• Wildflower Coconut Cake

    Hello!! How convenient that my birthday falls on the same day of my Sweet D posts. As a result, I bring you my birthday cake 2019, because yes, I do bake my own birthday cakes! It’s great because I can do whatever flavors or designs I want, and no one can tell me not to! This year I chose a crowd pleaser though, who doesn’t love coconut cake?? This particular recipe comes from Queen Ina Garten herself, because I was looking for the classic flavors of the coconut cake from the bakery by my house: vanilla, almond, coconut, and the sweet tang of luscious cream cheese frosting. And, to pull out all the stops, I tried my hand again at some buttercream flowers, and I get better every time!

    Before baking this year’s cake, I took a trip to Michaels and got some supplies, including some cake boards, baking strips, a wire cake trimmer, a flower nail, and some fancy gel food coloring. The cake board goes on your cake stand or plate, and allows for easy transfer from one surface to another. The baking strips are something I should’ve gotten a LONG time ago- you soak them for 5 minutes before baking, and then wrap them around the sides of the cake pans. This keeps the sides of the pan cooler, and results in a cake that bakes more evenly and flat. The cake trimmer lets me take the uneven top off in one motion, because I am notoriously bad at cutting my cakes evenly. The flower nail and gel food colors are for the buttercream flowers and wow does the flower nail make a difference! It lets you get every side of the flower in one motion, and results in much more even flowers.

    I’m excited about what my 24th year on this earth holds, hopefully many more cakes and a pie or two (or seven). Until then, here are 5 things to be happy about today:
    ONE. Zippy limes.
    TWO. Bike baskets.
    THREE. The glow you get from being outdoors.
    FOUR. Pitchers on the porch.
    FIVE. Strawberry Rhubarb jam.

    Let’s bake!!

    MAKE: 1 2-layer cake
    PREP TIME: 2-3 hours (depending on flowers and decorating)
    BAKE TIME: 45-55 minutes.

     

    COCONUT CAKE INGREDIENTS

    ¾ lb. (3 sticks)  unsalted butter, softened
    2 cups sugar
    5 eggs, at room temp
    1½ tsp vanilla bean paste
    1½ tsp almond extract
    3 cups all-purpose flour
    1 tsp baking powder
    ½ tsp baking soda
    ½ tsp kosher salt
    1 cup milk
    4 oz. shredded sweetened coconut

    CREAM CHEESE FROSTING INGREDIENTS

    1 lb. cream cheese, softened
    ½ lb. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
    ¾ tsp vanilla bean paste
    ¼ tsp almond extract
    1 lb. powdered sugar
    Shredded sweetened coconut (for decoration)

    BUTTERCREAM FLOWER INGREDIENTS

    1 stick butter, softened
    1 lb. powdered sugar
    1 tsp vanilla extract
    3-4 Tbsp whole milk

    CAKE STEPS

    ONE. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Generously grease 2 9-inch round cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper. If you’re using baking strips on the outside, start soaking them now.

    TWO. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until pale yellow and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Scrape down the bow one or two times during this process to make sure it’s all being evenly mixed. Crack the eggs into a small bowl, then add them one at a time to the butter mixture. Once all the eggs are incorporated, add in the vanilla and almond, and mix to combine.

    THREE. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into another bowl. You’ll be adding the flour mixture and the milk alternately to the butter mixture in 5 parts, starting and ending with the flour. Mix until just combined. Remove the bowl from the stand mixer and, using a rubber spatula, fold the shredded coconut into the batter.

    FOUR. Divide the batter evenly into the two pans and bake for 45 to 55 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool the cakes in their pans for 30 minutes before turning them out onto a cooling rack to cool completely.

    CREAM CHEESE FROSTING STEPS

    ONE. In the bowl of your stand mixer, mix together the butter, cream cheese, vanilla extract, and almond extract on low speed until combined, but do not whipped.

    TWO. Carefully spoon in the powdered sugar a few at a time until it’s all smooth and incorporated. Repeat for a second batch.


    BUTTERCREAM STEPS

    ONE. In the bowl of your stand mixer, mix together the butter, vanilla, and powdered sugar until combined. Add the milk one tablespoon at a time until you’ve reached the desired consistency, but make sure it’s not too wet because it will be harder for flowers to hold their shape. Repeat as necessary for more flower colors.

    CAKE ASSEMBLY

    ONE. Place one cake flat side down on your cake stand or plate. Add a cup or so of frosting to the top and spread evenly. Place the other cake on top so that the flat bottom of this cake is the top. Crumb coat this cake with a thin layer of cream cheese frosting, and chill for 20-30 minutes.

    TWO. Coat the cake with a second, thicker layer of cream cheese frosting and smooth out. Gently press the shredded coconut around the sides of the cake evenly. Top the cake with the chilled buttercream flowers and fill in any gaps with extra buttercream. Now cut yourself a generous slice and enjoy!!

    *Pro Tip #1: for buttercream flower tips, see here.

    *Pro Tip #2: when storing leftover cake (assuming there is any!), press two pieces of sliced sandwich bread over the cut sides. This will prevent the cake from drying out and keep it nice and soft.

    YAY! XoxoxoxoxD

  • Bourbon-Vanilla Bean Challah Bread Pudding with Creme Anglaise

    Wow this is a mouthful. Both phonetically and literally, huh? This week’s recipe is brought to you accidentally by Ina Garten again. I promise this isn’t a Barefoot Contessa-only blog all of a sudden, I’ve just been in such a mood and this bread pudding looked like exactly what I needed and I couldn’t get the thought out of my head once it was in there. Classic D.

    This is the simplest of bread pudding recipes, altered slightly from Ina’s brioche to use challah from a local bakery, and because I like to give myself more work whenever possible, a side of Creme Anglaise to go with it. That sounds much fancier than it actually is, to be honest it’s really just vanilla custard, but for some reason it takes this dish to the absolute next level. I really don’t think you can ever have too much vanilla, and it makes me sad when people say it’s a boring flavor. Vanilla is my favorite, there, I said it!! Vanilla ice cream? I’ll take that any day. Vanilla tootsie rolls were clearly the best ones, vanilla cake is classic for a REASON people! Anyway, now that we’re all hungry, let’s get down to business. This recipe is really easy, although waiting an hour and a half to eat it will be the most difficult thing you do all day. While you’re waiting, might I suggest doing a face mask or some other form of self-care, watch an episode of your favorite show, and then make some Creme Anglaise (but not too early, otherwise you’ll want to drink all of it before the pudding is done).

    Another fun thing to do while you wait is think of some things to be happy about, and speaking of which, here are your first five. I apologize in advance, I am my fullest form in the Christmas season and it begins NOW:
    ONE. The first Christmas song of the season.
    TWO. Drinking iced coffee long after it gets too cold to be acceptable.
    THREE. Peppermint hot chocolate.
    FOURStaying in for a movie night.
    FIVE. Half-priced Halloween candy on November 1st

    Serves: 8 to 10 people
    Prep Time: 20 minutes
    Bake Time: 1 hour 30 minutes

    Bread Pudding Ingredients
    adapted from Cooking Like A Pro

    1 Challah loaf plus another half loaf
    3 whole eggs
    8 egg yolks
    4 cups half-and-half
    1 cup whole milk
    1¼ cups white sugar
    2 tsp bourbon
    2 tsp vanilla extract
    1 tsp vanilla bean paste/ seeds from 1 vanilla bean
    Confectioners’ sugar; for serving
    Crème Anglaise; for serving (recipe below)

    Steps

    ONE. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Cut the half loaf of challah into roughly five slices ¾” thick and lay them on a sheet pan. Trim the crust off the full loaf and dice into roughly 1-inch cubes. Spread the cubes on a second sheet pan and toast both pans in the oven for 5 minutes.

    TWO. To make the custard, whisk together the eggs, egg yolks, half-and-half, milk, vanilla extract, and vanilla bean paste/ seeds in a large bowl. Set aside.

    THREE. Line a 10 x 12 inch baking dish with the toasted slices of challah, trimming as necessary so that they fit neatly and cover the bottom of the dish entirely. Evenly distribute the cubed bread pieces on top. Pour the custard over the whole thing and gently press down so that the mixture is absorbed. Allow to sit for 10 minutes.

    FOUR. Place the baking dish in a roasting pan large enough that the dish fits flat, and add an inch of boiling water to the roasting pan (avoid getting water in the pudding). Cover the whole thing with tin foil, poking a few holes here and there to allow steam to escape. Bake, covered, for 45 minutes. Remove the tin foil and bake for an additional 45 minutes, until the custard is set.

    FIVE. Serve warm, with a dusting of confectioners’ sugar and a generous drizzle of Crème Anglaise.


    Crème Anglaise Ingredients

    1 cup milk
    ¾ cup heavy cream
    1 tbsp bourbon (optional)
    2 tsp vanilla bean paste/ seeds from 1 vanilla bean
    4 egg yolks
    1/3 cup white sugar

    Crème Anglaise Steps

    ONE. Add the milk, cream, bourbon, and vanilla bean to a saucepan and heat on medium until small bubbles appear around the edges and steam begins to rise. Separately, in a large mixing bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until pale and combined.

    TWO. While whisking continuously, slowly drizzle the hot milk mixture into the eggs, a little at a time so as not to scramble the eggs, until all is incorporated. Then, transfer this mixture back to the saucepan.

    FOUR. Cook this mixture on low heat. whisking constantly, until it becomes slightly thickened and coats the back of a spoon. Strain the thickened mixture through a sieve and then allow to cool before serving.

    YAY!! xoxoxoxo

  • Pear Clafoutis

    In honor of Queen Ina Garten’s new cookbook Cook Like A Pro, this weekend I pulled out a recipe from another classic, Barefoot In Paris, as it also makes a second appearance in this new cookbook. I’ve made a clafoutis before here, but fall temperatures call for cozy fall flavors, and a custardy, cinnamon-y, pear dessert seemed like the right move. For those who weren’t around last time, a clafoutis is a baked french dish that’s a bit like a cross between a dutch baby and a custard, traditionally made with dark cherries but so delicious with other sturdy fruits as well. It’s incredibly easy to make, requires one bowl and 15 minutes of prep, and can be done within the hour, so really there’s no excuse NOT to make it.

    Now let’s talk a little bit about cookbooks. Anyone who knows me knows that I have the most excessive collection of cookbooks. If I see one I like, I can’t stop myself, and suddenly I’m at the checkout counter handing over my card and leaving with another book under my arm. The thing is though, I would probably be nothing without them. I look over my collection of books from some of the people I look up to most and realize how much they’ve taught me, and how much they’ve inspired me to do better, be brave, and trust my instincts. It was countless episodes of Barefoot Contessa that I watched in high school that made me start to see cooking as something other than a chore. It was Ina Garten, who, back when all I was baking were Toll House chocolate chip cookies and some apple pie, taught me about flavors and to never settle for less than the best. Good vanilla is a lifestyle people!!! I love my cookbook collection and here’s to many more years of adding to the pile. But, for now, here are some of my favorites:

    1. The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, by Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen
    2. Molly on the Range, by Molly Yeh of My Name is Yeh
    3. The Fearless Baker, by Erin McDowell
    4. Foolproof, by Ina Garten
    5. Cooking For Jeffrey, by Ina Garten
    6. Genius Recipes, by Kristen Miglore of Food52
    7. Florentine, by Emiko Davies

     

    See? I wasn’t kidding. Now if only I could get to the books at the bottom…

     

    Go forth and start cooking, but before you do, here are 5 things to be happy about today!
    ONE. Halloween themed TV episodes.

    TWO. 
    Dinners that you start preparing in the morning and that cook all day, surrounding you and your house with comforting smells.

    THREE. 
    Crisp walks through the changing leaves.

    FOUR. Kraft mac and cheese.

    FIVE. Walking through a greenhouse when it’s cold out and feeling warm and refreshed.

    Makes: 8 servings
    Prep Time: 15 minutes
    Bake Time: 35 to 40 minutes

    Ingredients
    adapted from 
    Barefoot In Paris

    1 tablespoon butter, softened
    1/3 cup + 1 tbsp white sugar, separated
    ½ tsp cinnamon
    3 eggs, room temperature
    6 tbsp all purpose flour
    1½ cups heavy cream
    2 tsp vanilla extract
    1 tsp lemon zest
    ¼ tsp kosher salt
    2 to 3 ripe but fragrant Bartlett pears
    Confectioners’ sugar

    Steps

    ONE. Preheat the oven to 375ºF. In a small bowl, mix together the 1 tablespoon of sugar and the cinnamon. Using the tablespoon of softened butter, grease a 10 inch round baking dish entirely, and then sprinkle the cinnamon sugar so that it coats the bottom and sides completely, tapping out the excess.

    TWO. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the eggs and remaining granulated sugar for 3 minutes on medium speed until light and fluffy. Then, with the mixer on low, add the flour, heavy cream, vanilla, lemon zest, and salt. Mix until combined, then turn the mixer off and let the mixture sit for 10 minutes while you prepare the pears.

    THREE. Peel, halve, core, and slice your pears into thin slices, then fan them out in the bottom of your prepared dish as desired. Pour the batter on top of the pears and place the dish on a baking sheet to catch any spills and make it easier to transfer into the oven.

    FOUR. Bake the clafoutis for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the top is golden. This dish can be served warm or room temperature, sprinkled with confectioners’ sugar or with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

    Happy Tuesday!!! xoxoxoxD