Celebration Cakelettes

WOW…It’s been a long time between posts!  I wish that I could say I’ve been buried under layers of delicious cake, but instead I’ve simply been buried in the many layers of life.  I’ve missed my blog over the past month, but have found myself busy still with so much baking.  My monthly food column (“Dish”) in Front Row Monthly continues to challenge me as I’m learning to develop my own unique recipes.  I’ve also welcomed many new creative and fun baking projects for events from birthday celebrations to holidays to graduations…there is always fun to be had and with that MUST come delicious dessert!

As I find my way to the surface, I wanted to share my latest Front Row Monthly post with you (page 47) .  The May issue is their wedding issue and I was thrilled when they asked me to participate!  I was quite pleased with the way these cakelettes turned out and they were absolutely delicious!  I love the color contrast between the delicate frosting and the bold red velvet cake!  Below is my post for the magazine…ENJOY!

A wedding is an unforgettable milestone in one’s life that genuinely captures the strength of love shared between two people.  It is this love which creates the most meaningful of celebrations embraced by all beloved guests.  Therefore, when the reception approaches its inevitable end, it’s thoughtful to send them on their way with a small yet notable piece of the celebration as a token of thanks.  Having attended many wedding celebrations in my life, I know first-hand that nothing asserts “thank you” like a gift of sweet decadence.  These cakelettes represent a smaller version of the wedding cake and can be displayed on a mini cake stand at each place setting or in a simple gift box with an elegant ribbon.  Either way, these lovely cakes are a showstopper that will serve as a reminder of the special day, even if only for a short while.

Red Velvet Layer Cakelettes          {Print Recipe}

Cake:

3 ¾ cups all-purpose flour

3 Tbsp Dutch processed cocoa powder

1 ½ tsp baking soda

½ tsp salt

12 Tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature

2 ¼ cups granulated sugar

¾ cups vegetable oil

3 large eggs, room temperature

1 ½ tsp pure vanilla extract

1 ½ tsp white vinegar

1 Tbsp red food coloring

1 ½ cups buttermilk, room temperature

Making the cake:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Butter and flour 12 (3-inch) pans and line each pan with parchment paper.  Alternately, you can prepare 24 standard sized cupcake tins with liners.

Whisk the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt together in a medium bowl and set aside.

Place the butter, sugar and oil in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix until light and fluffy (about 4-5 minutes).  Add the eggs one at a time, allowing them to incorporate.  Scrape the sides of the bowl as necessary.  Add the vanilla, white vinegar and food coloring and combine until just incorporated.

Add the dry ingredients alternately with the buttermilk, in 3 additions, beginning and ending with the flour.  Mix well after each addition.  Divide the batter evenly into the pans and bake for 20-25 minutes (3-inch pans) or 16-18 minutes (cupcakes) or until a wooden skewer inserted into the center comes out clean.  Cool the cakes in the pan(s) on a cooling rack for about 15 minutes.  Remove the cakes from the pan by sliding a knife around the perimeter of the pan.  Allow the cakes to cool completely on a cooling rack before filling or frosting.

Mascarpone Cream Filling:

1 cup mascarpone cheese, room temperature

1 Tbsp granulated sugar

4-6 Tbsp heavy whipping cream

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

½ cup heavy whipping cream, chilled

Making the Filling:

Beat the mascarpone cheese and sugar on medium speed in the bowl of an electric mixture fitted with a whisk attachment until combined.  Slowly add 4-6 Tbsp heavy whipping cream and the vanilla and mix until well incorporated.  Set mixture aside.

