Archive | Fancy Desserts RSS feed for this section

Tuxedo Cake

3 Oct

What luck that Shawnda picked such a great cake recipe for the first week of the month for Project Pastry Queen–I’ve started baking treats for the monthly birthday celebration for the office and this was perfect!  My only hope is that I get it to the office without issue, which involves driving up and over a mountain range.  In fact, as you’re reading this, probably right this moment, my office is either enjoying lovely slices of Tuxedo Cake or eating Cake Mush.

The cake was pretty basic to put together: just a normal chocolate cake, whipped cream, and more or less just melted chocolate.  But what a presentation!  It just looks so fantastic, with its stark black and white contrast, that I would have sworn it took a lot more manpower and hours than it really did.  My only two notes are that I’m always afraid of over-whipping the cream so I started off with whipped cream that was too soft (although it did make a nice “crumb coat”, a thin layer of frosting that seals in all the crumbs so you can add another perfectly crumb-less layer of frosting).  The whipped cream is the right consistency when you slap a dollop on the side of the cake and it doesn’t drip right off.  Also, Rebecca (and Shawnda) used Lyle’s Golden Syrup.  I admit again that I substituted what I already had in my cabinet and readily available.  I’m not sure if it was because of this substitution, but my chocolate dripped over the sides perfectly, despite Rebecca’s warning that it might be too thick if you let it cool for too long.

Check out all of the other Project Pastry Queen participants’ takes on the recipe here!

Tuxedo Cake
From Rebecca Rathers’ Pastry Queen

For the cake

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 4 cups sugar
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 Tbsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla

For the frosting

  • 4 cups chilled heavy whipping cream, well-chilled
  • 1 1/4 cup powdered sugar

For the glaze

  • 4 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 2 tsp vanilla

Cake

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line the bottom of three 9″ cake pans or two 10″ cake pans with parchment paper rounds and butter and flour the pan or spray with non-stick baking spray.
  2. Combine the butter, water, and canola oil in a medium saucepan set over medium heat and let butter melt.
  3. In a large bowl, stir together sugar, cocoa and flour.  Pour the butter mixture into the sugar mixture and whisk until smooth.
  4. Whisk in the eggs, one at a time, then whisk in the buttermilk.  Whisk in the baking soda, salt and vanilla all at once.
  5. Transfer the batter to the prepared pans.  For a 3 layer cake, stagger the cake layers on the oven racks so that no layer is directly over another.  Set two layers on one rack and the third on the other.  Bake 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of each layer comes out clean.
  6. Remove the cakes from the oven and cool on racks for about 15 minutes before inverting onto baking racks.  Cool the cakes completely, at least 2 hours, before frosting.

Frosting

  1. Whip the cream in a large bowl on high speed until soft peaks form (when you lift the beaters out and turn them upside down, there should be little peaks on the end of the beaters whose tips fall over quickly).
  2. Add the powdered sugar and whip until stiff peaks form (the peaks will stand tall and not fall over).
  3. Place first layer of cake onto serving plate and top with a layer of frosting.  Add second layer of cake and frosting and last layer of cake and frosting before frosting the sides of the cake with a thick layer of whipped cream.
  4. Put cake in fridge and let frosting set for 1 hour.

Glaze

  1. Place the chopped chocolate in a small bowl.  Heat the cream in a small saucepan until steaming and pour it over the chocolate.  Whisk until chocolate is fully melted.
  2. Stir in the corn syrup and vanilla until fully incorporated and set bowl aside to cool for 10 minutes.
  3. Drizzle the glaze along the top edge of the cake and cover the whole top of the cake with glaze.
  4. Many people finish with strawberries, often covered in chocolate, but strawberry season is just closing here so I decided to forgo them this time–but the next time I make this I will definitely be including them!
Advertisements

Bananas Foster Shortcakes

19 Sep

First, I want to remind all you faithful readers to follow me on Facebook or Twitter for status updates from me and alerts for new recipe posts!

Now before I dive into this week’s PPQ recipe, I have to bow down and say that Bananas Foster is not mine to lay claim on within my family.  My father and little sister (my only sibling) staked that claim loooong ago.  Dad makes Bananas Foster, often to introduce guests to fine Southern cuisine and, I suspect, to show off a little bit since the process involves flambeing.  My sister started making it soon thereafter, probably also to show off a little bit, but I think mostly just because it’s a delicious recipe that’s really not too hard to do.  So now it’s my turn.  I have to admit that I have been on pins and needles waiting for the chance to choose a recipe for Project Pastry Queen and when it was finally my turn, there really was no other option than to choose this.

