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Chocolate Earl Grey Bundt Cake

1 Jan

As with every IMAX Thanksgiving potluck, I test out my annual holiday dessert that I make a number of times across the various social gatherings.  This year, I picked a not-so-seasonal dessert and went with the chocolate and earl grey combination.  I had seen a number of different recipes pairing those two flavors together, but the Real Simple one caught my eye.

The texture of the bundt cake is great.  You get a nice crust that’s reminiscent of a brownie, though no where near as thick, and the inside is moist.  I’ve made this with full-fat sour cream subbed for the yogurt, used nonfat greek yogurt, and whole fat regular. There wasn’t a big difference in flavor with any of those versions.

Chopped Baking Chocolate and Earl Grey Tea

Chopped Baking Chocolate and Earl Grey Tea

Here’s the recipe!

INGREDIENTS:

  • Earl Grey tea bags or 2 tablespoons loose Earl Grey tea leaves
  • cup water
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
  • eggs
  • cups granulated sugar
  • ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
  • cups all-purpose flour
  • teaspoon baking soda
  • teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt
  • Powdered sugar (optional)

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Heat oven to 350° F. Coat an 8-cup fluted tube pan with cooking spray.
  2. Brew the tea in the water 3 to 5 minutes. Remove the tea bags or strain the leaves and set the brewed tea aside.
  3. Using a mixer, beat the butter, eggs, and granulated sugar until fluffy. Blend in the chocolate.

    Butter, Eggs, Sugar, Chocolate

    Butter, Eggs, Sugar, Chocolate

  4. Beat in the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, yogurt, and brewed tea. [NOTE: If you use a stand mixer to blend the ingredients in this step, it will make a huge mess even if you start it on low.  I’ve made this four times to date, and it’s happened every single time. I would recommend whisking everything in until everything is just combined.]
  5. Pour into pan. The batter will be a little runny.

    Batter is lighter than it finishes

    Batter is lighter than it finishes

  6. Bake 50 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out with only a few crumbs attached. Remove from oven and let stand 5 minutes. Turn out of pan and cool.
  7. Dust with confectioners’ sugar just before serving.

    Chocolate Earl Grey Bundt Cake

    Chocolate Earl Grey Bundt Cake

I ended up making 5 of these between Thanksgiving and Christmas between all of the family dinners and potlucks.  I would say the only pain is cleaning the crevices of the bundt pan that ALWAYS have crumbs stuck to them!

Tiramisu Ice Cream Cake

7 Aug

In celebration of Shirley’s birthday last month, we decided to do a potluck/wine tasting. Shirley, Spencer, Leslie, Tri, Kevin, and I contributed wine from our favorite vineyards, and everyone brought something for dinner.

Leslie and Shirley's App Spread

Leslie and Shirley’s App Spread

I volunteered to do dessert, and an ice cream cake seemed like a great idea to cool us off in the midst of the crazy heat wave.

Shiriley's Roasted Garlic Chicken

Shiriley’s Roasted Garlic Chicken

I knew Shirley liked tiramisu, so why not combine the two and do a tiramisu flavored ice cream cake?  I ended up combining various parts of three different recipes from Martha Stewart and The Delicious Life.

Shirley's Sausage and Penne

Shirley’s Sausage and Penne

Here is the combined recipe, which was a big hit with our group:

Vanilla Sponge Cake

INGREDIENTS:

  • softened butter, for pan
  • 1/2 C all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
  • 1/2 C cornstarch
  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • 1 t pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 C sugar
  • pinch of salt

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter and flour a 9-inch round baking pan.
  2. In a small bowl, sift together flour and cornstarch.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat egg yolks, vanilla, and 1/2 cup sugar on high speed until thick and pale, about 5 minutes. Transfer the egg/sugar mixture to a large bowl. Wash and dry the mixer bowl and the whisk attachment.

    Sponge Cake Batter

    Sponge Cake Batter

  4. Beat egg whites and salt on medium speed until whites hold soft peaks (about 2 minutes). With mixer running, slowly add the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and beat until incorporated, about 1 minute.

    Stiff Peaks!

    Stiff Peaks!

  5. Fold the egg whites into the egg-yolk mixture. In three additions, fold the flour mixture into eggs. Pour cake batter into prepared pan, and smooth the top. Bake until a cake tester inserted into middle comes out clean, about 40 minutes (start checking on the cake at about 35 minutes).

    Vanilla Sponge Cake

    Vanilla Sponge Cake

  6. Cool cake in pan for about 15 minutes, then invert to remove from pan and cool completely on rack.

Tiramisu Ice Cream Cake

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 C sugar
  • 1 1/2 C strong, freshly brewed espresso (I used espresso powder and hot water)
  • 1/3 C coffee liqueur, such as Kahlua (optional)
  • 1 recipe Vanilla Sponge Cake (above)
  • 1/4 C finely ground espresso beans
  • 2 T unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1-1.5 pints coffee ice cream (I used Haagen Daaz)
  • 1-1.5 pints chocolate ice cream (I used Haagen Daaz)
  • Chocolate curls or unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 C mascarpone cheese
  • 1 C heavy whipping cream
  • 2-4 T sugar (optional)

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Place sugar and 2/3 cup water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat; stir in espresso and Kahlua. Let the syrup cool.

    SO. MUCH. CAFFEINE.

    SO. MUCH. CAFFEINE.

  2. Using a serrated knife, cut sponge cake in half horizontally, making two layers. Place one layer in the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan. Using a pastry brush, brush with 3/4 cup cooled syrup. Sift 2 tablespoons ground espresso and 1 tablespoon cocoa powder over cake.

    Brush Syrup Over Cake

    Brush Syrup Over Cake

  3. Place coffee ice cream in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat on low speed with the paddle attachment until spreadable. Spread ice cream over cake; top with second layer of sponge cake and press down gently. Brush with remaining syrup. Transfer cake to freezer for 20 minutes.  If your springform pan leaks liquid like mine does, be sure to put your pan on top of a baking sheet or foil first.

    Sift Cocoa Powder and Ground Espresso

    Sift Cocoa Powder and Ground Espresso

  4. Remove cake from freezer; sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons of ground espresso and 1 tablespoon cocoa powder. Place chocolate ice cream in a mixer bowl. Beat on low speed until spreadable. Spread ice cream over cake, forming large swirls. Return to freezer; freeze until completely hardened.

    Spread Softened Ice Cream

    Spread Softened Ice Cream

  5. While cake is freezing, make the marscarpone cream. Beat mascarpone cheese until light and fluffy, about 60 seconds, and then transfer to another bowl.  In the same mixer bowl, whip cream until soft peaks form, slowly adding sugar if you want to sweeten it.  Fold whipped cream into mascarpone cheese. Keep chilled until ready to serve.  Then spread over top of cake, and garnish with chocolate curls or sift 1-1.5 tablespoons cocoa powder over top.

    Whipped Marscarpone and Cream

    Whipped Marscarpone and Cream

I started with two pints of ice cream, but my springform pan was not big enough to hold everything so I really think 1 pint each is enough.  I also topped my cake with 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder just to create an even layer with no marscarpone showing through (as below), and all six of us took turns choking on the cocoa powder.  Unless you want the same affect, perhaps scale back to about 1 tablespoon overtop.

Ready to Serve

Ready to Serve

 You can also sub the chocolate ice cream for espresso ice cream if you want more of a very strong coffee flavor.  For the ground espresso, I went to Intelligentsia for their Black Cat espresso which is the best espresso in LA in my opinion.  It turned out that the barista helping me was an avid baker as well, and we ended up having a lengthy conversation about the wonders of adding coffee in chocolate desserts.  Long story short, she gave me about $8 worth of ground espresso for free!
Tiramisu Ice Cream Cake

Tiramisu Ice Cream Cake

Strawberry Frosting – Without Dyes or Artificial Flavors

4 Jul

As a companion to the White(ish) Layer Cake, I was looking for a recipe that didn’t require food coloring or strawberry puree and came across this one at Your Cup of Cake.  This was the perfect addition to fill and cover the White(ish) Layer Cake. Recipe as follows:

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 pkg (1.2 oz) of freeze-dried strawberries (I got mine from Trader Joe’s)
  • 1 C unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 t lemon juice, or milk
  • 1 1/2 t vanilla extract
  • 3 C powdered sugar, 1 C more if needed

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Dump your freeze dried strawberries into a food processor. Be sure and take out the little white packet inside, this packet keeps out any moisture but it’s not edible. Finely crush the berries in your food processor or blender.

