Cherry Almond Cake

Adjusting to cooking/baking and figuring out when/where/how to shoot the results in the house has been an interesting process.  Back in the apartment, I did most of my shooting on the radiator cover in the kitchen because it was convenient, and it got good light.

Things in the house have been a little tricky, especially when we first moved in.  I keep the window shades drawn in the kitchen because the house next door (aka across the driveway, we do kind of live in a city) is being seriously renovated and I don’t need the men over there knocking down walls and such to judge me as I meticulously arrange food, photograph it, then put it away.

But of course, I had nowhere else to shoot really and I liked the look of the kitchen floors, so I started there.  Of course I forgot that there was one other obstacle that I’d never ecountered before…a pet able to roam the entire house.  And so my first floor shoot was photobombed by my rabbit.  Not fun.

Bunny photobomb.

So I decided to shoot on the porch floor, where the bunny is not allowed.  But getting certain shots on the floor is hard.  It’s great for overheads but that’s about it.  Finally, we bought a table from Ikea.  It now resides on the porch and is my official shooting table.  But I made this cake before I had the table, which is why it was shot on the kitchen island.  Which doesn’t get great light.  Thank goodness for the free version of photoshop I got for work in college.

This cherry cake was one of the first things I made in the house.  It was the perfect welcome-to-your-new-kitchen cake.  Which means it helped me figure out the temperature variations in the new oven.  Scary I know, but thankfully I didn’t burn it.  In fact, this melding of cherry and almond into a moist, sweet cake was just what I needed after moving heavy objects around all day.

Cherry Almond Cake

Adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod

Makes one 9” cake, about 10 servings

For the cake:

6 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
½ cup buttermilk
½ tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp almond extract
1 ½ cups fresh cherries, stemmed, pitted and halved

For the almond streusel topping:

¼ cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup brown sugar
¼ cup almond paste, crumbled
2 Tbsp unsalted butter, cold and cut into small pieces
pinch of salt

For the almond glaze:

½ cup powdered sugar
¼ tsp almond extract
2 to 3 Tbsp milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9-inch springform pan or pie plate. Set aside.

Sift flour, baking powder, and salt together into a medium bowl. Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add in egg, buttermilk, vanilla, and almond extract. Mix until combined.  Gradually mix in the dry ingredients. Transfer batter to prepared pan and arrange cherries on top of batter.

Next make the almond streusel topping.  In a small bowl combine flour, brown sugar, almond paste, butter, and salt. Mix together with your fingers until crumbly. Sprinkle the topping evenly over the cake.

Bake cake for 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees. Bake until cake is golden brown and firm to the touch, about 50-55 minutes. Let cool in pan.

While the cake is cooling, make the glaze. In a small bowl, combine powdered sugar, almond extract, and just enough milk to make a pourable glaze. Remove cake from pan and drizzle the glaze over it, then let set for 10 minutes.  Cut and enjoy!



Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookie Butter Cake

Earlier this week I promised you all a story.  I mentioned in passing that over last weekend, Luke and I spent a little time in the backyard getting our golf swing on.

As I mentioned, I was the one teaching him.  Now you know something a lot of people don’t know about me.  I was once a collegiate golfer.  For one year.  But it still counts!  I started golfing my sophomore year of high school, and ended up captain my senior year.  Impressive, right?

Yeah, well…I was the only senior and there were only four girls on the team, so, I don’t bring it up much.  Playing in college kind of ruined it for me because our coach only cared about the best players (which I was not).  We’d be at practice, and I’d be consistently hooking the ball, so the coach would watch me once or twice, give some lame piece of advice and then move on.  So then I’d start slicing.  But he’d never come back around again.  For the record: it’s really hard to correct your own swing.  It’s much easier to correct someone else since you can see their body’s movements.

