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Compass Cooking Part III: Chex Mix

For this event I wanted some nice finger foods and something people could just grab a handful of and munch on at their leisure. I thought of doing some sort of trail mix, but then I worried about nut allergies. I thought chips were too bland and just over done. Then I thought of something I had been craving a couple months ago…homemade Chex Mix.

The goodies right before their second stir

Each and every Christmas at my home growing up meant one thing without fail; my mother would make a great big double batch of Chex Mix using this recipe out of an ancient pamphlet like cookbook put out by the Chex Cereal Company. I am now the owner of this pamphlet that is barely holding together at this point and is coated in Chex Mix sauce splatter. The smell of cooking Chex Mix would always permeate our house around mid-December and it would always make my mouth water, and still does. I have fond memories of sitting in the living room with a fire in the fireplace, the 007 Days of Christmas on in the background and happily munching away on Chex Mix with my brother as we discussed our Christmas gift prospects. Such wonderful, simple times!

My mom had made her own changes the to recipe such as adding mini pretzel sticks and Cheerios to the mix, but the seasoning sauce always remained the same.  In my opinion the Cheerios are the best part because they soak up that sauce extremely well and then melt in your mouth leaving you with a savory delight. I thought how nice it would be to share a family food associated with such warm childhood memories with other people. I figured they would be able to taste the love. I too changed the recipe slightly. I removed the peanuts so I didn’t have to worry about peanut allergies. Also, I used the knotted pretzels rather than the sticks. I have stabbed the roof of my mouth with those damn mini pretzel sticks more times than I care to remember and I am sure that is the last thing and Improv Comedian would like to have happen right before they go on stage. Finally, I made mine a bit more saucy. This too was a big hit!

Chex Mix

Adapted from the ancient Chex Company Party Mix Recipe (no link it is so very old). However, this is now being called the Original Chex Party Mix. I beg to differ!

Ingredients
9 tablespoons of salted butter
1 ½ teaspoons seasoned salt
2 tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
2 cups Corn Chex
2 cups Wheat Chex
2 cups Rice Chex
2 cups Cheerios
2 cups Pretzels

Directions
1. Preheat the oven to 250°
2. Combine the cereals and pretzels in a LARGE mixing bowl. If you do not have a large enough bowl to safely stir this large bulk, you will have to do it in smaller batches.
3. Combine the butter, seasoned salt and Worcestershire Sauce in a small saucepan over low heat until butter has melted. Stir to combine ingredients.
4. Pour the sauce mixture over the cereal mix and gently stir to evenly distribute sauce and coat all the cereal.
5. Pour the mix evenly onto two cookie sheets.
6. Bake for 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes.
7. Once baked, dump onto paper towels to dry.

The paper towel drying process

Try to stop at just one handful!

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Posted by on November 19, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Compass Cooking Part II: Turkey Pepperoni Pizza and Basil Pesto Pinwheels

As promised, this post contains the awesome pinwheel recipes! I really liked making these for a large guest event. Each batch of dough made 40 pinwheels – 20 of each kind. I decided to make two types for the Compass Improv Festival: Turkey Pepperoni Pizza Pinwheels to suit both the meat eating performers and Basil Pesto Pinwheels for the vegetarians. Both kinds were amazing; however, I have learned that people will inhale anything that involves pepperoni. I always seemed to run a bit short on these during the festival. Basically, these are an easy crowd pleaser.

Turkey Pepperoni Pizza Pinwheels that were also dubbed Pepperoni Cupcakes

The beautiful thing about this recipe is that the dough base for the pinwheels is incredibly versatile and can be made days, weeks or even months before you need it and stored in the freezer. I have used this dough recipe for pizza crust and I have yet to have a batch fail. You can also add fun things to the dough. I have made a chili, lime cilantro version of this dough, and for the pinwheels I made it a black peppercorn parmesan dough. And the pinwheel recipe as a whole is extremely versatile. You can roll anything you want up in the dough. You could make sweet dough and roll cinnamon and sugar in for quick cinnamon rolls. You could do ham and Swiss or Rueben pinwheels with corned beef, sauerkraut, Swiss and Thousand Island dressing. But enough stargazing about the endless possibilities of pinwheels, here is the actual recipe.

Basil Pesto Version

Black Pepper Parmesan Pizza Dough
Dough recipe adapted from Annie’s Eats

Ingredients
½ cup warm water (about 110°)
1 envelope (2 ¼ teaspoons) instant yeast
1 ¼ cups water, at room temperature
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 cups (22 oz.) bread flour, plus more for dusting
1 ½ teaspoons salt
¾ cup finely grated Parmesano-Reggiano
2-3 teaspoons ground black pepper
olive oil or non-stick cooking spray for greasing the bowl

Directions:

1. Measure the warm water into a 2-cup liquid measuring cup.  Sprinkle in the yeast and let stand until the yeast swells, about 5 minutes.  Add the room temperature water and oil and stir to combine.
2. Put the flour and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix slowly until combined.
3. Add in the Parmesan and black pepper and mix slowly until combined.
4. Slowly add the liquid ingredients and continue to mix at low speed until the dough comes together.

Sticky dough wad

5. Stop the mixer and replace the paddle with the dough hook.  Knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes.  It will look kind of like an elongated ball mostly clinging to the hook.

Smoother, well-kneaded dough wad

6. Form the dough into a ball, put it in a deep oiled bowl, and cover with plastic wrap.  Let rise until doubled in size, about 2 hours.  Punch the dough to deflate it – my absolute favorite part.

Dough wad waiting to rise

That moment of relief when you know the yeast worked!

7. Divide the dough in half, forming each half into a ball.
8. Place the dough balls in an oiled bowl and cover with a damp cloth. Let it rest for 10-30 minutes.
9. If you want to make a pizza: place a pizza stone in the lower third of the oven.  Heat the oven to 500° for at least 30 minutes.  Then dust a cutting board, or pizza peel, or as I found to work best and edgeless cookie sheet with cornmeal and place dough on top pushing it into that typical round pizza shape. Top your pizza with what you like, slide it onto the hot pizza stone. This can be tricky and you will likely mess up the first time like I did, but that is ok. You will get a hang of it. Bake 8-12 minutes until crust is brown and cheese is that lovely golden color.
10. If making pinwheels: generously flour a flat surface and roll out the dough into a large, thin rectangle. This takes some work because the dough likes to spring back, but be patient. Then follow the directions below for the pinwheels and repeat with your second ball of dough.
11. If not using right away: tightly wrap in plastic wrap and bung it in the freezer. It will defrost over night in the fridge for when you want to use it, or on the counter during the day.

Ready for flattening

Ready for toppings

Turkey Pepperoni Pizza Pinwheels

Ingredients
1 batch of pizza dough (1 of the 2 balls of dough made from the recipe above)
Half can of pizza sauce – use ONLY pizza sauce and NOT regular pasta sauce. Pizza sauce is thicker and sticks to the pinwheels better
1 ½ cups Italian cheese mix
3 oz turkey pepperoni slices

Basil Pesto Pinwheels

Ingredients
1 batch of pizza dough (1 of the 2 balls of dough made from the recipe above)
¾ jar of basil pesto or whatever kind of pesto you like
1 ½ cups Italian cheese mix

Directions for both Turkey Pepperoni Pizza and Basil Pesto Pinwheels

1. Preheat oven to 350°.
2. Once the pizza dough is rolled out as described above, spread either the pizza sauce or the pesto depending on your choice. Allow a 1 ½ inch border without sauce (or any toppings) along one of the long edges.
3. Sprinkle with cheese and then evenly distribute the pepperoni if you are using it.

SaucyCheesy

Meaty

4. Now the tricky part – rolling it up. I found a pastry scrapper to be very helpful. Starting at the long edge WITHOUT the toppingless border, so the edge with toppings all along it, carefully, and tightly roll the dough pushing toppings in as need be. As you roll, be sure to brush off excess flour. No one likes eating baked, loose flour.

All rolled up and divided in half to better cut the roll evenly

5. Once rolled up, squeeze along the roll to just tighten things up.
6. With a very sharp knife, cut about ½ to ¾ inch slices for about 20 total slices.

Sliced roll

7. Place each slice in a cupcake tin and bake for 20-25 minutes.
8. Allow to cool slightly on a wire wrack and then serve immediately.

In oven goodness

This will be enjoyed by all!

