Category Archives: cakes

Chocolate adorned raspberry cheesecake

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I’ve been waiting to post this cake since last spring.  And today – maybe because the pictures evoke an autumnal tone, or because I just celebrated a birthday myself – I’m feeling happy and energized and ready to type up a recipe for you.

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This is a cake I made for my friend Elise, whom I am coming to believe is my “dessert twin.”  Everything sweet that she likes, I like.  Accordingly, the cheesecake with a handful of fresh raspberries and a hint of chocolate garnish that she chose for her last birthday is the cake that my mind wanders to when I’m dessert dreaming.  It happens a lot.

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This cake is a Dorie Greenspan beauty that I coronated with a crown of sugared raspberries and chocolate leaves.

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That firm but yielding outer layer of cheesecake, lightly browned like a marshmallow over a backyard fire, is what calls to me.  In this cake, the outer walls also reveal the rolling clump of raspberries casually tossed in the batter when the pan was half full and not yet baked.  That second layer of batter covers every inch of the raspberries like a fluffy, delicious blanket.

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For the topping, I made a half batch of chocolate ganache and piped on the double loops once the cake was set.  While the cake baked, I sugared the raspberries and made the chocolate leaves.

To create those delicate things, I chose mint leaves that I picked up in the fresh herbs section of the grocery store.  I thought mint leaves looked a lot like the leaves on a raspberry bush, plus they are almost always available for purchase, so that made the decision easy.

Here’s the directions for the Delicate Chocolate Leaves:

1.  Wash and dry leaves thoroughly.

2.  Using the best chocolate available, chop the chocolate into small pieces and melt it in a glass bowl covered with plastic wrap in the microwave. Cook the chocolate on high at 30 second intervals, taking care not to burn the chocolate.  Use of a double boiler on the stovetop would work just as well.

3.  Once the chocolate is ready and as smooth as possible, use a clean flat brush to paint the chocolate on the underside of the leaves, creating a thick layer. Then, place the leaves on a cookie sheet lined with wax or parchment paper and freeze for 5 minutes.

4.  Thereafter, paint a second layer of chocolate and place the leaves back in the freezer for at least another 5 minutes, or until ready to place them on the cake.

5.  When ready to place the layers on the cake, delicately pull the leaves from the chocolate and immediately place the leaves where desired. Work quickly, because unlike M&M’s these morsels do melt in your hands.

Raspberry Cloud Cheesecake

very slightly adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking:  From My Home to Yours

For the Crust:

1 3/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
3 tablespoons sugar
Pinch of kosher salt
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted

For the Cheesecake:

2 pounds (four 8-ounce boxes) cream cheese, at room temperature
1 1/3 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/3 cups sour cream
1 1/2 cups fresh raspberries (divided)

To make the crust:

1.  Butter a 9-inch springform pan with sides that are 2 3/4 -inch high (any lower and the batter will spill over) and wrap the bottom of the pan with a double layer of aluminum foil.

2.  Stir the crumbs, sugar and salt together in a medium bowl.  Pour over the melted butter and using your fingers, blend until all of the dry ingredients are uniformly moist.

3.  Turn the ingredients into the springform pan and use your fingers to pat an even layer of crumbs over the bottom of the pan and about halfway up the sides.  Don’t worry if the sides are not perfectly even or not right at the midway point.  Freeze crust while you preheat the oven or are otherwise ready to use (crust can be frozen for up to 2 months).

4.  Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Place the springform pan on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes.  Allow the crust to cool on a rack.

To make the cheesecake:

1.  Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees F and put a kettle of water on to boil.

2.  Working with a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the cream cheese until soft and creamy, about 4 minutes.  With the mixer running, add the sugar and salt and continue to beat for another 4 minutes or so until the cream cheese is light.

3.  Beat in the vanilla.  Add the eggs one by one, beating for a full minute after each addition – you want a well-aerated batter.  Reduce speed to low and mix in the sour cream.

4.  Put the foil-wrapped springform pan in a roasting pan that is large enough to hold the springform pan with some space around it.

5.  Give the batter a few stirs with a rubber spatula, to make sure there is nothing left unmixed at the bottom of the bowl.  Then, scrape half of the batter into the springform pan.  Thereafter, drop in one cup fresh raspberries (reserve the remaining 1/2 cup to garnish the top of the cake).

6.  Top the raspberries with the remaining batter, until it reaches the rim of the pan.

7.  Put the roasting pan in the oven and pour enough boiling water into it to come halfway up the sides of the springform pan.

8.  Bake the cheesecake for 1 hour and 30 minutes, at which point the top should be browned (and perhaps cracked) and may have risen just a little above the rim of the pan.  Turn off the oven and prop the oven door open with a wooden spoon.  Allow the cheesecake to luxuriate in its water bath for another hour.

9.  After one hour, carefully pull the setup out of the oven and lift the springform pan out of the roaster.  Be careful, as there may be water in the aluminum foil.  Remove the foil and allow the cheesecake to come to room temperature on a cooling rack.

10.  When the cake is cool, cover the top lightly and refrigerate for at least 4 hours; overnight is better.

11.  At serving time, remove the sides of the springform pan (you can use a hairdryer to do this) and set the cake on a serving platter.

12.  Garnish as desired.

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I’ve dreamed about this cake since I last made it over six months ago.  Perhaps it’s time to pick up another 2 pounds of cream cheese….

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Summertime cakes!

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Before the days of swimsuits drying on the back deck and homemade popsicles slip into school hours and talk of Halloween costumes, I wanted to share a couple of my “summertime cakes,” made to celebrate little girls who were lucky enough to be born in the summer, when a pool party will always make the short list….

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The first cake was made for just that – a pool birthday party –  with (you guessed it) a BEACH BALL theme! Everything was done in bright primary colors and the birthday girl bounced into age 5 with a fondant enrobed chocolate cake, filled with chocolate pastry cream and strawberry buttercream.  Mmmmm!

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The second cake was a traditional chocolate layer cake with a raspberry buttercream filling and a fluffy chocolate frosting, finished off with a smattering of pastel sprinkles. The focus here was on the birthday girl’s beloved Croc sandals, perfect for that pool birthday party with family!

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For this cake, I cut out a white fondant plaque, let it dry, and then applied the lettering and design with flood consistency royal icing. After I applied the final layer of icing on the cake (after a valiant attempt to create a flat, level top surface), I placed the dried plaque on top. Thereafter, I added the sprinkles, borders and fondant flower details. The flowers were also made in advance to give them time to dry.

All in all, these cakes served as a perfect summer past time for this hopelessly devoted baker.

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Almond Poppy Seed Awesomeness Cake

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If you know me, you know that I’ll beg you to make your birthday cake. Or your neighbor’s birthday cake. Maybe even your little pet hamster’s cake, if I have the ingredients on hand (what is that exactly, wood shavings?). But this cake – this particular people cake – is one of my all time faves, made every mid-January for my cousin’s birthday. It’s a recipe from a dear friend – Pat – a coworker from his YMCA camp directorship days.

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This moist, yummy bundt cake provides the lingering subltey of almond extract balanced with the snap of a generous portion of poppy seeds (hint:  you’ll need the whole spice jar).

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The cake is matched with the King of Icing’s – cream cheese – which I supply in outrageous fashion. This year, I quadrupled the original recipe and piped streams of creamy goodness like a fountain from the middle of the cake over all the sides, only to pool up where cake meets plate. Which naturally leads one to ask, is there any way we can get this stuff intravenously?

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To increase the icing intake, I cut the cake in two, which teetered on bundt cake blasphemy. I’m not sure why bundt layering is never done.

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Is it a moisture issue? An aesthetic mess? I might have worried for a half minute about “cake dry” but the vat of cream cheese icing before me served as ample distraction. Also, the cake was eaten later that same day, so I saved my worry over too dry baked goods for another time, likely cinnamon roll day. I’m thinking about trying Pioneer Woman’s version, while we’re still waking up to chilly winter mornings. When and if they happen, I’ll let you know how they turn out.

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But…back to our bisected bundt. When the cake was all but ready to pack up and take to the party, I became inspired by fancy diner cakes, garnished perfectly with whipped cream stars and chocolate shavings. Those “highlights” that hint at the ingredients inside. So to finish off this awesomeness, I splashed some poppy seeds on top and at the icing pools at bottom.  Then I chopped up a few almonds, and sprinkled on the final hint, creating a bit of a flower effect.

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Here’s the recipe, with the icing recipe already quadrupled. You’re welcome.  (;

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Pat’s Poppy Seed Cake

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup poppy seeds (plus 2 tablespoons for garnish)
4 egg yolks
4 egg whites
1 1/4 cups sour cream (not low fat)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 teaspoons pure almond extract

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease and flour baking pan(s) (I use baking spray). In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt.

2.  In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the sugar and butter on medium high speed until light and fluffy, approximately 2 to 3 minutes. With the mixer on low, add the poppy seeds and mix until incorporated.

3.  Add the egg yolks to the batter and mix on medium speed until well combined. Then, with the mixer on low speed, gradually add 1/3 of the flour mixture, alternating with 1/3 of the sour cream, and continue until all of the flour mixture and sour cream are incorporated.  Add the vanilla and almond extracts and mix on medium speed until just incorporated.

4.  In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites on high speed with the whisk attachment (or with a hand mixer) until they are fluffy, but not stiff (just soft peaks).

5.  Using a large spatula or wooden spoon, fold the egg whites into the batter. Do not overmix.

6.  Pour batter into a bundt pan and bake for 45 to 50 minutes. If using 2 layer cake pans, bake 30 to 35 minutes. Cake is ready when the top browns and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then remove from the pan to complete cooling.

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All the Cream Cheese Icing You’ll Ever Need*

4 packages of cream cheese (8 ounce packages, not low fat), softened
1 1/2 sticks of unsalted butter, softened
2 pounds powdered sugar
2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt

1.  In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the butter and cream cheese on medium high speed until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the powdered sugar and mix on low speed until combined.

2.  Add the vanilla and salt and mix on medium high speed until well combined.

* Seriously, this is so much icing for a bundt cake (but likely perfect for a frosted layer cake – add a bit more powdered sugar for stiffness).  Bring the extra icing to the party in a little bowl for cookie dipping. That’s what’s we do, but that’s only when I’m able to “be the bigger person” and leave it alone in the kitchen at home. 2 years out of 5 ain’t bad, right?

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Blueberry Muffin Birthday Cake and a time saving tip!

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My last little baby – precious Ren – turned one this past week. There’s just a few things to report about the going’s on of a one-year-old:

1.)  Ren’s healthy, but she doesn’t move from her perfectly content sitting position. Hopefully, crawling and walking are on her bucket list.

2.)  When Ren’s ready to sleep, she reaches for her blankie and the fingers on her left hand. They’re like sleep lollipops.

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3.)  Ren loves blueberries.

The list looks short, but it’s pretty complete. Babies are not over sharers (they leave that to their older siblings).

Prop handling by big sis

Prop handling by big sis

So…Ren loves blueberries. The jury’s still out on princess dresses, basketball shorts and movie faves. So what does a baker mom do when left with only a shred of a preference? Make blueberry muffin cake! For Ren’s birthday, I added three cups of frozen blueberries to my favorite white cake recipe, and amped up the vanilla.

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NOW HERE’S THE TIP:  Then I divided the batter. With one batch of batter, I made one 10 inch layer cake and 12 cupcakes. We enjoyed the big cake at her party with our relatives on the weekend, and froze the cupcakes to enjoy later with “just us” after dinner on her real birthday, which fell in the middle of the week.

