Archive for the ‘Cake’ Category

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A Birthday Treat for Lily: Chocolate Cupcakes with Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting

March 20, 2009

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We’ve been busy of late. Three weeks ago, my wife and I welcomed another addition to our family — our daughter, Lily. She was born a healthy 8 lbs and 1 oz, and since then has packed on the ounces to weigh nearly 10 lbs. Both mother and daughter have recovered nicely and look fabulous. I’m still shocked by how wonderfully they both are doing, and it isn’t just a lack of sleep leading me to say this.

To celebrate, as we did with the birth of her older brother Jack, I made Lily a cupcake. While Jack’s cupcake is all Meyer lemons, I embraced chocolate for our daughter. But I couldn’t deviate too much. Lily and Jack are siblings… so their cupcakes should have something in common — cream cheese frosting.
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OK, I’m rationalizing. The truth is that I love cream cheese frosting, and I pretty much think it kicks most frostings’ butt. In addition, it’s infinitely easier to make than buttercream frosting. Cream together a stick of butter, an 8 oz. box of cream cheese, and a 1lb. box of powdered sugar, and you are 90% done. Cream cheese frosting might not have the fluffiness factor and the mouth smoothness of buttercream, but it has got a richness and flavor that just makes me happy.

To raise it up a level, I also added a personal favorite — coconut. I know we’ve all seen mounds of fresh coconut cupcakes, and I admit I was worried that people would think I was oh-so derivative and helping the cupcake craze jump the shark even faster. But, at the end of the day, I like it. So fashion be damned. This is for my little girl!

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Chocolate Cupcakes
Yield: 1 dozen
Ingredients:
1 cup (200g) all-purpose flour
¾ cup (180g) sugar
¼ cup (30g) cocoa powder
1 stick unsalted butter(115g)
2 oz. (60g) semi-sweet chocolate (melted)
½ cup (175mL) buttermilk
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
½ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 350F.

2. Allow the buttermilk, butter and eggs to warm up to room temperature.

3. Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and baking powder.

4. Add sugar, salt and butter to the bowl of a stand mixer. Cream for 5 to 6 minutes on high, stopping to scrape down the sides and bottom at least twice. When done, the butter should be smooth, light in color and fluffy.

5. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl then add the whole egg while the mixer is on medium speed. Once the egg is fully integrated add the yolk and then scrape again.

6. Add the melted semi-sweet chocolate and mix on medium until integrated.

7. With the mixer on low add the dry sifted ingredients and buttermilk in alternating installments as follows: dry, buttermilk, dry, buttermilk, dry. Scrape down the sides at least once.

8. Scoop out into muffin tins lined with paper cups, and place in oven for 20-25 minutes until a toothpick almost comes out clean. Let cool completely then frost.

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Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting
Yields: Approx. 1 quart
Ingredients:
1 lb. powdered sugar (room temperature)
1 stick butter (room temperature)
8 oz. cream cheese (1 block)
2 tsp. coconut extract
½ tsp. vanilla extract
½ tsp. salt
2 cup fancy shredded coconut (topping)

Directions:
1. Using a hand or stand mixer, add the cream cheese and butter to a bowl. Whip at high speed until fluffy and well integrated, approximately 4 minutes.

2. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the powdered sugar and salt. To start, mix on low until most of the powdered sugar is integrated and then mix on high for about 1 minute.

3. Add the coconut and vanilla extracts then whip one last time. Taste to make sure flavor is correct. Add up to one more teaspoon of coconut to get clear coconut flavor correct.

4. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use. Keeps well covered for over a week. If the frosting is stiff, simply let warm up to room temperature or for quicker recovery simply beat for about 30 seconds on high with your mixer.

5. Frost cupcakes and then top with a generous amount of coconut. Coconut adds both flavor and hides any flaws in frosting.

