Posts Tagged ‘Cake’

After baking these incredible carrot shortbread cookies over the weekend, we are a bit hooked on carrots in dessert. Partly due to our healthy diet kick, and partly due to a family-sized bag of Costco carrots in our fridge, we decided to try our hand at another carrot dessert.

Very rarely do we bake something that is a complete personal invention. Tonight, however, after scouring the Internet for a simple healthy recipe for carrot cake, we decided to resort to our own devices. The recipes we found online all required ingredients we don’t usually keep in stock — wheat germ, flax seed, etc. — or just seemed to involve too many steps for a weekday treat.

The result of our creative genius was blog-worthy. This carrot cake is light and fluffy, almost like a souffle, due to the separating of eggs in the first step. It is naturally sweetened with banana, and only had an additional 2 tablespoons of sugar. The next time I do this, I might play around with excluding the sugar altogether and adding the other half of the banana. I may also try adding a tablespoon or two of coconut oil or cocoa powder for a completely different twist. We used almonds in this recipe, but hazelnuts or walnuts would be delicious as well, especially if toasted for a few minutes prior to grinding.

Simple, Healthy Carrot Cake

3 eggs, separated
3/4 c nuts, ground finely
8 carrots, peeled, grated
1 1/2 ripe bananas
1 T vanilla extract
1 t cinnamon
2 T brown sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Gently butter a 8″x8″ square cake pan.

Using a stand mixer, beat egg whites until they hold stiff peaks. Set aside. In a separate bowl, combine carrots and bananas and stir until well-mixed. Add egg yolks, vanilla, ground nuts, cinnamon, and brown sugar, mixing after each addition. Combine until well-mixed.

Fold egg whites gently into carrot batter, 1/2 cup at a time. Pour batter into prepared pan, and bake for 25 minutes, watching carefully.


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They did it! They tied the knot! Two of our favorite people, joined together in joyous, holy matrimony. It was one of the most beautiful, most fun weddings we’ve been to in a while (excluding our own, of course!), and very much a testament to the value of community that both Andy and Marcella have come to share.

A few highlights:

  • Marcella walked down the aisle with her father, who had suffered a stroke a few years ago, and made a difficult journey out to Connecticut from Phoenix.
  • Both Andy and his father gave endearing, thoughtful toasts to the guests (as is English tradition). Afterwards, Andy’s father beamed rays of fatherly pride at how well Andy has grown up.
  • The bridal party and friends fully rearranged international trips home, housing decor and guest space availability, and work schedules in order to pitch in and contribute to the finishing details of the wedding week.
  • Our friend GH officiated his very first wedding, and his delightful wife, JH, catered her very first wedding.
And we, as you may know, made our very first wedding cake. It was a vanilla cardamom cake, three tiers each with two layers, with a Swiss meringue buttercream frosting. The tiers were 12″, 8″, and 6″, decorated with some miscellaneous flowers and eucalyptus branches pilfered from the Sharps’ dining room arrangement in a last-minute flurry the morning of the wedding. Despite it being slotted to feed 120 at least, it fed about 80. (What can we do when guests come back for seconds and thirds and fourths?)
This cake may be a game-changer. I’m now reconsidering my career trajectory. Goodbye, Columbia; hello, socialist bakery! (If you have seen Stranger Than Fiction, a certain baker lady in that movie has been providing some inspiration for these upcoming plans.) Seriously, this cake was such a success that I’m reevaluating my gifts and my interests and wondering whether a small local bakery with an emphasis on job skills training for underprivileged women may instead be a better alternative than my current track. The million muffin movement? Cookies for the community?

Onto the frosting… If you’ll remember, the first frosting attempt over Easter weekend turned into a curdled disaster. Since then we’ve experimented quite a bit and have been thrilled with the following recipe. This recipe yields the most spreadable frosting I’ve ever experimented with, and the egg whites add a lot of structure that would ordinarily be replaced with by extraneous sugar. It holds up remarkably well for 24 hours (not that we had it out for that long, but an earlier trial version did withstand that duration) without any discoloration or melting. Of course if you were attempting your own wedding cake, I highly recommend you give this a couple tries. It’s not the easiest frosting I’ve ever made, but once you’re familiar enough with how it works, it is worth the effort.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream Frosting

4 egg whites, room temperature
3 cups confectioners’ sugar
3 sticks butter, room temperature

In a double boiler, whisk together egg whites and 1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar. Whisk continually in order to keep egg whites from cooking, until egg whites are frothy and warm. (If you don’t have a double boiler, a stainless steel bowl over a pot of simmering water is fine.) Warming the egg whites allows them to stiffen up more in the next step.

Remove egg white mixture from heat. In a stand mixer, beat egg whites until they form stiff peaks. This should take about two minutes on medium speed first, then another two or three minutes on high speed. Remove egg whites from stand mixer and set aside.

In stand mixer, beat butter and remaining 1 1/2 cups of sugar until fluffy. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the egg whites into the butter. Mix thoroughly by hand. Do not use a stand mixture for this portion — the egg whites are very delicate at this stage and can curdle if beaten too hard into the butter.

At this stage, the frosting can be spread onto the cake immediately or kept refrigerated for a few days. If refrigerated, the frosting will harden. To bring it back to a spreadable texture, microwave for 30 seconds or keep it at room temperature for a few hours.

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How do I love thee? Let me count the ways… 10 1/2 sticks of butter, 21 eggs, 9 cups of sugar, and 11 1/4 cups of flour. Ten hours, countless dishes, and an emergency trip to Costco. M & A, you’d better be the happiest newlyweds in the world after this cake is done!

Having three full days off is a miraculous phenomenon in this household these days. With school from 9am-7pm on Saturdays and a full work week, it makes Sundays the only days of rest we have, and not nearly enough time to get things like laundry or spring cleaning, not to mention a wedding cake, done. Thankfully, the nonprofit I currently work at does acknowledge Good Friday, and the school I currently attend also recognizes Easter (weekend), thus granting me the luxury of rest, at last! (I’ve also just remembered I have the most marvelous husband who faithfully conquers the mountains of laundry every few weeks, tackles the grime in the kitchen I leave behind, and also baked a third of this cake!)

This wedding cake is quite the undertaking, let me tell you. Not that I thought making a wedding cake would be a simple task, but the sheer level of manpower, time, and ingredients has been fairly daunting. Seriously, ten sticks of butter had been difficult to fathom until this weekend, and now I’m envisioning dozens of sticks of butter softening to room temperature scattered in various locations all over the house come May. (By the way, I’ve discovered that defrosting frozen butter in the microwave for about two minutes on the defrost setting can be a useful trick in a pinch, but the preferred method is still to leave it sitting out overnight.)

Vanilla Cardamom Cake
(adapted from http://www.smittenkitchen.com)

This version produces 9 cups of batter, which makes the following combinations: one 12″ round and one 6″ round; two 8″ rounds and one 6″ round; one 12″ round and one 8″ round. (If you notice a small discrepancy here, I’ll have you know that the first batch produced a very tall 6″ round.) I suspect this could also successfully make three 8″ rounds, but I’ll leave that to your experimentation.

3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon plus 2 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
2 1/2 sticks (10 ounces) salted butter, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups plus 1/3 cup buttermilk
5 whole eggs
2 egg yolks
2  teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Butter three 8-inch round cake pans. Line the bottom of each pan with a round of parchment or waxed paper and butter the paper.

Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large mixer bowl. With the mixer on low speed, blend for 30 seconds. Add the butter and 1 1/4 cup of the buttermilk. Mix on low speed briefly to blend; then raise the speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes.

In a smaller bowl, whisk together the whole eggs, egg yolks, vanilla, and the remaining 1/3 cup buttermilk until well blended. Pour one-third of the egg mixture into the cake batter at a time, folding it in completely after each addition. There will be 9 cups of batter; pour 3 cups batter into each pan.

