Tag Archives: buttercream

Banana Coconut Cream Easter Cupcakes

Easter and I have a checkered past.

When I was a little girl, there were Easter baskets involved, and that seemed pretty awesome. An entire basket of treats and toys surround by that annoying-but-simultaneously-endearing Easter grass? A chocolate bunny bigger than my head that I’d eat about a quarter of before giving up? Plastic Easter eggs my mom had painstakingly filled with candy? Count me in.

Other Easters, though, were fraught with peril. Well, okay, peril might be a little dramatic. Perhaps fraught with inconvenience.

One Easter, for instance, I woke up and immediately realized that I was sick. I was nauseous, feverish, and definitely not interested in holiday cheer. My big plans of jumping out of bed and searching out the nearest stash of candy were dashed.

It was awful; birds were chirping joyfully in the freshly-bloomed Bradford pear trees outside while inside, little Julie was lying, miserable and a tad melodramatic, in the floor.

My parents brought my big Easter basket in and set it in front of me. They apparently thought the effect of this action would be to motivate me towards wellness. However, the piles of candy that should’ve been appetizing to me actually made me want to puke. I languished for hours before I so much as unwrapped a creme egg.

Maybe that Easter wasn’t the easiest one for me to celebrate, and nowadays I don’t even get an Easter basket, but the holiday is actually my favorite time of the year.

Easter is when Christians celebrate the miraculous resurrection of Jesus Christ. He died in our place, taking the punishment for our sins, and the fact that He then rose from the dead is an unspeakable victory that I will try my best to speak: a triumph over the power of death and the power of sin.

I walk around feeling bound a lot of the time. Bound by sadness, bound by financial worry, or bound by indecision; the truth is, what I have in Christ is the ultimate freedom. This holiday reminds me to rejoice, and to give away my worries — to recommit to living a free life for Him.

To celebrate this year, I made these moist banana cupcakes stuffed with my favorite edible substance in the universe, coconut pastry cream, and topped with my other favorite edible substance in the universe, Swiss meringue buttercream. They’re heavenly, dense little bites of Easter JOY.

I decorated the cupcakes with tiny chickie faces and some ginormous, delicious birds’ nests. The recipe below will tell you how to create the former, and keep an eye on Maranda’s blog in the coming days for instructions on how to create the cute nests!

If you want to know more about Christianity, what Jesus did, and what it means for us, please leave me a comment below and let me know that you’d like me to email you.

Banana Coconut Cream Easter Cupcakes



Recipe by: Willow Bird Baking, adapted from multiple sources including Piggly-Wiggly, Gina DePalma, and Zoë Bakes
Yields: about 32 cupcakes

Cupcake Ingredients:
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter at room temp
2 cups sugar
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, preferably at room temp
~4 very ripe bananas, mashed (about 1.5-1.75 cups)
1 cup sour cream or plain yogurt

Coconut Pastry Cream Ingredients:*
1 can (14 fluid ounces) unsweetened coconut milk
3/4 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean
pinch kosher salt
3 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons corn starch
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup sweetened coconut flakes
1/2 cup whipping cream

Swiss Meringue Buttercream Ingredients:
1 cup sugar
4 large egg whites , at room temperature
24 tablespoons (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
yellow food coloring (I used lots. Just add it slowly until you reach desired color)
mini chocolate chips (optional, for decorating chicks)
candy corn (optional, for decorating chicks)

Directions:
Make the Cupcakes: Preheat the oven to 350. Generously butter a mini-bundt cake pan or cupcake pan.

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda and salt together. In a separate, large bowl, beat the butter until creamy. Add the sugar and beat at medium speed until pale and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla, then add the eggs, one at a time, beating for about 1 minute after each egg goes in. Reduce the mixer speed to low and mix in the bananas.

Mix in half the dry ingredients (the mixture may look curdled — just keep mixing), followed by all the sour cream and finally, the rest of the flour mixture. Fill each well of your prepared pan about 1/2 to 2/3 of the way full and rap the pan on the counter to remove bubbles from the batter and smooth the top.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted deep into the center of the cakes comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool for 10 minutes before unmolding on the rack. Let cool to room temperature before adding cream filling and glaze.

Make the Coconut Pastry Cream: While cakes are baking and cooling, make coconut pastry cream. Heat the coconut milk, sugar, salt and vanilla bean in a medium saucepan over medium heat. In a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and corn starch. Once the cream is hot, remove the vanilla bean, scraping out any remaining seeds and returning them to the cream. Add 1/2 cup of the hot cream slowly to the yolks, whisking as you add. Then pour the yolk mixture into the pot of hot cream and whisk. Continue to whisk with heat on medium-high for 3 more minutes. The mixture will turn thick and bubble. You need to continue to whisk for the full 3 minutes or the pastry cream will separate once it is cool. After the 3 minutes, whisk in the butter. Add the coconut flakes. Pour into a shallow dish to cool.

Cover with plastic wrap pressed right against the pastry cream. This will prevent a thick skin from forming on the surface. Refrigerate for at least an hour or freeze for 30 minutes. Once it is cold, stir the pastry cream to loosen. Whip the 1/2 cup cream to medium peaks. Stir in 1/3 to the pastry cream to lighten. Fold in the remaining cream until the pastry cream is nice and light.

To make Swiss buttercream icing: Combine sugar and 1/2 cup water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Boil without stirring until syrup reaches 240° on a digital thermometer, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a stand mixer with whisk attachment, beat egg whites on medium-high speed until soft peaks form. With mixer on medium speed, gradually pour in hot syrup in a thin stream; avoid pouring syrup on whisk. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until stiff peaks form and mixture is cool, about 8 minutes. Reduce speed to medium and add butter 1 tablespoon at a time, beating after each addition. (If at any time buttercream appears curdled, beat on high until smooth, then reduce speed to medium and continue beating in butter.) Once all butter is added, beat on high speed until buttercream is smooth and fluffy, about 1 minute. Beat in vanilla and food coloring.

To assemble the cakes: When cakes are cool, hollow out the center of each mini-bundt cake (use the cone method). Pipe in as much of the coconut pastry cream as will fit and replace the top of the “cone.”

Use an offset spatula or the back of a spoon to smooth a layer of frosting over the top of the cupcake. Use a star tip to pipe a small circle of frosting in the middle of the cupcake (covering any imperfections). Give it two mini chocolate chip eyes and a candy corn beak (note: the color of these will start to run after a few days in the fridge, so if you aren’t serving these right away, you may want to wait to add them. You’ll have to remove the cupcakes from the fridge for a bit to let the frosting soften and then stick them on). Voila!

*NOTE: This recipe actually makes twice as much coconut pastry cream as you need to fill the cakes. I split my pastry cream and made these with half, and filled donuts with the other half. You can also just double the number of banana cakes you make to fill, or find some other creative use for the excess cream. I suppose you could also try halving the coconut pastry cream recipe, but I didn’t want to fiddle with halving three yolks and a can o’ coconut milk.

If you liked this post, please:
Subscribe to Willow Bird Baking
Follow Willow Bird Baking on Twitter
Follow Willow Bird Baking on Facebook
Give this post a thumbs up on StumbleUpon


ShareOther ways to share this post with friends!

34 Comments

Filed under cupcakes

Browned Butter Pumpkin Croquemcake with White Chocolate Chai Mousse (Project Food Blog Round 8!)

Because of YOU, Willow Bird Baking is one of only 24 blogs in Project Food Blog Round 8! I am so beyond grateful for your support and love throughout this process. Challenge #8 was to create a baked good using pumpkin. VOTING IS NOW OPEN! (Thank you for voting! Voting is now closed.) I’d love it if you’d pop over to cast a vote for me by clicking “Vote for this Entry” here. Thank you all!!

