Today is my last day of work before an (unfortunately unpaid) four month summer vacation; an occasion which, I think, merits a cake. This strawberry shortcake torte actually made its appearance as dessert after Easter dinner, and it disappeared pretty darn quickly. Really though, what’s not to like? Lemon-scented sponge cake topped with marshmallowy meringue, layered with whipped cream and fresh strawberries….
Aka, The Easiest Dessert Ever.
When I was at home suffering from the plague last week, I had a major craving for chocolate, specifically something rich and creamy and easy. These chocolate pots de crème satisfy all of those criteria: throw some chocolate chips and eggs in a blender, blend with some steaming hot coffee, chill, and eat. Couldn’t be simpler, or more decadent! I topped them with a little coconut cream (I didn’t have any whipping cream) and they were totally delicious. It’s a good thing I only discovered these recently, or I would have been making them once a week. Very dangerous.
Technically, I don’t think you can call these “true” pots de crème, because they don’t actually contain any cream, nor are they baked in a water bath. However, the flavour and texture are pretty much right on. The hot coffee serves to cook the eggs and imparts a little bit of coffee flavour, but mostly it just intensifies the chocolate flavour. I think you could use hot milk or cream instead of coffee and change up the dark chocolate chips for milk or white chocolate, and add whatever flavours you want (I added a pinch of cinnamon). I intend to do lots of experimenting with this one – it got rave reviews from everyone who tried it, and was waaaay too good not to make again soon! So if you need a quick chocolate fix, here you go: you can thank me later.
Chocolate Pots de Crème
Adapted from the Pioneer Woman. Makes 4 servings.
In a blender jar, combine:
6 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips
a small pinch of salt
1 tbsp or so of liqueur (I used French vanilla Kahlua)
Put the lid on and blend to combine.
Pour in 1/2 cup very hot coffee and blend, blend, blend. You are supposed to pour the coffee in through the hole in the lid while the blender is going, but I’m not very good at reading instructions and just dumped the coffee in all at once, then put the lid back on and blended. It worked fine.
At this point you can also add a pinch of cinnamon or a dash of vanilla if you feel so inclined.
Pour the blended mixture into 4 small vessels of about 1/2 cup capacity.
Chill them in the fridge for a few hours until cold and set. Top with lightly sweetened whipped cream (or coconut cream) and devour.
I’ve been looking for an excuse to make the Rebar chocolate cake ever since Kate at Venison for Dinner posted about it a week or so ago. Valentine’s Day seems like a pretty dang good excuse, no?
Rebar is a local restaurant that specializes in highly delicious, mostly vegetarian cuisine, and in addition to food like this amazingly decadent chocolate layer cake, they are also known for their wheatgrass shots and other crunchy-granola-hippie specialties. Several years ago they came out with a cookbook and it is a favorite of mine. I’ve had this recipe bookmarked for a while and have heard rave reviews from anyone who’s made it, but I never got around to it – until now. And I am kicking myself for not having made it sooner, because I have three words for you: BEST. CAKE. EVER.
Like all of the good chocolate cake recipes I’ve ever made, this one contains cocoa powder, buttermilk, and coffee (which doesn’t flavour the cake, but instead makes it more chocolately). The only change I made to the recipe was to add some actual chocolate to the batter, because in my opinion, you should always add more chocolate. The chocolate cream cheese filling contains both dark and milk chocolate (I used the last of a giant milk chocolate Toblerone from Christmas so it has tiny bits of nougat and almond in it), and the whole thing is topped off with a dark chocolate ganache. Given all the chocolate, butter, and cream cheese, this is not an inexpensive dessert, but it’s so worth it, and it was actually quite easy to make. Next time I might jazz it up with some raspberry purée or something added between the layers, but it is pretty perfect as is.