Bake for 50 minutes for the 8″ rounds, 42 minutes for the 6″ rounds, and 60 minutes for the 12″ rounds, or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool the cakes in the pans. When the cakes are cooled completely, turn the layers out by running a rubber spatula around the edge of the cake, covering the cake pan with a flat plate, and flipping gently. If the cake does not come out immediately, moisten a paper towel with warm water, wipe the sides and bottom of the pan and shake gently.

If the cake is not to be served immediately (or within a few hours), cover the cake pan tightly with plastic wrap, with twice the amount of plastic wrap as the size of the cake. Flip gently, then wrap the cake in plastic wrap and a freezer bag. The cake will store well like this for a number of days.

More to come on buttercream frosting, Swiss meringue frosting, cake boards and more! In the meantime, if you have any experience with Swiss meringue buttercream frosting or any tips on frosting at all, please respond to this cry for help. (You’ll see in the pictures above, the frosting is not quite ready for its close-up.)

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Has it really been a full week since we last posted? Yes, I see the readership dwindling… Come back, readers, come back! Time sure does fly when you’re totally overwhelmed and busy. School started last week, and it’ll be a doozy getting all of this done. Who decided a master’s degree, a full-time demanding job, a new husband, and lots of social inclinations was a good idea? I guess I did, but that doesn’t stop me from complaining about it. As long as it doesn’t keep me from baking…

Speaking of baking, look at these two beautiful smiley people, Andy and Marcella! After months of dating cross-continentally, they’d been reunited in New Haven in August thanks to the generous efforts and string-pulling of a few dear friends, and they’re now officially engaged! And somehow I managed to talk myself into the biggest baking challenge thus far in a young baker’s life… wedding cake. How hard can it be?

Trial number one was a modest, two-layer affair involving pomegranate molasses and vanilla cream cheese frosting. Marcella is a frugivore, you see, and for a recent dinner gathering in part to celebrate her birthday she requested a bowl of exotic fruits in lieu of a birthday cake. Fantasizing about this cake already, I delegated the fruit responsibilities elsewhere and went ahead with my cake-baking! (And yes, I’d consider pomegranate molasses to fall in the exotic fruit category…)

While the cake was very well-received, I’m still brainstorming a few other ideas. Coconut has been vetoed, but I’m willing to take suggestions. What is the best cake you have ever had?

Pomegranate Molasses Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

1 1/2 c all purpose flour
1 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1 stick butter, room temperature
3/4 c sugar
3 large eggs
1/2 c milk
3 T pomegranate molasses

Preheat oven to 350F. Butter and flour two 9-inch cake rounds. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and baking soda.

In a stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy and well-mixed. Add the eggs one at a time to the butter, scraping down the sides of the bowl between each mixing. Alternate adding the flour mixture and the milk to the butter-sugar-egg mixture. Add in the molasses and stir well.

Pour the batter into each cake round. Bake for ~35-40 minutes until cake is set. Cool completely before removing it from the pan and frosting.

Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting

1 package of cream cheese
2 T vanilla extract (the good kind)
sugar to taste

In a large standing mixer, beat cream cheese at a high speed. Add in the sugar and vanilla extract gradually while continuing to beat. The frosting is done when when the ingredients are mixed well and the cream cheese is fluffy.

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Perhaps a bit cruel, bringing up memories from summer when it’s fully winter here in New Haven, but this past weekend we made an Amalfi-inspired chocolate torte for a holiday party at my boss’s house. Stepping back a bit…

This summer on our honeymoon we stayed at an adorable inn on the Amalfi Coast with a bottle of prosecco awaiting us when we arrived and an incredible view of the water from our balcony. Thoughtful gestures and enjoyable amenities, I suppose, but the best part about this inn was the breakfast provided daily by a small bakery in the main square.

For the most part, the breakfast was typical of Italian breakfasts — freshly baked breads, butter and jams, the occasional chocolate croissant (or cornetto, if you’re Italian), cappuccinos of course. But what was truly life-changing was the lemon chocolate hazelnut spread. Similar to nutella and contained in a very cute petite jar, this chocolate hazelnut spread had an incredible infusion of lemon zest in it. Every morning, we greedily dolloped it onto our bread, sometimes even spreading it into our chocolate croissants, not realizing that these few days of glorious lemon-chocolate-hazelnut indulgence were the only days we would ever have to experience this again.

Towards the end of our time in Amalfi, we eagerly inquired of the bakery owner we were might procure this treat. Surely, in Amalfi, where lemons abound in fertile volcanic ash (see photo above), this spread could not be too hard to come across. We were anticipating bringing home jars and jars, maybe for sharing, but definitely for us. Little did we know, that this one jar served to us came from a particularly abundant lemon crop (even for Amalfi!) from the previous year, and one ingenious entrepreneur jarred up just a salable amount of lemon-chocolate-hazelnut for the year, but that was the end of it. There was no more to be sold, no more to be had, a tragic loss to the world.

With that in mind, enjoy the following recipe!

Dark Chocolate Limoncello Torte

2 eggs
1 1/3 c brown sugar
1/2 c all-purpose flour
1/8 t salt
1/2 c melted butter
4 T unsweetened cocoa
1 T vanilla extract
3 T limoncello
zest of half a lemon

Preheat oven to 350º. Lightly butter a round 8” or 9” springform or cake pan.

Whisk together the eggs and sugar until well-combined and pale yellow. Gradually mix in the flour and salt.

Stir cocoa and vanilla extract into melted butter. Add cocoa-butter mixture to batter, stirring well until any lumps are removed. Zest half of a lemon into the batter, stirring to combine.

Pour batter into prepared pan. Drizzle limoncello over the batter. Cook in 350º oven for 20 minutes. Check for doneness; the edges of the cake should be crisp but the center still moist and sticky. Garnish with powdered sugar, lemon zest, or ganache.

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Don’t worry, this is no sappy birthday post. (Speaking of sappiness, do you also secretly covet the friendship between Chewy and Han Solo? I keep trying to convince said husband that their friendship is admirable and we should similarly seek to be co-pilots fighting the evil empire, but he says no.) This is a post about chocolate and beer.

Now first of all, if you: a) live in New York, and b) don’t fear Brooklyn, please do yourself a favor and pay a visit to The Chocolate Room in Park Slope. This is far more than a dessert shop, more like a classy wine bar complete with jazz and mood lighting, but instead of wine, chocolate is served. More importantly, this is where we first discovered stout flouts. Imagine: a heaping scoop of chocolate-chocolate-chocolate ice cream (or maybe we had vanilla; not important) in a pint of Brooklyn Brewery’s Black Chocolate Stout. Brilliant, isn’t it?

And while you hold that thought, since I now work for a non-profit that values replication and dissemination (of poverty intervention strategies), imagine the replicability of this genius idea! Any kind of ice cream can go in any kind of stout beer (or even non-stout beer for that matter) for incredible ice cream-beer floats!

But I digress… Chocolate and beer is what this post is about generally, and a chocolate stout birthday cake more specifically. (Also, the pictures that are clearly not of birthday cake are from a pre-birthday hike at Sleeping Giant.) Happy belated birthday, husband!

Chocolate Guinness Cake with Ganache

1 cup stout (such as Guinness)
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch-process)
2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
2/3 cup sour cream
6 ounces good semisweet chocolate chips
6 tablespoons heavy cream

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter or spray two 8″ round cake pans. Bring 1 cup stout and 1 cup butter to simmer in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add cocoa powder and whisk until mixture is smooth. Cool slightly.

Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, and 3/4 teaspoon salt in large bowl to blend. Beat eggs and sour cream in another large bowl to blend. Add stout-chocolate mixture to egg mixture and beat just to combine. Add flour mixture and beat briefly on slow speed. Using rubber spatula, fold batter until completely combined. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 35 minutes.

For the ganache, melt the chocolate and heavy cream in the top of a double boiler over simmering water until smooth and warm, stirring occasionally. Drizzle over the top of cooled cake.

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