 
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Posted by on November 12, 2012 in Appetizers, Snacks

 

Compass Cooking Part I: Devil’s Food Cupcakes with Orange-Vanilla Bean Buttercream Frosting

Recently, I successfully pulled off my first large guest event. I have a hard timing bringing myself to call it a catering job because that sounds like it is my job, like I am a professional and like I knew what I was doing the whole time. Nothing could be further from the truth. When it was all said and done I provided food for about 200 people over 4 nights at several different venues for the Compass Improv Festival performers. It went more smoothly than I could have ever expected. Amazingly, I was not stressed while doing this and the cooking and baking all went off without a hitch. The only tragedy was breaking one of my small vintage Pyrex bowls. No worries, it has already been replaced!

Aaron and I behind the spread at the first night. The turkey pepperoni pizza pinwheels were probably the biggest hit. I stood there and watched one performer eat 3 in quick succession.

When asked if I would be willing to volunteer my time to make food for the performers during this Festival, I didn’t hesitate to say yes! I of course did not bother to think about all the time and effort it would take to pull this off in my small kitchen all by myself. Why would I ever think of that before agreeing? I had about a month to plan it all out, but to be honest I had no idea it would work until it did. I decided on a fairly simple menu that could be easily replicated each night during this four night Festival. I didn’t know the dietary preferences of any of the performers ahead of time, so I had to make it an accessible spread. I went with turkey pepperoni pizza pinwheels, basil pesto pinwheels, homemade Chex mix, caramelized onion dip with fresh veggies and crackers, buttermilk-vanilla bean mini-cupcakes with dark chocolate frosting and Devil’s food mini-cupcakes with orange-vanilla bean buttercream frosting. I will not go into detail about the calculation of ingredients and timing of cooking, though do feel free to ask if you are curious. However, I will show you a few fun pictures leading up to the cooking

I had to borrow 3 Kitchen Aid Mixers from 3 very generous friends to get the pinwheel dough and mini-cupcakes done in a timely fashion.

My army of Kitchen Aid Mixers

These are just the ingredients to make the cupcakes. I kind of wish I had stacked in the onions for the dip, fillings for the pinwheels, and endless boxes of cereal for the Chex mix. Oh well, next time…

Soooooo much butter!!!!!

All of the baked mini-cupcakes lined up, waiting for frosting.

At the time, the lines of cupcakes seemed never ending.

The recipe I share with you today is one that you already half know. I used my Devil’s Food cupcake recipe. You can find it here. I will note, that one batch of this batter makes 24ish normal sized cupcakes and 96 mini cupcakes. I kind of thought it would only make 48 mini cupcakes – I was WAY off. This just meant I had lots of extras with which to delight my boyfriend and students. One final note on the cupcakes: reduce cook time to 10-12 minutes if using a mini cupcake pan.

Devil’s Food Cupcakes with Orange-Vanilla Bean Buttercream Frosting

Orange-Vanilla Bean Buttercream Frosting
I came up with this frosting recipe by adding to my base buttercream. It tasted like a creamsicle! It was unreal and complimented the Devil’s Food to a “T”!
Adapted from Martha Stewart

Ingredients:
6 large egg whites
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/4 pounds (5 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 tablespoon Vanilla Bean Paste
1-2 teaspoons Pure Orange Extract – adjust this to taste, I prefer a stronger orange flavor

Directions:
1.  Place whites and sugar in a heatproof mixer bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Whisk until sugar dissolves and mixture registers, I test it by putting a small drop of the mixture between my fingers. If it is still gritty, it needs to stay on the heat longer, if it is perfectly smooth then move on.
2. Remove from heat, and whisk on high speed until mixture is cool and stiff peaks form, about 6-10 minutes. It is very important that stiff peaks form otherwise your frosting will fall apart. If butter starts to clot, put over heat a little bit until it goes back into solution.
3. Beat in vanilla bean paste and pure orange extract.
4. If you like, add in food coloring at this time
5. Decorate the cupcakes with this frosting as you choose

Next time, I shall regale you with Pinwheel tales!

