Thursday, February 25, 2016

Lemon Poppy Seed Cake with Red Grapefruit Glaze

The days have been so warm lately that I almost believe spring is on its way.  But then, I remember that it's still February, and this is Colorado, and there is still plenty of winter to come.  I have a feeling that March will make up for the lack of February snow.

Still, though, I'll enjoy these 55-degree days while they last, in spite of the cold mornings that have me reaching for my coat when I head to work.

A pretty, pink glazed cake seemed fitting for the lovely weather, so I experimented with a recipe for lemon poppy seed pound cake that I had been working on for a while.  The cake is moist, buttery and dense, generously drizzled with a sweet grapefruit glaze, and too pretty for words.

Topped with translucent slices of lemon and a scattering of poppy seeds, this cake is counting down the days until spring comes, too.

Lemon Poppy Seed Cake


  • 2 cups sugar
  • ¾ cup butter, room temperature
  • 3 eggs
  • Zest of 3 lemons
  • 2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons poppyseeds
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • Juice of ½ red grapefruit (about 1/3 cup juice)
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • red food coloring, a drop or two (optional, but it enhances the color nicely)

Preheat the oven to 350.  Grease two loaf pans and line with parchment paper so it hangs over the edges.

In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar for several minutes.  Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then the lemon zest.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt and poppy seeds.  In another bowl, combine the milk, lemon juice and sour cream.  Add the dry ingredients in three additions, alternating with the wet, starting and ending with the dry; mix just until combined.  Divide the batter between the pans.

Bake for about 50-60 minutes, until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, or with moist crumbs clinging to it.  Let cool in the pans for about 20 minutes, then remove and set on a cooling rack set over a baking sheet.

For the glaze, squeeze the juice through a fine mesh strainer into a saucepan.  Add the granulated sugar and corn syrup.  Bring to a simmer, whisking to dissolve the sugar.  Whisk in the powdered sugar and bring to a simmer again; whisk vigorously to smooth out any lumps.

Immediately pour the hot glaze over the cake.  Garnish with thin lemon slices and poppy seeds.  The glaze will set within a few minutes, but allow the cake to cool for about an hour before slicing.

Yields 2 loaves

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen

Saturday, February 20, 2016

White Chocolate Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta

For our Valentine's date, we spent a quiet evening at home.  We were both tired, spending all our weekends lately finishing the floors on the main level.  Going into a project like that, with no hired help, you have an inkling of how hard and time-consuming it's going to be, but it doesn't really sink in until halfway through, when you just want to be done already, but there's still so much left to do.

As of today, though, the floors are finally done!  All that's left is to finish installing the baseboards and trim, as well as to work on a project for the kitchen.  My husband is building a custom counter and cabinet to replace the railing that divided the split level between the kitchen and living room, and it will be a great storage solution as well as extension of counter space in the kitchen.

And then, I dare say, we might be finished with the renovations inside the house...  We've been working so hard for the past 14 months, making so many improvements, and it might be time for a break.  To just live here, breathe, and enjoy the beautiful home we've created.  Maybe get back to cooking some elaborate Friday night dinners like we did when we first met.

In spite of working so hard that day, my husband ran out for groceries while I fell asleep on the couch.  And when I woke up, he had made steamed mussels and lamb tikka masala for dinner.

My contribution was this white chocolate vanilla bean panna cotta.  So simple to make, panna cotta is an eggless custard that's thickened with gelatin and looks lovely turned out of a molded tartlet pan.  Speckled with fragrant vanilla beans, it was so creamy and smooth, sweetened only with the white chocolate.

We ate the panna cotta that night with a berry sauce that I'd made from frozen rhubarb, raspberries and strawberries, but when Jamie ate the rest of the panna cotta over the next few days, he topped it with caramel sauce.

White Chocolate Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta

  • 1 1/4 cups heavy cream
  • 1 1/4 cups whole milk
  • 1 envelope powdered gelatin
  • 4 ounces white chocolate, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste, or the seeds scraped from 1/2 vanilla bean

Combine the cream and milk; pour into a saucepan, reserving 1/4 cup.  Stir the gelatin into the reserved 1/4 cup and let stand for 5 minutes.

Set the saucepan over medium low heat and warm the cream/milk until hot.  Stir in the gelatin mixture to dissolve.  Remove from the heat and stir in the chopped white chocolate and vanilla bean paste until smooth.  If any lumps remain, pour through a fine mesh strainer.

Pour the liquid into 6 molds, ramekins or parfait glasses, and refrigerate until set, about 6-8 hours, or overnight.

Serve with any kind of sauce you like, such as caramel, chocolate or berry, or just fresh berries.

Yields 6 servings

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Chocolate Covered Blueberries Cake

It's been one of those weeks where chocolate is a necessity.  Know what I mean?

And blueberries - I eat them all year long.  Bags of organic blueberries are always in my freezer, for muffins, oatmeal, pies, crumbles, or just to eat with a spoonful of yogurt and sprinkling of cinnamon and almonds for a simple dessert.  Blueberries are my favorite berry.

We went out for dinner and a movie last Friday night, and shared a piece of lemon cake for dessert.  My husband sweetly insisted it was nowhere nearly as good as mine in flavor or texture, and I admit, I had to agree with him.  Rarely a weekend goes by that I don't experiment with a cake recipe, so on Saturday, of course, I had to make a cake.  Not lemon, but deep, dark chocolate.

A little chocolate makes blueberries even better, but the thing is, recipes for blueberry cake always seem to be vanilla cake with blueberries.  Not that there's anything wrong with that - I can't resist a pretty white cake studded with juicy blueberries.  But I wanted to try a chocolate cake version, so I baked a beautifully dark chocolate cake full of blueberries.

So the blueberries in chocolate cake...  The flavor of the berries does get a little lost in the intensity of the dark chocolate.  However, they make the cake so impossibly moist, that it's the most luscious chocolate cake you could imagine.

And as if whipped chocolate buttercream on dark chocolate cake wasn't enough chocolate, I covered the sides of the cake in mini chocolate chips.  There's no trick here - it's just scooping up handfuls of chocolate chips and pressing them into the buttercream, gathering up the fallen ones and continuing around the cake until it's covered.  The finished result is a little bit of a show-stopper, I think, but so easy to do.

One of my coworkers took a piece home for later that night, and she texted me that evening that it was the best life decision she'd ever made.

Chocolate-Covered Blueberries Cake

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened, special dark cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted
  • 1 ½ cups frozen blueberries
  • 2 cups unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 cup unsweetened, special dark cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons meringue powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 3-4 tablespoons milk or cream
  • 1 bag (12 ounces) mini chocolate chips
Preheat the oven to 350.  Spray the bottoms of three 8-inch round cake pans with non-stick spray.

In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the dry ingredients.  Add the remaining wet ingredients, except for the blueberries, and beat on medium speed for 2 minutes.  Divide batter between the pans and sprinkle the blueberries over the batter.

Bake for 25-27 minutes, until the center springs back and a toothpick comes out clean.  Set the pans on wire racks, cover loosely with a clean kitchen towel and cool completely.

In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the butter for one minute.  Add the powdered sugar, cocoa powder, meringue powder and salt and mix on low to combine.  Add the vanilla and the milk and whip on medium high for about 5 minutes until very light and fluffy.

Frost the cooled cakes with the buttercream.  Press the chocolate chips against the sides of the cake, scooping up the ones that fall and pressing them into the buttercream, until the sides are completely covered.

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen