Showing posts with label cakes. Show all posts
Showing posts with label cakes. Show all posts

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Peanut Butter Cupcakes with Chocolate Frosting and Fleur de Sel

Last year, I attended a talk by a cookbook author at Omnivore Books on Food in San Francisco (an amazing bookstore in one of my favorite neighborhoods of the city - Noe Valley!). The talk was led by Christie Matheson, someone who became so fascinated by salts that she wrote an entire cookbook using various kinds of salts in dessert recipes. It made for a really interesting bookstore discussion. Christie described the difference between Maldon sea salt and fleur de sel and smoked sea salt and all sorts of other types I didn't know existed. I had no idea salt could be an entire new baking adventure. I did, however, know that I loved the taste of sea salt. I also knew that I loved the Chex Mix flavor that combines sweet with salty ingredients, officially and lovingly referred to as Chex Mix Sweet 'n Salty. Don't leave me alone with a bag of that.

It's no secret I love peanut butter and chocolate together. So naturally, when I discovered the photo in Christie's book of these peanut butter cupcakes with a hefty dollop of chocolate frosting, I couldn't turn the page. I stopped in my tracks and my face started to melt. Face melt! These cupcakes were destined to become the next thing I bake. And oh boy, they are delicious! Thank you, Christie! The sprinkling of fleur de sel on the top makes this the perfect marriage of salty and sweet. Wedded bliss. Holy matrimony. And all that jazz.

Peanut Butter Cupcakes with Chocolate Frosting and Fleur de Sel
Adapted from a recipe by Christie Matheson in Salty Sweets
Makes 12 regular size cupcakes or at least 24 mini cupcakes

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter (regular, not natural)
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup whole milk (I used 1% and it worked just fine)
Chocolate Frosting (see recipe below)
Fleur de sel or chopped salted peanuts for sprinkling (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Use paper liners to line a 12-cup muffin pan, or just grease the inside of each cup. You can also use a mini muffin tray. You'll make a lot more this way. I made about two trays of mini-sized.

2. In a medium-size bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

3. Using a stand mixer, beat together the butter, peanut butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar on medium speed. The mixture will look light and creamy. Shouldn't take more than 2 minutes..

4. Add the one egg and beat for about 30 seconds. If the mixture has climbed up the sides of the bowl, scrape it back down. Then add the vanilla and beat for a minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl again.

5. Starting with the flour mixture, alternate between adding the flour mixture and the milk, dividing the flour mixture into three portions and the milk into two portions. Don't overmix. As soon as the mixture comes together, you're done. Turn the mixer off! Walk away from the mixer! :)

6. Pour the batter into the cupcake liners or greased cups, filling each cup three-quarters of the way up the sides. If making regular sized cupcakes, bake for 18-20 minutes. If making mini-sized cupcakes, check the cupcakes for doneness after about 10 minutes. They will bake really fast when they are tiny. You'll know the cupcakes are done when the tops are golden and firm to the touch. Stick a cake tester or toothpick into the center and it should come out clean. Remove from the oven and leave the cupcakes in the pan to cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Then transfer the cupcakes to the rack to cool completely before frosting.

7. Prepare the frosting, then frost each cupcake with an offset spatula or use a piping bag and a large round or star tip. Sprinkle the top of each frosting mound with fleur de sel or chopped salted peanuts. The cupcakes will be their freshest for up to two days. Beyond that, they'll still be enjoyable, but drier, especially the mini-sized. They'll keep in the freezer really well if wrapped tightly.

Chocolate Frosting
Makes about 1 cup (enough to frost about 12 regular-size cupcakes or the equivalent in mini-cupcakes)

4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

1. Place the chocolate in a medium-size heatproof bowl, such as a glass bowl, and set aside. In a few minutes, you'll be pouring a cream mixture over this chocolate.

2. In a small saucepan over medium heat, stir together the cream, butter, corn syrup, and salt. The mixture will melt the butter and dissolve the salt and be very hot but not boiling. Should take 5 minutes or less.

3. When the cream mixture is very hot but not boiling, immediately pour it over the chocolate waiting for you in that heat-proof bowl. Leave the mixture alone to heat the chocolate for 5 to 7 minutes. That means no stirring! Then whisk until completely smooth. Make sure there are no lumps of chocolate, especially if you're going to be piping the frosting, because little pieces of chocolate will clog up your piping bag and you'll be frustrated (Note: I'm speaking from experience, and boy was that frustrating! I couldn't figure out why the frosting wasn't coming out of the tip...until I found the chocolate culprit!). Chill the mixture in the fridge for 30 minutes, then beat with an electric mixer until the color changes to light brown and the texture is fluffy and spreadable. Store the frosting in the fridge for up to 3 days in an airtight container. If you do this, you'll need to bring it to room temperature before frosting the cupcakes, and possibly even remixing it with your electric mixer.

Step-by-Step in Pictures
Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt; then set aside...

Beat together the butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar, and peanut butter...

Add the egg and mix to combine...

Add the vanilla and continue beating...

Add the flour in three increments, alternating with the milk. Begin with flour...

Then add milk. Continue alternating, ending with flour...

Beat until smooth...

Fill each muffin cup three-quarters full...

Bake at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes if making large cupcakes, and about 10 minutes if making mini-cupcakes...

To make the chocolate frosting, first heat together the butter, salt, heavy cream, and corn syrup...

When the cream mixture is very hot but not boiling, pour over the chopped chocolate in a heat-proof bowl...

Stir until melted and smooth, then chill in the fridge for 30 minutes. When ready to use, beat with an electric mixer until light and fluffy ...

Spread or pipe the frosting onto each cupcake...

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Cranberry Pecan Pumpkin Upside Down Cake

I love Emily Luchetti! It was my mom who first introduced me to this master baker. Emily was the Executive Pastry Chef of Stars Restaurant in San Francisco, and has several other impressive roles on her resume. I own a few of her dessert cookbooks; they are all fantastic. Plus, Emily is down to earth and approachable and actually responds to her Facebook fans. Follow along as she posts recipes and updates by becoming her fan here.

She posted a recipe for Cranberry Pecan Pumpkin Upside Down Cake to her Facebook page a few days before Thanksgiving and explained that this is what she'd be serving for dessert on the holiday rather than pumpkin pie because pumpkin pie just doesn't do it for her. Well, my Thanksgiving didn't skip the pumpkin pie, but I did find time to make Emily's pumpkin pie-replacement over Thanksgiving weekend and bring it to my grandparents' house for a very special brunch.

All 11 of us sat around the table enjoying each other's company and when I sliced into the cake, there was a moment of silence, followed by ooohs and aaahs, followed by applause, followed by several requests for a slice, until most of the cake was gone. Ok, maybe the applause was an exaggeration, but everything else really did happen. One of us, and I won't name names (you know who you are!!!), had thirds.

My uncle Phil is one very happy camper

I am a fan of upside down cakes in general, because I think they make great presentations. There's that moment of nervousness and surprise when you invert the cake onto a serving plate and see what the underside looks like. With all the butter and brown sugary goodness, the topping is out of this world. But I had never seen a pumpkin upside down cake. I couldn't pass up the chance to make this. So glad I did! And my family was quite appreciative, too.

Cranberry Pecan Pumpkin Upside Down Cake
Adapted from a recipe by Emily Luchetti on her Facebook page
Serves 10-12

16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 cups cranberries
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans, toasted
2 large eggs
1 cup pumpkin puree (canned pumpkin or homemade puree, but NOT pumpkin pie filling)
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Choose your baking pan: either a 9-inch square pan or a 10-inch round cake pan. Line the bottom of your pan with parchment. No need to grease it since you're about to put a whole lot of butter in the bottom of the pan!

In a saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the brown sugar and stir until combined (a wooden spoon works well). Pour this brown sugar-butter mixture into the bottom of the cake pan and spread evenly around to cover the entire bottom.

In a medium bowl toss the cranberries and pecans together. Scatter them over the brown sugar-butter mixture in the pan so they look evenly placed.

To make the batter, in a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, pumpkin puree, and oil.

Cut a large piece of wax paper or parchment paper and place your sifter in the center. Sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt over the wax paper, then carefully lift the wax paper up and transfer the dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture. Stir the dry ingredients in with the pumpkin mixture until well combined. Then spread this batter over the cranberries and pecans in the cake pan. Be gentle as you spread the batter so you don't pull up the cranberries or pecans or stir them into the batter.

Bake for 35 to 45 minutes (less for the square pan, more for the round pan). The cake is done when a cake tester or toothpick is inserted in the center and comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack for about 10 minutes. Then loosen the edges of the cake with a knife or metal spatula and invert onto a serving plate. Peel the parchment paper off the top of the cake.

Cool completely before serving. Enjoy! You are about to be in heaven!

Step-by-Step in Pictures
Melt the butter and add the brown sugar; stir until combined...

Pour the mixture into the bottom of the cake pan...

In a bowl, combine the cranberries and pecans...
Scatter the cranberries and pecans evenly over the brown sugar-butter mixture in the pan...

Sift the dry ingredients together...
Whisk together the eggs, pumpkin, and oil...
Add the dry ingredients and stir until well combined...

Pour the batter over the cranberries and pecans in the pan...

Bake at 350 degrees F for 35 to 45 minutes...

Cool for about 10 minutes, then invert onto a serving plate and peel the parchment off the top...

Cool completely, then slice and serve!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Marmalade 'n' Spice Honey Cake: A Game Changer

This recipe is dedicated to my friend Ephraim. He told me last week that he’s only ever tasted disgusting, dry honey cake and has all but given up on the possibility of a good honey cake. Instead, he says, make an apple cake. I promised him that not good, but GREAT honey cake is within reach, and he said he would be waiting for that recipe on my blog. Well, here it is. And I can think of probably 5 more incredible honey cake recipes, too. So for those like Ephraim who have yet to taste a delicious honey cake, today is your lucky day. End the suffering. Drop everything and bake this right now!

While honey cake is a tradition for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, it is also a perfect year round snacking cake to serve with a cup of tea. Because it is moist from the honey and oil, it will stay fresh and delicious for more days than many other desserts. So, despite your desire to devour the whole thing in one sitting, which I promise you you’ll feel, keep in mind you can have the cake three days later and it’ll still put a smile on your face.

But enough of the chit chat. Introducing...your first ever not-dry honey cake. Bon Appetit, Ephraim!

Marmalade 'n' Spice Honey Cake
Adapted from a recipe by the brilliant Marcy Goldman in A Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking
Makes 12 to 14 servings

1 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup light honey
1 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup orange marmalade
4 eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1 cup brewed tea, just warm (or for a darker cake, use brewed, strong coffee instead)
1/3 cup slivered or sliced almonds (this is mostly for decorate purposes but it tastes great, too!)

Confectioners’ sugar, optional
Shredded orange zest, optional

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease the bottom of a 9- or 10-inch tube pan. Cut out a circle of parchment paper (you’ll have to poke out the center of it) and line the bottom of the pan.

You are going to need two bowls: a medium mixing bowl for wet ingredients and a large mixing bowl (preferably the one attached to your stand mixer) for dry ingredients.

In the medium bowl, combine the oil, honey, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and marmalade and stir until well combined. Then add the eggs.

In the large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients: flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, cloves, and allspice. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the contents of the medium bowl (the wet mixture). Add the warm brewed tea. Blend by hand or use your mixer on low until you get a smooth batter.

Pour the cake batter into the greased, lined tube pan. Sprinkle the top with slivered almonds. Place the pan on top of a baking sheet and bake the cake for 55 to 60 minutes. To check for doneness, press the top of the cake lightly with your fingertip and it should spring back.

Cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then take a knife around the outside and inside rims to loosen from the edges. Invert onto a cooling rack.