Place ½ cup chilled whipping cream in a clean bowl and switch to a whisk attachment.  Beat the cream on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form and the cream holds its shape on the beater.  Gently fold the whipped cream into the mascarpone mixture until it is incorporated.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream:

3 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature cut into pieces

5 pasteurized egg whites (can be found in a carton in the egg section)

1 cup granulated sugar

2 Tbsp vanilla extract

Pinch of salt

Making the Buttercream:

Fill a medium saucepan one quarter to one half full with water.  Place the bowl of a stand mixer on top of the saucepan making sure that the water does not touch the bottom of the bowl.  Combine the egg whites, salt and sugar and whisk in the mixer bowl.  Continue to whisk constantly over medium heat until the egg mixture reaches 160 degrees F (use a candy thermometer).  Remove the mixer bowl from the heat and with a whisk attachment, place on the mixer stand and whisk until the bowl is cool to the touch, about 5 minutes.  Switch to the paddle attachment and adjust the speed to low.  Add the butter in about 8-10 portions mixing briefly between each addition.  Once all of the butter is added, increase the speed to medium and beat for about 5 minutes.  At some point, the mixture will look curdled, but just keep mixing and it will become smooth and shiny.  After 5 minutes, slowly add the vanilla extract and mix until it is fully incorporated.

Assembling the cakes:

Level the top of the cakes if necessary and slice the cooled cakes in half.  Place the first layer top side down on a small cake board or other flat surface.  Fill with about 2-3 Tbsp of the mascarpone filling.  Place the second layer of cake on top.  Repeat with another layer of filling and a third layer of cake, if desired.

Once assembled, frost the cakes with a thin layer of the buttercream on all sides and the top.  Chill the cakes for about 30 minutes to let the frosting set.  This step is called a “crumb coat” and ensures that the finished layer of frosting won’t have cake crumbs in it.  Once the frosting has set, select the tip of your choice and pipe a design on the cake or simply spread the buttercream onto the cake with an offset spatula.  All of the cakes can be frosted the same or each one can be unique.

Storage:  Store these cakes in an airtight container in the refrigerator for several days.  Remove the cakes from the refrigerator 2-3 hours before serving as these cakes are best served at room temperature for the most perfect texture and consistency.

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Chocolate Mint Sandwich Cookies

They say that love is in the air, but I’m detecting an enticing aroma of freshly baked cookies.  There are many ways to express your love to someone special, but few are as tasty and memorable as a batch of homemade cookies made with love straight from the heart.

These chocolate-y cookies are rich and buttery with a light crunchy texture and are extraordinary entirely on their own.  However, the mint buttercream filling provides a wonderfully creamy and refreshing flavor contrast.  The fusion of crunchy and creamy is so irresistible it will take hold of all your senses tantalizing every last taste bud.

This recipe was inspired by my insane love for peppermint patties.  I just can’t get enough of them and these cookies share a striking resemblance to my all time favorite treat.  I hope that you and your loved ones have a wonderful day full of love, appreciation and most importantly sweets!

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!! xoxo

Chocolate Cookies          {Print Recipe}

Yield: 1 dozen sandwich cookies

1 ¾ cups all-purpose white flour

1/3 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder, sifted after measuring

1 tsp baking powder

2/3 cup unsalted butter, softened

2 Tbsp canola oil or other flavorless vegetable oil

¾ cup granulated sugar

1 large egg

2 tsp vanilla extract

Pinch of salt

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder and set aside.

In the large bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat together the butter, oil and sugar at medium speed until the mixture is light and fluffy.  Add the eggs, vanilla and salt and mix until well incorporated.  Adjust the mixer speed to low and add the flour mixture until just combined.

Divide the dough in half and place each portion between 2 sheets of wax paper.  Roll dough to an 1/8” thickness and refrigerate on a baking sheet for at least one hour and up to 24 hours (still between wax paper), until chilled and firm, but not too hard.  Let dough warm up slightly before cutting.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Working with one portion of dough at a time, remove the wax paper from both sides of the dough and place on a lightly floured surface.  Using a 2” fluted round cutter (or any cutter of your choice) cut the dough and place rounds on the prepared baking sheet.  You can re-roll any leftover scraps, but chill again before cutting.  Chill all of the cut cookies until firm again before baking.

Bake for 15-18 minutes or until set.  Let cool on baking sheet for about 5 minutes and transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Mint Buttercream Filling

½ cup plus 2 Tbsp non-hydrogenated solid vegetable shortening or unsalted butter, room temperature

¼ tsp peppermint extract

¼ tsp vanilla extract

2 cups plus 3 Tbsp powdered sugar, sifted

¼ cup egg whites, pasteurized

In the large bowl of a stand mixer, add the shortening, peppermint extract and vanilla extract and mix at medium speed until blended.  Adjust the mixer speed to low and slowly add the powdered sugar, egg whites and the pinch of salt.  Increase the speed to medium to fully incorporate the ingredients, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary.

Chocolate Ganache

½ cup bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips

3 Tbsp heavy whipped cream

Heat the cream in a small saucepan over medium low heat until slightly simmering (the edges start to bubble).  Be careful not to boil the cream too long or it will scald.  Remove the pan from the heat and add the chocolate chips, stirring until well incorporated.  Let the chocolate mixture sit and cool until it becomes a spreadable consistency, about 30 minutes.

Assembling the cookies

Pair the cookies so that the sizes match as closely as possible.  Using a pastry bag fitted with a small or round metal piping tip, pipe about a tablespoon of the mint buttercream onto the bottom cookie.  Pipe using another pastry bag, or spread with an offset spatula, a thin layer of the chocolate ganache onto the other cookie.  Sandwich the cookies together allowing the filling to ooze just a bit at the edges of the cookie.  Let set for about 10 minutes.  These cookies can be kept at room temperature in a sealed container for a couple of hours, but refrigerate for longer storage.  Make sure to bring back to room temperature before serving.

Visit www.frontrowmonthly.com to also view this recipe as well as the latest in fashion news and entertainment.  My recipe post is on page 17 of the “page-flip” under the section Dish.

Double Chocolate Bundt Cake

SNOW DAY!!  Denver gets heavy snow storms that shut down the city only once or twice a year…maybe.  It offers such a sense of contentment knowing that you have no choice but to stay home, bundle up and enjoy the day.  For most, a snow day signifies cozying up to a warm fire with a good book, taking a long nap or even making snow angels in the deep fluffy snow.  Snow days for me, however, seem to elevate the constant streaming of sweet cravings that are already quite a mainstay in my consciousness.  Here is an example of what happens in my mind…hmmm…”what ingredients can I discover in the pantry to create something sweet and irresistible?”  Thoughts soon become reality and the rest of the day is spent scouring through my many savored volumes of baking cookbooks, creating something truly decadent and consuming way too much of it.  Oh yeah and maybe capturing a few photos of the tasty subject if I can time it right (ie. before consuming way too much of it).  Don’t get me wrong…I still enjoy time spent cozying up to a warm fire, but it almost always seems to accompany the indulgence of cake in hand.

This cake is extremely moist, in part from the sugar syrup, but also from the chocolate chips.  It creates a slightly fudge-y center that when paired with a glass of milk, can’t be matched.  The cake is delicious at room temperature, but I like to heat a slice (or two)  in the microwave for about 15 seconds to get the inside nice and gooey.

Enjoy!

Double-Chocolate Bundt Cake          {Print Recipe}

Yield: 16 servings

Sugar Syrup:

2/3 cup granulated sugar

¼ cup water

¼ cup chocolate-flavored liqueur (can also use coffee-flavored liqueur)

2 Tbsp unsalted butter

Cake:

1 ½ cups granulated sugar

6 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened (plus more for preparing pan)

2 large eggs

2 large egg whites

2 tsp vanilla extract

3 cups all-purpose flour (plus more for preparing pan)

½ cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder

1 tsp baking powder

½ tsp baking soda

½ tsp salt

1 ½ cups 2% milk

1 cup semisweet chocolate mini-chips

Chocolate Glaze:

4 Tbsp. heavy whipping cream

½ cup semisweet chocolate chips

1 Tbsp unsalted butter

Making the sugar syrup:

Combine the first 4 ingredients in a small saucepan.  Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat and cool completely.

Making the cake:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Prepare a 12-cup Bundt pan by rubbing a small amount of butter to cover all corners of the inside of the pan.  Flour the pan lightly and set aside.

Lightly spoon 3 cups of flour in dry measuring cups; level with a knife.  Combine the flour and next 4 ingredients (through salt), stirring with a whisk.  Set aside.

Place 1 ½ cups granulated sugar and 6 Tbsp butter in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat at medium speed until well combined; light and fluffy (about 5 minutes).  Add the eggs and egg whites, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add the vanilla extract.

Add the flour mixture and milk alternately to the sugar mixture, beginning and ending with the flour.  Mix well after each addition and scrape the sides of the bowl with a spatula as necessary.  Beat for 2 minutes until well incorporated.  Fold in the chocolate chips.  Spoon the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake at 350 degrees F. for 45 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out almost completely clean.  Immediately pour glaze over the cake.  Cool the cake in the pan on a wire rack for 30 minutes.  Invert the cake onto a cake platter and cool completely.

Making the chocolate glaze:

Heat the heavy whipping cream in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until the edges just begin to bubble.  Add the chocolate chips and butter and whisk constantly until fully melted.  Add more cream as necessary to thin the glaze for a pouring consistency.

Drizzle the glaze over the cake and try not to eat the whole cake in one sitting.

Recipe adapted from Cooking Light, March 2008

Flourless Chocolate Brownies

With Thanksgiving fast approaching, the ever ubiquitous pumpkins, apples, spices, nuts and everything fall make their way into most of the desserts for this holiday of thanks.  I absolutely adore this time of year and all of its flavors; however, sometimes you just need a little break from tradition for a change of taste.  A profound chocolate craving took over my willpower this week (not unusual by any means).  These decadent chocolate brownies instantly came to mind and I knew they would be the perfect diversion from the classic fall desserts furthermore satisfying my intense craving (at least until next week).

These brownies are rich and fudgy, but not too sweet.  They are made without flour which further propels the chocolate onto center stage.  You won’t even miss the flour…in fact you’ll wonder how flour ever made its way into brownies in the first place.  Who knew the absence of flour in a baked good could be such a wonderful thing? Whether you have intolerance to gluten or simply want a divine fudgy brownie…this is absolutely the recipe for you!  What I like best about this recipe is that it doesn’t involve a mixer of any kind.  Just make sure that you stir the batter long enough (as directed below) otherwise the brownies can become crumbly.  The cocoa nibs are a wonderful addition creating a nice texture combination with the nuts. (You can find cocoa nibs at Whole Foods Market or any specialty food store).

Flourless Chocolate Brownies          {Print Recipe}

Yield: 12 brownies

6 Tbsp unsalted butter

8 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped

¾ cup sugar

2 large eggs, room temperature

1 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder, natural or Dutch-process

3 Tbsp corn starch

1/8 tsp salt

3 Tbsp cocoa nibs – optional but highly recommended

1 cup walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped – optional

Line the inside of an 8×8 square pan with foil so that it goes up the sides and wrap over the rim.  Lightly grease the foil with butter or non-stick cooking spray.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Melt the butter, salt and chocolate in a medium saucepan over very low heat, stirring constantly until smooth.  Remove from the heat and stir in the sugar, then the eggs, one at a time.

Sift together the cocoa powder and corn starch in a small bowl then stir them into the chocolate mixture.  Beat the batter vigorously for at least one minute, until the batter is no longer grainy and nearly smooth.  It will pull away from the sides of the pan a bit.

Add the nuts and cocoa nibs, if using, then scrape the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake for 30 minutes or until the brownies are set in the center and slightly cracked on top.  Be careful to not over bake. Remove from the oven and let cool completely on a rack before removing from the pan and slicing.

Keep brownies stored in a sealed container for up to 4 days…but they probably won’t last that long.

Recipe from David Lebovitz, http://www.davidlebovitz.com

Happy Birthday Ami!!

