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Mrs. P.L. Travers

The Oscars are on tonight, and that means the last of the 12 Days of Oscar over here.  Today’s film is only nominated for one Oscar, and many agree that it should have been nominated for more.  Saving Mr. Banks is nominated for Best Original Score.  If you haven’t seen it- and you really should- Saving Mr. Banks tells the story of Walt Disney’s pursuit of the film rights to Mary Poppins.  Mary Poppins author P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson) is reluctant to let Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) turn her book into a film and in the course of her negotiations with Disney, we learn about her childhood as well.

During what becomes a series of meetings, Walt Disney’s secretary routinely wheels carts of food into the meeting rooms.  Travers objects nearly every time that this is too much food, and at one point tells Dolly (Melanie Paxson) to turn the cart full of food right back around and to not leave it in the room.  More than once we see plates full of doughnuts and other sweets:

Yes, those are Hostess Sno-Balls on that tray.  Chocolate cupcakes with a cream filling covered in marshmallow and rolled in pink coconut- it doesn’t get much more “spoonful of sugar” than this.  Sitting in the theater watching this movie, I knew this was the perfect excuse to make my own Sno Balls at home.  They are more time consuming that I previously thought, definitely more of a kitchen marathon than a sprint, but they are well worth it.

sno balls

Sno Balls

Ingredients:

for the cupcakes:

  • 2 oz. unsalted butter
  • 5 oz. sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 egg
  • 3 oz. all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1 oz. cocoa powder, sifted
  • 5 oz. buttermilk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

for the marshmallow coating:

  • 1/2 oz. gelatin
  • 10 oz. water, divided
  • 7 oz. corn syrup
  • 18 oz. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

for cream filling:

  • 6 oz. heavy whipping cream

for coconut topping:

  • 8 oz. unsweetened coconut flakes
  • red food coloring

Directions:

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Lightly grease a cupcake pan and set it aside.

Cream together the butter, sugar, salt, baking soda and baking powder for 3 minutes in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment.

Add the egg and mix for 1 minute until fully incorporated.

With the mixer on low speed, add in the flour all at once, then add the cocoa powder.

Drizzle in the buttermilk and vanilla.

Continue mixing just until combined.

Divide the batter evenly among the 12 cavities of the prepared pan.

Bake for 12 minutes.

Cool for at least 2 hours before filling and frosting.

Make the marshmallow coating and filling by combining the gelatin with 5 oz. of the water in a small bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Stir with a fork to ensure there are no lumps of gelatin, then set aside.

In a medium pot, combine the remaining water, corn syrup, and sugar over medium heat.

Stir gently with a spatula to make sure the sugar dissolves.

Cook until the mixture reaches 240 degrees on a candy thermometer, then shut off the heat and let the mixture cool to 210 degrees.

Once the mixture has cooled to 210 degrees add the sugar syrup to the gelatin mixture and whip on low speed until the gelatin has fully dissolved.

Increase the speed to medium high and whip until light, fluffy, and tripled in bulk.

With the mixer running, add in the salt and vanilla.

Using a spatula, transfer all but 4 oz. of the mixture to a pastry bag and set aside.

Return the remaining 4 oz. of fluff to the mixer and set to low speed.

Add the cream all at once and continue mixing for another minute. The fluff and cream will have a broken appearance.

Increase the speed to medium and continue whipping until they gradually become homogeneous, then increase the speed to medium high and beat the mixture until stiff.

Transfer the mixture to a piping bag fitted with a large star tip and refrigerate until needed.

Release the cupcakes from the pan and place them upside-down on a parchment paper lined baking pan.

Use a paring knife to poke a small hole in the bottom of each cupcake.

Using the piping bag filled with the whipped cream mixture, insert the star tip about 1″ into the cupcake and pipe one good squeeze (about 3/4 oz.) of filling into each cupcake.

Take the bag of marshmallow fluff and hold it directly above a cupcake.

Pipe a generous amount of marshmallow onto the top of the cupcake so that it flows down the sides of the cupcake and encases it.

Repeat until all cupcakes are covered in marshmallow.

