Friday, June 28, 2013

Miniature White Chocolate Layer Cake with Rich Chocolate Frosting

I have this wonderful baking book called Small-Batch Baking that has recipes for 1-2 servings of cakes, cupcakes, cookies, pies, tarts, cheesecakes, etc. I've owned it for years and have made many different recipes from it and they've all been delicious. In fact, I've recommended it to many people, and they've all loved this book.

Special equipment will be required to make these cakes, but it's simple and inexpensive to get.  You'll need two 14 or 14.5 ounce soup cans with the top cut off using a can opener; additionally, remove the label and wash throughly.  The other option is buying small cake pans from Michael's or other craft store.  These cake pans can be found here.

Cake Ingredients
Frosting Ingredients

The frosted cake

Cake Ingredients
1 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 ounce of good-quality white chocolate, finely chopped
1/4 cup boiling water, slightly cooled
2 tbsp sour cream, at room temperature
1 yolk of a large egg
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup sugar
1/8 tsp baking soda (this is a pinch if you have those types of measuring spoons)
1/8 tsp kosher salt

Frosting Ingredients
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
3 T unsalted butter
2 T sugar
1/8 tsp salt
2 ounces semisweet chocolate finely chopped
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 F and grease and flour the pans.  Tap out any excess flour from the pans and set aside.
2.  Microwave the white chocolate on medium power, for about 1 minute, until melted.  Cool until lukewarm.
3.  Melt the butter in the microwave for about 30 seconds on medium power in a small bowl.
4.  Add the boiled water to the butter and whisk to blend.
5.  Then add the sour cream, egg yolk, and vanilla; whisk to combine.
6.  Whisk the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt in a medium sized bowl.  Add the liquid mixture and the melted chocolate to the flour and mix until blended and smooth.
7.  Evenly divide the batter between your pans and place on a cookie sheet; bake for ~30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
8.  Cool on a cooling rack for 15 minutes; then invert onto cooling racks and allow to cool completely.
9.  Meanwhile, make the frosting by bringing the cream, butter, sugar, and salt to a simmer over medium heat in a heavy medium saucepan.  Stir until the sugar dissolves and the butter melts.
10.  Remove from the heat and add the chocolate, whisking until the chocolate is melted and smooth; then add the vanilla.  The frosting should be chilled until it is thick enough to spread (1 1/2 to 2 hours in the fridge).
11.  If using the soup cans for baking, cut each cake in half horizontally and frost as desired.


Thursday, June 21, 2012

Salted Caramel and Chocolate Ganache Banana Cream Pie

A new post for the new year!  I am a bad blogger...this is just a fact.  I do have good reasons though.  Reason #1 I am adjusting to a new job and trying to strike a balance between work and my personal life.  Even though I've been at my new job for almost 8 months (time has gone by so quickly), I still find that I am struggling, as I'm sure I will continue to struggle in the future.

Reason #2 I don't like the photos I take.  This seems like something that should be easy to do, but apparently it's not, or maybe my expectations are too high.

Reason #3 I GOT MARRIED!  Ah!  Seriously, so much of my time went into planning and preparing for the wedding that I really haven't had much time for blogging.  Did I mention that I got married?!?  No?  Silly me; reason #4 I GOT MARRIED!

But seriously, now that the honeymoon is over, I've spent some time trying to edit the hundreds of photos I have taken recently, in the hopes of blogging these recipes.  Last night I started editing photos for a delicious recipe that I found while wasting time on  If you have not visited this website, let me warn you, DO NOT is a time sucking, yet awesome website.

This recipe has a lot of steps, but the end product is so worth the effort.  Enjoy!

The Ingredients (minus the chocolate)
Pour the boiling cream over the chocolate

Mix together after letting sit

Pour the ganache over the crust

Add the sliced banana and a layer of salted caramel

Add the pastry cream over the banana/caramel layer,
top with whipped cream, swirl caramel into the whipped cream,
and add the remaining sliced bananas on top. 
Graham Cracker Crust
1 ¼ cups graham cracker crumbs (10 or 11 whole crackers)
1 teaspoon sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Ganache Layer
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate (about 1/2 cup chocolate chips)

Pastry Cream
1 2/3 cups whole milk
¼ cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar
1 vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped out and reserved (I used 1 Tbsp of vanilla bean paste)
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 large egg
2 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Salted Caramel Sauce
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon water
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon fleur de sel (or kosher salt)

Items Needed for Assembly
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
3 medium bananas

1.  Preheat the oven to 325 F.
2.  Combine the crumbs and sugar in a bowl.  Then add the melted butter and mix until the crumbs are moistened. 
3.  Transfer the mixture into a 9-inch pie pan (I used a tart pan) and press the crumbs evenly over the bottom and up the sides.  Note: the edges of the shell will be crumbly.
4.  Bake until lightly browned, 10-12 minutes. Cool completely.

For the ganache
5.  Set the chocolate into a bowl; heat the heavy cream to boiling point and pour over the chocolate. 
6.  Let the cream/chocolate mixture stand a couple of minutes and gently stir until fully incorporated and glossy.  It should be the consistency of warmed chocolate syrup. 
7.  Cool to room temperature.
8. Pour over the cooled pie crust and refrigerate.

For the pastry cream
9.  Combine the milk, ¼ cup of sugar, and the vanilla bean and seeds or vanilla bean paste in a medium saucepan.  Bring to a simmer over medium heat.  Note: if the vanilla bean is hardened, put the entire bean in the saucepan so that it softens as the milk warms up. Once it’s pliable again, remove the pod, split it in half, and scrape the seeds out. Then add everything back into the saucepan until the mixture simmers.
10. While the mixture simmers, sift the remaining 3 tablespoons of sugar together with the cornstarch in a small bowl. Then, in a large bowl, whisk together the egg and two egg yolks.
11. When the milk comes to a simmer, strain out the vanilla bean pod.
12. Add the cornstarch mixture to the eggs and whisk until well combined.
13. While whisking the egg/cornstarch mixture, slowly pour in about one-quarter of the milk in order to temper the egg mixture.
14. Transfer this mixture to the saucepan, set over low heat, and simmer, whisking constantly, until it reaches the consistency of thick pudding, taking care not to curdle the eggs.
15. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter until incorporated. If the mixture isn’t quite as smooth as you’d like, you can always run it through a sieve.
16. Pour into a shallow bowl, place plastic wrap directly on the surface, and chill.

For caramel sauce
17.  In a heavy saucepan set over medium-high heat, stir together sugar and water.  Use a pastry brush and water to brush down any sugar crystals off the side of the pan.  Bring the sugar water to a boil and boil until amber-colored.  

**Note: once the mixture starts changing color, watch it closely because it will burn quickly.  If you accidentally burn the caramel, start over.  Sugar and water are cheap and this is a relatively easy and quick step.  The darker the color, the more caramel the flavor; the ligher the color the more butterscotch the flavor**

18.  Once the color is right, immediately add butter and stir to incorporate.  Remove from the heat, add cream and salt (be careful, as it will splatter), and mix well.  It should be smooth and have a syrup-like consistency.  Let cool to room temperature.

For assembly
19.  Using an electric mixer or a whisk, whip the heavy cream into peaks.  Add powdered sugar and incorporate. 
20.  Transfer the pastry cream to a large bowl and whisk until smooth.  Then fold in about half of the whipped cream.
21.  Line the bottom of the pie crust with approximately two bananas sliced into rounds on a diagonal.  
22. Slice half of the remaining banana into rounds on a diagonal for garnish.
23. Roughly chop the remaining half banana and fold into the pastry cream.
24. Drizzle a thin layer of caramel sauce over the bananas.
25. Spoon the pastry cream evenly into the crust.
26. Mound the remaining whipped cream on top and drizzle some caramel sauce over the whipped cream, swirling it decoratively.
27. Decorate with remaining banana slices.
28. Chill and serve within 24 hours. The remaining caramel sauce can be used when plating the pie.

Recipe courtesy of

Monday, October 10, 2011

Chocolate Vegan Cupcakes with Fluffy Vegan "Buttercream" Frosting and Engeye Health Clinic

I bet you're thinking, "there's no way THAT is a vegan cupcake!!!"  But I asure you that it is most definitely a vegan cupcake.  So, now you may be asking yourself this question: how good are vegan cupcakes and vegan frosting really?  I will tell you that the reality is they are actually quite least these recipes are!

I was inspired to make a vegan dessert because my future brother-in-law is a vegan (my other future brother-in-law is a gluten-free vegan, but he is currently living in Uganda with his wife doing work at a rural health clinic, so I'll worry about a dessert for him at a later time).

Anyway, this recipe is printed in Martha Stewart's Cupcakes, but the actual recipe is courtesy of Divvies Bakery.  These cupcakes are very easy to make and without further adieu, the recipe follows.  Enjoy!

Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes
The cupcake ingredients (you probably have all of this in your pantry right now).

First, sift together your dry ingredients.

Then blend your wet ingredients together.

Finally, combine the dry and wet ingredients and bake.

1 1/2 cups cake flour, sifted
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 cup and 1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp distilled white vinegar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup water

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 F and line a standard muffin tin with paper liners.
2.  Sift together cake flour, granulated sugar, cocoa, baking soda, and salt.
3.  Mix together the oil, vinegar, vanilla, and water with an electric mixer until well combined.
4.  Add the flour mixture to the oil mixture and mix until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl.  Note, the batter will be very thin and watery.
5.  Divide the batter evenly between the lined cups in the muffin tin (they should be filled 3/4 full).
6.  Bake for 20-25 minutes, rotating half-way through the bake time.  A toothpick or cake tester inserted in the center of the cupcake should come out clean.
7.  Cool the cupcakes completely on a wire rack.
8.  Frost with vegan "buttercream" or dust with powdered sugar.

Fluffy Vegan Buttercream Frosting
1/2 cup non-hydrogenated shortening (earth balance is a good brand--I used the non-hydrogenated Crisco, because that is what I had in the kitchen).
1/2 cup non-hydrogenated margarine (earth balance is a good brand)
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup almond milk (alternatively, you could use coconut milk, chocolate almond milk, hemp milk, etc)

1.  Beat the shortening and margarine together until light and fluffy.  
2.  Then add the powdered sugar and mix together for 3 minutes.  Note, you may need to add more powered sugar to make the frosting to the consistency that will work for you in order to frost or pipe the cupcakes.  If you add too much powdered sugar, just thin it out with some extra almond milk.
3.  Finally, add the vanilla and almond milk and mix for another 5-7 minutes until light and fluffy.  
4.  Decorate as usual and enjoy.  

A note about Engeye Health Clinic.  As I mentioned earlier, my future brother and sister-in-law both are living in Uganda for the next 1.5 years working for Engeye (pronounced Engay) helping to bring more modern, yet basic health care to Ugandans.  From their website, they are a "non-profit that works to improve the lives of Ugandans through its affordable health clinic."  Additionally, they "operate a scholarship program to empower the next generation of Ugandans."  Consider making a one-time donation, or better yet, a monthly donation, to this wonderful non-profit, and to help support the clinic and the work that my future sibling in-laws are doing.  Tell you what, make a donation, and I'll make you some of your very own vegan cupcakes (or something else if you're not brave enough to try these babies).

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Bananas Foster Banana Bread

Well folks, it happens too often to me, and I'm sure it does to you too...old, almost rotten, nasty bananas that have sat too long on the counter to be edible.  You know the kind I am talking about.  Bananas that are so brown they're almost black...they're mushy and vomit-inducing.  Bananas like these?

Gross, right?  But those babies make the best, moist, delicious banana bread you've ever tasted!  So, if you have 3-4 nasty bananas that need to be used, make yourself a delicious batch of banana bread rather than throwing them away.  Additionally, if you don't have the time to make the bread, throw the bananas in the freezer until you need them, then defrost overnight and use in the recipe as usual.

What I enjoy about this recipe is that it is a grown-up version of a delicious treat.  It is grown-up because it contains rum!  Delicious rum!  Additionally, it is healthy, as it contains ground flax seed; but don't worry, it still tastes unhealthy :)  So next time you're in the mood for banana bread, give this adult version a try.

Bananas Foster Banana Bread 
Your ingredients

Add the mashed bananas, melted butter, rum, and brown sugar; bring to a boil.

Mix the cooled banana mixture, yogurt, remaining brown sugar, and eggs together.

Sift the flour, flaxseed, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and allspice together.

Blend the wet and dry ingredients.  Don't the flax seeds look good?

1 1/2 cups of mashed ripe bananas (I used three bananas)
1 cup packed brown sugar, divided
5 tablespoons of butter, melted
1/4 cup of dark rum or cognac
1/3 cup plain, fat-free yogurt
2 large eggs
6 3/4 ounces of all-purpose flour (~1 1/2 cups)
1/4 cup ground flaxseed
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice

1/3 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon dark rum or cognac

1.  Preheat oven to 350 F.
2.  Combined melted butter, banana, 1/2 cup brown sugar, and rum or cognac in a non-stick skillet and cook over medium heat until mixture begins to bubble.  Take off of heat and allow to cool. 
3.  After cooled, put mixture in a large bowl and add the yogurt, 1/2 cup brown sugar, and eggs and beat at medium speed until combined.
4.  Weigh flour and combine with the ground flax seed, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and allspice.
5.  Add the flour mixture to the banana mixture and blend.
6.  Pour batter into a loaf pan (9-inch x 5-inch) that is coated with cooking spray.
7.  Bake for 1 hour or until a wooden pick in the center comes out clean.  Remove from oven and cool.
8.  Make the glaze and drizzle over warm bread.


Thursday, September 15, 2011

Beef Daube Provencal

Well lovely followers (or maybe just Talia), as you may or may not know, I love sweets (see my doughnut post here), so I do not blog as frequently about the non-decadent foods that I make.  However, in honor of my dear, sweet, loving grandmother celebrating another fabulous year on this earth, I had her over for a celebratory dinner the other day and made this lovely beef stew.  It was quite easy and well worth the (minimal) effort, so try it some time!  This recipe is courtesy of cooking light, so it is healthy, hardy meal that is good for the upcoming fall and winter evenings.

Your ingredients

Heat the oil and garlic until fragrant, then saute the meat until browned.

Remove the beef and deglaze the pan with the wine.  Add the beef back to the pot along with the remaining ingredients.  
Bring to a boil then cover and put in the oven for 2 1/2 hours.

Your finished stew after 2 1/2 hours in the oven.

 Beef Daube Provencal
2 teaspoons of olive oil (I used extra virgin olive oil, which worked out well)
12 crushed garlic cloves
1 (2-pound boneless chuck roast), trimmed and cut into 2-inch cubes
1 1/2 teaspoons of salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
1 cup of red wine (I used Merlot)
2 cups chopped carrots (I used 2 cups of baby carrots)
1/2 cup beef broth, low sodium (I used beef stock from Swanson)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary (I omitted this because the store was out)
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
Dash of ground cloves
1, 14.5 ounce, can of diced tomatoes, undrained
1 bay leaf
**I also added portobello mushrooms to this dish and they turned out nicely**

1.  Preheat the oven to 300F.
2.  Heat the oil in a dutch oven or heavy bottom large pot over low heat and add the crushed garlic; heat for ~5 minutes until fragrant.  Remove garlic from pan and set aside.
3.  Turn the heat up to medium-high and add the beef to the pan.  Sprinkle the beef with 1/2 teaspoon of salt and a 1/4 teaspoon of pepper.  Cook for a total of 5 minutes, browning the beef on all sides.  Remove beef from pan and set aside.
4.  Deglaze the pan by pouring the wine into the pan, bring to a boil, and scrape up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan.
5.  Add the garlic, beef, and remaining ingredients to the pan and bring to a boil.
6.  Cover and bake at 300 F for 2 1/2 hours.  Discard the bay left and serve.  I served this dish with mashed sweet potatoes and steamed broccoli.  You could also serve it over egg noodles or rice.  It would also pair nicely with a squash, which are coming into season soon!


Thursday, September 8, 2011

Yeast Doughnuts

So, I have a secret to share, but please do not tell anyone else my secret.  Do you swear you won't tell anyone?  This is kinda a big secret, so you've got to swear.  Okay, I believe you.  Here it is: I LOVE doughnuts.  I love doughnuts so much that if I could eat at least 5 a day and not suffer any ill consequences, like fat-ass syndrome, or the need to help out the ol' pancreas with exogenous insulin, then I would do it.  I would eat AT LEAST 5 doughnuts per day.  At this point, you may be laughing...that's real nice.  Go ahead and laugh at my addiction...real nice.  But in all seriousness, aren't doughnut delicious?  And I'm not talking about the nation-wide chain kind either.  I'm talking about the local bakery kind or the lone, independent coffee and doughnut shop.  Now, get yourself these ingredients and start making these very simple, very delicious, doughnuts, but make sure that you have lots of other people to share these with, as the recipe makes a lot of doughnuts.  

Little pearls of wisdom:
--These doughnuts really taste best eaten the day of, but aren't horrible the next day either.
--The doughnut holes don't flip well because they're more round than flat.  What I did, and recommend, is cooking two holes at a time for one minute by holding them under the oil with a metal turner.
--If possible, weigh all your dry ingredients, as it is more accurate, which is what is best for baking.  This recipe is courtesy of Alton Brown, the master of weighing dry goods with some changes based on my experience making them as well as those of my favorite food blog, besides my own, Sydney @
--For those of you that have baked bread, but not other yeast goods, please take note that in step 5, my dough never completely pulled away from the bowl like it does when I bake bread.  I stopped the mixing after the 5 minutes and didn't have any issues at all.
--The glaze is thick, but you want it that way.  Also, it tastes best once it has dried on the doughnut.  I preferred the cinnamon-sugar, but to each his own.

Your Ingredients

The combined dough rising in a warm area.

Roll out the dough and cut the doughnuts using the biscuit cutter or doughnut cutter. 

Let the doughnuts rise for 30 minutes.

Doughnuts after the 30 minute rise.

Once your oil is heated to 365 F, add the doughnuts to the oil, taking care to not over crowd the pan.

Flip the doughnuts after one minute.

If you're using the cinnamon-sugar, take the doughnuts from the oil and toss them into the cinnamon-sugar mixture right away.

If you're glazing the doughnuts, let them cool completely and then glaze them.

Yeast Doughnuts
1-1/2 cups milk (I used 1%)
2-1/2 oz vegetable shortening (~1/3 cup)
2 packages of instant yeast, or 2 scant tablespoons/14 grams of dry yeast from a jar
1/3 cup warm water (95 F to 105 F)
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon nutmeg or cinnamon (I used cinnamon because I prefer that flavor)
23 ounces all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting surface (this is about 5-1/3 cups, but weighing is the best way to measure all dry goods **see little pearls of wisdom**)
Oil for frying (I used canola and filled my pan with about 2.5 inches of oil, but less would have worked)

1.  Heat the milk in a medium pan until just warm enough to melt the shortening.  Melt shortening into the milk and set aside to let cool to lukewarm in temperature.
2.  In the bowl of your stand mixer, sprinkle the yeast over the warm water and stir gently.  Let dissolve for 5 minutes. 
3.  After that time, add the milk/shortening mixture into the yeast mixture.  Then add the eggs, sugar, salt, cinnamon (or nutmeg, or a mixture of both), and half of the flour.
4.  Using your paddle attachment, mix on low speed until the flour is incorporated, and then on medium until well combined.  Repeat with the remaining flour.
5.  Now, using your dough hook, beat on medium speed until the dough pulls away from the bowl and is smooth, ~4-5 minutes.
6.  Transfer the dough to a well-oiled bowl and allow to rise for 1 hour, or until doubled in size.
7.  On a well floured surface, roll the dough out anywhere from 3/8-inch thick to 1/2-inch thick.
8.  Using a 2-1/2-inch doughnut cutter or large and small pastry rings, cut out doughnuts.  Set on floured baking sheet, cover with a hand towel or tea towel and let rise for 30 minutes.
9.  Heat the oil in a deep fryer or a heavy bottom, deep pan to 365 F.  
10.  Once heated, gently place the doughnut into the oil 3-4 at a time, depending on the size of your pan/deep fryer.
11.  Cook for 1 minute per side and then flip.  Transfer to a cooling rack with paper towels, or directly into the cinnamon-sugar mixture.  Let cool 15-20 minutes before glazing, if desired.

1-1/2 cups sugar
1 tablespoons cinammon

1/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups powdered sugar


Saturday, August 27, 2011

Basil Pesto

Well, it's summer time and that means that on my very tiny back porch the easiest thing to grow is basil.  Basil is great because it's ridiculously easy and very inexpensive to grow; in fact, my basil only cost me a dollar and this is the second time I have harvested my basil plant this summer.  I could have harvested it more frequently, but I didn't because I'm lazy.  So, yesterday I decided that my plant had just grown to be so large that I had to trim it back and that is why I decided to make some delicious basil pesto.  The great thing about pesto is that it can be make from almost anything, basil, cilantro, arugula, or even spinach.  So, if you have anything of these things, I encourage you to make some pesto.  You can even freeze any leftover pesto in ice cube trays, so that you can have fresh pesto in the winter.  Plus, it's really easy.
Your ingredients (without the basil and cheese I've just noticed)!

Add all of the ingredients except the olive oil and cheese 
to your food processor or blender and process.

Then, with the food processor going, slowly add the oil to blend 
together and empty into a separate bowl.
Finally, mix the cheese into the pesto and you are done!

Basil Pesto
2 cups packed basil
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
1 garlic clove
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
About 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

1.  Blend the basil, pine nuts, garlic, salt, and pepper until finely chopped.  
2.  With the food processor still going, slowly add enough oil to forma smooth and thick consistency.
3.  Transfer to a bowl and mix in the cheese.
4.  Season with more salt and pepper to taste.

This recipe comes from the lovely Giada De Laurentiis.  Pesto does not make a good pasta sauce on it's own, as it is too thick.  She recommends mixing enough of the pasta water (after the pasta is cooked in it) with the pesto to get the pesto to coat the pasta without making it so thin that you have soup. 

Pesto is also a great sandwich condiment.  Enjoy!