If you want, dust the cake with confectioners’ sugar and shredded orange zest when completely cooled. I don’t think it needs the extra garnish because the slivered almonds would be hidden and they are a beautiful topping already.

Step-by-Step in Pictures
In a medium bowl, combine the oil, honey, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and marmalade...

Stir in the eggs...

In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients...

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and add the warm brewed tea; stir to combine...

Pour the batter into the prepared tube pan...

Sprinkle slivered almonds on top, then bake at 350 degrees F for about 55 minutes ...

Let cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then remove from pan and cool completely on a wire rack...

There you have it! A very moist honey cake!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Apricot Blueberry Upside-Down Cake

Apricots are in season. YIPPEE!! I have a couple sources for getting them, and whenever my stash gets low, one of the sources kicks in and replenishes it. Let's see, there's the local farmer's market, my coworker, and my mom. When the stars are aligned and I'm having a lucky day and I have so many apricots from combining my sources that I don't know what to do with them all, I turn to David Lebovitz for his fruity upside-down cake.

Ok, the original recipe, which I posted back in July of 2009, is a plum blueberry upside down cake. But Lebovitz notes that you can replace the plums with apricots. Voila. Today's post is really just a variation on the original. And I think I like it even more than the original. The skin of plums can be sour, but apricots don't seem to have that, at least not at the same high likelihood. So the resulting dessert is an almost guaranteed sweet treat, one that doesn't make you pucker, it just makes you swoon. Try to picture a brown sugar-buttery topping with cooked, sweetened apricots! I am swooning! I am in love!

Since I already posted the original recipe a year ago, I'll direct you back there for the step-by-step photos. Just use your imagination to envision apricots in every photo that shows plums.

Apricot Blueberry Upside-Down Cake
Adapted from a recipe by David Lebovitz in Room for Dessert
One 9-inch round cake or 10-inch square cake; 10-12 servings

The apricot blueberry topping:
3 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
1 cup (4 ounces) blueberries
6 to 8 medium apricots (about 1 pound)

The cake:
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk, at room temperature

Whipped cream or vanilla ice cream

1. To make the plum apricot topping: Place a 9-inch round cake pan or a 10-inch square cake pan directly on the stove top. Yes, that's totally safe to do! Melt the butter in the pan over low heat (shouldn't take more than a minute or two). Turn off the heat. Add the brown sugar and stir until the sugar is thoroughly moistened. Spread the sugar across the bottom of the pan with the back of a spoon so it is evenly distributed and covers the entire bottom. Remove from the stove top and cool briefly.

2. Sprinkle half of the blueberries evenly over the moistened brown sugar. Cut the apricots into half-inch slices. Arrange the apricot slices over the blueberries in concentric, overlapping circles, or you can be more abstract artsy and just scatter them. Try not to have any apricot-less areas of the bottom of the pan. Scatter the rest of the blueberries on top of the apricot slices.

3. To make the cake: Position the oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

4. Beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes in a standing electric mixer. Stop the mixer once and scrape down the sides of the bowl to make sure the butter is completely incorporated. Add the vanilla.

5. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until well mixed.

6. In a separate bowl, sift together the dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, and salt. Then add the dry ingredients alternately with the milk into the batter, starting with half the flour mixture, then adding the milk, and then the other half of the flour mixture. Do not overmix; only stir until incorporated. The batter will be pretty thick, but shouldn't be lumpy.

7. Carefully drop giant spoonfuls of the batter over the fruit in the cake pan, and then use an offset spatula to smooth it out so it covers the entire surface. Bake the upside-down cake for about 1 hour (but I recommend checking at around 50 minutes, since my oven tends to be faster than Lebovitz's), until the top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

8. Let the cake stand at least 20 minutes before unmolding. Run a metal spatula around the edge of the cake to loosen it from the pan (I prefer a metal spatula over using a knife because it won't scratch the cake pan). Invert a serving plate over the cake, shake gently to loosen the cake, and carefully flip over both cake and plate at the same time. Lift off the cake pan and you will be mesmerized by the beauty to behold! If any fruit happened to stick to the bottom of the pan, don't fret! You can easily stick it back into the cake and no one will notice. Serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Step-by-Step in Pictures
For step-by-step photos, see my original post for Plum Blueberry Upside-Down Cake (because the steps are the same, just use apricots instead of plums)

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Passover Chocolate Spice Cake

The cakes I'm most familiar with for Passover are sponge cakes. This Chocolate Spice Cake is no exception. If you're ever reading through a cake recipe for Passover and wondering how it will turn out, or what kind of cake it is, check the ingredients list and see if you have to separate a bunch of eggs. Whisking the egg whites to stiff peaks is a sign the cake will be light and airy and spongy.

Be sure also to gently fold those perfectly whipped egg whites into your batter rather than stir them in. If you're going to go to the trouble of painstakingly separating 10 eggs and then stand over the mixer and watch them like a hawk as they whip up and fill with air without overbeating, you'll kick yourself if you then carelessly stir them into your batter, thereby deflating them. So the key is, gently fold! Ok, I promise I won't lecture for the remainder of this post.

I love the flavor of this cake, featuring cloves and cinnamon along with the chocolate. It really doesn't need the toasted almonds, and my sister would actually insist that you don't add them in (since she's adamantly opposed to nuts in baked goods), but I appreciated the element of surprise in getting an occasional crunch in my mouthfuls. You'll see I drizzled a little glossy chocolate glaze on top. It's not called for in the recipe, but I had some left over from making the Macaroon Fudge Bars and I thought it looked pretty.

Potato starch is not the easiest thing to work with when greasing and "flouring" a pan during Passover as it tends to clump and not shake off if you hit the bottom of the pan. That was a frustrating experience. But all the more reason I decided to add that chocolate glaze on top to hide some of the pockets created by excess potato starch. I used a pastry brush to flick away some of the extra but at a certain point you just have to say c'est la vie and move on. Your guests won't even notice. It's good practice in the kitchen to turn off your perfectionist tendencies now and then (oh, am I describing myself?). Good luck with that!

Passover Chocolate Spice Cake

Recipe by Marcy Goldman in A Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking
Makes 10 servings

10 eggs, separated
2 cups sugar
1/3 cup Passover wine or warm coffee
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon plus a pinch of salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/3 cups matzoh cake meal
1/4 cup potato starch, plus extra for pan
1 1/4 cups finely chopped toasted almonds

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line a 10-inch tube or angel food pan with parchment paper. Lightly grease and dust the sides with potato starch.

In a medium bowl, beat the egg yolks with 1 1/4 cups of the sugar until very thick and pale yellow, about 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the wine or coffee, the cocoa powder, salt, cloves, and cinnamon. Stir in the matzoh cake meal, potato starch, and the chopped almonds.

In another large bowl, with clean, dry beaters, gently whisk the egg whites with a pinch of salt to break them up. Increase the speed to high, and, gradually dusting in the remaining 3/4 cup sugar, beating until the whites are stiff and glossy but not dry. Briskly and thoroughly fold about one third of the beaten whites into the yolk mixture to lighten it. Then, in 2 separate batches, fold in the remaining egg whites, taking care not to deflate the egg whites but to blend the batter properly.

Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 55 minutes, or until the cake springs back when gently touched. Cool by inverting onto a serving plate. Cake will unmold itself as it cools.

Step-by-Step in Pictures

Beat the egg yolks with sugar...

Stir in the wine or coffee, cocoa powder, cloves, cinnamon, and salt...

Stir in the matzoh cake meal and potato starch...

Add the toasted almonds...

In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites with the remaining sugar until they form stiff peaks...

Fold about one third of the egg whites into the batter to lighten the batter...

In two stages, gently fold in the rest of the beaten egg whites to the batter...

Pour the batter into the prepared pan...

Bake for about 50 minutes at 325 degrees F...

I tested for doneness by inserting a sharp thin knife...

Let cool completely by inverting onto a cooling rack or serving tray...

Drizzle chocolate glaze if you want...
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