Rebar Chocolate Cake
This recipe is supposed to make one 3-layer, 8-inch cake, but because only Nate and I are around to eat it, I baked half the batter into two 6-inch layers (which still ended up making a cake that could easily feed 8 people!) and the rest into tiny cupcakes to take to work (I ended up with 20). I baked it at a lower temperature (325˚F instead of 350˚F) and wrapped the pans in wet strips of towel to get perfectly baked, even layers. From Rebar Modern Food Cookbook.
In a small bowl or measuring cup, combine:
2 oz dark chocolate, chopped
3/4 cup hot, strong coffee
In a mixer bowl, combine:
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar (or 1 cup dark brown sugar + 1/2 cup white sugar)
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup Dutch process cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup buttermilk (or 3/4 tbsp white vinegar + enough milk to make 3/4 cup)
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla
the cooled coffee/chocolate mixture
Mix on medium low for a few minutes, scraping down the sides as necessary. The batter should be thick but pourable. Divide the batter between the prepared pans and wrap the outside of each pan with a strip of wet towel. Bake at 325˚F for 35-45 minutes (this was the time range for a 6-inch cake, but should be similar for an 8-inch cake), until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then run a knife around the edge and invert onto a cooling rack. Peel off the parchment paper and let the cake layers cool completely. Chill them in the fridge to make them easier to handle when assembling the cake.
Over a double boiler, melt:
5 oz dark chocolate, chopped
5 oz milk chocolate, chopped
In a mixer bowl with the whisk attachment, cream together:
1/2 lb unsalted butter, softened
1/4 lb cream cheese, softened
To assemble, place one layer of the cake on a cooling rack, which will help keep things neat when you pour the ganache over top. Fill the cake layers with 2/3 of the chocolate cream cheese filling, and spread the remaining 1/3 over the top and sides of the cake (it doesn’t have to be perfect as it will be covered in chocolate ganache!). Chill the cake in the fridge while you make the ganache.
In a saucepan, heat until just below scalding:
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 tbsp unsalted butter
When it is hot, pour it over:
5 oz dark chocolate, chopped
Let it sit for a few minutes, then stir until smooth. Let it cool slightly, then pour it over the chilled, frosted cake. With a long spatula, spread it smoothly over the top and sides. Chill again until the ganache is firm, then carefully lift the cake off the cooling rack onto a serving platter. For decoration, I piped hearts out of melted chocolate onto waxed paper, chilled them until they set, then transferred them to the cake using a thin spatula so my fingers didn’t melt them. Chill the cake again before serving.
What does your family eat for dessert at Christmas dinner? In my family, our Christmas dessert for years and years was the traditional steamed Christmas pudding, served a-flame; however a few Christmases ago, we all admitted to ourselves that the only thing we really liked about Christmas pudding (other than setting it on fire) was the hard sauce that came with it. So, it was time for a new Christmas dessert. And dessert, in my family, is generally my department.
I cast about the internet and searched through my cookbook and magazine collection for a replacement dessert, and over the past few years I’ve made a few different things. On year it was poached pears with gingerbread (it had potential, but the pears were undercooked), and for two years now I’ve made a Yule Log (sometimes called a Bûche de Noël) – a sponge cake rolled around some kind of filling and decorated to look like a chunk of wood. I like it because it’s traditional in the same way a Christmas pudding is traditional, but not stodgy and infinitely variable. I also like the acknowledgment, however slight, of a winter festival that doesn’t include a fat man dressed in red or a baby born in a manger.
I made this Yule Log to take to Nate’s parents for Christmas dinner this year. When I read the words “chocolate hazelnut spread” in the recipe, I was sold. I am a big fan of Nutella. BIG. And I’m a pretty big fan of this cake, as it turns out (we all were, actually!). It was light, creamy, and a great way to end a big turkey dinner. The almond sponge cake is subtly flavoured and nice and moist, and the whipped cream-Nutella filling is airy and creamy. And damn, are those marzipan mushrooms ever cute! (And totally optional if you don’t like cute food or marzipan ;).)
The only change I would make is to sprinkle on the sliced almonds just before serving, as they lost most of their crunch overnight in the fridge. Otherwise, it was really really good and I can think of a ton of ways to vary the flavours: chocolate sponge with whipped cream and cherries for a Black Forest Yule Log? Dulche de Leche instead of Nutella? Perhaps some citrus in the sponge cake?…
Too bad Christmas dessert only happens once a year! 😉
Chocolate Hazelnut & Almond Yule Log
Adapted ever-so-slightly from my trusted friend Martha. Serves 8-10.
Almond Sponge Cake
Preheat the oven to 350˚F and prepare a 10″ x 15″ jellyroll pan by spraying it with cooking spray, lining the bottom with parchment paper, and spraying the paper with more cooking spray. Set aside.
In a large bowl, combine:
4 egg yolks (keep the whites – you’ll use them in a minute)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 tsp almond extract
1/4 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup all purpose flour
In a mixer bowl with the whisk attachment, combine:
4 egg whites
1/4 tsp salt
Beat until soft peaks form. Gradually add:
1/4 cup granulated sugar
Whisk 1/3 of the egg whites into the egg yolk mixture to lighten it, then with a rubber spatula, carefully fold the rest of the egg whites into the batter – you want to combine it without completely deflating it.
Bake at 350˚F for 15-17 minutes, until lightly golden brown and the center of the cakes springs back when lightly pressed (I swear I took a picture of this stage, but my camera must have eaten it!). Immediately run a knife around the edge of the cake to loosen it from the pan, dust the cake with icing sugar, and invert it onto a sheet of parchment. Peel off the lining paper that is now on the top of the cake, and starting from the short end, roll the cake with the clean parchment paper into a cylinder. Let it cool completely, seam side down.
Meanwhile, prepare the filling and frosting.
Chocolate Hazelnut Filling & Whipped Cream Frosting
The whipped cream filling and frosting are stabilized with gelatin, which does not turn them into Jell-o, but rather prevents them from getting runny and also gives them a fluffy, mousse-like texture.
In a small saucepan, combine:
2 tbsp water
1 tsp unflavoured gelatin
Set aside to soften for a few minutes.
Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, mix together:
1/4 cup chocolate hazelnut spread, such as Nutella
1/4 cup whipping cream
In a mixer bowl with the whisk attachment, combine:
2 cups whipping cream
1/4 cup granulated sugar
Transfer the cake roll carefully to a serving platter. I found it easiest to lift it onto the plate using the parchment paper, then carefully slide it off the parchment onto the platter. Protect the platter with strips of waxed paper tucked under the cake, then spread the outside of the cake with the plain whipped cream. Cover it lightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight. Just before serving, sprinkle with 1 cup toasted sliced almonds. Martha suggests slicing off the ends of the cake to reveal a cleaner cross-section of the inside of the roll, but I left it rustic. Decorate with marzipan mushrooms and rosemary foliage. Sprinkle with a light dusting of icing sugar “snow” and cut into slices to serve.
Roll a chunk of marzipan into a 3/4 inch ball. Cut about 1/3 off of the ball. Shape the large bit into a mushroom cap, and roll the smaller bit into a mushroom stem with a tapered point at one end. With the tip of a knife, bore a little hole in the underside of the mushroom cap; squish the tapered end of the mushroom stem into the hole to attach it (use a bit of water to make it sticky if necessary).
Store in an airtight container at room temperature. I used a little less than 100 grams (~3 oz) of marzipan to make about a dozen mushrooms.
Happy Canadian Thanksgiving! I still can’t believe it’s October and, according to all the store displays and lifestyle/cooking magazines, the beginning of the holiday season. Where the heck did summer go so quickly?
I’m enjoying fall though – I love the cooler weather, the coloured leaves, and the abundance of delicious, harvest food – and maybe I’m okay with the holiday season starting. Heck, I’ve bought my first holiday cooking magazine and I’m already thinking about Christmas baking. Yeah, I’m totally okay with it ;). For me it’s mostly about the food anyway, and a Thanksgiving meal is a great way to kick it all off.
