A TRIO OF SUPERSTARS

Today my blog pays homage to three amazing bakers who put great effort into each post they compose. Their blog articles end up as detailed tutorials that allow even a beginner baker to tackle what might seem very intimidating at first. I share three recipes, in the chronological order I baked them in the past couple of months.

SUPERSTAR BAKER #1
HELEN FLETCHER

BLUEBERRY LEMON POKE CAKE

BLUEBERRY LEMON POKE CAKE

One of the tastiest cakes baked in our kitchen, and I am not exaggerating. Moist. Sweet to the perfect level. Luscious. Everything works in this cake. For the recipe and very detailed tutorial, visit Helen’s blog with a click here. You will make a blueberry jam to fill the cake, and I advise you to give enough time to allow it to set a bit, just to make it easier to work with…. Below, a little comparison between Helen’s neat work and yours truly… my jam was still bit too loose. No major harm done, though, I just thought it was funny to share.

Helen’s site and her cookbooks are a constant source of inspiration for me. Plus, she is tremendously helpful and whenever I get into trouble I drop her an email. She has rescued me more than once. A lot more than once (wink, wink).


Every once in a while, Helen offers online classes, and I’ve taken a couple of them. One of my favorites was last year, in which she taught how to make Chocolate Tartlets with a caramel filling. A thing of pure beauty and absolutely decadent! Make sure to subscribe to her blog, so you get notification of upcoming classes.

SUPERSTAR BAKER #2
CAROLINE
RED VELVET OREO STYLE SANDWICH COOKIES

RED VELVET OREO STYLE SANDWICH COOKIES

Absolutely delicious, you can make them without the cutouts if you’d like to simplify your life, but of course turning them into Linzer territory is not a bad move at all! For the full recipe click here. I made a very slightly modification adding strawberry extract to the filling and a touch of pink gel color. Other than that, I followed her recipe to a T.

You can modify the filling, use jam, or Nutella, the cookies are very flavorful and will be perfect no matter your choice of filling. Caro has countless baking lessons in her site, I highly recommend you pay her a visit and subscribe to be notified of new posts. Caroline is one of the moderators of a Facebook group with almost 18 thousand members, for lovers The Great British Bake Off, and that’s how I got to know her. I don’t know how she manages to do all she does…

SUPERSTAR BAKER #3
TANYA OTT
RED VELVET CAKE DONUTS

As you can see, I’ve been on a red velvet kick lately. These are spectacular and simple to make, especially if you follow the detailed instructions and the very helpful video available in Tanya’s blog. Essentially two bowls, no need for an electric mixer until you get into frosting territory.

Another example of a great baking instructor, Tanya’s articles are always carefully composed, and I am in awe of the amount of work she puts into the making of each of the videos often included in her posts. In case you don’t know, Tanya was one of the contestants in season 5 of The Great American Baking Show, and I shared the tent with her a few times. She even got a handshake from a certain guy with penetrating blue eyes…

That’s all for now, folks! I hope you visit my friends’ sites, and get as inspired
by their baking as I do…

ONE YEAR AGO: Turkey Meatloaf

TWO YEARS AGO: Prue Leith’s Smoked Salmon and Beetroot Blinis

THREE YEARS AGO: Mandioca Frita 101

FOUR YEARS AGO: White Chocolate Raspberry Dome Cake

FIVE YEARS AGO: Blueberry Crumble Coffee Cake

SIX YEARS AGO: Pickled Red Onions

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Strawberry Chocolate Chip Cake

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Mini-Chocolate Cheesecake Bites

NINE YEARS AGO: Whole-Wheat Spaghetti with Grated Tomato Sauce

TEN YEARS AGO: A Taste of Yellow to Honor Barbara

ELEVEN YEARS AGO: Gratin of Beefsteak Tomatoes

TWELVE YEARS AGO: Tour de France Final Stage: PARIS

THIRTEEN YEARS AGO: Snickerdoodles with a Twist

DRESSING UP THE ROLL CAKES

I’ve been on a roll for the past month or so. After a long time – maybe a couple of years – not making this type of cake, I flirted with a few different methods, including some by very reputable sources, but they did not please me for one reason or another. In this post, I share a very simple recipe. Simple in the sense that you don’t have to separate egg whites and yolks, it rolls very well thanks to the addition of a very small amount of melted butter, and the texture is not dry like most versions, again kudos to butter. Plus, you won’t need a special size of baking pan, it works well in a half-sheet, which most people have in their kitchen. You can of course, skip the patterned decoration, but, why would you not go for it?