    Trader Joe's Dehydrated Strawberries

    Trader Joe’s Dehydrated Strawberries

  2. Pour into a sifter to remove any larger chunks, and discard what doesn’t go through the sifter.

    Butter and Sifted Strawberries

    Butter and Sifted Strawberries

  3. In a stand mixer, beat sifted strawberries and butter until smooth.
  4. Add lemon juice and vanilla extract and beat again.
  5. Slowly add in powdered sugar until you reach your desired consistency. Cupcakes will need a stiffer frosting while a cake can be a little more soft. To check, I always pull out my spatula and swipe my finger through the frosting. If the frosting keeps it’s shape and doesn’t sink, you’re good to go!

I wanted to call this “Natural Strawberry Frosting”, but mother nature doesn’t freeze-dry strawberries.  It’s probably the most natural you’ll get for really colorful frosting!

To avoid writing on the cake and possibly ruining it with my not-so-great frosting script, I topped the cake with some fresh strawberries that Kevin picked up from the farmer’s market.  However, they were so juicy that they “leaked” a bit on the drive over to the potluck!  Here’s a photo of the finished cake:

Strawberry Frosting - Without Dyes or Artificial Flavors

Strawberry Frosting – Without Dyes or Artificial Flavors

This frosting will definitely be a go-to for me.  It wasn’t too sweet thanks to the lemon juice.  You can always add more lemon juice to make it more tart too!

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Classic Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

14 Oct

For another Hirata family birthday potluck celebration last month, I made a birthday cake using my new go-to chocolate layer cake recipe, this time, with a classic vanilla buttercream that I stumble upon browsing Add A Pinch.  It was a triple celebration for Kevin, his mom, and his uncle:

Classic Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

Classic Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

The great thing about buttercream is you can totally customize it to whatever consistency you want it to be – stiffer, creamier, the frosting world is your oyster!

Here’s the recipe:

INGREDIENTS
  • 1 C butter (2 sticks), softened
  • 3-4 C confectioner’s sugar, sifted
  • 2 t vanilla
  • Pinch of salt (sea salt is my preference)
  • 2-3 tablespoons milk, heavy cream, or half-and-half
 INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Place softened butter into the bowl of a stand mixer that has been fitted with the paddle attachment. Turn the mixer on a medium setting and cream the butter until it is smooth and has lightened in color, about 3 minutes.
  2. Add confectioner’s sugar, half a cup at a time. After each cup has been incorporated, turn the mixer onto the highest speed setting and for about 10 seconds to lighten the frosting.
  3. Add vanilla and a pinch of salt and combine until well-incorporated.
  4. Add milk, heavy cream or half-and-half until the frosting has reached the preferred consistency. For a firmer frosting, add more confectioner’s sugar, 1/4 cup at a time. For a softer frosting, add more milk or cream, a tablespoon at a time.

I took a wee bit of the leftover frosting and added a few drops of red food coloring to make it pink.  I didn’t have a small enough piping tip, so I put the pink frosting into a ziploc baggie and snipped a corner to write the happy birthday, and then created the “flowers” using a closed star tip.  And yes, I am aware that I have had better cake decorating days.

Pre-Piping

Pre-Piping

The frosting was sweet, but not too sweet.  If you want your frosting to be a little less sweet, add a little bit more salt (another small pinch or two).  The salt really balances out sweetness in frosting, but doesn’t necessarily make the frosting salty by any means…unless you over do it.

Birthday Candle Blowout!

Birthday Candle Blowout!

I made a batch of strawberry ice cream to go with the cake too.  Yup – I get things done! The ice cream recipe will follow soon!

Chocolate Layer Cake with Espresso Buttercream

7 Sep

It happened.  I think I found a chocolate cake recipe I like as much as my go-to Guinness chocolate cupcake recipe.  They are both wonderful but this cake recipe that I am about to share with you from Add A Pinch is SO moist and rich but not dense – perfect for cakes.  It’s sweeter than the version with Guinness in it, but still not overly sweet.  I don’t think this cake recipe would hold up well in a cupcake since it is so fluffy and moist, but perhaps I’ll try one day!

