Sunday, May 30, 2010

Chocolate Chip Cookies for Grown-Ups

We all know the Toll House recipe for chocolate chip cookies, and I can guarantee that if you don't know the recipe then at the least you've tried them. So how to put a spin on a classic? Add bourbon. While I admit I was a little nervous about trying this, they were AMAZING!!! The reason for adding the bourbon? They were for a bourbon tasting party hosted by my favorite Kentucky tuba player - Beth McDonald :) She knows good bourbon, and I would definitely recommend using a GOOD bourbon in this recipe. Me? I used Buffalo Trace - its spicier and more robust than other bourbons, and that definitely was apparent in the final product.
My biggest secret with cookies? NEVER bake them for the time called for (unless it seems unreasonably low, in which case the recipe follows my own credo). By underbaking the cookies, you can guarantee that you don't overbake - in fact, even after the cookies have been taken out of the oven, they will continue to cook while cooling. This creates an irresistibly soft cookie.

The recipe I originally found was from a cooking blog called Stephen Cooks - he adapted it form a cake recipe he received from a friend. Yet the original recipe called for raisins and pecans, and I substituted a 12-oz package of semi-sweet chocolate chips. The result was AMAZING!!! I highly recommend this recipe to anyone who loves chocolate chip cookies and is looking for an added twist.

Cinnamon Bourbon Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adapted from StephenCooks!
Makes about 24 cookies

  • 1/2 C sugar
  • 1-1/4 C flour -- sifted
  • 1/2 stick (1/4 C) butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 C bourbon (I used Buffalo Trace)
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1-1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips

  1. Sift the flour and mix with the cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and baking powder. Cream sugar and butter until light and fluffy.
  2. Add eggs, one at a time, making sure each is incorporated before adding the next one. Alternately add bourbon and the flour mixture.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350º F, and chill the batter while oven is preheating.
  4. Scoop small balls of dough 1" apart on a baking sheet using a spoon. Bake for 8 minutes. Cool and serve immediately

Monday, May 17, 2010

What to Do With 6 POUNDS of Peanuts?? The Search for Peanut Recipes, Part 1

We all know that like chocolate, peanuts also give an irresistible outcome to any dessert. Whether in the form of peanut butter, peanut oil, or just plain peanuts, this nut holds an extremely versatile presence in the baking realm. My favorite incorporation of peanut butter in in cheesecakes, as it lends beautifully to the creaminess of the texture. Yet this blog has two desserts that were, in and of themselves, fantastic! They are a Peanut Butter Silk Pie and a Caramel-Peanut-Topped Brownie Cake.

For my recital reception, my mother bought not one but TWO giant containers of Planter's Dry Roasted Peanuts. As aforementioned in a previous blog, the consumption of the recital bars I provided as well as the surplus of cheeses, dips, and other food left me with nearly 6 POUNDS of salted while I like peanuts, this is a rather overwhelming amount, and one that I can hardly begin to fathom finishing in this decade. As such, I have been searching for numerous ways to include them in my baking and cooking creations, as demonstrated in this blog :)

This pie was UNBELIEVABLY delicious! It's so simple, yet the combination of peanut butter, cream cheese, and whipping cream does wonders! The most important part of this pie is to make AT LEAST one day in advance. Trust me, allowing the pie to chill overnight gives it ample time to deepen in flavor and texture.

I have actually made this pie a few times, but the current photos you are seeing omitted the fudge layer (still delicious without it, but had I had more time I definitely would have included as it is WAY worth it!). Make sure to use regular creamy peanut butter, not the organic/natural type as it will be too oily. I used JIFF, a personal favorite. I would also not recommend chunky peanut butter as it might make it tougher to mix it with the cream cheese. I found this recipe on, which has a surprising wealth of recipes from desserts to entrees to cocktails. It's a great sight if you wish to find a variety of options. The only change I made was to add my own recipe for a Graham Cracker crust.

Peanut Butter Silk Pie
Serves 8


Graham Cracker Crust
  • 9 whole graham crackers, coarsely broken
  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted
  • 3-4 tablespoons sugar
Fudge Layer
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate
  • 1/3 cup evaporated milk
  • 1 tablespoon corn syrup
  • 1 heaping tablespoon peanut butter
  • 8 ounces cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 cups whipped topping

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray 9-inch-diameter glass pie dish with nonstick spray.