I am basically an architect. I know some folks who worked through countless hours of pesky schoolwork to call themselves architects and may disagree with me. But I think I have enough experience to go ahead and claim the title.

See, in 6th grade, my classmates and I were divided into teams and charged with a task of monumental proportions. We were to engineer a bridge out of toothpicks, string, and glue. Each of these “resources” was assigned a cost, and we were given a budget of imaginary money with which to purchase supplies. The team whose bridge could hold the most weight at the end of the competition would win epic bragging rights.


Moist, amazing Browned Butter Pumpkin Cake!

We must have been hyped up on marshmallowy breakfast cereal or something, because as soon as the teachers said GO, it was on.

We were ruthless. We pasted, chopped, measured, quarreled, budgeted, collaborated, and in a move that I’m still not sure was entirely legal, pilfered cast-off supplies from the trash can. Hey, we were just being green, right? Nowadays we’d obtain a high L.E.E.D. certification and get a pat on the back. I’m sure my teachers would’ve seen it that way . . .

I remember waxing intellectual about the structural integrity of domes, lecturing a classmate on how strong the ends of an egg were for this reason. Another peer gave an impromptu diatribe on the virtues of suspension bridges. We ended up with some sort of Frankesteinian hybrid, a bridge held up by suspension and bulky domes underneath. We were still furiously glopping on excess glue in hopes of bolstering the bridge’s integrity when the teachers called time.

We watched breathlessly as the teacher judging the competition picked up a thin book and placed it on our bridge. It held. Another volume was snapped up into her fingers and laid gingerly on our opponents’ bridge. It held.

One by one, she stacked books on top of our lopsided, aesthetically wreck-tastic but apparently strong-as-an-ox toothpick bridge. Every book our bridge held was matched by one on our opponent’s bridge — until the teacher picked up two textbooks. Ours held under the weight. Our opponents’ bridge collapsed — and so did we: we collapsed into cheers and giggles, inebriated with victory. We had done it! We were brilliant engineers! We had won!


Pumpkin profiteroles — with pumpkin in the choux dough itself — were filled alternately with White Chocolate Chai Mousse and ganache.

As the crowd thinned, we stood around and stared in wonder at our messy little Golden Gate. My friend Ashley was not yet satisfied. Sure, our bridge was stronger than the other team’s, but just how strong? With her hands on teammates’ shoulders for balance, Ashley stepped — first one foot, and then the other — onto the bridge.

It held.

I’ll never forget that moment standing in front of my elementary school, seeing Ashley’s huge grin, relishing the easy pulse of victory through our already-marshmallow-filled veins. So, yeah, I’m basically an architect. Right?

At least, it was this (misguided?) confidence that led me to believe that I could construct what I’ve officially dubbed the croquemcake.

I wanted to pull out all the stops for Project Food Blog Round 8 (do I say that every round? It’s definitely true every round!) The challenge was to create a baked good using pumpkin, and I was torn between building pumpkin profiteroles (made from pâte à choux) into a lovely croquembouche (mounted cream puff tower) or baking a pumpkin chai cake. Suddenly, it hit me. When in doubt, do both.


I may or may not have tweeted my desire to bathe in luxurious Swiss buttercream.

Thus, the croquemcake was born: a browned butter pumpkin cake filled with a comforting white chocolate chai mousse heart, frosted with velveteen Swiss buttercream frosting, and topped with a croquembouche of pumpkin profiteroles filled with chai mousse and ganache. The cake is served in slices accompanied by a few plucked cream puffs, and is essentially the embodiment of all things autumn.

At first I was panicky about trying to stack a tall, leany thing on top of a tall, frosted thing, but it turned out to be super easy, and it produced a ravishing effect.


The White Chocolate Chai Mousse is incredamazing, y’all. Even if you put off making the whole shebang until Christmas, you should make some bowls o’ mousse ASAP!

. . . oh, and it just might be my new favorite dessert ever. Every bite had an insanely satisfying combination of textures and flavors. This beautiful croquemcake would be the rockstar of any holiday table.

Don’t be scared of the length of the recipe. True to Willow Bird Baking’s mission, this dessert is also surprisingly easy to make. Let me qualify that: it takes three days and has tons of steps, but the steps themselves are simple and manageable. Use my note below on timing to space out the recipe steps into manageable chunks. It is so worth the effort.

What’s your favorite childhood memory?

Browned Butter Pumpkin CroquemCAKE with White Chocolate Chai Mousse



Recipe by: Willow Bird Baking, compiled and adapted from sources including Fine Cooking, Annie’s Eats, America’s Test Kitchen, Cookin’ Canuck, Martha Stewart, Gina DePalma, Alone and Unobserved
Yields: 15-20 servings, depending on your size o’ cake slices. You’ll have the topping croquembouche plus about 30 other cream puffs to serve alongside.

Pumpkin Puree Ingredients: (or use canned pumpkin puree)
about 7 pounds worth of sugar pumpkins (or pie pumpkins)
2-3 cups water

Browned Butter Pumpkin Cake Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups of your pumpkin puree
3/4 cup unsalted butter; more for the pans
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour; more for the pans
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
3/4 teaspoon table salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/3 cup buttermilk

White Chocolate Chai Mousse Ingredients: (I had a lot of leftover mousse; you could probably get by with 2/3 of this recipe)
2 1/4 teaspoons powdered gelatin
3 tablespoons water
18 ounces white chocolate chips (see note)
4 1/2 cups cold heavy cream
heaping 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
heaping 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper (white or black)
dash cayenne powder

Swiss Buttercream Frosting Ingredients:
1 cup sugar
4 large egg whites , at room temperature
24 tablespoons (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Profiterole (Cream Puff) Ingredients:
1 1/8 cups water
9 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/8 teaspoons salt
1.5 tablespoons sugar
1.5 cups all-purpose flour
6 large eggs
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
Egg wash (1 egg yolk and 1/2 cup heavy cream, lightly beaten)

Ganache Ingredients:
10 ounces bittersweet and semisweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream


Directions:
Note on timing: This dessert is easy to create, but involves many steps. For this reason, I divided the work over three days. On day 1, I roasted and pureed my pumpkins (you can nix this day if you use canned pumpkin). On day 2, I baked my cake and froze it, baked my profiteroles and froze them, and made my chai mousse. I also piped out white chocolate snowflake decorations to dry overnight. On day 3, I made my frosting, assembled and frosted my cake, made ganache, filled my profiteroles, and constructed my croquembouche.

To make pumpkin puree: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cut the tops off of above 7 pounds worth of sugar pumpkins (also called pie pumpkins). Cut the pumpkins in half and scrape out the seeds and innards. Place the pumpkin halves peel-up, cut-side-down in a baking dish and fill the dish 1/4 inch deep with water (about 2-3 cups). Roast pumpkins for 60-90 minutes, or until flesh is fork tender. Allow them to cool for a bit before scooping all flesh out of the peel and placing it in a food processor. Puree for 2-3 minutes until completely pureed, then drain in a paper towel-lined colander for about an hour. Store your pumpkin puree in the fridge for up to 5 days or freeze it in 1-cup increments for later use. Alternatively, you can use canned pumpkin puree for this recipe.

To make browned butter pumpkin cake: I baked my cake in a pan that allows you to fill your cake with a heart-shaped tunnel of mousse (please comment if you’d like the details). If you don’t have one of these pans, you can still create the tunnel effect! You can use this technique by the fabulous Amanda, or this tunnel technique featured previously on my blog.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour two cake pans (either the heart-tunnel pan or regular 9-inch cake pans) very thoroughly. Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat and cook it, swirling occasionally, until it’s golden brown with a nutty aroma, around 4 minutes. Remove it from heat and pour it into a bowl to cool for about 15 minutes.
Whisk or sift together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, salt, and cloves in a small bowl. In a separate, large bowl, whisk together 1 1/2 cups of pumpkin puree, granulated sugar, brown sugar, eggs, and buttermilk until well combined. Use a spatula to stir in the dry ingredients until just combined, and then whisk in the browned butter. Pour batter evenly into prepared cake pans.