 
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Posted by on November 7, 2012 in Cupcakes, Dessert, Frosting

 

CULINARY BLOWTORCH…and S’more Cupcakes

For my birthday Aaron got me something I have been wanting since February; something that is super awesome and also something that makes me feel super pretentious. He got me a culinary blowtorch. Why would I want such a rarely used kitchen utensil (at least rarely used in my kitchen)?  More importantly, why would Aaron be so willing to get it for me?

My de”light”ful new kitchen toy!

We had a massive Oscars party in February. I made a dish themed to match each of the best-nominated films. One of these were lemon meringue cupcakes. These cupcakes had a seven-minute frosting that needed to be lightly browned to get that meringue effect. At that time all I had were a couple of lighters to produce this browning effect. I was busy making 8 other dishes for this party, so Aaron got stuck taking the lighter to 42 lemon meringue cupcakes! Each cupcake took at least 2 minutes to properly brown. His hands ached for weeks. I think he was planning on getting me a culinary blowtorch from that moment on before I even mentioned it.

The infamous Lemon Meringue Cupcakes

So, the other night I decided to bust out that birthday blowtorch and use it for the first time! Woof! Does it ever make browning something SUPER easy. But this post is not solely about my blowtorch, only about 85% of it is. I made S’more Cupcakes! No clue why, but I have wanted to try one of the ba-jillion s’more recipes I have come across recently. I decided to go with one from Annie’s Eats. She always has lovely recipes and they are presented beautifully. She sells her food well! I followed her concept, but completely changed the cupcake part of the recipe. Her recipe called for oil based cupcakes and I try to steer away from that, so I swapped that portion out and used one I heavily adapted from Martha Stewart. But the general scheme is the same and is as follows: graham cracker crust bottom → sprinkled chocolate → chocolate cupcake → seven minute frosting (which is very marshmallowy) → browning the frosting for that fire toasted effect.

These little buggers are just delightful! They really do have a s’more flavor. They even leave toasted marshmallow carnage all over your face just like real s’mores! Might make a fun 4th of July dessert!

Finally, S’more Cupcakes. Sorry for the crappy picture.

S’more Cupcakes
Idea from Annie’s Eats
Cupcake Recipe heavily adapted from Martha Stewart.

Ingredients
Graham Cracker Crust
1½ cups graham cracker crumbs
¼ cup sugar
5 1/3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
8 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

Chocolate Cupcake
¼ cup + 2 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
3¼ cup + 2 tablespoons hot water
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
¾ teaspoons coarse salt
1 ½ sticks unsalted butter (12 tablespoons)
1 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup sour cream, room temperature
4 oz 60% cocoa chocolate melted
¾ cup high quality chocolate syrup

Seven Minute Frosting
8 large egg whites, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
½ tsp. cream of tartar
2 tsp. vanilla extract

Directions
1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Line two cupcake pans with paper liners.

2. For Graham Cracker Crust: In a small mixing bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar and melted butter; mix well with a fork. Drop about 1 tablespoon of the graham cracker mixture in the bottom of each cupcake liner and press down to line the bottom. I used a small drinking glass to compact it down.

3. Sprinkle a small amount of the chopped chocolate on top of the graham cracker crusts. Bake for 5 minutes. Remove from the oven, and maintain the oven temperature.

4. For Cake Batter: Whisk together cocoa and hot water until smooth. In another bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

5. Melt butter with sugar in a saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring to combine. Remove from heat, and pour into a mixing bowl.

6. With an electric mixer on medium-low speed, beat until mixture is cooled, 4 to 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Add vanilla, then cocoa mixture, and beat until combined.

7. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture in two batches, alternating with the sour cream, and beating until just combined after each.

8. Stir in melted chocolate and chocolate syrup.

9. Divide batter evenly in the graham cracker crust filled cupcake lines. Bake for 20 minutes.

10. Once cupcakes are cooled, begin the frosting.

11. For the Frosting: combine the egg whites, sugar and cream of tartar in the top of a double boiler. (Note: I just set my clean, dry mixer bowl over simmering water, to avoid dirtying two bowls.) Heat the mixture, whisking frequently, until it reaches 160° F with an instant-read thermometer. Or, if like me you do not have an instant-read thermometer put a dab of the mixture between your fingers. If the mixture is smooth (you do not feel any grains of sugar) you are ready to move on to the next step.

12. Transfer the mixture to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk starting at low speed and gradually increasing to medium-high speed until stiff, glossy peaks form. Mix in the vanilla until combined.

13. Frost cooled cupcakes as desired.

14. Brown using…CULINARY BLOWTORCH!!!!!

 
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Posted by on June 14, 2012 in Chocolate, Cupcakes, Dessert, Frosting

 

Pear, Pistachio and Ginger Blondies

Hello, strangers! Well, I guess I am the stranger. I could give you a list of excuses for my absence, but that would be long, boring and tedious for us all; though if you are curious please feel free to ask. So, how about I just tell you this wonderful recipe with a unique blend of flavors – Pear, pistachio and ginger blondies from our friend Martha Stewart. These blondies are just lovely. The pear provides a subtle sweetness and the ginger a bit of tang and spice. The pistachios add their fun flavor as well as an expensive crunch (the cost of pistachios is a damn crime!).

Yum!

The first thing to know about this recipe is that it contains dried pears, which are ridiculously hard to find. I was able to get some from Whole Foods, but that is not always a guarantee. I have made this recipe with dried apples before and though the flavor is different it is still good. Second, candied ginger also is not easy to find either. This blondie is not this blondie without the candied ginger. I have seen it available at both Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s though sometimes seasonal. I have replaced the candied ginger with ginger candies (not the same thing) and it still gets the same ginger punch, but the texture of the candy is chewy and a little tough in the blondie. So, make the effort to find the right stuff or hold off making these until you can. Third, this recipe only makes a small amount, one 9in round cake pan or a 9x9in square pan. If making this for a party you may be tempted to double the recipe. You can do this but I would HIGHLY recommend baking two separate batches. I have doubled this recipe and baked it in a 9x13in pan and extended the cooking time until the center came out clean. It still tasted amazing, but the problem is that the edges will burn before the center of the blondie is cooked through. If you experiment with doubling the recipe, please let me know what bake temperature and time worked for you. Being able to double it without cooking two batches separately would be much more convenient.

I have made these blondies many times now, and they never cease to amaze and delight everyone who tastes them. So, please, make them and spread the joy!

Pear, Pistachio and Ginger Blondies
Adapted from Martha Stewart

Ingredients
9 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, plus more for pan
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon coarse salt
1 cup packed light-brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup coarsely chopped dried, reconstituted (see step #1) pears reconstituted
3/4 cup shelled pistachios, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup coarsely chopped candied ginger

Directions
1. Place the dried pears in a bowl and cover with water. Microwave the pears for 2 minutes. Let the pears sit in the bowl for at least 15 minutes. This softens up the pears – reconstituting them. They should have a soft, squishy almost spongy texture when they are ready. If you do not reconstitute them, the dried pears will suck the moisture out of the blondie giving you a dry desert like dessert.

2. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter a 9-inch springform pan or a round cake pan. Line with parchment paper, allowing 2 inches to hang over sides. Butter parchment; set aside.

3. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl; set aside. Put butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs and vanilla; mix until combined. Reduce speed to low; mix in flour mixture until combined. Mix in pears, pistachios, and candied ginger.

4. Pour batter into prepared pan; smooth top. Bake, rotating pan halfway through, until a cake tester inserted into center comes out clean. Check after 45 minutes but may take as long as 50 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack 15 minutes. Lift blondie out of pan; transfer to a wire rack. Let cool completely; cut into wedges.

 
 

Updates and Orange Almond Cookies

Whew! It has been a LONG time since I have posted. I was interrupted by a long weekend rugby tournament in Nashville and a wonderful camping trip in Arkansas. Things have been far busier than I prefer which means I don’t actually cook less, but that I don’t take the time to photograph what I make.

The Nashville tournament was long and very hot. We won the consolation bracket. Then, the next week we won our first home game 53-0…very exciting and had an excellent crowd turn out. Then Aaron and I went on a camping trip with his mom; our Christmas gift from her. We went to Blanchard Springs, AR. We had an absolutely wonderful time! We went on this amazing 6 hour wild cave tour which had us sliding and crawling all over inside of Blanchard Springs Cave.

Aaron standing a Split Rock in the Blanchard Springs Cavern. The bit of rock to the left actually split off from the rock to the right.

We also went to the Folk Art Center which teaches and celebrates Ozark Folk Culture. I learned how to use a loom and how a wheel and spindle actually work! It was honestly fascinating and so not how the fairy tales and Disney movies depict it. Then on our last night we got some pretty wild storms. I have never seen down pours last so long, but we managed rather well considering there were some tent leaks.

Aaron's mom on a short hike we took to Blanchard Springs. That would be the springs flowing behind her...just hours before the epic rain hit.

Anyway, we got home on Monday, and I started feeling guilty for neglecting this blog, so here is a lovely and easy recipe for Orange Almond Cookies. The original recipe is just for orange cookies, but I think almond and orange are a stellar combination, so I added some almond extract. It turned out to be an excellent idea. These cookies are soft, vibrant with just the right amount of sweet. They are simple to make and will get you feeling ready for summer.

And now the actual cookies!

Orange Almond Cookies
Adapted from Brown Eyed Baker

Ingredients
For Cookies:
2½ cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons orange zest
1 cup unsalted butter
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1 egg
1 ½ teaspoons Pure Almond Extract

For the Sweet Orange Almond Glaze:
1½ cups confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon orange zest
2 teaspoons Pure Almond Extract
Fresh orange juice

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350°F.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

3. In a small bowl, combine the sugar and orange zest, rubbing them together with your fingers until the zest is completely incorporated into the sugar.

4. Using a mixer, cream together the butter and the orange zest-infused sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg, orange juice and almond extract and mix until combined, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed.

5. Reduce the mixer speed to low and gradually add the dry ingredients, mixing until just combined.

6. Refrigerate the dough for about 30 minutes.

7. Make ping pong sized balls of dough and place 2 inches apart on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet.

8. Bake for 10 minutes, or until very lightly browned around the edges, but still pale in the middle. Let cool for 5 to 10 minutes on the cookie sheet, and then remove to a cooling rack to cool completely.

9. To make the sweet orange almond glaze, whisk together the powdered sugar, orange zest, almond extract and enough orange juice to achieve the desired consistency (less juice for a thicker glaze, more for a thinner one). Spread glaze over top of the cooled cookies, and allow to set at room temperature for at least 30 minutes. Store at room temperature in an airtight container (divide layers with wax paper so the cookies don’t stick together).

You will quickly become addicted!

 
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Posted by on April 19, 2012 in Cookies

 

Lemon Chocolate Cake for Carrie!

Carrie, the wonderful woman, in the Anthropology Department who does ALL the administrative stuff and answers the annoying questions us grad students ask was recently promoted to work for the Dean. While this was a great move for her, it was a very sad move for the rest of us. Carrie’s bright, smiling face could make any bad day better. Of course the department threw her a going away party and I offered to make a cake. I had originally wanted this cake to be a surprise, but then I realized I would be better if she got something she wanted than be surprised by something she didn’t. I learned her favorite flavors are lemon and dark chocolate. So, I devised a lemon cake that is brushed with lemon syrup, with homemade lemon curd in between the four cake layers and topped the whole thing off with some dark chocolate frosting. The day of the party I brought the cake in and found the woman in charge of the party who said, “Oh, how wonderful, but the party is not until next week.” Um…oops! Well, I was not about to waste a whole cake, nor was I going to take the thing home for only Aaron and I to consume. So, I just took my cake and marched on over to the Dean’s office to deliver the cake to Carrie personally. She was absolutely delighted as was the Dean and the guest he was giving a tour to – that is right, the Washington University Dean ate one of my baked goods! The reviews were as such, “People’s faces have been lighting up as they exclaim ‘Amazing!’; ‘Professionally done!’, ‘I’ve never had the lemon-chocolate combo–wow!’, ‘Seriously, incredible’ and ‘Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!’”

The finished product

Anyway, the recipes all came from Martha Stewart. The cake and curd were fabulous together. The dark chocolate frosting I have made before. It is an extremely deep chocolatey frosting. However, when following the recipe exactly, the frosting takes FOREVER to set up which means it also takes forever to finish a cake. So, this time, I added more powdered sugar to stiffen up the frosting and make my decorating life easier. Unfortunately, the negative result of this is that the frosting becomes a bit too sweet and then gets super hard when the whole cake is chilled. So, the recipe below is the original recipe without the extra powdered sugar I added. I would suggest you make the frosting and let it chill for a little bit in the fridge before attempting to apply it to the cake, and then it should be fine.

Commence Deliciousness!

Lemon Cake with Dark Chocolate Frosting
Adapted slightly from Martha Stewart: cake, lemon curd and frosting

Ingredients
For the Lemon Cake:
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pans
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for pans
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 ½ tablespoon lemon zest
1 ½ cups sugar
2 large eggs plus 3 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 cup + 2 tablespoons buttermilk

For the Lemon Curd:
4 large egg yolks
2 large eggs
¾ cup sugar
½ cup fresh lemon juice (from about 4 lemons)
2 tablespoons lemon zest
2 ounces (4 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

For the Dark Chocolate Frosting:
½ cup plus 1 tablespoon unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
½ cup plus 1 tablespoon boiling water
2 ¼ cups (4 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
¼ cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
¼ teaspoon salt
1 ½ pounds best-quality semisweet chocolate, melted and cooled

For the Lemon Syrup:
½ cup sugar
½ cup water
1 lemon thinly sliced seeded
¼ cup fresh lemon juice (from about 2 lemons)

Directions

Order of Operations: Make the cake, then as soon as it is in the oven make the lemon curd and begin melting the chocolate for the frosting, then as soon as the lemon curd is the fridge make the chocolate, and finally as soon as the frosting is in the fridge make the lemon syrup that gets brushed over the cake.

For the Cake:

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Butter and flour two 8-by-2-inch cake pans, tapping out excess flour. In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and lemon zest.

2. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter and 1 ½ cups sugar until light and fluffy. With mixer on low, beat in eggs and yolks, one at a time. Beat in 2 tablespoons lemon juice. Alternately beat in flour mixture and buttermilk beginning and ending with flour mixture; mix just until combined.

3. Divide batter between pans; smooth tops. Bake until cakes pull away from sides of pans, 32 to 35 minutes. Let cool in pans 10 minutes. Run a knife around edges of pans and invert cakes onto a wire rack.

For the Lemon Curd:

1. Place all ingredients except the butter in a bowl over a pot of simmering water; whisk until thickened, about 5 minutes.

2. Strain into a small bowl; add butter, and whisk until smooth.

3. Press a piece of plastic wrap directly on surface; refrigerate until cold. Lemon curd will keep, covered and refrigerated, for up to 3 days.

For the Dark Chocolate Frosting:

1. Combine cocoa and the boiling water, stirring until cocoa has dissolved.

2. With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter, confectioners’ sugar, and salt until pale and fluffy.

3. Reduce speed to low. Add melted and cooled chocolate, beating until combined and scraping down sides of bowl as needed.

4. Beat in the cocoa mixture.

5. Place in fridge for about 20-30 minutes, stirring it around whenever you get a moment.

For the Lemon Syrup:

1. Bring ½ cup sugar and ½ cup water to a boil in a saucepan. Add lemon slices and simmer 25 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer lemon slices to a waxed-paper-lined plate and set aside. Stir remaining ¼ cup fresh lemon juice into syrup.

2. Using a toothpick, poke holes in warm cakes on rack. Brush with lemon syrup. Let cool completely.

3. Slice each cake in half horizontally to create a total of four layers

4. Use the lemon slices to decorate the top of the cake if you like.

Assembling the Cake:

1. Place one layer of the cake on the board or container you are using. Using a pastry bag with a Wilton #12 tip on it, fill the bag with the dark chocolate frosting. Pipe a ring of frosting along the outer edge of the cake. Then take one half of the lemon curd and pour it on the cake and spread it out evenly within the chocolate frosting ring. The theory here is that the chocolate frosting ring keeps the curd from oozing out in between the cake layers.

2. Place the second cake layer on top of the one you just covered in curd. Put a layer of the chocolate frosting on top of this layer.

3. Repeat step #1 with the 3rdcake layer.

4. Place the fourth layer on top of that, and frost the entire outside of the cake with chocolate frosting.

5. Decorate the top with the lemon slices you pulled out from the lemon syrup

6. If not using immediately, place the cake in the fridge since the curd can go bad.

Now go and amaze your friends!

 
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Posted by on March 29, 2012 in Cake, Chocolate, Frosting, Lemon