A TRIO OF LITTLE CAKES

Mini-cakes are cute from the get-go, in fact most desserts made in single serving are pretty adorable by default. But some details can raise their level of cuteness even higher. Today I share three ideas to make mini-cakes a little more special.

The first method to make cute cupcakes is using a different shape of pan. Like this pan from Nordic Ware. I think the quality of their pans is hard to beat, and totally worth the price tag. They are heavy, well-made and bake like a dream. I usually still spray the inside with PAM baking spray, a light coating ensures nothing will stick in the little crevices.

LEMON MINI-BUNDT CAKES

LEMON MINI-BUNDT CAKES
(adapted from several sources)

125g butter (I used Kerrygold)
150g sugar
zest of 1 lemon
2 large eggs (100g)
180 g all-purpose flour
1 + 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
½ cup milk
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp lemon extract
for the glaze:
200g powdered sugar (1 cup)
Juice of 1 fresh lemon (amount adjusted for consistency)
sprinkles to decorate (optional)

Heat oven to 350 F. Rub the sugar with the lemon zest for a couple a minutes until very fragrant. Cream butter and lemon-infused sugar together. Add eggs one at a time, beating in slow speed until incorporated. Add the dry ingredients and milk. Mix well to combine, then add the lemon juice and extract, whisking gently.

Pour batter into the pan a little over 1/2 full in each cavity, but not quite reaching 3/4 of the capacity. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the cake comes out clean, about 22 minutes. Leave the cakes in the pan for 5 minutes than invert and cool them completely over a rack.

Make the glaze by mixing the ingredients. You want a pourable consistency, but not too thick so that the ridges of the cake still show. Pour over the cooled cakes. Decorate with sprinkles.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

These lemon cakes are very moist, with intense citric flavor. I used a very thin glaze because I wanted the ridges to be evident. If making a regular cupcake, consider a much thicker icing that will stay on the surface a little better.

PISTACHIO-ROSE MINI-CAKES

In this method, used by Sonali from sugaretal, you will need a silicone mold to bake the cakes. Then, after washing it well, the pan is used to apply the compound chocolate coating. The result is quite stunning, but the process pretty simple. I used this pan.

PISTACHIO ROSE MINI-CAKES
(recipe from Sonali)

To get the recipe, follow the link to her Instagram page.

After baking the cakes….

The silicone pan is washed and dried very well. I used a little gold luster powder to brush the bottom of the pan, then poured Candy melts dyed light green. Carefully brushed that all the way to the sides of each cavity and placed the cake back, snuggly, so that it would get a smooth coating on the surface. Make sure to do one little cake at a time, so that the melted compound chocolate does not harden.

The pan is placed in the freezer for about 30 minutes, so that the shell is properly formed and the cakes will release fully coated.

I am totally in love with this combination of pistachio and rose. In fact, I urge you to visit Sonali’s blog, full of elegant ideas for all sorts of desserts.

Finaly, the third way to dress up a cupcake, is making a few colors of Swiss meringue buttercream and creating a cute pattern on the surface. I followed the design of Liz Shim, available at Domestika.com

CUPCAKES DECORATED WITH SWISS MERINGUE BUTTERCREAM

LION HEAD CUPCAKES
(design from Liz Shim)

I made a simple vanilla cupcake (recipe from America’s Test Kitchen), and a batch of Swiss meringue buttercream following the recipe provided by Liz Shim in her class. I coated the top of the cupcakes with buttercream, and separated small amounts to dye orange, brown, and black. Those were used to make all the details using star-shaped or round piping tips.

I hope you enjoyed this trio of cakes. There are many options for mini-cake pans at Nordic Ware, one more beautiful than the other: hearts, little houses, tiered little cakes, stars… just choose your favorite and play with cake flavors. I think the pan I used would be very nice with a red velvet cake too.

Coating a cake with compound chocolate is another great option to include in your repertoire, and Sonali is a pro at that. You might remember I’ve used her method in the past (click here).

As to piping designs with buttercream, it involves a bit of a learning curve. I am much more comfortable piping Royal icing, which stays put better and is less prone to melting with the heat of your hands in the piping bag. But I intend to keep practicing, so stay tuned!

ONE YEAR AGO: From our Garden to You

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EIGHT YEARS AGO: Headed to Colorado!  

