With spring in full bloom, I wanted to create a cake which celebrated the new season and all of it's blossoming flowers as well as a conversation piece you could bring to your Easter brunch or family gathering this coming weekend. It's a fairly simple cake with endless possibilities when it comes to decorating. I went with a palette of pastel flowers, pink macaroons, raspberries for a little pop of color and gold bunnies to highlight the cake. You can add any variety of flowers, chocolates, berries, meringue kisses and macaroons. It's all personal preference but using an assortment of textures and sizes will add a nice touch. Get creative and have fun with it!
The cake starts with a very simple hot milk cake. It has a great vanilla flavor and tender crumb. I bake my cakes in 1/2 sheet pans, greased and lined with parchment paper. After they have cooled, I freeze them just until they are firm and then I use my template to cut the cake into my desired shape. This short amount of time in the freezer helps make it easier to cut and handle. I decided to make the cake into the shape of an Easter egg since I was at the dollar store and saw an Easter sign in the shape of an egg...SCORE! I traced the sign onto a white poster board (which I also found at the dollar store) and this is what I used as my template to cut the cake.
For the filling, I went with your traditional Swiss meringue buttercream. It's incredibly easy to make, travels well and holds up longer than whipped cream. I use this as a base for all my buttercream's. You can easily add pureed fruits to flavor the buttercream. Strawberry is among my favorite. As far as how much, I do it to taste. For this cake, I used a combination of the vanilla bean buttercream and filled in the center of the cake with strawberry buttercream.
Hot Milk Cake
Yield 2 (1/2 sheet) pans (18'x33"), greased and lined with parchment paper
8 large eggs, room temperature
4 Cups granulated sugar
4 1/2 Cups all-purpose flour
4 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt
2 Tbsp vanilla bean paste
2 1/2 Cups whole milk
20 Tbsp unsalted butter
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
2. Place milk and butter in large sauce pan and heat on medium-high until butter has melted and mixture is hot to the touch. Keep an eye on it, it can go from scalding to boil over/complete mess very quickly!
3. Place eggs and sugar inside mixer fitted with whisk attachment. Begin to whisk on high speed until mixture is pale yellow and at ribbon stage, meaning when you lift the whisk over the mixture the batter should fall slowly forming a ribbon that will hold it's shape for several seconds.
4. Next sift dry ingredients into large bowl. Turn mixer off and begin to add dry ingredients into egg mixture a little at a time, mixing in between each addition. Make sure to scrape sides of the bowl down to prevent lumps.
5. With mixer on low speed, slowly begin to add hot milk and butter mixture. Scrape sides of the bowl down and mix until smooth and evenly incorporated.
6. Divide batter between the two sheet pans. You can either do this with a scale or I use a very large ice cream scoop and evenly divide the batter among the the sheet pans.
7. Place sheet pans in preheated 325 degree oven and bake for 25-30 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean and cake springs back when touched with fingers. Each oven is different so make sure to keep an eye on the cake to prevent the cake from drying out.
8. Let cakes cool at room temperature. Wrap cakes in plastic and freeze for 2 hours or until ready to use.
Swiss Meringue Buttercream
1 1/2 Cups egg whites
1lb 2 oz granulated sugar
2lbs unsalted butter, room temperature
1 Tbsp vanilla bean paste
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1. Place egg whites, sugar and salt in large bowl. Place over double boiler and heat mixture until it reaches 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Stir occasionally with wooden smooth. Sugar should be fully dissolved and mixture will feel hot to the touch.
2. Transfer egg white mixture to stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment. Beat on medium-high speed until stiff glossy peaks form (about 10-15 minutes) and the bottom of the mixing bowl is no longer hot but warm to the touch. If meringue is too warm it will melt the butter and you will have a broken mess on your hands.
3. Begin to add the softened butter a tablespoon at a time, adding it just as fast as it can be absorbed by the meringue. Do not add too quickly.
4. Once all the butter has been incorporated, scrape the sides of the bowl and continue mixing until buttercream is a thick whipped consistency. Sometimes it may look broken or separated, but keep mixing. It will eventually come together.