I’ve been in charge of holiday desserts in my family ever since I can remember, so this is the pumpkin pie I took to my parents’ house for Thanksgiving dinner. By the way, my mum is a turkey super-star – it is always juicy and awesome. And it has bacon on it. That’s all you really need to know.
Anyway, back to pie. This recipe comes from my trusted friend Martha, and this is the second year I’ve made it. What sets it apart from other pumpkin pie recipes is the crust, which comes out tasting more like a shortbread cookie than regular pie pastry. Rather than rolling out the pastry, you just press the crust right into the pie plate and then blind bake it. This is definitely the easiest and best recipe/method I have come across for blind-baked pastry, because it doesn’t shrink or bubble up like other pastry often does.
The pumpkin filling, while quite tasty and nicely spiced, was not particularly special or unique as far as I could tell the last time I made it, so I cut out the regular white sugar and used maple syrup and brown sugar instead. I also added a splash of maple syrup to the whipped cream – because what’s pumpkin pie without whipped cream?
Because my mum can’t eat wheat or dairy, I used whole spelt flour in the crust and coconut milk instead of cream in the pumpkin custard filling (she missed out on the maple whipped cream though – next year I might try this coconut whipped cream recipe). The spelt flour gives the crust a slightly toasted flavour, and the coconut milk (which might sound weird) actually pairs really well with the pumpkin, maple, and spices. You can substitute heavy cream if you want, but I would recommend trying it with coconut milk even if you don’t have a dairy allergy!
Maple Coconut Pumpkin Pie with Spelt Shortbread Crust
Modified from Martha Stewart; makes one 9-inch pie
Spelt Shortbread Crust
A note on baking with spelt: spelt flour is a cousin of wheat flour, but is lower in gluten so it behaves a little differently in baking – basically, it absorbs less liquid and often turns out a bit crumblier. I usually think of it as similar to cake and pastry flour, but I’m not sure how accurate that actually is. In most cases, to substitute spelt for wheat flour, just increase the amount of flour by 25% (or, you can decrease the amount of liquid by 25%, but this sometimes also decreases the volume of whatever you’re making, so I usually go with the other method). However in this recipe, because there is no liquid added to the crust, a straight one-to-one substitution works.
Preheat oven to 375˚F.
In a bowl, cream together:
4 tbsp unsalted butter or margarine, softened (I used dairy-free margarine to accommodate a dairy allergy)
3 tbsp white granulated sugar
1 large egg yolk
1 cup whole spelt flour (or all purpose wheat flour, or 1/2 cup each all purpose and whole wheat flours)
1 tsp coarse salt
Stir until the mixture is uniformly crumbly – it should clump together easily when squeezed between your fingers. Press it evenly into the bottom and just over an inch up the sides of a 9-inch pie plate. Freeze until firm (20 minutes – I forgot to do this and it turned out fine), then bake in a 375˚F oven for 15-20 minutes, rotating half-way through, until golden brown. Let cool while you prepare the pumpkin filling.
Maple Coconut Pumpkin Filling
Preheat oven to 325˚F.
In a medium bowl, whisk together until smooth:
1 14-0z/398 ml can pure pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
3/4 cup coconut milk with a high fat content (ie, not light – the one I used had 14 grams of fat per 1/3 cup – and make sure you shake the can well)
1/3 cup pure maple syrup (the darker the better – darker = more flavour)
2 eggs, beaten slightly
2 tbsp dark brown sugar (demerrara if you can find it)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp coarse salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground cloves
Pour the filling into the prepared pie crust. Bake the pie at 325˚F for 65-70 minutes, until the filling is slightly puffy and just set (it should still jiggle a bit). Cool completely on a wire rack, then refrigerate, uncovered, for at least 6 hours. Serve with maple whipped cream (1 cup whipping cream + 1 tbsp maple syrup).
