Are you as happy as I am that blackberries are in season? I’m seeing them left and right on sale now in the markets and it’s making me oh so happy. My latest greatest find was 3 for a dollar, so I had to strike! Brought these beauties home and made this scrumptious pound cake. It is super duper moist. That’s right- I said super duper. The lemon glaze that adorns the top takes it to the next level. The recipe calls for quite a bit of lavender- but don’t be scared, the flavor does not overpower the cake at all-just make sure you are buying culinary dried lavender. It can be a bit hard to find, but higher end stores like Whole Foods carries it in their spice aisle. The original recipe comes from Miche Bacher from her cookbook “Cooking with Flowers” which now that I took a sneak peak on Amazon, I might have to purchase the book! The recipe is posted on fancy flours website.
Blackberry Lavender & Lemon Pound Cake
2 Tbsp. dried (culinary) lavender buds
3/4 Cup buttermilk (or 3/4 Cup milk + scant Tbsp. lemon juice-see notes in step one).
2 1/2 Cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
zest of one lemon
1 pint blackberries (2 small 6 oz. containers)
1 Cup unsalted butter, softened
2 Cups sugar
4 eggs + 2 egg yolks
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1. Stir lavender buds into the buttermilk and let steep for 30-45 minutes, or if you don’t have buttermilk stir the buds into 3/4 cup of milk and 10 minutes before preparing the batter stir in a scant tablespoon of lemon juice.
2. Preheat oven to 325° F. Prepare a loaf pan (9x5x3) with nonstick baking spray and line with a parchment sling, leaving parchment so it hangs over the long sides of the pan with at least 3 inches, then spray again. In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and lemon zest. Gently stir in the (washed & dried) blackberries.
3. Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs and yolks one at a time on medium speed until incorporated. Note: the mixture may appear curdled, but don’t worry-it will come together once you add the dry ingredients. Stir in the lemon juice.
4. Gently fold in BY HAND (not with an electric mixer), one third of the flour/berry mixture, then add in 1/2 of the milk/lavender mixture, adding in another third of flour mixture, then the last half of milk mixture, ending with last 1/3 of flour mixture. Gently pour the batter into the pan (Note: only fill the pan 3/4 of the way full- you may have some batter left over), and bake for ~ 40 minutes or a wooden skewer when inserted comes out with a few moist crumbs. Let cake cool in the pan for about 10 minutes, then remove using the parchment sling. Allow the cake to cook completely on a wire rack, then glaze with lemon glaze.
2 Cups confectioners sugar
3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
In a small bowl whisk together sugar and juice until glaze is smooth and free of any lumps.
Does your childhood Summer evoke memories of you and your friends sitting on the porch eating a creamsicle popsicle? That sound of the dude with the push cart full of popsicles with the distinct unmistakable sound of bells clang al-ang- ing against each other. You could spot that sound 3 blocks away I swear. Just enough time for you to run in the house and yell, “Mom!!!!!!” “The ice cream man is coming, can I have a popsicle?” “Pleassssse?” The tang of the orange encapsulating that sweet vanilla flavor. There is nothing like it. It’s still one of my favorite flavors.
These macarons will transport you back to the 70’s (if you’re in your 50’s like me) when times were simpler. No WiFi, no reality Tv, no silly internet stories clouding your brain, just the nice weather forcing you to play outside. One bite will have you day dreaming of peaceful summers….
75 g aged egg whites, room temp
pinch of cream of tartar
1 tsp. egg white powder
50 g superfine granulated sugar
90 g almond flour
135 g confectioners sugar
1 tsp. vanilla powder
orange gel food coloring
clean small brush for “painting piping bag” (cheap @ the craft store) or use the blunt end of a wooden skewer
* A note about superfine sugar- please do NOT buy it-it’s priced higher. Simply make up a batch by pulsing some in a food processor and store away in an airtight container.
1. In a food processor pulse the almond meal, and confectioners sugar, stopping to push contents down into the bowl and process until fine. Sift contents into a bowl and discard any hard lumps. Stir in the vanilla powder. In the bowl of a stand mixer place the egg whites, cream of tartar, egg white powder, and superfine granulated sugar, and hand whisk until foamy. Fit a stand mixer with the whisk attachment and mix on low speed (Kitchen aide stop 4) for 2 minutes, then medium speed (stop 6) for 2 minutes, then on high speed (stop 8) for 2 minutes, then increase to highest speed (stop 10) for one minute, or until whites are stiff. Hint: if you remove the bowl and turn it upside down and the whites do not slide out they are ready! (Just be careful when checking!)
2. Gradually add the almond flour mixture to the meringue and mix/fold with a rubber spatula until mixture when lifted is able to form a figure 8 ribbon. About every 5th fold lift the spatula up and let the batter fall gently back into the bowl. Once you can form a figure 8 ribbon without the mixture breaking, the mixture is ready. Prepare the piping bag with a round tip and swipe three stripes of orange gel coloring inside the piping bag. Fill gently with the mac batter.
3. Prepare a sheet pan with either Silpat or parchment paper and preheat the oven to 300° F. Pipe the macarons onto the prepared sheet pan about a quarter size with 1 1/2 inches space between. Note; if after piping there are visible peaks then the batter is too thick and could cause problems such as cracking or not rising correctly. Squeeze out all the batter back into the bowl (with firm pressure) and refill the batter back into the piping bag and re pipe. Usually the act of doing this will thin the batter enough (without having to mix more) to get a more ideal thickness. Once you have piped the batter take the sheet pan and rap it on the counter a few times (3-6) to release any air bubbles. If you still see any visible air bubbles pop them gently with a bamboo skewer or toothpick. Allow the sheet pan to sit for 30-60 minute to form a “skin” so when touched the batter is no longer tacky feeling.
4. Bake the macs for about 13-15 minutes until when touching the top of a macaron, the top does not wiggle or slide but is firmly set. If they look like they are getting too browned then cover with tinfoil for the last few minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely on a wire rack. Do not attempt to remove until they are completely cool. Once cooled fill as described below.
Vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream
3 large egg whites, room temp
3/4 Cup granulated sugar
2 sticks unsalted butter
1 tsp. vanilla
In the bowl of a stand mixer combine egg whites and sugar. Set over a saucepan of simmering water and whisk until mixture is hot and sugar is dissolved. Remove bowl and place on mixer and beat until stiff meringue forms and bottom of mixer bowl is cool to touch; about 5 minutes. Add softened butter one tablespoon at a time until all is incorporated. Add the vanilla, then beat until smooth.
To assemble macarons- Pipe a ring of vanilla buttercream onto one half of the underside of a cookie, then pipe the orange curd inside the vanilla ring, cover with another half of mac cookie. (see photo)
1/2 Cup fresh orange juice
zest of two oranges
3/4 Cup superfine granulated sugar
6 large egg yolks
pinch of salt
1/2 Cup unsalted butter, cut into cubes
Combine yolks, sugar, orange zest, orange juice, salt, and butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan; whisk to combine. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon or heatproof spatula (be sure to scrape the sides of the pan), until the mixture is thick, 8 to 10 minutes. Let mixture come to a boil and cook, continually scraping sides of pan, for 2 minutes. If desired, strain through a fine sieve into a medium bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing it directly onto the surface of the curd to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until chilled and very firm, about 2 hours.
Any leftovers will last in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks in the fridge. You may also freeze leftover curd.
I always wanted a house with a big wrap around porch. You know the kind you see on those fancy home renovation shows. It would have dual porch swings facing each other and trees in the front yard lending soft breezes. My friends would stop by and I would whip up some boozy fruit flavored drink and we would sit for hours talking about nothing. I have a backyard pool with palm trees that give off a nice breeze, so don’t feel too sorry for me, but this is the kind of drink that evokes porch sippin’. If you have a nice covered front porch I demand you to make this drink and invite over a friend or two….
Blackberry-Mint Vodka Fizz
1.5 oz. blackberry mint syrup (recipe below)
crushed ice (this is key)
lime (or plain) flavored sparkling water (I used La Croix lime)
1.0 oz. vodka (optional)
4-5 fresh blackberries
sprig of fresh mint
In a short glass tumbler place crushed ice and blackberry mint syrup. Add in sparkling water or plain soda and optional vodka. Stir. Top with berries and fresh mint.
Blackberry mint syrup
makes a generous 1 Cup
1 Cup water
1 Cup sugar
2 Cups fresh or frozen blackberries
1/4 Cup fresh (clean) mint (about 20 leaves)
Bring everything to a boil except the mint. While mixture is coming to a boil crush the blackberries softly (they don’t have to be totally crushed). Let mixture boil for about 6 minutes. Remove from heat and then add the fresh mint. Let mint steep for 20 minutes, then strain out solids and store syrup in refrigerator.