6. Tip: When frosting using just a spatula or palate knife, add all the frosting you are going to need in one dollop. Then place the spatula at an angle and turn the cupcake without lifting your knife. Scrape the excess off your spatula. The key is to add more frosting than you think at the start and not to lift your knife. If you do, you’ll start pulling up cake and it won’t be smooth.

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What’s a birthday without cupcakes? Jack’s Blueberry and Meyer Lemon Cupcakes.

March 18, 2007

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I’m happy to write this solo as my wife is currently recovering from the birth of our son. This morning, my wife gave birth to our son, Jack. As he was breached and came to us two weeks early via cesarean, Jack weighs in at a peanut sized 6 lbs 6 oz. The wife is recovering and we will be back to our thing very soon, including the wife commenting on desserts. So to prevent this being self-absorbed, and bragging about how awesome my son is (I mean my son is awesome, just look at the little pink blob), I want to provide you with a recipe.

Before Jack was born all I could think about is the types of things I’ll need to do as dad. When cooking one day, I thought cupcakes. There is perhaps no more ‘hip food’ then cupcakes. Magnolia Bakery, Ina Gartnen (a.k.a. the Barefoot Contessa), and many others have made their names on making cupcakes. Heck there are great cupcake blogs out there like Cupcake Bakeshop and 52 cupcakes. So, while I have no skill in this area like these folks, I know parenthood means birthdays, and childhood birthdays mean cupcakes.

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So I give you my first foray into this childhood delight in honor of this happy birthday for us—Jack’s Blueberry and Meyer Lemon Cupcakes. While I know he’s on a strictly liquid diet for the next several months, and therefore cannot comment, this was inspired by my wife’s insatiable appetite for blueberries. At one point, my wife was eating enough blueberries I felt like I may end up mimicking Violet Beauregard’s father from Charlie & the Chocolate Factory, “I can’t have a blueberry for a daughter!!”

Luckily, fate spared me a little blueberry tinted son. But before he was even born, I was experimenting with combining my wife’s favorites with the fresh, delicious taste of meyer lemons. The topper, and apparently best feature when I was testing these on my wife’s coworkers, was the meyer lemon cream cheese icing. It is tangy, sweet, rich and smooth, perfect for the muffin-like yellow cake.

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Finally, we were terribly excited for his arrival. Jack is going to change everything. Knowing this, the recipe was prepared in advance so we have no comments from him. Hopefully, he’ll feel free to tell his old man soon enough what he thinks (or maybe I don’t want to know). We’ll be back later this week as we start our adjustments from a duo to a trio.

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Click here to download the recipe for Jack’s Blueberry & Meyer Lemon Cupcakes.

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Hay Donna, do I get a merit badge? Coconut cheesecake (featuring Girl Scout cookie crust)

March 5, 2007

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Alright… So this is, hopefully, the last of my super-sweet torture devices for my beloved pregnant wife. In fact, my wife, who cannot eat sweets until our son is born, gave me the OK and was even my prime consultant on this recipe. The brilliant crust was all her concept…. but I’m getting ahead of myself.

This recipe was built on the confluence of inspiration and necessity. Last week, my wife came home with boxes of Girl Scout cookies. She’d ordered them before the doctor issued his ban on sweets. Normally, an excess of Girl Scout cookies wouldn’t be such a bad thing — heck, it really wasn’t a bad thing, except that they were now my Girl Scout cookies. Sure, I like Girl Scout cookies as much as the next guy — but I can’t go through more than a few boxes without starting to feel guilt and pressure (from my belt).

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So my wife suggested that I make something with them. A pie crust perhaps? Some other sort of dessert? At first, I scoffed at the idea. (I imagine there is already a special merit badge out there for the Girl Scout who comes up with the most creative way to use the cookies. Picture some 12-year-old earning her stripes by building a thin mint fallout shelter somewhere in the mountains. How could I compete? And, more important, would I get a badge?) But my mindset shifted when it became clear that I need to get rid of these cookies.

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Then I discovered that this month’s Hay Hay It’s Donna Day, being hosted by Culinary Concoctions by Peabody, was cheesecake. This, combined with a dinner party we had this weekend, created a compelling purpose for these cookies: I would feed the masses with a beautiful and tropical cheesecake.

So, once again, this isn’t really a torture device for my long-suffering wife. I mean, it was her idea after all. Wasn’t it?

Finally, I want to ask a technical question of you fellow cheescake lovers. I am using a water bath for my cheesecake. I’ve always preferred this method, because I think the texture is better and believe that having an uncracked top is always a goal. But I’m curious what you do.

… So, to water bath or not to water bath?

Click here to download the recipe for Coconut Cheesecake.

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Blueberry tres leches cake: An alternative to chocolate or a happy (or cruel) Valentine’s Day for Wife?

February 13, 2007

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Under doctor’s orders to avoid sweets, my wife is spared the cruelty of commenting on this delicious dessert. (Sadly, she could only look longingly at it and poke it forlornly with a fork. It fell to me to do all the tasting.) So, for a change of pace, you’ll be treated to just the Husband’s thoughts on this recipe. (But fear not, dear readers, I promise to make this cake for her as soon as the doctor lifts the restriction on sweets.)

For the first time in a long time, Valentine’s Day vexed me. Was it that I couldn’t find the right gift? Or decide what to make for dinner? Or find flowers pretty enough to make my wife swoon? No, I was vexed by this this blog.

I was trying to think of ways to reflect romance on a plate. I wanted to create something that is Valentine’s Day. To me, that means dessert; specifically, getting out my bakeware and working with chocolate. Trouble is, when you look out at the universe of yummy Valentine’s Day offerings, the chocolate genre is well covered. Furthermore, my wife likes chocolate, but it’s not her favorite. As we’ve pointed out in previous posts, she’s all about the blueberry.

And what is more romantic: A box of chocolates? Or giving someone something that shows you know them? So, I offer up an alternative to chocolate… I give you “Blueberry Tres Leches Cake.” For those not familiar with tres leches cake, it’s a milk-soaked cake common to Latin American cuisine. Tres leches translates literally as “three milks.” So it’s actually soaked in a combination of evaporated milk, condensed milk and whole milk or cream.

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Here, we put a twist on it by blending in some blueberries with our soaking milk. We also add a blueberry coulis (fancy word for strained purée sauce) to reintroduce the acidity and brightness of the blueberries. The coulis also has the benefit of playing down the gray coloring of a cake soaked in blueberry milk. And finally, we top it all with some fresh whipped cream and more blueberries. In essence, we are creating a blueberry-palooza in a cool cake.

Some technical notes before I’m done. First, you can use frozen blueberries in this dish. Aside from the garnish, there isn’t any reason you couldn’t. I actually used fresh here because I keep so many in our fridge to keep the wife and her passenger happy.

Second, this cake can be topped with whipped cream in the pan and cut out. In fact, most recipes use that technique. I don’t do that here strictly for presentation reasons. I wanted the brightness of the coulis to cover up the purple-blue gray of the cake. If I had coated the cake with whipped cream first, I would drizzle the coulis on the plate and/or over top of the whipped cream for the same effect.

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Finally, not to get “Semi-Homemade” with you, but I see lots of ways to cut the time and effort on this recipe. For example, you could use your favorite boxed cake recipe and likely turn out an even better version than mine. Or, you could buy a pound cake or similar boxed cake from the grocery and start by soaking that cake. A lot of shortcuts seem available, and you shouldn’t be afraid to grab them!

If this cake reminds you more of summertime then Valentine’s Day, well that’s to be expected. But my valentine would give up chocolate forever if I promised her blueberries every day. Since, I can’t do that for her, I made this. I hope you all have a good time with your special someone tomorrow.

Click here to download the recipe for Blueberry Tres Leches Cake.