Is there anything better than a birthday party to a 4 year old?  Balloons…cake…gifts…cake…friends…did I mention cake?

This past weekend we celebrated Ami’s birthday.  Treasured time spent with close friends to celebrate the 4 wonderful years of our daughter’s life.  This year the birthday girl chose a “dog” theme.  I have to admit that I had my doubts about the creative offerings of such a theme, but after several weeks of planning and quite honestly, obsessing specifically about Dalmatians, I might have been more excited about the festivities than even the birthday girl.  In fact, I’m still seeing spots!  I’ve always had an unnatural passion for polka dots…and this theme allowed me to take that obsession to new heights!

It turns out that the possibilities for imagination were endless and my only constraint was time.  I made the dog topper for the cake about a week in advance and by the time Ami’s party arrived, “Spot” was practically considered a family pet…he was that cute.  Isn’t it true what they say that “dog is man’s best friend”…imagine if it’s made out of sugar?!  Anyway, the outdoor event was a success surrounded by a special group of friends and manageable backyard temperatures.  The cake was a delicious double layer vanilla buttermilk cake with chocolate chips (very Dalmatian I must say) with chocolate buttercream frosting.  The chocolate buttercream frosting was a one bowl buttercream perfect for kids because it doesn’t have any egg whites like a traditional swiss buttercream (my personal favorite).  All of the decorations on the cake were made out of gumpaste (one of my favorite sculpting ingredients to work with).  Technically, gumpaste is edible because it is basically a sugar dough, however, I don’t find it all that appetizing.  The kids felt differently…Ami had barely blown out the candles before the dog bones and ball were seized and consumed by several sugar starved children.  I grabbed our new family pet…Spot (whom I’m quite attached to if you haven’t noticed)…and his dog bowl as fast as I could in order to salvage the last remnants of all my hard work.

Buttermilk & Chocolate Chip Cake         {Print Recipe}

3 cups sifted all-purpose flour (plus 1 Tbsp at high altitude)

1 Tbsp baking powder (2 tsp at high altitude)

½ tsp salt (3/4 tsp at high altitude)

2 sticks butter

2 cups granulated sugar (minus 1 Tbsp at high altitude)

4 eggs (5 eggs at high altitude)

1 tsp vanilla extract (2 tsp at high altitude)

1 cup milk (1 cup plus 2 Tbsp buttermilk at high altitude)

1 cup mini chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and position rack in center of oven. Butter and flour (2) 9” pans or 9×13 pan and use parchment paper, if desired.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the sifted flour, baking powder and salt.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until well blended. Scrape down the bowl and beater. Beat in the eggs 2 or 3 at a time, along with the vanilla, beating well to blend. Then scrape down the bowl and beater again. Don’t worry if the batter looks curdled, the flour will bring it together.

With the mixer on the lowest speed, slowly add the dry ingredients, alternating with the milk or buttermilk. Once the batter is blended together, increase the speed and beat for about a minute, until smooth and creamy.  Add the chocolate chips and beat until chips are just incorporated.

Divide the batter evenly between the two pans or the 9×13 pan and smooth the top.

Bake for 22-28 minutes for 9″ pans and 30-33 minutes for 9×13 pan (rotating after 20 minutes) or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out dry. Cool pans on a wire rack for about 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, run a knife between the cake layers and pan sides to release the cakes and let the cakes cool completely. Fill and frost as desired.

*Note: I doubled the cake and frosting recipes to create a double layer 9×13 cake.

Recipe from Pie in the Sky, by Susan Purdy

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

6 Tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature

2 2/3 cups confectioner’s sugar

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1/3 cup milk

1 tsp vanilla extract

In a medium bowl, beat the butter until light and fluffy.  Sift the confectioner’s sugar and cocoa powder together in a separate bowl and add to the butter mixture alternately with the milk.  Beat to a spreadable consistency, adding milk as necessary.  Stir in the vanilla.

Recipe from All Recipes.com