Chocolate Layer Cake with Espresso Buttercream

Chocolate Layer Cake with Espresso Buttercream

I had a family potluck with my mom’s side of the family and volunteered to make the dessert my contribution.  We had 17 people to feed and most of them had sweet tooths.  For big parties, I always try to make two small/medium desserts if time allows – usually one with chocolate and one with fruit – to satiate everyone’s preferences.  In addition to a batch of “Pink Lemonade” (Raspberry Lemon Bars), I made this chocolate layer cake with espresso buttercream.

Family Potluck Game is STRONG

Family Potluck Game is STRONG

The cake was a hit – there were no leftovers to bring home!

Here’s the recipe as adapted from Add A Pinch, along with some tips on assembling your layer cake.

INGREDIENTS

Cake:
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 C unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 t baking powder
  • 1 1/2 t baking soda
  • 1 t salt
  • 1 t espresso powder
  • 1 C milk
  • 1/2 C  vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 t vanilla extract
  • 1 C boiling water
  • Double the ingredients for this Espresso Buttercream recipe (I used about 1.5x the recipe and it was just enough)

Prep Tip: If you decide to dry-prep (combining all of the dry ingredients the night before to make production easier day-of) the cake, do so without the espresso powder. The first time I made this cake, the espresso powder clumped to itself and then didn’t disintegrate well in the cake batter.

INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Preheat oven to 350º F. Prepare two 9-inch cake pans by spraying with baking spray or buttering and lightly flouring. NOTE: I highly recommend using parchment circles, or making cake circles out of parchment paper.  Put a cake circle at the bottom of the pan after you put baking spray. It’ll help the cake release from the pan after baking.
  2. Add flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, salt and espresso powder to a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Whisk through to combine or, using your paddle attachment, stir through flour mixture until combined well.
  3. Add milk, vegetable oil, eggs, and vanilla to flour mixture and mix together on medium speed until well combined. Reduce speed and carefully add boiling water to the cake batter. Beat on high speed for about 1 minute to add air to the batter. NOTE: If you don’t have a splash guard for your stand mixer, put a wet towel (or damp paper towel cut almost completely in half) over the top of the bowl before you turn the mixer back to prevent batter being splashed all over your counter. The batter will seem a bit watery, and that’s totally okay.  I am not used that, but trust me – you’re not doing anything wrong!

    It'll Look More Watery Than You're Used To

    It’ll Look More Watery Than You’re Used To

  4. Distribute cake batter evenly between the two prepared cake pans. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick or cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.
  5. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for about 10 minutes, remove from the pan and cool completely.  Peel your parchment cake circle off both layers.  I usually replace the parchment with a cardboard cake circle just for the bottom layer.
  6. Frost cake with double recipe of Espresso Buttercream.

Layer cake tips:

  • Level your cake layers: If you don’t have a cake leveler, use a bread/cake knife to carefully level out the dome out of your cake layer. It’ll make frosting so much easier and ensure your cake has a flat top.

    Leveling the Cake Layers

    Leveling the Cake Layers

  • Layering:  The tops of your cake layers should face each other inward. In other words, the bottom of one layer should have the cut side facing up, and your top layer should have its bottom facing up.  The flattest sides of both areas should be facing outward.  See below:

    Cake Tops Facing Each Other

    Cake Tops Facing Each Other

  • Crumb coat: This is the first thin layer of frosting you’ll spread around the cake.  This process will catch a lot of the loose crumbs from your cake and it’ll show. Once you get the first layer on, freeze the cake for 20-30 minutes.  The buttercream will harden and hold the crumbs tight. Then you can add a final and smoother layer of frosting without worrying about any unsightly crumbs showing.

    Crumb Coat - Freezer-Ready!

    Crumb Coat – Freezer-Ready!

Kevin is a choco-holic and really liked this cake, so I also made this cake for his family’s birthday celebration potluck with Vanilla Buttercream (to be shared in a later post) this past weekend!