5. Add vanilla bean paste and mix to combine.
6. At this point you can decide to either use the vanilla bean buttercream as is or add any type of flavoring or pureed fruit. I used a combination of vanilla bean and fresh strawberry buttercream.
1. Remove cakes from freezer. Using a sharp knife, begin to trace your template onto the cake.
2. Place cake onto your cake board or platter. Fit your piping bag with a round tip. I use Ateco 808 but you can also use a star tip or one of your choice. Begin to pipe buttercream on bottom layer.
3. Gently place top layer of cake onto piped buttercream. Do not press down on the cake. Once again, begin to pipe your buttercream covering the entire top of the cake.
4. Begin to decorate cake with fresh flowers, berries, candies or anything else you like.
5. These types of cakes are enjoyed the day of since the sides of the cake are exposed, they are prone to dry out. I would recommend enjoying this cake within 4-6 hours of decorating or gently wrapping it with plastic wrap and refrigerating it. Make sure to let it sit out for a couple hours to allow the buttercream and cake come to room temperature if you decide to refrigerate and serve at a later time.
With Valentine's Day approaching, I thought a dessert showcasing none other than CHOCOLATE would be fitting. This Chocolate Cheesecake is not only incredibly delicious but believe it or not, easy to make.
Sometimes I make a devils food cake for the base of the cake vs the traditional wafer crust. But this time, I used Oreo Crumbs to save time and who doesn't like Oreo's??
Some tips I've learned a long the way when baking cheesecakes.
1. While baking your cheesecake inside the water bath, do not wrap the pan in foil. Although most recipes call for this, the best method I have found in avoiding water from getting into your cheesecake is to use an oven bag. Yes! The same oven bag for those of you who bake your turkey in during Thanksgiving. It's leak proof and so much more efficient than using foil. Just make sure to adjust the bag so it doesn't cover the top of the cheesecake.
2. Let your cheesecake chill inside the oven after baking with the oven turned off and the door slightly open. I usually set a timer for 1 hour and let my cheesecake cool inside the oven. This slow cooling process prevents the cheesecake from cracking. Afterwards, I chill my cheesecake overnight before decorating or serving.
You can serve this chocolate cheesecake with fresh berries, chocolate ganache for you chocolate lovers, or you can do what I did. Take some ripe strawberries and dip them in some good quality melted chocolate.
Yield: 1 9-inch spring from pan
2 Cups Oreo Crumbs (ground fine in a food processor)
5 Tbsp unsalted melted butter
9 oz bittersweet chocolate chips (I use Callebaut L6040 which has a very intense chocolate flavor, but any good quality chocolate could be substituted)
2 lbs cream cheese, room temperature
1 1/4 Cups plus 2 Tbsp Granulated sugar
1/4 Cup Cocoa Powder (Cacao Barry 100% Extra Brute is my go to for baking)
1 tsp Vanilla Bean Paste
4 large eggs, room temp
1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees
2. To make crust, grind Oreo cookies inside a food processor until fine. Measure out 2 Cups of crumbs. Add melted butter and mix until incorporated.
3. Add the crumbs to a 9 inch spring form pan. With the bottom of a measuring cup, evenly distribute the crumbs into the bottom and sides of the pan.
4. Place the pan in the oven and bake for 10-12 minutes.
5. Remove from oven and allow crust to cool at room temperature before adding cheesecake mixture.
1. Place chocolate inside a metal or glass bowl over a double boiler. Stir occasionally until chocolate is melted. Remove chocolate and set aside.
2. Place softened cream cheese, sugar, cocoa powder and vanilla bean paste inside food processor. Mix until mixture is smooth, making sure to scrape down sides. Add the eggs one at a time. Add melted chocolate and mix until evenly incorporated and silky smooth.
3. Pour into prepared spring form pan and place pan inside oven bag. Roll the bag down so that it doesn't cover the top of the cheesecake.
4. Place the spring form pan onto a baking sheet. Place inside oven and begin to fill baking sheet with hot water, about 1/3 of the way up the spring from pan.
5. Bake at 300 degrees for 1 hour. The cheesecake is done when the center wobbles a little when you jiggle the pan. But the edges of the cheesecake will look firmer than the center. Do not over bake or else the cheesecake will begin to crack.
6. Turn oven off and slightly crack the oven door open and allow the cheesecake to cool for 1 hour.
7. Remove cheesecake from oven and oven bag. Place on baking sheet and refrigerate overnight.
8. To remove the cheesecake from the pan, I usually use a blow torch to heat and loosen the sides. While I know most home cooks do not have a blow torch, you can easily remove the spring from ring by heating a sharp knife inside some hot water and running it along the edge of the pan.
9. Decorate with desired toppings.
10. Enjoy the fruits of your labor :)
When winter gives you an abundance of lemons...make lemon pudding cake! These light and lemony cakes of goodness are among my favorite lemon desserts. The amazing separation that happens while baking creates a lemony custard sitting on top of a pillow of soft cake. It really is magical to see, even after all these years of making them. They are not overly sweet and low in calorie compared to other desserts. They are also jam packed with Vitamin C which we can all use during the winter months. So if we're going to indulge a little, we might as well get something out of it. I hope you enjoy!
Yield: 12 (3 1/2 ounce ramekins)
1/4 Cup plus 2 tsp All Purpose Flour, sifted
5 oz Granulated Sugar (plus more for ramekins)
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 Cup Lemon Zest
6 Eggs, separated at room temperature
1/2 Cup Fresh Lemon Juice, strained (about 3 1/2 lemons depending on the size)
2 Cups Whole Milk
1. Preheat convection oven to 325 degrees.
2. To prepare ramekins, spray each one with non stick spray. Add granulated sugar inside ramekin and begin turning to coat the bottom and edges. Place ramekins inside a roasting pan. Set aside
3. In a large bowl, mix together sifted flour, sugar, salt and lemon zest. Set aside.
4. In mixer, begin to whisk the egg whites on medium-high speed until soft peaks. You will know when they are at soft peaks when you turn your whisk upside down, the peaks will just begin to hold and curl. They are soft and will fall back down into themselves after a few seconds.
5. As the egg whites are mixing, whisk together the lemon juice, milk, and egg yolks in a separate bowl. Whisk until evenly incorporated. Add dry ingredients and whisk until smooth.
6. Once the egg whites have formed a soft peak, gently fold into lemon and egg mixture, trying not to deflate the egg whites. Fold in an up and over movement.
7. Ladle the batter into the prepared ramekins just below the rim. When ladling make sure to scoop from the bottom up. Fill roasting pan with hot water (while I'm preparing the ingredients, I boil some water in my tea kettle and let it sit while I finish preparing the batter.) Fill roasting pan with hot water about 1/3 of the way up the ramekin.
8. Place roasting pan inside oven and bake for 20 minutes uncovered. Rotate the roasting pan and bake for an additional 20 minutes until cakes rise and are a light golden color. They will spring back when you touch the tops.
9. Remove from oven and let them cool at room temperature. To me, they are best served at room temperature. They can also be made ahead of time and stored inside the ramekins until serving time. When chilled, they tend to be a bit denser, but still amazing and delicious!
10. To remove the pudding cakes from the ramekins, dip a sharp knife in hot water and run along the edge of the ramekin. Invert onto a serving platter or plate.
I like to serve them with fresh raspberry sauce or raspberry jam during the winter if you can't find good berries during that time. You could also serve the pudding cakes right inside the ramekins. Dust with a light sprinkling of powder sugar to spruce things up a bit and serve the sauce on the side. Your family or guests will be pleasantly surprised when they dig their spoons and reveal the delicious custard sitting on the bottom.
Ahhh, rugelach! These light and flaky pastry-like cookies are among my favorite during the holidays. The dough is actually made with only a handful of ingredients, one of them being cream cheese. I began making them over 14 years ago while I was working at a small bakery in Berkeley, CA. They are the most requested item I receive from my family during Christmas time. I've seen many variations, some are filled with poppy seed, chocolate and jam. My favorite by far is apricot walnut rugelach. It has a thin layer of apricot jam, a light sprinkling of cinnamon sugar, golden raisins and chopped walnuts. You will traditionally see them rolled in a crescent shape. I roll mine a little differently, more like a cylinder which i fill and roll up and then slice into individual pieces. Another great thing about these is they can be made ahead of time and kept in the freezer...which is always a PLUS, especially during the holidays. Once you learn how to make these little gems, you and your family will keep coming back for more...I promise :)
Tips for making Rugelach
*Use cold butter and cream cheese. The more cold the ingredients, the flakier the rugelach will be once you bake them.
*Do not over mix the dough once you add the cream cheese. You want to see streaks of cream cheese inside the dough. Almost like a marble effect. Once the dough begins to come together in the center of the mixer, STOP and do not mix any further.
*After mixing, I place my dough into a square/rectangular baking dish, which I spray and line with parchment. This way the dough is already in the shape you need to roll it and less handling of the dough.
*A lot of rugelach recipes call for you to cream the butter and cream cheese like a cookie. NO, NO, NO! Don't do that. I mix my rugelach very similar to the way I make my pie dough recipe. This will give you the most flaky and light rugelach you've ever tasted.
Yield: 20 cookies
9 ounces cold butter, cut into 1/2" cubes
9 ounces cold cream cheese, cut into 1/2" cubes
10 ounces All-Purpose flour
1/2 tsp kosher salt
Filling (please note, the recipe makes two rolls of rugelach. Divide filling among the two).
1/2 Cup Apricot Jam, divided
3 Tablespoons Cinnamon Sugar, divided (to make cinnamon sugar I mix 1/2 cup granulated sugar and 2 Tbsp ground cinnamon. Reserve the remaining cinnamon sugar for another use).
1/2 Cup Finely chopped walnuts, divided
1/2 Cup Golden Raisins, divided
1. Place flour and salt into a mixing bowl.
2. Cut the butter and cream cheese into 1/2" cubes. Place the butter into the flour mixture and the cream cheese back into the refrigerator until ready to use.
3. Using a fitted paddle attachment, begin to mix flour mixture and butter on low speed. Once butter begins to get dispersed, adjust speed to medium. Mix until flour mixture becomes sand-like and the butter begins to break down into small pea-size lumps.
4. Remove cream cheese from refrigerator and add into mixing bowl. Mix on low until evenly incorporated. Do not over mix. Like I mentioned before, you want the dough to have streaks of cream cheese and have a marble-like appearance
5. Remove dough from mixing bowl and press into any small square/rectangular baking dish, greased and lined with parchment paper. This will make it a lot easier to roll once the dough has chilled. Chill dough for a minimum of 3 hours or overnight.
6. Remove dough from refrigerator and divide into two equal sized pieces. Let dough come to room temperature for 30-40 minutes.
7. Lightly flour surface and rolling pin. Begin to roll dough starting at the center and pushing outward, turning each time and maintaining a rectangular shape. Roll dough into a 12x16" rectangle, about 1/4" thick.
8. Spread apricot jam onto the dough with an off-set spatula all the way to the edge of the dough. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar mixture evenly on top of apricot jam. Add chopped walnuts and golden raisins.
9. Starting at the top of the dough, begin to fold the dough over, trying to keep it as tight as possible and begin to roll towards you. Roll dough up into a tight cylinder, ending with the seam on the bottom. Press the top gently to flatten the bottom seam to ensure it is sealed. Wrap in plastic wrap and place onto a sheet pan. Repeat same process with the remaining dough and filling. Refrigerate for 3-4 hours. At this point, you could also freeze and use at another time.
10. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
11. Slice the cylinders into 1 1/2" pieces and place seam-side down on the prepared baking sheets. Bake until golden brown for 30 minutes. Once the rugelach have cooled completely, dust with powder sugar and serve. Store in a tightly sealed container for up to 3 days.
