Category Archives: Cakes

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

once-a-month gooey mug cake

What I’m about to reveal is better than anything you ladies could have ever imagined–like an unknown color that your brain cannot possibly try to fathom. As of now, you have no idea. Yet every woman should.

Brace yourself, Susie.

(men, this is your cue to return to espn.com)

I call this “once-a-month cake” simply because “PMS cake” didn’t have the aesthetic appeal I was looking for, but really this cake is PMS relief in it’s truest form (after bubble baths, Midol, and chamomile tea).

Picture this: you’re hormonal…you’re cramping…you’re turning your nose up at broccoli and craving every variety of chocolate in all of their chocolatey-est forms…you consider baking a cake, but know that if you do you’ll be spending the next week devouring your car’s weight in chocolate calories…you decide that instead of getting fat, you’ll turn to a miraculous alternative: an individual mug cake made from three on-hand ingredients.

And the Lord’s people said amen.

Gone in 60 seconds, baked in 50. Its construction is simple, yet its inner workings are genius.

(Basically, it’s rocket science in a cup.)

It’s so thrifty that Bill Nye has allegedly been jailed for claiming the recipe as his own; Alton Brown has locked himself out of his kitchen out of the sheer disappointment that he did not think of the brilliant idea himself; and Ina Garden is supposedly suing the cake’s creator due to infringements on her trade marked slogan, “How easy is that?”

But don’t look at me. I’m honest 100% of the time.

Chocolate Mug Cake

(Yields 1 mug cake — posted by Brooke McClay on Family Kitchen)

1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar

2 tbs. unsweetened cocoa powder

1 egg

Crack egg into mug and add remaining ingredients. Whisk until combined (mixture will be thick). Microwave for 45 seconds (careful that it doesn’t overflow)–do not overcook! Sprinkle immediately with any toppings you desire–sprinkles, chocolate chips, whipped cream, candy pieces, ice cream, or sweetened condensed milk. I wish you luck if yours lasts longer than 1 minute.

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Filed under Cakes, Desserts

dark chocolate and raspberry buttercream cake with ganache drizzle

This cake just looks good enough to eat, doesn’t it? Well good, I’m glad that you agree. Otherwise, I’d be thinking that your eyes are smaller than your stomach, and well, we all know that ain’t right.

This six-pound beast of a cake (or shall I say beauty?) is currently renting an entire shelf in our refrigerator at the cost of one slice per hour. And considering that almost half of it has already been devoured, my guess is it’s only a matter of days before the platter is left with nothing but crumbs and possible traces of our dog’s trouble-making–and no, I’m not ashamed. I will, however, be ashamed if I weigh 5 pounds heavier at the end of the week than I did on Monday, as that does not make for an ideal birthday gift to oneself.

Time to amp up the carb-crushing cardio (or perhaps some intense birthday shopping will suffice).

If I didn’t just give it away, it was my birthday recently. Just yesterday, my twin brother John and I shared our 22nd birthday together, and yes, to celebrate I baked this monstrosity for an army of, well, four–but it was pretty awesome having a cake the size of a toolbox sitting on our patio table.

I have to say, I was slightly skeptical about baking this, as I am with most every other cake I attempt. Sure, I started off with high hopes and expectations like I usually do, but I know myself much too well to assume that this was going to turn out exactly as I had planned; most of my layered confections turn out looking like the leaning tower of “my-bad!”, and this one was hardly an exception.

But alas, I pressed on.

Aside from its little imperfections and slightly off-centered stature, I have to say I was pleased with the way that it came out. And as much as I hate to admit that I sneaked a piece of this at 11 o’clock tonight, I must tell you guys that it tasted even better than it did the day before, which gives you something to look forward to. I guess that’s just what happens when you pair a beautiful, raspberry sundae-inspired delicacy with true, creamy vanilla ice cream–magic happens (as well as some addictive tendencies, milk-consumption, diner’s remorse, and many pathetic sprints up and down the stairs). Enjoy this one!

