Sunday, March 1, 2015

Vanilla Bean and Ganache Cake







This weekend, I had to force myself to slow down and relax, which is never an easy thing for me.  I'm always busy, with some project or another, whether in the kitchen, or working on the house, or sewing, or drawing or something.  I'm not a very good lazy person, and even when I'm sitting on the couch, supposedly relaxing, I usually have my laptop balanced on my knees, so I can edit a few photos, or write up a recipe that's been on my mind, or research this and that.

But I've had some chronic pain in my right shoulder since last fall, when I injured it somehow and it just hasn't healed itself yet.  I push myself to always keep working hard, and it never really gets the chance to recover, especially with all the painting and home renovation projects we are always working on.  I may need to see a doctor about it, which I am dreading...  I never go to the doctor since I am so rarely sick.

After we spent all day Saturday driving around, looking at samples of kitchen counter options and getting price quotes, we accomplished nothing on the house, and my plans to get in a full day's work today were halted when I woke up with so much shoulder pain that other than a quick photo shoot of some brownies and ice cream I made yesterday, I've spent the day with a heating pad under my shoulders, a cup of hot coffee in my hands, and watching Lord of the Rings.  Jamie is sleeping peacefully on the couch next to me as I write this, his warm breath against my arm, his brown hair tousled.  Not a bad way to spend the day, in spite of the shoulder pain.

Maybe I should stop and luxuriate in a little peace and nothingness more often instead of pushing myself so hard to finish every project as quickly as possible.  And with the 20-degree temperatures and snowy days, lazing about the house a little is not only to be expected, but perfectly acceptable.









This cake is the ultimate in luxury, with six layers of rich, dense vanilla bean butter cake, filled and frosted with bittersweet ganache, and topped with shortbread cookies filled with more of the same ganache.

It's not a cake you can eat quickly, but one where you stop to admire all the beautiful layers, the buttery crumb, the silky chocolate.  Each forkful is a pleasure, and should be savored.

The shortbread cookies are perfect in their simplicity, only subtly sweet, buttery and crumbly when you bite into them.  A pretty little something extra, because even cakes like to accessorize on lazy days, in the same way that I sometimes put on a little mascara and lip gloss, just to look pretty for Jamie while doing absolutely nothing.












Vanilla Bean and Ganache Cake
printable


Cake.
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • seeds from 1 vanilla bean
  • 3 cups cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/3 cups whole milk
  • 2/3 cup sour cream
Ganache.
  • 16 ounces (2 cups) heavy whipping cream
  • 1 pound bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
Cookies.
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 9 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 teaspoons ice water

Cake.
Preheat the oven to 350, spray six 8-inch pans with non-stick spray and line with parchment paper.  If you don't have six pans, you'll have to use three, and split the layers when they're well cooled.

In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese, butter, oil and sugar for 4-5 minutes until light and fluffy.  Bea in the eggs, one at a time, beating each for 1 minute before adding the next.  Beat in the vanilla.

In a bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda.  In a separate bowl, combine the milk and sour cream.  With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with the milk, starting and ending with the flour, just until moistened.

Divide the batter between the cakes and bake until a skewer comes out clean, about 15-20 minutes if you're baking the batter in 6 separate pans.  Set the cakes on a wire rack, cover loosely with a clean kitchen towel and cool completely.

Ganache.
Warm the cream in a saucepan over medium low heat, just until it begins to simmer around the edges.  Remove from the heat and add the chocolate.  Let stand for 3 minutes, then stir until smooth and shiny.  Let sit at room temperature until cooled and slightly thickened like pudding, about an hour.

Cookies.
(Note, these can be made a day in advance, as well.)  In a food processor, combine the flour, sugar and salt.  Drop in the pieces of butter and pulse a few times to incorporate.  Add the egg yolk, vanilla and ice water and pulse until moistened and crumbly.  Dump out onto a piece of parchment paper and gather the dough together with your hands, kneading a few times to form it into a ball of dough that holds together.

Fold the paper over the dough, and roll out to 1/4 inch thick (the paper keeps the rolling pin from sticking to the dough, without having to use extra flour for rolling).  Peel the paper back and cut the dough with a 1 1/2 inch round cookie cutter.  Place the cut cookies 1 inch apart on a parchment lined baking sheet.  Gather up the scraps of dough and repeat until all the dough is used.  Freeze the cookies on the baking sheet for 30 minutes while you heat the oven.

Preheat the oven to 350.  Bake the frozen cookies for 10-12 minutes, just until they are a pale golden brown - the cookies do not rise or spread.  Cool for 1 minute on the baking sheet then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Assembly.
Place one of the cooled cakes on a cake pedestal or cake board.  Spread with a thin layer of the cooled ganache.  Repeat with the rest of the cakes, stacking them as evenly as possible.  Spread ganache all over the top and sides of the cake, smoothing it out as much as you like.

Spoon the rest of the ganache into a piping bag and snip off the end.  Pipe ganache onto the underside of half the cookies, and top each with another cookie.  Decorate the top of the cake with the cookies.  If you have any leftover ganache, refrigerate it until chilled, then use for homemade chocolate truffles.

Recipe and Design from Curly Girl Kitchen

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Salted Caramel Cream Cheese Filled Doughnuts with Chocolate Sauce





On snowy Sundays, we make doughnuts.  It's delightful to spend a cold morning inside a warm kitchen that's filled with the yeasty scent of doughnuts.

I have a hard time sleeping in on weekends, so I left Jamie sleeping under the warm covers and came downstairs to a quiet kitchen to mix up the dough and set it on the back of the stove to rise.  A cup of hot black coffee later, Jamie bundled up to shovel the driveway clean of its fresh blanket of snow while I rolled out the dough and cut doughnuts.








The doughnuts, fried golden brown and crisp, were plump, petite and pretty.  I filled them with whipped cream cheese sweetened with homemade salted caramel and then melted bittersweet chocolate into hot cream for a thin ganache for dipping.

The ganache, with twice as much cream as chocolate, would never thicken enough to roll into chocolate truffles, and while warm, it was almost like a very rich cup of hot cocoa.  All together, the doughnuts have a surprising lack of sweetness, which I like about them, although you can always add a bit more sugar to the dough, or use milk chocolate instead of dark if you like yours on the sweet side.

I cut the doughnuts small, because I think it's more fun to get to eat a lot of little doughnuts than just one big one, so we ended up with about 30 of these mini doughnuts.  I spread the cooled ganache on the leftovers and chilled them, and cold from the fridge, they tasted exactly like cream puffs.












Salted Caramel Cream Cheese Filled Doughnuts with Chocolate Sauce
printable


Doughnuts.
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 1/2 - 3 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling
  • olive oil, for frying
Filling.
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened to room temperature
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup salted caramel sauce
Chocolate.
  • 6 ounces heavy whipping cream
  • 3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped

Doughnuts.
Warm the milk in a saucepan or in the microwave until the temperature reaches between 110-115 degrees F.  Pour into the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Sprinkle with the yeast and sugar; let stand 5 minutes until foamy.

With the mixer on low, add the butter, egg, salt, nutmeg and half the flour.  Gradually add the remainder of the flour.  Switch to the dough hook and knead on medium speed for 4-5 minutes, until the dough is smooth and starts to pull away from the bowl; it may be slightly loose and sticky but don't add more flour.  Dump the dough into an oiled bowl, cover with a clean kitchen towel and set in a warm place to rise until doubled in size, about one hour.

On a floured surface, roll out the dough to 1/2 inch thick.  Cut out dough with a 1 1/2 inch round cutter, then gather up any scraps and cut those as well.  Place the doughnuts on parchment lined baking sheets, cover with clean towels, and set aside to rest and rise again for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat three inches of olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat, until the oil reaches 365F.  Fry the doughnuts 5 or 6 at a time, for about a minute on each side, until golden brown.  Drain on a wire rack and let cool slightly.

Filling.
For the filling, whip the cream cheese, cream and caramel with a hand mixer until thick and smooth.  Scoop into a piping bag and pipe into the doughnuts.

Chocolate.
Heat the cream in a saucepan just until it begins to simmer around the edges.  Remove from the heat and stir in the chocolate until smooth and creamy.  Serve warm, on the side for dipping the doughnuts.

If you have leftover doughnuts, chill the chocolate until thickened like pudding and spread onto the doughnuts.  Store leftover doughnuts in an airtight container in the refrigerator; they will be good for up to one day, and when chilled they taste like cream puffs.

Yields about 3 dozen mini doughnuts

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen

Monday, February 23, 2015

Peanut Butter Cookie Sandwiches






It seems to be the simplest, most unpretentious foods that are the the ones we crave, like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  My favorite rendition is with crunchy peanut butter and sweet strawberry jam - or maybe orange marmalade when I'm feeling daring - on toasted, hearty wheat bread.

I really don't care for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches at all if the bread isn't toasted.  The peanut butter and jam melts into the hot bread, spilling out with each bite, and I can't imagine a more familiar comfort food.






I save every dollop of leftover buttercream I don't use after frosting a cake, freezing it in bags until an occasion presents itself where I might want a little buttercream without the effort of whipping up an entire batch.  There seems to be an over-abundance of lemon buttercream in our freezer at the moment, although I'm not sure why, but it will be a good excuse to make something lemony soon, I think.  However, it was the leftover strawberry rhubarb buttercream from last week's cake that caught my attention.

It snowed all weekend - almost non-stop from Friday through Sunday night - and so, I made cookies.  There's no better occasion than an almost-blizzard to warm up the kitchen with pans of freshly baked cookies.  Cookies brighten up the grayest of days.

The peanut butter cookies were perfectly chewy, some filled with a little dark chocolate buttercream, which were delicious, to be sure.  But my favorites were the ones reminiscent of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  I topped swirls of strawberry rhubarb buttercream with a spoonful of tart raspberry jam, just using what I could find in the fridge, and the result was absolute perfection.  I think an orange buttercream paired with the raspberry jam would be fantastic, too.  Or maple buttercream with orange marmalade - how delicious would that be?  Or maybe honey and bourbon.  I want to try all the flavors.

I contemplated adding a spoonful of lemon curd on top of the dark chocolate buttercream, but in the end, decided against it, which I immediately regretted.  I think it would have been amazing.







Peanut Butter Cookie Sandwiches
printable


Baker's Note:  The type of peanut butter you use, and the chilling of the dough, will affect the final result of the cookies.  Note that in this previous recipe, I used an oil-based, not-all-natural peanut butter, as well as froze the cookie balls before baking - this resulted in puffier looking cookies, an appearance I prefer.

However, in today's recipe, I used an all-natural peanut butter (just ground peanuts), and did not freeze the cookies, which resulted in flatter cookies - I didn't actually mind this since I was making them into sandwiches.

The choice is up to you!

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter (see note above)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • buttercream and jam, any flavors
In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and both sugars for 3-4 minutes, scraping the bowl occasionally.  Beat in the peanut butter, egg and vanilla until smooth and well combined.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda and salt.  Add by spoonfuls with the mixer on low, then add the milk to moisten the dough.  Refrigerate for one hour.

Preheat the oven to 375.  Roll the dough into rounded spoonfuls, place two inches apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet and flatten the dough balls slightly with your hand.  Bake for 8 minutes, until light golden brown.  Cool for 1 minute on the baking sheet, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Fill the cooled cookies with your choice of buttercream and jam.  These are delicious kept chilled in the refrigerator!

Yields about 2 dozen cookie sandwiches.

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Stripes and Polka-dots Strawberry Rhubarb Cake






Stripes and polka-dots are two of my favorite things.  I wear them, I decorate my house with them, and now I'm loving dressing up cakes with them, too.  With its striped skirt, polka-dot top and flowers, this cake is like a pretty little dress, don't you think?








In the spring, when the first blushing stalks of rhubarb can be found, tucked behind the kale and purple cabbage on the grocery store shelves, I bring home as much as I can.

Rhubarb has such a short season in Colorado, never to be found again later in the summer, and especially not during the winter months.  And I'm married to someone who absolutely loves rhubarb desserts and requests them all year 'round.  So I wash it, chop it and freeze it by the pound; then throughout the summer and fall, I gradually thaw out bags of the tart fruit to make rhubarb pies, or as I did last summer, strawberry rhubarb jam and rhubarb cordial for our wedding.