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For the layer cake, I split the single layer cake into two. I used a fluffy Swiss meringue buttercream to fill and frost the cake (that, and the cake flour, provided a nice juxtaposition to the typical “heavy” muffin). Before placing the second layer, I dotted the filling with fresh blueberries.

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From there, I frosted the cake as usual, using an off-set spatula dipped in hot water and dried to get smooth sides and a top. Finally, I piped details, added fresh blueberries used the crumbles from a cupcake to give a “muffin effect” on top.  Imagining the buttery goodness of a fresh blueberry muffin made the first bite all the better!

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For the cupcakes, I wanted the brain on blueberry, so I used purple liners.  I used three star tip to cover the tops with lots of frosting and sprinkled them with tiny purple non pariels.  These cupcakes were bursting with berries and had lovely, crispy browned tops, almost like a meringue.  I think that’s due to the eight egg whites folded into the batter.  Mmmm…I’m still dreaming about them.

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For the final touch – once the cakes were defrosted and ready to serve – I added a few fresh blueberries on top.  Surprise, surprise, that’s all Ren wanted to eat, so everybody gave up their blueberries (precious as they are in January!) and settled for a subtle, buttery blueberry cake (with no complaints from Dad and the other pint sized diners). (;

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Blueberry Muffin Cake

3 cups and 2 tablespoons cake flour (not self rising) (divided)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3 sticks (1 1/2 cups) unsalted butter; room temperature
2 1/4 cups sugar (divided)
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup milk
8 large egg whites
3 cups frozen blueberries

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a medium bowl, sift together 3 cups flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

2.  In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and 2 cups sugar until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in the lemon zest and lemon bakery emulsion.

3.  With the mixer on low speed, add flour mixture in three parts, alternating with the milk and beginning and ending with the flour; beat until just combined. Transfer mixture to a large bowl; set aside.

4.  In the clean bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat egg whites on low speed until foamy. With mixer running, gradually add remaining 1/4 cup sugar; beat on high speed until stiff, glossy peaks form, about 4 minutes. Do not overbeat.  Gently fold a third of the egg-white mixture into the butter-flour mixture until combined. Gently fold in the remaining whites.

5.  Finally, mix the frozen blueberries with 2 tablespoons flour and fold into cake batter.

6.  Pour the batter into greased pans or cupcake liners. I use a baking spray to grease pans, but butter with a dusting of flour works well too.

7.  Bake until the cakes are golden brown and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer pans to a wire rack to cool 20 minutes. Invert cakes onto the rack, then reinvert cakes and let them cool completely, top sides up.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream

4 large egg whites
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into tablespoons
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon coarse salt

1.  In the heatproof bowl of a standing mixer set over a saucepan of simmering water, combine the egg whites and sugar. Cook, whisking constantly, until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is warm to the touch (about 160 degrees F).

2.  Attach the bowl to the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat the egg white mixture on high speed until it holds stiff (but not dry) peaks. Continue beating until the mixture is fluffy and cooled, about 3 minutes.

3.  Switch to the paddle attachment. With the mixture on medium-low speed, add the butter several tablespoons at a time, beating well after each addition (If the frosting appears to separate after all the butter has been added, beat on medium-high speed until smooth again, 3 to 5 minutes more). Beat in salt and vanilla extract.  Stir with a rubber spatula until the frosting is smooth.

(Both recipes, above, are adapted from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook).

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Cake and cookie decorating bridal shower – holiday style!

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Something really fun and wonderful happened to me this month.  A cool lady – Barb – emailed me out of the blue to ask if I’d like to “act the chef” at a holiday themed bridal shower she was hosting for her daughter’s best friend.

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Reading the email that night, I was stunned.  Someone was actually asking me to do what I love.  Chat with lovely people while talking about cake and cookies.  How could I resist?

Barb in action!

Barb in action!

The party included a 12 inch coconut cake (one of my all time faves)

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and 6-8 gingerbread cookies per guest in mitten and snowflake shapes (also one of my faves).

