Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Chocolate Cream Pie

Chocolate Cream Pie, Chocolate Pie Recipe, Chocolate Pudding, Chocolate Custard
You all know how much I love cake, love baking cakes, love making cakes look pretty...  And while my husband doesn't complain when I ask him to taste yet another cake recipe, he really loves pie more, and it's what he requests most often, even more than doughnuts.  So to please him, I made a luxurious chocolate cream pie topped with a little shaved coconut for crunch and bourbon vanilla whipped cream.

I don't recall eating a lot of cream pies as a kid other than chocolate.  I'm sure my mom made the occasional banana or coconut cream pie, but if she did, they just don't stand out in my memory.  What I do remember, though, are the chocolate cream pies.  Usually in a basic graham cracker crust, the filling likely from a box of instant chocolate pudding, they were delicious in their not-from-scratch way, and I loved them as much as I adored my favorite, although highly-processed meal of fish sticks and tater tots with plenty of ketchup.

This cream pie is quite a step up from those ready-in-5-minutes pudding pies, with a cooked custard that's rich with eggs and milk, a deep chocolate flavor from both cocoa powder and melted bittersweet chocolate, and finished with a touch of butter.  And no chocolate cream pie is complete without a cloud of sweetened whipped cream on top.

Chocolate Cream Pie, Chocolate Pie Recipe, Chocolate Pudding, Chocolate Custard

Chocolate Cream Pie, Chocolate Pie Recipe, Chocolate Pudding, Chocolate Custard

Chocolate Cream Pie, Chocolate Pie Recipe, Chocolate Pudding, Chocolate Custard

Chocolate Cream Pie

  • 1 1/2 cups crushed graham crackers (regular or chocolate)
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup corn starch
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat the oven to 325.  Combine the crushed graham crackers and salt, then add the melted butter and toss with a fork until moist.  Press into a deep-dish pie pan.  Bake for 10 minutes then set aside to cool.

In a large saucepan, whisk together the cocoa powder, sugar and corn starch.  In a bowl, whisk together the milk and egg yolks.  Slowly pour the milk and egg yolks into the saucepan, whisking until smooth.  Over medium heat, cook the custard while whisking constantly, until it thickens, then continue cooking for one more minute.  Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter, vanilla and chocolate until smooth.

Pour the custard through a mesh strainer (to remove any bits of cooked egg) into a bowl.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, resting right against the surface of the custard (this prevents a skin from forming on top), and let it cool at room temperature for several hours; it will still be warm, but no longer steaming hot.  Spread the custard into the baked crust, and chill in the refrigerate for 6-8 hours, until set, or overnight.

Before serving, whip the cream, powdered sugar and vanilla until thick; serve with the pie.  If you like, garnish with a sprinkling of graham cracker crumbs and chopped chocolate.

Yields 8 servings

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Chocolate Cake with Salted Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Buttercream

I have several variations of chocolate cake recipes in my blog archives, but when someone asks me for just a good, classic chocolate cake that a beginner baker can make, this is the one I recommend.  Both the ingredients and preparation are simple and un-fussy, and although it's chocolate, which is inherently rich, the cake still manages to taste light.
The secret to this chocolate cake is the boiling water, which "blooms" the cocoa powder and enhances the flavor of the chocolate for a truly luscious cake.  And my own personal not-so-secret ingredient when baking with chocolate is espresso powder.  A tablespoon or two adds a wonderful depth of flavor to chocolate that I think is pretty wonderful.

I used to buy the expensive stuff from Williams-Sonoma, forced to use it sparingly because of the outrageous price; so imagine my delight when I found instant espresso powder at Target for a fraction of the cost.  Not to mention, I really dislike trips to the mall, even for stores like Williams-Sonoma, where surely I can't help but leave with an overpriced set of whisks, expensive candles that smell seductively of pumpkin spice cake and French apple tart, a souffle dish for the souffles I will never make, and decorative pie crust cutters in this season's designs.

The buttercream on this cake is amazing.  It's a peanut butter buttercream, with a little brown sugar which adds a pleasant grittiness that I like, rather than the standard fluffy buttercream.  A pinch of salt counters the sweetness and mini chocolate chips add wonderful texture to each bite.