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Pretty maids all in a row: Pistachio Madelines with meyer lemon glaze

January 7, 2007

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Madelines. Sure, they’re beautiful: Allluring golden exterior, perfectly molded scalloped shape… they even have a seductive feminine name. But are they tasty?

Yes, indeed.

At least the Madelines that my husband makes are. Continuing his pistachio theme — as evidenced by the handful of dead pistachio soldiers I’ve been sweeping up from our kitchen floor — he thought to include those yummy green nuts in his first foray into Madeline-baking. Brilliant!

The pistachio flavor here is subtle; the green nuts add most of their punch in the texture of the cake. As you sink your teeth into the delightfully fluffly Madeline, you get a taste of the green flecks of pistachio laced throughout. Meanwhile, your nostrils are filled with the breath of meyer lemon zest that the cakes contain. It was quite an experience for my wittle tongue, but my intrepid taste buds can handle it.

Can yours?

Click here to download the recipe for Pistachio Madelines w/Meyer Lemon Glaze

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Mmmm zesty and sweet!: Meyer lemon pound cake with meyer lemon curd

November 29, 2006

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Sorry, but the wife’s witty remarks won’t appear today. So you are stuck with just me, the Husband, today.

So where was I? What do I want to rant about? Oh right, Meyer lemons… For most of us on the East Coast of the US, getting these little gems is a treat. Confined mostly to the West Coast of the US because of their thin skin, meyer lemons are usually just the flavoring in large commercially produced products. Yet about a month ago, I saw them in my local grocer and decided I had to have them.

Now that I’ve stated my wanting for these lemons, I guess I should explain why they are so special as to ellicit such desire from a married man. Meyer lemons are not really lemons in the way most of us here in the US think of them. They were introduced to this country about a century ago from East Asia and are likely a hybrid between a lemon and a sweet orange. The result is a juicy citrus fruit that has an intense fragrance and a juice that is both sweet and tart. The problem is that they tend to have a thin skin, making them harder to get if you don’t live near where they grow. So when they appeared in my grocer, I bought.

So now that I had a bundle of these left-coast fruits, I wanted to make something that really allowed the fruit to show off. I mean these are out of town guests, you really have to show them a good time. So I gave them a simple place to shine—a pound cake with a nice lemon curd topping. The results were good.

The recipe has a pleasant lightness and tang of flavor from the curd, yet it has a nice filling feeling to it from the density of the pound cake. This combination is also flexible. I served this as dessert for a dinner party with a tiny bit of ice cream and some powdered sugar over the plate to fancy it up. Or, it can be served like it is in the photos for a simple treat.

I really love this recipe with all its flavor and little effort. The cake takes time to bake, but very little preparation time—the equivalent of making brownies. The curd is also very simple (though you do need to stand over it for 10 min), but can be used in many ways and as a topping for other things. If you can’t get meyer lemons, you can use regular ones. However, I would use at least one extra lemon in both recipes if you do. Meyer lemons are very juicy. I hope you enjoy a bit of springtime here in winter.

Click here to download the recipe for Meyer Lemon Poundcake with Meyer Lemon Curd

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Let them eat cake? Yes, please.

September 18, 2006

Asian pear cake
Asian pear cake

I love dessert, yes. But I think I might love rich, bread-y and only slightly sweet breakfast treats even more. Danishes and coffee cakes and fruit breads, oh my!

So this Asian pear cake is perfect for me. It was nominally served as dessert, but in my view, it was a perfectly delicate and sweetly restrained coffee cake. It had this beautiful spice bread that played masterfully with roughly sliced and luxurious Asian pears. To someone who didn’t know they were Asian pears, the fruit might seem like fragile and yet slightly crispy sweet apples.

Serve it for dessert, then eat it for breakfast. I think it would go perfectly with vanilla ice cream or with coffee, and its spicy goodness makes me yearn a bit for the holidays and fireplaces. Go on for more about his Asian pear cake.

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