Friday, February 22, 2013

Inside-Out Neapolitan Layer Cake

So, there are many things about this recipe that are PURE GENIUS. First of all, this is the second cake recipe of Sweetapolita's that I've used that has turned out perfectly. No adjustments for altitude, and no problems.

Okay, maybe one of the layers sunk a little bit (you can see in the picture below, it's the top layer). But, compared to some of the cake failures I've had, this is nothing.

What you can't see is that this cake is incredibly moist. Uh...mayonnaise. Yes. Maybe I'll never make another chocolate cake without it. It's moist enough that it specifically works well in this cake with only the in-between and top layers of frosting, no frosting on the outside. And I love the look of it.

No, mine isn't as magazine-ready as hers looks. Still, it's pretty, don't you think?!

Secondly, her Swiss Meringue Buttercream, just on its own, is perfect. It turns out every time with amazing and super delicious results. The Strawberry version of it--honestly, I could just eat it by the bowlful. She suggests using strawberry oil or puree, I couldn't find oil and didn't have the wherewithal to make my own puree, but I found some freezer jam at the store. I used 2 tablespoons of that and OH MY. Not too sweet, lovely, fresh, real strawberry flavor.

TGIP Rating--Inside-Out Neapolitan Layer Cake--KEEPER. Beautiful, delicious, unique, and not too difficult at all.

Next up: Snowcaps. A little taste of my childhood.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Lacy Panty Cakes

Wow. This was one of those times I wished I was super smart and had even for a moment in my life been clever enough to realize how delicious it would be to put graham cracker crumbs in pancakes! Let alone being clever enough to come up with a recipe called LACY PANTY CAKES! I mean. It's a whole new world. Recipe is here. Yes, those are chocolate chips in the background of that picture. My kids don't eat pancakes without them. BUT, they are the ones who made me think...maybe s'mores pancakes! Lacy Panty Cakes with marshmallow cream and chocolate chips. Worth consideration.

Anyway, I didn't make the whiskey sauce because my kids don't like the flavor of whiskey. I'm sure the sauce is delicious and one of these times I'll make it, but these were incredible even without it. I also only used 1 tablespoon of whiskey (instead of 3) in the pancakes themselves. I could taste it and I thought the smoky flavor was lovely with the graham cracker and brown sugar, but it wasn't strong enough for the kids to really notice it. I think the full amount of alcohol would probably make the pancakes a little more "lacy" as it evaporates during cooking, but I didn't think they suffered for lack of lacy-ness at all.


The pancakes are really delicate, and take some careful maneuvering to turn them over, but the graham cracker crumbs give them a wonderful texture--almost (but not quite) crispy, in spite of their delicacy. And the graham cracker flavor is delightful and complex.

Is it breakfast? Dinner? Dessert? Yes! I think it is. All of them. And a snack. And maybe it could be wrapped around sausage--pigs in lacy blankets. And eaten with strawberries and whipped cream. And folded up into a little nosh to dip into coffee. And...

TGIP Rating--Lacy Panty Cakes. Such a KEEPER. Next time I'm making the whiskey sauce to go with them. Also, would this work as a waffle?

Next up: Inside-Out Neapolitan Layer Cake. New buttercream recipe and I'm so excited!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Emeril's King Cake

Mardi Gras is next Tuesday, February 12th. If you don't live in New Orleans and if you're not Catholic, this probably isn't a big deal to you. It never has been to me, and, truthfully, until a couple of years ago, I didn't really know what it was all about. Now I do. I also now know it's sometimes called Shrove Tuesday. And Pancake Tuesday. Which, maybe should be every Tuesday.

It's an interesting thing, making a version of something that you've never seen or tasted. But I wanted to try more holiday/ritual-specific and traditional baked goods this year, so. I used one of Emeril's recipes (there are multiple). The reviews were pretty fair and it seemed to have all of the components that my expert friends suggested an "authentic" King Cake should have (oh, incidentally, here is information about King Cake and what it has to do with Mardi Gras). And it was not difficult at all. Of course, yeast breads always take some time, but over the course of an evening, it's not bad.

I love working with sweet bread dough. It's so beautiful and the smell is so homey.

I don't have large empty coffee cans or shortening cans sitting around my house, so I used a large bowl to mold the center of the ring.

Which was HUGE. Much larger than I expected. And then the bowl was hard to remove. But, that was probably the hardest part of this project.

And look how pretty! Such a gorgeous, golden brown. And the lemon zest and nutmeg made for amazing smells while it was baking.


There were user comments on the recipe about the filling not being sufficient, but for me this was perfect. If I had doubled it, I think it might have been too rich and too sweet. I also decided to make the glaze a little thin, so it was just a glue for the colored sugars, rather than being a thick sweet icing on top of what is already a little sweet. The bread itself has a delicious flavor, I love the lemon zest, but the texture wasn't what I hoped for. It was a little dense, not as tender as I think it should have been. I might have kneaded it just a little too long.

Next year, I think I'll halve the recipe entirely and make a smaller cake. It's bigger than any of my serving dishes, so it's just sitting on parchment paper on my counter. Mmm...not attractive.

P.S. Plastic babies are not super easy to find. Check the baby shower section of your local party store.

TGIP Rating--King Cake--A surprisingly yummy treat. More of a breakfast pastry than a cake, if you ask me. But, there's NOTHING WRONG WITH THAT.

Next up: Lacy Panty Cakes. I KNOW. What could be wrong with a recipe with that name?! Nothing. The recipe is from Baked Elements and is next week's project on Baked Sunday Mornings, which I haven't participated in for ages. I'm making them for Pancake Tuesday.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Coffee Crisp Bars

I made these last year and loved them so much I've been trying to think of alternate versions/flavors ever since. Then the BAKED boys posted something on Facebook about"Coffee Crisp Bars" at their shop one day, no recipe, just the name, but it got my wheels turning. Figured I could do the same thing except with my own Coffee Buttercream and add "crisp" to the ganache with Rice Krispies (can I use a brand name?! guess we'll see!)

They're really lovely and delicious. With lots of varied textures--chewy brownie, smooth buttercream, crispy ganache. And WOW are they rich. They were for me, anyway. My kids are usually really sensitive to rich desserts, but they loved these. I could only get through 1/2 of a small square in one sitting. Which, you know, is ODD for me. My kids? Ate the whole thing without taking a breath. Pretty much.

Here's the recipe:

Coffee Crisp Bars *click here for printable version*
concept and brownie base from “Grasshopper Bars” in BAKED Explorations, crispy glaze adapted from same recipe
Makes 12 large or 24 small bars

For the Brownie Base:
¾ c. flour
½ tsp salt
1 T dark unsweetened cocoa powder
5 oz good quality dark chocolate (60-72%), coarsely chopped
½ c. (1 stick) butter, cut into 1 inch cubes
¾ c. sugar
¼ c. firmly packed light brown sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract

For the Coffee Filling:
2 T instant espresso powder
1 c. heavy cream, plus more
1 c. granulated sugar
2 T cornstarch
1 c. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, just slightly cooler than room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract

For the Crispy Glaze:
6 oz good quality dark chocolate (60-72%), coarsely chopped
1 tsp light corn syrup
½ c. (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened, cut into cubes
½ c. Rice Krispies cereal

Make brownie base:

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Butter the sides and bottom of a glass or light-colored metal 9-by-13-inch pan. Line the bottom with a sheet of parchment paper, and butter the parchment. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, the salt, and cocoa powder.

Configure a large size double boiler. Place the chocolate and the butter in the bowl of the double boiler and stir occasionally until the chocolate and butter are completely melted and combined. Turn off the heat, but keep the bowl over the water of the double boiler and add both sugars. Whisk the sugars until completely combined. Remove the bowl from the pan. The mixture should be at room temperature.

Add three eggs to the chocolate/ butter mixture and whisk until just combined. Add the vanilla and stir until combined. Do not overbeat the batter at this stage or your brownies will be cakey.

Sprinkle the flour/cocoa/salt mix over the chocolate. Using a spatula (do not use a whisk) fold the dry ingredients into the wet until there is just a trace amount of the flour/cocoa mix visible.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smooth the top with an offset spatula, and bake for approximately 12 to 15 minutes, rotating halfway through the baking time. The brownies should be just a tad underdone (not too gooey, but ideally, just 1 minute from being cooked through completely). A toothpick inserted into the brownies at an angle should contain a few loose crumbs. Remove the brownies from the oven and let cool completely while you make the coffee filling.

Make coffee filling:

Heat ¾ c. heavy cream in a microwave for 1 minute, or in a small saucepan on the stovetop until just simmering. Stir in espresso powder and allow to sit for 15 minutes. Powder should dissolve. Strain through a fine sieve or coffee filter just to make sure no grit is left in the infused cream. Add enough cream to make a total of 1 c.

Whisk together 1 c. granulated sugar and 2 T cornstarch in a small saucepan. Whisk in coffee-infused cream and place saucepan over medium heat. Heat, stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolves, and mixture comes to a boil and starts to thicken.

Pour sugar mixture into the bowl of a mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment. Mix at medium speed until mixture is cool.

Cut 1 c. unsalted butter into small pieces. Switch mixer to paddle attachment. With mixer at medium speed, gradually add a few pieces of butter at a time. Mix until it is thoroughly incorporated. Switch speed to medium high and beat until light and fluffy.

Add 1 tsp. vanilla and beat until incorporated.

Spread the filling evenly across the top of the brownie layer and place the pan in the refrigerator, for a minimum of 45 minutes, while you make the chocolate glaze.

Make the chocolate glaze:

In a large non-reactive metal bowl, combine the chocolate, corn syrup, and butter. Set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and cook, stirring with a rubber spatula, until the mixture is completely smooth.  Remove the bowl from the pan and stir vigorously for 1 minute to release excess heat. Stir in the Rice Krispies.

Pour the mixture over the chilled coffee layer and use an offset spatula to spread it into an even layer. Place the pan back in the refrigerator for 1 hours, or until the glaze hardens.

Remove the pan from the refrigerator, wait about 15 minutes for the glaze to soften slightly, and cut the bars with a warm knife. Cut into squares and serve immediately.

The bars can be stored in the refrigerator, tightly covered, for up to 4 days.

I garnished mine with chocolate-covered espresso beans. The glaze is hard enough to hold them but soft enough to press them into the surface after the finished product has been in the refrigerator for about 6 or 7 minutes.

TGIP Rating--Coffee Crisp Bars--KEEPER. I think next time I'm going to try with a Caramel Buttercream. Doesn't that sound yummy?!

Next up: King Cake. I've never been to New Orleans. But I have input from trusted sources, and this is the recipe I'm going with. Mardi Gras is the 12th!