Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Chocolate Mint Layer Cake

If you love chocolate and mint ... why not make a chocolate mint layer cake covered in rich chocolate ganache?  Go ahead ... I know you want to ... I did.

I made this cake for my sister's 14th birthday.  It is so rich and decadent and delicious.  The only thing that didn't turn out as perfect as I wanted was the filling.  I don't think I whipped the heavy cream into stiff peaks - that was actually my first time whipping cream.

The recipe comes from Taste of Home.  However, instead of the frosting in the recipe, I made a chocolate ganache.  I mean, what is better than ganache?  Not much.

I have been meaning to make this cake again and messing around with the filling some more.  I hope that you give it a try and happy baking!

Chocolate Mint Layer Cake
(from Taste of Home)
1/2 cup butter, softened
1-3/4 cups sugar
3 eggs
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled (use a double boiler)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup heavy whipping cream
3 tablespoons confectioners' sugar, sifted
1/8 teaspoon peppermint extract
3 to 4 drops green food coloring

2 cups (12 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup heavy cream

Preheat oven to 350*.  Grease and flour 2 – 9” cake pans.

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in chocolate and vanilla. Combine milk and water in a measuring cup. Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt in a separate bowl; add to creamed mixture alternately with milk mixture, beating well after each addition.

Pour into prepared pans. Bake for 24-28 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks.

For the filling: in a small bowl, beat the heavy cream until it begins to thicken. Add the sifted confectioners' sugar and peppermint extract; beat until stiff peaks form. Beat in food coloring. Place one cake layer on a serving plate; spread with filling. Top with second layer.

For the icing:  heat the heavy cream in a small sauce pan until the edges slightly start to bubble.  Pour over the chocolate chips and stir until all the chips are melted.  Let sit for a few minutes until the mixture starts to thicken.  Then pour over the cake

Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Carrot Cake ... veggies in a dessert?  Umm, actually yes, please!  I had never had carrot cake before my grandfather's birthday (his favorite) - but of course, I was up to the challenge.  Some recipes call for pineapple (eww) and walnuts (eww) and some don't.  Thankfully, my grandfather likes straight up carrot cake, no pineapple and no walnuts!!

You would think that a carrot cake would be healthy ... well healthier than other cakes ... but with the amount of oil, I think not.  After reviewing recipes, I decided to cut the oil in half because there is enough moisture from the carrots and it worked perfectly fine!

*One tip that I can give you is:  Grate the carrots very fine onto a towel and wring it out to get rid of the excess water in the carrots.  Too much water from the carrots + all the oil = soggy cake.

The cream cheese frosting is the same frosting I used on the Red Velvet cake for my sister's graduation.

My grandfather was my biggest critic and he really liked it.  It came out very moist and the carrots were grated so fine you couldn't tell they were in it.  Honestly, I'm not the biggest nutmeg fan, but it is essential in this recipe.

I hope that you try this recipe and happy baking!

Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Ingredients     (Cake adapted from Smitten Kitchen)
2 cups all purpose flour, sifted
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground ginger
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
¾ cup canola oil
3 large eggs
3 cups finely grated carrots (make sure to drain the excess water)

Preheat oven to 350*F.  Spray and flour two 9-inch cake pans.

Grate the carrots over paper towels, cheese cloth, or kitchen towel.  Once grated, wring out the excess water from the carrots.  Or, put the carrots in a mesh strainer for at least 30 minutes (or overnight, if you have the time) or so to drain more water from the carrots. 

In a medium size bowl, sift flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger.  In stand mixer bowl, beat sugars and oil until blended.  Beat in eggs one at a time.  Add flour mixture to the wet mixture and stir to combine.  Stir in the carrots.

Divide the batter between the two pans and bake for about 35-40 minutes (start checking around 35 minutes) or until a tester comes out clean.  Cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then turn onto the racks and let cool completely before icing.

Cream Cheese Frosting (adapted from Alton Brown)

16 oz. Neufchatel cream cheese
3 Tbsp butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted (roughly 9 oz)

Sift the confectioners’ sugar and set aside.  Cream the butter and cream cheese together until combined, then add the vanilla.  Slowly add the confectioners’ sugar a cup at a time – sifting each cup into the mixer – and beat between each addition.

Strawberry Shortcake

I bet when you think of Strawberry Shortcake, you think of the little circular sponge cakes you buy at the grocery store with macerated strawberries and whipped cream, right?  Well I usually do, too.  That is what my grandmother has always done for us and it's very satisfying.  But how about a little twist?

This shortcake is not a circular spongecake, but a vanilla cake that is sliced in half horizontally with a homemade strawberry rhubarb compote spooned between the layers, topped with fresh homemade whipped cream and fresh sliced strawberries.

The vanilla cake recipe is from the America's Test Kitchen Cookbook, and it is a different technique than a typical vanilla cake.  It is easy to do and results in a moist cake.  However, it doesn't rise too much so it is a thin cake.  I make this dessert at the restaurant and it is a big hit!

The strawberry rhubarb compote is very simple to make and doesn't take much time, either.  There is no exact recipe, so below the cake recipe I have written rough estimates to make the compote.  Since there is no correct way to make it, you can play around with ingredient amounts.

Enjoy and happy baking!

Vanilla Cake
(America’s Test Kitchen Cookbook)

Ingredients (makes 2 – 8” cakes)

1 3/4 cup cake flour, sifted
1 1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt
4 eggs (room temperature)
½ cup milk
1 tbsp vanilla
2 sticks butter (cubed, slightly at room temperature)

Preheat oven to 325*F and grease and flour two 8” pans.

Mix dry ingredients into bowl of stand mixer.  Combine eggs, milk, and vanilla in small bowl.  Reserve one cup of the mixture.  On stir, add butter pieces to the dry mixture until coarse crumbs form (like big sand granules).  Once coarse crumbs form, slowly add the reserved one cup liquid mix.  Beat on high for 1 minute, until the mixture is fluffy and light in color.

Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the remaining the liquid mixture slowly.  Beat on high for another 15 seconds or so.  Divide the batter equally between the pans and bake 20-25 minutes (closer to 20 minutes) or until they are golden brown and the cake tester is clean.

Let sit for 10 minutes in the pan and then turn onto a cooling rack to finish cooling.
Strawberry Rhubarb compote
Strawberry Rhubarb Compote

2 lbs. strawberries, hulled and sliced horizontally
2 or 3 stalks of rhubarb, cut in roughly 1/2" chunks
1/2 - 2/3 cup sugar 
2 - 3 Tbsp orange flavored liqueur (or more)
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 ground cloves
pinch of salt 
1-2 Tbsp cornstarch

Hull and slice the strawberries into a bowl.  Add some sugar (roughly 1/4 - 1/3 cup) to macerate and set aside for about 15 minutes.  Cut the rhubarb into chunks.  Heat a skillet with oil to med-high.  Add the rhubarb and some sugar (roughly 1/4 cup) and saute until the rhubarb releases juices and softens (about 5 minutes).  Set aside.  Separate the strawberries from their juice and put the strawberries in a sauce pan on medium low.  Add the rhubarb and some orange liqueur.  Add the spices and salt and let simmer until the strawberries begin to get soft and the juices are bubbling.  At this point, add the cornstarch in a small bowl.  Spoon out a few scoops of the liquid from the sauce pan and stir to dissolve the cornstarch.  Add this mixture to the sauce pan and let simmer for a few more minutes to thicken up.  Let cool and add to the sliced cake.

Cake Truffles

I love the idea of cake truffles!  They are so fun to play around with, easy to make, and easy to eat!!  Several months ago, I was making a birthday cake and had left over cake (from all the trimmings).  I didn't know what to do - I didn't want to eat it all and I didn't want to throw the excess away - so I went to the internet for answers.  I came across several sites that used the excess cake to make cake truffles - AWESOME and YUMM.

They were so fun to make and such a hit that I made them for Valentine's Day at the restaurant (and a few catering events).  When you bite into the truffle, the cake isn't crumbly or light, but rich and fudge-like!!

Take your left over cake trimmings and form them into small balls (roughly a heaping tablespoon size).  If the cake is on the drier side, add some liquid to moisten the cake before forming into balls.  I had a chocolate cake, so I used some Kahlua to moisten the cake and add depth of flavor.  Once the balls are formed, put them in the freezer for 30 minutes or until they have hardened.

When they are ready, start to make the coating.  I made a chocolate coating then I drizzled white chocolate over the top for pretty design.  Use a double boiler to melt your chocolate and keep the bowl over the heat while rolling the cake balls, to keep the chocolate pliable.  When the chocolate is ready, roll your cake balls into the bowl (I use two forks to roll them) and quickly place them on wax paper to cool.  When the chocolate coating is dry, you can do another coating for a design if you want - like I said, I used white chocolate to drizzle over as the design.  You can store them in the freezer until ready to serve!

Raspberry Sauce served with the Truffle as a dipping sauce
I used the chocolate cake recipe from the Chocolate Cupcakes in the Hello Everyone post.


Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

A few months ago, I made my sister a Red Velvet cake for her graduation.  It was so much fun to make for 3 reasons: (1) it is my favorite cake (2) I got to use fondant for the first time and (3) it turned out really good!!!

When my sister turned 12, my family went to NYC to see Mary Poppins on Broadway.  Her birthday dinner was at Bobby Flay's, Bar American.  When they brought out her birthday cake slice, it was Red Velvet.  And it was delicious!  We actually were super excited to eat it because we had just seen the Throwdown show of Red Velvet cake against Cake Man Raven.  I don't know if this is the reason for her decision, but I will always associate Red Velvet cake with that night!

It took me a while to figure out the recipe I was going to use.  I was going to use Cake Man Raven's recipe (from Food Network) but I was looking for a recipe that didn't use that much oil.  I baked two sample cakes and had my sister decide which she liked better.  The winner was the recipe for Bakerella - which I ended up tweaking a bit to satisfy my health freak side (without telling my sister).  The cream cheese frosting is actually a combination of a few recipes but the base is from Alton Brown on Food Network.  I used Neufchatel cheese instead of cream cheese because it has less fat, but still has that creamy texture everyone loves.

The cake base is two layers and the dome of the graduation cap is cake, too.  I just baked the dome part in an oven proof bowl.  The cap part itself is fondant, which was tons of fun to do!  The decorations are fondant, as well, but the icing around the cake base is straight up cream cheese frosting dyed blue for her High School colors.

The cake was so moist and rich, but not dense.  The frosting was a perfect balance.  I really hope that you try this recipe because I guarantee everyone will love it!!!!

Enjoy and happy baking!

Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
(Cake adapted from Bakerella)

2 ½ cups AP flour, sifted
1 ½ cups sugar
1 Tbsp cocoa, heaping
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp baking soda
2 eggs
2/3 cup canola oil
½ cup applesauce
1 cup buttermilk
1 Tbsp vinegar
1 tsp vanilla
1 oz. + splash red food coloring

Preheat oven to 350*F.  Grease and flour two 8 inch cake pans.

Lightly stir eggs in a medium bowl with a wire whisk.  Add remaining liquid ingredients and stir together until blended.  Set aside.

Place all dry ingredients in the mixing bowl and whisk together.  Add the liquids to the dry ingredients and mix on medium-high speed until completely combined.

Pour the batter evenly into the cake pans.  To release any air bubbles in the batter, gently tap the pans on the counter a few times.  Bake for about 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Let them cool in the pans for about 10 minutes and then remove from pans to cool completely before frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting (adapted from Alton Brown)

16 oz. Neufchatel cream cheese
3 Tbsp butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted (roughly 9 oz)

Sift the confectioners’ sugar and set aside.  Cream the butter and cream cheese together until combined, then add the vanilla.  Slowly add the confectioners’ sugar a cup at a time – sifting each cup into the mixer – and beat between each addition.

Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

Who doesn't like chocolate chip cookies?  I'm not sure, but I know that my family and friends love them!  I was perusing the internet one day and stumbled across a recipe for chocolate chip cookies called, "cheap and easy chocolate chip cookies".  I started craving cookies and decided to make them ASAP.  They were so simple to make, few ingredients, and they taste GREAT!

The recipe has no eggs or butter, just canola oil and molasses (for the chewiness, I guess).  It's a cookie dough eater's dream because there is no risk for salmonella (YUM!).  Anyways, the recipe said that for chewy cookies (yes, please) to bake for 6-8 minutes.  I noticed that the cookies were not spreading out like typical cookies, so when the timer went off, I didn't think they were done.  I ended up baking them for 8 minutes until I realized that they won't spread out because there is no butter in the cookies (duh).  The rest of the batch I baked for 6-7 minutes and they were very soft when they came out of the oven but firmed up slightly when they cooled.

The end result was delicious, brown sugary, chewy, addictive cookies.

I did a heaping tablespoon measurement for the cookies and got roughly 24 cookies.  They are the perfect 2 bite (or one bite, depending on your craving level) cookie ... and I always go back for seconds ... or thirds.


yields about 2 dozen cookies
Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies
¾ cup light brown sugar
2/3 cup canola oil
2 tsp molasses
1 Tbsp water
2 tsp vanilla
2 cup flour, sifted
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp kosher salt
¾ - 1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350*F.  Lightly grease a cookie sheet or use silicone baking sheets.

Using a stand mixer, beat together the sugar, oil, and molasses until well-blended.  Beat in water and vanilla until smooth (it does take a minute or two). 

In a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt.  Add the dry mixture to the wet mixture and mix well.  Fold in the chocolate chips.

Drop by heaping tablespoons onto the cookie sheet (they do not spread out when baking).  Bake for 6-8 minutes for chewy, soft-baked cookies.