After years of other family members flambeing bananas, I had to, once and for all, make Bananas Foster.  Reading this recipe over and over again, one major thing stood out to me–Rebecca doesn’t flambe the bananas.  This is a key component as it caramelizes and deepens the flavors by raising the temperature to a high degree that wouldn’t be attainable by just a pan over a stove burner.  Now that said, I tried and tried and I could not for the life of me get the pan to ignite.  It was still delicious regardless and I didn’t set my hair on fire.

I admit, I made a number of other changes to the recipe as well.  Usually when I am served this dessert, it is served over ice cream (as Rebecca suggests as well) and since you know that it is a requirement of my cooking to forget an ingredient, it wasn’t until making it tonight when I forgot the ice cream, that I realized ice cream is just too sweet for this recipe and my lack of serious sweet tooth.  I used whipped cream instead and I thought it was perfect–finally a Bananas Foster that didn’t give me a sore throat from all the sugar!  I also forgot the banana liqueur, but I kind of didn’t want to pay for a bottle of it anyway, and I think the recipe benefited from the subtle banana flavor instead of in your face banana flavor.  Finally, Rebecca suggests adding pecans to the processor while making the biscuits.  It’s optional, so I opted out, but it got me thinking of another New Orleans classic treat…instead of adding to the biscuits, I roughly chopped the pecans and sprinkled them on top, which added some fantastic crunch and when mixed in with the sauce made it like a praline!

All the other Pastry Queens-In-Training versions of this recipe can be found here, be sure to check them out.

Bananas Foster Shortcakes
The Pastry Queen by Rebecca Rather (with help from Brennan’s)
Serves 8

Biscuits

  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • sugar for sprinkling

Bananas & Syrup

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup dark rum
  • 8 barely ripe bananas, sliced into 1/4 inch rounds (a mandolin slicer makes quick work of this)
  • whipped cream
  • 1/3 cup pecans
  1. Turn the oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Combine the flour, baking powder, salt and granulated sugar in a food processor fitted with a metal blade.  Process about 30 seconds.  Cut the butter into 16 pieces and add to the flour mixture.  Pulse about 15 times, until the mixture is crumbly.  Turn on the processor and pour the cream in through the feed tube in a thin, steady stream, until the mixture begins to form a ball.
  3. Remove the dough and place on a flat surface that has been sprinkled with flour.  Gently form the dough into a 1/2 inch thick disk.  Use a 4 inch biscuit cutter, round cookie cutter, or a glass to cut the dough into rounds.  Roll the biscuits in the coarse sugar and set on a piece of parchment paper on a cookie sheet (Rebecca instructs you to use an ungreased cookie sheet, but my shortcakes stuck hard and fast to the sheet.  I was not a happy camper).
  4. Bake for 8-10 minutes until the shortcakes begin to turn golden brown around the edges.  Cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheet, then use a spatula to transfer the biscuits to individual serving plates (or on a cooling rack if you’re not serving them immediately).
  5. While the shortcakes are in the oven, Melt the butter, brown sugar and cinnamon in a large saute pan set over medium-high heat, about 3 minutes.  The mixture should not be heated beyond a simmer; if it begins to boil over, decrease the heat.
  6. Add the rum and sliced bananas to the syrup and simmer for about 5 minutes.
  7. Rebecca suggests splitting the shortcakes but mine did not rise enough to actually split, so I used them as a base instead, and poured spoonfuls of the bananas and syrup over the cakes, topped with whipped cream and chopped pecans.

Almond Bliss German Chocolate Cake

29 Aug

I’ve always been hesitant to make a German Chocolate Cake because they’re not really my favorite flavor combo for cake and, quite frankly, I don’t think they look very pretty.  This being an assignment for Project Pastry Queen, I plowed ahead, hoping against hope that I would be able to create a cake worthy of posting…and well…here I am, so it all worked out for the best!

Let me start out by saying something Big and Important: this is my new go-to chocolate cake recipe.  I can take or leave the coconut custard icing that makes it an official German Chocolate Cake because it’s just not my favorite type of icing for a cake.  This is no Devil’s Food Cake, but it’s the perfect every day chocolate cake–soft, moist, and full of strong chocolate flavor.  I can’t wait for the next time I need chocolate cupcakes or a cake for a party, because I know I won’t have to scour over recipes and hope that the recipe I choose turns out okay.  If you do like coconut, this is a slightly different filling recipe as it utilizes cream of coconut for an extra punch of flavor and almonds instead of pecans.  I did like it in the end and, while not my favorite, it’s certainly a great recipe to have in your box if you love German Chocolate Cake!

In an interesting tidbit for the morning, Rebecca shared that German Chocolate Cake isn’t actually from the country of Germany, but from Texas and named for the brand name “German” chocolate.  Who knew!

Notes: Again, I left out the chocolate chips.  1 3/4 cups stirred in at the end if you want them.  Rebecca also uses almonds in place of the typical pecans, but I’m sure you can substitute pecans back in if you would prefer.  You’ll need three 9″ cake pans, which was a surprise since I only had 2 pans.  Also, make sure you have plenty of eggs on hand–you’ll need a total of 9!

Almond Bliss German Chocolate Cake
Recipe from The Pastry Queen


Cake

  • 8 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped into small pieces
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Custard Icing

  • 1 1/2 cups sliced almonds
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 1/2 cups sweetened cream of coconut (I found a bottle in the alcohol section next to the rum, since it’s used in pina coladas)
  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 3/4 cups sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 cups sweetened shredded coconut
  1. Place one baking rack 1/3 from the bottom of the oven and the second 2/3 from the bottom.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line the bottom of three 9: cake pans with parchment paper rounds, grease with butter and dust with flour.
  2. Place the chopped chocolate into a small bowl and pour the boiling water over the chocolate.  Stir until it is melted completely into a smooth sauce.
  3. In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar on medium for 2 minutes.  Add the egg yolks and beat for another minute.
  4. In a bowl, add the buttermilk and baking soda, stirring until it dissolves.  The buttermilk will gently foam up and double in volume, so be sure your bowl is big enough.
  5. Add half the buttermilk mixture to the butter-sugar-egg yolk mixture, beat on low until incorporated, then add half of the flour, beat, then the rest of the buttermilk and the rest of the flour, beating after each addition.
  6. Using a spatula, stir in the salt, vanilla, and melted chocolate.  (Stir in chocolate chips, if using.)
  7. In a clean medium bowl, beat the egg whites on high speed, until soft peaks form.  Gently fold the egg whites into the chocolate batter.
  8. Spoon the batter evenly into the prepared cake pans.
  9. Staggering the cake pans in the oven, put two on the top rack with lots of space in between, and the third on the bottom rack in the middle.  Bake for 30-35 minutes until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.  Keep an eye on them, as they could rise strangely (mine were most definitely lopsided) or the pans could finish baking at different times.
  10. After coming out of the oven, transfer pan to wire racks and after 5 minutes, take the cakes out of the pans and put them upside down directly on the wire racks (that should help them to even out if they rose unevenly).
  11. While the oven is still hot, spread the almonds evenly onto a rimmed baking sheet and toast the almonds for 5 to 7 minutes until golden brown.
  12. Heat the milk, cream of coconut and butter in a saucepan over medium heat utnil the butter has completely melted.
  13. In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks, sugar and cornstarch until smooth.  Pour 1 tablespoon of the hot milk mixture into the whisked egg yolk mixture and whisk until fully incorporated.  Repeat two more times (we’re warming the egg yolks up, “tempering them”, so that when we add them to the milk they don’t immediately curdle up into scrambled eggs).
  14. Slowly pour the tempered yolk mixture into the hot milk mixture, which still is over medium heat, whisking constantly.  Whisk constantly for 7-10 minutes until the mixture thickens and looks spreadable.  This happened at exactly the 7 minute mark for me, but I kept going for a few more minutes just in case.  I would rather have slightly over done frosting than frosting that just dribbled down the sides of the cake!
  15. Stir the shredded coconut and the toasted almonds into the custard mixture.  Let the icing cool for at least 15 minutes.
  16. If your cake layers aren’t exactly even, as mine weren’t, you can take a serrated knife and cut the tops off so that they lay flat when stacked.  Bonus:  the tops you cut off are all yours to eat!
  17. Put one layer of cake on the plate, spread icing on top, and repeat with the other layers–I put the top layer on upside down so that the perfectly flat side was facing up.  It was a prettier surface for laying down icing on.  Do not frost the sides of the cake, and you’ll have a surprisingly beautiful specimen of a German Chocolate Cake!  I think leaving the sides clean goes a long way towards avoiding the sticky gloppy mess you usually see of German Chocolate Cakes.
  18. Rebecca suggests you wrap the cake well if you don’t plan to eat it within 3 hours.  I say, see how long it lasts!

