Sunday, June 20, 2010

Key Lime Pound Cake for Father's Day

Naturally, the big Daddy in my house had his pick of fresh baked gratitude this Father's Day. He chose a Key Lime Pound Cake.  Ever since a little bakery in Florida got their Key Lime Cake anointed as one of Oprah's favorite things a few years ago, there has been an explosion of recipes--each labeling themselves as list-worthy, too. So I set out to create one worth to thank our Daddy today.

I went with a traditional butter pound cake, replacing half of the milk with fresh squeezed key lime juice (they are perfect this time of year!). I did a soak of fresh key lime syrup while it was hot in the pan, then brushed it with the syrup once it was out of the pan.  A cream cheese and butter glaze with minced zest of key lime and lemon finished it off just as it went from warm to cool. With so many applications of key lime juice, every bite is undeniably filled with limey zing.  Mike got his key lime cake, and he's eating it too. Happy Father's Day.

Inside the Sweet and Salty Chocolate Caramel Cake

I had the opportunity to work on perfecting the Sweet and Salty Chocolate Caramel Cake, when a friend requested one to surprise her husband for Father's Day. Learning from the 'test' cake earlier in the week, I did three layers instead of four, and chilled the frosting further before whipping it up. And after a covert facebook conversation, learned that the intended thought bacon would be a bit too much on the already complex cake. I think he was right. This first photo is two of the three stacked layers showing the layer of salted caramel with a few flakes of fleur de sel, and the whipped chocolate caramel ganache.

I couldn't believe how TALL this cake ended up. It was truly a grand spectacle of chocolate decadence.  Thank you again to baked for sharing such an amazing recipe. I said a little prayer as it loaded up for the trip back to Chandler, nestled in a well-iced cooler.  Happy Father's Day, Eric!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Sweet and Salty Chocolate Caramel Cake

You read that right. And if you have already tried the flavor explosion of mixing your salty with your sweet, then I bet you want to know more.  Words can't do it justice, so I'll give the blueprint: layers of  deep chocolate cake layered with a hearty smear of homemade fleur de sel salty caramel sauce then topped with chocolate-caramel, whipped ganache frosting. A sprinkle of fleur de sel on top gives a little hint at what surprise is inside. The recipe is straight from Brooklyn, NY and the Red Hook bakery, baked. ( I have yet to visit, but am enjoying my out-of-kitchen experiences via their book, Baked, New Frontiers In Baking.) 

The recipe wasn't exactly easy, but the fundamentals of it make the difference. This was the first time I ventured into the world of super premium cocoas, using Van Houtte (though I have my sights set on trying Valrhona cocoa and some of the premium Dove). Making the caramel resulted in a couple batches of burnt salted caramel (yuck!), but the danger of 350 degree sugar furiously boiling with the addition of heavy cream made the successful caramel all the sweeter. 

The icing is like none other. When I first tasted it, I immediately thought of  the little chocolate candy mini-bars, Ice Cubes (anyone else remember those? are they still sold anywhere?)  It calls for another batch of fresh caramel with extra cream that is used to melt the pound of dark chocolate for the ganache. Once cooled, a pound of butter is added, then whipped to a fluffy, cloud like finish.  I'd say that our warm Arizona 'room temperature'  is a bit more than this frosting can tolerate for long, so good thing it tastes great from the refrigerator. 

The pictures show the cake not quite thawed out, so the moist crumb looks a little dry. It is far from dry, and the caramel soaked tops add completely different texture. Next time I make this cake I will be using three 8" pans instead of the two 8" x 3" with those tall layers cut in half for four layers. I think this one was out of balance in the frosting to cake ratio, and the un-split layers will keep the layers firmer and less likely to blow out on the sides (as evident in the uneven sides under the frosting).  And I also think to bump up the WOW factor of this already decadent cake, I might add maple candied bacon crumbles to the top. Just because I can.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Six Roses and Some Pearls

Taking a walk on the elegant side, these little vanilla cupcakes would be perfect for a wedding or shower.  By starting in the center and doing a slight twist of the wrist, the large star tip imparts the look of a rose. Tinted fondant leaves complete the look. The pearl cupcake is simply finished with delicately sprinkled pearl dragĂ©es. What I appreciate most about this frosting technique is the moderate amount used: the cake isn't overwhelmed by a softball of sugar-coma inducing icing (not that that is all bad all the time, but for an elegant occasion sometimes moderation is key.) And I love, love, love the ruffle top cupcake wrappers encasing each cake like a sweet little tutu.

The cake is a simple vanilla cake (adapted from The Complete Magnolia Bakery Cookbook), and the frosting is a boiled French buttercream from  Baked: New Frontiers In Baking .

Friday, June 4, 2010

Cherrybrook Kitchen Chocolate Chip Cookie Mix Review

It's a sad thing to be a baker and not be able to share your goodies with the ones you love most. First, there is the husband who doesn't like chocolate (what?!?!? I KNOW!). But sadly, my littlest one has allergies to tree nuts, cow's milk, eggs, and sunflower seeds and oil (there are a few more odd ball foods in there as well).

For the longest time his smart little body immediately rejected anything that had the food memory of having egg or an offending ingredient; it has only been recently that he has trusted in 'allergy friendly' foods just for him. Slowly I've been experimenting with egg replacers and other tricks to bake Vegan yummies for him, with moderate success that anyone else would want to eat it as well.

I thought I would give a try to the Cherrybrook Kitchen line of allergy-friendly mixes. These had a coupon, so I was only partially hesitant to still lay down the $4+ for a Chocolate Chip Cookie and a Brownie mix. Especially since the ingredients were just so, simple. But I know more than anyone that baking is a science and there is a lot of trial and error to get the right balance to make the magic happen.

Mixing was super easy: one stick of softened butter (or margarine if dairy free is needed), a little water and the mix stirred together then scooped onto a cookie sheet. The recipe was so simple, the boys both helped freely; I just felt like I needed to footnote the experience to them that opening a box isn't what mommy normally considers 'baking from scratch.'

As the pictures show, the cookies baked up beautifully just as a 'normal' chocolate chip cookie should. The inside is moist and a bit chewy and there is a nice crispness to the bottom of the cookie. The flavor is spot on and delicious; only a slight cakey taste hinted at the missing egg. I did notice that once I put them in an airtight container, some of that crispness softened. Half of this modest 20 cookie batch went into the freezer for future cookie fixes, or when I want to make sure that my little one has a safe treat to eat when we're visiting friends.  I still am going to work on my own allergy friendly recipes, but in the meantime, Cherrybrook Kitchen is a great addition to my kitchen.