I did my best with Luke.  He needs a lot of practice, but I think he has potential.  He’s got it in his head that if he wants to start a business some day, he’s gotta know how to play golf.  Fair enough.  Oh, and I have one more announcement before I move on to the cake.  Izzy was up roaming around on the couch no less than three times yesterday!  I knew she could do it.  Now all I have to do is train her to sit on my lap.  (It’s harder than it sounds, girlfriend is not the cuddling type.)

So I’ll cuddle some cake instead.  And by cuddle, I mean with my mouth, so effectively, that translates to eating.  This cake combines some of my all-time favorite flavors together: caramel, chocolate and cookie butter.  Don’t act like you don’t know what cookie butter is.  If you really don’t know, google it, and then go to Trader Joe’s and buy a jar because it’s amazing.  It gives the cake a slight caramel-y flavor, which is complemented nicely by the caramel glaze.  Add some chocolate chips, and you’ve got yourself one mighty fine dessert.

Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookie Butter Cake

Adapted from Sugar Plum

Makes one 8” round cake

For the cake:

3 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
3 Tbsp cookie butter
½ cup sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 ½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup milk

1 cup mini chocolate chips

For the caramel glaze:

¼  cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 Tbsp milk

Heat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease an 8” round cake pan with cooking spray.

First make the cake.  In a large bowl, beat together butter, cookie butter and sugar until creamy.  Beat in egg, vanilla, baking powder, baking soda and salt until well combined.  Beat in flour, alternating with the milk until just combined.  Beat in chocolate chips until combined.  Scrape batter into the prepared pan.  Bake for 25 minutes, or until golden brown, and a toothpick inserted into cake comes out with moist crumbs attached.  Cool 10 minutes before running a knife around the outside edge and inverting cake onto a platter.

While the cake is cooling, make the caramel.  Combine the brown sugar, milk, and butter in a small saucepan.  Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. When the sugar is bubbling vigorously and is a medium amber color, remove from heat.  Poke holes all over the cake with a toothpick or chopstick, then pour the caramel glaze over the top.  Let set, and serve!



Caramelized Banana Peanut Butter Cake

This cake is an obvious showcase for my love affair with bananas and peanut butter.  That being said, let me make it clear that I enjoy peanut butter with only the one fruit.

‘What about apples and peanut butter?’ you ask.  Well, that may be a thing, but it’s nothing to me.  Hah, I crack myself up.  Something about the crisp yet juicy flesh of a good apple seems counterproductive when paired with the salty slickness of peanut butter.  The two practically separate in my mouth, leaving me wondering why I didn’t just pick one or the other.

Baking apples and peanut butter together is perfectly acceptable, but only because both parties lose the inherent qualities that make them like matter and anti-matter in my mind.  Ugh, all this talk of apples makes me crave fall.  Is it September yet?

Ok ok, I’m getting to the cake already.  We’ve got caramel, bananas and peanut butter all wrapped up into one shiny package.  How can you say no to that?

I had been waiting to make this cake ever since I bookmarked it, and I was pleased with the result.  For some reason, my first batch of caramel seized like crazy, but the second one was fine.  The cake is dense and moist, and the bananas smothered in their caramel casing are sweet, but not overly so.  Very scrumptious, and highly recommended.

Caramelized Banana Peanut Butter Cake

Adapted from Scientifically Sweet

Makes one 8” cake (about 10 servings)

For the caramelized banana layer:

2 medium ripe, but firm bananas, peeled and sliced into ¼” thick pieces

1/3 cup sugar

¼ tsp white vinegar

¼ cup heavy cream

For the cake:

1 cup all-purpose flour

¼ cup whole wheat flour

1 ½ tsp baking powder

1 tsp cinnamon

¼ tsp salt

1 medium banana

½ cup packed brown sugar

¼ cup creamy peanut butter

¼ cup peanut oil

1/3 cup whole milk

1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line or grease an 8” round cake pan and set aside.