Tint the coconut by putting the coconut into the work bowl of a food processor.

Add a few drops of red food coloring and process the mixture for 30 seconds, check for color and add more food coloring if necessary, then process for another 30 seconds.

Coat each cupcake generously with coconut and let sit for 1 hour.

Use a paring knife or round cookie cutter to trim away any excess marshmallow from around the bottom of the sno ball.

Roll the newly exposed edge of the sno ball in the pink coconut.

Source: Serious Eats

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Snow Waltz

Day four of the Sochi Winter Olympics saw the U.S. take its second gold medal when snowboarder Jamie Anderson won gold for the first-ever women’s slopestyle event.  Bode Miller finished eighth in the men’s downhill ski competition while Austrian Matthias Mayer took gold in the event.  Russia took the first-ever gold medal in the team figure skating competition while Canada took silver and the U.S. took bronze.

Today, we look back to the 1964 Winter Olympics at Innsbruck, Austria.  Faced with an unseasonable lack of snow, the Austrian Army transported ice and snow from the mountain down to the luge and bobsled tracks and Alpine ski slopes.  After it then poured rain ten days before the Opening Ceremonies, the troops packed down the snow by stomping on it.  Timing in Alpine ski events was calculated to hundredths of a second for the first time.

sachertorte cut

You’d be hard pressed to find many desserts that come bearing a certificate of authenticity, unless that dessert is a Sachertorte.  Sachertorte is an Austrian dessert consisting of chocolate cake layered with apricot jam and covered in chocolate ganache.  Invented in Vienna at the Hotel Sacher, Sachertorte is available in Innsbruck at the Cafe Sacher where you can either enjoy it by the slice or take home a whole cake in a wooden crate accompanied by the previously mentioned certificate of authenticity.  There has been a long legal battle over use of the term “The Original” where Sachertorte is concerned.  If you make this, I promise you will be way too distracted by its awesomeness to concern yourself with a lawsuit of any kind.

sachertorte

Sachertorte

Ingredients:

for the cake:

  • 6 oz. bittersweet chocolate, cut into small pieces
  • 3 oz. butter
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 4 oz. sugar, divided
  • 5 egg whites
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/3 C. flour, sifted

for the apricot filling:

  • 1 1/2 C. apricot preserves
  • 1 Tbsp. brandy

for the chocolate ganache:

  • 6 oz. bittersweet chocolate, cut into small pieces
  • 1 oz. butter
  • 2 oz. heavy cream

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Butter and flour a 9″ round cake pan that is at least 2″ deep (I used a springform pan).

In a bowl, combine the chocolate and butter and melt over a double boiler.

Set the mixture aside to cool.

In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg yolks and 1 oz. of the sugar until light.

Beat in the chocolate mixture.

In a separate bowl, beat the salt and egg whites until soft peaks form.

Slowly add the remaining 3 oz. of sugar and continue to beat until the egg whites form stiff peaks.

Carefully fold the flour into the beaten egg whites.

Fold 1/3 of the egg white mixture into the chocolate mixture.

Fold the remaining egg white mixture into the chocolate mixture, combining thoroughly.

Pour the mixture into the prepared cake pan.

Bake for 40 minutes, or until a paring knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

Remove the cake from the oven and set on a wire rack to cool.

To make the apricot filling, puree the apricot preserves in a blender and then stir in the brandy.

When the cake is completely cool, slice the cake horizontally into 3 even layers.

Spread 1/2 of the apricot filling onto the bottom layer and top with the middle layer.

Spread the remaining half of the apricot filling onto the middle layer, then top with the last layer of cake.

Put into the refrigerator to chill for at least 30 minutes.

To make the chocolate ganache, combine the chocolate and butter in a bowl and melt over a double boiler.

In a small saucepan bring the cream to a boil.

Stir the cream into the melted chocolate and whisk until the mixture is smooth and combined.

Cool the chocolate mixture until it reaches a spreadable consistency.

Spread the chocolate ganache over the top and down the sides of the cake.

Chill the cake for another 30 minutes before serving.

Serve sliced with whipped cream.

Makes 8-10 servings depending on slice size.

Source: Wolfgang Puck

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Baseball Is Fun

I hope that everyone had a happy and safe Memorial Day and above all that they kept in mind the men and women who serve in our Armed Forces.  We had a marathon of a weekend that included seeing the Class of 2013 graduate from the United States Military Academy at West Point.  It was a touching ceremony and there are hardly enough words to express my gratitude for the things the men and women of our Armed Forces do and the sacrifices they make.  I’ll talk more about graduation and our weekend in another post, but for right now it’s time to talk about the start of our weekend, O’s six birthday.

With the busy weekend we had ahead of us, it would have been pretty easy to just hand O any cake and skip the special dinner.  I was let off of the hook easily when he insisted on Moe’s for dinner so that freed up some time to plan and execute a special birthday cake.  When I asked O what kind of cake he might like to have to celebrate turning six, he answered “chocolate!” without hesitation.  What I was really interested in knowing is what he’d like that chocolate cake to look like.  For his fifth birthday, I made him a Perry the Platypus cake that he’s still talking about.  Note to self: Perry the Platypus is a tough act to follow.  O’s sixth birthday cake demand was simple.  “I want a New York cake with baseball and New York, with chocolate and with baseball.”  I should mention that now that he’s playing baseball, baseball is his life.  Well, baseball and Star Wars and all things Lego.

I thought of a few different ways to make him a baseball cake.  When I decided on a baseball field, marshmallow fondant immediately came to mind.  We all know fondant.  That stuff we peel off of a wedding or other fancy cake in order to make that cake edible, that’s fondant.  Fondant makes any cake look gorgeous, but it isn’t exactly delicious.  Marshmallow fondant is the best of both worlds.  It gives a cake the same smooth, polished look that fondant accomplishes, except it’s actually edible.  I find it quite tasty, and I’m glad that the three other people who sampled this cake did as well.  Marshmallow fondant can be a little tricky to make, but I find it easy to work with, and much easier than smoothing buttercream to accomplish the same look.  Throughout the tutorial below are some handy tips, but the one I stress the most is to grease all of the hands, utensils, and surfaces that will come into contact with your fondant really, really well.  Most methods I’ve seen call for greasing with shortening, but I’ve used butter the past few times I’ve made this and I like the results better.  Grease everything, I mean it.

yankees cake with banner

Marshmallow Fondant

Ingredients:

  • 16 oz. mini-marshmallows
  • 2 Tbsp. water
  • 1-2 lbs. confectioner’s sugar, sifted
  • flavorings or extracts of your choice (optional)
  • food coloring of your choice (optional, unless you want fondant in colors other than white)
  • butter or shortening (amount depends on surfaces that need greasing, but plan on at least 1/4 lb.)

Directions:

Grease a large, microwave-safe bowl.

Combine the marshmallows and water in the prepared bowl.

Microwave the marshmallow mixture in 30 second increments, stirring after each increment, until the marshmallows have puffed up and are soupy (about 2-3 minutes of microwaving, but please don’t microwave all at once or you risk burning the mixture quickly).

fondant 1

Once the mixture is melted, stir in 1-2 tsp. of desired extract.  Extracts or flavorings are completely optional, but I do think a little vanilla extract goes a long way here.

If you only need one color of fondant, you can add the food coloring after you’ve melted the marshmallows, but make the mixture considerably darker than you want the final product as the confectioner’s sugar will lighten the mixture up considerably.  I needed mainly green, so I put about 2 C. of the white melted marshmallow mixture into a separate greased bowl and added the green food coloring to the remaining marshmallow mixture.  If you color the mixture at this point, make it darker than you’d like the final product to be, because the confectioner’s sugar will lighten the mixture considerably.  You can also color the fondant later, as described below.

Grease the bowl of a stand mixer, and grease and attach the dough hook attachment.  To make the fondant without a stand mixer, grease a spatula and use that to stir in the confectioner’s sugar.  Stirring by hand is slow-going, but it is possible.

Place about 1/2 of the confectioner’s sugar into the greased work bowl of a stand mixer and make a well in the center.

Pour the marshmallow mixture into the well.

Knead on low speed until the sugar is mostly incorporated.

When the mixture begins to stick to the sides of the work bowl, add an additional 1 C. of confectioner’s sugar and continue to knead the mixture using the dough hook.

You may or may not need to add more confectioner’s sugar at this point.  Depending on the humidity in your area and a few other factors, you may need to add more powdered sugar, 1 C. at a time, kneading with the dough hook after each addition, to your fondant. The finished consistency should be the consistency of modeling clay, smooth, and thick.

fondant 2

If at any point in this part of the process, you notice your stand mixer starting to slow down or hesitate, remove the mixture to a greased work surface and continue to knead in the confectioner’s sugar using greased hands until the desired consistency is reached.  Do not burn out your stand mixer’s motor by pushing it too far, the fondant mixture can get very heavy depending on how much sugar you have to add to it.

fondant 3

Form the fondant into a smooth ball, grease the ball lightly with butter or shortening, and wrap the ball of fondant tightly in two layers of plastic wrap, then place into a resealable plastic bag.  Smooth the air out of the bag, seal it, and let the fondant rest at least overnight before using it.

Divide your fondant according to your best guess as to how much of each color you will need, if you didn’t color the fondant earlier in the process.  In this case, I needed mainly green for the field and a small amount of white for the baseball so I colored it earlier in the process.  If you need multiple colors, wait until the fondant is mixed and then divide up the fondant and color it now.

To color the mixture once it’s fondant, take the amount of fondant that you need to color, shape it into a ball and flatten it slightly on a well-greased surface (I strongly suggest using a pastry mat or taping down waxed/ parchment paper so that you don’t dye your counter or table inadvertently).  Add gel food coloring to the center of the flattened ball of fondant, and knead the color in using greased hands (I also suggest using gloves because no matter how careful you are, you are going to get food coloring on your hands).  The mixture will first have a marbled effect, but with continued kneading the color will be uniform throughout the fondant.  Add more color as necessary until desired color is achieved.

To roll out the fondant, grease a work space and grease a rolling pin.  Roll the fondant out to about 1/4 inch thickness.  If the fondant you’re rolling will cover an entire cake (like the two 9-inch square cakes stacked below), try to roll the fondant out in that shape (so a large square for square cakes, a large circle for round cakes).  It doesn’t need to be perfect, it just makes it slightly easier to gauge whether or not you have enough fondant to cover the surface.

Spread a layer of frosting over the entire surface of the cake you’ll be covering.  The frosting shouldn’t be too lumpy, but it doesn’t need to be perfectly smooth.

Very carefully lift the fondant off of the work space and lay it on top of the frosting, lightly smoothing the fondant with greased hands if necessary.  Carefully press the fondant to the sides of the cake as well.  Use a sharp knife to trim off any excess fondant around the edges of the cake.  Use greased fingers to lightly press the fondant down where the cake and fondant meet the serving plate so that the cake has a nice smooth bottom edge.  Alternately, you can pipe decorative frosting around the bottom of the cake to hide this seam.

Continue to mix additional fondant colors as needed, and make fondant details as desired.  Cookie cutters or a sharp knife work well to cut out fondant shapes.  You can also pipe on decorations using frosting.  It is difficult to get candy to stick to this fondant, so if you’re adding candy (or cocoa mix like I used for the dirt on this cake) details, I suggest securing them with frosting.

ny yankees birthday cake

Making the baseball cake:

To make the baseball cake, I baked two 9-inch square chocolate cakes and gave them a quick coating of my favorite buttercream, with a layer of buttercream in between the layers.  I baked the baseball by scooping about 1 C. of cake batter into a small glass prep bowl (oven safe!) and coated that in buttercream as well.

I then mixed the fondant and after letting it rest overnight, separated about 1/8 of the fondant to leave white and colored the rest green using Wilton gel food coloring in Kelley green.  I rolled out the white fondant and used that to cover the baseball, tucking the edges underneath.  I used black and royal blue food coloring to make the navy frosting to pipe on the NY Yankees logo, then mixed red food coloring with frosting to use for piping on the baseball laces.

I rolled out the green fondant and used that to cover the stacked square cakes as described above.  I then secured the baseball to the square cake using toothpicks to keep it secure.

Next, I secured 4 flat, square marshmallows (these are by Jet-Puffed) using frosting to the corners of the cake, for bases.  The “dirt” is instant cocoa mix, which I sprinkled carefully in between two pieces of card stock that I used as stencils (next time, I would frost this and then sprinkle on the cocoa).

Source: cake design Diana Dishes original, marshmallow fondant adapted from techniques and instructions found at Cake Journal and Annie’s Eats

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Well Done Girl

Last week, the Youth Advisory Council in our town celebrated “Positive Choices Week.”  Various events were held to promote making positive choices, including avoiding drugs and alcohol.  We were very excited to be guests at the award ceremony the Council held last Thursday, where M was recognized as the pencil slogan winner.  Her slogan, “A Positive Attitude = A Positive Life,” was printed on pencils that will be handed out at Council events and to all of the students at her school.  This comes on the heels of having one of her art class projects selected for display at the town-wide school art show.  Previous school years have been a little rough, but this year she has blossomed and takes both her school work and her friendships very seriously and has excelled.  This year, we have emphasized that it is better to be recognized for positive contributions and for doing your best than it is to be recognized for being the class clown.  M is an incredibly bright, sensitive, creative girl and it is wonderful that her peers and teachers can focus on that instead of calling home to say “can we get your kid to stop dancing in the middle of class and losing her school supplies?”  Setting clear expectations has helped M show everyone the things she has always been capable of, and we’re so glad to see her shine.  M has really risen to the occasion this year, and there aren’t enough ways to remind her how proud of her we are.

Cupcakes are a good start.  We wanted to have a little celebration to recognize her accomplishments so I made cupcakes.  I wanted to pick a flavor that I knew she would love, which meant no chocolate cake.  Any time we go out for a meal, both kids want lemonade (“We don’t have to have milk? Now it’s a party!”) so as soon as the thought of lemonade cupcakes came about, there was no choice that seemed more perfect.  As a bonus for M, the frosting is pink and so these screamed “Haha, my little brother didn’t get to pick the flavor!”  This was important, as she was the guest of honor at this little cupcake party.  If you love lemonade like these two do, these are the cupcakes for you.  The cupcake is moist and full of lemon flavor, and the pink lemonade frosting gives these a great sweetness.  Even if these two drink lemonade even when it’s so tart it’s like sucking on lemon wedges (which they’ve been know to do  . . .), the cupcakes are a nice balance of tart and sweet, like a perfect glass of fresh lemonade.

pink lemonade cupcake

Lemonade Cupcakes with Pink Lemonade Frosting

Ingredients:

for the cupcakes:

  • 1/2 C. (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 C. sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract (or 1 tsp. vanilla extract, 1 tsp. lemon extract)
  • 1 1/2 C. all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 C. milk
  • zest and juice of two medium lemon

for the frosting:

  • 1 C. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3-4 C. confectioner’s sugar
  • 1/4 C. heavy cream
  • 2 Tbsp. lemon juice (or 2 tsp. lemon extract)
  • red food coloring (optional)

Directions:

Heat the oven to 350 degrees and line a 12 cavity muffin pan with paper liners and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large mixing bowl using a hand mixer) beat the butter and sugar together on medium speed for 2-3 minutes until creamed.

Add the eggs and vanilla and beat for 2 minutes until combined.

In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking powder, and salt.

Slowly add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, stirring to combine after each addition (batter will be thick).

Add the milk, lemon zest, and lemon juice and mix just until combined.

Pour the batter evenly into the cupcake liners (I use an ice cream scoop and fill each cavity about 1/2 to 2/3 full).

Bake for 18-20 minutes, checking at 18 minutes to see if a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely on wire racks before frosting.

To make the frosting, beat the butter on medium speed in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment (or in a large mixing bowl with a hand mixer).

Beat for 3-4 minutes until the butter is smooth and fluffy.

Add 3 C. of the powdered sugar, cream, lemon juice or extract, and salt.

Increase the mixer speed to high and beat for 3 minutes.

If the frosting is too thin, add remaining powdered sugar a small amount at a time, beating after each addition.  If the frosting is too thick, add more cream in small amounts, beating after each addition, until the frosting reaches your desired consistency.  I like to pipe the frosting onto the cupcake, so I need mine a little thicker than I would if I were going to spread it on top instead.

If using, beat in the food coloring (add no more than 1-2 drops or a very small amount at a time, a little red food coloring tends to go a long way) until desired shade of pink is reached.

Frost the cooled cupcakes (I frosted these by fitting a resealable bag with a Wilton #32 decorator tip and piping it onto each cupcake).

Makes 12 cupcakes (you may have leftover frosting depending on how much frosting you like on each cupcake).

Source: adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction

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Caramel City

You know a cake is good when you send a text message asking if it would be completely wrong to eat the whole thing and then tell our guests we’re dieting and didn’t make a cake.  Then, maybe upon being told that it would be wrong, you reply by asking just how wrong.  Yes, that actually happened, and yes, the cake is that good.  While I loved Lane’s first birthday cake this year, I loved this one just a teensy bit more.  I loved the actual cake portions equally, which isn’t surprising as they are pretty similar.  After tasting the salted caramel buttercream for this cake, the competition was over and this cake was the clear winner.

Making caramel is easier than it seems, but it requires vigilance.  There is one simple rule to making caramel- do NOT leave the stove, for any reason, not even for one fraction of a second.  One fraction of a second can be all it takes for the sugar to burn and then you have to start from the beginning.  Other than that, it’s simple and when you taste this frosting, you’ll agree that roughly fifteen minutes of hovering over a stove is a very small price to pay for frosting this amazing.  The cake is moist and and has a hint of almond flavor but doesn’t compete with the frosting at all.  In general when making cakes, I’m sure to measure dry ingredients by spooning them into a measuring cup until the ingredient is overflowing the cup and then leveling off with a straight edge.  If the recipe says I should measure differently, then I follow that but if the recipe doesn’t specify then this is the method I use.  The original recipe for the cake stressed that the “spoon and level” method was the way to measure flour, and that’s important.  Too much flour and the cake will be dry, and one of this cake’s best features is that it’s a moist cake.  Too little flour and the cake may collapse.  A second feature I loved about this cake was that it didn’t collapse, so please take the few extra seconds and spoon the flour into a measuring cup, okay?  When I first found the frosting recipe, it accompanied a chocolate cake recipe and I’m using my desire to try that combination as an excuse to make this frosting again.  Soon.

vanilla almond cake with salted caramel buttercream

Vanilla Almond Cake with Salted Caramel Buttercream Frosting

Ingredients:

for the cake:

  • 2 C. all-purpose flour, spooned into measuring cup and leveled-off with a straight edge
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 12 Tbsp. (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 C. granulated sugar
  • 6 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 3/4 C.  whole milk, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp. almond extract

for the salted caramel (needed to make the frosting):

  • 1 C. sugar
  • 4 Tbsp. water
  • 2 Tbsp. light corn syrup
  • 1/2 C. heavy cream
  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 1/2 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp. salt, kosher or sea

for the salted caramel buttercream frosting:

  • 1 C. (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 3-4 C. sifted powdered sugar
  • 1 C. salted caramel (ingredients above, instructions below)

Directions:

Heat the oven to 350 degrees and position a rack in the center of the oven.

Grease two 9-inch cake pans with butter or spray with non-stick cooking spray, then line the bottom of each pan with a 9-inch round of parchment paper (trace the bottom of the pan, then cut out the 9-inch circle).  Spray the parchment lining with non-stick cooking spray or grease with butter.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.

Put the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on medium speed for 5 minutes, until light and fluffy.

Beat in the vanilla and almond extracts.

Whisk together the egg whites in a medium bowl just until combined.

Turn the mixer down to low speed and beat in 1/4 of the flour mixture just until combined.

Add 1/3 of the milk mixture to the bowl and mix just until combined.

Stop the mixer, scrape down the sides of the bowl and the paddle, and add another 1/4 of the flour mixture, then another 1/3 of the milk.

Continue to add the flour and milk, then scraping down the bowl until all of the flour mixture and milk have been incorporated, ending with the flour mixture.

Pour the batter into the prepared pans and smooth out the batter.

Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the cakes have risen and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Cool the cakes in the pans on a wire rack for 5 minutes, then turn the cakes out onto the wire rack to finish cooling completely, right side up (keep the round of parchment paper underneath the cake on the wire rack so the cakes don’t stick to the rack).

To make the caramel, combine the sugar, water and corn syrup in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.

Stir with a wooden spoon until the sugar is dissolved.

Reduce the heat to medium, cover the saucepan and allow the mixture to cook for 3 minutes.

Remove the lid, turn the heat up to medium-high and bring the mixture to a boil.

DO NOT STIR the mixture from this point until you have caramel, but swirl the liquid by gently shaking the pan so that the mixture doesn’t burn.

Continue to swirl the pan and cook until the mixture turns an even amber color.  DO NOT leave the stove at this point, watch the mixture very carefully and keep swirling the pan to avoid burning.

Remove from the heat and let stand for 30 seconds.

Being VERY careful, pour the heavy cream into the sugar mixture.  The mixture will bubble up considerably and is very hot.  Again, be very careful pouring the cream in to avoid burning yourself.

Carefully stir the mixture, then add the butter, lemon juice, and salt and stir until combined.

Measure 1 cup of the caramel into a glass measuring cup and set it aside to cool for 20 minutes.  The recipe made exactly 1 cup of caramel for me; if you have more than 1 cup, store the extra in a resealable container in the refrigerator.

To make the frosting, beat the butter and cream cheese on medium speed in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until smooth and creamy.

Add 2 cups of the powdered sugar into the butter mixture and beat to combine.

Add the 1 cup of cooled salted caramel and beat to combine.

Add additional powdered sugar (up to 2 more cups) until the frosting is the desired consistency (I stopped at 3 cups of powdered sugar, finding that the frosting was ideal for spreading over cake at that point.  If you need a thicker frosting, continue to add the powdered sugar).

To frost the cake, place one 9-inch cake on a serving plate (I place four pieces of waxed paper under the cake so that I can pull them out from under the cake when I’m done frosting).

Top the cake with an even layer of the frosting, then top with the remaining cake layer.

Spread the frosting evenly over the top and sides of the cake (I had a generous layer of frosting between the layers and on top of the cake and had roughly 1 pint of extra frosting).

Makes 16 servings (one 2 layer 9-inch round cake).

Source: cake from Once Upon a Chef, frosting from Kimberly Taylor Images

salted caramel buttercream

 

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Birthday Bite

As I mentioned, yesterday was Lane’s birthday and there was cake.  When possible, I like to give the birthday boy or girl some input as to what kind of cake there will be, but keep the finished product a surprise until show time.  Last year, I made a replica of Carvel Ice Cream’s Cookiepuss ice cream cake so I knew this year it would be hard to top that.  With little input from the birthday boy (who seriously never asks for or hints at anything), I decided a cannoli cake would be perfect.  Lane did mention loving cannoli cake, and M loves all things cannoli and I’m quite sure O never met a cake he didn’t like and so it was decided.  Ordinarily, I’d include some chocolate chips in the filling but M only likes chocolate sometimes.  There’s nothing worse when you’re a kid than having this giant birthday cake on the kitchen table and oh, you can’t have any.  If you don’t have that constraint, I’d stir about a cup of (preferably mini, but regular size work fine) semi-sweet chocolate chips into the cannoli filling.  The cake was in no way lacking without the chocolate chips, so it’s really a matter of preference.

This takes some planning ahead, as keeping the components chilled makes assembly and frosting easier.  I used four bamboo skewers to keep the cakes from shifting and it helped.  For added flavor and moisture, I made a simple syrup flavored with vanilla and nutmeg and brushed it onto the cakes before stacking them.  I can’t stress enough the importance of planning ahead and giving yourself plenty of time to make this cake.  The baked cakes will need to cool completely, and after adding the cannoli filling between the stacked cakes it will need a few hours in the refrigerator to set the filling.  It should be kept refrigerated until ready to serve because of the whipped cream frosting (and other dairy elements).  It’s completely worth planning ahead and worth every bit of effort.  The finished cake is moist, has an obvious cannoli filling flavor, and the whipped cream frosting isn’t sweet or heavy enough to over power any of that deliciousness.

cannoli cake

Vanilla Cake with Cannoli Filling and Whipped Cream Frosting

Ingredients:

for the cake:

  • 2/3 C. butter, softened
  • 1 3/4 C. sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 C. all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/4 C. milk

for the syrup coating:

  • 1/2 C. sugar
  • 1/2 C water
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg

for the cannoli filling:

  • 16 oz. (2 C.) whole milk ricotta cheese, drained*
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1 1/2 C. confectioner’s sugar (possibly more, to thicken filling)

for the frosting:

  • 2 C. heavy cream
  • 2 Tbsp. confectioner’s sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Directions:

*Draining the ricotta is critical to having a thick enough filling for the cake.  Do this at least two days in advance by lining a fine mesh strainer with cheesecloth or a clean kitchen towel, placing the lined strainer over a bowl, then spooning in the ricotta. Cover the entire setup with plastic wrap and refrigerate for two days.  Discard any liquid that has accumulated in the bowl.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.

Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.

Mix in the vanilla.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, salt, and baking powder.

Add 1/3 of the flour mixture to the butter mixture and mix until combined.

Add 1/3 of the milk and mix until combined.  Continue alternating 1/3 of the flour mixture with 1/3 of the milk, mixing after each addition until ingredients are combined.

Lightly grease (or spray with non-stick cooking spray) and then flour three 9 inch round cake pans.

Evenly divide the cake batter among the three pans (about 2 C. of batter per pan is what I measured).

Bake for 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.

Carefully turn the cakes out onto wire racks to cool completely.

It’s optional but recommended that at this point, you wrap the cakes tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 6 hours (or overnight).

To make the coating syrup, combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan over high heat.

Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and let the mixture simmer for ten minutes.  Once the heat has been turned down, stir in the vanilla and nutmeg.

Allow the syrup to cool in the refrigerator until cooled completely (if you do this while the cakes are cooling, the syrup can cool in the refrigerator at the same time as the cakes).

Once the syrup has cooled completely, place a wire cooling rack over a piece of waxed paper and place the cakes onto the wire rack.

Generously brush the syrup onto the cakes, using a barbecue or pastry brush.  You will have extra syrup.

Allow the cakes to sit on the wire racks for 30 minutes before returning them to the refrigerator.

To make the cannoli filling, blend the ricotta and cream cheese together in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.

Mix in the vanilla.

Beat in the powdered sugar, and if needed add more powdered sugar 1/4 C. at a time.  The mixture should be roughly the consistency of pudding.

Refrigerate the filling for 2 hours before using it to fill the cakes.

Place one cake onto the serving plate (I suggest putting four pieces of waxed paper under the cake’s edges, in a square.  They can be pulled out from under the cake after you’re done frosting it), and spread a layer of cannoli filling evenly over the top of the cake.

Stack a second cake on top of the filling, and spread another layer of cannoli filling evenly over the top of that cake.

Place the third cake on top of the cannoli filling and insert four bamboo skewers into the stacked cakes for stability.

Place the cake into the refrigerator to chill for at least 1 hour before frosting.

To make the whipped cream frosting, whip the heavy cream in the bowl of  a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or use a hand mixer on high speed) for 1 minute until it starts to thicken.

Add the confectioner’s sugar and vanilla extract and whisk on high speed for 3-5 minutes, until desired thickness is achieved.

Evenly spread the whipped cream frosting onto the top and sides of the cake (remove the waxed paper if you used it) and decorate as desired.

Keep chilled until ready to serve.

Makes about 16 servings (one 3-layer 9″ round cake, serving size may vary depending on how large you cut the slices).

Source: Cake, A Culinary Journey with Chef Dennis; cannoli filling, adapted from Sargento; whipped cream frosting, Diana Dishes original

cannoli cake slice

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