Archive for the ‘Desserts’ Category

One of my dear friends got married on Saturday, naturally, I couldn’t resist making her wedding cake. We decided on carrot cake with cream cheese frosting. V and I were inspired by a cake with leaves vining up and around the tiers so I went with it. I got together some gum paste supplies and made a bunch of leaves ahead of time. I used two shades of green and made them somewhat irregular (although they ended up being pretty uniform.)

While I was in baking school we used a recipe for carrot cake that quickly became my favorite. It has buttermilk in it and is quite moist. The original recipe calls for walnuts but we chose to exclude them.

I was pretty nervous about making a cake that was big enough so I went with 14-10-6″ tiers. (As it turns out, I was VERY generous with my estimate.)


Each tier was 4 layers, two cakes split in half, each layer was filled with cream cheese frosting. I did a thin crumb coat before the final coat of frosting.

Finally I decorated it with the gum paste leaves. I also had a few fresh flowers leftover from the bridal bouquet so I snuck a few on as well.

The bride, the groom, and the cake.

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Every year my mom would ask me what kind of cake I wanted for my birthday and for the past 10 years or so, I have had the same request, coeur a la creme. Coeur a la creme is a smooth and silky dessert made with cream and cream cheese, a little mousse-y in texture. Traditionally it was not sweetened and served with fresh fruit. My mom always added a little chocolate too, she would use half white chocolate and half dark chocolate, and finished it with raspberry sauce and some fresh raspberries. This year, I decided I wanted to try making it myself so I spent my free time on my birthday making coeur a la creme as well as a couple of other treats.

The coeur a la creme was so simple to make. First, I melted a little bit of white chocolate and semisweet chocolate (separately,) while that was cooling I mixed the cream cheese and powdered sugar together until it was nice and fluffy, then I added a little bit of heavy cream and vanilla and mixed again.

I split the mixture into two bowls and added white chocolate to one and dark chocolate to the other.

I whipped the rest of the cream and folded it into the mixture. I spooned it into the special heart-shaped molds lined with cheesecloth and set them in the fridge to drain. (The molds are equipped with lots of little holes in the bottom.)

I took them out of the fridge (about 8 hours later), turned them out onto a plate and removed the cheesecloth. This was the interesting part, the dark chocolate mixture set up and held its form but the white did not. I am not sure why this happened, I did the exact same thing for both types. The white chocolate variation still tasted delicious so I put it in a bowl to serve.

For the other treats, I made a couple of little  fresh fig tarts and lemon meringue pie. I have been drooling over this recipe out of The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern by Claudia Fleming, it is a fresh fig tart with a cornmeal crust, yum! I ended up using a different recipe for the crust, one without egg. I love the added texture that cornmeal adds to baked goods, it is so crunchy! (The crust made 4 x 4″tart shells.) I pricked the shells and pre-baked them so they would be ready for their respective fillings.

I didn’t have quite enough figs to make the “jam” for the bottom but, I did have a jam of fig jam from Tunisia so I mixed a little of the jam with a little bit of orange zest and juice and spread it on the crust. I nestled in the quartered figs and called it done.

Lastly, I made a couple of little lemon meringue pies. These were inspired by the gigantic egg that I got in the morning. (I am working a couple of mornings a week at Radiance Dairy, hanging out with cows is a wonderful way to start the day! Francis, the owner of the farm, and i had just been talking about his chickens when he called out to me, the next thing I knew, there was an egg flying through the air. It was one of the biggest eggs I have seen, and it was still warm!) I thought a lemon meringue pie would be the perfect use for it, spotlighting both the yolk and the white.

I made a simple curd using the egg yolk, sugar, lemon juice and zest, and butter. While the curd cooled, I whipped up the egg white with a touch of cream of tartar and sugar. I smoothed the curd over the crust (cornmeal .and spooned on the meringue topping, being sure to overlap with the crust a little so that the meringue wouldn’t pull away and shrink while it baked.I baked it for about 15 minutes, until it was golden.

Out for delivery…

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I got some of the last of this seasons peaches yesterday, went home, got into bed and browsed through several cookbooks. When I woke up this morning, I was still surrounded by books. I decided to go with a recipe out of Deborah Madison‘s Seasonal Fruit Desserts, a great cookbook that features the best of the harvest. She had several tempting recipes using peaches but I settled on the Peach Frangipane Galette, never having made frangipane before I thought it would be fun to try.