Cappuccino Cheesecakes

22 Aug

First, a short programming note–my apologies for the missing post on Friday!  I was out of town and had set up a post to automatically publish on Friday morning but I missed a button somewhere and it didn’t get posted for you.  I’ll save it for later this week!  And on to our regularly scheduled programming…

Another entry for Project Pastry Queen, this is without a doubt my favorite recipe from the cookbook so far and possibly my new favorite cheesecake recipe. Granted, I’d never made cheesecake before this recipe, but I think these individual cheesecakes are perfect in every way. They’re small enough that you have automatic portion control. They’re not giant thick layers of cheesecake, but instead surprisingly thin–and surprisingly, the perfect amount. You’ll find yourself satisfied but without indulging in the thousands of calories you might with a normal sized slice. The crust is crunchy, chocolatey, and buttery and is in perfect ratio to the filling. You can’t beat the cappuccino-chocolate flavor combination and the silky chocolate ganache on top is just to die for!

Long story short: do not pass go, do not collect $200. Go directly to the kitchen and make these cheesecakes!

Note: I went to a few different fancy food stores looking for the tins for this recipe before finding exactly what I needed at my local big grocery store.  The tins you want are just the cheap aluminum foil pans, about 5″ across.  The ones I found came in a pack of 3, with big clear plastic lids for each tin (VERY handy for transporting to work the next day for our picnic!) and were labeled “pot pie pans”. 

Also, my true confession for this week from yours truly: I don’t actually like chocolate chips in desserts unless they’re melted and gooey in chocolate chip cookies.  Even then, I go for the cookies with fewer chips.  As such, I left the chocolate chips called for in this recipe and didn’t miss them one bit.  I think they would have interfered with the rich, smooth texture and the ganache more than makes up for any potential lack of chocolate. If you want to add them, stir 1 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips into the filling batter just before baking.

Cappuccino Cheesecakes
Makes 8 Individual Cheesecakes
Adapted from The Pastry Queen

Crust

  • 1 package (16 oz) Oreos
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, melted

Filling

  • 2 teaspoons instant espresso powder
  • 1 tablespoon boiling water
  • 2 packages (8 oz) cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 large eggs

Ganache

  • 4 oz bittersweet chocolate (my suggestion: 1 bar of Ghiradelli)
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Put the cookies in a food processor and pulse until all the cookies are now just crumbs.  Pour the melted butter in and pulse until butter is fully combined.
  2. Press the cookie-butter mixture into the bottom and about an inch up the sides of the pans.  There should be just enough cookie mixture for the 8 tins.  Set tins aside.
  3. In a small bowl, combine espresso powder with the boiling water and mix.
  4. In a large bowl and using an electric mixer, combine the cream cheese, sugar, salt and coffee mixture.  Add the eggs all at once and beat on medium about 1 minute.
  5. Pour the cream cheese mixture over the chocolate crusts.  I think I used a 1/3 measuring cup and did a scoop of batter for each tin.  You want to leave just a little space between the top of the batter and the top of the crust because you need room for the ganache to sit on top later.
  6. Bake the cakes for 35 minutes until the filling is set.  Cool for 20 minutes while you make the ganache.
  7. Now I’m going to tell you a story right here in the middle of the instructions.  There once was an impatient baker named Emily, who ruined her ganache at 10:30 at night and had to go buy another chocolate bar to finish her recipe before taking it to work the next morning for a picnic.  Do not be as impatient as Emily!  Basically, I thought I knew what I was doing, heated the milk too hot and dumped the chocolate into the milk instead of what the instructions said.  I ended up with a clumpy greasy mess instead of the silky gorgeous ganache I was supposed to have.  Second try was beautiful, because I followed the instructions.
  8. Chop the chocolate into small pieces and put them in a medium bowl.
  9. Heat the cream in a small sauce pan until it is hot and just beginning to steam.
  10. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate in the bowl and stir until it is completely melted.
  11. Stir in corn syrup and vanilla.  Let cool for a few minutes.
  12. Using a normal spoon, I carefully poured a couple of spoonfuls of ganache over each cheesecake.  Gently tilt the tins back and forth and around to make sure the ganache spreads and covers the whole top so that no cheesecake is showing through the top or around the edges.
  13. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or up to 3 days.
  14. You can pop the cheesecakes out of their tins to serve or, as I did, cut them into 4 wedges and let people take a wedge as they please.

Panna Cotta

21 Jun

I wondered if I was getting ahead of myself by posting my all-time favorite dessert only a month into my food blog adventure.  But I’m just so beside myself with excitement that I was able to recreate this dessert I thought was impossible to make at home that I really have to share it with you.  I had my first taste of panna cotta in London, in a little Italian restaurant in Exmouth Market, just a block or two from the flat I was staying in for the semester.  I can barely remember the taste or even the texture, but I do remember that I was absolutely in heaven.  Or perhaps eating heaven.

Panna cotta is a delicately flavored (typically with vanilla beans) dessert with a consistency that falls somewhere between Jell-O and pudding.  It’s softer than Jell-O, but firmer than pudding. Panna cotta is typically molded so that it looks just like flan.  The beauty of panna cotta is that you can take it from a fancy molded Italian bistro dessert down to a less fussy yet still classy and beautiful presentation.  The recipe here is pretty strongly of vanilla (it tasted almost like ice cream)–probably because I used vanilla bean paste instead of an actual vanilla bean (see my caramel recipe as to why).  I missed the delicate flavor, but the delicate texture was exactly what I was hoping for and, in the end, this was still one of my biggest triumphs in the kitchen: recreating one of the greatest food memories I have in my heart.

I have to admit, I waited 4 years to even attempt this because I assumed it was a recipe only attempted by the most knowledgeable Italian master chefs.  I give full credit to Miss Nina Baker (no relation) for giving this recipe a try long before I did–and successfully I might add!  Obviously I regret waiting so long now that I know how easy it is to make.

Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta
slightly modified from The Best International Recipe cookbook
serves 5-8, depending on your serving manner

Emily’s Tips: 1) make sure you have 2 trays of ice ready ahead of time or else you’ll be calling your boyfriend and asking him to stop by your apartment to make ice for you before you get home from work.  Your request will be met with confusion.  2) Keep your wits about you.  This is a very simple recipe, despite its appearance.  Just read the recipe thoroughly ahead of time and stay calm during the cooking process.  3) Make sure you’ve got a thermometer handy.

  • 1 cup whole milk (do not substitute skim or low-fat milk)
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons Knox unflavored gelatin (find it in the market next to the Jell-O)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste (2 teaspoons of vanilla extract can be used instead)
  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • a pinch of salt
  1. Pour the milk into a medium saucepan. Sprinkle the gelatin evenly over the milk and let it sit and hydrate, about 10 minutes.
  2. Combine the vanilla bean paste (or extract) and cream in a large measuring cup; set aside. Make a large bowl of ice water using 2 trays of ice cubes and 4 cups cold water; set aside. Set your containers on a baking sheet and set aside.  You can use eight 4 oz ramekins.  I evenly split the recipe up amongst 5 of our tumblers.  The most elegant serving dish?   Wine glasses.  I prefer the look of stemless in this case.
  3. Heat the milk and gelatin mixture over high heat, stirring constantly, until the gelatin is dissolved and the mixture registers 135 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, about 1 1/2 minutes. Off the heat, stir in the sugar and salt until dissolved, about 1 minute.  Stirring the milk and sugar mixture constantly, slowly add the cream and vanilla mixture (make sure to get all the delicious vanilla that has likely settled to the bottom of the cup by now).
  4. Transfer the mixture to a medium bowl (metal if you have it) and set the bowl gently into the ice water. Let the mixture chill, stirring frequently, until it has thickened to the consistency of eggnog and registers 50 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, about 10 minutes.
  5. Strain the mixture into a pitcher (I used a tall measuring cup and just refilled a few times), then pour it evenly into the serving dishes.  Shake each dish gently to even the surface.  Cover each ramekin with plastic wrap, making sure that the plastic does not mar the surface of the cream and refrigerate until just set and chilled, at least 4 hours or up to 5 days.
  6. Add your preferred topping just before serving, most commonly a berry coulis, but personally, I just like cutting up fresh strawberries to drop on top.
%d bloggers like this: