Thursday, April 28, 2011

Classic Birthday Cake

The classic birthday cake consisting of yellow cake and chocolate icing is a favorite of almost anyone I've ever met.  It's a traditional combination and you really can't go wrong.....except that you can.  Anyone who has ever tried to make a homemade yellow cake knows just how dry and bland this type of cake can turn out.  And to me there's not much worse than dry cake.  Yuck.

I found this comparison of yellow cake recipes on The Way the Cookie Crumbles, and decided to go with the "fluffy/moist" cake from Cooks Illustrated.  So incredibly glad I did because it turned out great.

I also used The Way the Cookie Crumbles' comparison of chocolate icings.  While I loved this icing, I'm still in search of that perfect, rich, fudge-like frosting.  While this one was very good, it was more of a mousse type frosting.  I guess that's just a good excuse to get back in the kitchen for round 2 :)

**This recipe is for a two layer cake....I made the recipe plus a half and made 4 smaller layers...just didn't want anyone to get confused...

Fluffy Yellow Cake

Makes two 9-inch round cakes
2½ cups cake flour
1¼ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon table salt
1¾ cups sugar
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 cup buttermilk, at room temp
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
6 large egg yolks plus 3 large egg whites, at room temperature
*Start up tip:  I hardly ever have my milk and eggs at room temp when I need to start baking.  Simply place these ingredients in a bowl of warm water to bring them to room temp faster

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. (*Recipe calls for 350 degrees for 20 min, but I baked mine at about 330 degrees for a bit longer because I was worried about them baking too fast and drying out.)  Grease and flour two 9-inch cake pans.  Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and 1½ cups sugar together in large bowl. In medium bowl, whisk together melted butter, buttermilk, oil, vanilla, and yolks.
Egg mixture
In bowl of stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, beat the egg whites at medium-high speed until foamy, about 30 seconds. With machine running, gradually add remaining ¼ cup sugar; continue to beat until stiff peaks just form, 30 to 60 seconds (whites should hold peak but mixture should appear moist). Transfer to bowl and set aside.
Add flour mixture to now-empty mixing bowl fitted with whisk attachment. With mixer running at low speed, gradually pour in butter mixture and mix until almost incorporated (a few streaks of dry flour will remain), about 15 seconds. Stop mixer and scrape whisk and sides of bowl. Return mixer to medium-low speed and beat until smooth and fully incorporated, 10 to 15 seconds.

Using rubber spatula, stir ⅓ of whites into batter to lighten, then add remaining whites and gently fold into batter until no white streaks remain. Divide batter evenly between prepared cake pans. Lightly tap pans against counter 2 or 3 times to dislodge any large air bubbles.
Bake until cake layers begin to pull away from sides of pans and toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, 20-22 minutes. Cool cakes in pans on wire rack for 10 minutes. Loosen cakes from sides of pan with small knife, then invert onto greased wire rack. Cool completely on rack, about 1½ hours.
Layers cooling....I used a leveler to lop off the top portion of one layer

Martha Stewart's Chocolate Frosting
14 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
9 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
9 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
3 cups (12 ounces) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
6 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
Pinch of salt
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sour cream
Melt the chocolate in a heat-proof bowl set over a pot of simmering water. Set aside to cool until just barely warm.
I cheated and used chocolate chips, and then melted everything in the microwave :)

In bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat cream cheese and butter on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes. Gradually mix in confectioners’ sugar, cocoa powder and salt. Beat in melted and cooled chocolate and then sour cream. (*I used about half the sour cream the recipe called for....that much sour cream in a frosting just didn't sounds appetizing) Continue beating until mixture is smooth and well blended. 
Big bowl of frosting ready to go...



What's your favorite type of cake?  Any favorites you always request for your birthday every year?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

White Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake

Cheesecake is one of those versatile desserts that can be dressed up in so many ways.  Blame it on The Cheesecake Factory if you want, but it seems everywhere you go there are 5+ flavors of this dessert on the menu.  You can add some simple fruit, pumpkin flavoring for fall, your favorite candy bar, or (in this case) some white chocolate and raspberry.

I also know that cheesecakes can be somewhat intimidating.  They were for me anyhow.  I always worry about them over baking, or worse, cracking.  One great simple remedy for this is to cook the cheesecake in a water bath.  Wrap some tin foil around a springform pan to prevent water from seeping into the pan, and then place the entire pan in a larger pan filled with hot water.  *Make sure to add hot water to the larger pan, or else the first 30 minutes of baking will do nothing but heat that water.

White Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake
2 cups crushed oreos
1 1/4 tbsp sugar
1/4 cup butter melted
1 8oz jar seedless raspberry preserves
2 cups white chocolate chips
1/2 cup half and half
3 8oz packages cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Add first three ingredients to bowl and mix well to combine.  Use hands to press mixture into bottom of 9 inch springform pan. *Make sure to wrap aluminum foil around pan first in preparation for water bath.

Crushing up the oreos.  No need to get double stuff.

Oreo mixture evenly distributed in springform pan.

Empty raspberry preserves into saucepan and set over medium high heat.  Heat until melted completely. *You can also make a syrup out of fresh raspberries, but preserves or jam works just as well if you're in a pinch and want to save some time.

Place white chocolate chips and half and half in heat proof bowl and microwave in 25 second increments until completely melted, stirring in between microwaving.

In large bowl mix cream cheese and 1/2 cup sugar until smooth.

Add eggs one at a time, mixing after each addition.   Blend in vanilla and melted white chocolate/half and half mixture.  

Hey there little buddy

Pour half of batter into prepared springform pan.  Evenly drizzle half of melted preserves on top.  Pour remaining batter into pan and top with rest of preserves.  Use a toothpick to create desired swirl pattern.

I didn't swirl it exactly how I would have liked...this sort of looks like splatter painting.

Place springform pan into water bath.  Bake for approximately 55 minutes or until center is set.  Turn off oven and open oven door.  Let cake cool for 1 hour, then place in refrigerator for 4 hours, or overnight.

Down for the count in the water bath...

Look who found some batter lingering on a spoon :)

Sadly my only shot of the finished all got sliced and eaten, which I guess
is a good thing...

What's your favorite type of cheesecake?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Red Velvet Cupcakes

Red velvet cake is such a southern classic.  I remember growing up that it was always my mom's favorite.  My grandmother would ask her every year what cake she wanted for her birthday and she would always say red velvet.

One thing a lot of people don't know (unless of course you're around when it's made) is that red velvet cake is really just a chocolate buttermilk cake with a lot of red food coloring.  But somehow that red color makes it taste so much better.  

I made these cupcakes for a coworker's birthday.  There has been a lot of debate at the office as to whether cupcakes or cake trumps the list for birthday celebrations.  Cupcakes are great because they're the perfect serving size, and yet, somehow, you don't feel bad going back to seconds or thirds.  Cake is great because it's more moist due to being surrounded by all of the icing.

I have a classic, go to red velvet recipe, but this time I decided to try out a new one.  I read over a red velvet cake recipe comparison on The Way the Cookie Crumbles and settled on this recipe.

Red Velvet Cupcakes
2 1/2 C cake flour
1 1/2 C sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 1/2 C vegetable oil
1 C buttermilk
2 tbsp red food coloring
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp white distilled vinegar

For the frosting:
12 oz cream cheese, softened
12 oz unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3 C confectioners sugar

The lineup

For the cake.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Sift together flour, sugar, baking soda, cocoa and salt in medium bowl.  Beat eggs, oil, buttermilk, food coloring, vanilla and vinegar in electric mixer until well combined.  Slowly add dry ingredients and beat until smooth, about 2 minutes.

Ready, set....


Divide batter among lightly greased cupcake liners.  Bake 15-20 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

I wasn't trying to splatter paint...the batter was runny

Don't worry, it fluffs up!

For the frosting:  Beat cream cheese, butter and vanilla until well combined.  Add confectioners sugar and beat until light and fluffy, approximately 5-7 minutes.  Use favorite decorator tip to frost cooled cupcakes.

All lined up

And ready for you to eat :)

Look at that gorgeous, rich red color.  Yum!

In my opinion the cake part of these cupcakes was phenomenal!  The only slight disappointment was the frosting.  I'm used to a rich cream cheese frosting, and due to the high ratio of butter this frosting was more of a buttercream.  In the future I'll definitely use more cream cheese and less butter.

Up next:  more cake!  I have two coworkers with upcoming birthdays and they have requested 1) a classic yellow cake with chocolate frosting, and 2) an italian cream cake with cream cheese frosting.

Stay tuned!  I'll try not to be so posts are a comin'!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Friday Links

I'm not sure if this will be a weekly thing, or more of a fill in when I find some nice posts I want to share with everyone....we'll see.  I have a terrible habits of having to check certain food blogs religiously, waiting for the blogger to post new recipes.  And most importantly, new recipes with delicious looking pictures that make me want something like a big slab of chocolate cake at 9 AM.

So here we go!  Today's link theme is appetizers.  Everyone is always searching for the perfect appetizer recipe, so here are a few of my all time faves.  Enjoy!

The first is from The Pioneer Woman Cooks (LOVE her!).  This is a Pineapple Mango Salsa, and is a nice fresh alternative to your traditional tomato based salsas out there.  Pair this with a Skinny Girl Margarita and you've got yourself a meal.  Well, almost.

Next is Goat Cheese Bruschetta from Pink Parsley Catering.  I love goat cheese because of how tangy it is.  It really gives the bruschetta a wonderful flavor.  This appetizer is filling, but still light.

This one was a new one for me.  Cream cheese stuffed, bacon wrapped jalapenos from Brown Eyed Baker.  Bacon makes everything better, and with cream cheese you can make anything taste amazing, so I can't wait to try these!

Last but not least, I must include a something on the sweet side.  I used to eat cookie dough by the spoonful when I was younger (and still do), so I had a small panic attack when I found this recipe.  This is a Cookie Dough Dip by How Sweet It Is.  How yummy does that look?  Pair it with some animal crackers or Teddy Grahams and you're good to go.

What appetizer recipe are you dying to try?  Let me know and I'll try to feature it.

Last, but not least I have some news....I'M ENGAGED!  Hopefully I'll be able to take some time over the next 10 months to really up my skills in the kitchen so the hubby doesn't starve :)  That also means that I'll probably feature wedding cake or food on here a bit as well.

I'll be making red velvet cupcakes this weekend for a coworker's birthday, so stay tuned for the post on those yummy little cups of love.

Happy Friday!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Queso Blanco

White queso dip is one of my favorite things about Mexican restaurants.  It seems I always end up eating 4 meals worth of chips and dip before the actual meal I ordered ever makes it to the table.  I've tried similar canned versions but they never measure up.

This version from Annie's Eats is simply phenomenal, and the best part is that it's quick and easy to whip up.  It takes maybe 10 minutes to make, and then you can stick it in a crock pot to keep it warm for your guests.

Queso Blanco Dip
*yields approximately 2 Cups
1 tbsp vegetable or canola oil
1/4 C onion, finely chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped
12 oz white American cheese, finely shredded
4 oz Monterey Jack cheese, finely shredded
1/4-2/3 C milk
1 tomato, seeded and finely diced
1 tbsp cilantro, finely minced

Heat oil in saucepan over medium high heat.  Add onion and jalapeno, and cook until tender, about 5 minutes.  Make sure to stir occasionally.  Reduce heat to medium low.  Add shredded cheeses and about 1/4 C milk.  Whisk until melted, making sure to not let mixture burn.  Add tomato and cilantro.  Add more milk to achieve desired consistency.  Transfer mixture to warm bowl (or crock pot) and serve immediately.

*I had 1 other dish on the stove and 2 others in the oven while I was making this, so unfortunately I didn't get a great picture.  So sorry!  Head to Annie's Eats to get a glimpse....