In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, spread the sugar in an even layer and drizzle 1 Tbsp of water over it.  Cook, without stirring, until it begins to bubble.  Swirl the pan periodically for even heating.  Continue to cook until the sugar liquefies and turns golden amber.  Remove pot from heat and carefully pour in cream while stirring constantly.  Add sliced bananas and return caramel to the heat for 20 seconds.  Pour bananas and caramel evenly into the bottom of your prepared pan and set aside.

In a medium bowl, sift together flours, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.  Add the bran left in the sieve from the whole wheat flour.  Whisk it all together to blend evenly; set aside.

In a large bowl, mash the banana.  Whisk in the brown sugar until there are no lumps.  Whisk in peanut butter until smooth.  Add the egg and whisk until blended.  Whisk in oil, milk and vanilla until well incorporated.  Fold in dry ingredients until just combined.

Pour the batter over the bananas in the pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean, about 40 minutes.  Let cool on a wire rack for about 20 minutes or so, then carefully invert the cake onto a platter.  Peel off parchment if you used it.  (I greased my pan with cooking spray and nothing stuck to the bottom.)  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Carrot Cake Truffles

Today is just about the most important Hop Day with Izzy.  Oh yes, there’s a birthday involved, but not for any human member of the family.

It’s Izzy’s birthday!!  She’s a whole year old this week!  Week, you ask?  Well yes.  You see, when we got her, all we knew was that she was 13 weeks old.  We traced her birth back to this week, and since Wednesday is her day, let’s make July 11th Izzy’s birthday from now on.

I really can’t believe she’s a year old already.  She was such a tiny little thing when we got her, and even though she’s still pretty tiny (weighing in at a whopping two pounds) she’s truly grown and developed her own personality.  Even if she annoys the crap out of me with her sassy attitude sometimes.  We still love her, I mean, she is the cutest little thing ever.

So what do you make for your bunny’s birthday?  Carrot cake, duh.  But I’ve already posted about carrot cake on this blog, so I thought I’d do something a little different.  Enter the carrot cake truffle.

Yep, it’s pretty much as ethereal as it sounds, but it does come from Milk: the Momofuku cookbook originally, so I didn’t expect any less.  They’re basically a carrot cake/cheesecake ball coated in white chocolate and milk crumbs.

It’s like carrot cake heaven in your mouth.  I will put out a disclaimer though.  It would be a good idea to spread the making of these truffles out over two days.  I made the mistake of going at it all at once, and it was rough.  I’d recommend making the filling the day before you want to serve them, then make the crumb coating and assemble them on the day they’ll be served.  They were a bit of work, but sooooo worth it.  I feel like I’ve been saying that a lot the last few days…

Carrot Cake Truffles

Adapted from The Baker Chick via Milk: The Momofuku Cookbook

Makes 12-15 truffles

This is what you’ll need:

3 cups Carrot Cake Scraps (recipe below)
2-4 Tbsp Liquid Cheesecake (recipe below)
1 recipe Milk Crumbs finely ground in a food processor (recipe below)
3 oz. white chocolate

Instructions for each part will follow each ingredient list

For the carrot cake:

¼ cup (½ stick) butter, softened
¼ cup packed light brown sugar
¼ cup sugar

1 large egg
1/8 cup vegetable oil
½ cup plus 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp salt
1 ¼ cups shredded, peeled carrots (2 medium sized carrots)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  In a large bowl, combine the butter and sugars and beat until light and fluffy.  Add the egg, and stir to combine.  Add in the oil and mix until the mixture is practically white, twice the size of your original fluffy butter/sugar mixture, and completely homogenous, with no streaks of fat. This will take about 5 minutes (work those arms!)

Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt and combine carefully. Mix just until your batter comes together and any remnants of dry ingredients have been incorporated.  Fold in the shredded carrots.

Coat an 8×8” pan with cooking spray and using a spatula, spread the batter in an even layer in the pan.  Bake for 25-30 mins. The cake will rise and puff, doubling in size, but will remain slightly buttery and dense. At 25 minutes, gently poke the edge of the cake with your finger, if it bounces back slightly and isn’t jiggly in the center, it’s done. Leave it in for 3-5 more minutes if it isn’t quite done.  Cool the cake on a wire rack.

For the liquid cheesecake:

4 oz cream cheese
½ cup minus 2 Tbsp sugar
½ Tbsp cornstarch
¼ tsp kosher salt
1 Tbsp milk
½ egg*

Heat oven to 300 degrees F. Put cream cheese in a medium sized bowl and beat until well whipped.  Add the sugar and mix for 1-2 mins, until the sugar has been completely incorporated.  Whisk together the cornstarch and salt in a small bowl. Whisk in the milk in a slow, steady stream, then whisk in the egg until the slurry is homogenous.  *To make ½ egg, crack your egg in a small bowl, whisk it up with a fork, and pour in about half.

Add the egg slurry into the cream cheese mixture. Beat until the mixture is smooth and loose, about 3-4 minutes.

Line the sides and bottom of a 9×5” baking pan with aluminum foil.  Pour the cheesecake batter into the pan and bake for 15 mins.  It is done when it is set on the edges but still jiggly in the center. If the edges aren’t quite set, bake for 5 min increments until it’s done- no more than 25 minutes.

Cool completely to finish the baking process and allow the cheesecake to set. It will be creamy, and spreadable and can be stored in the fridge in an air-tight container for up to a week.

For the milk crumb:

1/8 cup milk powder

2 Tbsp flour
½ Tbsp cornstarch
½ Tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 Tbsp butter, melted
1 ½ Tbsp milk powder
1 oz white chocolate, melted

Heat the oven to 250 degrees F. Combine the 1/8 cup of milk powder with the flour, cornstarch, sugar and salt in a medium bowl. Toss with your hands to mix. Add the butter and toss using a spatula until the mixture comes together and forms small clusters.

Spread the clusters on a parchment or silicone lined cookie sheet and bake for 20 mins.  The crumbs should be sandy and the kitchen will smell amazing! Cool crumbs.  Crush any bits that are larger than 1/2 inch diameter and put the crumbs in a medium bowl. Add the rest of the milk powder and toss together.

Pour the white chocolate over the crumbs and toss until your the crumbs are all well-coated. Continue tossing them every 5 mins until the white chocolate hardens and the clusters aren’t sticky. Run the dried and cooled clusters through the food processor before using them for the truffles.

To assemble the truffles, combine the 3 cups of mushed up cake with 3-4 Tbsp of the liquid cheesecake. Using your hands mush it all together. If it is moist enough to knead into a ball it’s great- if not, add some more liquid cheesecake until it’s ready. Portion out 12-15 balls of the mixture- roll them together with your hands and set them aside on a cookie sheet.

Melt the white chocolate in a shallow bowl. Using a spoon or your fingers, dip each ball of cake into the white chocolate and tap it on the side of the bowl until all the drips are off.  Then toss it in the milk crumb until well coated. Put them in the fridge for at least 5 minutes to fully set the chocolate. The truffles can be stored in an airtight container for unto a week in the fridge.  Enjoy!!

Flourless Chocolate Cake

Yesterday morning I took the GRE, and it feels like a weight has been lifted.  I am so happy to have another thing out of the way.  Also, you can view your unofficial score when the test is over since it’s done via computer, and I must say that I’m pretty happy with how I did.  Double weight has been lifted.

After I finished the test, (it only took about 4 hours) I ran back to the apartment to grab the baked goods that were due in the office that day for a birthday.  I had to bake everything ahead of time since I knew I wasn’t making anything the morning of, but I planned it well.

The birthday request was chocolate, and ever since I bought a 10 lb (oh yes, 10 pounds, not ounces) of Guittard dark chocolate, I have wanted to make a flourless chocolate cake.  You know, one of those dense, rich tortes that’s practically fudge in cake form but sooo much better?  Well, I finally made one.

And it was intense in all the right ways.  I am always sad though that I can never take good photos of cakes I bring into the office, obviously because I can’t cut into them, so I can’t style a piece with the rest of the cake as a background prop…which totally reminds me of this post I just saw on Eat The Love.  See #24.

Photos under the florescent office lights just don’t look nearly as good as those with natural light.  But still, this cake is amazing no matter what lighting you put it under.  It has the silkiest consistency paired with a deep chocolate flavor that is absolutely sinful.  But wonderful.  I think I need to make another just for Luke and me.

Flourless Chocolate Cake

Adapted from Ready For Dessert

Makes one 9” round cake, about 10-12 servings

10 ounces bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped

½ cup (1 stick) salted butter, cut into pieces

1 tsp espresso powder

½ tsp vanilla extract

6 large eggs, separated

¼ cup plus 2 Tbsp sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease a 9” springform pan and set aside.  In a large heatproof bowl, combine the chocolate, butter and espresso powder.  Set the bowl over a pan of simmering water and stir occasionally until the mixture is melted and smooth.  Remove the bowl from the heat and stir in the vanilla.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and ¼ cup sugar until the mixture is light and creamy, about 3 minutes.

In another medium/large bowl, beat the egg whites with an electric hand mixer on low speed until they begin to hold their shape.  Add the remaining 2 Tbsp sugar gradually and beat on high until the whites hold soft peaks.

Fold the beaten egg yolks into the melted chocolate mixture, then fold in half of the egg whites.  Fold in the remaining whites, mixing just until there are no visible streaks of egg whites.  Make sure you don’t overfold.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake until the cake feels as though it’s just barely set in the center, about 25 minutes.  Let cool completely before running a knife around the edges of the pan.  Release the sides of the pan and dust the cake with powdered sugar if desired.  The cake will last for up to 3 days stored in an air-tight container at room temperature.

Lemon Pudding Cakes

So maybe today’s Hop Day with Izzy pic isn’t as cute as previous weeks.  Hey, I can’t make her strike cute poses, no matter how much I beg.  I always think it’s adorable when it comes time to feed her.  She gets so excited, runs in circles, and then shoves her entire head in the food bowl even before I can get it on the ground.  You’d think she wouldn’t be that hungry, since when she’s not sleeping, she’s eating hay or vegetables, but I suppose I can’t speculate on what goes inside that bunny brain of hers.

Ok, enough about bunny, because today is a very special day.  Which obviously calls for a very special dessert.

Today is my Nana’s birthday.  Who is Nana, you ask?  Nana is my paternal grandmother, and without a doubt, one of the most supportive, nurturing and loving people in my life.

Even if she does have a photo collage in her bathroom of my brother and myself at various stages of potty training…that all my boyfriends ended up seeing, much to my extreme embarrassment.  But that’s just part of her charm.

Her house is a kind of shrine, dedicated to those she loves, and believe me, this lady loves fiercely.  But the good kind of fierce. The kind that saves old poems and valentines sent before I could write them without my parent’s help.  The kind that sends you little notes every week, as well as the Sunday crossword puzzles cut out from the newspaper.

The kind that offers you anything you want the minute you walk through her front door.  The kind that makes you feel special, no matter what.  Well, I wanted to share a special dessert that I made in her honor.

Nana loves lemon, so of course I made her something citrusy and bright.

Although it looks like pudding when it goes into the oven, (in a water bath, of course) the top layer comes out as a lemon sponge cake that provides a great texture contrast to the layer of pudding hiding beneath it.

Hopefully someday soon I’ll be able to make these for my Nana in person, but in the meantime, I’ll wish her all my love on her special day.  Happy Birthday Nana!

Lemon Pudding Cakes

Adapted from Jo Cooks

Makes 6 individual servings

1 cup sugar

3 Tbsp all-purpose flour

3 large eggs, separated

¼ cup (half stick) unsalted butter, melted

1 Tbsp finely grated lemon zest

½ cup fresh lemon juice

1 ½ cups 2% milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  In a small bowl, sift together sugar and flour; set aside.