Bake the cakes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with just a few moist crumbs, around 28 minutes. Let cakes cool in their pans until mostly cool before turning them out onto wax paper to wrap and freeze. Freeze at least 30 minutes or until firm.

To make white chocolate chai mousse: Mix spices (cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, allspice, ginger, pepper, cayenne) together in a small bowl. Set aside.
Place 3 tablespoons of water in a small bowl and sprinkle the gelatin over top to dissolve and soften for at least 5 minutes. Place white chocolate in a medium bowl. Combine 1 1/2 cups of cream and spice mixture in a saucepan over medium heat and cook until simmering. Remove from heat, add gelatin, and stir to dissolve. Pour gelatin mixture over white chocolate and whisk in small circles until smooth. Cool completely to room temperature, stirring occasionally, around 5 to 8 minutes.

In a separate bowl, beat remaining cream to soft peaks. Use a whisk to fold about 1/3 of the whipped cream into white chocolate mixture to lighten. Then fold the rest of the whipped cream in until no streaks remain. Refrigerate your mousse until set, then stir slightly to break up before using.

To make profiteroles: Combine water, butter, salt and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil and stir occasionally. At boil, remove from heat and sift in the flour, stirring to combine completely.

Return to heat and cook, stirring constantly until the batter dries slightly and begins to pull away from the sides of the pan. Transfer to a bowl and stir with a wooden spoon 1 minute to cool slightly.

Add 1 egg. The batter will appear loose and shiny. As you stir, the batter will become dry-looking like lightly buttered mashed potatoes. It is at this point that you will add in the next egg. Repeat until you have incorporated all the eggs. Stir in pumpkin puree.

Pipe the batter using a pastry bag and a plain tip. Pipe choux about 1 inch-part in the baking sheets. Choux should be about 1 inch high about 1 inch wide. Using a clean finger dipped in hot water, gently press down on any tips that have formed on the top of choux when piping. You want them to retain their ball shape, but be smoothly curved on top. Brush tops with egg wash while trying not to drip the wash down the puffs onto the pan (which could somewhat inhibit rise).

Bake the choux at 425 degrees F until well-puffed and turning lightly golden in color, about 10 minutes. Lower the temperature to 350 degrees F and continue baking until well-colored and dry, about 20 minutes more. Remove to a rack and cool (tip from a pro: poke each puff with a toothpick while cooling to release the steam inside. It shouldn’t cause your cream to leak, but will help the puffs stay crisp). Can be stored in a airtight box overnight, but I recommend, if you aren’t using them right away to create your croquembouche, that you freeze them. When you’re ready to use them, bake them at 350 degrees F for 5-6 minutes to refresh and recrisp them.

To make ganache: Bring the cream to a simmer in a medium saucepan (or just stick it in the microwave for 2 minutes in a microwave-safe bowl). Place the chocolate in a medium bowl. Once the cream reaches a simmer, pour the cream over the chocolate and let stand 1-2 minutes. Whisk in small circles until a smooth ganache has formed. Let ganache stand at room temperature until fully cooled, then whip to frosting-like consistency for piping into cooled profiteroles.

To make Swiss buttercream frosting: Combine sugar and 1/2 cup water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Boil without stirring until syrup reaches 240° on a digital thermometer, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a stand mixer with whisk attachment, beat egg whites on medium-high speed until soft peaks form. With mixer on medium speed, gradually pour in hot syrup in a thin stream; avoid pouring syrup on whisk. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until stiff peaks form and mixture is cool, about 8 minutes. Reduce speed to medium and add butter 1 tablespoon at a time, beating after each addition. (If at any time buttercream appears curdled, beat on high until smooth, then reduce speed to medium and continue beating in butter.) Once all butter is added, beat on high speed until buttercream is smooth and fluffy, about 1 minute. Beat in vanilla extract.

To assemble your cake: Line up cake layers and trim sides as needed with a long serrated knife. No need to thaw before you do this — it’s actually easier with frozen layers. Spoon white chocolate chai mousse into heart-shaped wells in your cake layers (if applicable — or spoon it into whatever shaped cavity you’re using). Carefully position the top layer on the bottom. Apply a thin coating of frosting all over as a “crumb coat” and refrigerate the cake for a half hour or so. Then frost the cake generously with the remaining frosting.

To assemble your croquembouche: Fill cooled profiteroles with leftover chai mousse and ganache as desired. Melt white chocolate bark and dip tops of each profiterole into the chocolate, lining up on wax paper to dry. Cover a plate with wax paper — this is where you’ll build your croquembouche. Start with bigger, broader profiteroles and use the white chocolate as “glue” to piece together a sturdy base. I refrigerate my croquembouche after the construction of each new layer, to harden the chocolate and avoid any toppling incidents! Continue building a cone, fitting the profiteroles together according to their shape. Use white chocolate to pipe snowflakes on wax paper, and to “glue” them onto your croquembouche once they’re dry. Refrigerate your croquembouche until you’re ready to assemble your final product.

To assemble your final croquemCAKE: Carefully ensure that your croquembouche isn’t sticking to your wax paper. Gently lift it onto the center of your cake. Surround your cake with leftover cream puffs for serving. Enjoy!


Roasting pumpkins! While there’s not a huge taste difference from using this process versus the canned stuff, it’s a fun, satisfying thing to try!

If you liked this post, please:
Subscribe to Willow Bird Baking
Follow Willow Bird Baking on Twitter
Follow Willow Bird Baking on Facebook
Give this post a thumbs up on StumbleUpon


ShareOther ways to share this post with friends!

169 Comments

Filed under cakes, other

Lemon Triumph Cake

The looming summertime has given me the perfect excuse to indulge my love of lemons. Oh! Lemons! The pungent aroma of lemon juice on my fingers from a fresh squeeze! The bright yellow, spoked discs dripping with juice! The tang! The sweetness!

I was thrilled when my mom was pondering what sort of cake she wanted for her birthday and mentioned lemon. She made a fantastic lemon and lemon cream jellyroll cake awhile back from a cake mix and thought she might like something similar. I put on my Dr. Frankenstein hat and began piecing recipes together to oblige.

My first dilemma was how to make a cake from scratch that tasted like a cake mix cake. I always get a kick out of foodies who disdain the taste of cake mix. Being an avid baker, I have news for those folks: many of us are constantly trying to attain a cake-mix-like level of moistness and buttery flavor. There are definitely downsides to cake mix (preservatives and the fact that you don’t get all the fun of baking from scratch, of course!) but in terms of taste . . . yeah, they’re pretty good at that.

So how to make a delicious, preservative-free yella cake that was just as moist and scrummy as a cake mix? While considering this conundrum, I happened to see this recipe for a homemade cake mix and decided to give it a try. It smelled buttery and magnificent while mixing it up, just as it was supposed to, and baked into a lovely lemon cake with a bit of additional flavoring.

Now about that lemon cream. I decided I wanted to do a lemon mousse instead, and had my heart set on a big ol’ fancy mousse layer cake. I was going to buy a cake ring and build the cake with two cake layers sandwiching a thick layer of mousse. Only problem? Well, that first part . . . the part about the cake ring. You let me know if you find one, but after visiting three stores, I’ve come to the conclusion that there aren’t any cake rings in Charlotte. Lame.


And again, with candles!