Chocolate Sheet Cake 

(Fills one 13x18x1 sheet cake — recipe adapted from the amazing SweetaPolita)

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

2 2/3 cups sugar

2 3/4 teaspoon baking soda

2 3/4 teaspoon baking powder

1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I use Ghiradelli)

1 3/4 teaspoons salt

150 ml vegetable oil

280 ml buttermilk

4 eggs

260 ml hot coffee

2 tablespoons of vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 F. Coat the bottom & edges of a baking sheet (bakers half sheet 13 x 18 x 1) with baking spray and add a layer of parchment paper to the bottom. Dust it all with flour, tapping out the excess. In bowl of electric mixer, sift all dry ingredients. Add all remaning ingredients to bowl with the dry ingredients and mix for 2 minutes on medium speed. Pour into prepared pan (batter will be liquidy).

Bake for about 25 minutes in convectional oven. Cake is done when toothpick or skewer comes barely clean. Do not to overbake!! I tend to underbake a few minutes so the skewer is still slightly gooey. Cool on a wire rack in pan.

This cake recipe is sturdy, yet moist.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream

(Makes about 10 cups — from Martha Stewart)

10 large egg whites

2 cups plus 4 tbs. superfine granulated sugar (I use Domino)

2 pounds (8 sticks) unsalted butter, softened, cut into tablespoons

4 tsp. pure vanilla extract

1/4 tsp. salt

Wipe the bowl of an electric mixer with paper towel and vinegar, to remove any trace of grease. Add egg whites and sugar,  and simmer over a pot of water, whisking constantly, until sugar has completely dissolved and the egg whites are hot.

Remove from stove. Starting on low, begin to whip with mixer until the mixture is thick, glossy, and cool; about 10 minutes on medium-high. Then, while mixing on medium speed continously, add softened butter in chunks one tablespoon at a time until incorporated, and mix until it has reached a silky smooth texture.  Add vanilla and salt, mix well, and 1/2 pint or more of fresh raspberries (pureed if you don’t like the textured effect). Add raspberries just before utilizing the buttercream. Save some frosting (without raspberries) for crumbing coating.

This frosting also freezes well for 6-8 weeks. Let sit at room temperature overnight to thaw, and rewhip in the morning.

Chocolate Ganache Drizzle

9 oz bittersweet chocolate chips (I use Ghiradelli again)

1 cup heavy cream (small carton)

Place the chocolate into a medium bowl. Heat the cream in a small sauce pan over medium heat. Bring just to a boil, watching very closely that it doesn’t boil out of the pot. Pour over the chocolate, whisking until smooth. Allow the ganache to cool slightly before pouring over a cake, otherwise the cake will melt.

Assembly

1. I let my cake sit in the pan overnight, and covered it with plastic wrap after it had cooled. I then cut it in half using a serrated bread knife and chilled each half in freezer for 30 minutes or until firm (cake will still be slightly sticky).

2. Cut those halves also in half, so that you have the longest possible rectangle.

3. Place 1st layer face up on whatever you choose to serve the cake on and spread about 1/2″ thick layer of buttercream on top. Place the send face down. Repeat with the following 2, placing your final layer face down. Cover with plastic wrap loosely, and chill for about 15 minutes in freezer or 30 minutes in refrigerator.

4. Crumb coat: coat cake with thin layer of (plain) buttercream using a small spatula. *Always start at the top of a cake, working your way down.* Freeze 10-15 more minutes to set buttercream.

5. Using clean tools, add a generous layer of buttercream on top, working it over the edges and then finish the sides. Chill the cake for as long as you need, but at least 15 minutes to set the frosting.

4. Drizzle your warm ganache over the top so it seeps down the sides. Be careful not to use too much, there will be some leftover! I used a small metal spatula to smooth it over the top. Chill to set.

5. Decorate however you like and wipe down platter with wet paper towel. Take cake out of fridge a couple hours prior to serving. Enjoy!

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Filed under Birthdays, Cakes, Desserts, Summer Dishes