Last spring, I made this beautiful strawberry rhubarb swirl pound cake and ice cream, one of my favorite desserts I've created, and by a happy accident, ended up with twice as much of the fruit puree as I needed.  The extra puree has been tucked away in the back of our freezer, just waiting to be remembered.  And what better time than Valentine's Day to make a pretty pink cake, flavored with one of my husband's favorite ingredients?








The cake is a pound cake, very dense, moist and rich, with a tight velvety crumb.  My favorite kind of cake.  The pale pink buttercream is sweet and tart, flavored and colored naturally with more of the fruit puree, with stripes of chocolate buttercream adding a nice, rich contrast to the fruit.  Dark chocolate chip polka-dots and chocolate buttercream roses complete the cake.  I don't often pipe roses on cakes anymore, since they can tend to look slightly dated, but it was Valentine's Day, after all, and roses are to be expected.

If you have a steady hand, and you pipe perfectly straight rows of alternating buttercream on the bottom tier, then your stripes will look quite impressive.  I did not pipe mine perfectly, so when I blended them together with my bench scraper, some of them ran together more than I would have liked, when what I was really going for were sharp, crisp, very clean stripes, like in my Neapolitan Cake.

However, I have to give myself a break, since absolute perfection is not always possible, and definitely is not in the nature of buttercream anyway.  The imperfection of buttercream is what makes it so perfect, am I right?  And I would rather eat an imperfectly frosted buttercream cake than a perfectly covered fondant cake any day.










Stripes and Polka-dots Strawberry Rhubarb Cake
printable


Cake.
  • 3 1/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 12 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 6 eggs
  • seeds from 1 vanilla bean
  • 4 1/2 cups cake flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 1/2 cups strawberry rhubarb puree
  • 2/3 cup sour cream
  • pink food coloring (optional)
Strawberry Rhubarb Buttercream.
  • 2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons meringue powder
  • 1/4 - 1/2 cup strawberry rhubarb puree
  • cream, if needed
Chocolate Buttercream.
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/3 cups powdered sugar
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened, special dark cocoa powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tablespoon meringue powder
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons cream
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips

Notes:
  1. First, you'll need to cook and chill the strawberry rhubarb sauce; click here for recipe.
  2. This is a pound cake recipe, and the resulting cake is very dense and moist with a tight, velvety crumb texture.  Right after baking, the cakes will look risen and puffed, but as they cool, the crumb tightens and the cakes settle down rather flat.  This is normal for this recipe.
  3. While this is a two-tiered cake, it is still a rather petite cake due to the way the cakes tend to tighten up as they cool.

Cake.
Preheat the oven to 350.  Spray the bottoms of three 6-inch cake pans and three 8-inch cake pans with non-stick spray and line the bottoms with parchment paper.

In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the sugar, cream cheese, butter and oil on medium speed for 3-4 minutes, until light and fluffy.  Beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating each for 1 minute before adding the next; beat in the vanilla bean seeds.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda.  In another bowl, combine the buttermilk, fruit puree and sour cream.  With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture to the mixing bowl in 3 additions, alternating with the buttermilk/sour cream, starting and ending with the flour, just until moistened.  Tint with pink food coloring, if desired.

Divide the batter between the pans (with about 1 1/2 cups of batter in each of the smaller pans and the rest of the batter divided between the larger pans) and bake the cakes for 20-27 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool in the pans on wire racks, covered loosely with clean kitchen towels.

Strawberry Rhubarb Buttercream.
In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the butter for several minutes until smooth.  In a separate bowl, combine the powdered sugar and meringue powder.  With the mixer on low, add by spoonfuls, stirring until moistened.  Add the fruit puree; whip on medium high until very light and fluffy, adding a little cream if needed for consistency.

Chocolate Buttercream.
In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the butter for several minutes until smooth.  In a separate bowl, combine the powdered sugar, cocoa powder, salt and meringue powder.  With the mixer on low, add by spoonfuls, stirring until moistened.  Add the vanilla and cream; whip on medium high until very light and fluffy, adding a little more cream if needed for consistency.

Assembly.
Fill and stack the cooled cakes with the strawberry rhubarb buttercream.  You can stack the 6-inch tier right on top of the 8-inch tier, since the cake is very firm and can support itself without any dowels or cake boards between tiers.  Frost all over with a thin crumb coat of buttercream and chill for 20 minutes.

Fit two piping bags with a large round tip and fill with your two buttercreams.  Starting at the bottom, pipe even rows of buttercream around the cake, alternating each row and keeping them close together.  Once you've piped as many stripes as you can, take a bench scraper and run it around the the cake several times to smooth out the buttercream and blend the stripes together.

Frost the top tier with a final layer of buttercream and decorate with the chocolate chips.

Decorate the top with chocolate buttercream roses.

Recipe and Design from Curly Girl Kitchen

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Valentine's Day Chocolate Truffles






Over Christmas vacation, Jamie and I ate a lot of chocolate.  Just before the holiday, I was shopping at Costco to replenish my supply of sugar, flour and butter, and happened to see a box of Belgian chocolates which I bought on a whim.  And they were maybe the most amazing chocolates I've ever tasted - clean, dark, absolutely perfect.

After we sampled a few, Jamie turned to me and said, "Okay, I'm going to need you to recreate all of these when they're gone."

So for this Valentine's, I surprised him with a beautiful box of homemade assorted chocolates.  While nothing will ever really measure up to that box of chocolates at Christmas, which were a little more complicated than I was able to replicate, I was still pretty happy with what I made.











Perhaps it was a bit much for me to take on the task of creating not just two or three, but eight different chocolates, but really with one batch of ganache I could customize for each flavor and a big bowl of melted chocolate, it wasn't that difficult to make so many different varieties.

They all look so lovely, but I think my favorite is the molten chocolate.  When you bite into it, the liquid center of homemade dark chocolate syrup drips out, creating quite a mess, so that you're compelled to lick your fingers clean of every last drop.












Valentine's Day Chocolate Truffles

you will need...
  • bittersweet chocolate, good quality (preferably 70-80% cacao): 2-3 pounds
  • white chocolate
  • heavy whipping cream
  • assorted nuts, etc: toffee bits, peanuts, almonds, cookies, graham crackers
  • peanut butter
  • dark chocolate syrup (click for my recipe)
  • lemon curd (click for my recipe)
  • salted caramel sauce (click for my recipe)
  • seedless raspberry jam
  • mini chocolate chips
  • red heart sprinkles
  • espresso powder
  • flavored extracts: almond, vanilla and any other you'd like...
  • coarse salt
  • piping bags
  • mini cupcake liners, either foil or paper
  • parchment paper

Getting Ready.

Ganache.
First, make and chill the ganache.  You will need equal parts (by weight) of dark chocolate (either chopped chocolate or chocolate chips will work) and cream for the ganache.  Start with about 8 ounces of each, and you can always make more if you want to make more truffles.  Pour the cream into a saucepan and warm gently over medium low heat, just until the cream begins to bubble around the edges.  Remove from the heat and stir in the chocolate.  Let stand for 3 minutes, then stir with a spatula until smooth and shiny.  Refrigerate for several hours, or overnight, until very firm.

Melted Chocolate.
Keep melted chocolate ready by setting up a double boiler (fill a pan with several inches of simmering water and place a heat-proof bowl over the pan - the bottom of the bowl should not be touching the water).  Melt the chocolate in the bowl and turn off the heat.  If the chocolate starts to thicken up while you're working, turn the heat back on for a few minutes to thin it out again.

Molded Truffles.
To make the molded truffles in the mini cupcake liners, spoon melted chocolate into the liners so that they're about 1/3 full.  Tilt the liner around to let the chocolate coat the sides of the liners, then chill the chocolate shells before filling.

Flavors.
And remember, these flavor combinations are just suggestions, but the possibilities are endless!  My favorites were the chocolate espresso and the molten chocolate, because I prefer bitter chocolate over sweet.  I'd love to know what variations you come up with...

Chocolate Espresso.
Mix espresso powder into chilled ganache, making the coffee flavor as intense as you like.  Roll the ganache into balls and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet.  Chill for a few minutes, then dip the ganache into melted dark chocolate, letting the excess drip off before you return to the baking sheet.  Chill until firm, then drizzle with a little more dark chocolate, sprinkling with espresso powder and coarse salt before the drizzled chocolate sets.

Toasted Almond.
Toast some almonds; leave a few whole, and finely chop the rest, adding a little coarse salt to the chopped almonds.  Add a few drops of almond extract to some chilled ganache.  Roll the ganache into balls, with a whole almond inside each.  Roll the truffles in the chopped almonds.

Toffee Cookie Crunch.
Mix crushed cookies and a few drops of vanilla extract with chilled ganache, adding a little cream if the ganache becomes too dry with the addition of the cookies.  Roll into balls then roll each truffle in crushed toffee bits.

Chocolate Peanut Butter.
Mix together equal parts of chilled ganache and peanut butter - I used an all-natural peanut butter.  Roll into balls, chill for a few minutes, then dip the truffles in melted dark chocolate.  Sprinkle each with crushed salted peanuts before the chocolate sets.

Molten Chocolate.
Create a chocolate shell in a mini paper liner and chill until set.  Fill 2/3 full with dark chocolate syrup.  Freeze until the syrup is firm, then pour melted dark chocolate over the syrup to seal the top of the truffle.  Sprinkle with mini chocolate chips and coarse salt before the chocolate sets.

Black Tie Raspberry.
Create a chocolate shell in a mini paper liner and chill until set.  Spoon about a teaspoon of raspberry jam into each.  Pour melted dark chocolate over the jam, leaving a little room at the top, and chill until set.  Pour melted white chocolate on top and add a red heart sprinkle.

Lemon Cream Pie.
Create a white chocolate shell in a mini paper liner and chill until set.  Spoon about a teaspoon of lemon curd into each.  Pour melted white chocolate over the lemon curd and sprinkle with crushed salted graham crackers before the chocolate sets.

Salted Caramel.
Create a chocolate shell in a mini paper liner and chill until set.  Fill with salted caramel sauce and sprinkle with a little more coarse salt.

Recipes from Curly Girl Kitchen

Monday, February 9, 2015

Neapolitan Cake






My days of eating Neapolitan ice cream are long gone, since I'm not so indecisive about ice cream that I need three flavors mixed together anymore, but the memories of those cardboard containers of striped blocks of strawberry, chocolate and vanilla ice cream are vivid.

I remember that there were two ways of scooping the ice cream, depending on what you felt like.  First, you could run the ice cream scooper across all three stripes, for a trio of flavors in one pretty scoop.  Or, perhaps you were only in the mood for one flavor, and in that case, you would carefully scoop down into your favorite, taking care not to mix the colors.









Neapolitan ice cream is believed to have originated from Italy in the 1800s, when immigrants from Naples created the ice cream to resemble the color blocks of the Italian flag.

And while I haven't bought a carton of the ice cream in years, as a maker of cakes and sweet pretty things, I'm always thinking of ways to turn just about everything into a cake, and I loved the idea of a cake with those pretty stripes.  Not to mention, chocolate, strawberry and vanilla really do taste lovely together.








I will admit, this cake is a bit labor-intensive, considering you are making three cake batters and three buttercreams - all from scratch - so it does take some time to prep everything.

The bottom layer is dark chocolate with a subtle hint of espresso, frosted with salted dark chocolate espresso buttercream.

Next is vanilla, rich and fragrant, seemingly simple; although I always think vanilla doesn't receive the credit it deserves.






And strawberry to top everything off.  I macerated fresh strawberries with sugar until juicy, and blended them into a puree to mix right into the cake batter, with a little of the sweet red juice reserved for the buttercream.  The strawberry cake and buttercream are naturally colored, and the pink is ever-so-subtle, although you could always add a few drops of pink food coloring if you'd like the pink to be a little more bold.






Pretty polka dot paper straws with a bit of tissue paper transform into paper "candles" for an easy, but beautiful topper for your cake.  Or instead of tissue paper "flames", little paper hearts can be glued to the tops of the straws to top your cake for a show-stopping Valentine's centerpiece.

So, is the cake worth the extra effort?  Well, I may be a teeny bit biased, but I think the stunning cake speaks for itself.  And in the kitchen at my office, the cake has now been reduced to nothing but a few pink, black and white crumbs.





Neapolitan Cake

Preheat the oven to 350 and spray three 8-inch pans with non-stick spray.  All cakes should be baked for approximately 22-28 minutes, or until the centers spring back and a toothpick comes out clean.

Cool the cakes completely, in the pans, set on wire racks and covered loosely with clean kitchen towels.

Strawberry Cake.
  • 8 ounces fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups cake flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
Combine the strawberries and sugar in a bowl and toss until coated.  Let sit until the berries are juicy, then blend until smooth.  Reserve 1/4 cup of the strawberry puree for the buttercream.

In a bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda.  Add the eggs, vanilla, olive oil and strawberry puree (except for 1/4 cup) and whisk until smooth.  Pour into a cake pan and bake as directed above.

Vanilla Cake.
  • 1 cup cake flour
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
In a bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and baking soda.  Add the eggs, vanilla, oil, milk and sour cream and whisk until smooth.  Pour into a cake pan and bake as directed above.

Chocolate Cake.
  • 2/3 cup cake flour
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened, special dark cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon espresso powder
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
In a bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, salt and espresso powder.  Add the egg, olive oil, boiling water and vanilla and whisk until smooth.  Pour into a cake pan and bake as directed above.

Strawberry Buttercream.
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon meringue powder
  • 1/4 cup reserved strawberry puree (left from cake)
  • cream, if needed
In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the butter for two minutes until smooth.  With the mixer on low, add the powdered sugar and meringue powder and mix until combined.  Add the strawberry puree and whip on medium high for 4-5 minutes until light and fluffy, adding a little cream if needed for consistency.

Vanilla Buttercream.
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon meringue powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons cream
In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the butter for two minutes until smooth.  With the mixer on low, add the powdered sugar and meringue powder and mix until combined.  Add the vanilla and cream whip on medium high for 4-5 minutes until light and fluffy.

Chocolate Buttercream.
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened special dark cocoa powder
  • 1 1/3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon meringue powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon espresso powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons cream
In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the butter for two minutes until smooth.  With the mixer on low, add the cocoa powder, powdered sugar and meringue powder and mix until combined.  Add the vanilla, espresso powder, salt and cream and whip on medium high for 4-5 minutes until light and fluffy.


Assembly and Decorating.

Remove the cooled cakes from the pans and brush free of crumbs.  Have all your bowls of buttercream ready, along with an icing spatula, a bench scraper, and three piping bags.

Place the chocolate cake on a cake board.  Frost the top of the cake with about 1/4 inch of chocolate buttercream, then spread a thin layer around the sides of the cake.

Place the vanilla cake on the chocolate, and repeat with frosting the top and sides with the vanilla buttercream, taking care not to mix the buttercreams.

Repeat with the strawberry.

Take your bench scraper and run it around the sides of the cake to smooth out the thin crumb coat of buttercream.  Chill the cake for 20 minutes.

Fill your piping bags with each flavor of buttercream, and snip off the ends.  Starting at the bottom with the chocolate, pipe the buttercream around the cake in 3-4 rows to fill in the chocolate section - this is not supposed to look pretty, but there shouldn't be any gaps between your rows; you want every row touching the next.  Repeat with the vanilla, then the strawberry until the sides of the cake are covered in piped rows of buttercream.

Now, take your bench scraper and lightly run it around the side of the cake to smooth the buttercream and blend the rows together.  Wipe the bench scraper clean, and repeat several times until the buttercream is pretty and smooth.  Your colors should blend together seamlessly and easily.

Smooth out the pink buttercream on top of the cake and you're done!

For the paper "candles" snip pretty paper straws into different lengths and stuff the ends with tissue paper.

Recipe and Design by Curly Girl Kitchen