Well, kind of lame, but kind of awesome, because it gave me an excuse to buy this Wilton Heart Tasty-Fill Pan I’ve had my eye on for months (Note to calm your fears: I always mention if I’ve been asked to review a product or have received something for free to review, but that’s not the case here. Wilton, y’all are welcome to send me free pans and all, but I bought this pan with my own hard-earned money and decided to share it without being asked). I am so excited about this pan! All the filling possibilities! I’m already pondering: banana cake with caramel cream filling, chocolate cake with caramel cream filling, yellow cake with chocolate mousse filling . . . but I digress! Back to the Lemon Triumph Cake at hand.

I did love the Wilton pan, but I think it’ll take a bit of practice to get used to. As you can see in some of the pictures, the heart wasn’t aligned correctly on one side of the pan. This has to do with me forgetting to trim the sides of the cake so that the top and bottom were even. I feel like it might be a bit difficult to get it lined up straight, though, and it’s hard to know until you cut into it . . . at which point (after 8 hours of baking, in the case of this cake) you don’t really want to know if something’s wrong. I’ll let you know next time I use it (which will hopefully be soon!) if it’s easier to align, having had a bit of practice.


Crooked heart this time around!

If you don’t have the Tasty-Fill Heart Pan, don’t worry! You can make this as a regular mousse cake using a cake ring per my original plan. Just layer a 9-inch cake on the bottom and a thick layer of mousse on top of that. Chill until the mousse is firm and place another 9-inch layer of cake on top. Chill again before frosting, taking care around the mousse layer not to mix the frosting and mousse. Alternatively, if your city also has no cake rings, serve this as a regular two-layer lemon cake with the mousse on the side.


Better ❤ on this side of the cake.

Nevertheless, crooked hearts notwithstanding, this cake was worth the effort. The yellow cake drenched in lemon syrup was moist and buttery, just like I hoped. This method of making Swiss buttercream produces hands-down the fluffiest, smoothest, silkiest, tastiest frosting I’ve ever had the pleasure of licking off my spatula. And the lemon mousse was, well, a triumph! Lemon curd folded into mousse that sets up like a bright, creamy-tangy cloud in the middle of the cake. Close your eyes and imagine a satisfying summer day — birdsong, sprinklers, green grass, sunshine, lemonade, lounge chair, long naps and good books — with a little sophistication mixed in. That’s what this cake tastes like. If that doesn’t make you want a slice, I don’t know what will!

Lemon Triumph Cake



Recipe by: Willow Bird Baking, compiled from Fine Cooking (lemon curd), Giada DiLaurentis (lemon syrup, adapted), Gina DePalma (Swiss buttercream, adapted), Bon Appétit (lemon mousse), My Kitchen Cafe (homemade cake mix)
Yields: one 9-inch, two layer cake

Yellow “Cake Mix” Cake Ingredients:
2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups cake flour
1/2 cup nonfat dry milk powder
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
16 tablespoons butter (2 sticks), cut into 1/2-inch pieces and chilled
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoons lightly packed finely grated lemon zest
1-2 teaspoons lemon extract
strands of lemon peel for garnish

Lemon Curd Ingredients:
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
1 cups sugar
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
2/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

Lemon Mousse Ingredients:
1 recipe lemon curd (above)
2.5 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
3 large egg whites
3/8 cup sugar
3/4 cups chilled heavy whipping cream

Lemon Syrup Ingredients:
1/2 cup sugar
1/8 cup water
1/8 cup lemon juice

Lemon Swiss Buttercream Ingredients:
1 cup sugar
4 large egg whites , at room temperature
24 tablespoons (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon extract

Directions:
Note on scheduling: I might schedule this cake baking in the following way. Make lemon curd and refrigerate two days in advance. Bake cake and coat with lemon syrup one day in advance, wrapping carefully and freezing. On day of serving, make mousse, trim and fill cake (much easier with frozen layers!), make frosting, and assemble.

To make lemon curd: In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar with an electric mixer, about 2 min. Slowly add the eggs and yolks. Beat for 1 min. Mix in the lemon juice. The mixture will look curdled, but it will smooth out as it cooks.

In a medium, heavy-based saucepan, cook the mixture over low heat until it looks smooth. (The curdled appearance disappears as the butter in the mixture melts.) Increase the heat to medium and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens, about 15 min. It should leave a path on the back of a spoon and will read 170°F on a thermometer. Don’t let the mixture boil.

Remove the curd from the heat; stir in the lemon zest. Transfer the curd to a bowl. Press plastic wrap on the surface of the lemon curd to keep a skin from forming and chill the curd in the refrigerator. The curd will thicken further as it cools. Covered tightly, it will keep in the refrigerator for a week and in the freezer for 2 months.

To make cake: Process sugar, flours, milk powder, baking powder, and salt in a food processor for 15 seconds to combine. Add butter and vanilla and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal (you want this much finer than, say, a pie crust). Freeze the dry mixture in a zipper-lock bag for up to 2 months or use immediately.

To make the cake, adjust an oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 9-inch cake pans (the Tasty-Fill pans, if you’re using those).

With an electric mixer, beat the prepared cake mix, 1 1/4 cups warm water and 2 large room-temperature eggs until the mixture is smooth, about 2 minutes. Scrape the batter into the prepared cake pans and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 25-27 minutes for two 9-inch layer cakes. Cool the cakes in pans for 10 minutes, then turn them out onto a wire rack. Poke holes in them and spoon lemon syrup over generously. Cool for about 30 more minutes before placing cake layers in freezer for at least 30 minutes. This helps a ton with trimming, filling, and decorating!

To make lemon syrup: In a small saucepan, combine the sugar, water, and lemon juice over medium heat. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer until the sugar has dissolved, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, Remove the pan from the heat and allow the syrup to cool, about 20 minutes.

To make the mousse: Pour 2.5 tablespoons water into small saucepan. Sprinkle gelatin evenly over. Let stand until gelatin softens, about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, place 7/8 cups lemon curd in large bowl. Stir 3/8 cup curd in another small saucepan over medium-low heat until very warm.

Stir gelatin mixture over medium-low heat until dissolved and liquid is clear (do not boil). Whisk warm gelatin mixture into 3/8 cup warm curd. Gradually whisk gelatin-curd mixture into curd in large bowl. Using electric mixer, beat egg whites in medium bowl until soft peaks form. Gradually add sugar, beating until whites are thick and glossy. Fold whites into curd mixture in 3 additions. Using same beaters, beat cream in another medium bowl until peaks form. Fold into egg white-curd mixture in 3 additions.

To make lemon Swiss buttercream icing: Combine sugar and 1/2 cup water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Boil without stirring until syrup reaches 240° on a digital thermometer, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a stand mixer with whisk attachment, beat egg whites on medium-high speed until soft peaks form. With mixer on medium speed, gradually pour in hot syrup in a thin stream; avoid pouring syrup on whisk. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until stiff peaks form and mixture is cool, about 8 minutes. Reduce speed to medium and add butter 1 tablespoon at a time, beating after each addition. (If at any time buttercream appears curdled, beat on high until smooth, then reduce speed to medium and continue beating in butter.) Once all butter is added, beat on high speed until buttercream is smooth and fluffy, about 1 minute. Beat in vanilla and lemon extract.

To assemble the cake: Level the layers using a long serrated knife. If using a Tasty-Fill Heart Pan, align heart and then trim sides of cake to make them even. Fill both sides of the heart with mousse, leveling it off using a spatula (see instructions in the note below for making this a regular mousse cake).* Place the top layer on the bottom layer, aligning the heart. Cover cake with a thin coat of icing as a crumb coat and chill until the icing is set, 20 minutes or so. Frost cake and decorate with slices of lemon peel. Store, covered, in refrigerator. Set out about 10 minutes before serving to soften the icing.

*NOTE: Make this as a regular mousse cake by using a cake ring. Layer a 9-inch cake on the bottom and a thick layer of mousse on top of that. Chill until the mousse is firm and place another 9-inch layer of cake on top. Chill again before frosting, taking care around the mousse layer not to mix the frosting and mousse. Alternatively, serve this as a regular two-layer lemon cake with the mousse on the side.


Share Share this post with friends!

25 Comments

Filed under cakes

Lemon Raspberry Cake

Willow Bird Baking is the namesake of my darling little noodle (read: poodle), Byrd. As I sit here writing this post (and listening to the cooing of mourning doves outside my window), she is at the veterinary hospital recovering from a double knee surgery. Judging by her exuberance about riding in the car yesterday morning, she wasn’t really expecting it.

Apparently both her little kneecaps were popping out of place, and she couldn’t do some of her favorite things (fetching, jumping) without limping. Poor puppy pumpkin. The vet tech just called and said she is standing, but won’t try to walk, and won’t eat a thing. No wonder, since she’s in a strange place without her mama. We go pick her up at 12:30 today, so keep us in your prayers.


Get it? It’s decorated to look like a lemon.

Because of this unexpected $2,400 surgery, my finances have not been my friends lately. I’ve been cutting back: we haven’t been eating out, I’ve been trimming my grocery budget, and the last time I got my hair cut or colored was last August — I’m about ready to pick up some scissors myself. In addition to limiting my spending, another issue needed to be addressed: waste!

I’ve been a bad steward of my kitchen for too long. Buying a bag of cheese with the best intentions, but letting it mold. Buying a bag of fresh herbs, using them once, and letting them brown in the back of my fridge. Buying expensive ingredients (hello, pancetta, I’m talking to you) with the intention of using every last hunk, only to open my fridge drawer a month later and guiltily remember that broken resolution.

So, I’ve been trying to be better. Leftover creams, frostings, and doughs from one pastry become the basis for the next. I survey the fridge for unused ingredients before deciding what to make for Saturday dinner. It’s not perfect, but it’s better than it was!

This past weekend, leftover raspberry curd, nine egg whites left from making the curds, and some extra lemons provided my inspiration.

After buying only some butter, some fresh raspberries, and some white chocolate bark, I whipped up this cool, bright, summer dessert: Lemon Raspberry Cake. The cake itself is my favorite white cake recipe because it’s moist with the perfect crumb. Each layer is brushed with lemon syrup for moisture and tang before being coated in a luxurious raspberry curd. The frosting is rich and decadent, and even the white chocolate decorations added a nice dimension to the overall flavor of each slice.

My “lemon” decoration broke as I was trying to release it from the wax paper I piped it on, so I pieced it together on top of the cake. It’s a little crooked! I’m sure you can do better. I also completely forgot the poppy seed until I made the third cake layer (I mixed it separately), so you’ll notice that only my middle layer has the seeds. Oh well! Crooked citrus or not, seeds or not, we all loved the refreshing taste of this layer cake! Happy eating!

Lemon Raspberry Cake



Recipe by: compiled from adaptations of The Way the Cookie Crumbles (white cake), Notes from my Food Diary (frosting and raspberry curd), Bon Appétit (lemon syrup)
Yields: 12 servings

Cake Ingredients:
3 3/8 cups cake flour, plus more for dusting the pans
1 1/2 cups + 3 tablespoons whole milk, at room temperature
9 large egg whites, at room temperature
3 teaspoons almond extract
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups + 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
6 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons table salt
18 tablespoons unsalted butter (2 sticks and 2 tablespoons), softened but still cool
1 1/2 tablespoons poppy seed (optional)

Lemon Syrup Ingredients:
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup boiling water
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

Raspberry Curd Filling Ingredients:
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
Two 1/2-pints ripe raspberries or one 12-ounce package frozen raspberries, thawed
5 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
3/4 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
2 to 3 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

Lemon Buttercream Frosting Ingredients:
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest (I opted for a teaspoon or two of lemon extract instead)
3 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Directions: Make raspberry curd: Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the raspberries, egg yolks, sugar, and salt and cook, mashing the berries and stirring frequently at first and them constantly at the end, until thickened, about 10 minutes (this took longer for me — about 15+). Pour this mixture through a coarse strainer, pressing to get out the maximum amount of liquid. Add in lemon juice to taste. Allow this to cool and then cover (with plastic wrap touching surface of curd to prevent skin from forming) and refrigerate until ready to use.

For the Cake: Set oven rack in middle position. (If oven is too small to cook both layers on a single rack, set racks in upper-middle and lower-middle positions.) Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray three 9-inch round cake pans with nonstick cooking spray; line the bottoms with parchment or waxed paper rounds. Spray the paper rounds, dust the pans with flour, and invert pans and rap sharply to remove excess flour. (I brush my pans with Wilton’s cake release, then add the parchment circle and brush again. Be sure the parchment circles reach to the edges of your pan to ensure easily release).

Pour milk, egg whites, and extracts into 2-cup glass measure, and mix with fork until blended.

Mix cake flour, sugar, baking powder, poppy seed, and salt in bowl of electric mixer at slow speed. Add butter; continue beating at slow speed until mixture resembles moist crumbs, with no powdery streaks remaining.

Add all but ½ cup of milk mixture to crumbs and beat at medium speed (or high speed if using handheld mixer) for 1½ minutes. Add remaining ½ cup of milk mixture and beat 30 seconds more. Stop mixer and scrape sides of bowl. Return mixer to medium (or high) speed and beat 20 seconds longer.

Divide batter evenly between prepared cake pans; using rubber spatula, spread batter to pan walls and smooth tops. Arrange pans at least 3 inches from the oven walls and 3 inches apart. (If oven is small, place pans on separate racks in staggered fashion to allow for air circulation.) Bake until thin skewer or toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 23 to 25 minutes.

Let cakes rest in pans for 3 minutes. Loosen from sides of pans with a knife, if necessary, and invert onto wire racks. Reinvert onto additional wire racks. Let cool completely, about 1½ hours.

Make lemon syrup: Place sugar in small metal bowl. Add 1/2 cup boiling water; stir to dissolve sugar. Stir in lemon juice.

Make frosting: Beat the butter and zest with an electric mixer on medium speed in a medium bowl until light and fluffy. Gradually add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add the lemon juice and beat for 1 minute longer.

Assemble the cake: I love Smitten Kitchen’s Layer Cake Tips — especially the one about freezing your layers before working with them. It makes it so much easier.

When cakes are completely cool, level each layer using a long, serrated knife. Use a little frosting to attach your bottom layer to a cake board or serving platter. Brush layer generously with lemon syrup. Spread a scant 1/2 cup raspberry curd on the layer (I may have used a little more). Continue building the layers this way, with syrup and curd, until all three layers are stacked. Frost with lemon buttercream frosting. I used white chocolate to create decorations for the sides and top of my cake. Cut into wedges and serve with fresh raspberries. Store in refrigerator.


Enjoy!


Share Share this post with friends!

34 Comments

Filed under cakes

Toasted Almond Cake with Mascarpone Cream and Amarena Cherries

Don’t worry — I did go see my wonderful mom on Mother’s Day and take her a special gift. But (despite the fact that Mother’s Day is now over), I also thought it would be nice to brag on her here a bit and show you the decadent birthday cake she made me. I’ve loved reading blog posts all over the internet about why others’ mothers were so great. Now it’s my turn!

Why do I love my mom?

1. She made me this cake. Enough said (but you know I’ll say more)! This three-layer dessert was a masterpiece of toasted almond, slightly tart cherry, and light-as-a-feather buttercream. Many joyous exclamations were uttered while we plowed through our three-story pieces.

2. She went back to college with four kids (insert appropriate gasp!) in the 80’s to earn her nursing degree. Even with four kids, she managed to graduate magna cum laude from UNCC’s nursing program.

3. She sews: she has created special quilts for me and my siblings, as well as other family members. She also makes clothes for my niece and nephews. Look for a picture of my quilt at the end of this post!

4. She taught me how to cook. It was under her auspices that I made my first Chocolate Sheet Cake, my first pan of Oven Baked Macaroni, and she is always on-call for cooking emergencies. As I mention on my About page, she is my main culinary influence, and I learn new things from her every meal.

5. She (and my little brother — Hi, Alex!) hung out with me for 3-4 hours while waiting for Pioneer Woman to sign our books last week. More on the Pioneer Woman booksigning later!

6. She’s beautiful.

7. She crafts: lately, her creative craft has been homemade chalkboards from antique or recycled frames. See her handiwork at her Etsy store, Posh Pilfer.

8. She decorates. She and my dad have single-handedly (well, double-handedly, I guess) renovated and redecorated their home to be a gorgeous oasis. Once again, photo evidence at the bottom of this post!

9. She cares about her children. A few years ago, she wrote each one of us poems. Every April Fools’ Day, she makes my little brother a wacky meal to celebrate. She has bandaged wounds, baked cakes, worked hard, and sacrificed to make us happy.

10. She rose above a difficult childhood to become an amazing mother of 5 children.

…And did I mention that she made me this cake? This heavenly confection is truly a “special occasion” cake: it’s expensive, it’s time consuming and involved, and it’s positively dreamy. If you want to feel like you’ve been transported to an almond-cherry cloud of joy, you should invest in some fancy Italian cherries and make this baby. It was the grand finale to a fantastic birthday meal, which I’ll share with you soon!

Toasted Almond Cake with Mascarpone Cream and Amarena Cherries



Recipe by: Gina DePalma
Yields: 12-16 servings

Cake Ingredients:
2 cups almond flour
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (not self-rising)
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 can or tube (7 to 8 ounces) almond paste, cut into small chunks
24 tablespoons (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
6 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup whole milk, at room temperature
1 tablespoon Amaretto liqueur
Finely grated lemon zest (from 1 lemon, about 2 teaspoons)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Mascarpone and Amarena Cherry Filling Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups mascarpone
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
2 tablespoons kirsch or grappa
1 cup amarena cherries in syrup, well drained and coarsely chopped
3/4 cup cherry jam

Buttercream Ingredients:
1 cup sugar
4 large egg whites, at room temperature
24 tablespoons (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions:

Note: Amarena cherries are a sweet-sour varietal from Northern Italy. DePalma uses Agrimontana’s and also recommends those from Fabbri, available at Amazon.com. Almond flour is available on Amazon.com and at specialty grocers. This recipe is for a classic, one-tiered layer cake.

To make cake: Adjust 2 oven racks to divide oven into thirds. Preheat oven to 350°. Grease 3 (9″ x 2″) round cake pans. Line bottoms with parchment paper; grease paper and dust pans with flour, tapping out excess. Spread almond flour on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until toasted, stirring once, 8 to 10 minutes. Let cool.

In a large bowl, whisk together almond flour, all-purpose flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda; set aside. Combine sugar and almond paste in a food processor and blend until almond paste is finely ground, with the texture of fine sand.

In a stand mixer with paddle attachment, combine almond paste mixture and butter. Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes, scraping bowl occasionally. Beat in eggs one at a time until well blended. With mixer on low speed, beat in milk, Amaretto, lemon zest, and vanilla until well blended. Beat in flour mixture, scraping bowl. Beat on medium speed until well blended, about 30 seconds. Divide batter among prepared pans and spread evenly. Stagger pans on 2 racks in oven so pans are not directly above one another. Bake 30 to 40 minutes, rotating pans halfway through, or until a toothpick inserted in center of cakes comes out clean. Let cool in pans 10 minutes. Run a knife around sides of pans and turn cakes out onto wire racks. Remove parchment paper and flip again; cool completely.

To make filling: In a stand mixer with whisk attachment, combine mascarpone, heavy cream, sugar, vanilla bean seeds, and 1 tablespoon kirsch or grappa. With mixer on low speed at first and increasing to medium, beat just until firm peaks form; do not over beat. Fold in cherries. Refrigerate 30 minutes. In a bowl, stir together cherry jam and remaining 1 tablespoon kirsch or grappa.

To make buttercream icing: Combine sugar and 1/2 cup water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Boil without stirring until syrup reaches 240° on a digital thermometer, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a stand mixer with whisk attachment, beat egg whites on medium-high speed until soft peaks form. With mixer on medium speed, gradually pour in hot syrup in a thin stream; avoid pouring syrup on whisk. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until stiff peaks form and mixture is cool, about 8 minutes. Reduce speed to medium and add butter 1 tablespoon at a time, beating after each addition. (If at any time buttercream appears curdled, beat on high until smooth, then reduce speed to medium and continue beating in butter.) Once all butter is added, beat on high speed until buttercream is smooth and fluffy, about 1 minute. Beat in vanilla.

To assemble cake: Spread 1 side of 2 of the cake layers with jam and let stand 10 minutes, so cakes absorb some of jam. Place 1 cake layer, jam-side up on cake stand or plate. Spread with half of mascarpone filling. Top with second cake layer, jam-side up. Spread with remaining filling. Top with third cake layer, top-side up. Frost cake with about 1 cup buttercream to crumb coat cake; refrigerate 1 hour. Frost cake with remaining buttercream. Serve immediately or refrigerate; if refrigerated, let stand at room temperature 1 hour before serving.

Note: My mother’s cake is decorated with marshmallow fondant flowers in various shades of pink.


Clockwise from upper left:My mom, my dad, and the family toy poodle, Abbey; the quilt mom made for me; mom’s redecorated bedroom; Mom on Christmas morning, 2007.



Happy (late) Mother’s Day!


Share Share this post with friends!

18 Comments

Filed under cakes

A&P Spanish Bar Cake

In case you were wondering: No, I cannot eat all these desserts by myself. First of all, I’d rather not weigh 400 pounds — I just don’t think that’d be a very fun way to live. Secondly, even if I developed some wonderful condition that kept me trim regardless of how much pie I ate, baking is no fun unless you can share it with people you love. For me, one of the most rewarding parts of being a food blogger is watching people enjoy the things I’ve made (that sounds creepy, like I sit and stare at them as they eat, but I’m sure you know what I mean).

One group of folks I love to bake for is Mike’s family. Each Sunday evening we gather at their house for dinner and I bring whatever dessert I’ve whipped up. His mom is a fantastic cook, so the meal is always devoured enthusiastically. Many times I almost don’t think I have room for dessert! I say almost, because y’all know that there is always room for dessert.

Yay, SPRING!!

One reason I love to bake for Mike’s family is because they’re always encouraging — even if the results of my culinary efforts that week are not perfect! Don’t you love the people in your life who take one look at your runny pie and say, “Nevermind, it tastes delicious!” My own family deserves this praise as well, since they were served Coconut Cream Soup for Thanksgiving and ate it with cheerful smiles and compliments. Yep, those kind of folks are the keepers!

Because Mike’s family has been so supportive of my baking, I jumped at the chance this past weekend to create something a little special for them. A couple Sundays ago, Mike’s dad mentioned a cake his dad used to bring home from the old A&P store. The cake was called Spanish Bar Cake, and he described it as a dark brown cake with raisins and a creamy white frosting. I was so excited to recreate the memory that I started googling around that night.

What did I find? Well, first off, Mike’s dad is not the only one by far who wants to recreate the cake! Many online forums had pages of nostalgic posters describing their childhood experiences with the cake. They discussed every facet of their vivid Spanish Bar Cake memories : the color, the texture, the pattern on the frosting, the shape, the packaging . . . ! I also found many copycat recipes that boasted an identical taste and appearance to the original.

Not having tasted Spanish Bar Cake myself, I found it difficult to settle on a recipe! There were a few key disparities I had to evaluate. First, some recipes used cocoa powder, while some were a more traditional spice cake. After asking Mike’s dad to describe the color again, I decided to use the recipe that included the cocoa.

Another difference in the recipes I viewed was the frosting. Some used a standard cream cheese frosting, while others used white buttercream. I chose the latter, though I love cream cheese frosting. I reasoned that if the cakes were not refrigerated and had groove marks in the frosting, chances are the frosting would need to be safe when stored at room temperature and relatively stiff. Hence, buttercream. There were other, smaller decisions to make — things like nuts or no nuts (I chose no nuts), one layer or two (I chose one) — and then I was ready to bake!

One bonus of this cake is how simple it is to make! I must be on an easy cake kick. It’s a two-bowl process (one for the cake and one for the frosting). In a nutshell, you mix the dry ingredients, add the wet, bake, cool, mix the frosting, frost. No fuss.

If you have fond memories of this old A&P cake, bake one up for yourself and enjoy a blast from the past. I’ll add a note tomorrow to let you know how close to the original this recipe is, based on Mike’s dad’s reaction!

UPDATE: Score! Mike’s dad said as soon as it touched his tongue, the memories came flooding back! Apparently this is it, folks! He even said it seemed a bit moister than the original. Hurray!

Spanish Bar Cake



Recipe by: compiled from various internet sources
Yields: one 9 x 13 in. cake

Cake Ingredients:
2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 tablespoon cocoa (I used Dutch process)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon allspice
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 cups applesauce
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups raisins, soaked in warm water until plump and drained

Buttercream Frosting Ingredients:
1 cup white shortening
1 cup butter, softened
8 cups confectioner’s sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (can use clear if you want the frosting to be snow white)
4-6 tablespoons milk for thinning to desired consistency

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare a 9 x 13 in. baking pan with cooking spray (or butter and flour). Plump the raisins in warm water (I do this in a measuring cup that I’ll use for wet ingredients later — one less dish to clean).

In a large bowl, whisk all dry ingredients together. Add oil, applesauce, and eggs. Mix well. Add in raisins and stir to combine. Pour batter into prepared pan, rapping 3-4 times on a counter to release trapped air bubbles. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with only a few moist crumbs. Let cake cool completely before frosting.

To prepare frosting, mix all ingredients until well combined. Add more milk if needed for consistency. Frost completely cool cake. Use a fork to rake grooves into the frosting to resemble A&P’s cake presentation.


Share Share this post with friends!

100 Comments

Filed under cakes

Dobos Torte

Mike’s a history buff in addition to being a math superhero. Every now and then he’ll be looking at photos of something like a spoon from Pompeii or a statue from Greece and geeking out over how neat it is. It’s thrilling to think of people centuries and millennia ago actually using the objects and living in the homes we now have as artifacts of their existence. Last summer he finally went on a trip to some of the places he’s always loved to read about: Rome, Greece, and Turkey. Looking through his pictures when he returned, it was so sweet to see him living one of his dreams.

 

I understand Mike’s excitement about the cultures of the past, and sometimes I feel it too, but it doesn’t come naturally to me. I usually have to sort of ponder artifacts and give my imagination a shove to really appreciate how neat they are. With this past Daring Bakers challenge, however, I finally got a taste of how Mike must feel. After reading through the recipe and researching the challenge, I realized that I was about to bake a piece of history: the Dobos Torte.

The August 2009 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Angela of A Spoonful of Sugar and Lorraine of Not Quite Nigella. They chose the spectacular Dobos Torte based on a recipe from Rick Rodgers’ cookbook Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Caffés of Vienna, Budapest, and Prague.

Reading about the Dobos Torte gave me goosebumps. The torte is the namesake of József C. Dobos, its Hungarian creator. It was created with the intent of making a cake with a longer shelf life, and was debuted in 1885 at the National General Exhibition of Budapest. What really excited me was learning that Franz Joseph I and his wife, the Empress Elisabeth (also called Sisi), were among the first to taste the dessert! For those of you who don’t teach your 6th graders about the Russian Revolution like I do, I’ll fill you in. Franz Joseph I was the uncle of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, who was assassinated by Serbian terrorists in 1914. This act effectively started World War I and contributed to the Russian Revolution. I won’t give you a full history lesson, but isn’t that amazing? This torte has such a rich history, and here I am baking it in my own kitchen!

Dobos kept the recipe for his torte a secret until his retirement in 1906, and since then, the popular dessert has been made around the world. The torte is comprised of multiple layers (anywhere from 6-12 is typical) of thin sponge cake, a thick American buttercream, and a slightly lemony caramel coating on the top layer. The recipe was quite intimidating at first, but I enjoyed the process and felt nudged out of my cupcake comfort zone, as all Daring Bakers should!

I chose to make my torte the classic size and shape, but did change a few things. I brushed each sponge layer with a simple syrup when assembling the torte to ensure that they’d stay moist. I also used macadamia nuts to prop up my caramel wedges instead of hazelnuts, but that wasn’t an artistic decision — I couldn’t find any whole hazelnuts at my grocery store.

If I could change a few things about the recipe, I’d add flavoring to my simple syrup and apply more of it to the sponge layers. I found my layers a bit dry (good thing they were smooshed between so much buttercream). I’d also nix the lemon from the caramel — it tasted a little odd — and use cream instead. Finally, I can attest that creating the perfect caramel texture is the hardest part of this cake. I took my sugar mixture off of the stove too soon and ended up with a sticky caramel that made my sponge cake layer a bit soggy. Using a candy thermometer might be a better idea than relying on your instincts (especially if you tend to be jumpy/hasty/caffeinated about your baking). For caramel, you’ll want the temperature of your sugar mixture between 320 to 350 degrees based on this handy chart.

One thing I’m glad I didn’t change was the frosting. I used unsweetened Belgian chocolate, and the result spread like a dream and tasted rich and indulgent. I can’t wait to make this chocolate buttercream again and slather it on — you guessed it — some cupcakes!

There are lots of opportunities for creative alterations with this torte. You can bake all the batter in sheet pans and cut it into as many rectangular layers as you’d like, or even use a cookie cutter to create some adventurously shaped layers. You could also use different nuts to decorate the cake (almonds, hazelnuts, cashews), different flavors of syrup on the sponge cake, and different flavors of buttercream to frost. One particularly daring baker brushed each sponge layer with a hazelnut liqueur and used Ferrero Rocher to prop up her caramel wedges! You know I love Ferrero Rocher, so I’m a fan of that idea!

I hope you’ll take the plunge and try making a Dobos Torte on your own. The recipe is a mile long, yes, but that’s partially because of the clear, thorough instructions. Angela has thoughtfully created a printable version of this recipe to make the process a bit easier! It was such a lovely achievement when all the work was finished, and I relished each bite thinking of the legacy I was eating!