We were supposed to visit Nate’s parents for his mum’s birthday a few weeks ago, and Nate asked me to make a birthday cake, which I happily agreed to. Sadly the visit got canceled, but I already had my heart set on carrot cake, so I made it anyway as cupcakes rather than a layer cake. This is the carrot cake recipe from the rebar cookbook, and it is the best carrot cake I have ever had. I like my carrot cake with lots of stuff in it, and this one delivers: carrots, coconut, pineapple, pecans, and dates, along with a good hit of spices. Moist, crumbly and delicious – this is definitely a cake that requires a fork and a napkin. The icing that goes along with it in the cookbook is an incredibly sweet cream cheese white chocolate icing, but I decided to try this cream cheese frosting from smitten kitchen because it contains maple syrup, and in my mind, you can’t go wrong with maple syrup! Unfortunately, things did not work out so well. I’m pretty sure I used all the right amounts of everything, but the frosting remained runny and soupy (albeit delicious – sound familiar?!) no matter how much extra icing sugar I added or how long I chilled it. It tasted great – not too sweet, with a good tang of cream cheese, although not as much maple flavour as I was hoping for – but it just slid right off the cupcakes. I had to add double the amount of icing sugar to make it stay on at all, and even then there’s no way I could have piped it into spikes like I was supposed to! I must have bad cream cheese frosting mojo, because after this round the score is cream cheese frosting: 2, Korena: 0. (And I swear this was a completely different recipe and method than that damn wedding cake frosting!). Nonetheless, the cupcakes were (messily) enjoyed, and this is definitely a carrot cake to try. I am including the original cream cheese white chocolate icing because I know that it actually turns out. If you are brave, try the maple cream cheese frosting – maybe yours will work out better than mine did!
Happy Belated Birthday, Kathryn! I owe you a cake 🙂
rebar Carrot Coconut Cake
From the rebar modern food cookbook
Preheat oven to 350˚F. Butter and flour two 8″ round cake pans, or line 12 muffin tins with cupcake liners.
In a bowl, combine:
1 1/2 cups grated carrots
3/4 cup drained crushed pineapple
3/4 cup unsweetened shredded or flaked coconut
3/4 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
1/2 cup chopped dates
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp allspice or cloves
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup white sugar
2 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup vegetable oil
Gently fold the flour mixture into the egg mixture, then fold in the carrot mixture. Scoop the batter into your prepared pans and bake at 350˚F for 25-30 minutes (cupcakes will still take at least 25 minutes), until a toothpick inserted in the centre of the cakes comes out clean. Cool in the pan for about 10 minutes, then remove and cool completely on a wire rack. Frost when totally cool, and garnish with toasted coconut or nuts (pecans/walnuts), if desired.
Cream Cheese White Chocolate Icing
In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat until smooth and fluffy:
8 oz brick cream cheese, soft
1/4 cup unsalted butter, soft
1 tsp vanilla
3 oz white chocolate, melted and cooled but still liquid
Scrape down the sides, then slowly add:
3 cups icing sugar
Beat on high for about 3 minutes, until the icing sugar is well mixed and the icing is fluffy. Makes enough to frost 12 cupcakes, or fill and frost a two layer, 8″ cake.
A few days before the wedding, I took the frozen cakes, icing, and all other bits over to Vancouver, then layered/filled/frosted the individual cake tiers at my grandparents’ house the day before the wedding. The morning of the wedding I recruited Lynette to babysit the cakes in the back seat of the car as I drove carefully across town (thank goodness it was cool in the morning and there was very little traffic!), where I assembled and decorated the cake at the wedding venue (The Beach House Restaurant in West Vancouver, overlooking the water – beautiful!). The whole time I was praying that the cursed frosting wouldn’t melt off the sides of the cake, but despite all the trouble it gave me, it held up just fine (even after sitting out unrefrigerated for several hours during the wedding reception) and tasted fantastic. However, it was so impossible to work with that I will not be using that particular frosting recipe again. 🙁
In the end, the cake as a whole turned out beautifully and it was delicious – and it didn’t melt or fall over or anything! I was hoping to get some pictures from the wedding photographer of the bride and groom cutting the cake (during which I had my fingers AND toes crossed and a horrible grimace on my face because I was terrified the whole thing would collapse!) but apparently the photos might be a while, so a) stay tuned! and b) I don’t have any pictures of what the inside looked like – but just know that this was a lemon cake with raspberry jam filling (a very easy, very delicious freezer jam – I used half a batch to fill the cake) and the-most-frustrating-but-nonetheless-delicious cream cheese Swiss meringue buttercream frosting, and everyone agreed that it tasted wonderful. 🙂
I got most of my wedding cake assembly tips from my trusted friend Martha, and some frosting tips from Zöe Francois’ blog post and video on frosting a cake. I would highly recommend a revolving cake decorating stand for easy frosting, as well as a large offset spatula – these were the two most useful tools I used….