Crust: Blend graham crackers, melted butter, and sugar in processor until moist clumps form. Press crumb mixture over bottom and up sides of prepared pie dish. Bake crust until lightly browned, about 15 minutes.

Fudge Layer: In a medium saucepan, cook sugar, chocolate, milk, corn syrup together, stirring occasionally, to the soft ball stage (see below), or about 234° to 240° on a candy thermometer. Remove from heat; stir in peanut butter. Beat lightly for a few minutes; pour into bottom of pie crust. Chill thoroughly before filling.

Filling: In a large mixing bowl, beat cream cheese with peanut butter, powdered sugar and milk. Fold in whipped topping until well blended. Spoon into fudge-layered pie crust and garnish with chocolate curls and/or chopped peanuts. Chill thoroughly before serving.

This next cake was purely selected based on the GORGEOUS photos by Celeste on her blog Sugar and Spice. A from-scratch brownie recipe as well as homemade caramel? Count me in! And to top it off, PEANUTS! 1 full cup of them, a perfect way to make a dent in that now 5 lbs of peanuts I still have left over, haha! This particualr post will be the first of my blog where I document more of the actual process rather than just the end result, so all of you can have the chance to enjoy it as well! My favorite baking blogs do this, so it only seems appropriate that I do so as well :)

A brownie recipe from scratch isn't nearly as difficult as it may seem. It doesn't require any appliances, merely a good whisk and a heat proof bowl. The best part of this recipe? Melted Ghirardelli 60% Chocolate.
This recipe doesn't specifically call for Ghirardelli, you can use any variety of bittersweet chocolate. A lesson I've learned when baking with chocolate - always use GOOD chocolate when using in a melted form. Cheaper varieties burn more easily and you end up spending the same amount with having to replace the ingredients in the event they do burn, haha! I'd rather take the foolproof approach and go with a well-made brand. Make sure to constantly stir the chocolate during this process, or else you will end up with burned chocolate afterall. It calls for a heatproof pan, and I always recommend glass above metal, as it is sturdier and will not heat as fast as the metal will.

Making your own caramel can seem to be a scary process, but trust me - like the concept of a homemade brownie recipe, it's not as difficult as it seems. Do be careful, though, as boiling sugar makes it VERY hot and you can easily burn yourself if you don't take caution. Otherwise, it's just a matter of keeping an eye on it and watching for it to turn that beautiful deep amber. And the end result is oh-my-god amazing!

This recipe, while from Celeste's blog, is actually by Dorie Greenspan in her book Baking: From My Home to Yours. I don't own this book (yet) so Celeste's blog was my resource. The only change I made was to use a 9-inch springform pan rather than the 8-inch called for in the recipe. It still took just as much time, but keep an eye on it anyways as cooking times vary from oven to oven. I hope you enjoy it!

Caramel-Peanut-Topped Brownie Cake
Sugar and Spice by Celeste, via Dorie Greenspan
Serves 8 - 10


Brownie Cake:
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
  • 5 oz. bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 3 large eggs
  • ½ cup packed light brown sugar
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Caramel-Peanut Topping:
  • 2 cups sugar
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 ½ tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup salted peanuts

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350° F. Butter an 8-inch springform pan, dust the inside with flour, tap out the excess and line the bottom of the pan with a piece of parchment paper. Place the springform pan on a baking sheet.

Brownie Cake: combine the flour, baking soda and salt in a small bowl; whisk together and set aside. Add the butter and chocolate to a heatproof bowl set over simmering water. Heat, stirring occasionally, until the ingredients are just melted – do not let them get so hot that the butter separates. Remove the bowl from the heat and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugars until well blended. Whisk in the corn syrup, followed by the vanilla. Add in the melted butter and chocolate mixture, and whisk until combined. Gently whisk in the dry ingredients, mixing only until they are just incorporated. The batter should be thick, smooth and shiny. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and jiggle the pan a bit to even out the batter.

Bake for 40-45 minutes or until a thin knife inserted in the center comes out almost clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool for 15 minutes, then run a thin knife between the cake and the pan and carefully remove the sides of the springform. The cake may have puffed up during baking, but don’t be concerned if it develops a crater in the center while cooling. Allow to cool to room temperature. When the cake is totally cool, invert it, remove the base of the pan and peel off the parchment paper. Turn the cake right side up onto a serving platter.