I haven’t made a layer cake in a while, but for some reason I was feeling it. My lemon tree is dropping lemons like grenades every four seconds right now as it’s time for the ol’ tree to shed all of it’s lemons, so after making what seemed like endless pitchers of lemonade, I decided a lemon cake was in order. This cake is super fun to make because of the speckled decorating part. It’s a bit of an ambitious cake, so by all means make parts of it ahead; such as the filling and the cake a day before if you like. Just make sure to wrap the cakes well in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge. I even brushed the cakes with the syrup the day before and wrapped the cakes each separately in plastic wrap and chilled in the fridge. If you’re not feeling that ambitious you can of course buy a store bought cake mix such as vanilla- and use that (I won’t judge)- but by all means make the buttercream yourself as you’ll want that amazing vanilla flavor that you can’t get from store bought.
For pure white looking layers- use a sharp knife to cut off the browned areas of the cakes from top, bottom and sides.
Speckled Easter Egg Cake: Lemon-Vanilla Cake
yield: 4 layer 6 inch cake or 2 layer 9 inch cake
Lemon Vanilla Cake
1 Cup unsalted butter, room temp (227 g)
1 1/2 C sugar (300 g)
finely grated lemon zest of 2 lemons
6 large egg whites, room temp
3 1/4 C sifted cake flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. pure lemon extract
1 1/3 C whole milk (320 ml), room temp
Optional for finished garnish: toasted coconut and Cadbury mini chocolate Easter eggs
Prepare four 6 inch cake pans with baking spray; bottom and sides (that contains flour) or grease and flour pans. Line bottom of each pan with parchment paper. You can use 2 nine inch cake pans also if you don’t want to make a six inch tall cake.
In a medium bowl sift together flour, baking powder, and salt and set aside.
In the bowl of stand mixer place the sugar and lemon zest and rub the sugar and lemon zest together with fingers to release natural oils in lemon zest. Add in the softened butter and using paddle attachment cream on medium speed until fluffy; about 2 minutes. Add in the egg whites one at a time and mixing until incorporated. Stir in the vanilla and lemon extracts.
Add in flour mixture in 3 additions alternating with milk; beginning and ending with flour mixture. Note: I like to fold in the flour mixture and milk with a spatula by hand first then gently turn on the mixer and beat gently- This ensures a lighter cake and avoids over beating the batter and helps that the crumb stays light and soft. Divide the batter evenly between the pans.
Bake the pans in a preheat 350° F oven for 27-29 minutes or until the cake springs back when pressed gently with a finger. The cakes will just start to pull away from the sides of the pans. Do NOT overbake. Cool the cakes in the pans for about 15 minutes, then turn out and allow to cool completely.
1/2 Cup sugar
1/2 Cup water
4 one inch strips of fresh lemon peel (careful to make sure no white pith remains)
3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
In a glass measuring cup place the sugar, water, and lemon peel and microwave on high until sugar dissolves. Let lemon peel steep for 15 minutes, then remove. Stir in lemon juice. You can do this a day or two before to save time.
Note: any leftover syrup you can strain to remove any cake crumbs , keep chilled in the fridge and use in iced tea.
Lemon Cream Filling
3 oz. cream cheese, room temp
9 Tbsp. heavy cream, cold
1 1/2 tsp. nonfat dried milk powder
1/2 tsp. vanilla
3/4 Cup purchased Lemon Curd (I like Dickinsons brand)
Beat the heavy cream and dried milk powder on high speed using an electric hand mixer to stiff peaks. Move the whipped cream to a separate bowl and chill while proceeding. and using the same mixer bowl (no need to wash), beat cream cheese on medium speed for 2 minutes. On low speed, beat in vanilla. Add in the lemon curd and beat until well incorporated and smooth. Fold in the cold whipped cream by hand until mostly blended (don’t overmix), and cover and chill while making buttercream. Note: you can make a day or two ahead if desired and keep covered and chilled.
Vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream
5 large egg whites
1 Cup + 2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
4 sticks unsalted butter
2 tsp. vanilla bean paste or vanilla, or seeds of one vanilla bean + 1 tsp. vanilla
Sky blue gel food coloring
In the bowl of a stand mixer combine egg whites and sugar. Set over a saucepan of simmering water and whisk until mixture is hot and sugar is dissolved. Remove bowl and place on mixer and beat until stiff meringue forms and bottom of mixer bowl is cool to touch; about 5 minutes. Add softened butter one tablespoon at a time until all is incorporated. Add vanilla, then beat until smooth.
Note: Reserve about a cup of the buttercream (before coloring blue) to pipe a dam of buttercream on 3 of the layers to “hold” in the lemon cream layer.
To color the buttercream: Beat in one drop at a time of gel color until desired color is achieved. [I ended up using about 6 drops, but go SLOW and add a tiny bit at a time]. Note: the color of the buttercream will deepen in color about 1-2 shades as it sits.
Cocoa Speckle for decorating
1 Tbsp. cocoa powder
1 1/2 Tbsp. vanilla
small clean brush for decorating (I used a never used clean toothbrush)
In a small bowl whisk together the cocoa and vanilla. To “speckle” lay down wax paper underneath your work area and dip your brush into the mixture and then dab the brush onto the wax paper to remove any excess. You don’t want it too thick- if too thick you’ll end up with huge spots or unattractive drips. Practice first a few times on the wax paper-you’ll want to use your index finger to quickly flick the bristles of the brush about an inch away from the cake. It’s also best to whisk your cocoa mixture from time to time to prevent it from becoming too thick-you may need to add a few TINY drops of water occasionally if needed. If you end up with a real bad boo boo just chill the cake then use a small offset spatula to lift off any spots you don’t want. Note: you WON’T taste any cocoa flavor in the finished product.
To Assemble: Brush each layer of cake with the lemon syrup. Pipe a ring of “dam” of vanilla buttercream on 3 of the layers to hold in the lemon cream filling. Spread the lemon cream inside the dam of buttercream and continue stacking until you reach the top layer. Apply a crumb coat of buttercream and chill the cake for about 30 minutes. Continue frosting the top and sides of the cake.
Make the cocoa speckle mixture and speckle the top and sides of the cake as noted above. (Note- I find it helpful to lay down a few sheets of wax paper as you will get speckles of brown on your work area).
Garnish the top of the cake by toasting small amount of sweetened coconut in the oven at 350° F for about 6 minutes or until lightly golden brown. Top off with a few of mini candy coated Easter eggs.
Who wants a whoopie?! I could use anything about now that gives me a hint of a mental boost. I’m sure my readers on the East coast of the U.S. right now will agree. Hang in there- Spring is coming! How can you be mad when you say the word whoopie? My computer keeps trying to auto change it to whoopee every time-clearly hinting to me with a mind of it’s own that I need to whoop it up a bit more than usual. Note taken.
I’ve been wanting to make whoopie pies for a while now, but wanted to forgo the traditional marshmallow filling. A couple of years ago I made this whopper buttercream for a filling in a buche de noel, and remembered how yummy it was. There are crushed whoppers in the buttercream which boosts the malt flavor even more. Who doesn’t love a good whopper? I love the flavor combination of chocolate and malt, and now that I have a container of malted milk powder I’m going to have to bust out some more recipes I supposed with malt! These are fun for a party or casual gathering. If you don’t know what a whopper is, you might know what a malteser is (if you hail from somewhere besides the U.S.) This recipe is adapted from a recipe called Devil Dogs from the Cookbook Baked Elements. Enjoy!
Keep the batter spaced well when scooping, as they spread when baked….
Chocolate-Malt Whopper Whoopies
yield: ~ 12-13 whoopie pies
Chocolate Whoopie Pies
yield: 12-13 assembled sandwiched whoopies
recipe: adapted from “Devil Dogs” in Cookbook Baked Elements
2 Cups all purpose flour
1/2 Cup dark unsweetened cocoa powder (such as Valrhona)
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. instant espresso powder
1/4 Cup unsalted butter, room temp
1/4 Cup vegetable shortening, room temp
1 Cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
1.5 oz. dark chocolate (60-72 %), melted and cooled (I used Guittard “Extra Dark” 63 % chocolate chips)
1 large egg yolk
1 Cup whole milk +1 Tbsp. vinegar (Or you can use 1 Cup buttermilk)
Whisk the first 6 ingredients in a medium bowl and set aside.
In a glass measuring cup place the milk and vinegar and allow to sit for 10-15 minutes.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and shortening until smooth and creamy, stopping to scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl as necessary.
Add the brown sugar and vanilla and beat (about 3 mins.) until fluffy-stop to scrape down sides and bottom of bowl as needed. Add the cooled chocolate and yolk and beat until combined. Note: I used the microwave to melt my chips and it took me exactly 60 seconds total heat time-which I stopped several times to stir the chocolate as to avoid burning).
Turn the mixer to low and add the flour mixture in 3 parts, alternating with the milk mixture, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Stop the mixer often to scrape down the sides and bottom of work bowl. Remove the bowl from the mixer and use a spatula to mix gently one last time and gather the batter into the middle of the bowl. Place the bowl in the refrigerator to chill for 10 minutes.
Prepare sheet pans with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 400° F.
Remove chilled batter from fridge. Using a 1 oz. scoop (2 Tbsp.), scoop and place batter onto prepared sheet pans, leaving 2 inches of space to allow for spreading while baking. Bake for 10 minutes or until cakes spring back slightly when gently pressed. Do not overbake. Allow to cool on pans completely, then carefully use a spatula to gently scrape underneath to remove. Note: the original recipe says to chill the cakes on pans for 10 minutes then remove, but I found that the cakes fell apart too easily with this, so I advise allowing the cakes to cool completely on the sheet pans then removing gently. Another helpful tip: I found that chilling the cakes (unassembled for about an hour before filling them also helps the cakes to firm up a bit which helps them stay firmer once assembling).
To Assemble: Scoop a generous amount of buttercream filling (recipe below) between two cakes and serve immediately. If not serving immediately, store assembled cakes in the fridge in an airtight container or in a container covered with foil.
Malted Buttercream with Crushed Whoppers
recipe adapted from the Book: Baked Elements
2 Tbsp. boiling water (I do this in a coffee mug in the microwave)
4 Tbsp. (1/4 C) malted milk powder (such as Carnation)
1/2 Cup heavy cream
6 Tbsp (1/4 C + 2 Tbsp. ) whole milk
1/4 Cup flour
1 Cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temp
1 3/4 C confectioners sugar, sifted
1 tsp. vanilla
1 Cup Whoppers Malted Milk Balls + more (if desired for garnishing outside of pies)
Dissolve the malted milk powder in the boiling water and using a spoon, stir and smoosh the powder as necessary against the side of the mug to ensure all of the powder dissolves.
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, stir together the cream, milk, and malted milk mixture. Whisk in the flour gradually and stir constantly until mixture reaches a boil and becomes thick, about 3 minutes. Set the mixture in the refrigerator to chill for about 10 minutes.
Cream the butter and confectioners sugar in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat until fluffy. Remove the cooled malt mixture from the fridge and slowly pour in the mixture with the mixer on low. Once all the milk mixture is added, add in the vanilla and turn up the mixer and beat on medium speed until mixture is fluffy.
Place the Whoppers in a freezer type ziplock bag and using a heavy saucepot crush the candies until coarsely crushed.
Fold in the crushed whoppers into the buttercream.
Note: You can make the buttercream a day in advance if desired and store in an airtight container in the fridge. When ready to assemble whoopies- let the buttercream come to room temperature and rewhip by hand (vigorously) with a spoon to allow the buttercream to become fluffy again.
Note: you can crush additional Whoppers and roll the finished/assembled whoopies in crushed candies if desired.
Have you ever had one of those days…. you have already put in more than 9 hours today and you just can’t seem to make a dent in that towering stack of work on your desk you matter how hard you try? and the promise of a good martini is the only thing that is keeping you from going off the deep end?
That stack of papers is so menacing at this point you have actually started memorizing the way it looks from top to bottom? Scratch that, you HAVE memorized it.
Truth be told if someone were to come in and remove something from the pile, you would know. Immediately.
Yeah, you know what I’m talking about- the office that looks like “controlled chaos” You might as well cash it in, ’cause you are no bueno at this point my friend…
A hot bath, and a sweet sip of one of these candy bar martinis after a long day is just what the Dr. ordered.
Note: I’ve partnered with the awesome folks at www.Drizly.com who were gracious to supply me with the items needed to inspire my candy bar martini recipes!
1 1/2 oz. half and half
1 oz. Crème de Cacao liqueur
1 1/2 oz. Dark Godiva Chocolate liqueur
1 oz. caramel flavored vodka
1/4 oz. chocolate syrup
Fill a martini shaker with ice. Pour the contents into the shaker and shake vigorously to mix. Drizzle inside of a martini glass with caramel sauce and chocolate sauce. Strain contents into martini glass and garnish with mini snickers bar on rim of glass.
Almond Joy Martini
1 oz. Malibu rum
1 oz. Amaretto liqueur
1 oz. Crème de Cacao liqueur
2 oz. half and half
chocolate sauce and sweetened coconut (optional for garnish)
Fill a martini shaker with ice. Pour in the contents and shake vigorously. Prepare a martini glass by dipping edge in chocolate sauce and dipping in sweetened coconut. Strain contents into martini glass and serve.