Lemon Raspberry Wedding Cake

Last year, I made my cousin’s wedding cake. I baked and decorated at home, then drove it over 100 miles to the reception. That was an adventure! Luckily, the cake made the trip perfectly and all the guests loved it. I told my cousin to go ahead and serve  the top tier and that I would make her a fresh cake for her 1st anniversary. First, we needed the extra servings, and second, eating year-old frozen cake seems less than pleasant.

She had a 3 tier cake with vanilla layers filled with lemon curd and raspberries all covered in white buttercream. I decorated it with a swirly pattern to give it texture and wrapped the bases in light pink ribbon.

Here is the exact recipe I used. The cake is delicious and dense enough to hold up under the weight.

Vanilla Wedding Cake (From Epicurious)

  • 1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened, plus additional for greasing pans
  • 4 3/4 cups cake flour, sifted, plus additional for dusting pans
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 3/4 cups whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups sugar
  • 9 large egg whites

This will make two 9″ layers

Preheat the oven to 350F. Line two 9: pans with parchment paper, then grease and flour them.  Beat the egg whites to stiff but not dry peaks. Keep them in the refridgerator until you’re ready for them.

In large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. In small bowl, combine milk and vanilla.

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Reduce speed to low. Add 1/2 of flour mixture and beat until just combined. Add milk mixture and beat until just combined. Add remaining flour mixture and beat until just combined, then raise speed to moderately high and beat 10 seconds.

Stir 1/3 of egg whites into the batter to lighten it. Gently fold in remaining 2/3 of egg whites until just incorporated. Divide batter between prepared pans and smooth tops.

Bake cakes until tops are springy to touch and testers come out clean, about 45 minutes.

Lemon Curd (Adapted from Alton Brown)

Ingredients

  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1 cup sugar
  • Zest of 3 lemons
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 1 stick butter, cut into tablespoons
In the top of a double boiler, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar. Add the lemon zest and juice. Place the pan over simmering water and whisk occasionally until the mixture thickens. Remove from heat and stir in butter, a few tablespoons at a time. Press plastic wrap onto the top of the lemon curd and refrigerate until ready to use.

Vanilla Buttercream

(For hot weather, such as an outdoor wedding, use all shortening instead of half butter and half shortening)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup shortening
  • 1 cup butter
  • 2 lbs powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla (omit if the cake must be pure white, but the flavor will suffer. Don’t use clear vanilla, I don’t know what it’s made of but I know that real vanilla isn’t clear!)
Beat butter and shortening until smooth then add the vanilla. With the mixer running on low, add the sifted powdered sugar. Immediately add the milk (less for stiffer frosting, more for softer)

To assemble the cake, level each cake then slice into 2 layers. Pipe a wall of buttercream around the top of the first layer, then fill with lemon curd and raspberries. Top with next cake layer and repeat 2 more times. Frost the entire cake with buttercream and decorate as you wish!

Happy Anniversary, Cousin! I hope you enjoyed your cake!

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Mango Sorbet

 

Amazon Prime is a very dangerous thing. Free shipping on almost everything they sell on Amazon (which is everything) can make for some scary lunch break impulse shopping. That’s why I now own an ice cream maker. Even though it was an impulse purchase, I don’t regret it. With three ingredients (or fewer) and half an hour, I can have delicious sorbet.

The first flavor I made was mango. If you have an ice cream maker (or plan on impulse buying one – here’s the one I got ) here is what you need for mango sorbet

Ingredients

  • 3 ripe mangoes, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 3/4 cup simple syrup (bring 1 cup sugar and 1 cup water to a boil. Let cool, measure out 3/4 cup and save the rest for later)
  • juice of 1/2 lime

Place all of the ingredients in a blender or food processor. Puree until very smooth. Chill this mixture in the fridge for about an hour (optional – makes freezing faster). Pour into prepared ice cream maker and churn according to manufacturer instructions. It is delicious in this soft serve format, or freeze for a few more hours for scoops.

Light, refreshing, and healthy! I look forward to lots of sorbet experiments in the future. Any requests?

 

Jello Fruit Slices

Jello is sort of boring, isn’t it? It brings to mind grade school lunches or hospital meals. I do sort of love Jello, so when I saw this idea to make Jello in citrus fruits I had to give it a try. This is a really fun way to serve Jello to little kids at a party, or some spiked Jello to big kids at other parties.  It really couldn’t be easier. Choose some relatively large citrus fruits such as oranges, grapefruits, or even large lemons. Cut them in half from top to bottom, and scoop out the insides. Then just prepare the Jello as normal, according to the package directions, and pour it into the fruits. Let them set in the fridge and then cut into slices.

So easy! If you use sugar-free Jello, this is a wonderfully light treat for summer.

 

Banana Pudding Pops

August is almost over, and it is almost time to say goodbye to summer. Although I do love sweaters and pumpkin flavored coffees, Summer is so much more pleasant than fall. Even though this time of year no longer means “back to school” for me, it’s still the end of warm and lazy days and the beginning of me considering if I need a scarf when I go outside. I’ve never done well in cold weather, and I tend to break out my coats long before anyone else. Seeing as how it’s very difficult to enjoy a popsicle in Winter, I wanted to try out some simple pudding pops while the weather still allows it. Also, this is maximum enjoyment for minimum effort and calories as I used a fat free and sugar free pudding mix.

Simply mix the pudding according to package instructions (I used skim milk). I divided the pudding in half and added a few drops of yellow color to one half in an attempt to make a slightly striped pop. My effect was minimal, it would be more dramatic in vanilla pudding, I think. Divide the pudding into paper cups and place in the freezer for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, place a popsicle stick in each cup. By now, the pudding should be firm enough to hold it up. Freeze the pops for several hours or until you are ready to eat them.

To serve, cut a slit in the paper cup, and simply tear it away.

As you can see, my striped effect is slightly more subtle than I would have liked. No matter, they were still delicious.

I’ve always loved banana pudding and any banana flavored candy. I have no idea why, because banana flavored things taste nothing like real bananas. Banana, along with cherry and watermelon, are flavors that taste nothing like the real fruits, but that we associate with the fruit anyway. It’s very strange, but I can’t help but love it anyway. Of course, these would be as delicious with any pudding flavor or combination of flavors you can think of. They are also only about 70 calories each, so they are perfect for a sweet treat without overindulging.

I hope everyone is enjoying the end of Summer!

Rye Bread

This bread took me two attempts, and my initial failure was entirely my fault. Did you know that the characteristic  flavor of rye bread actually comes from the caraway seeds, and not the rye flour? Well, I didn’t. I bought rye flour, but forgot the caraway seeds. I sort of figured they were optional somehow, so I just forged ahead. I ended up with a delicious loaf of bread that tasted absolutely nothing like rye. How disappointing.

Armed with the all important caraway seeds, I made another attempt. I could tell from the delicious aroma filling the house as it baked, that I had succeeded with my second attempt. Rye has always been a rare bread in my life. We would typically have a whole wheat or multi-grain loaf for sandwiches, but rye really only found it’s way into the house after St. Patrick’s day for the obligatory corned beef sandwich. Sometimes I would get rye toast for breakfast out at a restaurant, but then again, it always felt a little bit special. Eating this bread toasted and spread with butter in the morning felt like a special treat.

Rye bread is not made with all rye flour.  Rye is a low gluten grain that contains pentosan and a high percentage of amylase enzymes, both of which contribute to a gummy texture in the finished bread. Pumpernickel flour is just coarsely milled whole rye flour. By using a long and cold ferment (letting the bread rise in the fridge overnight) the dough becomes more acidic and this counteracts the amylase enzymes. Because of these qualities, you should not use more than 20% (of total flour weight) rye flour. This recipe uses 16.9% rye and 83.1% bread flour so it has good flavor and also a light crumb.

Try substituting up to 20% of the weight of flour in a recipe for rye flour to modify some of your savory bread recipes. Don’t forget to add caraway seeds if you want that true rye bread flavor! I’ve already thought of a previous post that I’m going to experiment with making a rye variation.

Out of respect to the author, I will not be posting any of the recipes unless I make significant changes to them. This recipe comes from The Bread Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum.

Rocky Road Cookies

Did you know that the combination of chocolate, marshmallow, and nuts, known as Rocky Road, was first invented as an ice cream flavor during The Great Depression?  It was first developed with walnuts, but then as the recipe became more common, almonds were used instead.  Rocky Road just happens to be The Mr.’s favorite ice cream flavor, so I made it into cookies as a little welcome home treat for him.  I adapted a recipe for basic chocolate cookies by making them a bit denser and adding mini marshmallows and toasted walnuts to the dough.  If I was really working up to my maximum potential, I would have turned them into ice cream sandwiches for the ultimate Rocky Road experience. I guess I’ll just have to make another batch… how terrible.

Rocky Road Cookies – Heavily adapted from All Recipes 

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup plus 2 Tablespoons salted butter, softened (that’s 1 stick plus 2 Tablespoons)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
  • 1 cup miniature marshmallows

Preheat the oven to 350F. Cream the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and mix well. Sift the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt into a separate bowl, then mix it into the creamed butter in two additions.  Stir in the toasted walnuts and marshmallows. Roll the dough into 1 inch balls and place them 2 inches apart on a cookie sheet lined with parchment. Bake for 8 minutes at 350F. Let cool on the pan for 5 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely, or as long as you can resist.

Makes about 20 cookies.

The Mr. loved these cookies, Penny loved them too but unfortunately she couldn’t have any.

That didn’t stop her from trying to sneak in a lick when my back was turned 🙂

Someone, make these into ice cream sandwiches and tell me how they are! Would you use more Rocky Road ice cream or a different flavor?

Peanut Butter Pie

This is my contribution to the “A Pie For Mikey” event that happened on Friday. As you may or may not know, food blogger Jennifer Perillo’s husband passed away suddenly last week. I have never met Jennifer, but she was a very important part of the food blogging community, and the outpouring of emotion and compassion for her was overwhelming. On the 9th, she posted that for those asking what they could do to help, please make this peanut butter pie on Friday and share it with people they care about. It was her husband’s favorite dish. The a pie for Mikey event took hold immediately and on Friday, hundreds of people across the country, and around the world made this pie in memory of her husband.

Of course, I know that making a pie won’t bring this woman’s husband back, and she will probably never know that I participated at all, but that is really not the point. To me, A Pie For Mikey meant slowing down what you’re usually doing to remember the loss of a life. Making a pie takes a lot more time than making a donation to a foundation, or re-tweeting, or leaving a comment. You need to get the ingredients, get out the measuring spoons, read the recipe and just break from your routine and do something purposeful. By making a pie, it gave us all time to think about not only Jennifer’s loss, but those we may have lost, and those we are still fortunate enough to have. It’s about remembering that life is short, and you never know exactly what the future holds. We lost a good friend in the blink of an eye this year.  The next day, you wake up and it seems like the whole world is carrying on as normal, and you’re all alone with  broken heart.  I hope that A Pie For Mikey helped Jennifer to not feel so alone in her loss. If this made her feel just a little bit better, then it was worth it.  I also hope that people did take her words to heart, and shared it with people they care about. It’s a reminder to stop and spend time with people, because you don’t know how much time anyone has.

To me, cooking and baking is about a lot more than just taking in enough energy to sustain life. Memories are made around meals, and birthday cakes, and favorite dishes. It’s about taking care of each other, and spending time to eat together. I think it’s fitting to remember the life of Jennifer’s husband by sharing his favorite dish and in turn asking us to share it with others.  So, although all the pie in the world won’t bring Mikey back, hopefully it helped Jennifer feel a little better that day, and most importantly, reminded all of us to cherish the people we love, and never take them for granted.

Creamy Peanut Butter Pie From Jennifer Perillo

Serves 10 to 12

8 ounces chocolate cookies

4 tablespoons butter, melted

4 ounces finely chopped chocolate or semi-sweet chocolate chips

1/4 cup chopped peanuts

1 cup heavy cream

8 ounces cream cheese

1 cup creamy-style peanut butter

1 cup confectioner’s sugar

1 – 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

Add the cookies to the bowl of a food processor and pulse into fine crumbs.  Combine melted butter and cookie crumbs in a small bowl, and stir with a fork to mix well.  Press mixture into the bottom and 1-inch up the sides of a 9-inch springform pan.

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave.  Pour over bottom of cookie crust and spread to the edges using an off-set spatula.  Sprinkle chopped peanuts over the melted chocolate. Place pan in the refrigerator while you prepare the filling.

Pour the heavy cream into a bowl and beat using a stand mixer or hand mixer until stiff peaks form.  Transfer to a small bowl and store in refrigerator until ready to use.  Place the cream cheese and peanut butter in a deep bowl.  Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy.  Reduce speed to low and gradually beat in the confectioner’s sugar.  Add the sweetened condensed milk, vanilla extract and lemon juice. Increase speed to medium and beat until all the ingredients are combined and filling is smooth.

Stir in 1/3 of the whipped cream into the filling mixture (helps lighten the batter, making it easier to fold in the remaining whipped cream).  Fold in the remaining whipped cream.  Pour the filling into the prepared springform pan.  Drizzle the melted chocolate on top, if using, and refrigerate for three hours or overnight before serving.

Cibatta

This is cibatta bread from The Bread Bible. I’ve only had this bread as a vehicle for sandwiches, so I wasn’t sure what a whole loaf would look like. I love the flour crusted, crackled surface.

I chose not to deeply dimple the dough like the instructions said, because I wanted a slightly taller bread.
The inside was soft but only had a few large air pockets, I might have to try again to get the open texture the book describes. I wrapped this up and sent it off with The Mr. to share with his family this week. I hope they enjoyed it!

Simple Double Chocolate Cake

Sometimes you get invited to a birthday party at the last moment. Although no one asked me to bring a cake, and I didn’t have the time after work to make a decorated cake, I felt bad about arriving empty-handed. This is a Chocolate Chocolate Chip Bread(Cake) from the bread bible from the section on quick breads. Honestly, this is a cake that comes together quickly in one bowl and bakes in a loaf pan. No frosting, just a quick dust of cocoa powder before getting wrapped up, still warm, and taken to the party. Sometimes cake does not need to be in little cups, or elaborate layers and swirled in frosting to be special. This rich chocolate cake smelled wonderful as soon as it went into the oven.

The party broke up too soon for anyone to have cake. It’s a shame though, because I would have loved to try a slice.  It smelled excellent and I hope the birthday boy enjoyed it. The Mr. was equally disappointed, so perhaps I’ll have to make another one just for us.

 

Do you have any special memories or family traditions about birthday cakes?

Nutella and Banana Crepes

Eating Nutella and banana crepes at a little restaurant by the beach was one of my first unofficial dates with the Mr. Unfortunately, the restaurant seems to be falling off a bit lately, so since I can make a crepe that’s just as good as theirs, I would rather enjoy it at home without attitude from the waitstaff.

Crepes are deceptively simple. They have very basic ingredients and the only trick is flipping them over, which I’m sure you’ll master with a few tries. The first crepe always turns out a little ugly, so don’t worry about it.

Ingredients – Serves 2

  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup water
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar (if you’re making a sweet crepe, if you prefer a savory filling, skip the sugar)
  • 1 tablespoon of butter, melted.

Whisk all of those ingredients together, you will have a thin batter. Heat up a frying pan that is the same size you would like your crepe to be. Melt a little butter in it, then pour in about a fourth of the crepe batter. Quickly swirl the pan to evenly coat it with batter. Wait until the top of the crepe looks dry. Flip it over (I use a big spatula, but if you’re brave you could flip it like an omlette) and cook for about 30 more seconds. Remove to a plate and repeat the process with the remaining batter.

The possibilities for fillings are endless, but I like a generous dollop of Nutella and a few slices of ripe banana. Fold up your crepe, dust with powdered sugar and you’re ready to eat!

Even though you have to make them one at a time, I feel that they are quicker to make than a batch of normal American pancakes because the crepes cook so quickly. I can stack them on top of each other, they don’t stick, and they stay warm until I’m ready to fill them.

Enjoy these for brunch or a late night dessert.