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!!

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Banana Cakelettes with a Double Identity

I have such high hopes weekly in the produce department of our neighborhood grocery store as I admire the display of bananas.  Habitually, Ami and I stand by the bananas and ponder our interest for the week ahead.  Ami continually pleads for them stating, “I promise to eat them Momma”.  Even though I know better, I find myself selecting the perfect bunch and lowering them into the cart.  At home as the week progresses, inevitably so do the bananas.  Transforming from bright yellow in color to dull yellow to speckled to completely brown.  Now, most people might think that brown bananas have met their fate and should simply be discarded.  I know however (and I think that most of you do too) that overripe bananas create incredibly moist and delicious breads and cakes. With only one or two consumed off of the bunch, these lingering lovelies are destined for sweet greatness.  I chose to roast the bananas before adding them to the batter in an effort to enhance their flavor…success!   I’ve also learned from my baking practice that brushing the baked cakes with a simple sugar syrup (flavored with liqueur in this case) not only adds a wonderful amount of moisture to the cake, but superior flavor as well.

Now, for the frosting:  You might be wondering why the frosting has a double identity?  My usual pairing with banana cake is chocolate buttercream (which is absolutely delicious by the way).  Breaking tradition, this time I wanted to try something different.  I experimented with two different frostings for these cakes.  I wanted to try a cream cheese frosting as well as a white chocolate buttercream.  While my favorite was the Italian Cream Cheese (pictured below); light and fluffy with a delicately sweet and slightly tangy flavor, the White Chocolate buttercream had a wonderfully creamy consistency and a little extra sweetness.  Both combinations were quite scrumptious and I’d love to know which one is your favorite!!

Banana Cakelettes          {Print Recipe}              

Yields: (9) 3” diameter cakes or (1) 9-inch cake

 2 large  ripe bananas

½ cup  sour cream, room temperature

2 large  eggs, room temperature

2 tsp  grated lemon zest

1 ½ tsp  vanilla extract

2 cups  sifted cake flour

¼ cup + 2 Tbsp   sugar

1 tsp  baking soda

¾ tsp  baking powder

½ tsp  salt

8 Tbsp  butter, room temperature

2 Tbsp  canola oil

Simple Syrup

½ cup granulated sugar

½ cup water

1  Tbsp  dark rum

1  Tbsp  Crème de Banana (banana liqueur)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.  Butter/grease and flour pan(s) and use parchment paper, if desired.  I use parchment paper even on the 3” pans.  It helps the cakes to come out much more easily.

Cut a slit in the banana peel lengthwise and place on a foil covered baking sheet.  Bake for about 10 minutes or until the peels turn black and juices begin to caramelize.  Remove from oven, remove peel (& discard) and let the bananas cool to room temperature.

In a food processor, process the cooled roasted bananas and sour cream until smooth.  Add the eggs, lemon zest and vanilla and process until just blended.

In the bowl of a mixer with a paddle attachment, combine the dry ingredients on low speed for 30 seconds to blend.  Add the butter and ½ of the banana mixture and mix on low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened.  Increase to medium speed and beat for 1-2 minutes to aerate and strengthen the cake’s structure.  Scrape down the sides as necessary.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan(s) and if using 3” diam. pans, place on baking sheet.  Bake for 20-22 minutes (3” cakes) and 25-30 minutes (9” cake) or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Let the cakes cool in the pan(s) on a rack for about 10 minutes.  After 10 minutes, run a knife between the cake and pan sides to release the cakes and let the cakes cool completely.

Making the simple syrup:

Place the sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium heat and bring to a slight boil, stirring until the sugar is dissolved.  Remove from heat and add the rum and banana liqueur.  Brush the warm syrup over the cooled cakes.  Fill and frost the cake(s) as desired.

Recipe adapted from The Cake Bible, by Rose Levy Beranbaum

Italian Cream Cheese Frosting

Yield:   approx. 3 cups

2 ¼ cups  mascarpone cheese, room temperature

1/3 cup  superfine sugar

4-6 Tbsp  heavy whipping cream

1 tsp  clear vanilla extract

1 cup  heavy whipping cream

Mix the mascarpone cheese and the sugar together with a paddle attachment until light and fluffy.  Add 4-6 Tbsp heavy whipping cream and the vanilla extract until just blended.  Scrape into a bowl and set aside.

Clean mixing bowl and switch to the whisk attachment.  Beat whipping cream 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.

Place frosting in a pastry bag fitted with desired tip, or simply spread the frosting on the cake with a spatula.   This frosting and cake can be stored covered in the refrigerator for about 3 days.

 

White Chocolate Buttercream

Yield: 2 ¾ cups

2 sticks  unsalted butter, room temperature

12 ounces  good quality white chocolate, melted and cooled slightly

1 cup  confectioner’s sugar, sifted

1 tsp  vanilla extract

In the bowl of a mixer, beat the butter at medium speed until creamy and light in color.  Beat in the melted and cooled white chocolate.  Decrease the speed to low and slowly add the confectioner’s sugar and vanilla, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl as necessary.  Mix until light and fluffy.  This frosting and cake can be stored covered at room temperature for about 3 days.

Recipe from Food & Wine

Enjoy! xoxo

 

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.