Dobos Torte



Recipe by: Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest, and Prague, by Rick Rodgers
Yield: about 11-12 pieces of torte

Equipment
2 baking sheets
9” (23cm) springform tin and 8” cake tin, for templates
mixing bowls (1 medium, 1 large)
a sieve
a double boiler (a large saucepan plus a large heat-proof mixing bowl which fits snugly over the top of the pan)
a small saucepan
a whisk (you could use a balloon whisk for the entire cake, but an electric hand whisk or stand mixer will make life much easier)
metal offset spatula
sharp knife
a 7 1/2” cardboard cake round (or just build cake on the base of a sprinfrom tin)
12 whole hazelnuts, peeled and toasted (I used macadamia nuts)
½ cup (50g) peeled and finely chopped hazelnuts
piping bag and tip, optional

Prep times
Sponge layers 20 mins prep, 40 mins cooking total if baking each layer individually.
Buttercream: 20 mins cooking. Cooling time for buttercream: about 1 hour plus 10 minutes after this to beat and divide.
Caramel layer: 10-15 minutes.
Assembly of whole cake: 20 minutes

Sponge Cake Ingredients
6 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
1 1/3 cups (162g) confectioner’s (icing) sugar, divided
1 teaspoon (5ml) vanilla extract
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (112g) sifted cake flour
pinch of salt

Chocolate Buttercream Ingredients
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup (200g) caster (ultrafine or superfine white) sugar
4oz (110g) bakers chocolate or your favourite dark chocolate, finely chopped (I used Belgian chocolate)
2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons (250g) unsalted butter, at room temperature.

Caramel Topping Ingredients
1 cup (200g) caster (superfine or ultrafine white) sugar
12 tablespoons (180 ml) water
8 teaspoons (40 ml) lemon juice
1 tablespoon neutral oil (e.g. grapeseed, rice bran, sunflower)

Directions for the sponge layers:
NB. The sponge layers can be prepared in advance and stored interleaved with parchment and well-wrapped in the fridge overnight.

1. Position the racks in the top and centre thirds of the oven and heat to 400F (200C).
2. Cut six pieces of parchment paper to fit the baking sheets. Using the bottom of a 9″ (23cm) springform tin as a template and a dark pencil or a pen, trace a circle on each of the papers, and turn them over (the circle should be visible from the other side, so that the graphite or ink doesn’t touch the cake batter.)
3. Beat the egg yolks, 2/3 cup (81g) of the confectioner’s (icing) sugar, and the vanilla in a medium bowl with a mixer on high speed until the mixture is thick, pale yellow and forms a thick ribbon when the beaters are lifted a few inches above the batter, about 3 minutes. (You can do this step with a balloon whisk if you don’t have a mixer.) Note: I leveled each sponge layer after baking per a great suggestion from other Daring Bakers. I did this by covering the layer with an oiled, cocoa powder dusted sheet of parchment paper and then pressing another sheet pan down on the layer to even it out.
4. In another bowl, using clean beaters, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in the remaining 2/3 cup (81g) of confectioner’s (icing)sugar until the whites form stiff, shiny peaks. Using a large rubber spatula, stir about 1/4 of the beaten whites into the egg yolk mixture, then fold in the remainder, leaving a few wisps of white visible. Combine the flour and salt. Sift half the flour over the eggs, and fold in; repeat with the remaining flour.
5. Line one of the baking sheets with a circle-marked paper. Using a small offset spatula, spread about 3/4cup of the batter in an even layer, filling in the traced circle on one baking sheet. Bake on the top rack for 5 minutes, until the cake springs back when pressed gently in the centre and the edges are lightly browned. While this cake bakes, repeat the process on the other baking sheet, placing it on the centre rack. When the first cake is done, move the second cake to the top rack. Invert the first cake onto a flat surface and carefully peel off the paper. Slide the cake layer back onto the paper and let stand until cool. Rinse the baking sheet under cold running water to cool, and dry it before lining with another parchment. Continue with the remaining papers and batter to make a total of six layers. Completely cool the layers. Using an 8″ springform pan bottom or plate as a template, trim each cake layer into a neat round. (A small serrated knife is best for this task.)


I love when I have two cookin’ buddies! Mike and Byrd cheer me on from the couch.

  
Drawing my circles, spreading my batter, and baking my layers. What sort of recipe requires artwork?

Directions for the chocolate buttercream:
NB. This can be prepared in advance and kept chilled until required.

1. Prepare a double-boiler: quarter-fill a large saucepan with water and bring it to a boil.
2. Meanwhile, whisk the eggs with the sugar until pale and thickened, about five minutes. You can use a balloon whisk or electric hand mixer for this.
3. Fit bowl over the boiling water in the saucepan (water should not touch bowl) and lower the heat to a brisk simmer. Cook the egg mixture, whisking constantly, for 2-3 minutes until you see it starting to thicken a bit. Whisk in the finely chopped chocolate and cook, stirring, for a further 2-3 minutes.
4. Scrape the chocolate mixture into a medium bowl and leave to cool to room temperature. It should be quite thick and sticky in consistency.
5. When cool, beat in the soft butter, a small piece (about 2 tablespoons/30g) at a time. An electric hand mixer is great here, but it is possible to beat the butter in with a spatula if it is soft enough. You should end up with a thick, velvety chocolate buttercream. Chill while you make the caramel topping.

Lorraine’s note: If you’re in Winter just now your butter might not soften enough at room temperature, which leads to lumps forming in the buttercream. Male sure the butter is of a very soft texture I.e. running a knife through it will provide little resistance, before you try to beat it into the chocolate mixture. Also, if you beat the butter in while the chocolate mixture is hot you’ll end up with more of a ganache than a buttercream!


Frosting and decorating the torte.

Directions for the caramel topping:
1. Choose the best-looking cake layer for the caramel top. To make the caramel topping: Line a jellyroll pan with parchment paper and butter the paper. Place the reserved cake layer on the paper. Score the cake into 12 equal wedges. Lightly oil a thin, sharp knife and an offset metal spatula.
2. Stir the sugar, water and lemon juice in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over a medium heat, stirring often to dissolve the sugar. Once dissolved into a smooth syrup, turn the heat up to high and boil without stirring, swirling the pan by the handle occasionally and washing down any sugar crystals on the sides of the pan with a wet brush until the syrup has turned into an amber-coloured caramel.
3. The top layer is perhaps the hardest part of the whole cake so make sure you have a oiled, hot offset spatula ready. I also find it helps if the cake layer hasn’t just been taken out of the refrigerator. I made mine ahead of time and the cake layer was cold and the toffee set very, very quickly—too quickly for me to spread it. Immediately pour all of the hot caramel over the cake layer. You will have some leftover most probably but more is better than less and you can always make nice toffee pattern using the extra to decorate. Using the offset spatula, quickly spread the caramel evenly to the edge of the cake layer. Let cool until beginning to set, about 30 seconds. Using the tip of the hot oiled knife (keep re-oiling this with a pastry brush between cutting), cut through the scored marks to divide the caramel layer into 12 equal wedges. Cool another minute or so, then use the edge of the knife to completely cut and separate the wedges using one firm slice movement (rather than rocking back and forth which may produce toffee strands). Cool completely.

Angela’s note: I recommend cutting, rather than scoring, the cake layer into wedges before covering in caramel (reform them into a round). If you have an 8” silicon round form, then I highly recommend placing the wedges in that for easy removal later and it also ensures that the caramel stays on the cake layer. Once set, use a very sharp knife to separate the wedges.

Assembling the Dobos:
1. Divide the buttercream into six equal parts.
2. Place a dab of chocolate buttercream on the middle of a 7 1/2” cardboard round and top with one cake layer. Spread the layer with one part of the chocolate icing. Repeat with 4 more cake layers. Spread the remaining icing on the sides of the cake.
3. Optional: press the finely chopped hazelnuts onto the sides of the cake.
4. Propping a hazelnut under each wedge so that it sits at an angle, arrange the wedges on top of the cake in a spoke pattern. If you have any leftover buttercream, you can pipe rosettes under each hazelnut or a large rosette in the centre of the cake. Refrigerate the cake under a cake dome until the icing is set, about 2 hours. Let slices come to room temperature for the best possible flavour.


Don’t forget to visit other Daring Bakers and see the imaginative combinations and configurations of the Dobos Torte they created!

138 Comments

Filed under cakes