Tuesday, June 30, 2009

TWD: Perfect Party Cake

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I was so excited for this cake because last summer, this was the recipe I used to bake my first ever layer cake. Thanks to the DBers who raved about this enough that I had to give it a try. It was the first time I realized that cakes could be made from scratch! Since many of the experienced DBers had problems with flat layers, I decided to make a triple layer cake with 3 8 inch pans (I needed all the help I could get).


One year later I wanted to try it with 9 inch pans, since Dorie posted helpful tips to fix the height issues and because my 8 inch ones aren't the greatest in quality. I used all purpose flour and 2% milk. I omitted the 2 minute beating at the end because I didn't want to risk overbeating. 2 minutes of beating with all purpose flour... I don't even want to imagine what would happen to the cake! The layers aren't as tall as Dorie's, but I was really happy with the overall result.

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The way I frost layer cakes hasn't really changed. I like to keep the outside bare because I'm not a huge frosting lover, but if there's one butter based frosting to make, it's definitely Cassie's SMBC. I can't say enough about it because it's that good! Creamy and perfectly sweetened without tasting like a stick of butter unlike most meringue based buttercreams. I used her SMBC instead of Dorie's and added some blueberry puree. I couldn't really taste the blueberry and will use jam next time for a more concentrated flavour. Even though SMBC is my favourite kind of buttercream, 4 layers of it can be hard to stomach. Instead, I made a lightened version of CI's pastry cream by omitting the butter and using milk instead of cream. I love how soft this cake was even with all purpose flour. I really liked it, although I can't really say the same for for the rest of my family. It can be so frustrating to bake for them because everything is either too buttery, too sweet, too rich, too moist (?!). I'm starting to get the feeling that what they really want is sandwich bread (and it better be Wonder bread since it's like biting into air) lightly sweetened with sugar.


Thanks so much to Carol of mix, mix... stir, stir for choosing this recipe! You can find the recipe on her blog or in Dorie's book. Don't forget to check out the TWD blogroll!

Pastry Cream, adapted from CI
1 cup milk
2 tbsp sugar
2.5 egg yolks
1.5 tbsp cornstarch

Whisk sugar, eggs and cornstarch together until incorporated
On medium high heat, heat milk.
Pour milk in egg mixture to temper the eggs
Pour mixture back into pot, whisking until thickened and bubbles appear on the side.
Remove from heat and pour into another bowl to stop cooking.
Place plastic wrap on surface and refrigerate until cool and ready to use.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream
Adapted from Cassie's How to eat a Cupcake

2 large egg whites
1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup (1 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temp
1/4 blueberry puree

Put egg whites and sugar into the top of a double boiler over a pan of simmering water. Whisking constantly, cook until sugar has dissolved and mixture is warm (about 160 degrees).
Pour heated egg whites into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat egg white mixture on high speed until it forms stiff (but not dry) peaks. Continue beating until fluffy and cooled, about 7 minutes.
Switch to the paddle attachment. With mixer on medium-low, add butter two tablespoons at a time, beating well after each addition. Increase speed to medium-high; continue beating until frosting appears thick, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to low; add blueberry puree and raise speed to medium and beat until incorporated.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Daring Bakers: Bakewell Tart


The June Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Jasmine of Confessions of a Cardamom Addict and Annemarie of Ambrosia and Nectar. They chose a Traditional (UK) Bakewell Tart... er... pudding that was inspired by a rich baking history dating back to the 1800's in England.

I'm not a huge fan of crusts or tarts in general so I quartered the crust and thirded the frangipane. Luckily, I had the right amount of everything because it gets kind of annoying when the small containers start to take over the fridge. I used strawberry jam for 2 tarts and left it plain for one tart because I wasn't sure how much I would like the strawberry and almond together. I remember making frangipane with TWD and really enjoyed the almond filling. Instead of creaming, I used a mini attachment for my handmixer that works like a food processor since there was so little filling and I didn't want the ingredients to stir around the bottom of the mixer bowl. This is how Dorie makes it and it's great because there is no curdling. You're left with a nicely emulsified thick almond cream. The bakewell tart didn't really change my mind about tarts, but I'm more of a cake and cookie girl.

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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Sprinkles Cupcakes for Father's Day


Is it just me or is anyone else starting to feel like they're on dessert overload? Lately I've been feeling a little sick of sweets, but not the baking part so that makes it really difficult to make something new when the desserts are piling up. That's why I love getting together with family because it gives me an excuse to bake, and a full recipe too (no annoying egg splitting or creaming 3 tbsps of butter!). Oh.. and catching up is fun too. Since it's the summer and strawberries are everywhere, I finally decided to give Sprinkle's strawberry cupcakes a try. It seemed like the perfect summer dessert for Father's Day. My family seems to be on a health kick nowadays with everyone splitting a cookie or taking out knives to cut a cupcake in half. I thought I would make it easier on them by making mini cupcakes and test out my new mini silicone baking cups. I never thought I would use silicone just because I have this weird belief that whatever is baking in them will not cook. I don't know why.. maybe it's because the cups don't feel hot like metal does. The batter was delicious and tasted like strawberry icecream! I'm not usually a batter licker because the raw flour grosses me out, but I couldn't help dipping my fingers one too many times. Too bad I didn't love it when they were baked. They weren't horrible, but I didn't love the texture. I even made regular sized cupcakes in a metal pan because I didn't want to judge a recipe I've never tried before baked at 1/4th of its original size. I think I'm going to try adding strawberry puree to a butter cake recipe next time, but I have the feeling it's not as easy as replacing some of the milk with strawberry. Fruits do weird things to batter.

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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Recipe Round Robin: Chocolate Chip Cookies Comparison


For this month's Recipe Round Robin hosted by Aleta of Omnomicon, we were making chocolate chip cookies! How could I pass an opportunity to be part of a group that's testing to find the best CCC? The recipes I was given were practically the same, except that recipe K was doubled the size of recipe S so I halved K to make the differences in butter, sugar and baking soda more obvious. I followed the recipes as they were written, but since they had different temperatures, I decided to bake both recipes at 350 and 375 for a better comparison. Wouldn't it be horrible if K was actually better, but because of its oven temperature the dough didn't bake up to its potential and we would never know because it's already been put into the list of 'don't ever make again?' That drives me crazy and reminds of the time when I used to bake my cookies on cheap supermarket pans without parchment paper. Everything was burnt, dry and stuck. It's a good thing I gave CI's thick and chewy another try after getting new pans and using parchment!

I kept the ratio of dough to add-ins consistent to prevent one recipe from being rated better because it had more chocolate or rated worse because it had nuts! It was a really easy win for recipe S. Recipe K kind of looks like a tea biscuit and yes, it sort of tastes like one too. It's amazing how big of a difference ~ 2 tablespoons of butter can make, but then again, the recipes were scaled down. If we were looking at a typically sized CCC recipe, it's really more of a 1/4 cup difference in butter. As for the oven temperatures, the texture of the cookies at 350 and 375 were very similar because they all softened up uniformly a few hours later. Even though recipe S was the winner, my favourite CCC recipe is still an adapted version of CI's thick and chewy because it has more of a real chew to it. If you're into cakey, make recipe K, if you're into soft, make recipe S and if you're into chewy, make CI's recipe!

Recipe K: Family Secret Chocolate Chip Cookies

1/4 C. + 2 tbsp sugar
1/2 C. brown sugar
1/2 C. butter
1/2 T. vanilla extract
1 eggs, slightly beaten
1.5 C. flour
3/8 (1/4 + 1 pinch) t. baking soda
3/8 (1/4 + 1 pinch) t. salt
1.5 C. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 C. chopped nuts (optional) (I usually omit these, but if you like nuts, go for it!)

Preheat oven to 350.
In a large bowl, combine the white and brown sugar. Add butter and cream with sugar. Add vanilla and eggs. Mix well.
In a separate bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Add dry ingredients to creamed mixture. Mix well, the dough will be stiff. Add chocolate chips and nuts if you're using them.
Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. Drop dough in rounded teaspoons onto the cookie sheets. Bake 10-12 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on wire racks.

Recipe S: Friendly Choco-Chippers

1/4 c sugar
1/4 c brown sugar
1/3 c soft butter (5 tbsp + 1 tsp)
1/2 egg (~2 tbsp beaten)
1 tsp vanilla extract (higher quality really makes the difference, but regular stuff works too)
3/4 c flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 c chocolate chips
1/2 c chopped walnuts (or other nuts of your choice)

Cream together sugars, butter, egg and vanilla. Sift in flour, baking soda and salt. Stir in chocolate chips and walnuts.
Bake at 375 degrees for 12 minutes.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Chiffon Cake


My favourite cakes are foam cakes, but they haven't been exactly the easiest kind to make. Alton's was a good start, but it was hardly perfect. I've definitely had my fair share of flops so I couldn't be happier when I cut into my cake and saw a tight knit crumb instead of the usual patches of egg or coarseness. I almost cried..haha. No seriously, I don't think I can even count the number of times I've whipped up a beautiful egg foam only to mess it up with my excessive folding and need to get rid of every single trace of egg white or flour until the whole thing deflated. It's kind of like making a batch of cookies with yummy batter only to have them come out of the oven burnt, hard and dry. I don't know what happened this time.. maybe the baking gods were on my side.. they better be there the next time I attempt a sponge or angel food cake! Since this cake is so light compared to butter cakes, I made a cream cheese frosting to add some richness. No crazy tower of frosting for me though!

This recipe comes from Rose Levy Beranbaum. I love her attention to detail, precision, accuracy and consistency. Her videos were really helpful and I would really suggest watching them if you're paranoid about folding like me. I made a vanilla version, replacing the orange juice with water and omitted all the flavouring except for vanilla. I also halved her recipe and baked in a 9 inch springform.

Rose Levy Beranbaum's All American Orange Chiffon Cake Recipe

Cream Cheese Frosting

1/4 cup butter, room temperature
2 oz cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar

Cream butter on medium speed until smooth and fluffy. Add cream cheese continue beating on medium until incorporated.

Add sugar and continue beating until incorporated. Don't overbeat or the frosting might turn soupy.

Monday, June 15, 2009



I've been craving for gingerbread for a while now and after reading Mary's post, I immediately went to the kitchen to measure out the ingredients. I used Dorie's recipe from TWD, but omitted the chocolate and baked in a muffin tin. I can't remember how the chocolate version tasted exactly, since we made it 6 months ago (in January..where has time gone?!), but I think I like it better without the chocolate. Next time I'm adding freshly grated ginger for extra heat. Unfortunately, this wasn't a family favourite except for me. I had a hard time getting them to try this and told them it was chocolate cake. Too bad the smell of ginger, molasses and cinnamon gave it all away. Oh well, this is usually what happens when I bake with spices. I used to be like that too, but thanks to TWD, I started to love cinnamon in desserts other than apple pie. It shouldn't be too difficult to eat 12 cakes though, I only had 3 the first day!

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Recipe here at Sherry Trifle

Friday, June 12, 2009

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread... Melted or Creamed?


With 2 bunches of ripe bananas, there wasn't anything better to make than banana bread, but I hope you aren't sick another banana bread post (this is my 5th one!). I love the Silver Palate Banana Bread recipe, but I don't like repeating a recipe without doing something a little different. This seemed like the perfect opportunity to do a little recipe comparison, which I love! Since many banana bread recipes use melted butter, I thought it would be fun to compare melted vs creamed. It seemed kind of pointless, since it was no surprise that melted butter would produce a denser bread, but I was curious how big of a difference it would make. This usually drives my family crazy because sometimes the differences are very tiny yet I'm still forcing them to choose between 'A or B' 'left or right'?

Melted is on the left with the more open crumb and creamed is on the right. In case you were wondering, they went into and out of the oven at the same time, baked in the same pan and each banana was cut in half so there was no difference in banana ripeness. Both versions were really good, but I prefer the creaming method because I liked its lighter yet still dense texture. The rest of my family was divided so it was a tie between creamed and melted. The differences were noticeable so if you're finding that your banana bread is too dense, I would try creaming the butter to see if it improves. Next time I make this, I'll have to use whole wheat flour. I'll probably do another comparison even though I know it will probably be denser, may as well, right?

Silver Palate Cookbook Banana Bread: (makes 1 loaf)

8 T unsalted butter, room temp
3/4 c granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 c unbleached all-purpose flour
1 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1 c whole wheat flour (I used all purpose)
3 large ripe bananas, mashed (1 1/4 cups - 1 1/2 cups)
1 t vanilla extract
1/2 c walnuts, coarsely chopped (I used chocolate chips)

1. Preheat oven to 350. Grease 9 x 5 x 3 inch loaf pan. (I used a bundt pan)
2. Cream butter and sugar together until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time and beat.
3. Sift AP flour, soda, salt together, stir in whole wheat flour
Alternate dry mixture with bananas + vanilla, ending with dry until flour disappears. Fold in chocolate chips
5. Pour into pan. Bake 50-60 min, (it took 40 minutes in my bundt) or until cake tester comes out clean (I look for a few mini moist crumbs). Cool in pan 10 min, then flip it out onto a rack.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

TWD: Parisan Apple Tartlet


Without the crust, I was left with a baked apple, probably not what the parisan apple tarlet should have been like. Even the brown sugar that I sprinkled on top seemed to have disappeared during the baking process. I used the toaster oven for my single ramekin dessert. Sometimes I get worried about putting ramekins in the toaster oven because I think they're going to explode. Maybe it's because the coils are so close to the bowl... I don't know... but I always end up putting them in a pan of water. I'm not sure if that even does anything or if I do that because that's how we creme brulees are made. Anyway...

Thanks so much to Jessica of My Baking Heart for choosing this recipe! You can find the recipe on her blog or in Dorie's book. Don't forget to check out the TWD blogroll!

Friday, June 5, 2009



I made bread, something I haven't done in a long time! I never thought I would bake bread, but Audrey inspired me to after her email. The flavour was awesome, but unfortunately a little dry because I wasn't sure if the bread was ready to come out of the oven or not and decided that a little overdone was better than raw dough. I really liked the richness of this bread, but next time I'm want to try a traditional version made with oil. Dry or not, the bread was still really addicting. It was kind of scary when I realized that I ate 1/4th of the loaf myself because that's 3/4ths cup of flour! Bread making was a lot of fun once I got past the 'omg, why is the bread taking so long to rise' part and just let the yeast do its work without poking at the dough every so often. Unfortunately staring and poking does not make it rise faster. I'm getting a little curious about trying other kinds of bread now, but there are so many recipes and so many types of flour! I don't think I would be able to decide which recipe to try first.

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I was a little too lazy to type up the recipe, but here it is at Bridget's blog!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

TWD: Cinnamon Squares


These squares were absolutely delicious, which surprised me since I'm not usually a crazy cinnamon fan. I think this would have to rank up there as one of my favourite Dorie recipes. I enjoyed the texture and the loved the combination of cinnamon and coffee. This is a flavour combination that I will have to use again. I made these a little differently than instructed though because I didn't want to risk over mixing by folding the butter at the end. Instead of melting the butter, I decided to cream it by hand just because I saw Bob of Cooking Stuff do it and couldn't wait to give it a try. Look at what a gorgeous batter he creates with a wooden spoon! Plus, think about all the extra squares I could eat after that workout (no seriously.. I should've waited for the butter to get to room temperature because it's not fun to cream cold butter). I still love my KA more than anything, but doing everything by hand feels like I'm baking for real if that makes sense and a lot of fun! I omitted the frosting and chips in that batter.. part of my efforts to cut calories where I can so I continue baking with TWD without outgrowing all my clothes!

Thanks so much to Tracey of My Culinary Adventures for choosing this recipe! You can find the recipe on her blog or in Dorie's book. Don't forget to check out the TWD blogroll!


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