Category Archives: Desserts

strawberry custard cassata cake

Hello. Welcome to delicious town. Mayor: this cake.

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But before I take you to delicious town, let me first tell you about my day in crazy town. Today was one of those days, where, oh, I don’t know…I couldn’t stop laughing. I mean…at all. Not when I almost got hit by the big van in the grocery store parking lot. Not when I nearly burnt the house up in flames. Not even when I woke up at 7 AM on a day where I am clearly supposed to sleep-in. I was giddy, and that was that.

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We had a nice little pre-Mother’s Day dinner for my mom tonight, complete with flank steak, parsnip mashed potatoes (recipe tomorrow), grilled veggies, and grilled corn on the cob. I corrected my dad when he complimented this cake that I made. (THIS CAKE! We’ll talk about that in a second). He mentioned that it turned out really good, where (being the English major brat that I am), I said he meant really well. I was 80% joking, but my brother pointed out something along the lines of how fun English majors are to hang out with. Can’t say I blame the man. Minutes later, mom said she could eat boat-loads of the grilled corn we had made…which, of course, in response dad says: “Ship-loads, honey. It’s actually ship-load.”

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THEN. Nearing the end of the evening. I was sitting in the middle of the kitchen floor (normal) strumming worship songs on the guitar, when I catch a glimpse of my brother making non-denominational worship signals (they’re a thing) out of the corner of my eye. I made the mistake of trying to continue, which turned into me laughing SO hard that I slammed my guitar on the floor and got my dog (who was laying at the other end of the hall) all rialed up. My lack of gracefulness is troubling, and I won’t even mention the puddles I made while whipping cream tonight.

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But this cake. WOW. It means business. The original recipe calls for about 12 hours of commitment. [Ummm…what?] But I’m me. So ‘me’ cut that down to four, which I will share with you how to do.

A cassata cake requires multiple steps…but believe me when I tell you that this is the greatest-tasting complexity that you will ever have. Just look at it. *drool*. And actually, it wasn’t even bad to make–coming from me (I have cake problems) that says a lot.

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You might wonder what kind of crazy person would spend more than two hours assembling and baking a cake. But what makes this cake so madly delicious is simple: 1) It is filled with homemade custard; 2) Each spongey layer is topped with strawberry juice and macerated strawberries; 3) The batter is prepared using a hint of lemon zest and whipped egg whites (mm, hello, fluffy town!); and 4) It is frosted with a homemade whipped cream (which was almost easier to make than a slice of toast).

Everything about this cake is a party. I’m telling you. If you don’t have a reason to make it, find one. Or bring it to my house. I live in Michigan (and in crazy town, obviously).

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Strawberry Custard Cassata Cake

Yields: 2 9-inch pans; Prep time: 1 hour; Total time: ~4 hours (best if prepared overnight)

CAKE LAYERS

2 1/4 cup cake flour

1 1/4 cup sugar

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

3/4 cup cold water

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1 tsp. lemon zest, grated

1 tsp. vanilla

5 large egg yolks, room temp

8 large egg whites, room temp

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 tsp. cream of tartar

CUSTARD 

6 large egg yolks (*FYI, this recipe requires a total of 11 eggs)

1/2 cup sugar

2 cups half and half

3 tbsp. cornstarch

STRAWBERRIES

2 pounds strawberries

2 tbsp. sugar

WHIPPED CREAM

3 cups very chilled heavy cream

1.5 tbsp. sugar

First, make the custard (you can do this the night before, or buy from a bakery). Whisk together all of the custard ingredients in a  saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-low heat, whisking constantly. Simmer until thick, 1-2 minutes (it’s quick). Store in fridge in a lidded bowl for at least 3 hours (up to 2 days).

Preheat oven to 325 F. Line the bottom of two 9-inch pans with parchment and spray with cooking spray.

Sift twice together flour, 1 1/4 cup flour, baking powder, and salt. In a separate bowl, mix together yolks, water, oil, zest, and vanilla on low speed until smooth. Stir in flour mixture.

Clean the beaters and flour bowl, and mix egg whites and cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Add 1/4 cup sugar and beat until stiff (but not dry) peaks form. Fold this into the rest of the batter, very gently. Try your best to not deflate the egg whites. Divide the batter into prepared pans (will be quite full) and bake 35 minutes, until cakes spring back when slightly touched.

Allow cakes to cool for 45 minutes. Slide knife around edges; carefully flip onto wax paper. Remove parchment slowly. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate both cakes at least one hour (preferably 3–this will make slicing them in half easier). While cakes refrigerate, slice strawberries (about 1/4 inch thick) and sprinkle with sugar. Allow to sit for one hour or more. Strain the juice (will be using this to brush the cakes later).

After cakes have refrigerated about two hours, prepare the whipped cream by putting heavy cream and sugar into a cool bowl (I put mine in the fridge for a half hour, but that is not necessary). Whisk by hand or use a mixer on high, until stiff peaks form.

Using a long, serrated knife, carefully slice each cake in half to create 4 layers. Put the first layer on your serving plate. Brush with generous amounts of strawberry juice, spread with custard, and place a single layer of strawberries on top of the custard–I placed the thicker slices of strawberry toward the outer edge and the thinner toward the middle, to avoid the ‘humped’ cake effect. I also put the custard in a piping bag and piped thick circles around the cake for easy spreading, taking off the access with a spreading knife.

Put the next cake layer on, pressing gently, and repeat previous steps. I picked up the top halves by hand, but used the wax paper that the other cake halves were on and used that to help me flip it onto the cake. The cakes should be pretty resilient, but try to be careful as possible not to break them (believe me, it’s happened more times than I can count). When you put on the final layer, make sure the nice side is facing up and brush off any crumbs with your fingers.

Apply a generous amount of whipped cream to the top of the cake and, using a spreader, work it across the top and over the sides. The more you put on, the better. You can always scrape it off as you go, but the more you have on the less likely it will be for crumbs to show through. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour (original recipe says 8), for cake to absorb the juices. Enjoy this!

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Filed under Birthdays, Cakes, Christmas, Desserts, Father's Day, Fourth of July, Mother's Day, Summer Dishes

peanut butter cookies with salted chocolate

I don’t know whether or not this is crossing the line we’ve established…but I completely drooled on myself while eating one of these the other day.

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Yes I know. I am gross.

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In my defense, I don’t do this regularly. Does it help at all if I say that? Probably not.

At least, now you know that they’re good. And worthy of salivating all over your arm.

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Even though drooling on myself is a huge perk, I love making peanut butter cookies simply because they remind me of my grandma. There are many little kitchen memories that my brothers and I remember about her–like the cinnamon candies she would put in our oatmeal, the way she served our grilled cheese with a side of powdered sugar, and how she would convince me to eat my sandwich crusts by telling me it would make my hair curl. She also reinforced (via song) that peas and carrots do make you grow, and taught me how to clean dishes using a preferred wash tub.

A memory I particularly remember, however, is the criss-cross pattern atop the peanut butter cookies we would bake together. She would scoop out the dough, hand me a fork, and allow me to magically create the intricate ‘x’ that peanut butter cookies usually wear.

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After the smell of warm cookies filled each corner of the house, we would dunk our treats into two huge glasses of milk. I usually dunked my tiny hand in there with it. And though I can’t speak for her myself, I think my sweet-toothed Grandma Emma would have definitely given me the go-ahead with this sweet and salty combination I’ve added to her famous recipe.

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Peanut Butter Cookies

Yields 3 dozen

1 cup spry (shortening)

1/2 tsp. salt

1 cup creamy peanut butter

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup brown sugar

2 eggs beaten

1 Tbsp. milk

2 cups flour, sifted

1 tsp. baking soda

10 ounces of bittersweet (dark) chocolate

coarse sea salt

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Combine spry, peanut butter, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add sugars and cream together. Add eggs and milk until well combined. Gently mix in flour and soda.

Drop by the teaspoon onto a sheet covered in parchment paper (or coated in spry). Press with a fork in an ‘x’ shape. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Transfer cookies to a cooling rack.

Meanwhile, heat chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl for 30 seconds at a time, stirring in between, until melted. Dip cooled cookies, or spread over cookies using a spoon. Sprinkle immediately with sea salt and let cool on sheets of parchment paper for up to 1 hour (I popped mine in the fridge for a few minutes). Store in an air-tight container for up to one week, or store in freezer for up to one month.

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Filed under Cookies, Desserts

blueberry & cream cookies

Dear goodness. Is this real life? These things are more addictive than pop music and lip balm.

I first heard about Momofuku cookies while working at Williams-Sonoma. They sell Momofuku’s corn cookie, compost cookie, and blueberry and cream cookie mixes. I had been wanting to try them ever since I set eyes on them in October…blueberries and cream just sounded so delicious to me (for obvious reasons). But cripe. I didn’t realize these would make me gain forty pounds upon consumption.

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I couldn’t bring myself to spend $16 on one box of mix (each makes only 12 cookies), so I went the homemade route. And between the dried blueberries, glucose, and other atypical ingredients, I may have spent close to $16. But I like the certainty of being able to whip up a second batch when I want to. FREEEDOM.

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The recipe is a bit…weird, as far as measurements go. It does call for 2 teaspoons of salt, which, er,  is a lot. Even for me. And probably even for Ms. Butter-lover Deen. But don’t change it. The salt brings out the sweetness of the white chocolate and creates a  sweet/salty flavor combo that’s just really awesome.

milk crumbs

To make these cookies you have to make them in two parts. The first part requires assembling the milk crumbs. Essentially, the milk crumbs are dry milk powder coated in white chocolate (–with cornstarch, flour, and melted butter added to crumble them up). This mixture bakes for about 8 minutes and you can store it in the fridge while you prepare the dough. This extra step may seem like a waste of time, but, it’s a very delicious waste of time.

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To make the dough, you simple start of blending your sugars, butter, and glucose (which is basically just very thick corn syrup. I was amazed by how thick it was. It would be amazing as a bug catcher).  Then add your egg. Flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Stir in your blueberries and milk crumbles and YAY. You’re done.

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These are meant to make 14 whopper-sized cookies. I didn’t make mine so whopper, and this was because my dough was sort of crumbly. I’m not sure if it’s because I didn’t use a paddle attachment to mix, or what, but…the were. I still enjoyed the texture and, of course, the taste. Yum. But I was a little bummed out about the crumbs. I had to vacuum my floor. A lot.

Blueberry-and-Cream Cookies 

Yields: 14 cookies, Recipe courtesy of Christina Tosi at Momofuku Milk Bar

For the milk crumbs:

1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon nonfat milk powder (I used Carnation)

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1 1/2 teaspoons sugar

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1/4 cup white chocolate, melted

Preheat oven to 225 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together 2 tablespoons plus 1 1/2 teaspoons milk powder, flour, cornstarch, sugar, and salt. Stir in melted butter until well combined. Spread mixture on prepared baking sheet and transfer to oven. Bake until dried and crumbly, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove milk crumble from oven and let cool completely.

Transfer milk crumble to a large bowl and fold in remaining 2 tablespoons plus 1 1/2 teaspoons milk powder and white chocolate. Use immediately or transfer to an airtight container and keep refrigerated until ready to use.

For the cookie:

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/8 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons salt

1 cup unsalted butter (Christina uses Plugra)

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons light-brown sugar

1/4 cup glucose (You can get this for about $5 from Wilton)

1 large egg

3/4 cup dried blueberries

1/2 cup plus 1/3 cup milk crumbs

Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper; set aside.

In a large bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment mix together butter, sugars, and glucose until well combined. Add egg and mix until well combined.

Add flour mixture and mix until well combined. Add blueberries and milk crumbs and mix until well combined. Using an ice cream scoop about 2 1/8 inches in diameter, scoop dough into balls and place about 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Transfer baking sheets to refrigerator until dough is chilled, about 15 minutes. Transfer baking sheets to oven and bake, rotating pans halfway through baking, until cookies are golden brown and tops begin to crackle, about 15 minutes. Transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool.

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Filed under Cookies, Desserts