FESTIVE DIAMOND ROLL CAKE WITH NUTELLA FILLING
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

for the decoration:
50g butter, softened
50g powdered sugar
50g egg whites
50g all-purpose flour
pink, yellow and teal gel colors

for the cake:
130g cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
5 large eggs, at room temperature
200 g granulated sugar
Zest of 1 lemon
1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled

For the filling:
170g (6 ounces) cream cheese, softened to room temperature
¼ cup heavy whipping cream
½ cup powdered sugar
½ cup Nutella
1 tablespoon cocoa powder

Make the piping decoration by beating the butter with powdered sugar in a small bowl until fully combined. I used a hand-held electric mixer. Add the egg whites and beat for a couple of minutes. Add the flour and mix by hand with a spoon, divide in three portions. Color them pink, yellow and teal.

Place a diamond stencil over a sheet of parchment paper and add small amounts of each color as shown in the composite picture included in my post. Spread the colors in one direction, trying not to move them back, but making sure to cover all the little diamonds. Carefully remove the stencil frame and freeze the parchment for 30 minutes or so.

Heat oven to 375°F. Sift the flour and baking powder into a small bowl. Reserve. Place the eggs and sugar in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat until the mixture form ribbons, about 12 minutes. Add the lemon zest, lemon extract and vanilla. Beat until combined. Sift the flour mixture over the beaten eggs, fold gently. When the flour is mostly incorporated, add a little bit of the mixture to the melted butter, whisk well. Pour that into the cake batter, whisk gently to disperse. Pour over the frozen parchment paper placed in a half baking sheet, and smooth the surface.

Bake the cake until it begins to pull away from the sides, about 12 minutes.

Transfer the pan to a cooling rack, cover the cake with a towel and let it cool fr 10 minutes. Remove the towel, sift a little powdered sugar over the surface and flip it over parchment paper. Gently peel off the paper with the design, flip the cake again over a clean towel. Starting with a short side of the cake, roll the cake gently, using the towel to support the cake as you go. Let the cake cool all rolled up in the towel, seam side down.

While cake cools make filling by using a handheld mixer or standing mixer to beat cream cheese and heavy cream on high until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Add ½ cup powdered sugar, Nutella, and cocoa powder. Start the mixer on low and slowly increase speed, beating until the filling is light and fluffy. The filling should be thick and spreadable. Refrigerate for 30 minutes, so that it sets a little.

Carefully unroll the completely cool cake, spread the filling, then roll it again. Wrap the cake in plastic and refrigerate for at least 3 hours, overnight is best. When ready to serve, slice a small piece of each of the ends, so that it looks more polished.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: For this pattern, I used three colors of the paste, and placed them in alternating spots over the large stencil, that covers the whole surface of the half-sheet. The thickness of the stencil determines the amount of paste that gets into the paper. The design transfers very well to the surface of the cake, and does not interfere with rolling it.

I’ve had this stencil frame for many years, bought it on eBay, but could not find it anymore.
This one is very similar, in case you are interested.

If you don’t have a stencil frame, there are plenty of alternatives to decorate, one of them drawing little flowers on the paper, and pouring the batter on top. Two things are important to remember: first, the design cannot be too large, or it will pull the cake during baking, and might even make a crack in those spots. Second, the layer of the design should be as thin as possible, because it you make it too thick, it might not incorporate well into the cake batter, and pull away during baking. Make sure to use white parchment paper, because it helps keeping the cake layer lighter, giving better contrast with whatever pattern you go for.

The Nutella filling is excellent! I’ve used it to fill macarons a couple of days later. The cream cheese does a little magic to cut the sweetness of Nutella. It has a wonderful spreadable consistency, but the macarons stored in the fridge held up pretty well, once moved to room temperature for 20 minutes or so. I hope you give it a try, either to fill a regular cake, make sandwich cookies, or…. a patterned roll cake!

ONE YEAR AGO: Roasted Carrot and Barley Salad

TWO YEARS AGO: Ode to Halva

THREE YEARS AGO: Brazilian Pao de Queijo (re-blogged)

FOUR YEARS AGO: Apricot Linzer Torte

FIVE YEAR AGO: A Trio of Air-Fried Goodies

SIX YEARS AGO: Focaccia with Grapes, Roquefort and Truffled Honey

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Moroccan Carrot Dip Over Cucumber Slices 

EIGHT YEARS AGO: White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies

NINE YEARS AGO: Cilantro-Jalapeno “Hummus”

TEN YEARS AGO:A Moving Odyssey

ELEVEN YEARS AGO:
Hoegaarden Beer Bread

TWELVE YEARS AGO:
 Ancho-Chile Marinade: Pleased to Meat you!


THIRTEEN YEARS AGO:
 Shrimp Moqueca

ONE BOWL, ONE WHISK CONFETTI CUPCAKES

Cannot get much simpler. These are egg-free cakes, easy and fast to prepare. The buttercream icing is a lot more involved than the cake, but if you prefer you can serve them with a dusting of powdered sugar, or a simple glaze. Many cookbooks and blogs have versions of these cupcakes, I based mine on smittenkitchen.com

CONFETTI CUPCAKES WITH VANILLA BUTTERCREAM FROSTING
(adapted from several sources)

200g all-purpose flour
160 grams granulated sugar
1 + 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup full-fat milk
1/3 cup grapeseed oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon almond extract
1/3 cup rainbow sprinkles

for the buttercream:
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature (1 stick, 113 g)
4 cups powdered sugar (32 oz)
1/4 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt

Make the cupcakes: Heat oven to 350°F. Place cupcake liners in a 12-cup standard muffin tin.

In a large bowl, whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt together. To the center, add the milk, oil, lemon juice, and flavoring extracts. Whisk very well until smooth. It will be very liquid. Add sprinkles, fold them gently. Using an ice cream scoop, fill each cupcake lines 2/3 full.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the cupcakes cool before frosting.

To make the frosting, beat the butter with 2 cups of the powdered sugar, the milk, vanilla, and salt. Once that is smooth, keep adding the rest of the powdered sugar. You might not need it all, add it until you have the desired spreading consistency.

Frost the cupcakes using a Wilton 1M tip, then add confetti sprinkles, if desired.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: As I mentioned, these are probably the easiest cupcakes ever to make, even a cake-o-phobe will have no issues. They are tender, light, and delicate. Also festive, because rainbow sprinkles make anything festive… I like the addition of vanilla buttercream, even if it increases the complexity of the bake a bit. You can omit it, the cupcakes are delicious without it also.

ONE YEAR AGO: Incredibly Simple Times Four

TWO YEARS AGO: Phyllo Parcels with Moroccan Turkey

THREE YEARS AGO: Roasted Corn and Zucchini Salad

FOUR YEAR AGO: Fraisier Cake, A Celebration of Spring

FIVE YEARS AGO: Zucchini Frittata with Roasted Tomatoes and Goat Cheese

SIX YEARS AGO: Playing with Pectinase

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Poached White Asparagus with Lemon and Pistachios

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Dan Lepard’s Saffron Bloomer

NINE YEARS AGO: Fesenjan & The New Persian Kitchen

TEN YEARS AGO: Quinoa Salad with Roasted Beets

ELEVEN YEARS AGO: Pasta Puttanesca

TWELVE YEARS AGO: Miche Point-a-Calliere

SIMNEL CUPCAKES

I’ve wanted to make a Simnel Cake for the longest time, since it is such a classic, but baking a large cake is not something I do very often. Cupcakes are a different story, easy to share, great to include in my weekly box of donations. I made a few changes from recipes I found in my cookbooks and online, keeping the details that matter in the original, larger version.

SIMNEL CUPCAKES
(adapted from several sources)

100 marzipan
150g butter, softened
75g brown sugar
75g granulated sugar
2 large eggs, whisked
150g full-fat yoghurt
zest of 1 Lemon
170g mixed dried fruits
175g all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

To decorate
200g marzipan
agave nectar to brush

Start by preparing the thin layer of marzipan that goes in the middle of the cupcakes. Divide the 100g in 12 little portions (about 8g each). Flatten them with your hands and stretch as a round that will fit inside your cupcakes. Mix the flour with baking powder and salt, reserve.

Heat the oven to 375F. Place paper liners inside the cupcake pan. Beat together the butter, sugars and lemon zest, until pale and light. Add the 2 eggs, slowly, whisking the batter well after each addition. Add the yoghurt, continue whisking. Add the flour mixture, incorporate gently, then add the dried fruit, folding until homogeneously mixed in.

Place a little cake batter in each cupcake liner, place the thin round of marzipan on top, press gently into the batter. Fill the cupcakes with more batter until 3/4 full. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until golden and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out slightly moist, with some crumbs attached. Allow the cupcakes to cool for 5 minutes, then remove to a cooling rack.

When the cupcakes are cold, make the topping: roll out the fondant and cut rounds to cover the top. Make the layer as thin as possible. Use trimmings to make little balls. Attach the layer of marzipan to the cake by brushing a tiny amount of agave nectar on the cupcake, and pressing the marzipan over it. Place the little ball on top, using some agave nectar to help glue it in place. Run the cupcakes under a broiler to give some color to the marzipan. Pay close attention, because it goes from golden to burn a matter of seconds!

