This cake is frosted in buttercream with fondant seashells that are colored by hand. This is one of my all time favorite cakes.
Spiced Cardamom Cookies
Since the HCB assignment this week had peanut butter in it, which I am allergic to, I decided that I would take the week off. However, after seeing my fellow bakers’ comments about Chocolate Genoise Cake with Peanut Butter Whipped Ganache, I am seriously thinking that I will have to bake the chocolate genoise after all.
In the meantime, I thought I would share a photo of some cookies I made a few weeks ago. This is my interpretation of Martha Stewart’s Spiced Cardamom Cookies. I’ve had these cookies on my Must Try list ever since I saw them in her Holiday issue two years ago. I know, it is pathetic that it has taken me this long to get them done. In my defense, however, I just haven’t had a lot of spare time due to the job I have had and I have also been dealing with some challenges in my life for almost that same amount of time. So now that I am working a job that can be “left at the office,” and I have finally accepted the fact that I am going to be learning patience with these trials for the unforeseen future, I decided to try them.
Now I do have to state for the record that Martha Stewart and I have a love/hate relationship. Some of her recipes are great, and some of them just really do not work. This one, however, is a definite keeper. The dough was easy to mix up and also to work with. I used an impression mat that I have for fondant. It’s not quite as nice as Martha’s but it worked out okay. The cookies went together quite quickly and I think it would be a fun project for kids to do. See Martha’s recipe here.
The squirrel cookie cutter is made by Marimekko and I bought it last winter when I was in Minnesota. I thought it was the perfect cutter to use for fall and went really great with the walnut cookies (also seen on Martha Stewart but I used the recipe from House on the Hill.) (You can find the walnut recipe here. Since I made these cookies for some children that can not have nuts, I filled them with chocolate buttercream.)
The cookies turned out great and my family has already requested that I make them again. If you are looking for something fun and unique, definitely give these a try!
Ginger Cheesecake with Gingerbread Crust
This week we had another free choice as to what we wanted to bake. I looked through the list of the cakes Marie baked before the group officially started and narrowed down what I wanted to try. The cake that caught my eye was the Ginger Cheesecake with Gingerbread Crust. This cheesecake is a perfect fit for this time of year because it has ginger and cardamom added to it. And not only that — the cake is encircle with gingerbread cookies! Now what could be more adoreable than that?
To be fair, the gingerbread cookies are optional in this recipe. If you want, you can purchase gingersnaps and grind them up for the crust. But seriously, the gingerbread cookies are the funnest part of this recipe. So for me, there was no question on whether or not I was making them.
The gingerbread dough was easy to mix up. The dough is flavored with molasses and the spices of ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. The dough is put in the fridge for a couple of hours to firm up. When I took it out later in the day, the dough was easy to work with and rolled out nicely. I cut out the small gingerbread boys and girls and then cut out squares to be crushed up for the crust. The crust is made by adding butter and a little salt to the cookie crumbs. I elected to leave out the salt since we are watching the sodium in our home.
The cheesecake itself went together quite easily also. One unique part of this recipe was the addition of ginger juice. To acquire ginger juice, you take a large piece of fresh gingerroot and grate it. Then you squeeze the grated ginger to extract its juice. (The gingerroot is then disposed of. ) The main components of the cheesecake batter are cream cheese and sour cream.
The cheesecake is baked in a water bath for an hour and then left in the oven with the door closed for another hour. Then you cool it on a wire rack for another hour before putting it in the fridge overnight. So this dessert definitely has to be made the day before you want to serve it.
To serve the cheesecake, run a hot knife around the inside of the pan to release it, and place on a serving plate. Then you press the gingerbread cookies around the outside. You can use jam to adhere the cookies a little more securely to the cheesecake.
My family really liked this cheesecake. The ginger flavor was quite strong but not too much. It was refreshing to have something a little out of the ordinary and these spices just feel like Thanksgiving to me. And if you make this cheesecake, don’t leave out the cookies because they were our favorite part of this dessert (I’ve already received a request to make more).
Swedish Pear and Almond Cream Cake
I’m a little late posting this week’s HCB project, the Swedish Pear and Almond Cream Cake. My tardiness is not because this was a difficult cake to make but just because I ended up working more than expected and didn’t get my post finished. The cake itself went together quite easily.
Combine the dry ingredients.
Add the liquid ingredients.
Add the almond cream (the most difficult part was finding the almond paste).
Add the pear.
Bake and eat!
The results: Very tasty! It was simple but good!
Today’s assignment with the Heavenly Cake Bakers was the Bostini. I have been waiting impatiently for this recipe to come up since the first time I thumbed through Rose’s beautiful cookbook. The picture of a mug full of pastry cream, topped off with a small cake on top and covered in hot fudge indeed looks heavenly. This recipe is basically a sophisticated variation of Boston Cream Pie, with orange added to the cake for an extra twist.
There are basically three parts to this recipe: First, the Orange Glow Chiffon Cupcake Batter, the Vanilla Bean Pastry Cream Sauce, and finally the Chocolate Butter Glaze. However, none of these steps takes an extensive amount of work so don’t let that discourage you from attempting this dessert.
The Orange Glow Chiffon Cupcake Batter went together very easily. This is an oil based cake so once the dry ingredients are mixed, you add oil, egg yolks, orange zest, orange juice and vanilla. The batter thickens up nicely. In a separate bowl, you make a meringue which is then folded into the batter. The result is a light orange batter which pours easily into the cupcake pan. The instructions call for a silicone pan but since I don’t have one, I used my aluminum pans and I lined the bottoms with parchment. The full batter recipe yields 12 cupcakes and so I decided to halve the recipe to end up with 6 cupcakes. Now I do not understand what happened, but out of my half recipe of batter I actually came out with 12 cupcakes. This is really weird and I do not understand. Last week when I made the 8 cup version of angel food cake batter I also ended up with way too much batter and ended up filling a loaf pan with the extra. Anyway, the cakes baked up nicely.
The next step was the Vanilla Bean Pastry Cream Sauce. This sauce is supposed to be a cross between pastry cream and creme anglaise. The first step was quite interesting in that you scrape the vanilla bean seeds into the sugar and salt mixture and mix it up with your fingers which I have never seen done before. This mixture is heated with heavy cream until it comes to a simmer. Then there is a quick exchange when you mix some of the cream into the egg yolks and then put the egg yolk mixture back into the cream. I didn’t get any pictures of this since it was rather quick moving and I was afraid if I stopped to take pictures Iwould have a curdled mess on my hands. The sauce is then heated a few minutes longer and it becomes very thick. After straining the mixture you put it it directly into custard cups and refrigerate. Now I seemed to have the opposite problem I did with the batter because with the pastry cream I again made a half recipe which should have yielded six servings. I had 8 oz. cups rather than the 6-7 oz. cups, but I only needed to make 3 Bostinis so I figured I would have plenty left over. I barely had enough to fill 3 of the glasses and even then I didn’t fill them as full as I wanted to. I really am not understanding what is happening with these measurements and yields.
The last step couldn’t be easier. Basically you heat the butter in a saucepan and when it is simmering you add chopped chocolate. The recipe calls for 62% chocolate. Normally I use Ghirardelli chocolate but this time I tried Nestle Chocolatier. The sauce came out shiny and smooth. My mouth was watering.
To serve the Bostini, you please a cupcake upside down over the custard and then top with fudge glaze. Since I didn’t have quite enough custard I put an extra layer of cupcake in so that I could still have a nice dome above the glass. This did make it a little difficult to eat though. Next time, I think I will actually put that extra layer of cake in the middle of the creme and add a layer of glaze. That way, it will break up the custard a bit and in my opinion it will be even better.
We were very pleased with the Bostini and look forward to having it again. It is definitely a showpiece dessert that tastes as great as it looks.
Taking the Mystery out of Thai Food
You may be asking yourself what in the world this contraption is. . . Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Well, I was introduced to this odd piece of cooking equipment a few weeks ago when I took a cooking class at a local shop that sells kitchen and baking supplies. At this class we learned to cook Thai food. I had looked forward to taking this class for several months and let me tell you that it was exactly what I hoped it would be. I will show you what I learned to make very soon. But — back to our mystery equipment. This is, of all things, a rice cooker!
In Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and a few other places, they eat a type of rice called Khao Neeo or “Sticky Rice.” Sticky Rice is medium to long grain and is opaque white before cooking. But unlike any other rice I’ve ever used, this rice is not boiled but “steamed.” So to make this rice you put water in the bottom pot and bring it to a boil. The rice, after soaking it, is wrapped in cheesecloth and placed in the basket. When the basket is placed on the pot — voila!, you have a rice steamer.
And something else that makes this rice unique is that it is not eaten with a fork or chopsticks. This rice is eaten with your hands. To eat it, you take a large ball of rice in one hand, pull a smaller piece off with the other hand and gently squeeze it into a clump. You can then place it in your mouth or better yet, ,dip it into sauce and then eat.
Thanks to my hubby, I now own this little piece of cooking equipment. The day after I took this class, we drove down to the Asian market to buy some sticky rice. Now this is NOT where I found my little rice steamer. After that, we headed to the mall and while I was shopping with my daughter, hubby went browsing through Williams & Sonoma. He could hardly believe it when he saw them setting out this rice steamer. He began talking with the sales clerks and they were thrilled that he could tell them about it. Apparently they had received the item that morning and had absolutely no idea what in the world it was. So next time you are in Williams & Sonoma, and you see this little item on the shelf, you will know what it is!
And if you haven’t tried or eaten much Thai food you definitely should! I love the layers of flavors that you get with each bite you take. There’s sweet, salty, spicy and sour all rolled into one. Last week I was able to try my hand at cooking the Larb salad that I had been taught at my Thai class and I also tried a new recipe for Pad Thai. They both turned out better than I imagined and we all ate WAY too much. So my friends, you definitely must try some Thai food. I know we are going to be eating a lot more of it.
Angel Food Cake with Lime and Coconut
This week’s baking project was the basic Angel Food Cake that could be dressed up any way we wanted. Since I was planning to cook Thai food on Saturday night, I thought it would be fun to keep that theme going. I did a little bit of looking on the internet and decided to make an angel food cake with lime and coconut, since those are two predominant flavors in Thai Cooking. (I found that recipe here: http://www.squidoo.com/angel-food-cake-recipes)
Since there are so many different sizes and shapes of angel food cake pans, Rose provides a recipe that uses one egg white per one cup batter so that the reader can easily multiply the recipe to the size of the pan. The pan I have is 8-cup capacity, or half the size of a full sized pan, so I multiplied the recipe by 8.
The first thing is to make a meringue by beating the egg whites and sugar to stiff peaks. Then the dry ingredients are added and folded in a little bit at a time. Once in the pan the batter should be about 1/2″ from the top of the pan. Now I’m not sure what happened with mine because I ended up having enough batter left over to fill a small loaf pan.
We have a fairly new toaster oven that has a convection oven setting on it and I decided I wanted to give that a try. Since I’m fairly new to the whole convection thing I decided to bake it at 325 as I’ve heard that you should reduce the temp when using convection. I wasn’t sure how long to bake it but I was thinking about 20 minutes. I watched the cake rise a few inches above the pan and then it started shrinking back into the pan. Since I had read in the instructions that this is typical, I didn’t worry about it. It appeared to be done after about 23 minutes so I removed it and set it on a raised cooling rack. We had some shopping to do so we left for a few hours. When I came back, I noticed that the cake was now far below the top of the cake pan by about 1-1/2 inches or more. So I’m not sure if this is an indication of it not cooking long enough or what. The bottom of the cake also seemed very moist even though it felt done. If anyone knows, please leave a comment for me.
The lime custard is made by mixing 2 eggs, 2 egg yolks, 1/2 cup sugar, 6 T. lime juice, 2 tsp lime peel and 1/2 cup butter together in a double boiler and heating to 160 degrees. Then you strain the custard and refrigerate until completely cool (I made mine the night before we were going to have the cake). After it is completely cooled, you beat 1 cup whipping cream and 1/2 tsp vanilla to stiff peaks and gradually add 3 T. sugar. Gently fold the whipping cream into the lime mixture.
I cut my angel food cake into third horizontally, and filled it and frosted it with the lime custard. Then I pressed toasted coconut onto the outside.
I got rave reviews on this cake! The flavor of lime went perfect with the light texture of angel food cake. It was also the perfect complement to the Thai food. We will definitely be making this again and very soon I am sure.
Next week is the Bostini and I can hardly wait. I have been drooling over this recipe since the first time I looked through Rose’s book.
Chocolate Pumpkin Bread
Today is a very special day because today I am going to share with you one of my very favorite recipes: Chocolate Pumpkin Bread. I don’t know who to give credit to for this recipe as I believe it came from the newspaper when I was young. My Mom happened to see it, cut it out and decided to give it a try. Needless to say, it was a big hit and she often made it to give as gifts during the holidays. Last weekend I decided to make my Mom’s Chocolate Pumpkin Bread to take to a party. I have had several people ask for the recipe so here it is. I hope you all enjoy it.
- 1-1/4 cups oil
- 3 oz. unsweetened chocolate
- 3-1/2 cups sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 29 oz. can pumpkin
- 1-1/2 tsp vanilla
- 1-1/2 tsp baking powder
- 3-3/4 cups all purpose flour
- 1-3/4 tsp salt
- 1-1/4 tsp baking soda
- 1-1/4 tsp cinnamon
- 1-1/4 tsp ground clove
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg
- 8 oz. chocolate chips
- 1 cup chopped nuts
Melt together over low heat half of oil with chocolate; set aside. Cream remaining oil with sugar. Beat in eggs. Add melted chocolate mixture and blend. Combine pumpkin and vanilla and add to batter. Slowly blend in sifted dry ingredients until moistened, then beat well until no lumps appear. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour or until firm for small loaf pans, 1 hour 15 minutes for large pans. Let stand 10 minutes, then remove from pans and cool. Makes 3 loaves (9×15); 4 loaves (8×4); 7 cans or 7 mini loaves.
Many-Splendored Quick Bread
Although I didn’t have to work this weekend, I kept myself pretty busy catching up on some housework and doing a little baking project of my own. ThereforeI was happy that this week’s HCB project was a quick bread that is on the Quick and Easy List. It was indeed pretty quick to throw together. I think that grating the zucchini and carrot were the most time consuming part which didn’t take long at all.
The flavor components are of course the zucchini and carrot and also include a banana, instant oatmeal and walnuts. The ingredients make it sound pretty darn healthy don’t you think? I am curious to know what the nutrition information looks like and am wishing that Rose had included that in her book. I know — I’m probably the only one in the world that wants nutrition info for a cookbook on cakes. But with all of hubby’s health issues lately it is something we have had to focus on more and so I really do think it would be helpful to have.
Anyway, back to the quick bread. First step is to toast the walnuts. Next, you mix the dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, you make the batter and you can just throw all the ingredients in the KitchenAid and mix it up. Add in the dry ingredients and the nuts and you’re done. This recipe make one 8-1/2″x4″ loaf.
The flavor is pretty good, although not wow. However, if it is a somewhat healthy kind of snack to eat, then it might be a good thing to have on hand. I will be figuring up the nutrition info on this and then making a final analysis.