Caramel-Peanut Topping: combine the sugar, water and corn syrup in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, stirring just to combine the ingredients. Place the pan over medium-high heat. Heat, without stirring, until the caramel turns deep amber, 5 to 10 minutes depending on the size of your saucepan and the intensity of the heat. As the sugar is caramelizing, wipe down any splatters on the sides of the pan with a pastry brush dipped in cold water. To test the color of the caramel, drop a bit onto a white plate. Don’t be timid about the color – if it’s too pale, it won’t have much flavor.

Lower the heat a bit and, standing back from the saucepan, add the cream and butter. When the spatters are less vehement, stir to calm down the caramel and dissolve any lumps. Stir in the peanuts and pour the caramel and peanuts into a 1-quart Pyrex measuring cup or a heatproof bowl.

You will have more caramel than you need, but you want to get all of the peanuts onto the cake, so spoon all of the peanuts out of the hot caramel and onto the top of the cake. Pour or spoon enough caramel to cover all the nuts, drizzling a bit over the edges of the cake for presentation. Allow the topping to set at room temperature, about 20 minutes, before serving. Keep the leftover caramel at room temperature and save for another use.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

"Boont? Bundt... Boont? Bundt. BOONT? BUNDT......OH ITS A CAKE"

The visual aesthetic of a Bundt cake removes the need for frosting. As such, this cake has a variety of contexts, whether it be a pound cake or a crumb coffee cake. It is also a cake that is notorious for not coming out of the pan, which is why you have to make sure you oil the pan with a solid vegetable shortening COMPLETELY (all nooks and crannies) then flour. Let it cool completely before removing it from the pan. The two cakes I'm including in this entry are a Chocolate Stout Cake with Chocolate Ganache and a Praline Bundt Cake with Sugared Pecans.

This Cake means business! There are three power ingredients in the recipe. One: CHOCOLATE. Who can ever deny a chocolate cake. Two: STOUT. This gives the cake a greater depth of flavor, and really compliments the chocolate. I used Guinness Extra Stout to really up the game on this one. Three: SOUR CREAM. This provides the cake with an irresistibly moist texture.

I baked this cake for my friend Luke's birthday grill party. The theme of the meal was recipes that incorporate beer, from beer bread to beer barbeque sauce, as Luke is a true beer connoisseur. As such, a stout cake was a seemingly appropriate choice. It was quite the feast!

The original recipe was from Bon Appetit and created a HUGE layer cake. This grill party wasn't expecting that many people, so I had to find an alternative. Thankfully, one of my favorite blogs, Smitten Kitchen, had seen the problem as well and created a reduced version. It was the perfect amount! Not a single guest complained, and people even went back for seconds.

Chocolate Stout Cake with Chocolate Ganache
Smitten Kitchen, adapted from Bon Appetit
Serves 10 - 12


  • 1 cup stout (such as Guinness)

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter

  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch-process)

  • 2 cups all purpose flour

  • 2 cups sugar

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

  • 3/4 teaspoon salt

  • 2 large eggs

  • 2/3 cup sour cream

  • 6 ounces good semisweet chocolate chips

  • 6 tablespoons heavy cream

  • 3/4 teaspoon instant coffee granules

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter or spray a bundt pan well; make sure you get in all of the nooks and crannies. (Some people even go so far as to brush the inside of their bundt pans with melted butter–you cannot be too careful!). Bring 1 cup stout and 1 cup butter to simmer in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add cocoa powder and whisk until mixture is smooth. Cool slightly.

Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, and 3/4 teaspoon salt in large bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat eggs and sour cream in another large bowl to blend. Add stout-chocolate mixture to egg mixture and beat just to combine. Add flour mixture and beat briefly on slow speed. Using rubber spatula, fold batter until completely combined. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Transfer cake to rack; cool completely in the pan, then turn cake out onto rack for drizzling ganache.*

For the ganache, melt the chocolate, heavy cream, and coffee in the top of a double boiler over simmering water until smooth and warm, stirring occasionally. Drizzle over the top of cooled cake.

This second bundt cake had been on my to-bake list for quite some time. When a dinner party was scheduled at my friend Tom's house, I was finally given my chance to bake this cake! As always, he made an AMAZING meal! As for the cake? Praline + sugared pecans = delicious!!! Like the previous cake, we have sour cream as a component to create a moist texture, but added to the mix: cream cheese!!! Talk about soft consistency.

I made literally no changes to this recipe and suggest you do the same - Southern Living knows desserts, especially ones with flavors reminiscent of the South.

