Cream Cheese Pound Cake with Balsamic Cherries

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Cream Cheese Pound Cake with Balsamic Cherries | The Baker’s Pantry
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Cream Cheese Pound Cake with Balsamic Cherries | The Baker’s Pantry

Hello Friends!
I’m back! I’m thrilled to be thrust back into my world of blogging, baking and voracious consumption. While life has pulled me away from my blogging for a while, I feel that my mind has never stopped overflowing with baking ideas to share with you! After all, my passion for baking runs through my veins and can’t be suppressed for long! I’ve really missed my time focusing on the blog and connecting with my baking community and it feels so great to immerse myself into it again.

For this post, I want to highlight one of my favorite cakes that I reach for time and time again. It’s versatile for all occasions and a sure crowd pleaser. Pound cake; presumed the most humble of all butter cakes and often misrepresented as dense, dry and unworthy. I’m here to prove different. Pound cake prepared the right way will yield a buttery moist cake with a fine texture and an exceptional crumb. I like to think of myself as a pretty simple girl, not a lot of fluff (not too much anyway). I tend to garner this same attribute when it comes to desserts as well. I don’t like overly sweet or fussy, but instead rich and indulgent with the perfect amount of sweetness…pound cake certainly fits the bill. What I love most about this cake is that it also lends itself as a blank canvas eager to meld with almost any flavor profile. Some flavor ideas might include: For a bright citrus flavor, add the zest and juice of a lime, orange, lemon or any combination of these (just don’t add more than 2 Tbsp. of juice as it will affect the outcome of the cake). For added warmth, scrape the seeds of a vanilla bean into the batter or add a spice combination of cinnamon, cloves, ginger and cardamom. For an indulgent twist, infuse the cake with coffee, espresso or chocolate. The options are literally endless…

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Cream Cheese Pound Cake with Balsamic Cherries | The Baker’s Pantry

Pound cake originated in Europe in the early 1700’s and was given its name for the main ingredients it is comprised of; a pound each of flour, butter, eggs and sugar. These four unassuming ingredients come together beautifully to yield greatness. While no cake I’ve ever made has weighed four pounds (some have come close), the ratio of 1:1:1:1 is the general rule of thumb when making this cake. This recipe makes two loaves at a time and when wrapped well, it freezes beautifully.

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Cream Cheese Pound Cake with Balsamic Cherries | The Baker’s Pantry
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Cream Cheese Pound Cake with Balsamic Cherries | The Baker’s Pantry

Here are some simple guidelines to follow as a general rule of thumb to ensure cake greatness.
1. Don’t just scoop the flour when measuring. Flour packed too much can create a dense cake. Whisk it and fluff it with a little love before spooning it into the measuring cup and then level with a knife. It’s also important to whisk or sift the dry ingredients to alleviate any annoying clumps in your batter.

2. Let all of your dairy come to room temperature. It is so important for your butter, eggs and any liquids to not only come to room temperature, but to also be the same temperature as one another. This ensures that they will better incorporate with one another. The beautiful and necessary air pockets that develop as the butter is creamed will be destroyed and will cease if you add cold eggs to it! Take your dairy ingredients out of the refrigerator a couple of hours before beginning. If you find yourself short on time, you can use a few shortcuts. Remove the butter from the wrapper, slice it and set it on a plate for about 15-30 minutes. Eggs can be placed into a bowl with warm water for about 5-10 minutes.

3. Don’t short change the creaming stage. It’s easy to undervalue this step when you have good momentum going, however, this stage is a critical step to creating good structure in your cake. Ensuring that the eggs, butter and sugar emulsify properly will result in a well risen cake. All of this said, once the dry ingredients are added, please don’t overmix your batter! Once the flour is just combined into the batter (should still see some white streaks), carefully hand mix a few more time with a large spatula and you’re good to go!

4. Don’t forget to prepare your pan. I lightly butter and flour my pans (including all pesky corners!) and like to use a piece of parchment paper between the butter and flour layers. This ensures easy cake removal. I also find that light colored pans tend to deliver a more evenly baked cake with a nice golden crust.

5. Check your oven temperature! Always check the actual temperature of your oven with a thermometer. Just because you set it at 350 degrees does not mean that it is actually running at that temperature.

6. Partially cool the cake in the pan before removing it. A cake just out of the oven is way too vulnerable to remove from the hot pan. Let the cake cool in the pan for 15-20 minutes and then carefully remove it to let it cool completely on a cooling rack.
Now that you’re armed with some tips, go bake this cake! You won’t be disappointed.

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Cream Cheese Pound Cake with Balsamic Cherries | The Baker’s Pantry
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Cream Cheese Pound Cake with Balsamic Cherries | The Baker’s Pantry

 

Cream Cheese Pound Cake with Balsamic Cherries          {Print Recipe}
Yield: (2) 8×4 loafs – 6-8 servings per cake

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
2 Tbsp sour cream, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 large eggs, room temperature
2 ¼ cups cake flour
2 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt

Confectioner’s sugar for dusting (optional)
Cream Cheese Glaze (see recipe below)
Balsamic Cherries (see recipe below)
Butter and flour two 8×4 loaf pans. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter at high speed until light and fluffy, about one minute. Add the cream cheese and beat well at high speed until incorporated, about one minute. Add the sugar and beat at high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 more minutes.
Add the sour cream and vanilla extract to the butter mixture and mix well at medium speed. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Scrape the bowl as necessary.
Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together and add to the butter and egg mixture beating on low speed until smooth. Using a large spatula, mix the batter gently removing any unincorporated bits at the bottom of the bowl.
Fill each pan approximately ½ full. Bake about 45 to 50 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool the cake on wire racks for 15-20 minutes before turning them out of their pans to cool completely. Dust with confectioner’s sugar or enrobe with some delicious cream cheese glaze (see recipe below).
Note: This cake is best when eaten the day it’s made (not hard to achieve), but for longer storage, it can be refrigerated for a week or double-wrapped and frozen for 6 months. Let the cake come to room temperature before devouring. If freezing, wait to add the glaze until just before serving.
Cream Cheese Glaze:
Yield: enough glaze for two pound cake loaves

4 oz cream cheese, room temperature
2 oz mascarpone cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
Pinch of salt
1 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
6-8 Tbsp. milk, plus more if needed
1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat cream cheese and mascarpone on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Add the sugar and beat until combined, about 1 minute. Add salt, lemon juice, and milk; mix on low speed until smooth. If glaze is too thick to drizzle, add more milk, 1 tablespoon at a time.

Balsamic Cherries:
Yields: 2 cups

1 pound frozen cherries, thawed with juice
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
3 Tbsp light brown sugar
1 tsp almond extract
2 tsp kirsch
2 tsp cornstarch
1 Tbsp cold water
Pinch of salt and pepper (optional)
Simmer the cherries, balsamic vinegar, brown sugar, almond extract and kirsch in a saucepan for approximately 10 minutes. Remove from heat.
In a small bowl, combine cornstarch and cold water. Stir this mixture into the hot cherry mixture. Place back on heat and cook until the mixture thickens, stirring frequently.
Enjoy on top of the pound cake or just with a spoon.

Enjoy!!

Amaretto Cheesecake Parfaits

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There are many splendid things about summer; letting the warm sun soak through your skin, beloved outdoor barbeques with friends, endless hours spent relaxing by the pool with an icy cocktail and refreshing summertime desserts to replenish your fortitude.  As the temperature of summer escalates, the oven quickly becomes an intolerable presence no matter the sweet succulence that it can yield.  Cool desserts make their long awaited arrival to accompany light summer meals.  Berries and fruit are at their peak of sweetness and are a simple yet delicious indulgence.  Parfaits offer an amazing balance of cool, sweet, creamy and crunchy and are the perfect remedy for even the hottest of days.

These parfaits are about the best thing I’ve ever tasted.  I simply can’t get enough of them!  The individual layers can be prepared ahead of time and assembled just before serving.  I strongly encourage you to give these a try and please invite me over when you do.

Amaretto Cheesecake Parfaits          {Print Recipe}

Yield: 8 servings

Cheesecake custard:

1 cup whole milk

5 Tbsp granulated sugar

4 large egg yolks

2 1/2 Tbsp cornstarch

6 oz cream cheese, at room temperature

3 Tbsp amaretto liqueur

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

Macerated strawberries:

1 lb fresh strawberries, sliced

2 Tbsp granulated sugar

4 Tbsp amaretto liqueur

Gingersnap cookies (I like Jules Destrooper brand, found at most grocery stores), crushed

Making the custard:

In a medium saucepan, whisk together 3/4 cup whole milk with 3 Tbsp sugar.  Bring to a gentle boil and remove from heat when it just comes to a boil. In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks with the cornstarch and the remaining sugar.  Gradually whisk the hot milk into the egg yolk mixture whisking constantly.  Pour the combined mixture back into the medium saucepan and heat over medium heat, whisking constantly, until thickened, about 2-3 minutes.  Lower the heat and add the cream cheese, amaretto and vanilla, whisking until smooth, about 1 minute.  Scrape the custard into a bowl and press a piece of plastic wrap directly over the surface of the custard.  Refrigerate until well chilled, about 2 hours or overnight.

Using an electric mixer, beat the heavy whipping cream until medium peaks form.  Gently fold the whipped cream mixture into the chilled custard until well incorporated and there are no visible streaks.

Making the macerated strawberries:

Combine the sliced strawberries, sugar and amaretto in a bowl and refrigerate for about 2 hours.  Try not to eat all of them before assembling the parfaits.

Assembling the parfaits:

Spoon a portion of the custard into individual parfait glasses, followed by a scoop of the macerated strawberries and then the crushed gingersnap cookies.  Continue layering until the parfait glasses are filled.  Serve immediately.

 

Italian Cream Layer Cake

You might be surprised to hear that of all the desserts in my baking obsessed world, cake isn’t my first pick when it comes to sweets.  Don’t get me wrong, I do love a slice of cake from time to time, but of all the delicious desserts, I’d pass it by for a decadent bowl of pudding or a light crispy cookie any day.

Now…with that said, there’s Italian Cream Cake.   Oh my goodness.  Here is an exception to my former rule.  One bite of this cake and I’m transported to a happy, happy place.  Most cakes, while much enjoyed, are pretty easy to part with and share with friends.  This cake however, was much harder to separate from.  I literally could have consumed the entire cake without much regard.  The combination of tangy cream cheese, sweet coconut and toasted walnuts is so irresistible and completely self-indulgent…I’m hopelessly in love.

I urge you to give this cake a try…but please try to share.  Can I please have a slice??

For the Cake:          {Print Recipe}

½ cup unsalted butter (1 stick), room temperature

1 cup vegetable oil

1 cup granulated sugar

5 whole eggs (separated)

3 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup sweetened shredded coconut

2 cups all-purpose flour (+1 Tbsp for high altitude)

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

1 cup buttermilk (+2 Tbsp for high altitude)

For the Frosting:

2 (8 oz) packages cream cheese, room temperature

½ cup unsalted butter (1 stick), room temperature

2 tsp vanilla extract

4 cups powdered sugar, sifted

1 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped + more for garnish

1 cup sweetened shredded coconut

Making the cake:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Butter and flour (3) 9” round cake pans (and add parchment, if desired) and set aside.  In a clean mixing bowl, beat the egg whites on medium high speed until stiff peaks form.  Set aside.

In another mixing bowl, combine the butter, oil & sugar and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy (about 5 minutes).  Lower the speed and add the egg yolks, vanilla and coconut.  In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda and baking powder.

Add the dry ingredients alternately with the buttermilk, in 3 additions, beginning and ending with the flour.  Mix well after each addition.  Gently fold the egg whites into the batter.  Divide the batter evenly into the pans and sprinkle the top of each batter filled pan with 1 Tbsp. sugar.  Bake for 20-25 minutes 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 frosting.

Making the frosting:

In a mixing bowl, combine the cream cheese, butter, vanilla and powdered sugar.  Beat until light and fluffy.  Stir the coconut and toasted, chopped walnuts into the frosting mixture or set aside to decorate the outside of the cake (I stirred the coconut into the frosting and used the walnuts for garnish).  Spread the frosting between the layers of cake, the top and all sides.  If using the walnuts for garnish, lightly press the walnuts around the perimeter of the cake.

Recipe adapted from The Pioneer Woman

Storage:  This cake can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for several days.  Remove the cake from the refrigerator 2-3 hours before serving as it is best served at room temperature for the most perfect texture and consistency.

Enjoy! xoxo

Spiced Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!

…Ok…Halloween is not one of my favored holidays.  Call me a “scaredy- cat” if you will but I’ve always felt slightly uneasy about this ghost honored tradition.  The ever so slight viewing of a horror film preview (yes, I said preview) can disturb me for weeks and FORGET about haunted houses…the casual thought of them sends chills down my spine and frightens me to the core.  Now just because I don’t adore ghosts and goblins, does not mean that I don’t consume my share (or more) of candy and sweets during this sugar crazed celebration.  It holds true as the one occasion where I can somehow justify mass consumption of candy, of any kind, merely because of its presence in the large bowl nearby.

All fear aside, Fall is absolutely my favorite season of all and I would never pass up the opportunity to bake something special for this festive time of year.  For instance, I happen to have quite a lot of adoration for pumpkins, particularly when combined with a little sugar and spice.  As the air outdoors becomes crisp and cool and the landscape begins its transformation into winter, I can’t help but imagine snuggling up next to a warm cozy fire while enjoying some spiced pumpkin cupcakes.  The spice in these cupcakes seems to embody everything that I love about this breathtaking season.  While the cupcakes are incredible on their own, I thought that a garnish could add a little something extra to the presentation…perhaps some Pumpkin Seed Brittle…oh my.  What was intended as a simple embellishment, battled to steal the spotlight!  This brittle is amazingly good with a wonderful caramelized-buttery-cinnamon flavor and if you’re a fan of brittle, you won’t be able to resist it…trust me.

Spiced Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting                                                                                                                                               {Print Recipe}

Yield: 24-27 standard sized cupcakes

1 ½ sticks unsalted butter, softened

2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour

2 tsp baking powder (-1/8 tsp for high altitude)

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp cinnamon

½ tsp ground allspice

½ tsp nutmeg

½ tsp cloves

½ tsp salt

1 ¼ cups canned pumpkin (15 oz. can, not pie filling)

¾ cup well-shaken buttermilk

1 tsp vanilla

1 ¼ cups granulated sugar

3 large eggs

Place the oven rack in the middle position and preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Prepare cupcake pans with cupcake liners.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices and salt in a bowl.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the pumpkin, buttermilk and vanilla.

In the bowl of a mixer, beat together the butter and sugar at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes.  Add eggs one at a time, until well incorporated, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary.  Reduce the speed to low and add the flour and pumpkin alternately, beginning and ending with the flour, and mix until the batter is just combined.

Spoon the batter into the cupcake liners about ½ full and bake about 18-20 minutes or until a wooden skewer inserted into the center comes out clean.  Cool the cupcakes on a rack completely prior to frosting.

Recipe adapted from The Best of Gourmet

 

Cream Cheese Frosting:

Yield: Frosts 24-30 cupcakes

2-8 oz. packages cream cheese, room temperature

2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature

3 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted

2 tsp vanilla

1 Tbsp heavy whipping cream

Beat the cream cheese and butter together in the bowl of a stand mixer on medium high speed until light and fluffy.  Decrease the speed to low and slowly add the confectioner’s sugar until incorporated, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary.  Add the vanilla and the heavy whipping cream and mix until smooth.

Pumpkin Seed Brittle:

Yield: 1 ¾ lbs or (28) 1 oz. servings

¼  cup butter, cut into chunks

1 tsp baking soda

1 Tbsp vanilla

1 ½ tsp ground cinnamon

½ tsp salt

2 ½ cups granulated sugar

1/3 cup light corn syrup

1 ½ cups toasted hulled pumpkin seeds

Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper or lightly butter and set aside.  Place pumpkin seeds in a large sauté pan and heat over medium-low heat to toast, about 5-8 minutes.  Make sure to shake or stir the seeds occasionally to ensure even toasting.  Set aside to cool.

In a small bowl, stir the baking soda in the vanilla to dissolve and also set aside.  In another bowl, mix together the cinnamon and salt.  This will help the cinnamon to distribute evenly when stirred into the sugar mixture.  Have all of your ingredients measured and ready to go as once the sugar reaches it’s temperature, things move quickly!

In a medium saucepan set over medium-low heat, use a heatproof spatula or wooden spoon to stir together the sugar, ½ cup water, corn syrup and the butter (1/4 cup).  Heat the mixture until the butter is completely melted and the sugar is dissolved.  Increase the heat to medium and boil the sugar mixture, stirring occasionally, until it turns a deep amber and registers 335 to 340 degrees F on a candy thermometer.  This step takes anywhere from 5-12 minutes.  Keep a close eye on it to ensure that it doesn’t burn.

Remove the sugar mixture from the heat and carefully stir in the vanilla and cinnamon mixtures (they will bubble up).  Immediately stir in the toasted pumpkin seeds and pour the mixture into the prepared pan, using a spatula or wooden spoon to spread evenly.  Let the brittle cool at room temperature for about 30-40 minutes.

Gently break the brittle into chunks and store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks. Trust me though; it won’t last that long.

Recipe from Sunset Magazine