cake from the pan and cut each layer in half. On the first layer create a boarder using the whipped cream frosting to prevent to pudding from leaking out. Next, top the layer with about 1/4 inch of the pudding, then top that with a layer of bananas (I used 4 medium sized bananas for the entire cake), then top the bananas with a very thin layer of the whipped cream frosting then add the next layer and repeat. Once you add the final layer frost the entire cake with the remaining whipped cream frosting. Put the cake in the refrigerate immediately to set for at least two hours.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Whole-Wheat Spaghetti with Leeks

These days I find myself primarily cooking vegetarian meals. I just find them easier to cook than meat. I actually don't really like cooking meat, I always over cook it in fear of serving it undercooked. This vegetarian dish and has become quite a staple in my house. It comes together pretty quick and it's easy to make. For D and I it lasts for two nights and tastes just as good the second night as it did the first.

Whole-Wheat Spaghetti with Leeks
12 ounces Whole-Wheat Spaghetti 
4 tablespoons Extra-Virgin Olive Oil 
3 Large Leeks, White and Light Green Parts, Sliced Thin
2 teaspoons Granulated Sugar
2 teaspoons Balsamic Vinegar
1 Head Radicchio, Cored and Sliced Thin
6 ounces Fontina Cheese cut into Cubes 

Cook spaghetti according to directions and reserve 1 cup of pasta water for later use. Add 2 tablespoons of olive-oil to a large skillet and heat over medium-low. Add the leeks plus 1 teaspoon sugar and 1 teaspoon salt, cook for 10 minutes stirring occasionally until leeks are tender. Increase the heat to medium-high and add the cooked pasta, the reserved pasta water, the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 teaspoon of sugar and the balsamic vinegar. Cook for a minute or two then add the radicchio and cheese, stirring to combine all ingredients. Cook until cheese is melted then serve. 

Makes 4 Servings

Recipe from Food Network

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Vanilla Sugar

I have a wish list, but it's probably not what you are thinking. Rather than being full of exotic vacations, yachts, and fancy cars, this list is full of ingredients. Ingredients I want to try or have tried but would like experiment with more. Just to give you an idea about the types of items on my list here are a few...

1. Coconut Oil
2. Princess Bakery Emulsion (and all of the other LorAnn Bakery Emulsions)
3. Orange Flower Water
4. Saffron 
5. Meringue Powder
6. Lavender 
7. Whole Wheat Pastry Flour 
8. Vanilla Bean 

I could go on and on. I bought two vanilla beans a few weeks ago and I am excited to use them. First I am going to try a simple vanilla sugar which I plan on adding to my coffee and then using it in baked goods. I also want to try making my own vanilla, but since I just bought a gigantic bottle of vanilla from Costco, I'll probably wait on the homemade vanilla. 

Vanilla Sugar
1 Whole Vanilla Bean 
2 cups Granulated Sugar

Pour the sugar into an airtight container. Slice open vanilla bean and use the back of a knife to remove the seeds then place the seeds in with the sugar. Stir the seeds into the sugar until they are well distributed, then bury the vanilla bean in the sugar. Close the lid of the container tightly and allow sugar to sit for 1-2 weeks. Add the vanilla sugar to your coffee, tea or anywhere you would usually use granulated sugar. 

Recipe from Alton Brown   

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Peanut Butter and Honey Sprinkled Cookies

Have you you ever heard of crystallized honey? I found this little guy (see picture below) at a local natural foods store and I was intrigued. So I bought him and took him home. The next challenge was to figure out what to with him. Then it hit me, peanut butter and honey cookies. I found this tasty looking recipe on Smitten Kitchen and instead of rolling the cookies out in sugar I rolled them in honey crystals.

I made these cookies and they were everything I'd hoped they would be, soft and chewy with just a hint of honey flavor. I have to admit I forgot one ingredient when I was making these cookies, so I was faced with the dilemma of starting all over or baking the cookies, crossing my fingers and hoping for the best. I chose the latter and the cookies turned out great. So what was this mystery ingredient that slipped my mind? It was the brown sugar, but the cookies still turned out very tasty and just a little less sweet which D and I both agreed was actually quite nice.

Peanut Butter and Honey Sprinkled Cookies
1 1/4 cups All-Purpose Flour
3/4 teaspoon Baking Soda
1/2 teaspoon Baking Powder
1/4 teaspoon Salt
1/2 cups Unsalted Butter, Softened
1 cup Smooth Peanut Butter, Room Temperature
3/4 cups Granulated Sugar
1/2 cup Light Brown Sugar, Firmly Packed
1 Egg, Room Temperature*
2 tablespoon Milk
1 teaspoon Vanilla
3/4 cup Peanut Butter Chips
Crystallized Honey for Rolling (granulated sugar can be substituted for the crystallized honey)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside until needed. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment beat together the butter and the peanut butter until well combined, then beat in the sugars until smooth. Beat in the egg until well incorporated, scraping sides and bottom as needed. Add the vanilla and milk and beat to combined. Add the flour mixture and mix thoroughly. Stir in the peanut butter chips. Form dough into 2 tablespoon sized balls then roll around in the crystallized honey until covered. Press cookies down a bit with the back of a spoon or knife. Bake for 10-12 minutes.

*To bring egg to room temperature quickly cover egg in hot tap water for 10 minutes before use.

Recipe Adapted From Smitten Kitchen  where it was adapted from The Magnolia Bakery Cookbook

Friday, May 20, 2011

Sour Cream Cheddar Cheese and Chive Biscuits

I made mashed potatoes earlier this week with copious amounts of butter and cream cheese and a little bit of fresh chives. They were quite tasty but since I only used a small amount of chives I had leftovers. I think it's a shame to waste perfectly good herbs so I decided to make sour cream cheddar cheese and chive biscuits. The fundamentals for this recipe came from the honey goats cheese biscuits I made a few months ago. These biscuits are light (as in airy not in calories) fluffy, and simple to make. There is no cutting or rolling involved and they can easily be made 30 minutes before dinner.

Sour Cream Cheddar Chive Biscuits 
2 cups All-Purpose Flour
3 teaspoons Baking Powder
1 1/2 teaspoons Salt
4 tablespoons Unsalted Butter, Cold and Sliced
1 tablespoon Unsalted Butter for Pan
1 tablespoon butter for Top, Melted
3/4 cup Sour Cream
1/2 cup Milk
3/4 cup Extra Sharp Cheddar Cheese, Shredded
2 Tablespoons Fresh Chives, Chopped

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Place a ceramic baking dish with 1 tablespoon of butter in oven while it preheats, keep an eye on it so it doesn't burn. Once butter has melted remove dish from the oven and set aside until needed. In a medium sized bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Cut in the cold butter until crumbly then stir in the cheddar and chives. Mix together the sour cream and milk then stir mixture into flour mixture until just combined. Drop biscuits in 1/3 cup sized clumps into prepared dish. Drizzle remaining tablespoon of melted butter over the tops of biscuits. Bake for 15-18 minutes or until golden.

Makes 12-13 Biscuits

Recipe adapted from Joy The Baker

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Strawberry Rhubarb Crumb Bars

When I saw this recipe featured on White On Rice Couple I could not resist, I had to make it soon, soon as in that day so I could have it for dessert that night. I'd never had rhubarb before, not in a bar or a cake or by any other means. It was nothing against rhubarb, the opportunity just had never presented itself. I have been wanting to try rhubarb for quite some time, especially after seeing so many delicious looking recipes with rhubarb as the prime ingredient. So when I came across this recipe I decided it was time to venture into the unknown and give rhubarb a try.

Here are a few before and after thoughts on rhubarb now that I have tasted it and done a little research

Before - Rhubarb looks like celery so it must taste like celery.
After - Rhubarb does not taste like celery.

Before - Rhubarb is only used in desserts.
After - While rhubarb usually seen in desserts it has its place in savory dishes as well, such as in savory sauces, salads and soups.

Before - Is rhubarb a fruit or a vegetable?
After - Rhubarb is a vegetable.

Strawberry Rhubarb Crumb Bars

1/2 cup Unsalted Butter, Melted
3/4 cup Light Brown Sugar, Packed
1/4 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1 1/4 cup All-Purpose Flour

Whisk together brown sugar and salt, then stir in the melted butter. Add the flour and mix with a fork until large crumbs form. Refrigerate streusel mixture until needed.

Strawberry Rhubarb Mixture
1/2 pound Strawberries
1/2 pound Rhubarb
1 1/2 tablespoons Brown Sugar
1/3 cup All-Purpose Flour

Hull strawberries then slice into 1/4 inch pieces, place sliced strawberries into a medium sized bowl. Slice rhubarb into 1/2 inch pieces then place them in the bowl with the strawberries. Whisk together the flour and brown sugar then add to the strawberries and rhubarb. Mix well with a wooden spoon until strawberries and rhubarb are coated with flour mixture. Set aside until ready to use.

1 cup All-Purpose Flour, plus more for pan
3/4 teaspoon Baking Powder
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
3/4 cup Unsalted Butter, Softened, plus more for pan
1 1/4 cup Powdered Sugar, plus more for dusting
2 Eggs
3/4 teaspoon Vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9 inch square pan, line with parchment paper, leaving a 2 inch overhang on each side, then butter and flour the parchment. In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and powdered sugar until light and fluffy, then add the vanilla and beat to incorporate. Beat in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping the sides and bottom as needed. Stir in the flour mixture until just combined.

Pour batter into prepared pan and spread around evenly. Distribute strawberry and rhubarb mixture evenly over the top of the batter. Top with streusel. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 50-55 minutes, or until cake tester comes out clean. Allow cake to cool in pan. Once cooled, remove cake from pan using the parchment sides. Slice into squares and dust with powdered sugar. Serve with vanilla ice cream, whipping cream, or just plain.

Makes 16 squares

Recipe from White On Rice Couple where it was adapted from Martha Stewart

Monday, May 16, 2011

Homemade Soft Pretzels

I used to live on soft pretzels, they were my absolute favorite. I especially liked them dipped in cream cheese or mustard. I hadn't had a soft pretzels in years and I had never made them myself. I thought they were pretty easy to make and fun too. D even enjoyed rolling out the dough and forming them into pretzels. I think these pretzels taste best fresh from the oven and go great with a good beer.

1 1/2 cups Warm Water (110-115 degrees F)
1 tablespoon Granulated Sugar
2 teaspoons Kosher Salt
2 1/4 teaspoons Active Dry Yeast
22 ounces All-Purpose Flour (about 4 1/2 cups)
4 tablespoons Unsalted Butter, Melted
Vegetable Oil (for bowl and baking sheets)
10 cups Water (for boiling)
2/3 cups Baking Soda
1 Egg Yolk Beaten with 1 tablespoon Water*
Kosher Salt for Sprinkling

In the bowl of an electric mixer stir together the warm water, sugar and salt.  Sprinkle the yeast on top, stir slightly, then allow mixture to sit for about 5 minutes or until foamy. Add the flour and melted butter. Attach the dough hook to the mixer and mix on low speed until dough comes together. Increase speed to medium and mix for 4-5 minutes. Keep an eye on the dough while it is mixing making sure it doesn't come out of the bowl. Once dough is done mixing, remove it from the bowl and set aside. Clean out the mixing bowl then coat it with vegetable oil. Put the dough into the oiled mixing bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let dough rise for 45-50 minutes or until it has doubled in size. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and brush lightly with vegetable oil. Once dough is done rising bring the 10 cups of water and the baking soda to a rapid boil. Lightly oil your work surface and cut dough into eight equal pieces. Roll each piece of dough into an 18-20 inch rope. Form dough into a U shape then holding the ends cross them at the bottom of the U, forming a pretzel shape. Place pretzels back on the baking sheet. After all pretzels are formed place them, one at a time in the boiling water for 30 seconds. Remove pretzels from the boiling water using a flat spatula, preferably one with slots so the water can run through. Place boiled pretzels back onto the baking sheet and brush with egg and water mixture and sprinkle with salt. Bake for 12-15 or until pretzels are browned. Cool slightly on wire rack.

Makes 8 pretzels

* I used vegetable oil for brushing rather than egg.

Recipe from Alton Brown

Dough before rising

Dough after rising

Pretzel before boiling

Pretzel after boiling 

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Shortbread and Jam: A Springtime Daisy Cookie

These cookies are the perfect springtime treat, especially when made with strawberry jam. You can cut these cookies into any shape you like, or if you don't want a lot scrapes left over after cutting, just cut them into squares. Although the scrapes are quite tasty too. I ate them this morning with coffee after D and I got back from any earlier morning dental appointment (7 a.m. yikes).

Shortbread and Jam Cookies
7 tablespoons Unsalted Butter, Softened
1/2 cup Superfine Sugar*
1 2/3 cups All-Purpose Flour
1/2 teaspoon Baking Powder
1/8 teaspoon Salt
1 Egg
1/4 teaspoon Vanilla
2/3 cup Strawberry Jam (or whichever kind of jam you fancy)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line a standard sized baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large mixing bowl stir together the soft butter and sugar until combined. In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Stir flour mixture into butter mixture, then use your hands to mix together until crumbly. Whisk together the egg and vanilla then add it to the dough mixture. Knead mixture until the dough comes together and form it into a ball. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Once dough it chilled cut the dough in half and place one half on a floured work surface (put the other half back in the fridge until you are ready for it). Roll the dough out thin, about 1/4 inch. Place rolled dough on prepared baking sheet and spread jam evenly over the top. Roll out the  other half of the dough and place it on top of the jam. If pieces don't quite line up just patch the dough together until they do and the jam is covered. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the edges and parts of the surface start to brown. Once baked, remove from the oven and let the shortbread cool in the pan for a few minutes, then using the parchment paper to lift, transfer the shortbread to a wire rack and allow it to cool for a few more minutes. Then place the shortbread with the parchment on the counter and cut as desired, while the cookies are still slightly warm.

Makes about 9 cookies, depending on the size of the cutter

* To make superfine sugar, pulse sugar in a food processor for a few seconds until fine.

Recipe slightly adapted from Apples for Jam

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Zucchini Soup

It's been cold and rainy here for the past few days so it was the perfect time to make this soup. I made this soup for lunch yesterday and still have leftovers for today. Since it has been so cold and rainy I have been hauled up inside reading and watching reruns of Gilmore Girls. I just finished The Pioneer Woman's: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels and I just started The Help. I love a good spring/summertime read, especially when it is rainy out.
This recipe is from my mom. It's great for lunch or a light dinner and it's a good way to use up the abundance of zucchini everyone seems to have come late summer.

Zucchini Soup
3 cups Shredded Zucchini 
2 tablespoons Chopped Onion
2 tablespoons Water
2 cups Milk (I used 1%)
1/4 cup Butter
2 tablespoons All-Purpose Flour
2 Chicken Bouillon Cubes
Salt and Pepper to taste
Freshly Grated Nutmeg (optional, but completely worth it)

Combine zucchini, onion and water in a large saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally. Melt butter in a medium sized saucepan over medium heat then whisk in the flour. Once mixture is bubbly, pour in the milk and whisk until mixture is slightly thickened. Pour milk mixture into zucchini mixture and stir until thoroughly combined. Season with salt and pepper. Pour soup into bowls and top with freshly grated nutmeg. Serve with a hunk of buttered bread.

Serves 2

Monday, May 9, 2011

Happy Belated Cinco de Mayo (or maybe I should just say Happy Nueve de Mayo)

Either way it's a good day for a Tres Leches Cake. D and I celebrated Cinco de Mayo with a beans and rice dinner, some good beer and of course Tres Leches Cake. The first time I tried this deliciously milky cake a friend of ours had made it for a dinner party and it was like nothing I had ever tasted. The cake was served surrounded by a pool of milky white and without any frosting on top. I wasn't sure quite what to expect. Once I dug in I found the cake to be absolutely fantastic and I have wanted to try making my own ever since. Most of the recipes I have come across call for a layer of whipping cream on top but the version we had did not have whipping cream on top so I decided to leave it off mine as well. It has been a few years since I tried this cake and I have been meaning to make it ever since and what better day to attempt this creation than Cinco de Mayo?

On another note I mentioned last week that D recently had a birthday. For his birthday I gave him a home beer brewing kit. Over this past weekend we attempted to brew beer, well actually it was mostly D and one of his friends, but I did keep an eye on things while they went to pick up a pizza because beer brewing is a hungry business. Anyway things seemed to run relatively smoothly as far as I could tell with only a little hiccup here and there, but we are still unsure about what to expect. I have heard stories of the beer exploding during the fermentation process and also that the first batch almost never turns out so naturally I am a little concerned. So my question to you is, have you ever brewed beer and if so was it a success or a failure and do you have any advise for a novice home brewer? 

Tres Leches Cake
1 1/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon All-Purpose Flour
1 teaspoon Baking Powder
1/2 teaspoon Salt
8 tablespoons Unsalted Butter, Softened
1 cup plus 1 teaspoon Granulated Sugar
5 Eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons Vanilla Extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9x13 inch pan, line with parchment paper draping over the sides (see picture below) then butter the parchment and set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter on medium speed for about a minute. Decrease speed to medium-low and slowly beat in the sugar over the course of a minute, scraping the sides and bottom as necessary. Beat in the eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition and again scraping the bottom and sides as needed. Beat in the vanilla. In a separate bowl whisk together the rest of the ingredients and beat into the egg mixture in 3 parts until just incorporated. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 25-30 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean. Once cake is done cool in pan for a few minutes then carefully remove cake from pan using the overlapping parchment paper to lift cake and place on a wire rack to cool. Once cake has cooled poke holes over the entire top of the cake with a fork. Trim the edges and cut into squares. Place squares into a large dish with sides (I had to use two dishes for this) then prepare the glaze.

12 ounces Evaporated Milk
14 ounces Sweetened Condensed Milk
3/4 cup Half and Half
1/2 cup Coconut Milk (the full-fat kind) 
1/2 teaspoon Ground Cinnamon

Whisk all of the ingredients together then pour the glaze over the cake squares. I found it best to use a large measuring cup with a spout so I could easily pour the glaze. Cover dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours. Top with whipping cream if you like. 

Recipe adapted from Joy the Baker where it was adapted from Alton Brown


Thursday, May 5, 2011

Two Bean Soup

This soup makes a great weeknight dinner. It only takes 30 minutes to come together, it's healthy and delicious and it easily lasts for two nights when serving two people. I like to serve this soup with cheddar soda bread only this time I left out the cheddar to cut down some of the fat. I made the bread into muffins rather than a round, which shortened the baking time. To make the muffins prepare the bread as directed. Line a standard muffin tin with baking liners and fill each cup 3/4 of the way full. Bake in a 375 degree F oven for 20-25 minutes or until lightly golden on top. 

Two Bean Soup 
3 tablespoons Olive Oil
1 medium Onion, Chopped
2 medium Carrots, Chopped
1 Celery Stock, Chopped 
Pinch of Kosher Salt 
2 Garlic Cloves, Minced 
4 cups Vegetable Broth, Divided 
1 bunch Kale
2 cans Cannellini Beans, Drained and Divided
1 can Black Beans, Drained
1 tablespoon Red Wine Vinegar
1 teaspoon Fresh Rosemary, Chopped
Pepper to taste 

Heat oil in a dutch oven over medium-high heat and add a generous pinch of salt. Stir in the onion, carrots and celery, cook for 7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and cook for just a minute then stir in 3 cups of the vegetable broth and the kale. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer and cover for 3 minutes. In the meantime pour the remaining cup of broth and 1 can of cannellini beans into the blender and blend until smooth. Pour the broth mixture and the remaining beans into the soup. Cook for 5 minutes or until beans are heated through. Pour in the red wine vinegar and stir in the rosemary. Add more salt if you like and pepper to taste. 

Serves 4-6

Recipe slightly adapted from Cooking Light

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Raspberry Cream Cheese Layer Cake

Last week was full of parties and celebrations and when there is a party there must be a cake. So last week I made two cakes, one for D's birthday and one for his cousin's graduation. The cake I made for the graduation was actually a concoction D came up with. When we first started dating I wanted to make him a cake for his birthday and so I asked him what kind of cake he liked. He knew exactly what he wanted, a white cake with cream cheese frosting and raspberry filling, and not just any raspberry filling, it had to be the kind bakery used. I went to the bakery and asked them if I could purchase the raspberry filling they use for their cakes. They looked at me strangely and told me they don't usually sell the filling on its own. I told them I was making a birthday cake for my boyfriend and this was what he had requested and I would really appreciate if they could sell it to me so I could impress him with this fabulous cake. They took pity on me and sold me the filling. I made the cake and it was a huge success which was great but then the next birthday came. I had to go back to the bakery and ask for the filling again and this begging and pleading for raspberry filling continued year after year until last year when I found the filling a restaurant supply store and I never had to beg for it again. So usually I make this cake for D's birthday but this year I got a special request from his sister to make it for the graduation party. So this year D got a new cake which he thoroughly enjoyed, but I have a feeling that next year D will request his old standby instead.

White Cake 
2 3/4 cups Cake Flour
1 2/3 cups Superfine Sugar
1 tablespoon Baking Powder
3/4 teaspoon Salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, Softened
4 Egg Whites plus 1 Whole Egg
1 cup Full-Fat Yogurt
2 teaspoons Vanilla Extract
1 teaspoon Almond Extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour two 8 inch round cake pans then set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment whisk together all of the dry ingredients until thoroughly combined, about 2 minutes. Change attachment to the paddle then beat in the butter until crumbly. Add the egg whites one at a time and beat thoroughly after each addition then add the whole egg and beat until incorporated, scraping the bottom and sides as needed. In a separate bowl stir together the yogurt and extracts. Pour a little at a time into the batter mixing well after each addition, this should take about 3-4 additions. Once all of the yogurt mixture is combined beat batter for 2 minutes until nice and fluffy. Pour batter into the cake pans and bake for 30-40 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean. Allow cakes to cool in pan for about ten minutes then take a butter knife and go around the cake to loosen it from the pan. Turn cake out onto wire rack to cool completely.

Recipe slightly adapted from King Arthur Flour

Cream Cheese Frosting
14 tablespoons Unsalted Butter, Softened
16 ounces Cream Cheese, Softened
6 cups Powdered Sugar
2 teaspoons Vanilla (or more depending on taste)

Beat together the cream cheese and butter until combined. Add the powdered sugar and beat on low for a minutes until incorporated. Add the vanilla, increase the speed and beat for 2-3 minutes.

Once cakes have cooled wrap them in plastic wrap and put them in the refrigerator for for 2 hours to chill (this makes them easier to cut). Once chilled level the tops, if needed and slice each layer directly in half (horizontally). Place the first cut layer on a cake board and frost the perimeter with the cream cheese frosting and fill inside the perimeter with the raspberry filling*. Then add the second layer and frost with the cream cheese frosting. Place the third layer on and frost as you did the first then add the final layer and frost the entire cake with a thin layer of frosting, this is the crumb layer which will help keep the crumbs from showing through the frosting. Once crumb layer is on put the cake in the fridge for at least 20 minutes to allow the frosting to set. Once crumb layer has set remove the cake from the refrigerator and finish frosting. Decorate as desired. To decorate the cake I made I just used a few edible flowers.

*I used Dawn's Raspberry Pie Filling. You could probably use another form of raspberry filling such as a preserve or a jelly with good results.

Makes one 4 layer cake

Raspberry Filling with Cream Cheese Frosting Perimeter 
Crumb Layer

Monday, May 2, 2011

Birthday Cake

D's birthday was this past weekend and we threw a fiesta themed party to celebrate. We had tamales, beans, rice, chips with bean dip and watermelon because it's D's favorite. Of course we had a birthday cake too. I decided to go with a classic, yellow cake and chocolate buttercream frosting. It was quite tasty and a lot of fun to make. Although I must say the frosting did a number on my mixer, it was super thick but my mixer just kept chugging along and eventually got the job done.

Yellow Cake 
2 3/4 cups Cake Flour
1 2/3 cups Superfine Sugar
1 tablespoon Baking Powder
3/4 teaspoon Salt
12 tablespoons Unsalted Butter, Softened
3 Whole Eggs plus 2 Egg Whites
1 cup Full-Fat Yogurt
2 teaspoons Vanilla Extract
1 teaspoon Almond Extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour two 8 inch round cake pans. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment mix together all of the dry ingredients for 2 minutes. Switch to the paddle attachment and beat in the butter until crumbly. Beat in the egg whites one at a time then beat in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping bottom and sides to make sure all ingredients get mixed together. In a separate bowl stir together the yogurt and extracts. Add the yogurt mixture a little at a time to the batter, mixing after each addition. Pour batter into cake pans. Bake 30-40 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean. When cakes are done allow them to cool in the pan for 10 minutes then run a butter knife around the edge of the cake to loosen it from the pan then turn out on a wire rack to cool completely.

Slightly Adapted from King Arthur Flour

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
8 ounces Unsweetened Chocolate, Chopped
6 cups Powdered Sugar
16 tablespoons Unsalted Butter, Softened
6 tablespoons Milk plus more as needed
2 teaspoons Vanilla Extract
1/4 teaspoon Salt

Melt chocolate in a double boiler then set aside to cool. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter, sugar, milk, vanilla and salt on low until combined. My mixer struggled a bit at this point so be sure to add more milk as needed to get mixture to combined. Increase the speed and beat for another minute or two. Pour in the melted chocolate and beat for 2 minutes. Please note this frosting is quite sweet, if you prefer less sweet frosting you could try using a little less powdered sugar.

Recipe from Williams-Sonoma

Once cakes have cooled wrap them in plastic and put them in the refrigerator for about two hours (this will make them easier to trim). Trim the tops of each cake so they are level. Set the first layer on a cake board and frost the top. Add the second layer and frost the top, then frost the entire cake. For this cake I did not do a crumb layer* because the frosting was so thick that I didn't find it necessary. After frosting the cake you may have some frosting leftover to save for another use.

*A crumble layer is a thin layer of frosting spread over the entire cake to prevent crumbs from showing through.