Praline Bundt Cake with Praline Icing and Sugared Pecans

Serves 12



  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 (8-oz.) package cream cheese, softened
  • 1 (16-oz.) package dark brown sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 (8-oz.) container sour cream
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Praline Icing

  • 1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Sugared Pecans

  • 1 egg white
  • 4 cups pecan halves (about 1 lb.)
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

Sugared Pecans: Whisk egg white until foamy; add pecans, and stir until evenly coated. Stir together sugars; sprinkle over pecans. Stir gently until pecans are evenly coated. Spread pecans in a single layer in a lightly greased aluminum foil-lined 15- x 10-inch jelly-roll pan.

Bake at 350° for 18 to 20 minutes or until pecans are toasted and dry, stirring once after 10 minutes. Remove from oven, and let cool 30 minutes or until completely cool.

Cake: Arrange 1 cup pecans in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake at 350° for 5 to 7 minutes or until toasted. Cool on a wire rack 15 minutes or until completely cool. Reduce oven temperature to 325°.

Beat butter and cream cheese at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Gradually add brown sugar, beating until well blended. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating just until blended after each addition.

Sift together 2 1/2 cups flour and next 3 ingredients. Add to butter mixture alternately with sour cream, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat batter at low speed just until blended after each addition. Stir in toasted pecans and vanilla. Spoon batter into a greased and floured 12-cup Bundt pan.

Bake at 325° for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until a long wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool cake in pan on a wire rack 15 minutes; remove from pan to wire rack, and let cool 30 minutes or until completely cool.

Praline Icing: Bring first 3 ingredients to a boil in a 2-qt. saucepan over medium heat, whisking constantly; boil 1 minute. Remove from heat; whisk in powdered sugar and vanilla until smooth. Stir gently 3 to 5 minutes or until mixture begins to cool and thickens slightly. Spoon immediately over cooled cake.

Sprinkle top with sugared pecans and enjoy!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

We All Scream for Ice Cream!!!

We all remember our first ice cream cake - the combination of a sweet, rich cake + a refreshing, cold layer of ice cream = delicious! Whether it be a warm summer day sitting on a porch or a birthday celebration while crowded in the kitchen, it is a cake that stirs up wonderful memories of our childhood.

Yet the prospect of making one? We normally leave such feats to Baskin Robbins or Cold Stone. Yet in all honesty, they are not as scary as they may seem. The two cakes I've included here are a Chocolate Malt Ice-Cream Cake and an Anne original (for the first time on this blog!) a Chocolate and Mint Chocolate Chunk Ice Cream Cake with Whipped Cream.

This cake, while based on the picture would seem to be quite the endeavor, is in fact a very simple recipe. All you need is a little time and patience to allow everything to chill and set. The best thing about this cake is it's amazingly versatile and the ingedients can easily be adjusted (for example, rather than maltballs you can substitute Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, or rather than chocolate syrup you can substitute caramel topping).

I baked this cake for my friend Katherine's birthday - needless to say, the excessive presence of chocolate and ice cream was in no way declined by any of the guests.

This is a Betty Crocker recipe, a cookbook that goes back many generations in my family. The most frequented recipes for my mother are from this book. The only (slight) difference I made was to use FRENCH vanilla ice cream rather than regular - the former has a much stronger flavor and is richer as well.

Chocolate Malt Ice-Cream Cake
Serves 12 - 16

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened baking cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar
  • 1 teasponn vanilla
  • 1 cup chocolate fudge topping
  • 1 1/2 quarts (6 cups) vanilla ice cream, slightly softened
  • 2 cups malted milk ball candies, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cups whipping (heavy) cream
  • 1/4 cup chocolate fudge topping
  • Additional malted milk ball candies, if desires
  1. Heat oven to 350ºF. Grease bottom and side of springform pan, 9x3 or 10x2 3/4 inches, with shortening; lightly flour. In large bowl, mix flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda and salt. Add water, oil, vinegar and vanilla. Stir vigorously about 1 minute or until well blended. Immediately pour into pan.
  2. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean. Cool completely, about 1 hour.
  3. Spread 1 cup fudge topping over cake; freeze about 1 hour or until topping is firm. In large bowl, mix ice cream and coarsely chopped candies; spread over cake. Freeze about 4 hours or until ice cream is firm.
  4. In chilled medium bowl, beat whipping cream with electric mixer on high speed until stiff peaks form.
  5. Remove side of pan; place cake on serving plate. Top with whipped cream. Melt 1/4 cup fudge topping; drizzle over whipped cream. Garnish with additional candies.

This next cake was also a birthday cake, this time for my friend Kyle. He requested a mint cake, and chocolate and mint are a "match made in heaven," and I have found the best context for said match to be in ice cream. As such, I endeavored to make my own creation.

Like the previous cake, this one required a lot of time and patience, but this one was ESPECIALLY well-worth the wait. I used the ONLY chocolate cake recipe I trust, and that is Hershey's recipe. The filling is a quart of mint chocolate chunk ice cream, topped with a basic whipped cream topping with chocolate syrup. The birthday celebration was well-attended, and thus this cake was immediately devoured.

Chocolate and Mint Chocolate Chunk Ice Cream Cake
Serves 12-16



  • 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 quart mint chocolate chunk ice cream
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  1. Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round baking pans.
  2. Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin). Pour batter into prepared pans.
  3. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely, then stick in the freezer for 10 minutes. Move the ice-cream to the refigerator.
  4. Once cooled, remove the cake onto a cutting board and carefully cut in half horizontally. Line the pan with plastic wrap, with the edges hanging over.
  5. Transfer the ice-cream to a bowl and stir until it reaches a spreading consistency (if using a plain flavor like vanilla or chocolate, feel free to add in berries, nuts, chocolate chips, etc.)
  6. Transfer botton half of cake bake to plastic-lined pan. Spread the softened ice-cream over this layer, then top with the second half. Wrap the plastic wrap around and over the cake, cover pan with a layer of tin foil, and return to the freezer for atleast 4 hours or up to a day.
  7. When ready to serve, whip the cream with the sugar and top the cake. Sprinkle with the optional toppings.

Two Temptations for Two Celebrations

Normally my birthday cakes, decoration-wise, consist either of topping the cake with chocolate chips, syrup, etc. or covering it with a simple buttercream or cream cheese frosting. Yet these two cakes required a few extra steps in terms of decorating. Each cake was made for a friend's birthday, and both were well worth the extra effort put into these cakes. The two cakes are a Strawberry Basket Cake with Whipped Crème Fraîche Frosting and a Brown Sugar Cake with Dulce de Leche Cake and Almond Praline.

This cake was incredible!!! The cake gets a richness from the sour cream as well as density of flavor from the addition of orange juice and zest. I chose square pans rather than round cake pans to better emulate a basket. It also made the basket weave design (see link at end of recipe) easier than had it had round edges.

I would recommend letting the Whipped Crème Fraîche chill for a little bit. It is not as stiff as buttercream or cream cheese frosting, and is thus difficult to make a basket weave using. I would also recommend making this the whole 8 hours ahead - that way the filling will have time to absorb into the cake and really take up the flavor!

Strawberry Basket Cake with Whipped Crème Fraîche Frosting
Serves 10



  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons grated orange peel
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs

  • 2 12-ounce baskets strawberries
  • 1/3 cup strawberry preserves
Whipped Crème Fraîche

  • 3 cups chilled whipping cream
  • 3/4 cup chilled sour cream
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons grated orange peel
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract


Cake: Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour two 9-inch-diameter cake pans with 2-inch-high sides. Line bottom of pans with parchment paper. Sift first 4 ingredients into medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat butter and 1 cup sugar in large bowl until well blended. Beat in sour cream, orange juice, orange peel and vanilla. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add dry ingredients and beat until well blended. Divide batter between prepared pans; smooth tops.

Bake cakes until light golden and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 28 minutes. Cool cakes in pans on rack 30 minutes. Turn cakes out onto racks and cool completely.

Whipped Crème Fraîche: Using an electric mixer, beat all ingredients in a large bowl until stiff peaks form.

Meanwhile, hull and slice 1 basket strawberries. Place in medium bowl. Add preserves and 2 tablespoons sugar; toss to blend. Let stand at room temperature until juices form, about 2 hours.

Place 1 cake layer, flat side up, on platter. Top with sliced berry mixture in even layer. Spread 1 3/4 cups Whipped Crème Fraîche over berry mixture. Top with second cake layer, flat side down, pressing slightly. To make basket weave, spread 1 1/4 cups Whipped Crème Fraîche over top and sides of cake; then follow directions in the box at right. Or to frost simply, spread all of Whipped Crème Fraîche over top and sides of cake. (Can be made 8 hours ahead. Cover with cake dome and refrigerate.) Mound remaining whole berries in center of cake.

Visit the original recipe to learn How to Pipe a Basket Weave

This cake was uh-mazing! Dulce de Leche makes any dessert 10x better, and this recipe is no exception. The most difficult part of this recipe is the praline. Be careful to not overcook the sugar as it will burn and ruin the mix. As mentioned in the recipe, use a fork, NOT you fingers to rearrange the almonds once you have poured the sugar mixture on top of them.

This recipe comes from another blog I follow called Bake and Shake. She mentions that the praline was not a favorite by her guest given that it was too sharp too eat, but when I served this everyone loved it! I may have made my pieces a little smaller as well. Also, she purchased a can of Dulce de Leche whereas I made my own (click here to see David Lebovitz's recipe, the only one I've used and trust). She also replaces buttermilk with a combination of milk and cream. When I made this, I just used 1/2 cup of regular whole milk + 2 tsp distilled white vinegar. Other than that, prepare yourself for an amazing dessert experience!!!

Brown Sugar Cake with Dulce de Leche and Almond Praline
Serves 8 - 10



  • 1 stick salted butter, melted and cooled

  • 1 cup packed Dark Brown sugar

  • ½ cup buttermilk (or ¼ cup milk, ¼ cup cream and two teaspoons of apple cider vinegar)

  • 2 teaspoons baking powder

  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt

  • 1 ½ cups AP flour

  • 2 large eggs

  • ½ teaspoon almond extract

  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract


  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar

  • 1/3 cup cold water

  • ¾ cup almonds, toasted and roughly chopped


  • 1 cup heavy cream

  • 3 oz cream cheese

  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

  • ¼ teaspoon almond extract

  • 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar

  • 1/3 cup (heaping) of powdered sugar

  • 1 14 oz can prepared Dulce de Leche


Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Put on a shirt with long sleeves, and fill a large bowl with cold water.

In a small saucepan (with high sides) over medium heat, melt the sugar and water together until the mixture is clear and all sugar granules have dissolved. Bring to a rapid simmer and continue cooking for at least eight minutes (it took me longer, it may take you less time to reach that state), swirling the pan gently, until the sugar turns golden or light-amber, if you prefer – once the mixture has turned from yellow to gold, remove from the heat immediately – carry-over cooking can turn caramel from golden to completely burnt.

Pour the caramel over the chopped almonds, and use a fork (NOT YOUR FINGERS) to rearrange the almonds if needed. Leave to cool completely.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour one 9-inch round cake pan. Whisk together the sugar, eggs, salt. vanilla and almond extracts until smooth. Add the flour and baking soda, and stir just until combined. Pour in the butter, and whisk until batter has absorbed it all. Then add the buttermilk and whisk again, until the batter has absorbed all of the liquid.

Pour into the prepped pan, and bake for 25-30 minutes, until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Remove from the oven and cool in-pan for ten minutes, then turn out onto a rack and cool completely.

Chill the whisk/beaters/etc. and bowl you’ll be using for at least 15 minutes.Pour the cream and granulated sugar into the bowl, and whisk or whip until medium-stiff peaks form. Add the vanilla and almond extracts, and whip until combined. Transfer to a different bowl, and set aside.

Cream the powdered sugar and cream cheese together until smooth. Add 1/3 of the whipped cream, and beat together – this will lighten the cream cheese and make it easier to combine with the whipped cream. Switch to a spatula, and add the rest of the whipped cream. Fold the two mixtures together completely.

Split the completely cooled cake with a serrated knife, and pipe a border of frosting around the perimeter. Spread the Dulce de Leche within the boundaries, in an even layer, and place the second layer on top. Smooth the rest of the frosting over the top and sides.

Using a mezzuluna, your hands, or a long, large chef’s knife, crack the praline into small pieces. Press against the side of the cake, and scatter any extra over the top.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Setting the "Bar" High for Recital Receptions

Receptions are my number one venue for baking aside from birthday celebrations. I tend to lean towards cookies and bars for these events so distribution can be more easily achieved for a larger group. For my recital, I baked two sets of bars that were oh so good! I transported them to the recital in tupperware and plastic wrap (another reason for choosing bars and cookies over cakes). The two bars I made were Dulce de Leche Brownies and Chewy Toffee Blondies.

These brownies were devoured in no time at all. The combination of chocolate and homemade dulce de leche was an irresistible result. These brownies should be made the day ahead of time to allow the dulce de leche to set as well as time for enhancing the flavor.

This recipe comes frm one of my favorite pastry chefs, David Lebovitz. The recipe calls for 1 cup of Dulce de Leche. You can either make you own or buy it at a store. Here is a link for making you own Dulce de Leche. He uses the oven method rather than the stovetop one as it is much safer as well as more consistent. I also omitted the optional pecans/walnuts. These brownies will keep, stored in tupperware, for up to 3 days.

Dulce de Leche Brownies
Yields: 12 brownies


  • 8 tablespoons (115g) salted or unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 6 ounces (170g) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped

  • 1/4 cup (25g) unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 3 large eggs

  • 1 cup (200g) sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 1 cup (140g) flour
  • 1 cup (100 g) toasted pecans or walnuts, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup Dulce de Leche (or Cajeta)

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (175 C).
  2. Line a 8-inch (20 cm) square pan with a long sheet of aluminum foil that covers the bottom and reaches up the sides. If it doesn't reach all the way up and over all four sides, cross another sheet of foil over it, making a large cross with edges that overhang the sides. Grease the bottom and sides of the foil with a bit of butter or non-stick spray.
  3. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Add the chocolate pieces and stir constantly over very low heat until the chocolate is melted. Remove from heat and whisk in the cocoa powder until smooth. Add in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the sugar, vanilla, then the flour. Mix in the nuts, if using.
  4. Scrape half of the batter into the prepared pan. Here comes the fun part.
Drop one-third of the Dulce de Leche, evenly spaced, over the brownie batter, then drag a knife through to swirl it slightly. Spread the remaining brownie batter over, then drop spoonfuls of the remaining Dulce de Leche in dollops over the top of the brownie batter. Use a knife to swirl the Dulce de Leche slightly.
  5. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes. The brownies are done when the center feels just-slightly firm. Remove from the oven and cool completely.

The second type of bar I made was Chewy Toffee Blondies. I LOVE blondies! Granted, they are basically brown sugar bars but that in itself makes them delicious. Like brownies, you can add pretty much anything you want to them (such as nuts, chocolate, etc). This recipe is from another blog I like to follow called Not Derby Pie. She adopted this recipe from Dorie Greenspan. I omitted the last 2 ingredients as she did (coconut and walnuts) and used butterscotch chips. These bars were still perfectly moist, but naturally the brownies overshadowed them at my recital reception.

Chewy Toffee Blondies
Yields: 32 bars


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour

  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature

  • 1 1/2 cups (packed) light brown sugar

  • 1/2 cup sugar

  • 2 large eggs

  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

  • 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped into chips, or 1 cup store-bought chocolate chips

  • 1 cup butterscotch chips or Heath Toffee Bits
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
  • 1 cup sweetened shredded coconut (optional)

  1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Butter a 9×13-inch baking pan and put it on a baking sheet.
  2. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  3. In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle or using a hand mixer, beat the butter on medium speed until smooth and creamy. Add both sugars and beat for another 3 minutes, until well incorporated. Add the eggs one by one, beating for 1 minute after each addition, then beat in the vanilla. Turn the mixer to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing just until they disappear into the batter. Using a rubber spatula, stir in the chips, nuts and coconut, if using. Scrape the batter into the buttered pan and use the spatula to even the top as best you can.
  4. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center of the blondies comes out clean. The blondies should pull away from the sides of the pan a little and the top should be a nice honey brown. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool for about 15 minutes before turning the blondies out onto another rack. Invert onto a rack and cool the blondies to room temperature right side up.
With my teacher, Renee Krimsier, after the recital

Luck of the Irish - Bailey's and Baking

Even for those who don't generally find themselves keen to the taste of liquor, Bailey's is one spirit that is still undeniable sweet. As such, it can easily find its way into baking recipes. I have used it twice in baking, and both times provided amazing results! The two cakes in this blog are a Bailey's Irish Cream Chocolate Chip Cheesecake and an Irish Cream Cake with Pecan Cream Cheese Frosting (roll back in those tongues ladies and gentlemen, haha!)

Here it is: the holy grail of cheesecakes. I can promise you that this cheesecake will be devoured within a day, whether by a group of people or by yourself. This cheesecake was unbelievably good, and certainly appropriate for special occasions. I made this for a small get-together at my place, and it was an immediate hit.

I omitted the pecans from the crust (one friend of mine is allergic to nuts) and removed the creamy centers from the Oreo cookies prior to crushing them for the crust. I also didn't make the Coffee Cream Topping (the cake solo was perfect!) but feel free to do so. Make sure to keep an eye on this cake to prevent overcooking. You want it to have just the right creamy consistency.

Bailey's Irish Cream Chocolate Chip Cheesecake
Serves 8 - 10

For Crust:
  • 1/2 cup toasted pecans, cooled and crushed
  • 2 cups chocolate Oreo cookie crumbs
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 6 tablespoons melted butter
For Filling:
  • 2 1/4 lbs cream cheese, at room temp
  • 1 2/3 cups sugar
  • 5 eggs, at room temp
  • 1 cup baileys original irish cream
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
Coffee Cream Topping
  • 1 cup chilled whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 teaspoon instant coffee powder
  • chocolate curls or Skor English toffee bits, for decoration on top

Crust: Mix all ingredients. Press into a 10" spring form pan and up the sides one inch. Bake at 325 for 7-10 minute.
Filling: Beat cream cheese with electric mixer until smooth. Beat sugar in gradually, and then add eggs one at a time. Blend in Bailey's and vanilla. Sprinkle half of chocolate chips over crust. Spoon in filling. Sprinkle with remaining chocolate chips. Bake at 325 degrees approximately 1 hour and 20 minutes or until puffed, springy in center and golden brown. Place a pan of water on bottom rack of oven while baking to keep it moist. Cool cake completely.

Coffee Cream Topping: Beat all ingredients and spread over cooled cake. Top with chocolate curls or Skor bits.

*NOTE: Be sure to make and refrigerate at least one day before serving.

This second cake was made for a friend's birthday who just happens to be Irish. It was only to appropriate to include Bailey's in the process. Yet unlike the cheesecake, the alcohol does NOT cook out of this recipe. The liquor is spread (liberally) over the cooled cake layers and absorbed into them. As such, this is definitely a cake for parties and not recommended for children. We didn't have birthday candles, so we had to improvise.

The flavor of this cake isn't as reliant on the Bailey's as both a butterscotch filling and a rich cream cheese frosting also enhance the overall experience. While these three components are rich, the cake itself is actually quite light and enjoyable.

I haven't mentioned this in previous posts, but I never actually purchase buttermilk when a cake recipe calls for it. If I did, I would have an entire carton that would go bad in practically a week and have to frantically find a way to use it (not a fan of drinking it, like my Stepdad is haha!). So here is my solution: 1 cup buttermilk = 1 cup whole milk + 1 tbsp distilled white vinegar OR lemon juice. Let the mixture sit for 5 minutes and voila! You have "soured milk," or buttermilk.

Irish Cream Cake
Serves 12


  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 2 cups DOMINO Granulated Sugar
  • 5 large eggs, separated
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup Irish cream liqueur
  • 3/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted
  • 14 pecan halves, toasted
Butterscotch Filling
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed DOMINO Brown Sugar
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup milk, divided
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Cream Cheese Frosting
  • 1 (8-ounce) package PHILADELPHIA Cream Cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 (16-ounce) package DOMINO 10-X Confectioners Sugar, unsifted

Cake: Preheat oven to 350°. Beat butter and shortening at medium speed with an electric mixer until fluffy; gradually add granulated sugar, beating well. Add egg yolks, 1 at a time, beating until blended after each addition. Add vanilla extract, beating until blended.

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.

Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form; fold into batter. Pour batter into 3 greased and floured 9-inch round cakepans. Bake at 350° for 25 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire racks 10 minutes; remove from pans, and cool completely on wire racks.
Butterscotch Filling: Stir together brown sugar and butter in a heavy saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly, until sugar melts and mixture is blended. Stir in 1/2 cup milk until blended.

Whisk together remaining milk, flour, and salt; stir into brown sugar mixture, and cook, whisking constantly, over medium heat 5 minutes or until thickened. Gradually add eggs, and cook, whisking constantly, 2 minutes. Remove from heat, and let cool. Stir in pecans and vanilla.

Cream Cheese Frosting: Beat first 3 ingredients with an electric mixer until creamy. Add confectioners’ sugar, beating at low speed until blended. Beat at high speed until smooth.

Brush cake layers evenly with liqueur. Spread half of Butterscotch Filling between each cake layer; spread Cream Cheese Frosting on top and sides of cake. Gently press chopped pecans onto sides of cake; arrange pecan halves on top.