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.
Leftover caramel in the fridge is a very dangerous thing. Especially when you discover how good it is stirred into a cup of hot coffee. That leftover caramel got me thinking. Lately I’ve been kind of macaron obsessed. Don’t know why, but it seems to comes in waves. The macaron obsession is real. I was in Safeway and started daydreaming of macaron flavors (I know I’m weird) when I spotted this bag of dried green apples. I’m constantly on the lookout for freeze dried fruits to grind up to add to macaron batter. A quick side note: if you use freeze dried fruits they MUST be rock hard and not have any moisture to them or it doesn’t work.
Caramel apple season is upon us, and I’m so ready for apple desserts, so I thought it would be fun to come up with a caramel apple macaron. Any more than 2 tablespoons of apple powder messes with the shell and it doesn’t come out right; so to amp up the apple flavor even more, I simply sprinkled some on top of the batter before baking. I also sprinkled some on top of caramel filling before capping off the macaron.
You could also cut a piece of the dried apple and smush it down into the caramel and cap off the macaron to achieve max flavor, but since I had some leftover ground up pieces of apple I chose to go that route. Or do both! I love how when you smush the top macaron onto the caramel all the little bits of dried apple are visible on the sides.
Caramel & Green Apple Macarons
yield: about 1 1/2 Cups
200 grams granulated sugar (about 1 Cup + 1 tsp.)
pinch of kosher salt
2 Tbsp. water
90 grams unsalted butter (about 6 Tbsp.)
120 ml heavy cream (8 Tbsp.)
In a microwave glass measuring cup place the heavy cream and microwave until very warm, and set aside. In a heavy saucepan place the sugar, salt, and water and stir gently to combine. Bring to a boil without stirring (brushing down the sides with a wet pastry brush if crystals form) and continue cooking until medium amber color. Carefully stir in the cream and whisk to combine. Stir in the butter and continue to cook for one more minute, then remove from the heat and set aside to cool for about 20 minutes. Pour caramel in a container and chill until ready to use. Note: If you want salted caramel stir in 1 teaspoon of either fleur de sel or kosher salt once you remove from the heat at the very end.
Green Apple Macaron Shells
yield: about 2 dozen macaron sandwiches
Freeze dried granny smith apples
165 gms almond flour
165 gms confectioners sugar
150 grams granulated sugar
115 grams egg whites (about 4 whites)
1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
electric green gel food color (I use Americolor)
mint green gel food color (I use Americolor)
In a high speed blender place a couple handfuls of the dried apple and pulverize until you achieve a fine powder. Sift through a fine mesh strainer and measure out 2 Tbsp. of the fine powder. Note-there will be some bigger pieces that remain and that’s okay, reserve those to sprinkle on top as well as adding to filling later.
In a food processor pulse the almond flour and confectioners sugar about 5 times. Sift into a bowl and whisk in the 2 Tbsp. of apple powder and set aside.
In the mixer bowl of a stand mixer place the room temperature egg whites and cream of tartar and whisk until foamy (I actually do this by hand). With the mixer on medium fitted with the whisk attachment, gradually add the granulated sugar in small increments then turn the mixer up to medium high and whisk for about 8 minutes or until meringue appears marshmallow like and stiff peaks are achieved. When the meringue is about 90 percent mixed add in a few drops of both mint green and electric green to your desired color; keeping in mind the color fades a bit when the shells bake. Tip: to test if the meringue is ready, turn off the mixer and turn the bowl upside down. The meringue should not shift or move, if it does mix a couple more minutes and test again. Add the almond flour mixture to the meringue and fold several times until when lifting the spatula, the mixture falls back into the bowl in sheets or ribbons.
Prepare a sheet pan with either parchment paper or a Silpat liner. Pipe the macaron batter about 1 inch size circles leaving about 1 1/2 inches in between. Rap the sheet pan on the counter several times to release any air bubbles and then sprinkle generously with the reserved apple dust.
Preheat the oven to either 300° F or (275° F if using a convection oven). Bake the shells for 18-20 minutes; stopping halfway to cover the shells with tinfoil to prevent the apple pieces on top from getting too brown. To test if the shells are done wiggle one gently and if the top still moves then bake another minute or two and check again. Let the shells cool completely on the pans before removing.
Let the caramel sit out to soften a bit to piping consistency. Pipe a small amount on one half of a shell and generously sprinkle some of the reserved apple dust and top off with another shell of the same size. Store the macarons in an airtight container in the fridge for at least 24 hours before bringing to room temperature to serve. store any leftover (as if) in the refrigerator.
I have to admit- plums are not exactly one of my favorite fruit. When I do eat a plum though, I like it super ripe and juicy-to the point where you have to lean over the sink to enjoy it. I tend to like the kind with the red flesh (and I can never remember which type it is by looking at the skin). I’m more of a prune lover (don’t judge my Granny ways), but when I saw this recipe from last years Fall issue of Sift it caught my attention. Plums are bursting in the stores right now, so now is the time to strike! I adore a good streusel pie. My child groans when I make a pie without a top crust, but I love texture-so a pie with streusel? I’m in. I’m all about that crunch, bout that crunch, bout that crunch, so I amped up the crunch factor by adding walnuts to my streusel. There’s something about biting into a bite of pie with that soft warm oozy filling and topping of yummy crunchy crust. I skipped ice cream and went with an ice cold glass of milk and it was divine.
Note: I let my plums become very ripe (on purpose) when I made this pie and as a result I used 3 Tbsp. of tapioca because of the extra juice generated, and it set up nicely. The original recipe calls for only 2 Tbsp., so you decide. Store leftover pie in the refrigerator.
The picture doesn’t do it justice, but the filling is a gorgeous ruby red color
Gingered Plum Streusel Pie
recipe adapted from: Sift 2015 Fall issue
1/2 recipe fearless pie crust (or your favorite crust)
Roll out crust and line a 9 inch pie plate and crimp edge as desired. Brush the inside of the crust with beaten egg white (it prevents the crust from getting soggy). Chill crust for at least 30 minutes before filling.
Fifteen minutes before assembling pie make filling and preheat oven to 375° F
Spoon filling into crust and top with streusel. Place onto a sheet pan to catch any drippings. Bake at 375° F for about 50 minutes or until filling is bubbling and streusel is golden brown. Cover crust halfway through with tinfoil if crust getting too brown.
2 1/4 lbs (4 Cups/about 10-11) coarsely chopped ripe (I used very ripe) black/purple skin plums; skins left on
1/2 Cup packed light brown sugar
2-3 Tbsp. instant (quick cooking) tapioca (I used 3, see above note)
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1 (heaping) Tbsp. finely chopped crystalized ginger
1 tsp. lemon zest
Combine plums, brown sugar, crystalized ginger, tapioca, spices and lemon zest. Let sit for 15 minutes at room temperature.
3/4 Cup granulated sugar
3/4 Cup flour
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
6 Tbsp. cold unsalted butter, chopped
3/4 Cup coarsely chopped walnuts
Combine first 4 ingredients, then cut in cold butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Fold in walnuts, and set aside.
Sometimes you just wanna be a little plain, am I right? (Ergo- lazy). It’s a total vanilla kind of day. If attitude were a flavor, it would be vanilla. You don’t want to put makeup on, you want to live in your jammies or sweats all day (same thing-duh!) and not get dressed. Forget about engaging your brain. You just want to exist. The couch is seriously calling your name. Perhaps you even called in sick or you blew off your first hour of class or perhaps the whole shootin’ day for that matter. You are oh so ready to binge watch something good all day while you are lazy as a fat cat on your over stuffed couch. Think Garfield on a Monday.
Yep, you are in a vanilla state of mind boo. The signs are all there….you’ve been needing a serious mental health day. Trust me- I’ve been there. Don’t EVEN feel guilty. No! you NEED THIS!
Enter the vanilla bean scone, dripping with vanilla glaze and coffee in hand. This recipe is so easy, you don’t have to think too much about it. This is what you need babe. I suggest you make these ahead of time through the shape and cut stage and freeze them solid on a sheet pan. Then pop them in a freezer bag and bake off as many as you want for those moments when you are feeling like being a little vanilla.
Vanilla Bean Cream Scones
yield: 8 scones
2 Cups all purpose flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1/2 C sugar
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
5 Tbsp. cubed cold unsalted butter
1 Cup heavy cream
2 tsp. vanilla bean paste
Whisk together one egg and 1 tsp. heavy cream (or milk)
Vanilla Bean Glaze
1 Cup confectioners sugar
2 Tbsp. milk
1/2 tsp. vanilla bean paste
In a food processor place, flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt and pulse to combine. Add cold cubed butter and pulse 4 times. Dump into a large bowl. Mix the heavy cream and vanilla bean paste together and pour in the bowl and mix gently with a rubber spatula until combined. Dump out onto a lightly floured board and gently knead about 5 times- just long enough for dough to come together. Pat into a round circle 8 inches wide. Cut into 8 equal triangles. Place onto a parchment lined sheet pan at least 1 1/2 inches apart. Chill for 30 minutes (while you go be lazy for a while). Preheat the oven to 425° F. Make sure the oven rack is in the middle position. Brush each scone with egg wash and bake for 15 minutes. Let scones rest for 10 minutes. Make vanilla glaze and drizzle each scone. I like to double drizzle because I’m kind of a slut when it comes to glaze, but if you want to, you can also totally cover them in glaze.
Note: If you are baking them from frozen state, don’t thaw but just bake them a little longer until golden brown.