I put almonds, sugar, a touch of flour and a pinch of salt in my food processor and pulverized the almonds.

I added some eggs, a touch of almond extract and a splash of kirsh and mixed it again until it was nice and smooth. I turned it out into a bowl, covered it and set it aside in the fridge while I made the dough.

Today was the first time in over a year that I have made pie dough in a food processor, it definitely speeds things up! After whipping up the dough (I separated it in two, one smaller and one larger piece) I put it in the fridge to cool.

I blanched the peaches for about 10-15 seconds and then plunged them into an ice water bath. I slipped them out of their skins and sliced them into quarters.

I rolled out the dough, spread some of the frangipane in the center, nestled in some peaches and folded the edges over.

I brushed the crust with a bit of melted butter and sprinkled a little sugar on it and slid it into the hot oven and pulled it out when it was bubbly and golden.

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Ever since I was little I have loved my moms peach dumplings! (The recipe actually comes from my mom’s neighbor, not her Aunt, who we always called Auntie Merle.) With peaches in full swing I can’t help but make some myself! I got up early this morning to make the dumplings to have for brunch along with some crepes.

I started by putting the farina (cream of wheat) in a pot with some milk and a little salt. I let it cook down until it was pretty thick. (Next time I will cook out a little more moisture before I take it off the heat.) I transferred the farina and milk mixture to a large mixing bowl and set it aside to cool.

Meanwhile, I rinsed the peaches. Do not peel them! Their fuzzy little skin is what keeps the dough from slipping off. Now that the farina was cool, I beat in two eggs. (This is when I knew that the dough was too wet.) I added the flour, it was still going to be too soft so I added an extra half cup.

I turned it out onto the counter with a very generous amount of flour and kneaded it into a pretty soft dough and loosely shaped it into a little loaf. Next, I cut off a little slice of dough…

…and gently pressed it around the peaches, making sure not to leave any holes. I repeated this until all the peaches were covered.

When they were all finished I popped them into boiling water for about 15 minutes.

They are best served hot with a little bit of melted butter and a sprinkling of sugar on top!

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For the frosting, we made an Italian meringue. We had thought about making an Italian buttercream but, after a practice run, decided we liked the frosting better before we added the butter. An Italian meringue is really simple to make, though, on such a large-scale and with a hand mixer, it did take a while. I started by making a simple syrup that we heated until the soft ball stage. While the syrup was heating, I separated and beat the egg whites. When the whites were nice and frothy, I added some cream of tartar (to help stabilize the eggs.)

I continued beating the egg whites until they were pillowy.

At this point, I slowly added the hot simple syrup to the fluffy whites and continued beating them until they had cooled completely and they were nice and glossy.

Time to assemble the layers!

We placed the bottom half of the layers on their boards with bits of paper lining the edges for easy clean-up. We started with a layer of raspberry jam and a sprinkling of cocoa nibs (we didn’t put any nibs on the vanilla layer.)

Then a layer of the sour cream pastry cream…

Each layer was topped with rows of fresh raspberries.

The layers were then covered with their respective tops…

…and frosted with the chilled meringue.

After frosting all three layers, we measured dowels and placed several of them in the bottom and middle layers for support. Then we carefully stacked the cakes onto their posts and measured and sharpened one final dowel to act as the support for all three layers.

We put the cake in the fridge and made a little bit of colored frosting for decoration. There was a small gap between the layers so we hid it with meringue and raspberries. (We would have put the meringue and raspberries on for decoration anyways.)

We topped it off with a couple of daylilies.

Birds eye…

Rebekah and David, cutting the cake…

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Last September, Sarah and I picked a lot of red raspberries and made them into jam.

We saved a couple of jars to use for the wedding cake.

We made a simple vanilla pastry cream..

..the we lightened with some sour cream.

And since it was the beginning of raspberry season, we couldn’t leave out fresh raspberries.

With all of the fillings ready, we were ready for the frosting and the assembly.

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My good friend Sarah’s, little sister just got married. Sarah and I  were in charge of making the cake. We do a lot of baking but neither of us had ever made a tiered cake before, let alone one for 100 people. We planned on doing a lot of practice, and we did but it was more like a cake here, some frosting there, and a little filling on the side. No fully assembled mock-up cakes before the big day. We did  get all of our materials and ingredients in advance so we were ready when it was time to bake the layers. The wedding was Thursday evening so we baked the layers Wednesday night and made the fillings and assembled it on Thursday.

We started with the bottom layer, a 16 in square chocolate cake. The recipe that we were working off of was for 2, 9″ rounds so we doubled the recipe. It is always a good idea to start by preheating the oven and preparing the pans (grease and dust with flour for white cakes or cocoa powder for chocolate cake.)

Sarah mixed the wet ingredients together

while I mixed the dry ones.

Our lovely assistant and photographer, Monica, melted the chocolate. (We cooled the hot melted chocolate in a cold water bath so that it wouldn’t cook the eggs.)

We added the chocolate and a little lemon zest to the batter after we had combined the wet and dry ingredients.

We poured the batter into the pan and smoothed it out with an offset spatula, it was ready to go into the oven!

We opened the oven an slid the cake in only to discover that the oven wasn’t deep enough! Needless to say, Sarah and I freaked out! Luckily her sister had her head on straight and suggested we take it down the street to her grandparent’s and see if it fit in their over. We covered the cake in big sheets of butcher paper, to protect it from the rain, and took it down the street. With our fingers crossed, we slid it in the oven and it was just deep enough! While it was cooking we made the top-tier, which was also chocolate, though only an 8″ square, and then moved on to the middle tier which was a vanilla cake.

We finished baking the 3 layers and went to bed. When we woke up in the morning we decided to whip up one more layer to give the bottom tier some extra height. Then it was off to the event hall to make the fillings and get ready for the wedding.

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Since I already made enough strawberry jam, I decided to make a fresh tart with some of the remaining berries. I was wanting to play around with a new crust recipe and ran into Faith from the kitchn while I was at the Deli, she told me about a oat shortbread crust that she had found some while back. It sounded tasty so I went for it!

I toasted and chopped the oats and mixed them with flour, salt and brown sugar (it called for dark so I added a little molasses to the light brown sugar I had.) I cut in the butter and patted the mixture into a pie pan and popped it in the oven until it was golden.

While the crust was cooling, I chopped the berries and tossed them with a little sugar and some mint. I whipped together some greek yogurt, lime zest and juice, sugar and vanilla and set it aside. I whipped some heavy cream and folded it into the yogurt mixture. I poured the whipped cream and yogurt into the pie crust and topped it with the berries.

I took it to the park for a picnic with a couple of friends. We found the first of the season black raspberries and added a few to the top. It was so good that none of it made it home!

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When I was in Modena a couple of years ago, Erika taught me how to make an amazing cake. It is called Torta agli Amaretti e Cioccolato, or Chocolate and Amaretti Cake. I haven’t been able to make it since because I can’t two very important ingredients, sassolino and amaretti (little crunchy cookies made with apricot pits.) Lucky for me, Erika brought me everything I needed so I made one!

The dry ingredients are measured by weight so I put a mixing bowl on my scale and added them one by one. Starting with crushed amaretti, followed by breadcrumbs, sugar, and shaved dark chocolate…

After mixing it together, I added some eggs, milk with baking powder in it and mixed it again.

The next and final addition is cocoa powder which is added until “it is as dark as you like” – I like my cake dark.

While it was baking, the aroma of melting chocolate, amaretti, and sassolino filled my apartment. I stepped outside for a moment and could smell it wafting out my kitchen window.

Here is a picture of the cake before it was devoured…

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Last week my friend Erika came to visit from Italy. (Erika is the maker of Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena.) Her visit was centered around a Balsamic vinegar tasting that we did together at Zingerman’s Deli.

We did several food pairings with the various ages and wood types (the different woods impart different flavors.) Strawberries with 12 year cherry barrels, potatoes and tuna with 12 year juniper barrels, bruschetta with 12 year mulberry barrels, mixed greens and ricotta salad with 25 year mixed barrels, Parmigiano Reggiano with 25 year mulberry barrels, and of course vanilla gelato with 25 year cherry barrels.

Erika even brought a bottle of vinegar that came from the set of barrels that were started for her great-grandmother’s dowry in 1842. This one is so good you eat it alone! Needless to say, this was a big hit.

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