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THIRTEEN YEARS AGO: Leaving on a jet plane… 

LEMON ALMOND CAKE WITH CRANBERRY GLAZE

Fifteen years ago, if you arrived in our place anytime during the weekend, chances are the FoodTV would be on. Great selection of wonderful shows, a lot to learn in a very entertaining way. Not the case anymore. Even my favorite show, The Kitchen – which I still watch every Saturday – caters more and more to grocery store shortcuts, in a kind of indirect advertisement that irritates me. I am 99% sure Chef Geoffrey Zakarian does not fall for the stuff promoted in the show. It was not the case in the beginning, but obviously money speaks loud. Why do I still tune in? I like those four people together, they have a nice chemistry going on, and every once in a while I find a gem of a recipe (like Jeff Mauro’s eggplant parmigiana). But coming back to what matters, there is one show on the Food Network I like a lot: Girl Meets Farm, with Molly Yeh, a beautiful, super energetic and fun-loving girl who cooks pretty eclectic food, influenced by her Chinese and Jewish backgrounds.  And, she loves to bake. From scratch. No cake mixes and shortcuts. There you go. This delicious example came straight from one episode I watched last year. You know, back in 2018.

LEMON ALMOND CAKE WITH CRANBERRY GLAZE
(slightly modified from Girl Meets Farm)

for the cake:
1 + 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (180 g)
1/2 cup almond flour (48 g)
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
Zest of 1 lemon
3/4 cup whole-milk Greek yogurt (185 g)
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (from 1 to 2 lemons)
1 + 1/4 cups granulated sugar (250 g)
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil (about 160 g)
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

for the glaze:
1/2 cup (50 grams) fresh or frozen cranberries
1 cup powdered sugar, plus more if necessary
Pinch kosher salt
sprinkles to decorate (optional)

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9-inch round cake pan with cooking spray and line with parchment paper. I used a Silikomart mold called Water Drop, and 4 small cupcake type molds.

Whisk together the flour, almond flour, poppy seeds, baking powder, salt, baking soda and zest in a medium bowl. Mix the yogurt and lemon juice in a separate small bowl until very smooth. Whisk together the granulated sugar and olive oil in a large bowl until well combined. Add the eggs to the olive oil mixture, one at a time, whisking very well after each, then stir in the almond extract. Add the dry ingredients and yogurt mixture to the olive oil mixture in three alternating additions, whisking after each until just combined. Pour the batter into the prepared pan(s) and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 35 to 45 minutes. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto to a wire rack to cool completely.

For the cranberry glaze: Combine the cranberries with 1 tablespoon water in a small saucepan and heat over low heat until the cranberries start to break down and release their juices, 5 to 10 minutes. Pour the cranberries and their juices into a fine-mesh sieve placed over a bowl. Press the mixture through the sieve with a spatula, making sure to scrape off the bottom of the sieve and adding that to the bowl as well. Add the powdered sugar and salt to the bowl and mix until it comes together into a spreadable glaze.  If the glaze is too thick, add a couple drops of water until it’s thin enough to spread. If it’s too thin, add more powdered sugar. Pour over the cooled cake.

Decorate with sprinkles or slivered almonds, if you like.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: This is a recipe for cake-o-phobes, simple, no need to even get your KitchenAid out to play. The cake is moist, satisfying, and don’t even think about omitting the glaze, it is just fantastic. The type of glaze that tempts you to go at it with a small knife when no one is looking and turn any leftover cake into its naked self. No, I did not do it. Just considered it. Very seriously so.

My glaze was a bit thick, so it did not show the ridges on the baking pans too well, but I still like the delicate effect, the suggestion of a pattern underneath. Lemon, almond, cranberries and poppy seeds. Keep this combination in mind, it’s a real winner!

Molds used in this bake: Silikomart Water Drop and Silikomart Parfum. If you have information on programs for recovering silicone mold-addicts, please be so kind and leave me their number in a comment.  Thank you.

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HOMMAGE TO THE SUN

For those living in certain areas of the United States, August 21st marked a very special day. A total eclipse of the sun was visualized all the way from Oregon to South Carolina. I remember watching a solar eclipse in Brazil with my Dad when I was very young. I’ve always thought it was a total eclipse, but it turns out in São Paulo it was more around 75% coverage of the sun by the moon. Still, we darkened pieces of glass with smoke from a candle, a popular home-made strategy those days to be able to follow the event. Honestly, I don’t remember much from the actual eclipse, more the excitement of getting ready for it. Until now, I was not aware of the striking difference between a 95% eclipse to what is described as “totality.”  Here is my advice: if you ever have a chance to place yourself in the path of totality, do not hesitate. It is totally worth it (pun intended).

Our town was within driving distance to the path of totality. One of our colleagues organized a one-day scientific meeting on Membrane Biochemistry on August 20th, so that next day all participants could drive to their chosen spot to visualize the event.  The meeting started on Sunday at 9am, and yours truly was asked to bake something as a breakfast treat to the participants. After I stopped hyperventilating about it, I went with the suggestion of my friend Denise, and baked a cake from Mary Berry, the goddess behind The Great British Bake-Off.  Its bright yellow color would pay tribute to the sun in all its glory…

 

LEMON DRIZZLE CAKE
(from Mary Berry)

for cake:
225g (8 oz) butter , softened
225g (8 oz) sugar
275g (10 oz) self-rising flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
4 eggs
4 tablespoons milk
finely grated rind of 2 lemons

 for topping:
175g (6 oz) granulated sugar
juice of 2 lemons

Cut a rectangle of non-stick baking parchment to fit the base and sides of a 12 x 9 x 1 ½ inches baking pan. Grease the pan and then line with the paper, pushing it neatly into the corners of the tin. Heat the oven to 325°F.

Measure all the cake ingredients in a large bowl and beat well for about 2 minutes until well blended, an electric mixer is best for this but of course you can also beat by hand with a wooden spoon. Turn the mixture into the prepared pan, scraping the sides of the bowl with a plastic spatula to remove all of the mixture. Level the top gently with the back of the spatula.

Bake in the middle  oven for about 35-40 minutes or until the cake springs back when pressed lightly with a finger in the center and is beginning to shrink away from the sides of the pan.

Allow the cake to cool in the pan for a few minutes then lift it out of the pan still in the lining paper. Carefully remove the paper and put the cake onto a wire rack placed over a tray (to catch drips of the topping).

To make the crunchy topping, mix the lemon juice and granulated sugar in a small bowl to give a runny consistency. Spoon this mixture evenly over the cake whilst it is still just warm. Cut into squares when cold.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

I really think I should try it before you share with your colleagues, Mom…

Comments:  Make. This. Cake. That is about it. It is so easy to make that you can definitely do that as a project with young kids. One bowl. Have your butter room temperature soft. Same for the eggs. Add everything to the bowl, mix two minutes. Pour in the pan. It will seem like not enough batter. You will have intense pangs of self-doubt. Ignore them all. Keep calm and bake on. Make the drizzle. Drizzle. Store the cake until totally cold (there I go, totality again). Cut in squares. Share with loved ones. Maybe offer a tiny sliver to your faithful canine companions. Forget the maybe. They deserve a little treat. Just like a total solar eclipse, cake doesn’t happen very often in a doggie’s life. The cake is a burst of lemon, the crunchy topping a perfect crowning for it.

THE ECLIPSE. We had quite  a bit of excitement that morning. The weather seemed horrible at first, we drove through storms, small storm cells were all around us. We were sure the day would be a complete disappointment. First we were headed to a small town called Wymore in Nebraska, but when we got there the sky was too heavy with clouds, so we kept going north, hitting Beatrice. We stayed there from the very beginning of the event, until the sun was about 75% covered, then Phil decided to go reverse-cloud-chasing, using his intuition and sense of direction to place us in a better spot. To make a long story short, with 8 minutes to totality we found ourselves all alone on the side of a farm road. Absolutely no other cars, no other human beings. Total silence, except for the chirping sound of birds and crickets or other creatures I am not too fond of, to be honest. Then, it all went dark, and we saw the magnificent corona forming around the now dark sun. It is so sudden, as if someone flipped a switch to turn it on… It is so bright, so magical, we were absolutely mesmerized by it. To the right, Venus popped up, its presence made visible by the night sky in the middle of the day. For two minutes we were surrounded by darkness, with a delicate shade of red around the horizon. But not in a million years I could foresee what was coming. I had heard of the diamond ring effect, but its explosion of beauty right in front of our eyes was almost too much to take. I offer you a link to a youtube made in Beatrice, a bit to the north of where we were. The images we saw were brighter because we had less cloud coverage. You can see the diamond ring quite clearly in the end of the video.

No matter how many explanations and videos, nothing could have prepared me for those 2 minutes that went by fast, fast, fast, hard to take it all in. The majestic beauty of the universe, watching an event that was part of human history for thousands of years, provoking fear, provoking all sorts of emotions, until science could predict it to the second. Still, being able to understand it cannot take away the beauty of it, the way it makes us all feel small in comparison to the universe staring back at us. Mind blowing. I hope we, as a species, can do our best to preserve the planet, to make it viable for many MANY generations to come.
 

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FESTIVE GLAZED CRANBERRY LEMON CAKE

christmas-card

Time to celebrate! And what could be better than a cake topped with bright red cranberries?  At this time of the year, I go through two phases of culinary fever. First the pumpkin. Then these tasty ruby-red babies. In my mind, both are mandatory part of the end of the year festivities. Typing that gives me a sense of nostalgia. 2016 went by way too fast.  Oh, well. Back to food. Cranberries are perfect in sweets, because they are tart. Yin and yang. In this cake, drizzled with a little powdered sugar icing, they shine. Make this festive cake and take it for holiday potlucks or simply share with your co-workers, neighbors, family, friends. A little coffee or tea will go well great with a slice. Or two. All credit goes to Mel’s Kitchen Cafe, the moment I saw her blog post about it, I could not stop thinking about it.

cranberry-lemon-glazed-cake11
GLAZED CRANBERRY LEMON CAKE
(from Mel’s Kitchen)
.
for the cake:

1 1/2 sticks (6 ounces), room temperature
1/3 cup (2.5 ounces) packed light brown sugar
3 cups (12 ounces) fresh cranberries
2 1/2 cups (12.5 ounces) all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups (11.25 ounces) granulated sugar
Zest of 2 lemons (about 2 tablespoons)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 large eggs
3/4 cup buttermilk
.
for the glaze:

1 cup (4 ounces) powdered sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
 .
Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Generously grease a 10 or 12-inch bundt cake pan with butter – making sure to grease all the nooks and crannies really well. Sprinkle the brown sugar over the bottom of the pan, then layer the cranberries evenly over the sugar.
 .
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In the bowl of a stand mixer combine the granulated sugar together with the zest from the lemons. Rub the zest into the sugar with your fingers until the sugar is infused with the lemon fragrance. Add the butter to the bowl with the lemon sugar and, using the paddle attachment on the stand mixer, beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the vanilla and the eggs, one at a time, mixing and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
 .
Combine the buttermilk with the 2 tablespoons lemon juice in a measuring glass. To a large bowl, add one-third of the dry ingredients (eyeballing is fine). Mix until just combined and a few dry streaks remain. Add half of the buttermilk/lemon mixture. Mix again until just combined. Add another third of the dry ingredients and mix until just combined, followed by the remaining half buttermilk/lemon juice mixture. Mix. Add the final third of the dry ingredients and mix until just incorporated. Spread the batter carefully into the prepared pan over the cranberries.
 .
Bake for 45-55 minutes or until lightly golden on top and just set. Transfer the bundt pan to a  wire rack and let cool about 10 minutes. Invert the cake onto a serving platter, tapping lightly so the cake falls out. Let the cake cool completely.
 .
For the glaze, combine the powdered sugar with the 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice and whisk until smooth. Add additional lemon juice or milk for a thinner consistency, if needed. Drizzle the glaze over the cooled cake and let set, 5-10 minutes, before slicing and serving.
.
ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

cranbcollage

Comments: Can you believe that I had zero issues with this cake? I know, how can it be possible? It is shocking. I loved the smell as it baked, and the way it un-molded so perfectly, maybe one or two cranberries stayed stuck at the bottom of the pan, but they were carefully picked up and placed on the correct spot. Plus, the icing takes care of eventual boo-boos. Very forgiving. My kind of cake. The crumb was moist and tender, the tartness of the cranberries  in perfect balance with the sweetness of the cake and icing. And, it looked pretty good too.

buck11

I wish all my readers a wonderful holiday season! 

glazed-cranberry-lemon-cake-from-bewitching-kitchen

 

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ONE YEAR AGO: Have a Cran-Merry Christmas!

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SEVEN YEARS AGO: Merry Christmas!