Place egg whites in a medium bowl.  Using an electric hand mixer, beat on high speed for 4 to 5 minutes or until stiff peaks form. Transfer whites to another bowl.

Add egg yolks to the same bowl.  Beat on medium-high speed until the yolks are thick and lightened in color. Reduce speed to medium and add butter, lemon zest and juice; beat for 1 more minute. Alternately beat in flour mixture and milk, making 5 additions of flour and 4 of milk.

Fold in egg whites. Pour batter evenly into 6 ramekins. Place them in a large shallow roasting pan (I used my 9×13” pan). Add hot water until it reaches half way up side of the baking dish.

Bake in the center of oven for 50 to 55 minutes.   Remove from oven and let cool for 15 minutes, then remove ramekins from water bath and allow to cool 10 minutes more.

Marbled Sour Cream Coffee Cake

It’s Sunday. Time for a new desktop background.  (what, I’m the only person who changes it every week?!)  Time to relax and take some time to replenish ourselves before Monday comes and sucker punches the fun out of the week.

In other weekend news, our cake tasting yesterday was great.  We got to taste some really awesome (sponge cake with lemon citron mousse and pieces of peach) and interesting (white cake with apple chai mousse) flavors.  Though ultimately, we decided to keep our original plan.  I guess it was all a ploy to get some more cake.

But that was Saturday cake.  Sunday cake is a little different.  It comes out of a loaf pan at 11am and is not served with frosting or fillings, yet it is equally enjoyable.

Maybe it’s the chocolate swirl.  Maybe it’s because coffee cakes are awesome and I’m going to keep making them no matter how much Luke says he doesn’t really like them.  Well I like them, and as the only one with “keys” to the kitchen, whatever I like gets made.

So there will be coffee cake.  And he will eat it grudgingly, even though I know he secretly likes it and just won’t admit it.

This coffee cake is unbelievably moist (even after 5 days) and the chocolate swirl on top is divine.  It would definitely be a great addition to any Sunday brunch or afternoon tea session.

Marbled Sour Cream Coffee Cake

Adapted from the Scientifically Sweet Cookbook

Makes one 9×5” loaf pan

3oz dark chocolate, finely chopped

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 ½ tsp baking powder

¾ tsp baking soda

¼ tsp cardamom

¼ tsp nutmeg

½ tsp salt

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

½ cup sugar

2/3 cup plus 2 Tbsp packed brown sugar

2 large eggs, at room temperature

1 cup sour cream, at room temperature

1 ½ tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease a 9×5” loaf pan and set aside.  Place chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pot with ½ inch of gently simmering water and stir until completely melted and smooth; set aside to cool slightly.

In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cardamom, nutmeg and salt.  Whisk to blend evenly (or just give the bowl a quick shake or two) and set aside.

In a large bowl, beat together butter, sugar, 2/3 cup brown sugar until pale and fluffy, 2 to3 minutes.  Beat in eggs, one at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition.  Beat in sour cream and vanilla extract until well incorporated.  Add half of the flour mixture and mix carefully until just blended and somewhat smooth.  Fold in the remaining flour mixture until well incorporated and smooth.  Do not over mix; the batter will be very thick.

Spoon batter into prepared pan and spread it out evenly.  Drizzle melted chocolate randomly over the top.  Using a butter knife, swirl the chocolate around to create the marbling effect.  Sprinkle remaining 2 Tbsp brown sugar evenly over the top, patting it down slightly so that it sticks to the surface.

Bake for 30 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees F and bake for another 25-30 minutes.  The cake will develop a golden brown crust, and a toothpick inserted into the center will come out clean (despite smears of melted chocolate.)  Transfer cake to a wire rack and let cool completely in pan.  Once cooled, carefully invert the cake and use a serrated knife to slice and serve it.