Since we just passed the first day of fall, I have embraced the season by decorating my cake with delicate chocolate leaves.  I haven't included a tutorial for the leaves, because there are many, many tutorials online that you can research if you'd like to make some.  I used the leaves from the maple tree in my back yard for mine, and they turned out so pretty.

After the chocolate hardened and I peeled off the leaves leaving the impression behind in the chocolate, I brushed them with luster dust in shades of red, purple, green and silver to mimic the colors of the leaves outside that are just starting to turn.  I love fall.

Chocolate Cake with Salted Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Buttercream

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened, special-dark cocoa powder (Dutched cocoa)
  • 1 tablespoon espresso powder
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups boiling water

  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 3 1/4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon meringue powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2-4 tablespoons cream or whole milk
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter (not the all-natural kind)
  • mini chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 and grease three 8-inch pans with non-stick spray.  In a large bowl, sift together the dry ingredients.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients, except for the boiling water.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry, and as you start whisking the batter together, slowly pour in the boiling water, whisking until the batter is well combined and smooth.  The batter will be thin.

Divide batter between the cake pans and bake for 18-22 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool completely in the pans set on wire racks, covered loosely with a clean towel.

For the buttercream, beat the butter and brown sugar for 3 minutes on medium speed.  With the mixer on low, add the powdered sugar and meringue powder until combined.  Add the salt, vanilla and cream; whip on medium high for 4-5 minutes until light and fluffy.  Fold in the peanut butter and the chocolate chips.  (Note that the buttercream will have a slight grit from the brown sugar, as it doesn't fully dissolve.  If this bothers you, simply omit the brown sugar and replace it with the same amount of powdered sugar.)

Fill and frost the cooled cakes with the buttercream.

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp

A hint of fall is in the air...  can you feel it?

I have been mulling over buying some cute cable knit leggings that keep tempting me with their cozy fuzzyness, and I finally gave in and bought a few - make that three - colors.  And as much as I love these warm, but not too hot days and chilly nights of late summer, I'm excited to wear my new leggings with boots and cute fall dresses.

We have plenty of rhubarb still put away in the freezer, as well as a few summer strawberries, so last weekend I made a strawberry rhubarb crisp.  Or is it a crumble?  Crisp or crumble, either way, it was lovely.

I make lots of fruit crumbles in the cold weather months, and this one with strawberries and rhubarb combined the best of summer and fall.  We ate it that evening fresh and hot from the oven, topped with some of the birthday cake ice cream, which was just a delightful combination.  My husband has been enjoying the leftovers for breakfast as well.

Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp

  • 2 cups chopped rhubarb
  • 1 cup sliced strawberries
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup oats
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup cold, unsalted butter

Preheat the oven to 350 and spray a medium-sized baking dish (such as an 8x8) with non-stick spray.

In a bowl, combine the rhubarb, strawberries, sugar, flour, cinnamon, cloves and vanilla until the fruit is evenly coated.  Pile into the pan.

Now combine the topping ingredients and use a pastry cutter to cut the butter in until it's the size of peas.  Sprinkle the topping over the fruit.

Place the baking dish on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for 35-40 minutes, until the filling is bubbling and the topping golden brown.

Cool slightly and serve warm with ice cream.

Yields 4-5 servings

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Butter Pecan Praline Anniversary Cake

A few weeks ago, September 1st, was our first wedding anniversary.  As it happens, it was also almost exactly six weeks after my shoulder surgery and I had been dreaming all summer of the first cake I would make once my right arm was no longer confined to a sling.  After nearly no baking for those six weeks, I knew I would be making the cake to out-shine all my other cakes, something completely and outrageously over the top.

If you remember my previous post about our wedding cakes, there were five cakes that day, all of which were nearly gone by the end of the evening with the last few pieces packaged up in little take-home boxes for the guests.  The next day, I really found myself wishing we'd saved a few pieces of cake for ourselves, since I was too full for more than a bite of each at the reception, but I was happy that our friends and family were able to enjoy them later.

Since I didn't save the traditional top of the cake in the freezer to eat on our anniversary, I had always planned on baking something fresh, but what I hadn't planned on was my silly shoulder deciding it needed surgery this summer.  It was a long six weeks, and even now that I'm able to use my arm more, it aches all the time as I have to stretch the muscles back out and strengthen my arm again.  It hasn't kept me out of my kitchen, though.

