Thursday, December 10, 2009

Italian Cream Cake

This was my first attempt at an Italian cream cake. My sister-in-law loves this kind of cake, so of course I volunteered to make one for her birthday. Not only had I never baked this type of cake before, I somehow had never even tasted this kind of cake before! I searched for recipes, and ended up going with what looked to be a fairly standard recipe from Southern Living. The cake is pretty rich, but I think we all agreed that it turned out to be tasty. The cream cheese frosting with toasted pecans is amazingly good. I am offically a fan of Italian cream cakes!
I decorated the top with some frosting I had reserved before adding the pecans.It looks good enough to eat!ITALIAN CREAM CAKE
Adapted slightly from Southern Living

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup shortening
2 cups sugar
5 large eggs, separated
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup flaked coconut
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour three 9-inch round cake pans, and line with parchment.
2. Beat butter and shortening at medium speed with an electric mixer until fluffy; gradually add sugar, beating well. Add egg yolks, one at a time, beating until blended after each addition. Add vanilla, beating until blended.
3. Combine flour and soda; add to butter mixture alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat at low speed until blended after each addition. Stir in coconut.
4. Beat egg whites in a separate bowl until stiff peaks form; fold into batter. Pour batter evenly into the three prepared pans.
5. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool pans on wire racks for 10 minutes; remove from pans and cool completely on wire racks.
6. Spread nutty cream cheese frosting between layers and on top and sides of cake.
From Southern Living
1 cup chopped pecans, toasted and cooled
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 (16 ounce) package powdered sugar, sifted
1. Beat cream cheese, butter, and vanilla at medium speed with an electric mixter until creamy. Add powdered sugar, beating at low speed until blended.
2. Beat frosting at high speed until smooth; stir in pecans.
**NOTE: I used one and one half times the frosting recipe for my cake.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Banana Snack Cake

I had an abundance of overripe bananas on my banana rack, so instead of making more banana bread I made this tasty cake. You can frost the cake with the cream cheese icing as I did, top it with Cool Whip, or just sprinkle it with powdered sugar.
Adapted slightly from Cafe Zupas

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups white sugar
2 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup mashed ripe banana
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9 x 13 inch pan.
2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in the eggs until combined, then add the sour cream and vanilla and beat until combined.
3. In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Beat flour mixture into the wet batter until just combined. Stir in the mashed banana with a spatula. Spread batter evenly into prepared pan.
4. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Allow bars to cool completely before frosting.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Dark Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Mousse Filling

My brother-in-law, Jay, had a birthday this past weekend and I offered to make a cake. He requested a chocolate cake, so I tried to make it special with dark chocolate frosting and a chocolate mousse filling. This cake recipe never fails me, and the dark chocolate frosting was simple but divine.
The cake (in a photo with horrible lighting...).Jay prepares to blow out the candles as Leslie (who finished a half marathon earlier that morning) and Brady look on. CHOCOLATE CAKE

2 cups sugar
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup Hershey's Cocoa
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line three 9-inch pans with wax paper and spray pans with cooking spray.

2. Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla, a beat on medium speed of mixer for 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin). Pour batter into prepared pans.

3. Bake 25-30 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely before frosting.


1/2 cup butter
2/3 cup Hershe's Special Dark Cocoa
3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Melt butter, stir in cocoa.

2. Alternately add powdered sugar and milk, beating to spreading consistency. Add small amount of additional milk, if needed. Stir in vanilla. Makes about 2 cups frosting.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

French Macaroons

I waited until the last minute, but somehow managed to complete another Daring Bakers' challenge. The challenge was to make French macaroons, which as I learned, are completely different than the coconut macaroons that are common in America. This was probably my least successful challenge so far. The macaroons were delicious, but they did not turn out to have "feet" (which as I have learned are a distinguishing characteristic of a French macaroon). I will have to try to figure out what may have caused my lack of feet, although it may remain a mystery forever. I chose to fill my macaroons with chocolate ganache, but they would also be delicous filled with jam.

The 2009 October Daring Bakers' challenge was brought to us by Ami S. She chose macaroons from Claudia Fleming's The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern as the challenge recipe.
The Process:
The confectioners sugar and almond flour are combined.
The egg whites are beaten to stiff peaks.
The almond flour and sugar are sifted and folded into the egg whites.
The batter is piped onto parchment-lined pans...
...and baked until just golden.
The ganache filling.
The final product, a ganache-filled macaroon.
From Claudia Fleming's The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern

2 1/4 cups confectioners sugar
2 cups almond flour
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
5 egg whites, room temperature

1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F. Combine the confectioners sugar and almond flour in a medium bowl. If grinding your own nuts, combine nuts and a cup of confectioners sugar in the bowl of a food processor and grind until the nuts are very fine and powdery.

2. Beat the egg whites in the clean dry bowl of a stand mixer until they hold soft peaks. Slowly add the granulated sugar and beat until the mixture holds stiff peaks.

3. Sift a third of the almond flour mixture into the meringue and fold gently to combine. If you are planning on adding zest or other flavorings to the batter, now is the time. Sift in the remaining almond flour mixture in two batches. Be gentle. Do not overfold, but fully incorporate your ingredients.
4. Spoon the mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a plain half-inch tip or a zipper bag with a corner cut off.

