Chocolate-Coconut Pound Cake

 

Chocolate Coconut Pound Cake 2

I feel like I have been lacking a little in the baking department lately.  I have been very focused on jams, getting a healthy dinner on the table, and not as much focused on the baked goods.  My family has been very patient with me, but I can tell that they are anxious for me to get back into my baking routine.  Fortunately I have lots of great recipes to try, and as long as it doesn’t get to hot next weekend – I am definitely looking forward to the 3-day weekend to catch up.

A lot of my friends have been dropping their kids off at sleep away camp this year – of course out here, it is not nearly as popular as it is on the east coast – and fortunately for me, my older daughter was still not dying to sign up just yet – but I know the time is coming.  I loved sleep away camp – when I came home after the first year, I cried until my mother promised I could go again the next summer.

Months ago I found this recipe in Bon Appetit, and coconut is one of those ingredients that always makes me look twice.  I looked at the recipe, and I was seriously intrigued.  I have been eyeing the coconut oil in the super market for quite some time, and now I had an opportunity to buy it.  Unfortunately this was not one of those dairy-free recipes that makes me (but mostly my husband) so happy, but I decided to go for it anyway.  I wish I could say that I made this today, but this was made a about a month ago, and I have been patiently waiting  to post it.  As I am writing this, I am remembering this moist, delicious, flavorful – pretty much killer – pound cake.  I cannot say enough about this cake.  I had one piece, and it wasn’t enough – the kids went nuts for it also.  There was just a hint of chocolate, combined with a hint of coconut, but it just had this overwhelmingly comforting taste.

I would be kidding myself if I said that the kids needed some comfort food right now – even if they are homesick – I think it is the moms that are in real need of some comfort.  Instead of watching the time go by wanting to talk to your kids, how about trying this cake instead?  Eat half now, and freeze the rest for when your kids return.  If you can actually get half into the freezer before it is all gone…

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more
  • cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¾ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ cup virgin coconut oil, room temperature
  • cups plus 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • cup buttermilk
  • ¼ cup unsweetened coconut flakes

Preparation

Preheat oven to 325°. Butter an 8×4” loaf pan; line with parchment paper, leaving a generous overhang on long sides. Whisk flour, cocoa powder, salt, and baking powder in a medium bowl; set aside.

Using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat oil, ¼ cup butter, and 1½ cups sugar until pale and fluffy, 5–7 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating to blend between additions; beat until mixture is very light and doubled in volume, 5–8 minutes. Add vanilla.

Reduce mixer speed to low and add dry ingredients in 3 additions, alternating with buttermilk in 2 additions, beginning and ending with dry ingredients (do not overmix; it will cause cake to buckle and split). Scrape batter into prepared pan and run a spatula through the center, creating a canal. Sprinkle with coconut and remaining 1 Tbsp. sugar.

Bake cake, tenting with foil if coconut browns too much before cake is done (it should be very dark and toasted), until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 70–80 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack; let cake cool in pan 20 minutes before turning out.

DO AHEAD: Cake can be baked 5 days ahead. Keep tightly wrapped at room temperature.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Chocolate-Coconut Pound Cake

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Blueberry Coffeecake with Streusel

Blueberry Coffee Cake

Everyone needs a break now and then.  I am not just talking about a small 15-minute walk around the block brake, I am talking about a break from life. Ok, yes, those 15-minute walks are important – after what I experienced this week, sometimes you just need to get a little air.  The problem is that you have to come to that conclusion yourself – no one can tell you that it has to be done.  But believe me, it is amazing what it can do for you…

To say that things are hectic right now is an understatement.  Thursday was the last day of school for the year, although this year it was a little bittersweet.  For my younger daughter, it was a big party – but for my older daughter it was not the usual feeling.  Unfortunately I had an all-day meeting, and was extremely preoccupied – all my brain cells were focused at the time.  That was until I got the text.  The last day was fun, except for the end – everyone was crying, even the boys.  Getting that text was heart breaking.  Later I found out the teachers were crying too.  All because the school board decided to split these kids up.  I won’t get into it again, because I can no longer dwell on this horrible decision.  This summer I am working on an attitude adjustment – I am going to have a positive outlook on my daughter’s new school – and so will she.  We agreed to it.

So as I sat there in that meeting, thinking about my daughter – it hit me, I was not the only one with a life outside that room.  Life is hard – and most of the time, you really have no idea how hard it is – particularly for everyone else.  Fortunately for me, I can always turn to food – and that’s exactly what I did this weekend.  I didn’t just dabble – I was hard core – I was on a power cooking/baking frenzy, trying to get all my stress out in the kitchen.  I actually think it worked…or I am just utterly exhausted.

This was just one of the many things going on in my kitchen – a good old fashioned blueberry coffeecake.  Now, I have a favorite recipe from my mother – that just happens to be dairy-free.  I just had to see though if this dairy version from Cooking Light was better – and you know what, it wasn’t.  Don’t get me wrong, this was absolutely moist and delicious – but I actually like my mother’s recipe better – ok, who is really surprised by that?  Yes, my mother tests her recipes more than anyone else I know.  And Mom, you win again.

So I hope that I was not the only one that was able to take a break this weekend – in whatever form that is.  Even if you just took a few deep breaths…I know it will help.  Monday, I am ready for you – bring it on.

Ingredients

  • 9 ounces unbleached all-purpose flour (about 2 cups)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups fresh blueberries
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 2 tablespoons sliced almonds
  • 1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup nonfat buttermilk
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon rind
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • Cooking spray

Preparation

Preheat oven to 375°.

Weigh or lightly spoon 9 ounces flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine 9 ounces flour and next 3 ingredients (through salt), stirring with a whisk. Remove 2 tablespoons flour mixture; sprinkle over blueberries, tossing to coat.

Combine brown sugar and next 4 ingredients (through cinnamon) in a medium bowl. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons melted butter; toss to combine.

Place granulated sugar, 1/4 cup butter, and oil in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until blended (about 2 minutes). Add egg; beat well. Add flour mixture and buttermilk alternately to sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture; mix after each addition. Stir in rind and juice.

Spoon half of batter into a 9-inch square light-colored metal baking pan coated with cooking spray (do not use a dark or nonstick pan). Sprinkle evenly with 1 cup blueberry mixture. Spoon remaining batter over blueberries. Sprinkle evenly with remaining 1 cup blueberry mixture. Sprinkle with brown sugar mixture. Bake at 375° for 45 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan 10 minutes on a wire rack; remove from pan. Cool completely on a wire rack.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Blueberry Coffeecake with Streusel

Hawaiian Dessert

Hawaiian Dessert

 

I am not sure what is going on right now with my blog, but I am going to try and ignore it. The picture looks super small, and I can’t figure out why. Well, at least it is not an ordinary Sunday night – and tomorrow, I can try and get to the bottom of this. I have no idea how this blog post will look when publishing, but I will keep my fingers crossed.

I am big on short cuts, but not big on using prepared foods – and that includes boxed cake mixes. Although there are certain times when it actually does make sense. I have to admit, I love a good boxed cake every once in a while – but it doesn’t belong on my blog…that is until now. The other week I had signed up to bring a dessert to book group. I didn’t have a ton of time that day, and remembered this recipe that people on our food alias at work were talking about. Someone was looking for a dessert to bring to a Hawaiian themed party – and this is what people recommended. It came from the website Yummly, and it looked super simple, yet fed a crowd.  Even though I was not going to a Hawaiian themed party, I needed something simple that fed a lot of people.

I had no intention of putting this on the blog – with a boxed cake and vanilla pudding, it was not really something I figured would be blog worthy.  Wrong.  My friends loved the cake – and I did as well.  It was creamy on the top, with a nice layer of cake that almost seemed like a soft crust – they all thought I was crazy not to post the recipe.  So here we are – and hopefully you won’t give up on me – but we all need a break from time to time, and this was certainly a delicious one. Here’s to simplicity, feeding many…and Hawaii.

Ingredients

  • 1 package yellow cake mix (regular size)
  • 3 packages (3.4 ounces each) instant vanilla pudding mix
  • 4 cups cold milk
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons coconut extract
  • 1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
  • 1 can (20 ounces) crushed pineapple, well drained
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream, whipped and sweetened
  • 2 cups flaked coconut, toasted

Directions

Mix cake batter according to package directions. Pour into two 9×13 in. baking pans. Bake at 350° for 15 minutes or until the cakes test done. Cool completely. In a large bowl, combine pudding mixes, milk and coconut extract; beat for 2 minutes. Add the cream cheese and beat well. Stir in pineapple. Spread over the cooled cakes. Top with whipped cream; sprinkle with coconut. Chill for at least 2 hours.

Yield: 24 servings.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Hawaiian Dessert

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Scones

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Scones

I know it is Sunday, but I am already looking forward to Thursday.  That market basket that my husband got me for Mother’s Day is quite something.  It is like Christmas morning every Thursday night – as we unpack the beautiful wooden box with all sorts of goodies.  This week’s basket came with this wonderful box of pistachio apricot granola.  I can’t wait to put some on my yogurt in the morning.  It’s the little things that get me through this end-of-the-year chaos.

Since I was set for breakfast this week, I thought it was only fair if I made some treats for the girls.  They do love granola – but I know they love scones even more.  I have gone through many ways of saving recipes over the years.  I started by keeping every single food magazine and marking the pages where I liked a recipe.  That worked for a little while, but after I had over 20 magazines, I couldn’t remember what was in each issue.  Then I started cutting out the indexes, and had a binder of them – with the highlighted recipes that I liked.  Again, not very practical as I had to look through hundreds of pages to find what I was looking for.  The next plan was to cut out the recipe and put it in a photo album, where I had dividers of the different types of recipes.  After I filled up two binders, I was done with that method.  At that point I decided I needed to use technology, and that’s when I started my blog.  I tell you, I love being able to Bing a recipe from my blog and get to it instantly.  Technology can be quite awesome.

Instead of going to my usual stack for a scone recipe (knowing that I didn’t have any lingering around that I wanted to make), I went to one of the binders I created – and flipped to the “Breakfast” tab.  I found this recipe that I probably cut out ages ago from either Gourmet or Bon Appetit and decided to see if it had stood the test of time.  Boy did it ever – these scones were crunchy on the outside, soft and pillowy on the inside, with a touch of oat flavor, but nicely sweetened.  I could have scarfed a couple of them down, except that I reminded myself they were for the girls – I already had my treat waiting.  So, we will all be eating well this week, and we need to – if we are going to get through these last 5 weeks.  Ugh!

Ingredients

  • 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar plus additional for sprinkling
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/3 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon pieces
  • Finely grated zest from 1 large navel orange
  • 2/3 cup well-shaken buttermilk plus additional for brushing
  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
  • Special equipment: a 2 1/4-inch round cookie cutter

Preparation

Preheat oven to 425ºF.

Sift together flour, sugar, baking powder and soda, and salt into a food processor, then add oats and pulse 15 times. Add butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal with small (pea-size) lumps, then transfer to a bowl.

Stir together zest and buttermilk. Toss chocolate chips with oat mixture, then add buttermilk, stirring with a fork just until a dough forms. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface  and gently knead 6 times.

Pat dough into a 1-inch-thick round, dusting surface with more flour if necessary. Cut out as many scones as possible with cutter, dipping it in flour before each cut, and transfer scones to a lightly buttered large baking sheet. Gather scraps into a ball, then pat into a round and cut out more scones in same manner.

Brush tops of scones with buttermilk and sprinkle lightly with sugar. Bake in middle of oven until golden brown, 15 to 18 minutes, and transfer to a rack.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here: Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Scones

Cream Cheese Danish Braid

Cream Cheese Danish Bread

Happy Mother’s Day to all you mothers out there!  I hope everyone had a wonderful day, and as my mother told me to do, indulge just a little.  Speaking of indulging…in going with the theme of over the top that I started last weekend, I decided to continue that trend just a bit…particularly in honor of mother’s day.

I don’t make bread very often anymore – it was something I was fascinated in when I lived in Denver – mostly because of the high altitude.  Bread would rise much faster, and it was just exciting to watch.  For the past 18 years, I can count how many times I have attempted a yeast dough on one hand – just because I don’t want to spend a day waiting for it to rise.  A couple of years ago, I noticed that my oven had a proof setting – and all of a sudden I realized that I had my own little proofing oven right in my house.  But even that added incentive was not enough.

The other month in Cooking Light they had a section on cooking and baking like the professionals.  Basically they tried to tell you that you didn’t have to be an expert to make different things.  I know better than that, and didn’t fall for it for a minute.  But here I was cutting out this delicious cream cheese Danish braid and sticking it in my recipe pile.  Note to self – if you don’t want to make something, do not put it in that pile.  Of course placing anything in that pile means that it is visible for my daughters to see – and when my older one saw that it was an option, that’s all she talked about.

So – I attempted the Danish braid.  I was not expecting much, but that dough was heavenly.  Figuring out exactly how to make the braid just by reading the instructions was a little tricky – but it turned out beautifully.  I was a hero.  My daughter was completely amazed.  The filling was a little sweet for us – but the bread was out of this world.  Just amazing, and I can’t wait to try the dough on cinnamon buns.

Here’s to all you heroes out there – but especially the moms today – even the little things you do go a long way…it is your day to celebrate.

Ingredients

Sponge:

  • 6 tablespoons very warm 1% low-fat milk (120° to 130°)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 package quick-rise yeast (about 2 1/4 teaspoons)
  • 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour

Dough:

  • 7.9 ounces unbleached all-purpose flour, divided (about 1 3/4 cups)
  • 2.25 ounces whole-wheat pastry flour (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup light sour cream
  • 3 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • Cooking spray

Filling:

  • 4 ounces 1/3-less-fat cream cheese
  • 1/3 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • Dash of salt

Remaining ingredients:

  • 1 teaspoon water
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/3 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons 1% low-fat milk
  • 2 tablespoons sliced almonds, toasted

Preparation

To prepare sponge, combine first 4 ingredients in a medium bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Cover loosely with plastic wrap; let stand 15 minutes.

To prepare dough, weigh or lightly spoon 6.75 ounces (about 1 1/2 cups) all-purpose flour and pastry flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine 1/4 cup sugar, sour cream, butter, salt, vanilla, 1 egg, and sponge in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed 1 minute or until well combined. Add flours; beat at low speed 3 minutes or until a soft dough forms. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic (about 4 minutes), adding remaining 1.15 ounces all-purpose flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, to prevent dough from sticking. Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 1 hour and 15 minutes or until doubled in size. (Gently press two fingers into dough. If indention remains, dough has risen enough.)

To prepare filling, combine cream cheese and the next 4 ingredients (through dash of salt) in a medium bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until smooth.

Punch dough down; roll dough into a 12 x 15-inch rectangle on lightly floured parchment paper. Spread cream cheese mixture down center of dough, leaving about a 5-inch border on each side and a 1-inch border at top and bottom of rectangle. Make 5-inch cuts about 1 inch apart on both sides of dough to meet filling using a sharp knife or kitchen shears. Remove 4 outer corner strips of dough from rectangle; discard. Fold top and bottom 1-inch portions of dough over filling. Fold strips over filling, alternating strips diagonally over filling. Press ends to seal. Transfer braid and parchment paper to a baking sheet. Cover and let rise 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375°. Combine 1 teaspoon water and 1 egg; stir with a whisk. Brush braid with egg mixture. Bake at 375° for 20 minutes or until golden. Cool on wire rack 10 minutes.

Combine powdered sugar and 2 teaspoons milk in a bowl, stirring until smooth. Drizzle glaze over braid; sprinkle with nuts.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Cream Cheese Danish Braid

Fruit-Filled Scuffins

Scuffins

I am not even sure what this are called, but I love taking two baked goods and combining them.  Not that I have done it often, but I am dying to create my own.  Ever since I posted these, I have been racking my brain for what other fusions I could make.  For some reason I have been in this complete brain lock.  I can’t think of anything!  I know when I least expect it, something will come to me. I would like to know how someone thought of the cronut — just brilliant.  Come on, who wouldn’t love a croissant that ran into a donut.

So needless to say, I was super excited when my good friend emailed me about the Scuffins that she found in the New York Times.  For some reason I keep wanting to call them Scruffins, but they are a combination of scones and muffins – so there you have it. These sounded amazing, but seriously, these were really made for me.  As I stood in the pantry trying to decide which type of jam I would use, I suddenly felt like this is what I had been waiting for.  I ended up using some Damson Plum Jam and Strawberry Vanilla Jam.  Both excellent choices.

They came out wonderfully – they were slightly heavier than muffins, though slightly lighter than scones.  My daughter was super excited about having breakfast treats, and rationed them out.  She warmed them up for a few seconds in the microwave each morning, and she said they were great.  So, there goes another one – there must be more – what about a cookcake? A cookie meets a cupcake?  Or maybe it should be called a cakie?

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter (2 ounces), plus 2 tablespoons for buttering muffin cups
  • 1 cup whole-wheat flour (4 1/2 ounces)
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour (3 ounces)
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon flaxseed meal or wheat germ (1 ounce)
  • 3 tablespoons light brown or raw sugar (2 ounces), plus extra for sprinkling
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup whole milk
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup fruit jam, conserves, preserves or fruit butter (do not use jelly or marmalade)

Preparation

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a microwave or over very gentle heat. Using a pastry brush, butter the cups of a standard-size (3 1/2-ounce-capacity) 12-cup muffin tin. Let each coat of butter cool, then apply another coat; continue until the 2 tablespoons are all used.

In a mixing bowl, combine dry ingredients. Meanwhile, melt remaining 4 tablespoons butter, add to dry ingredients and mix with a fork until just combined.
In another bowl, whisk together egg, milk and cream. Add to dry ingredients and mix to combine (the dough will be quite sticky).

Reserving about a quarter of the dough for topping, scoop 2 tablespoons dough into each cup. Using the back of a spoon, press dough gently down into the cups. The dough will move up the sides, and there should be a shallow well in each dough cup. Don’t worry if the dough doesn’t come all the way up to the top; there should be about 1/2 inch of space between the top of the dough and the rim of the cup.

Spoon about 1 tablespoon jam into each well. Using your fingers, pinch remaining dough into small clumps and scatter evenly over the jam in each cup, making a bumpy topping. Sprinkle sugar over the tops.
Bake 20 to 25 minutes, or until browned. Let cool in the pan on a rack; run a blade around the sides of each scuffin before turning out.
Yield 12 scuffins

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Fruit-Filled Scuffins

Chocolate Chip Ricotta Scones

Chocolate Chip Ricotta Scones

Here we are back to breakfast.  My daughter got sick of the banana bread that I made every week for the past month.  The good news is that I finally used up the huge bag of frozen bananas we had in the freezer.  So of course I got the question on Sunday morning, “What am I going to eat for breakfast this week?”  I guess cereal was not the answer she was looking for.  Why is it that they can listen to the same song over and over again, but they get sick of my wonderful banana bread after a month?

To digress just for a moment, for some reason as I was looking at these beautiful scones typing away, the song Waltzing Matilda came into my head.  Why?  I have no idea how my mind works sometimes.  But nevertheless, it did.  I started singing the song, and asked my husband if he remembered it – of course he did.  We only listened to it about 100,000 times – it was on a Dan Zanes album that the girls absolutely loved when they were little.  And if you have small kids, you know that when they enjoy a song in the car – you keep playing it.  When I Binged it – the first YouTube video that was listed was by Slim Dusty.  Wow.  What a blast from the past.  My husband and I were in the office singing at the top of our lungs – of course intriguing my older daughter who was trying to finish up her homework, and all of a sudden the three of us were in the office having a little sing-a-long.  Gotta love that song…

Back to the scones – so needless to say, cereal was not going to cut it – fortunately Cooking Light came to the rescue – with some very interesting looking scones.  I adapted them to fit my daughter’s tastes – which of course has to include some chocolate.  These scones were soft and flakey and absolutely delicious.  She actually rationed them out so they lasted the entire week.  Just 30 seconds in the microwave was all they needed in the morning, and they were as fresh as can be.  Let’s see how many weeks in a row she can eat these – surely not as long as Waltzing Matilda – but maybe longer than banana bread?

Ingredients

  • 1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese (such as Calabro)
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar, divided
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon fat-free buttermilk, divided
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 4.5 ounces whole-grain pastry flour (about 1 cup)
  • 3.4 ounces unbleached all-purpose flour (about 3/4 cup)
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, diced
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon turbinado sugar

Preparation

Preheat oven to 425°.

Combine ricotta cheese, 1 tablespoon sugar, and vanilla in a medium bowl. Reserve 1/2 cup of the ricotta mixture. Add 1/3 cup buttermilk and canola oil to remaining ricotta mixture, stirring until smooth.

Weigh or lightly spoon flours into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flours, remaining 3 tablespoons sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl; cut in butter with a pastry blender or 2 knives until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add chocolate chips; toss. Add buttermilk mixture; stir just until combined.

Turn dough onto a counter lighted dusted with flour.  Pat into a 1 inch thick circle, and then cut into eight wedges shaped pieces. Combine egg and remaining 1 tablespoon buttermilk, stirring with a whisk. Gently brush top and sides of dough with egg mixture. Sprinkle with turbinado sugar.

Bake at 425° for 15 to 16 minutes or until golden. Remove from pan; cool slightly on a wire rack. Beat the reserved ricotta mixture at medium speed 3 minutes or until fluffy. Serve with warm scones if you would like.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Chocolate Chip Ricotta Scones

Chocolate Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Chocolate Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting 2

It is not often that I get to go all out on desserts.  Mostly it is when I am baking for others – which hasn’t happen very much lately.  Maybe because we are just so darn busy??  Yes, I think that is exactly it.  Combine that with the fact that we have even been too busy to go to book club, and my baking has definitely suffered.  Now, one would say that is a good thing, but in our house, I think the girls were starting to get discouraged.  Cookies for lunch is one thing, but a real dessert is something else.  There is also something to be said for a multi-layer cake.  It somehow gives you the impression that you are getting more dessert than usual.  Two pieces of cake instead of one – and yes, since it is hard to cut very small pieces of a tall cake – that is exactly what happens.

So last week we actually able to make it to book club, and I happened to see the email asking people what they wanted to bring rather quickly – so the stars aligned for me to make that double layer cake the girls had been eyeing for months in my recipe stack.  This was one that I found in Cooking Light - but it was in their favorites edition.  Well, are you surprised?  Chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting?  What could be better?  Even if you screw up on the cake, the frosting is so over the top delicious, it can hide any disasters that might happen.

The cake was slightly dry, but as I mentioned, the cream cheese frosting covered that up completely.  This was no ordinary cream cheese frosting either – it had a cup of marshmallow cream – which made it even fluffier.  Of course there was a little left over after I frosted it, and I just couldn’t help myself.  I swear, I would be fine if someone just served me a bowl of cream cheese frosting for dessert…  I also gave a spoon to my younger daughter, who basically devoured it in a matter of seconds.  So here’s to double layer cakes…which offer you double the pleasure – particularly when it has a cream cheese frosting on top!

Ingredients

Cake:

  • 1/4 cup Dutch process cocoa
  • 1/3 cup boiling water
  • 1 1/2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 6.7 ounces cake flour (about 1 2/3 cups)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup nonfat buttermilk
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 3  large egg whites
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • Baking spray with flour (such as Baker’s Joy)

Frosting:

  • 3/4 cup (6 ounces) cream cheese, softened
  • 1  (8-ounce) package 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened
  • 2 tablespoons cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 cup marshmallow cream

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350°.

To prepare cake, combine first 3 ingredients in a small bowl; let stand 1 minute. Stir until smooth; set aside.

Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a bowl, stirring with a whisk. Place granulated sugar, buttermilk, and oil in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at low speed until blended. Add chocolate mixture; beat at low speed 1 minute. Add flour mixture; beat at low speed just until combined.

Combine egg whites and cream of tartar in a medium bowl. Using clean, dry beaters, beat egg white mixture with a mixer at high speed until stiff peaks form (do not overbeat). Gently stir one-third of egg white mixture into chocolate mixture. Fold in remaining egg white mixture. Divide the batter evenly between 2 (8-inch) round metal cake pans coated with baking spray. Bake at 350° for 18 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out with moist crumbs clinging. Cool for 10 minutes in pans on a wire rack. Remove cake from pans, and cool completely on wire rack.

To prepare frosting, place cream cheeses, 2 tablespoons flour, vanilla, and 1/8 teaspoon salt in a large bowl. Beat with a mixer at medium speed for 2 minutes or until smooth. Add powdered sugar; beat 1 minute or until well combined. Gently stir in marshmallow cream just until combined.

Place 1 cake layer on a plate; spread with 1 cup frosting, leaving a 1/2-inch border around edge. Top with remaining cake layer. Spread remaining frosting over top and sides of cake. Refrigerate the cake until ready to serve.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Chocolate Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Mocha Cake with Fluffy Frosting

Mocha Cake with Fluffy Frosting

I have a little bit of a split personality when it comes to following recipes.  I am either all in, or not at all.  For the most part when it comes to baking, I follow the recipe completely – unless I really know what I am getting myself into, and feel completely comfortable with the substitutions.  For example, I am pretty confident now in my ability to substitute coconut milk for milk in pretty much any cake.  When it comes to cooking, there are no rules – and I am always making little changes here and there.

It was time to get back into my dairy-free baking mode – and what better to do that with than a chocolate cake.  My husband’s favorite dessert is a big chocolate cake – and it had been a while since I had made one.  I found this recipe in Cooking Light - and for some reason the title really got me.  Who doesn’t love fluffy frosting?  If you know me at all, I am not a frosting person – unless it has cream cheese in it – or it is marshmallow.  I read the ingredients, and this was neither – but I couldn’t get past the fluffy frosting.

The recipe – which I copied exactly below – called for a 9×13 pan.  Ordinarily I wouldn’t have thought twice, but for some reason I thought that a double layer cake might be even better.  We were having friends for dinner, and I figured it would be nicer to serve – so I found the 8″ round cake pans.  It didn’t hit me until I was making the frosting – of course, there is no way this can be a double layer cake.  This truly is FLUFFY FROSTING that will just sink if I layer another cake on top.  Duh.  So I ended up freezing one of the cakes, and just using the other and mounding the frosting on top. Of course that didn’t impact the taste what so ever – this cake was as moist as can be – and the fluffy frosting was like biting into a cloud.  I drizzled some caramel on top that I had brought back from Paris, and boy was this delicious.  Maybe my way was the right way – now I have another one in the freezer just waiting for an opportunity to pile some clouds on top…a little slice of heaven.

Cooking Light

Ingredients

Cake:

  • 9 ounces unbleached all-purpose flour (about 2 cups)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup canola mayonnaise (such as Hellmann’s)
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 cup hot strong brewed coffee
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • Cooking spray

Topping:

  • 9 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 6 large egg whites
  • 1/3 cup light chocolate syrup

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350°.

To prepare cake, weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour and next 6 ingredients (through 1/2 teaspoon salt) in a large bowl. Add mayonnaise and oil; beat with a mixer at low speed until well blended. Slowly add brewed coffee and vanilla; beat with a mixer at low speed 1 minute or until well blended. Stir in chocolate chips; pour batter into a 13 x 9-inch metal baking pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack.

To prepare meringue, combine 9 tablespoons sugar and next 3 ingredients in the top of a double boiler. Cook over simmering water 2 minutes or until candy thermometer registers 150°, stirring constantly with a whisk. Remove from heat. Beat egg mixture with a mixer at medium speed until soft peaks form; beat at high speed until stiff peaks form. Spread meringue over cake. Store cake, loosely covered, in refrigerator. Drizzle each serving with 1 teaspoon chocolate syrup.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Mocha Cake with Fluffy Frosting

Red Velvet Whoopie Pies

Red Velvet Whoopie Pies

My grandmother was 100% goodness.  There is really no other way to describe her.  She was beautiful – no stunning; she was quiet yet always had something to say; she was very strong, although she didn’t have a lot of will power when it came to sweets – which always cracked me up.  I spent a lot of time with my grandmother, and I always enjoyed it – in fact, I longed to be at her house with her.  She offered me advice from time to time, but like a good grandmother, mostly she just loved and supported me unconditionally.  In my life, she was a strong force of stability.

I have so many good memories over the years – her calming voice, her endless love of flowers (which I did not inherit), watching her play bridge with her friends or having a glass of Scotch before dinner, spending endless days at the beach then having her get the aloe plant for my very red body – it goes on and on.  She was a great traveler – and was very adventurous.  When most of her friends were spending their winters in Florida, she and my grandfather would go to Portugal.  About 12 years ago she wanted to go to Alaska, so I told her I would go with her.  We had a great week together and even went on some fun excursions – she was over 80 at the time, but that didn’t stop her.  She was incredibly active most of her life – and it inspired me.  I remember that my goal when I was younger was just to be able to keep up with her.  I remember the day when I started walking faster than her, and it made me sad.  When my daughters were born, she came out to Seattle to help – again, she was over 80 at the time.  The girls loved her – and she loved them.  I can still see her smile as she stared at them – even just watching them eat made her happy.

Sweets were just about her only vice that I knew of – my grandfather died when I was in high school – and he was diabetic.  She hid just about anything with sugar from him – and after he passed away, she was free to eat what she wanted.  I never saw her go nuts, but she would tell me stories about how she couldn’t keep ice-cream in the freezer because she would eat it all.  She always kept baked goods in the freezer just in case she happened to entertain – and she would wrap them tightly and in multiple layers – just another way to make it difficult for her to indulge.  She was never overweight – so I had a hard time believing she really had a problem – which made it somewhat funny to think about.

This year for my younger daughter’s birthday (which was on Thanksgiving), she had a very specific request – Red Velvet Whoopie Pies.  She loves her cream cheese frosting – and she wanted to make it clear that this dessert was all birthday and not about Thanksgiving.  She loved helping me find a good recipe on Annie’s Eats.  I remember telling my grandmother on the phone what I was going to make for her birthday, and she wasn’t quite sure what I was talking about – once I explained them to her – she told me they sounded delicious. I know she would have loved them – but what she would have loved more was watching my daughter devour hers.

When I saw my grandmother this summer, I remember I gave her an extra big hug when I said goodbye.  For some reason I knew it might be the last time.  Unfortunately I was right, but she was ready to go.  All I could think of when I hugged her frail body is that she will always be 100% goodness.

Ingredients

For the cookies:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp. cocoa powder
  • ½ tsp. baking powder
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 8 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • ½ cup buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 1 oz. red food coloring

For the frosting:

  • 8 oz. cream cheese
  • 5 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2½ cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted

Preparation

Preheat the oven to 375˚ F.  Using a circular template (biscuit cutter), trace evenly spaced circles onto pieces of parchment paper sized to fit two cookie sheets. Place the parchment on the cookie sheets so that the side you have drawn on is facing down; set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt.  In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and brown sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Beat in the egg until incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.  Blend in the vanilla.  With the mixer on low speed, beat in about a third of the dry ingredients, followed by half of the buttermilk, beating each addition just until incorporated.  Repeat so that all the buttermilk has been added and then mix in the final third of dry ingredients.  Do not overbeat.  Blend in the food coloring.

Transfer the batter to a pastry bag fitted with a large plain round tip.  Pipe the batter onto the parchment paper using the heart tracings as a guide.  Bake 7-9 minutes or until the tops are set, rotating the baking sheets halfway through.  Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheets at least 10 minutes, until they can be easily transferred to a cooling rack.  Repeat with any remaining batter.  Allow cookies to cool completely before proceeding.

To make the cream cheese frosting, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment beat the cream cheese and butter on medium-high speed until well combined and smooth, about 2-3 minutes.  Mix in the vanilla extract.  Gradually beat in the confectioners’ sugar until totally incorporated, increase the speed and then beat until smooth.

Transfer the frosting to a clean pastry bag fitted with a plain, round tip.  Pair the cookies up by shape and size.  Flip one cookie of each pair over so that the flat side is facing up.  Pipe frosting onto the flat-sided cookie of each pair, leaving the edges clear.  Sandwich the cookies together so the flat sides are facing each other and press gently to help the filling reach the edges.  To store, refrigerate in an airtight container.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Red Velvet Whoopie Pies