This was a fairly ambitious cake to attempt for the first weekend I started using my right arm again, and it wasn't without its challenges.  Unable to raise my arm high enough to frost and decorate the cake on the kitchen counter, I had to set it down lower on a chair to be able to reach it, but it all worked out quite well, I think.

I started with my recipe for brown butter pecan cake, a rich and luxurious cake full of the nutty and aromatic flavors of browned butter, spices and salted pecans.  The scent in the house after baking this cake is indescribable.

Because I planned to pour a sticky salted caramel glaze over the top, I chose to frost the cake with just a thin crumb coat of buttercream, so as not to overwhelm it with too much sweetness.

After the glaze came crunchy caramel popcorn with candied pecans.

And lastly, amber shards of caramelized sugar, beautiful and translucent.  The sugar making was an experience in itself, and my counters were a sticky mess afterwards, but it looked so stunning on the cake.

It's not an every day cake.  But first wedding anniversaries only happen once.

Butter Pecan Praline Cake

Recipe for Brown Butter Pecan Cake

Salted Caramel Glaze
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon dark corn syrup
  • pinch salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
After baking and frosting the cake, prepare the glaze.

In a small saucepan, melt the butter then add the sugar, corn syrup and salt.  Cook over medium low heat while whisking occasionally, about 5 minutes.  Whisk in the vanilla and powdered sugar until smooth.  Let the glaze cool at room temperature for about 30 minutes before pouring over the cake.

Refrigerate until set, but serve at room temperature.

Just before serving, garnish with the popcorn (note, the popcorn does become chewy as it sits on the cake).

  • Extras Needed: Pecan Praline Caramel Popcorn

Sugar Decorations
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
  • 2 tablespoons water
Combine the sugar, corn syrup and water in a saucepan.  Without stirring, cook over medium heat until the sugar is amber colored.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Use a spoon to drizzle the hot sugar over the paper; let cool completely until hardened, then break into shards to use as decorations.

For the spun sugar in the center of the cake, dip a fork in the hot sugar and fling it back and forth over a bowl to create the threads of sugar. (There are many helpful video tutorials online for this that I suggest you watch first.)

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Rhubarb Clafoutis

It seems I've been seeing clafoutis everywhere lately, mostly cherry clafoutis, as that is the traditional version.  Clafoutis is a baked custard of eggs, milk and sugar, along with a little flour but not so much that it becomes a cake, and maybe a touch of vanilla or almond extract.  The mixture is poured over cherries and they rise to the top where they bake, floating on a creamy bed of silky custard.  The dessert is typically finished with a dusting of powdered sugar.

I've been intrigued by the idea of clafoutis, mostly, I'll admit, because I have a thing for words, and clafoutis is fun to say.  But I do love custard, too, and I became convinced that I should add at least one clafoutis recipe to my blog archives.

The rhubarb plant next to our lilac bushes has been thriving all spring and summer long.  We've cut it down several times, chopping and freezing the stalks that look so much like red celery.  And still we have more, which is a good thing, because inevitably this winter, my husband will crave rhubarb pie, and I will be able to magically produce one when no one else in Colorado has rhubarb.

So I made rhubarb clafoutis.  I added a little almond meal to my custard, as well as cinnamon, vanilla and a splash of orange liqueur. I poured the custard over the tart rhubarb and sprinkled the top with sugar, so that it emerged with a beautiful, crackly golden brown crust on top.

We ate it warm from the oven, topped with freshly whipped cream spiked with more orange liqueur, and it was so creamy, tart and comforting.

I rather liked it better warm and freshly baked than the cold leftovers, but my husband ate it every day until the last slice was gone.  He loves rhubarb, and this coming weekend, I have promised him a rhubarb crumble.

Rhubarb Clafoutis

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 3/4 pound rhubarb, chopped
  • 3 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 1/3 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup almond meal
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons Contreau (orange liqueur)
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar, divided
  • powdered sugar
  • freshly whipped cream, optional

Preheat the oven to 350.  Rub the butter inside a deep-dish pie pan or baking dish.  Scatter the chopped rhubarb in the pan.

In a blender, combine the eggs, milk, flour, almond meal, vanilla, cinnamon, liqueur and all but 2 tablespoons of the granulated sugar; blend for 30 seconds, then pour the batter over the rhubarb.  Sprinkle the reserved 2 tablespoons granulated sugar over the batter; the sugar on top will caramelize into a beautiful golden crackly crust.

Bake for about 45-55 minutes, until the clafoutis is puffed, a knife comes out mostly clean, and the crust on top is golden brown.  Cool slightly, then serve warm or at room temperature, garnished with powdered sugar and whipped cream.

Yields 8-12 servings

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen

Monday, September 14, 2015

White Velvet Cake

White Cake, White Velvet Cake, Wedding Cake, Silver Candle Holders, Silver Cake Topper, Candle Cake Topper, Buttermilk CakeAs it's the week before Easter, I thought a beautiful, snowy white cake would be just the thing to inspire your holiday baking and decorating for next week.  Last year, I decorated a cake with coconut, paper bunny ear toppers, and a pink chocolate bow, and in spite of (or perhaps because of) its simplicity, it's probably my favorite Easter cake I've done.  This white velvet cake would be the perfect canvas for a festive Easter cake to complete your table next Sunday...

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Birthday Cake Ice Cream

When you're testing cake recipes, you start thinking of creative ways to use the leftover cake.  Pureed into a batter and cooked in your waffle iron?  Eh, doesn't quite work, unless you like your waffles soft and squishy like waffle-shaped muffins instead of crisp and toasty.

But cake in ice cream?  This was a brilliant idea, if I do say so myself.  Because, you know, cake and ice cream are the best of friends and they come together in an exquisite union in this beautiful ice cream.

As a kid, birthdays were all about the presents, of course, and the cake.  But a cake just wasn't complete without a scoop or two of ice cream, and I had a very particular way of eating mine.  With a little of each on my spoon so I could taste them together, I carefully doled out portions of both so that by the time I got to the end, there was one bite of cake and one spoonful of ice cream left.

Every bite was a balanced ratio of cold creamy ice cream and sweet fluffy cake.  And when they were gone, there were a few cake crumbs left floating in a milky pool of melted ice cream at the bottom of the dish.  If no one was looking - or even if they were - I might have thrown shame to the wind and licked my plate clean of those last few drops.

This ice cream, though, combines the two into a perfect scoop that's ribboned throughout with buttercream and soft vanilla cake.

Absolutely any flavor of cake will do.  And while you may not have the problem of leftover cake if you're not testing recipes as often as I do, you might just bake your favorite cake and churn some ice cream, for no other reason than to mix up a batch of your own birthday cake ice cream.  Even if it's no one's birthday.  Even if it's just because you, too, appreciate the consummate harmony of the perfect bite of cake and ice cream.

Birthday Cake Ice Cream
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup full fat sour cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vodka
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • leftover cake, any flavor, about 2-3 cups
In a saucepan, whisk together the cream, milk, sour cream and salt.  Warm over medium low heat, just until hot to the touch.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar.  Slowly drizzle about a cup of the hot cream into the eggs, whisking them to temper them, then scrape the eggs back into the saucepan.  Cook over medium heat, continuing to whisk constantly, until the custard thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon.

Remove from the heat, pour through a fine mesh strainer to remove any bits of cooked eggs, and whisk in the vodka and vanilla.  Cover with plastic wrap resting right against the surface of the custard, and refrigerate until completely chilled, preferably overnight.

Churn the ice cream according to the instructions of your ice cream maker.  Crumble the cake, including the frosting, and fold it into the ice cream.  Transfer to a container and freeze until firm, about 4-6 hours.

Yields about 2 quarts

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Just a Vanilla Cake Recipe

For quite a while now, I've been intending to post a series of my favorite, basic, from-scratch cake recipes.  I test and develop all of my own recipes, and a vanilla or chocolate cake is often the starting point for much more elaborate creations, so it's important to have a perfect foundation for each one.  I don't want to make cakes that only look pretty, but that taste fantastic, too.

I am frequently asked, what's your favorite chocolate cake recipe?  There are so many to choose from on your blog!  The wife of one of my coworkers, who has tried a few of my recipes, asked me to point her towards a simple vanilla cake, and as I perused my recipe archives to offer her a suggestion, I realized I didn't have a straightforward answer, so I had to tell her, "try the cake recipe in this one, but without this, and substitute that, and you'll have a good vanilla cake."  But I wanted to do better than that for all of you, and it's been on my mind ever since.

So here you go.  I'm starting with a classic vanilla cake, which I hope will help you with your own baking adventures, when you just want to get back to the basics.

I genuinely love vanilla, and I don't think there's anything plain about it, really.  Vanilla is a complex flavor that pairs so beautifully with so many other ingredients.  While I used good quality vanilla extract, use vanilla beans whenever you want to indulge a little; although expensive, their flavor is unparalleled.

This cake has a beautiful crumb and is wonderfully moist, even days after baking.  Not quite as airy and fluffy as a white cake, vanilla cake is a little richer although still light, and the perfect choice for a birthday or party cake that will please everyone.

Next Post in this Series: White Cake

Baker's Note: If you've followed my blog for a while, you know that I live in Colorado, and I create and test all of my recipes for high altitude.  If you bake one of my recipes at sea level, your results may be different, but there are many tips available online for adjusting recipes for your altitude.  Good luck!

Vanilla Cake

  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 1/2 cups whole buttermilk (or 1 1/2 cups whole milk + 1 tablespoon white distilled vinegar)
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
(I find that the type of vegetable oil makes a big difference in the taste.  You need to use a light, neutral flavored oil that doesn't overpower the cake.  You can also substitute melted butter for half the oil for a cake that's still moist, but with a nice buttery flavor.)

Preheat the oven to 350.  Grease three 8-inch pans with non-stick spray.

In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the dry ingredients.  Add the wet ingredients and mix on low until combined, then beat on medium speed for two minutes.  Divide the batter between the pans.

Bake until a toothpick comes out clean, about 21 minutes.  Cool the cakes in the pans completely, then frost with your favorite buttercream.  Here is my recipe for perfect buttercream.

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen

Sunday, September 6, 2015

S'mores Pancakes

Last weekend started off a little rough.  And while it may not have been as epic as Alexander's terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day, it was not a sterling day in my book, and one I won't get over for a while, although I hope to be able to laugh about it someday.  I won't bore you with the details, but as I drove home that Friday night, all I wanted was a good cry, a hug from my husband and the comfort of our cozy home.

When I woke up Saturday, my mind was still weighted with the happenings of the day before, so to distract myself, I made a beautiful and completely indulgent breakfast - s'mores pancakes.

The pancakes, plain and simple on their own, were so light, airy and fluffy.  I mixed a handful of crumbled graham crackers into the batter, and deliberated over stirring in mini marshmallows, but then thought better of it.  As it turns out, I was right not to add marshmallows to the batter, because while experimenting with a few "test" pancakes, the heat of the griddle melted the marshmallows into odd little gooey craters in the pancakes, which didn't look very pretty.

As the bottoms of the pancakes cooked, I sprinkled the batter with chocolate chips, then flipped them over to finish.  Since I didn't put marshmallows in the pancakes, it crossed my mind to simply sprinkle them on top for garnish, but that seemed pretty mundane.  So instead I melted them with butter into a beautiful, sticky cream to spoon on top.  The marshmallow cream was the perfect way to go, and with the melty chocolate, the crumbled graham crackers and the gooey cream, the pancakes tasted exactly like s'mores.

While I rarely eat sweet breakfasts anymore, and don't encourage eating unhealthy food just to feel better, sometimes, I just want pancakes.  And they did make the day seem a little brighter.

S'mores Pancakes

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup crumbled graham crackers
  • 3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups whole milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil, plus extra for the griddle
  • dark chocolate chips
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 cups mini marshmallows
  • pure maple syrup

In a large bowl, combine the flour, graham crackers (reserving a few for garnish), baking powder, salt and sugar.  Stir in the milk, egg, vanilla and oil, just until combined, but a few lumps remain.

Preheat a griddle to 300, and brush with oil.  Use a 1/4 measuring cup to scoop the batter onto the griddle.  While the bottoms cook, sprinkle the uncooked tops with chocolate chips, and when bubbles start to appear, flip them over to finish cooking.

For the marshmallow cream, melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat.  Add the marshmallows and stir until melted, then remove from the heat.

Garnish the pancakes with maple syrup, a spoonful of the marshmallow cream, extra chocolate chips and graham cracker crumbs.

Yields about 12 pancakes

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen