sweets

Chocolate Sheet Cake with Strawberry Milk Buttercream

HERE WE ARE!! Welcome to Sweet D’s 50th recipe post! I simply can’t believe how quickly time flies, can you? It seems like 5 minutes ago that I was just starting out, wondering if I was going to give up after 2 weeks. I find myself getting bored so easily that a small part of me was worried I would be over it pretty soon, but heck no! 50 recipes later and I’m having just as much fun as when I started, more so even, now that I’ve found a rhythm. I have grown as a cook and a baker, challenged myself, and learned so much.

It seems perfect that this milestone comes the week of Thanksgiving, when I’m reminded of everything that I’m thankful for in this life. I know it’s so cheesy to say, but I’m going to anyway. I am so lucky to have the support of my family and my friends, all of whom push me to do my very best, and who are always there to taste test. I am also thankful for this love of food, and for those bloggers and professionals who have continued to inspire me. And last but not least, I am thankful for each and every person that reads Sweet D, because without you I would just be talking nonsense into the internet void, which would still be fun for sure, but not nearly as fulfilling.

It’s only fitting that I celebrate this little life victory with a cake, because is it really a celebration if you don’t eat one? Today’s cake is equal parts lazy and extra, much like myself. It’s lazy in that I baked a chocolate sheet cake and didn’t want to even remove it from the dish- no sides to frost, no trimming, no stacking! But its extra-ness comes from this glorious frosting. I came across this recipe for German Buttercream on Serious Eats, and I had never heard of it before!! I’ve heard of American, Swiss, and Italian buttercreams, but German? I just had to know.

Upon digging deeper, I learned that to make this style of buttercream, you essentially have to make pudding first, chill it, and then whip it with butter and voila!  What’s cool is that you can infuse the milk with other flavors before you make the pudding, which got me thinking…what if the milk wasn’t just regular milk, but strawberry milk?? That beautiful, millennial pink stuff in the Nesquik bottles, reminiscent of childhood, its flavor a perfect compliment to chocolate cake. And so, an idea was hatched, and here we are.  And, because I had to take it just another level higher, I conquered another fear and that fear is buttercream flowers. I’ll tell you that practice makes perfect for these, but some reference videos and a good set of piping tips surely helps as well. This frosting has 5 sticks of butter in it (trust me, it’s not a typo), so if you find the buttercream starting to get too warm as you pipe, throw it in the fridge for 15 minutes and then go from there!

Here is the video I found helpful from Wilton, just keep going, you can always scrape the flowers off and start again!! It turns out to be very calming; I put on some TV, got comfy, and piped away!

And because it wouldn’t be a Sweet D post without some happys, here are 5 things to be happy about today:
ONE. The first snow of the year.
TWO. Christmas Tree Farms
THREE. Thanksgiving naps after too much turkey.
FOUR. Watching the parade from under a cozy blanket with a nice cup of tea.
FIVE. Early rising and productive mornings.

Makes: One 9 x 13″ sheet cake, serves 12-15, plus 7 cups buttercream
Prep Time: 1 hour
Inactive Time: 2 hours
Bake Time: 35-40 Minutes

Chocolate Sheet Cake Ingredients

2 cups white sugar
1¾ cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder, plus more for pan
1½ tsp baking powder
1½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
½ cup flavorless oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
½ cup boiling water
½ cup very hot brewed coffee

Chocolate Sheet Cake Steps

ONE. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Grease a 9×13″ baking dish and dust with cocoa powder.

TWO. In the bowl of a stand mixer, stir together the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder + soda, and salt. Once combined, add the eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla. Beat this mixture on medium speed for 2 minutes. Lastly, add the boiling water and hot coffee, mixing slowly to combine without splashing (the batter will be very thin). Transfer to your baking dish.

THREE. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick/ cake tester comes out clean. For this recipe, I’m leaving the cake in the dish for serving, but if you’d like to remove it, allow the cake to cool for 15 minutes before flipping. Otherwise, allow to cool completely in the baking dish before frosting.

 

Strawberry Milk Buttercream Ingredients

1½ cups strawberry milk (or plain milk with strawberry powder/ syrup)
2 tsp vanilla bean paste (or 1 vanilla bean)
¾ cup white sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch
3 eggs, cold
1 tbsp vanilla extract
5 sticks (I KNOW, trust me) unsalted butter, at room temp.

 

Strawberry Milk Buttercream Steps

ONE. Combine the strawberry milk and vanilla bean paste in a heavy bottom saucepan and heat on medium until steaming. Set aside to infuse the vanilla bean flavor for at least 1 hour.

TWO. To make the custard, whisk together the sugar and cornstarch in a medium bowl. Once combined with no cornstarch lumps, whisk in the eggs.

THREE. Return the milk to a simmer. Ladle a rough ½ cup of the heated milk mixture to the eggs, whisking constantly, to temper the eggs without cooking them. Repeat with 2 more ladles, then transfer the tempered egg mixture to the pot with the milk.

FOUR. Cook on medium heat, whisking constantly, until the custard becomes thick and lumpy, it should be about 3 minutes. As soon as you see the first bubble in the custard (indicating boiling), set a timer for 2 minutes and continue to whisk constantly. Cooking the custard for these 2 minutes at a steady boil temperature neutralizes a starch-dissolving protein in the egg yolks and ensures a better frosting consistency.

This custard smells SO good, and it has the sweetest rosy pink color!

FIVE. After 2 minutes and off heat, stir in vanilla extract, then pour the custard into a large baking dish to speed up the cooling process. Press a sheet of plastic wrap against the surface and refrigerate until cool, about 1 hour. *Tip: take out your butter to soften now, so that when the hour is up your butter is also ready!

Your frosting should be this fluffy and light, that’s when you know it’s done!

SIX. In the bowl of your mixer, beat the softened butter on medium speed until it’s light and fluffy, it should take about five minutes. Meanwhile, begin to “knead” your cooled custard with a rubber spatula. It will be a very thick consistency, and before adding it to the butter it needs to be mixed into a dough-like state. Once it’s properly mixed, add it to the whipped butter a tablespoon at a time, one right after the other, scrape down the bowl, and mix for a few more seconds to fully combine.

SEVEN. At this point, switch to a whisk attachment and whip on medium speed until the buttercream is airy and light.*

 

*Troubleshooting tips: if a buttercream is going to go wrong, it’s either because the mixture is too warm or the mixture is too cold. The good news is that neither of these are unfix-able so there’s no need to start over! Find your solutions below:

Problem: If your buttercream is too cold, it won’t whip up properly, it looks heavy and thick, not light and airy.
Solution: Place the entire bowl in a warm water bath until the sides of the bowl are slick with melting buttercream, then pop back in the mixer and whip as normal.

Problem: The butter was too warm and now the buttercream is soupy and/ or runny.
Solution: Pop the whole bowl in the fridge and chill for 15 to 20 minutes to firm everything up slightly, then try try again!

Love you love you, xoxoxoxoD.

 

sweets

Raspberry Opera Cake

HELLO! This may be one of the most ambitious projects I have ever attempted, but the results were well worth it I promise you! I mean, just LOOK at it. I have never felt more like a contestant on the Great British Bakeoff and it was so fun. The other day I was scrolling through Instagram as one does, and came across this masterpiece by Zoë François of the blog Zoë Bakes and I immediately began plotting. The recipe below was adapted from that very recipe, with a few minor flavor changes including raspberry jam instead of blackberry, and dark chocolate for the ganache. Be warned, this is not a quick recipe, and there are a lot of different pieces and parts, so prepare to have a whole day set aside for this. Put on your comfiest clothes, put on a movie (I watched Solo while I baked this and simply had a blast) or your favorite cooking music, and have lots of iced coffee at the ready, you GOT this.

This weekend was completely free of obligations and plans, which are my favorite kinds of weekends. I get to tackle so many baking and cooking projects in two days it feels like I might as well move into the kitchen. Saturday’s projects were this cake and some shrimp scampi for dinner, and Sunday brought this fall’s first of many apple pies (recipe for that coming soon, it’s my pride and joy)! Now if only the weather outside matched my fall mood. All in good time I guess!

Before we start, here are your 5 things to be happy about today!

ONE. Hot apple cider with mulling spices.
TWO. Marathoning a movie series on a rainy day.
THREE. Switching out your summer wardrobe for your thickest sweaters.
FOUR. Running through a corn maze as an adult and having just as much (if not more) fun.
FIVE. Homemade breakfast sandwiches with the crispiest bacon.

Serves: 6 to 8 people
Prep/Assembly Time: 1 hour
Bake Time: 12-15 minutes
Inactive Time: ~2 to 3 hours

Almond Joconde

3 eggs, room temperature
90 grams sugar
3 egg whites
30 grams sugar
115 grams almond meal
28 grams flour

Raspberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream

½ cup egg whites (from 3 to 4 eggs)
1 cup sugar
3 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
Kosher salt (a pinch!)
1 tsp vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract)
¾ cup raspberry jam

Dark Chocolate Ganache

12oz. dark bakers chocolate
12oz. heavy cream

Meringue Topping

½ cup egg whites
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract)

*Fresh Raspberries for topping

 

Almond Joconde Steps

ONE. Preheat your oven to 350ºF. Line an 11″ x 16″ baking sheet with parchment paper, then brush with butter to prevent the cake from sticking. In a large bowl, sift together the almond meal and flour, then set aside.

TWO. In the bowl of your stand mixer, whip the whole room temperature eggs and the 90 grams of sugar until the mixture has tripled in size and, when drizzled, forms ribbons that hold their shape momentarily before disappearing back into the rest of the egg. It should take about 7 to 8 minutes. Gently fold this mixture into the almond meal mixture.

THREE. In the clean bowl of your stand mixer, whip the three egg whites and the 30 grams of sugar until stiff peaks form. Fold this mixture into the rest of the cake batter. Pour into the prepared baking sheet and spread evenly with an offset spatula. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until the top is lightly golden. Allow to cool completely.


Raspberry Buttercream Steps

ONE. In the bowl of your stand mixer, mix the ½ cup egg whites and the 1 cup of sugar until thick and combined. It will be very grainy. Set this bowl over a pot of boiling water (a double boiler situation!), and heat, stirring occasionally with a rubber spatula, until the sugar has completely dissolved.

TWO. Transfer the bowl back to the mixer and beat the egg whites until stiff, glossy peaks form and the egg whites are back down to room temperature.

THREE. Once the egg whites are the right texture and temperature, add the butter in, two tablespoons at a time, until completely incorporated. Some notes about this: if the egg is still too hot and the butter starts to melt, put the whole thing in the fridge for a while to cool it down. If, while you’re adding the butter, the mixture begins to look like it’s curdling, don’t panic!! This happens, but if you keep mixing, it will fix itself.

FOUR. Once all the butter is added, continue to mix for another minute, until the frosting is thick and glossy again. Add in the vanilla, salt, and raspberry jam and mix with a rubber spatula until fully incorporated.

FIVE. Dollop the frosting over the completely cooled cake and spread with an offset spatula. It’s important that the frosting is as even and flat on top of the cake as possible, as it will make stacking much easier later. Chill the cake until the frosting is set.


Chocolate Ganache Steps

ONE. In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat the heavy cream until simmering, then remove from heat. Add in the chopped chocolate and swirl to ensure that all the chocolate is covered by the hot cream. Allow to sit for 3 minutes.

TWO. After 3 minutes, whisk the mixture together, as the heat from the cream will have melted the chocolate by now. Let the ganache cool before spreading on the cake so as not to melt the frosting.

THREE. When the ganache is cool and the cake is set, spread the ganache evenly over the buttercream and smooth with an offset spatula. Chill until the chocolate is solid.


Cake Assembly Steps

ONE. Once the cake is chilled and completely set, run a hot knife around the edges to loosen the cake and the chocolate from the tray. Wrap the top of the cake with plastic cling wrap, and place another (same size) baking sheet on top of this, with the bottom of the baking sheet touching the plastic wrapped top of the cake. Flip the whole thing upside down so that the ganache side of the cake is now on the bottom. Remove the original baking sheet and peel the parchment paper off the bottom of the cake.

TWO. Flip the cake back to right side up by placing the bottom of the original baking sheet on top of the cake and turn upside down again, then peel the plastic wrap off the ganache side of the cake. At this point, you should have your cake sitting on an inverted baking sheet (to make it easier to slice) with the ganache on top and the cake on the bottom.

THREE. Using a heated knife (keep a large glass of boiled water nearby to dip your knife in as you slice), trim off any uneven edges of your sheet cake so that all the sides are perfectly straight.

Shot from my snapstory, gotta get those angles you know??

FOUR. Using a ruler to keep measurements exact, turn your tray so that the long side is vertical. Cut the cake into thirds on the long side (the 16″ side), so that you have three long strips of cake. Then, turn the tray so that the long side is horizontal, and slice in half so that you have 6 even rectangles of cake. *If at any point the ganache starts to get soft, place  the cake back in the fridge until everything is set again.

FIVE. To assemble, take a long spatula and place one cut rectangle onto your desired serving tray. Repeat with each rectangle, making sure that the sides all match up and the cake doesn’t end up lopsided. Top the finished cake with even rows of raspberries.


Meringue Topping Steps

ONE. This step is optional, but it looks so pretty so 10/10 would recommend. In the bowl of your stand mixer, mix together the egg whites and sugar until stiff and glossy. Mix in the vanilla extract/ vanilla bean paste. Dollop or pipe the stiffened meringue over the raspberries, making spikes and swirls with the back of a spoon. Using a kitchen torch, toast the meringue until golden.

You DID IT!!! I’m so proud of you, it’s been quite a journey!! xoxoxoxoxoxD

sweets

Applesauce Cake

Hello hello! Here we are at another Tuesday, and here I am with another dessert recipe, ready for fall! This weekend, my sisters and I (all 5 of us!) met up in NYC for dinner, and I had some of the best pho of my LIFE from a restaurant in Greenwich Village called Pho Bar. A ginormous bowl of beef pho and a Vietnamese Iced Coffee (espresso with sweetened condensed milk), are really all I need to be happy. Here in New York, the past few days have been cold and rainy, which quite honestly, is my FAVORITE kind of weather. What better excuse to cook all day and watch a lot of Netflix?? This Sunday, pretending that we were further into Fall than we were, I made Beef Bourguignon, which you can find here, and this applesauce cake.

This place was so yummy and fancy!

A story about this cake- this recipe comes from my amazing Grandma Marcella, who used to make this all the time when we came over for dinner. My grandparents have lived three doors down from us my entire life, so walking down to their house for dinner and a slice of this impossibly moist cake was a DREAM. As the years went on, my mom and then I started to take over some of the dinner and baking responsibilities, but somehow, this recipe fell by the wayside.

You can see that this copy of the recipe is well loved!

Cut to many years later, I was in my senior year of college and doing everything in my power to procrastinate during finals week (as one does in college, you know), and SUDDENLY I thought about this recipe and could think of nothing else. I called my mom immediately and begged her to look through her recipe books to see if we had a copy written down, and, sure enough, 5 minutes later I had a picture of the recipe and was en route to the grocery store at 9pm. Honestly, god bless my roommates, I didn’t have a car in college, and somehow someone was always willing to drive me to the store. Probably because it meant they would get baked goods, but still. It was just as delicious as I remembered when I made it that night in college, and words can’t describe how important it felt to make this cake and serve it to my grandma at family dinner the other night and make her proud.

This is the most expensive Le Creuset item that I own and I’m not kidding when I say it’s my prized possession (it’s LAVENDER) and I just wanted to show it off okay THANKS

Some notes about this recipe: the applesauce makes this cake SUPER moist without any extra oil, which is a win if you ask me. It’s best to start with unsweetened applesauce, that way you can control how sweet the cake turns out, but if all you have is sweetened, lower the brown sugar amount maybe to ½ cup. Also, I’m not the biggest fan of raisins, so if I were to make this on my own, I would lower the amount to ½ cup, but the original recipe as made by my grandma specified 1 whole cup.

Before we start, I’m getting into these 5 things to be happy about bits, so here are 5 more for today:

ONE. When the temperature drops below the 70ºs for the first time in AGES.
TWO. Beginning a binge of fall movies and TV, just to get you in the mood for what’s to come.
THREE. Having a favorite mug and refusing to use anything else to drink tea and coffee out of.
FOUR. When you’re so sleepy that, upon getting into bed, you fall asleep immediately.
FIVE. Family board game nights.

Anywho, let’s goooooooooooo!

 

Ingredients

1 cup applesauce, preferably unsweetened
¾ cup brown sugar, less if you’re using sweetened applesauce
1 stick butter
¼ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp vanilla extract
1 cup flour
½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 egg
½-1 cup raisins, depending on preference
2 tbs fresh lemon juice
5-6 tbs confectioners sugar

Steps

ONE. Preheat your oven to 350ºF and generously butter a 9″ x 9″ pan. Set up a double boiler on the stove*, and in the top bowl, add the applesauce, butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Heat until the butter is melted and the mixture is almost bubbling. Allow to cool slightly before proceeding. (My grandma would place the bowl in the sink with a little cool water in it to speed up the cooling process!)

TWO. Once cooled, stir in the flour, baking powder, and baking soda until everything is combined, then mix in the egg and incorporate.

THREE. In a small bowl, toss the raisins with about a tablespoon of flour, this will keep them from all sinking to the bottom while baking. Stir the raisins into the batter until evenly distributed, then pour the whole thing into the prepared pan.

FOUR. Bake for 15 minutes at 350º, then after the 15 minutes are up, turn the heat down to 325º and bake for an additional 10 minutes. Before removing from the oven, test with a cake tester or knife to ensure doneness, the cake should be moist but not wet and the tester should come out clean. Cool completely before glazing.

FIVE. In a small bowl, mix together the lemon juice and confectioners sugar into a thick, pourable glaze, adjusting the amounts as necessary until you have a thickness that you’re happy with. I like mine on the thin side, I find that it seeps into the cake more this way, but it’s totally up to you! To glaze, slice the cake into 9 slices, then pour the glaze over it so that it completely covers the top and starts to sink down the cut sides.

Best enjoyed with as much glaze as you can get on top of each piece!! xoxoxoxoxoD

* To make a double boiler, fill a saucepan up half way with water and turn the heat up on the stove to bring the water to a boil. Place a large heat-safe bowl on top of the saucepan, making sure that the bottom of the bowl doesn’t actually touch the water in the saucepan. As the water boils and releases steam, it heats the contents of the bowl without direct heat, so nothing in the bowl can be burned or overcooked!

sweets

Funfetti Layer Cake!

Happy Tuesday friends! Today I’m back to talk about cake and Molly Yeh, but first, let’s talk about berry picking. I know this is quite unrelated to the recipe at hand, but I gotta tell you, I spent Saturday doing some classic summer activities and oh my it was good. We drove out east to Greenport and Orient on the North Fork of Long Island and all I can say is that I am moving there as soon as possible. Driving along the road scattered with family farms and vineyards, we stopped to pick blue and blackberries, had sweet corn ice cream at 10am (SO delicious), and found the Four and Twenty Blackbirds pop-up pie shop where I definitely added to my cookbook collection. It was everything I ever wanted and I can’t wait to live a wrap-around screened-in porch by the beach lifestyle thank you very much.

But anyway, back to today’s recipe. Who here has heard of Molly Yeh? For those of you who haven’t, she’s a food blogger, cookbook author, and now Food Network chef and honestly, I aspire to be her. Her recipes are thoughtful and beautiful, and often include a healthy dose of sprinkles. Now, anyone who knows me knows that baking cakes distresses me, so I approached this one cautiously. While babysitting last week, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the desire for a slice of cake, and couldn’t think of anything else until I made some. You know how it goes, right? My sisters came downstairs at 7:30pm expecting dinner to be on the table and only to realize that I hadn’t even STARTED that yet because dessert over everything. To my relief this recipe went just swimmingly. The secret? Clear, imitation vanilla!! I know, I was skeptical too but since I trust Molly I went for it, and the result? A homemade, buttery, moist cake with the nostalgic taste of those funfetti box mixes that were a staple of childhood birthday parties. An added bonus? This cake baked up perfectly flat on top so they stacked beautifully with no trimming required and it turned out to be the most beautiful cake I’ve ever made. I tried to leave this recipe as close to the original as possible, although I did find myself playing around with frosting. However,  you can also find the original recipe here on her blog, My Name Is Yeh, or her cookbook, which you can buy here. Anywho, let’s bake!

 

Makes: One 9-inch 2-layer cake

Funfetti Cake Ingredients

2½ cups flour (all-purpose)
¼ cup cornstarch
1 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp baking powder
1 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1½ cups sugar
4 egg whites
¼ cup canola (or other flavorless) oil
1 tbs clear imitation vanilla
½ tsp almond extract
¾ cup whole milk
½ cup rainbow sprinkles (the cylinder ones, not nonpareils)


Funfetti Cake Steps

1. Preheat your oven to 350ºF. Line the bottoms of 2 9-inch round cake pans with parchment paper. (This recipe could also be used to make 24 cupcakes).

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cornstarch, salt, and baking powder to combine. Set aside.

3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar together on medium speed until light and fluffy, or about 3-4 minutes. Carefully add the egg whites one at a time, and mix after each addition to ensure everything is evenly incorporated. Add the oil and mix until combined.

4. In a liquid measuring cup, measure out the whole milk and add the extracts to it. Gradually add the flour mixture and the milk mixture to the butter mixture with the mixer on low speed, starting with the flour mixture and alternating so that the flour is added in 3 batches and the milk mixture in 2 (flour, mix, milk, mix, flour, etc…), until all is added and mix until just combined.

5. Add the sprinkles and mix with a rubber spatula until they are evenly distributed throughout the batter. Fill the cake pans so that there is an equal amount of batter in both. Bake for 25-27 minutes on the lower rack of the oven, testing with a toothpick or a cake tester for doneness. Allow to cool  for 15 minutes in the pan before removing and placing on a wire rack. Cool completely before icing.

Classic American Buttercream

7 cups powdered sugar
1 cup  (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temp
1 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp clear imitation vanilla
1 tsp almond extract
6-8 tbs whole milk


Classic American Buttercream Steps

1. In the bowl of the stand mixer, cream together the powdered sugar and butter- be careful when you turn the mixer on, the powdered sugar tends to fly everywhere!

2. Add in the salt and the extracts and mix to combine. Add the whole milk a tablespoon at a time with the mixer on medium speed until the desired spreadable consistency has been reached. Makes enough frosting to fill the inside layer, crumb coat, and second coat one 2-layer cake.

Funfetti Cake Assembly

1. To assemble the cake, place one cake flat side down on your cake stand. Spread about a ½ cup or so of the frosting on top of this layer, and place the second cake on top, this one upside down so that the bottom of the cake is on top, as this will create a flat top of your cake.

2. Crumb coat the cake with a thin layer of frosting and refrigerate for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Then, use the rest of the frosting to generously frost the entire cake, using an offset spatula to spread, and a bench scraper or long spatula dipped in hot water to smooth the edges.

3. Now the best part- DECORATING!!! You can do whatever you want here; more frosting to pipe around the edges, marzipan cutouts, or the classic, more sprinkles. This is the approach I took as you can see, as it was approaching 10pm and everyone just wanted to eat!

Now go forth and enjoy your masterpiece (and probably take a lot of pictures)! Xoxoxoxox

 

sweets

New York Cheesecake with Roasted Blueberry Sauce

Hello! I’m here to talk about cheesecake. Before this weekend, I’ll be honest, I had never made a cheesecake in my life. For some reason, I had it in my head that it would be so difficult and it kept me away for years. But then, after quite some begging from my sweet sister Clare (who’s favorite dessert is a good cheesecake), I obliged for her birthday weekend. I followed a recipe from my newly purchased “Vanilla Bean Baking Book” by Sarah Kieffer, and WOW how cute. There’s an entire page in the back for music to listen to while baking!! Anyway, I used her “Classic Cheesecake” recipe as my guide and got going. To my surprise, it was SO simple and SO rewarding. It bakes up smooth and creamy, with a crisp and buttery graham cracker crust, and it’s perfectly offset by the tart, citrusy blueberry sauce that I added. All in all, a perfect combination for a summery dessert, and I am quite pleased with myself.

I think we’re just about in summer now, and the idea of going to the farm and getting fresh corn and watermelon and greens is almost too much to bear. I feel some corn chowder in my future and I’ve never been more excited. But I’ve also hit a kind of inspirational roadblock, so if there’s anything that any of you feel like seeing, by all means, let me know!

But for now, I’ll keep it short and sweet, and let’s get to the baking!

Makes: 1 9″ cheesecake, serves 10-12
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour- 1 hour 15 minutes
Inactive Time: 5 hours (for chilling)
Total Time: 6.5 hours

Cheesecake Ingredients:
adapted from The Vanilla Bean Baking Book

For the crust:
2 cups graham cracker crumbs (or 14 whole graham crackers, pulsed in the food processor)
¼ cup granulated sugar
5 tbs unsalted butter, melted

For the cheesecake:
2 lbs cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 cups sour cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp salt
2 tbs unsalted butter, melted
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 egg yolk, at room temperature


Cheesecake Steps:

1. Preheat your oven to 325ºF. If you’re using whole graham crackers, pulse the pieces in the food processor until they resemble fine crumbs. Add to a medium mixing bowl. If starting with pre-made crumbs, start now!

2. Whisk together the crumbs and the granulated sugar until combined. Drizzle in the melted butter and mix until all the crumbs are coated and pack together if you squeezed them. Pour into a 9″ springform pan and pack down the crust firmly using the bottom of a measuring cup or other flat utensil. I spread most of the crust on the bottom and some up the side of the pan, but if you like a thicker crust, feel free to put less on the sides. Bake the crust for 10 minutes until slightly crisped and golden.

3. Once the crust has cooled, wrap the sides of the pan with aluminum foil (shiny side facing out) to keep the sides of the cake from browning during baking.

4. Meanwhile, whip the cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Scrape the sides of the bowl 2 or 3 times during the process to make sure that everything is completely smooth.

5. Add the sugar and beat on medium speed, scraping the bowl down 2-3 times as well. Then, add in the sour cream, vanilla, and salt, and beat until incorporated. Drizzle in the melted butter on low speed.

6. With the mixer running on medium, add the eggs and the egg yolk one at a time, mixing until combined after each addition. At this point, scrape down the bowl again to make sure that the bottom and sides are all evenly mixed.

7. Pour the filling over your cooled crust and smooth out the top if necessary. Tap the pan on the counter until all the air bubbles rise to the surface- it will take a few tries, there are a lot of bubbles!

8. To bake, place the tin foil wrapped pan in a large roasting tray. Create a water bath by pouring boiling water into the roasting tray so that it reaches about halfway up the springform pan. This will keep the cake moist and prevent any cracks during baking. *Tip- it’s easiest to place the roasting tray on the rack of the oven with the springform pan already in it, and pour the water in then, so that you’re not juggling a tray of boiling water and cheesecake batter into a hot oven!

9. Bake the cheesecake for 1 hour without opening the door. After 1 hour is up, check the cake. If the outer 3 inches or so are set and the middle is still slightly jiggly, then you’re finished. If this is not the case, bake for another 10 to 15 minutes. At this point, turn the oven off and open the door just slightly, and allow the cake to cool here for 30 minutes.

10. Remove from the oven and place on a wire cooling rack. Run a thin knife around the outside of the cake to loosen it from the pan before cooling, then allow to cool completely. Once the cake is cooled, cover the top with a piece of parchment paper and chill in the fridge for 5-6 hours or overnight.

11. To remove, run your knife around the edges once more, then carefully remove the outside ring of the springform pan. Slice the cakes into desired sizes and top with a generous portion of the roasted blueberries (recipe immediately below). Yay!


Roasted Blueberry Sauce Ingredients:

2 cups blueberries
3 tbs granulated sugar
Zest of ½ lemon


Roasted Blueberry Sauce Steps:

1. Preheat your oven to 425ºF. Place the blueberries in a shallow roasting dish and sprinkle the sugar and lemon zest over the top. Mix to combine.

2. Roast the blueberries for 15 minutes until they are just beginning to burst. Stir the berries around 2-3 times during the roasting to make sure everything is cooking evenly.

3. Allow to cool slightly before serving. This would also be delicious on top of ice cream, pound cake, cocktails, you name it!

xoxoxoxoxoD

 

 

sweets

Rhubarb Snacking Cake

HELLO! I bet you thought I was done with the rhubarb recipes, huh? Well, I’m sorry to report that since I have a combination of no self control and no concept of how much rhubarb is too much rhubarb, I bought about 12 stalks too many and they are currently taking up more of the fridge than is convenient. So, until such time as I find recipes for all of it, the winners will undoubtedly find their way here. Today’s recipe is a slightly adapted version of this one from The New York Times. That recipe uses the name “quick bread”, but in my opinion, this turned out with more of a cakey texture, hence my renaming it to a snack cake. In addition to the name change, I switched out lemon zest for the orange zest (I know that might be weird, but I don’t love the rhubarb and orange combo), and sprinkled the top with some turbinado sugar for a nice crispy lid.

The result is a wonderful mix of bright lemon, caramelized sugar, and tart rhubarb, which bakes into little pockets with an almost jam-like texture. It is delicious on its own with a nice cup of tea, served warm with some butter or a light confectioner’s sugar glaze, but could also benefit from a heaping scoop of vanilla ice cream or a quick toasting. ALSO, this recipe can actually serve as a base for any number of other fruits, including blueberries, strawberries, or peaches.

Now I’d like to tell you that by this time next week I’ll be off my rhubarb kick, but I’m afraid to make that promise so I guess we’re just going to have to see. I hope you stick with me while I ride this out. Now let’s get to it!

 

Ingredients
(adapted from The New York Times “Rhubarb Quick Bread”)

8 tablespoons (1 stick) salted butter, melted and cooled slightly, plus more for greasing the loaf pan
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tbs lemon zest (if you’re really tied to the orange zest, it can be substituted here)
1/3 cup whole-milk yogurt (this makes for SUCH a moist cake)
2 large eggs
1¾ cup all-purpose flour, plus more for coating the loaf pan
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp kosher salt
1¾ cups diced rhubarb (about 4 large stalks)
1 tbs turbinado sugar, for topping

 

Steps

1. Begin by preheating your oven to 350ºF. Generously butter and flour your loaf pan. Set aside.

2. In the larger of two bowls (you don’t even need a mixer for this one!), mix together the melted butter, sugar, lemon zest, and yogurt until smooth. Whisk in the eggs one at a time until combined. In the second bowl, combine your flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

3. At this point, thoroughly wash your rhubarb and cut into roughly ½-inch pieces. Add the flour mixture and 1½ cups of the diced rhubarb (saving the last ¼ cup for the top) to the butter mixture and mix until just combined.

4. Spread the batter evenly into your loaf pan and artfully top with the remaining rhubarb and a sprinkling of the turbinado sugar.

5. Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until the edges are crisp and golden, and a cake tester comes out clean. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before removing from the pan. And, technically you’re supposed to cool it completely then before slicing, but I was so impatient and it was 10pm and I cut it almost immediately. While I wouldn’t ~really~ recommend doing this because the cake tends to crumble, I have to say nothing really beats the taste of cake still warm from the oven. I’ll leave the choice up to you!

Enjoy!!

xoxoxoxoxoxoD

sweets

Cinnamon Birthday Cake (with Marzipan Succulents!)

Hello! It’s been a bit since I last posted, I’ve been all over the place but I’m back now, never fear. Today’s recipe is brought to you once again by my love of cinnamon, in case you haven’t sensed the theme here. I turned 23 on Monday, and because I know who I am, I’ve gotten into the habit of making my own birthday cake. It works because I can experiment and pick my favorite flavors, but no one complains because it’s a cake for me anyway! (As if anyone could complain about eating cake though.)

So to start, I use a classic birthday cake recipe from a Williams-Sonoma Cake cookbook that I’ve had for years now, and it’s simplicity is its greatest asset. But because I can never leave anything alone, I added a few tweaks here and there in the form of some cinnamon, almond extract, and a vanilla bean instead of vanilla extract, and boy it went well. As my mo remarked, the cake smelled like snickerdoodles as it was baking, and was moist and amazing when iced and sliced. To complete the cinnamon masterpiece I covered this cake in a cinnamon-y buttercream and free-handed a few marzipan succulents for decoration. I, of course, know that they could be cleaner if I used cookie cutters or stencils, but I simply didn’t have any so I made do!

This whole recipe is great because without my flavor additions, they serve as basic templates for cake and buttercream that can be changed as you see fit. I’m including stars next to the ingredients that I added so that the following recipe can be two in one! Let’s get baking!!

Makes: 1 2-layer 9″ round cake or 1 9×13″ sheet cake
Prep Time: 1 hour+ (depending on how into decorating you get!)
Bake Time: 20-25 minutes
Total Time: 1.5-2 hours

Cinnamon Cake Ingredients
adapted from Williams-Sonoma’s Cake

2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp kosher salt
½ tsp ground cinnamon*
½ cup whole milk
½ vanilla bean (or 2 tsp vanilla extract)
½ tsp almond extract*
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1½ cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature and lightly beaten

Cake Steps

1. Preheat your oven to 350ºF. Grease and flour your desired cake pans, or grease and line your pans with parchment paper (which is my preferred method, to keep the consistency correct and to prevent sticking mishaps).

2. In a large bowl, sift together your flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Set aside.

3. If you’re using a vanilla bean, add the milk, almond extract, and scraped vanilla bean seeds + pod to a saucepan and heat over low heat (do not boil the milk!), until the vanilla has infused with the milk. Remove and discard the pod. If you’re using vanilla extract instead, add both extracts to your milk at room temperature.

4. In the bowl of your stand mixer (or large bowl + hand mixer), cream your butter on medium speed for 1 minute. Add in the granulated sugar and beat until the mixture is pale yellow and fluffy, about 5 minutes.

5. Drizzle your eggs into the bowl of the mixer on low speed, a little at a time, allowing each addition to incorporate before adding more.

6. Next you’re going to be adding your flour mixture and your milk mixtures alternatively, starting and ending with the flour. Add your flour in 3 batches, your milk in 2. Mix until just combined.

7. Pour the batter into your pans and spread evenly. Before baking, tap your pans on the counter to release any trapped air bubbles. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

8. Allow the cakes to cool almost entirely in their pans, trying to move cakes around when they’re still warm makes them way more likely to crack or break! While they’re cooling, you can make your frosting.

Cinnamon Buttercream
adapted from Domino Confectioners Sugar
*you may have to do this in 2 batches if you have a smaller mixer like me! If so, just divide these amounts in half*

7 cups (2 boxes) confectioners sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter, at room temperature
¼-1/3 cup whole milk
½ vanilla bean, scraped, or 2 tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp almond extract*
½ tsp ground cinnamon*

Buttercream Steps

1. Cream together your butter and sugar. Slowly add in the milk, little by little until your frosting has reached the desired spreadable consistency.

2. Add the extracts (or extract and vanilla bean seeds), and cinnamon, and mix to combine.

3. Once your cakes have cooled, generously frost the top of your first cake and stack the second cake on top, so that both domed tops are in the center and the top and bottom of your cake is flat.

4. “Crumb coat” the cake with a thin layer all over and chill for 15 minutes. Finish with a second, thicker coating of frosting. Dip your spatula in warm water and run it along the sides and the top to smooth.


Decorations

Almond paste (marzipan)
Food Coloring
Cocoa powder
Chocolate Shavings

or any sprinkles/ extra frosting you want!

Steps

1. To color your marzipan, break off a large chunk and make a well in the center, adding in a few drops of the color you want. Knead it around in your hands until the color is evenly distributed. Warning, you WILL dye your hands this way, I looked like Elphaba from Wicked for quite a while.

2. To make a succulent, I cut out star shapes in gradually smaller sizes, starting with the largest and then 3-4 more, getting smaller each time. I layered them on top of each other one at a time and pressed the center in until the pieces were stuck together.

3. Brush the edges with a little cocoa powder and arrange them on the top of the cake. Cover the area with chocolate shavings if you feel like it, I thought the cake needed to look a little more like a garden you know?

Then, take at least 600 pictures to brag to your friends about your masterpiece, and enjoy!!!

xoxoxoxoxoD