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I also put together favor bags with 3×5 recipe cards of the cake, cookies and icings (Swiss meringue for the cake, royal icing for the cookies), piping tips (Wilton #s 1 and 1M) and cute cutters Barb provided.

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When the big day arrived, I got to Barb’s house just in time to do a little prep before the party began, due in large part to my husband’s help.  He sorted piping tips and filled favor bags that morning while I scuttled about the kitchen like a chicken with my head cut off, trying to finish up the last batch (or three) of frosting.

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Later, when I saw the entrance to the house, I knew everything was going to be fine, just fine.  Look at that simple star and outdoor ornament decorations!  This gal has style!

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The rest of the party rolled along like we were taping a segment for a Food Network holiday special.  The house was open, contemporary, gorgeous.

Bride to be!

Bride to be!

The tiered counters in the kitchen allowed a little square of work space for 14 guests to hone their cookie decorating skills while I demonstrated I am Baker’s rose cake technique and how to fill and clean a pastry bag the easy way, using Karen of Karen’s Cookies techniques.  After addressing the basics, I passed around some “inspiration pictures” I printed from Google images to get people started on their snowflake and mitten cookies.

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I also set out a plate of cookies I had prepared earlier, just to give people an idea about what can happen when you become a full fledged “cookier.”  That’s a technical term, right?  If not, I might lose my identity.

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For fun (and confidence), I also set out bowls of sanding sugar, pearls, non pariels, crushed candy canes and snow disco dust to improve any imperfections and make everything shine.  But it wasn’t necessary.  Everything already glittered!  Everybody had a ball, learned a little and left with a personal plate of cookies.  Cookie party, all grown up!

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Here are my recipes from that day.  Hopefully, you can try them in 2013!

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Triple Coconut Cake
(adapted from America’s Test Kitchen, Baking Illustrated)

1 large egg plus 5 large egg whites
3/4 cup cream of coconut (found in drink mix aisle of grocery store for pina coladas)
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon coconut extract
2 1/4 cup cake flour, sifted
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon table salt
12 T. (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces, softened but still cool
2 cups packed sweetened shredded coconut

1.  Adjust oven rack to lower middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees.  Grease two 9 inch round cake pans with shortening and dust with flour (I just use baking spray).

2.  Beat whole egg and egg whites in a large measuring cup with fork to combine.  Add cream of coconut, water, vanilla and coconut extracts.  Beat with fork until thoroughly combined.

3.  Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in bowl of standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Mix on lowest speed until combined, about 30 seconds.  With mixer still running on lowest speed, add butter 1 piece at a time, then beat until mixture resembles coarse meal, with butter bits no larger than small peas, 2 to 2 1/2 minutes.

4.  With mixer still running, add half of egg mixture.  Increase speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, about 45 seconds.  With mixer still running, add remaining egg mixture in steady stream (this should take about 15 seconds).  Stop mixer and scrape bowl with spatula, then beat at medium-high speed to combine, about 15 seconds (batter will be thick).

5.  Divide batter between cake pans and level with offset or rubber spatula.  Bake until deep golden brown, cake pulls away from sides of pans, and toothpick inserted into center of cakes comes out clean, about 30 minutes (rotate cakes after about 20 minutes).  Do not turn off oven.

6.  Cool cakes in pans on wire racks about 10 minutes, then loosen cakes from sides of pans and invert cakes onto racks, and then re-invert; cool to room temperature.

7.  TO TOAST THE COCONUT:  While cakes are cooling, spread shredded coconut on rimmed baking sheet, toast in oven until shreds are a mix of golden brown and white, 10 to 15 minutes, stirring 2 or 3 times.  Cool to room temperature.

8.  TO FROST THE CAKE:  When the cakes are cool, cut each layer in half with a serrated knife (for a total of 4 layers).  When frosting the cake, sprinkle some toasted coconut between each layer.  When the cake is completely frosted, sprinkle the entire cake with the remaining toasted coconut.

Coconut Swiss Meringue Buttercream
(adapted from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook)

4 large egg whites
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into tablespoons
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon coconut extract
1/8 teaspoon coarse salt

1.  In the heatproof bowl of a standing mixer set over a saucepan of simmering water, combine the egg whites and sugar.  Cook, whisking constantly, until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is warm to the touch (about 160 degrees F).

2.  Attach the bowl to the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Beat the egg white mixture on high speed until it holds stiff (but not dry) peaks.  Continue beating until the mixture is fluffy and cooled, about 3 minutes.

3.  Switch to the paddle attachment.  With the mixture on medium-low speed, add the butter several tablespoons at a time, beating well after each addition (If the frosting appears to separate after all the butter has been added, beat on medium-high speed until smooth again, 3 to 5 minutes more).  Beat in salt and extracts.  Stir with a rubber spatula until the frosting is smooth.

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(Almost) No Stick Gingerbread Cookies

Makes approx. 24 cookies
Mix and refrigerate dough for 3 hours or overnight before rolling and baking.

3 ¼ cups all purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon coarse salt
1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground cloves
2 sticks (1 cup) salted butter
½ cup packed brown sugar
¼ cup packed Muscovado sugar (deeper molasses flavor, found at specialty shops or online, but additional brown sugar is ok too)
1 egg
½ cup unsulpherized molasses

1.  Combine flour, soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger and cloves in a medium bowl.

2.  In a large bowl fitted with the paddle attachment for a standing mixer (or use an electric hand mixer), cream the butter and sugar (approx. 3 minutes).  Scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Add egg and molasses and beat on medium speed until smooth.

3.  Scrape bowl and add the flour mixture.  Blend on low speed just until combined (do not overmix – I hand knead the dough to get the last bit of flour incorporated).

4.  Separate dough into two balls and flatten into disks.  Wrap each disk tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 3 hours or overnight.

5.  When ready to roll and bake, preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

6.  Unwrap dough and allow to sit for a few minutes on a floured surface.  Then, using a floured rolling pin, roll out dough to approximately ¼ inch thickness and cut desired shapes with floured cookie cutters.

7.  Transfer the cookies to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Bake for 11-12 minutes.  When done, gently pull the parchment paper (with cookies) to a wire cooling rack.

8.  For decorating, I use royal icing.  If you would like a quick decorating method, combine 2/3 cup powdered sugar with 1 to 2 teaspoons milk.  Spoon the icing into a plastic baggie and cut the tip of the corner to create an easy decorating bag.  Adorn with raisins, candy, etc.

Royal Icing (for cookie decorating)
(adapted from www.bakeat350.com)

4 tablespoons meringue powder (available at cake decorating or craft stores)
½ cup warm water
1 lb. powdered sugar
½ teaspoon light corn syrup
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

1.  Combine the meringue powder and water in the bowl of a standing mixer. Hand whisk the mixture for 30 seconds.

2.  Sift in the powdered sugar and beat with the paddle attachment (or an electric hand mixer) on low to combine.

3.  Add in the corn syrup and extract.

4.  Increase mixer speed to medium high and beat for 5-8 minutes, just until the icing is glossy and stiff peaks form.

5.  Store in an airtight container until ready to use.  Add food coloring as desired and use a spray bottle to add water for a thinner, or “flood” consistency.  This “stiff” icing is perfect for outlining, piping details and building gingerbread houses.

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I am Drusilla’s granddaughter

“Who I Am,” sung by Sara Evans is a heartfelt country number about the security of knowing and accepting yourself. One line in this song always brings me to the brink of tears. I heard it last while driving to pick up my daughter from Kindergarten, two days after my Mom left from a five-day visit to meet baby Ren.

Mom came to help with the laundry, cooking and baby rocking, those things that need attention with heightened frequency when a new baby arrives. I was so grateful for Mom’s time but most valued her company and continuing unconditional affection for my family and me.

The first lines of the song’s chorus go like this:

I am Rosemary’s granddaughter
the spitting image of my father
and when the day is done my momma’s still my biggest fan

And there it is, so simple and true and with me, every day of my life. While Mom was visiting, we celebrated her birthday. Linnea made a menu of Mom’s favorites and I baked a lemon curd cake.

I frosted the cake with Swiss meringue buttercream and added simple decorations with ribbon and round piping tips. Mom was pleased. The recipes for the cake, curd and icing can be found here.

My Mom’s name is Drusilla, after my grandmother, another special lady. Today, on Mom’s actual birthday, I wish her sweet things and long life, because I need her in my corner forever and ever. Happy Birthday!

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Swept away in swirls, cake!

I recently became enchanted with Glory’s ombre swirl cake. Ombre describes a design technique that features a graduation from dark to light color. Like this:

Martha Stewart is a big fan. This has now concluded the design portion of the post/mini Pinterest site. Mostly because that’s all I really know about design.

Anyhoo, we recently had friends visit for the weekend. They’re great friends with many fine attributes, among them a weakness for over the top desserts. I wanted to bask in Glory’s glory, with a more frosting-than-you-really-should-eat-at-one-time, chocolate twist.

It turned out wonderfully. We were all in chocolate swirly heaven for a couple of days, indulging in one – and sometimes two – giant slices after every meal or every excuse for a meal that we could make sound legit.

For this recipe, I used Sweetapolita’s One-Bowl Dark Chocolate Cake recipe, which is quickly becoming a no fail favorite for me. I baked two 8 inch rounds and cut the rounds in half for a four layer cake.

For the filling, I started with a layer of swiss meringue buttercream, topped with 1/3 cup of chocolate ganache on each layer. Then I gave the cake the old crumb coat and finished with a double batch of swiss meringue buttercream frosting, applied to the cake in giant swirls.

To create the color (and flavor!) variation in the frosting, I started with a double batch of plain frosting and then added a few dollops of ganache and a tiny drop of brown food coloring to the whole batch for the lightest variation. From there, I kept adding more ganache and food coloring to create the two darker chocolate hues.

For the swirls, I used a large Wilton 1M decorating tip. Whenever you use the big decorating guns, the frosting goes fast. I started at the bottom with the darkest frosting, creating a row for each color. Unfortunately, I miscalculated the color ratios and ran out of the lighter frosting and had to improvise on the top of the cake with ganache and the more chocolatey frosting. Ultimately, the ombre effect was cut short, but all to good end.  More chocolate for all!

Sweetapolita’s One-Bowl Dark Chocolate Cake Recipe

Shiny Chocolate Ganache

3/4 c. heavy cream
2 T. unsalted butter
6 oz. semi sweet chocolate, chopped
1 t. corn syrup (for shine)

1.  Microwave the cream and butter in a measuring cup on high until bubbling, about 1 1/2 minutes. Or, bring to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium-high heat.

2.  Place the chopped chocolate and corn syrup in a food processor. With the machine running, gradually add the hot cream through the feed tube and process until smooth and thickened, about 3 minutes.

3.  Transfer the ganache to a medium bowl and let stand at room temperature until it is the consistency you desire (about 1 hour for spreading; 1 1/2 to 2 hours for piping). Makes approximately 1 1/2 cups.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream Frosting
(slightly adapted from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook)

4 large egg whites
1 1/4 c. sugar
3 sticks (1 1/2 c.) unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into tablespoons
1 t. vanilla extract

1.  In the heat proof bowl of an electric mixer set over a saucepan of simmering water on medium heat, combine the egg whites and sugar. Cook, whisking constantly, until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is warm to the touch (about 160 degrees F on an instant read thermometer).

2.  Attach the bowl to the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat the egg white/sugar mixture on high-speed until it holds stiff (but not dry) peaks, about 5 minutes.

3.  Switch to the paddle attachment. With the mixer on medium-low speed, add the butter several tablespoons at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla.

4.  If the frosting appears to separate after the butter and vanilla are added (it usually does), beat on medium speed for another 3 minutes until combined.

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