For Kevin’s birthday this year, I made the last cake I’ll probably have time to bake for a long time. His side of the family came over for a celebration, and I wanted to make a cake with a lighter feel. I went with my favorite go-to chocolate cake recipe for the cake and added fresh strawberries and bananas in between the cake layers.
And instead of frosting, I went with a chocolate whipped cream after coming across the perfect recipe on The First Year. I also love the look of a naked cake, and tried to do something similar. However, I made the whipped cream a bit stiff so that it would hold up longer out of the fridge and it wasn’t as easy to spread.
When you want a whipped cream that will last longer, you should also freeze the mixing bowl and whisk you’re going to use in advance. With frosting, whipped cream, or any other recipes where texture is important and you’re adding lumpy dry goods to it, I also recommend sifting the ingredients to prevent lumps! Here’s the delicious chocolate whipped cream recipe as adapted from The First Year:
2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup powdered sugar
Place a metal mixing bowl and beaters in the freezer for 15 minutes.
Remove the bowl from the freezer. Add the heavy cream, and sift the cocoa powder and powdered sugar into the bowl. Beat with an electric mixer for 4-5 minutes, or until stiff peaks form and the whipped cream holds its shape. Don’t over beat!
Use on cakes, cupcakes, pies, hot cocoa, etc. Place leftovers in a container and store in the fridge for up to 3 days.
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.
Heat oven to 350° F. Coat an 8-cup fluted tube pan with cooking spray.
Brew the tea in the water 3 to 5 minutes. Remove the tea bags or strain the leaves and set the brewed tea aside.
Using a mixer, beat the butter, eggs, and granulated sugar until fluffy. Blend in the chocolate.
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.]
Pour into pan. The batter will be a little runny.
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.
Dust with confectioners’ sugar just before serving.
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!
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.
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.
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 MarthaStewart and The Delicious Life.
Here is the combined recipe, which was a big hit with our group:
Vanilla Sponge Cake
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
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 9-inch round baking pan.
In a small bowl, sift together flour and cornstarch.
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.
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.
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).
Cool cake in pan for about 15 minutes, then invert to remove from pan and cool completely on rack.
Tiramisu Ice Cream Cake
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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
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.
Pour into a sifter to remove any larger chunks, and discard what doesn’t go through the sifter.
In a stand mixer, beat sifted strawberries and butter until smooth.
Add lemon juice and vanilla extract and beat again.
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:
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!
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:
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:
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
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.
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.
Add vanilla and a pinch of salt and combine until well-incorporated.
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.
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.
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!