5. Pipe one-inch sized mounds of batter onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper.

6. Bake the macaroon for 5 minutes. Remove the pans from the oven and rasie the temperature to 375 degrees F. Once the oven is up to temperature, put the pans back in the oven and bake for an additional 7 to 8 minutes, or until lightly colored.

7. Cool on a rack before filling.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Toffee Chocolate Chip Bars

My husband volunteered to bring a dessert to a potluck at work this week, which really means he volunteered me to make a dessert for him to bring to the potluck. Lucky for him, I am always looking for reasons to bake so I set out to make these bars. I always seem to have an excess of toffee bits on hand, so these bars turned out to be a great use for the toffee bits. Plus, the bars were well received at the potluck and the hubby returned home with an empty container.

From Hannah's Kitchen

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup cold butter
2 cups (12 ounce pkg.) semi-sweet chocolate chips, divided
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 (8 ounce) package toffee baking bits, divided

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a 9 x 13 inch pan with non-stick spray, or coat pan with foil and spray foil with non-stick spray.

2. In a large bowl, stir together flour and brown sugar. Cut in cold butter with a pastry blender until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Reserve 1 1/2 cups crumb mixture and press remaining crumb mixture into bottom of prepared pan to form a crust. Bake crust for 10 minutes.

3. Remove crust from oven and pour sweetened condensed milk evenly over the partially baked crust. Reserve 1/4 cup of the toffee bits, and sprinkle the remaining toffee bits evenly over the sweetened condensed milk.

4. Stir 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips into the reserved crumb mixture and sprinkle evenly over the toffee layer. Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup of chocolate chips over the top.

5. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and sprinkle with reserved 1/4 cup of toffee bits. Cool completely before cutting into bars.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

My parents came down to visit us from Iowa a few weeks ago and, as always, I had to have homemade cookies waiting when they arrived. This time around I opted for peanut butter chocolate chip cookies. These are not only great looking cookies, but they turn out soft and chewy when baked properly.PEANUT BUTTER CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES
From Hannah's Kitchen

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup creamy peanut butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F and line baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. In a large mixer bowl, cream butter until smooth. Add peanut butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar and beat until well combined. Add in egg and vanilla and mix until combined.

3. In a small bowl, mix flour, salt, and soda until combined. Gradually add flour mixture to peanut butter mixture until just incorporated. Stir in chocolate chips.

4. Using a cookie scoop (approximately one tablespoon capacity), drop dough two inches apart onto prepared baking sheets.

5. Bake for 12-13 minutes or until cookies are just firm around the edges, being careful not to overbake. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing to wire racks to cool completely.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Carrot Cake

I absolutely love carrot cake and this recipe does not disappoint. The pineapple keeps it really moist, and the coconut and nuts can be omitted depending on your preferences. I have also made this recipe into cupcakes with success. The shredded carrots.
The dry ingredients are mixed together.
The wet ingredients are stirred into the dry ingredients.
The pineapple, carrots, and coconut are then mixed in.
The batter is poured into the pans.
A slice of the finished carrot cake.

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 3/4 cups white sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups shredded carrots
1 cup flaked sweetened coconut
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 (8 ounce) can crushed pineapple, drained
12 ounces (1 1/2 packages) cream cheese, softened
6 tablespoons butter, softened
4 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9 x 13 inch pan.
2. Mix flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and sugar in a large bowl. Make a well in the center and add oil, eggs, and vanilla. Mix with wooden spoon until smooth. Stir in the carrots, coconut, walnuts, and pineapple.
3. Pour into 9 x 13 inch pan and bake at 350 degress for about 45 minutes, or until toothpick in center comes out clean. For two 9-inch pans bake for 30-35 minutes, and for cupcakes bake 18-20 minutes. Allow to cool on wire rack. For round pans and cupcakes, remove cake from pans after 10 minutes and then cool completely. The center may sink a little, but this can be easily covered up with some extra icing.
4. To make the icing, cream the butter and cream cheese in a large mixer bowl until smooth and fluffy. Add the sifted powdered sugar and beat until creamy. Chill icing for 10-15 minutes in refrigerator before using.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


I successfully completed another Daring Bakers' challenge this month! This was my first-ever attempt at making puff pastry from scratch. I normally buy the frozen stuff from the grocery, but it was pretty satisfying to make it myself (not to mention super delicious). The September 2009 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Steph of A Whisk and a Spoon. She chose the French treat, Vols-au-Vent based on the Puff Pastry recipe by Michel Richard from the cookbook Baking With Julia by Dorie Greenspan. First, the dry ingredients are placed in a food processor bowl. The dry ingredients and water are pulsed until a ball forms. The pastry dough is rolled into a square before being filled with butter. The butter-filled dough is rolled into a long rectangular shape to begin the layering process. The pastry dough is folded into thirds between each rolling. The shapes are cut from the chilled pastry dough. The vols-au-vent are assembled and brushed with an egg wash. The baked shells and tops are cooled. Once the shells are cooled they can be filled with the mousse. Yum!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Peanut Butter Fudge Treats

The moment I saw these treats on Joy the Baker's blog I knew I had to try them. They are sinfully rich and extremely easy to make. I saved a couple of them for myself, but had to send the rest with my husband to work so I wouldn't eat them all!
The cereal layer is dumped into the pan.The peanut butter fudge is spread evenly over the cereal layer.The chocolate fudge is cooked on the stovetop.The cooked chocolate fudge is spread over the peanut butter layer.
From Joy the Baker

INGREDIENTS - Rice Crispies Layer
3 tablespoons butter
4 cups mini marshmallows or 40 regular marshmallows (about 10 ounces)
6 cups Rice Crispies cereal
INGREDIENTS - Peanut Butter Fudge
1 cup butter
1 cup peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pound powdered sugar

INGREDIENTS - Chocolate Fudge
2 tablespoons butter
2/3 cup evaporated milk
1 2/3 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups mini marshmallows
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1 teaspoon vanilla
1. Coat a 13x9x2 inch pan with cooking spray.

2. In a large microwave-safe bowl, microwave the marshmallows and butter for one and a half minutes. Stir, and continue to microwave in 30 second increments until melted and smooth. Add cereal and stir until well coated.

3. Using a buttered spatula or wax paper, evenly press the cereal mixture into the prepared pan and set aside.

4. For the peanut butter fudge, microwave the butter and peanut butter for 2 minutes on high. Stir and microwave on high for 2 more minutes. Add vanilla extract and powdered sugar to the peanut butter mixture and stir to combine. Pour over the cereal layer in the pan and spread evenly. Cool in the refrigerator while you make the chocolate fudge.

5. For the chocolate fudge, combine butter, milk, sugar, and salt in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil and cook 4 to 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Stir in marshmallows, chocolate, and vanilla. Stir vigorously for about 1 minute, or until marshmallows melt and mixture is thoroughly combined. Pour over peanut butter fudge, spread evenly, and place in refrigerator to set and cool.

6. Once set, remove from refrigerator and let treats sit at room temperature for 15 minutes before cutting. Cut in small squares. Treats are best served at room temperature.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Brown Sugar Gelato

I checked out a variety of cookbooks from the library last week and was inspired to make some homemade ice cream. I lightened up the original recipie just a touch by using fat free half and half instead of whole milk, but the end result was still rich and delicious! I also made the recipe small enough to fit into my 1 1/2 quart automatic ice cream maker in one batch.

Adapted From Desserts by the Yard

1 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons fat free half and half
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
2 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon granulated sugar

1. Combine the half and half, heavy cream, and 1/4 cup of the brown sugar in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Whisk the egg yolks with the remaining 1/2 cup brown sugar and granulated sugar in a bowl. When the half and half and cream come to a simmer, remove from the heat and slowly ladle 1/4 cup into the egg yolks while whisking. Once the milk is incorporated into the eggs, whisk the eggs back into the hot milk. Be sure to scrape all the eggs into the pot with a rubber scraper.

2. Place the pan over low heat and immediately begin to stir the custard. Stir until the consistency is like thick cream. The custard is ready when the temperature reaches 180 degrees F.
3. Remove pan from the heat and immediately pour the custard through a fine mesh strainer into another bowl. Place this bowl in an ice bath to cool to custard quickly (and make sure that no water or ice from the bath seeps into the custard bowl!). Once the custard has cooled (about 5-10 mintes) chill it in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.
4. Transfer the cold custard mixture to an ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturers instructions.
5. Transfer the gelato to a freezer container and freeze for 2 hours, or until firm.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Dobos Torte

This is my first month doing the Daring Bakers' Challenge, and it was definitely challenging. I learned some new skills and enjoyed making the torte, so I will undoubtedly be participating in future challenges. 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 Caffes of Vienna, Budapest, and Prague. Enjoy!
Before I started mixing up the cake batter, I traced the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan to make circles on six pieces of parchment paper.
The egg yolks and powdered sugar are beaten until they are pale yellow and the batter forms a thick ribbon when the whisk is lifted above the batter.
The egg whites are beaten until soft peaks form, then the remaining powdered sugar is beaten in until stiff. This mixture is folded into the egg yolk mixture.
The flour and salt are folded in.
The cake batter is spread into the shape of a circle on the parchment paper.
Each layer is baked and the parchment paper is peeled off.
Each cake layer is trimmed into an 8-inch circle. I used the bottom of an 8-inch round cake pan as a template.
Chocolate is chopped for the buttercream.
The eggs and sugar are beaten until pale and thickened.
The egg mixture is then cooked over a double boiler until it begins to thicken.
The chocolate is added to the egg mixture.
While the chocolate mixture cools, the caramel is made.
The caramel is poured over a layer of cake and cut into triangles.
The butter is added to the cooled chocolate mixture to complete the chocolate buttercream.
Each layer of the torte is spread with buttercream.
The sides and top of the torte are then covered with the remaining buttercream.
The caramel triangles are placed on top of the torte.
View from the top.
My husband and I didn't care for the caramel triangles, so I took them off and decorated the cake with grated dark chocolate.