Yesterday was my first day back at work after four months off, and in answering the inevitable “what did you do this summer?” question several times, I realized that I had a jam-packed summer: a ten-year high school reunion, a trip to California, a concert in Vancouver, a stagette and two weddings (the wedding cake post is coming, I promise!!), and a road trip to Banff, Alberta, with Lynette – not to mention a ton of cooking and baking in between it all. No wonder it’s been a while since my last post!
The Banff road trip was an almost-2000 kilometer round trip across British Columbia and into the Rocky Mountains to visit our friend Tangle and her boyfriend Tyler.
It was a beautiful drive (but looooong), and the visit was full Disney musical singalongs, mountain climbing, picturesque views, and great food courtesy of Tyler.
On our last day there, we picked up some raspberries and blackberries at the Farmer’s Market, and the fruit guy threw in a slightly bruised peach for free. Another friend gave us some more raspberries from his garden (of both the red and pale yellow “Champagne” variety), and we decided that we needed to make some kind of berry dessert. Quite frankly, I was dying to get into the kitchen myself, and my uncle had sent me a link for a berry cobbler that I wanted to try, so I eagerly volunteered to make a raspberry-blackberry-peach cobbler as the dessert course to our meal of elk and bison steak.
A cobbler is sort of like a crumble, only the topping contains an egg and baking powder along with the flour, butter, and sugar, so you end up with a layer of cookie-crossed-with-biscuit on top of the fruit. The filling is just fruit and sugar but it thickens up during baking so that you end up with juicy (but not runny) fruit topped with a buttery, sugary, crisp pastry. The only thing that would have made it better was a scoop of vanilla ice cream or a drizzle of heavy cream. My advice is to make and eat this RIGHT NOW – it’s perfect for all the fruit and berries in season!…
Jana of Cherry Tea Cakes was our July Daring Bakers’ host and she challenges us to make Fresh Frasiers inspired by recipes written by Elisabeth M. Prueitt and Chad Robertson in the beautiful cookbook Tartine.
A fraisier is a French pastry consisting of two layers of cake soaked in simple syrup with strawberries and pastry cream sandwiched between. Essentially, it is a free-standing trifle, but the special thing about a fraisier is the exposed fruit around the sides. To make a true fraisier, you have to use strawberries (fraise = strawberry), so I’m not really sure what to call my strawberry-raspberry-blueberry combination – a baies mélanger-ier doesn’t really have the same ring to it. But whatever you want to call it, it was tasty!
I did this challenge while I was in California visiting my aunt and uncle, and it was extra challenging because I was baking in an unfamiliar kitchen and also contending with a wheat and corn allergy. But it turned out beautifully and just proves that you don’t need fancy equipment or lots of space to make a spectacular dessert. …
I’m back from California, and after I recover from the travel part (which was horrendously awful) and get a chance to go through all the photos I took of food, I’ll have some posts about the awesome restaurants I visited in California… but in the meantime, you can hear all about my birthday cake 🙂
I turned 28 a few weeks ago, and it required a cake. Since baking is pretty much my favorite pass-time, I was more than happy to bake it myself – it meant I got exactly what I wanted and I also got to have the fun of doing it. I came across this recipe for Dobos Torte on Smitten Kitchen, where Deb had made it for her own recent birthday, and I immediately promised I’d make it for myself. So I did 😉…