YAY! This is my very first blog post and if you're reading this, I'm so happy you've taken the time to check it out and possibly try the recipe. It is officially fall time (my absolute favorite time of the year) and with Thanksgiving approaching you know what that means...PIE!
Now, many of you may know me as the cake decorator, but I actually have been baking longer than I have been decorating cakes. I truly am a baker first, cake decorator second. Being so lucky to live in California and enjoy all the 4 seasons, I do stick with seasonal baking. So depending on what season it is will dictate what I’m conjuring up in my kitchen. Basically, do not ask me to bake you a peach pie in the dead of winter!
Creating this blog is a way for me to share my passion for baking while continuing to create fun and exciting new cakes. I guess you could say, the best of both worlds!
Since this is my first post, we'll start off simple and basic...but don't be fooled by the simplicity of this recipe. Some of the best recipes have the least ingredients. Everyone wants a good, solid pie dough recipe which they can use for everything. I use this during the fall when I'm baking apple pies, pumpkin and pecan pies. During the spring and summer, I use this recipe for my berry crostata or crumble pies. You really can use it for almost any pie filling.
Some helpful tips when making pie dough; make sure your butter is COLD and that you use ice water. If your butter is too warm, it will prevent flakes from forming inside your dough. I place my butter in the freeze for 10-20 minutes after I have cut them into small cubes. Do not over mix and do not add all the water at once. Add a couple tablespoons at a time. Each batch is different and sometimes requires more or less water.
How long can you freeze pie dough? I typically like to make pie dough and keep it in the freezer so I have it available when I need it. Pie dough can be frozen up to 6 months. I wrap each disc in plastic wrap and then place in a freezer gallon bag to keep extra fresh.
8 ounces unsalted butter, cold
13 ounces all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
4-6 tablespoons ice water, plus more if needed
1. Cut butter into 1/2 inch cubes. Place on parchment lined sheet pan and freeze for 10-20 minutes.
2. Combine flour, sugar and salt inside mixing bowl fitted with a paddle attachment. Remove butter from freezer and add to flour mixture. Turn on mixer on low speed to begin to break up butter into pea-size lumps. DO NOT overmix. You should see tiny lumps of butter throughout the flour mixture.
3. Add ice water a couple tablespoons at a time until dough begins to stick together when pressed between your fingers. The dough should be moist but not sticky and wet.
4. Remove dough from mixing bowl onto a lightly floured surface. Divide dough into 2 equal balls. Each ball should weigh 13 ounces. If there is a small amount of dough left after weighing, just divide among the 2 piles of dough equally. Pat dough down into a flat disc. Sprinkle each disc with flour and cover with plastic wrap and place inside refrigerator for a minimum of 2 hours or overnight.
5. Remove disc from refrigerator and let sit at room temperature for 30-40 minutes.
6. Lightly flour surface and rolling pin. Begin to roll dough, turning every couple of rolls to ensure you get a nice round shape. Roll dough to form a 12” circle, about 1/4 inch thick.
7. Brush off excess flour and transfer dough into a lightly greased 9” pie pan. Gently press bottom down as well as along the sides of the pie pan. Do not stretch the dough. With a sharp knife or scissors (which is what I like to use), begin to trim along the top edge of the pie pan. Leave 1/2”-1” over hang. Tuck the overhang back under the crust.
7. To create the classic flute pie crust, press the dough in between your index finger and thumb on the inside rim and your index finger of the other hand on the outside rim. Or you could always crimp the edge with the back of a fork if that’s easier for you.
8. At this point I like to refrigerate my dough for at least 30 minutes to 1 hour. This gives the dough time to rest and chill before baking. If you’re looking to get ahead, like I do, you can wrap the entire pie pan and refrigerate overnight or several days ahead.
9. Add your favorite filling and bake! I normally bake my pies in a 350 degree convection oven. Each oven varies in temperature so please adjust according to your specific oven.
Voila! You have a home baked pie to show off to your family and friends.