Sunday, July 20, 2014

Chocolate Ganache Cake

Do you ever have an intense craving?

You know, one of those cravings that don’t go away no matter how hard you try to resist.

I did.

This morning.

I had the deepest, most intense desire for a rich chocolate cake. At first I thought that I could just ignore it like I usually do. The next thing I knew, I was on Google searching for pictures of chocolate cake. I was torturing myself. I quickly closed my browser and tried to erase the images from my mind. In the blink of an eye, I was at the kitchen counter measuring flour and cocoa powder. I caved.


Truthfully, I have no regrets whatsoever for caving. The result of my cravings was quite possibly the most sinfully delicious cake I’ve ever made. The best part is that it was also the simplest cake I’ve ever made. It only consists of two things: chocolate cake and chocolate ganache.

I’m not a chocolate addict. Usually a fun size snickers bar is all it takes for me to not need chocolate for months. But there’s just something about this cake that is irresistible. Maybe it's the ridiculously moist chocolate cake. Maybe it’s the velvety smooth chocolate ganache. Whatever it is, I know that I don’t want it to ever leave. I want this chocolate cake in my life forever…till death do us part.


Recipe Review:

Taste: There is a deep chocolate flavor from the extra brute cocoa powder I use for the cake and the E. Guittard chocolate disks I use for the ganache.
Texture: So rich and moist. The cake has a nice crumb and the ganache is so smooth.
Appearance: I wanted the cake to look a bit more rustic so I left the exterior looking extra “homemade”. The inside has four lovely layers of cake and thin layers of chocolate ganache in between. It is sheer perfection.
Level of Difficulty: This cake is very simple to make. The ganache takes a few hours to cool, but assembly is a cinch. 


Chocolate Ganache

ingredients:
12 ounces (1 1/2 cups) heavy cream
24 ounces (3 cups) semi sweet chocolate (I used E. Guittard, 61% cacao) 
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directions:

In a medium saucepan, heat the heavy cream until just simmering. Put the chocolate in a large bowl and pour in the heavy cream. Stir the mixture until the chocolate is evenly combined and there are no lumps. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap making sure that the surface of the mixture is covered and put in the refrigerator until it has cooled to a spreadable consistency. 


Chocolate Cake
yields 2, 8-inch cakes 

ingredients:
2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour 
2 cups sugar 
3/4 cup cocoa powder 
2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder 
1/2 teaspoon salt 
1 1/4 cups buttermilk, room temperature 
3/4 cup brewed coffee, lukewarm
2/3 cup vegetable oil 
3 eggs, room temperature 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
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directions:



Preheat the oven to 350°F. Prepare 2, 8-inch baking pans with cooking spray and parchment paper. Set aside.

In a medium sized bowl sift the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Whisk to combine.

In a separate bowl, mix together the buttermilk, coffee, oil, eggs and vanilla. Combine the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. 

Once mixed, divide the batter evenly among the prepared baking pans. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Don't forget to rotate the pans halfway through the baking process to ensure an evenly baked cake. Cool completely. 


Assembly:

Once the cake layers have cooled completely, invert them onto a cutting board and peel off the parchment. Slice of the domed tops and then divide each layer in half, leaving you with 4 thin layers. 

Place the first layer of cake on a cake board and spread a thin layer of ganache on top. Repeat with the next two layers. Once you've done that, place the last cake layer on top and spread the rest of the ganache all over the cake. VoilĂ !



I highly recommend you make this if you’re a chocolate addict. You will never get tired of it. If you aren’t a chocolate addict, this cake will definitely make you one. Just be sure to never share. Just this once, be gluttonous.

As always,

Happy Baking!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Apple Walnut Scones

I want to open a bakery.

I've wanted to open a bakery ever since I was ten years old. Now that I'm twenty, it seems that the desire to open one is getting stronger every day. That means it's time to start making and perfecting recipes that I can use in the future. 


I’m not sure why, but when I think about baked goods and breakfast at a bakery scones pop into my head. For some reason, I think of scones as the quintessential breakfast pastry. They seem very timeless to me. What’s great about them is that you have the base recipe and with that you can transform simple dough into something amazing. That’s what I did with this scone recipe. I simply took a base recipe and added my own spin to it. Although it isn’t currently apple season, I had a hankering for apples, despite my unfortunate allergy towards them.  

It wasn’t until recently that I developed an appreciation for baked apples. I used to find them unappetizing, as they lost their sweetness and became very tart and hard to stomach. However, I could have just had some bad apple pie back in the day. It wasn’t until I made Tyler Florence’s “Ultimate Apple Pie”, that I decided apple pie is freaking awesome.


Fortunately, I had some apples on hand that were waiting to be baked into buttery and flaky scones.  So I grabbed a couple and I got to work.

Recipe Review:

Taste: Not too sweet and the cinnamon and nutmeg adds a nice spiciness. The apples are slightly tart but still have their innate sweetness. The walnuts add a nice nuttiness to the pastry as well.
Texture: The apples add a nice bite but the addition of the walnuts is what makes it. They give the scone a lovely crunch.
Appearance: They are so cute to look at. There are little specks of cinnamon all over and some apples popping out the sides.
Level of difficulty: Extremely easy. Probably the easiest recipe I’ve posted on this blog.     



Scones 
yields approx. 10 scones 

ingredients:
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg 
1 stick cold butter, cut into cubes 
2 large eggs 
1/4 cup applesauce 
1/4 cup heavy cream 
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract 
2 apples, finely diced (about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick) 
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted and finely chopped 
Heavy cream
Sanding sugar 
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directions:

In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, cinnamon and nutmeg. 

Work in the cubed butter evenly throughout the flour until the mixture is crumbly. The crumbs should be pea sized. 

In a measuring cup, mix the eggs, applesauce, heavy cream, vanilla, and apples. Add the liquid mixture into the butter and flour and mix until evenly incorporated. Lastly, mix in the chopped walnuts.

Scrape the dough onto a lightly floured surface and pat it out into a rectangle, about 3/4" thick. Cut the dough into roughly 10, 2 inch squares (or however large you want them to be). 

Place the scones onto the lined baking sheet and chill in the freezer for one hour. This yields the best texture and a higher rise. 

While the scones are chilling, preheat the oven to 400°F. Take the scones out of the freezer and lightly brush them with heavy cream and sprinkle with sanding sugar. Bake for 18-22 minutes or until they are golden brown. Let cool. 


These scones are best eaten slightly warm with some of your favorite jam. I ate mine with some raspberry jam and they were to die for. They are very buttery and flaky and the chunks of apple and walnut add a great texture. I think these scones will definitely be a great hit for my bakery one day! 

As always, Happy Baking! 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Cookies and Cream Cake

It's no secret that I am a fan of supermarket cakes. They're good, what can I say? My favorite by far is a good ol' fashioned cookies and cream cake. I love the light and fluffy Oreo cream layered in between rich and light chocolate cake. It's the perfect combination. And one day, I realized that I could certainly make my own version of this cake. So I did! 


 

To mimic the fluffy buttercream they use in the supermarkets, I made an Oreo swiss meringue. I found this to be the best choice because American buttercream always seems to be too sweet for my choice and it can be very dense. With a swiss meringue buttercream, the texture is always fluffy and smooth and it is just sweet enough. 


Having realized I did not make enough buttercream to both fill and ice the cake, I decide to fill the cake with a chocolate whipped cream instead. To do that, I just whipped up some cream and added melted chocolate and some crushed Oreos. I think that was a good mistake on my part. The whipped cream added an even lighter texture to the entire cake and really made it that much better! 

Here's what the entire cake consists of: Three chocolate cake layers, chocolate whipped buttercream with crushed Oreo filling, Oreo swiss meringue buttercream exterior, Oreo rim, chocolate ganache topping. It's heavenly, to say the least. 

Recipe Review:

Taste: Rich chocolate flavor from the cake and a mildly sweet swiss meringue buttercream

Texture: The cake is very moist and the buttercream is so smooth and fluffy, as well as the whipped cream. 
Appearance: Just look at the pictures ;)
Level of difficulty: Very easy, but time consuming with all the components. 


Chocolate cake:
yields 3, 8-inch cake layers 

ingredients:
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour 
2 1/4 cups sugar
3/4 cocoa powder
2 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
2 1/4 teaspoons cornstarch 
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk 
3/4 cup hot coffee
1/2 cup vegetable oil 
3 eggs, lightly beaten
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract 
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directions:


Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray and line 3, 8-inch cake pans.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, cornstarch and salt. Set aside.  

In another bowl, mix together buttermilk, coffee, oil, eggs and vanilla. 

Add the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Divide the batter evenly among 3, 8-inch cake pans. 

Bake the cakes for 20-25 minutes, rotating halfway. Cool completely. 



Oreo swiss meringue buttercream
yields approx. 3 1/2 cups

ingredients:
5 large egg whites
1 1/2 cup sugar
4 sticks unsalted butter, softened
10 Oreos, finely crushed 
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directions:

Combine egg whites and sugar in a small bowl and place it over simmering water. Make sure the bowl does not touch the water. Heat mixture to 160°F while whisking constantly.

Transfer mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with a whisk attachment and beat on medium high speed until mixture cools, doubles in volume and forms stiff peaks. This will take 8-10 minutes.

Slowly add in the butter, mixing to incorporate after each addition. Don't be afraid to add in big clumps at a time. At this point, the mixture may appear clumpy and almost curdled looking at first. Don't worry, this is to be expected. Just keep mixing and it will become even and smooth again. 

Once the mixture is completely smooth, add in the crushed Oreos and mix until combined. Set aside until ready to use. 


Chocolate Oreo Whipped Cream

ingredients:
1 1/2 cups cold heavy cream
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
6 0z. chocolate, melted and cooled 
6 Oreos, finely crushed
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directions:

In the bowl of a stand mixture, fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the heavy cream and powdered sugar on high speed until the mixture forms stiff peaks. Add the melted chocolate and crushed Oreos and beat until just combined. 


Assembly:

Put a dollop of buttercream in the center of a cake board. Lay the first layer of cake on the bottom. Pipe a buttercream rim around the edge of the cake and spread half of the chocolate whipped cream within the rim, spread evenly. Lay another cake slice on top and pipe another rim and spread the remaining whipped cream on the second layer. Place the third layer on top. Spread the swiss meringue buttercream all over the cake until completely covered. Using an Ateco#827 tip, pipe 6 swirls around the border of the cake. Top each swirl with half of an Oreo cookie. If you wish, pour some lukewarm chocolate ganache in the center and give it some help to drip over the sides. 

Viola! You now have the most delicious cookies and cream cake ever. What is so fantastic about this cake is that even though it looks extremely sweet with the Oreos and buttercream and whipped cream, it really isn't at all. I would say it's appropriately an "adult" cake because it isn't so sweet. It's perfect for adult parties and kids' parties as well. Everyone will be satisfied with a big slice of this delicious cake. So go! go! go! What are you waiting for? 

As always, happy baking! 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Strawberry Cupcakes: Take 2

Strawberry season is inching its way towards us—the perfect time to start making delicious strawberry cupcakes! In this recipe, I only use fresh strawberries in the compote filling and as a decoration but that doesn't stop them from being absolutely to-die-for cupcakes. The combination of the tart compote and sweet frosting all brought together with a deliciously moist cake is what you would call, heavenly. The tender and not-overly sweet yellow cake really contrasts the wonderful natural tartness of the filling. Not to mention the strawberry jam adds a wonderful strawberry flavor to the smooth and fluffy buttercream.


This recipe differs from my other strawberry cupcake recipe in many ways:
  1. The cake: it's slightly denser but has a great texture to it
  2. There is a filling-a strawberry compote filling to be exact
  3. The buttercream: it's a classic American buttercream. No whipping of egg whites necessary 

One thing that really makes this cupcake great is the buttercream. The trick is to whip the butter for 5 minutes. That’s right, five whole minutes. This ensures an extremely aerated and fluffy buttercream that will leave you begging for more. The hardest part about making this cupcake is resisting the temptation to eat the whole bowl of buttercream before it even reaches the cake.


Recipe Review:

Taste: Perfect balance of sweet and tart. The compote has a natural tartness to it and the jam lends to the sweetness. 
Texture: The buttercream is extremely smooth and fluffy and the cake has a nice bite to it. The cake isn't too sweet and is buttery and moist. 
Level of difficulty: So easy. If you've never made cupcakes before, this is definitely a recipe you can handle! 
Appearance: Beautiful! The halved strawberry adds a beautifully fresh touch that makes you want Spring to be more like...Spring! 


Strawberry Compote
makes enough to fill 24 cupcakes

ingredients:
1 cup strawberries (about 8-10 strawberries), hulled and diced into small chunks 
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2-2 tsp cornstarch
1 tablespoon water
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directions:

Combine the strawberries, sugar and water in a small pot. Let that come to a simmer. Then, add in the cornstarch and cook until the mixture has thickened slightly, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and let cool. 



Cake
ingredients:
1 ¾ cups flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
¾ tsp salt
1 ½ sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 ½ cups sugar
3 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
¾ cups milk
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directions:

Line two cupcake tins with cupcake liners. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl. Set aside.

In an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.
Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add eggs and vanilla. Beat until combined.

Alternate adding the milk and flour mixture, starting and ending with the flour mixture. Mix until the ingredients are fully incorporated.

Fill the cupcake liners about ¾ full. Bake the cupcakes for 18-22 minutes, or until the top is golden brown. Let cool completely before filling and frosting



Strawberry buttercream
ingredients:
4 sticks (2 cups) butter, softened
5 ½ cups powdered sugar, sifted
2 tsp vanilla extract
½ strawberry Jam
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directions:

In an electric mixture, beat the butter until light and fluffy. This should take about 5 minutes. In 1-cup intervals, slowly beat in the powdered sugar. Start on a low speed to make sure no powdered sugar gets out of the bowl. Add in the vanilla and strawberry jam and mix until fully incorporated. 

If the buttercream is not your desired color of pink, feel free to add a drop of red food coloring. 



Assembly:
Hollow out the cupcakes using an apple corer or knife. (Or any tool you prefer.) Add about 1 ½ tsp of strawberry Jam into the center. Pipe the buttercream onto the cupcake. If you wish, top the cupcake with half a strawberry.


These cupcakes are great for any occasion, especially since they are so simple to make. You will fool all your friends and family into thinking you spent days on this when in fact it took only an hour. It’s the perfect cupcake in every way. But if you don't want to share them, well I really don't blame you. Be selfish, just this once :) 




As always, happy baking!