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: This is a delicious cake. The trickiest part is dealing with the marzipan, other than that, the recipe is quite straightforward. The mixture of fruit with the cake and the marzipan is a total winner. I highly recommend you give it a try. Plus, don’t they look just adorable? The cake stays fresh for a few days at room temperature, which is another big plus in my book…

ONE YEAR AGO: Oat and Sesame Seed Sourdough

TWO YEARS AGO: Moroccan Turkey Pie with Olive Oil Crust

THREE YEARS AGO: Another Twisted Sister of the Shepherd’s Pie 

FOUR YEARS AGO: Cashew Chicken, My Way

FIVE YEARS AGO: Two Deliciously Simple Salads

SIX YEARS AGO: In My Kitchen, April 2016

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Spring has Sprung with Suzanne Goin

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Chai Brownies

NINE YEARS AGO: Pomegranate-Molasses Glazed Carrots

TEN YEARS AGO: Braised Brisket with Bourbon-Peach Glaze

ELEVEN YEARS AGO: The Real Vodka Sauce

TWELVE YEARS AGO: Spring Rolls on a Spring Day

CHOCOLATE CHERRY MIROIR CAKE: A VEGAN SHOWSTOPPER

Please, do not allow the vegan word to scare you away. This was one of the tastiest cakes I’ve ever made, and I simply cannot BELIEVE it is vegan. The recipe comes from Fran Costigan’s cookbook: Vegan Chocolate, Unapologetically Luscious and Decadent Dairy-free Chocolate Desserts. Ms. Costigan has decades of experience creating dairy-free cakes and concoctions that do not rely on margarine and tofu like most do. As she points out in the introduction of the book, you can always taste margarine in the icing, and tofu will never fail to make a cake heavy. This cake – included in her “Showstoppers” chapter – is a bit involved to make, but one of the things I love about her cookbook is that she lays out a timetable suggesting how you can break the process in stages in a smooth and efficient way. I made the cake, the vanilla custard cream, and the chocolate decorations two days before. Made the mousse, assembled the cake and covered with the glaze the day before showtime. Basically, the cake was ready and waiting in the fridge before we had to take it to a get-together with friends. All that was left to do was add the chocolate decorations. Piece of (vegan) cake!


CHERRY CHOCOLATE MIROIR CAKE
(from Fran Costigan’s Vegan Chocolate)

RECIPE OVERVIEW

1 recipe for Chocolate Torte to Live For (click here), baked in a 9-inch round pan and cooled
(can be made a couple of days in advance)

Other components

Soaked dry cherries

Vanilla Custard Cream: based on cashew cream and coconut milk, thickened with agar-agar

Magic Chocolate Mousse: water-ganache with a touch of olive oil, very interesting and quite tasty version

Mirror glaze: Cherry juice, coconut milk, cocoa, chocolate, agar-agar

Comments: Vegan baking is not simple. Fran’s book takes that challenge and turns it into art. I don’t think it is right to publish the full recipe for such a complex cake, when so much work and effort went into its design and optimization. But the cake component, which by the way, stands beautifully on its own, can be made according to the recipe she published in her website (click here). In that version, the cake is covered with a vegan ganache and ends up very elegant in its simplicity. It remains as one of her most popular cakes, and having made it, I can understand why.

For the decorations, I tempered chocolate and used some of it to pipe designs on acetate sheet. The remaining I spread over transfer sheets (I get mine usually at bakedeco.com) and before it was fully set I cut small triangles. Fran’s version in the cookbook used fresh cherries covered in tempered chocolate, but they are not in season at the present time, so I went with my Plan B.

Everything works perfectly well in this cake, I would not change a thing. The cake is intensely chocolate-y, the two mousse components soften the overall taste. I really like the texture of glazes made with agar-agar instead of gelatin, find it a lot easier to work with and more reproducible. Gelatin-based glazes tend to get a bit slimy, particularly if sitting at room temperature for a while.

To get Fran’s cookbook – a must-have if you are into baking adventures – follow this link to amazon.

ONE YEAR AGO: Bee Happy Honey Macarons

TWO YEARS AGO: Episode 7 of Great American Baking Show, Canapes, Opera Cake and Running out of Gas

THREE YEARS AGO: Raspberry Ganache Macarons

FOUR YEARS AGO: Pain au Chocolat

FIVE YEARS AGO: Two Unusual Takes on Roasted Veggies

SIX YEARS AGO: Kadoo Boranee: Butternut Squash Perfection

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Creamy Broccoli Soup with Toasted Almonds

EIGHT YEARS AGO:
 Fennel and Cheddar Cheese Crackers

NINE YEARS AGO: A Festive Pomegranate Dessert

TEN YEARS AGO: My First Award!

ELEVEN YEARS AGO: A Message from WordPress

TWELVE YEARS AGO: Turkish Chicken Kebabs