Raspberry Bakewell Cake

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The thing that can make foreign foods inaccessible is when it has names that give no indication as to what is inside of it. What is a Cornish pasty? What is a Gur cake? What is a Bakewell tart?

My first taste of a Bakewell tart, a traditionally English confection, was actually in Ireland. My Connemara day tour took a pitstop at Kylemore Abbey where I had a light bite at the attached cafe. I was intrigued by all the mouthwatering treats on display, but wanted to try something outside of the scone box. My eye was drawn to the Bakewell traybake, primarily because it had a sticker next to its label indicating that it was the winner of a local baking competition. They were squares with a dense, powdery-looking yellow filling on a crust, topped with caramelized sliced almonds. I took a gamble, and gave that a try, even though I’ve found that my mileage tends to vary with non-chocolatey, fruit/nut-based desserts.

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Bakewell tart from Kylemore Abbey

Upon tasting it, it felt like a blast from the past. It tasted so familiar, yet I’ve never had a Bakewell tart before. I eventually realized that I was thinking of raspberry thumbprint cookies, which have the exact same almond-raspberry flavor profile but just in a different format. The frangipane filling (equal parts butter, sugar, and almond flour) was crumbly and almost shortbread-like, which was such a fascinating texture for me.

Ergo, I had to replicate this at home. I did some research, and I decided that before venturing into a full-on tart with a pastry crust, I would make a cake version of it. The cake version doesn’t have as much of a shortbready texture that I enjoyed so much, but as you can see, it still is a little more crumbly than it is cakey.

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I did make some tweaks to the BBC recipe I referenced: I used raspberry jam since I wanted a truer Bakewell flavor and texture, and was worried about a soggy cake. I also added lemon zest since I saw that in a few other recipes, and I felt that the recipe with the jam substitution was a little too sweet and could be cut with some citrus.

Several reviewers replaced the vanilla essence with almond extract, and I think that was a smart choice. Another swap I made was to use half cake flour and half all-purpose flour with 1 1/2 tsp of baking powder and a 1/2 tsp salt in place of the recommended self-raising flour. I learned that flour in the UK tends to be a little softer (i.e. less protein content) than flour in the US, so I wanted to make sure the cake retained a tender crumb. However, if all you have is all-purpose, I don’t think the cake will suffer very much at all.

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Raspberry Bakewell Cake
Adapted from BBC
Makes an 8 inch round cake

140g ground almond
140g unsalted butter, softened
140g granulated sugar
140g self-raising flour (or 70g all-purpose flour + 70g cake flour + 1 1/2 tsp baking powder + 1/2 tsp salt)
2 large eggs
1 tsp almond extract
Zest from 1 lemon (optional – if using, reduce salt in flour to 1/4 tsp)
3 tbsp or 65g raspberry jam (I just used as much as needed to spread a thin layer)
2 tbsp or 16g sliced almonds

1. Heat oven to 180C/355F and grease an 8 inch cake pan.
2. Cream butter and sugar in a stand mixer, then mix in almond, flour, eggs, lemon zest (if using) and almond extract until well combined.
3. Spread half the mix over the cake pan and smooth over the top. Spread the raspberry jam onto the cake mixture, then dollop the remaining cake mixture on top and roughly spread – you might find this easier to do with your fingers.
4. Scatter with flaked almonds and bake for 50 mins until golden. Cool and remove from the tin.

Red Velvet Cupcakes from Bobby Flay Throwdown

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After having a red velvet cupcake from Two Little Red Hens, my hankering for red velvet cupcakes was insatiable. It’s unfortunate how far away Two Little Red Hens is from my apartment, so it’s a rare treat that I have maybe a couple of times a year. I was desiring a red velvet cupcake up till a week after I had my first bite and had to quell the thirst immediately. For some inane reason there are no decent red velvet cupcakes within a ten block radius of my apartment.

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Making these cupcakes was also a bit of a triumph for me. My left hand had been bit by a dog in the last month, and the fracture I sustained with the inflexibility rendered by the deep scars meant I was still struggling to hold onto things with my hand, or carry heavy things.

These cupcakes are moist, and almost too oily for me. I think I had rather high standards after having a light and fluffy Two Little Red Hens cupcake, but well, I also don’t run a bakery. Other than that, the cupcake had a distinct red velvet taste – a balance between being tangy and cocoa-y. The frosting is creamy and delicious – I would suggest making sure it’s 100% lump-free before applying it onto your cupcake. I’d say these cupcakes aren’t deathly sweet and actually have a decent balance of flavor. I thought the batter was top-notch when I was licking it off the bowl, mmm.

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Red Velvet Cupcakes from Throwdown with Bobby Flay
Makes 14 cupcakes
Recipe from Cookie Madness

7 3/4 ounces all-purpose flour (1 3/4 cups minus a teaspoon)
1/2 teaspoons plus 1/8 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoons plus 1/8 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 cups vegetable oil
6.5 ounces granulated sugar (1 cup minus 1 tablespoon)
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons buttermilk (Jin: as a substitute, I used milk and a tablespoon of white vinegar, let it sit for five minutes to curdle and used that)
1 egg plus 2 tablespoons beaten egg
1 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon red food coloring
1/2 teaspoons plus 1/8 teaspoons vinegar
1/2 teaspoons plus 1/8 teaspoons vanilla
1 tablespoon water

For the cream cheese frosting:
6 oz cream cheese, room temperature
4 oz butter, room temperature
1/2 pound (1 ¾ cups) powdered sugar, sifted
3/4 vanilla extract

Preheat oven 350 degrees F.

Sift together flour, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder into a bowl and set aside.

With an electric mixer, beat oil, sugar, and buttermilk until combined. Add eggs, food coloring, vinegar, vanilla and water and mix well. Add the dry ingredients a little bit at a time and mix by hand until well mixed. Be sure not to overmix, or the batter will come out tough.

Line 14 cupcake cups with paper liners, scoop the batter into the liners dividing evenly (a little over halfway full) and bake at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes or until the toothpick comes out clean. Let cool.

For the cream cheese frosting:

Whip the butter and cream cheese together in a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment until creamed. Gradually add powdered sugar to the mixture and scrape down the bowl as needed. Add the vanilla and mix until combined.

Makes 14

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

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As a reluctant vegetable eater, I’d love any way I can sneak vegetable into my dessert. Summer is when zucchini is in abundance, and while I heartily enjoy a simply-seasoned zucchini roast, I’m actually a big fan of zucchini bread. The biggest reason why this is the case is because you barely taste the vegetable. It adds moisture and fiber while adding a touch of earthiness to an otherwise too-sweet confection. I don’t make zucchini bread more mainly because a) grating zucchini is so tiresome and b) I’m more of a cookie girl myself. Crunch over crumb!

I chose this recipe for its simplicity. There weren’t any funky ingredients that I didn’t already have in my pantry. Zucchini being as forgiving as a baking ingredient as it is, I added in about a 1/4 cup than the original recipe stipulated (didn’t want to waste that last nub of vegetable!) and reduced the oil needed. I also subbed half of the flour with Carol Fenster’s baking mix of 1 cup rice flour, 1/2-3/4 cup potato starch and ¼ cup tapioca starch. I also judge a recipe by the number of bowls I need to use, and this just used two. Yay for fewer dishes!

The texture of the cake ended up quite moist, if a tad too sweet. I may reduce the sugar by two to four tablespoons in the future. The cake didn’t have as much volume as I would have liked, but it was still appropriately fluffy and voluminous.

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Chocolate Zucchini Cake
From Cookie Madness
Makes 1 9×5 loaf pan

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (I used half gluten-free flour)
3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 1/2 tbsps cocoa powder
1/2 cups vegetable oil
1 3/4 cups grated zucchini
1/4 cup hand-chopped dark chocolate

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9×5 inch metal loaf pan.

Stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt; set aside.

Beat eggs with an electric mixer. Gradually add sugar and continue beating until light. Reduce speed of mixer and beat in vanilla, cocoa powder and oil. By hand, stir in the flour mixture. Fold in zucchini and chopped chocolate. Pour batter into pan.

Bake at 350° for 60 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan.

Dark Chocolate Rum Cake Balls

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I made some of these incredible chocolate rum cake balls for a work party and judging by how only two out of 60+ balls were left at the end of it, I’m guessing they were a big hit. Chocolate and booze just never goes wrong!

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As someone who prides herself on making things from scratch, I opted to make the chocolate cake and the glaze from scratch, even though I would be mashing them up into little balls later. The original recipe didn’t include rum, but I subbed some of the hot water that went into the cake with rum for some added booze. The cake itself was pretty darn delicious and moist and rich, but I knew I couldn’t just bring in a sheet cake to the party. No, that wouldn’t have been nearly as impressive nor delicious. I saved half the cake for non-party eating purposes, giving it away to appreciative friends who don’t get no homemade goodies all that often.

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As for the other half, I smushed it all up into little balls, while also throwing in some rum, heavy cream, and chocolate sauce, the proportions of which I eyeballed until the cake mixture became suitably compact.

While the original recipe called for a dark chocolate coating, I knew it was going to be a bit too bitter, so I used half milk chocolate and half dark chocolate instead. It was an excellent call.

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Dark Chocolate Rum Cake Balls
Adapted from Cookie Madness
Makes 60~ balls

Ingredients
1 3/4 cups (8 oz) all-purpose flour
2 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, natural type (try Dutch)
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup milk, room temperature
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup boiling water (or coffee)
1/2 cup rum

Ganache
3 ounces of chopped semisweet chocolate
3 ounces of heavy cream
6 oz milk chocolate
6 oz semisweet chocolate

Instructions
Preheat oven to 325 F. Spray a 13×9 inch pan with flour-added baking spray.
Mix together flour, sugar, cocoa, soda, baking powder and salt in large bowl. Add oil, milk, eggs and vanilla. Beat two minutes with electric mixer at medium speed. Stir in water and rum until blended. Batter will be thin.
Pour batter in the pan and bake for 45-50 minutes or until skewer or pick inserted comes out clean.
Let the cake sit in the pan for about 10 minutes, then carefully turn it from the Bundt.
Let the cake cool and then drizzle it with ganache. To make ganache, heat 3 ounces of heavy cream in microwave or saucepan. Pour over 3 oz chopped dark chocolate and stir until smooth. Let cool until thick enough to drizzle.

When you are ready to make the cake balls, set aside half the cake in a large mixing bowl. Mash up the cake. If you used all the ganache in the recipe, you won’t need any extra. Add rum, heavy cream and/or chocolate sauce until cake balls hold together. I recommend adding more rum than the other two ingredients.

Line a baking sheet with wax paper or parchment. Shape the scoops into smooth balls. Line the balls up on a tray, cover the with plastic wrap and put them in the freezer until firm.

In a chocolate melting pot, top of a double boiler or in the microwave, melt the milk and semisweet chocolate.

Dip cake balls into melted chocolate and lift with two forks, allowing extra chocolate to drip back into the pot. Put the balls on a wax paper lined cookie sheet to set.

Small Batch Gluten-Free Molten Lava Cake

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I’ve known in the back of my mind how simple molten lava cakes are to make, but can you believe that I’ve never actually attempted this half-baked ubiquitous restaurant concoction? Now I have. And it’s actually really easy! The small amount of flour involved also means that the quality of the cake wouldn’t suffer too much with the substitution of gluten-free flour.

I used a Paula Deen recipe, fully well knowing that it would be excessively rich, which is why I third the recipe to create two ramekins worth of molten lava cake instead of six. And even then, each portion was way too rich for me – I ate it in fits and starts, and each ramekin took approximately three tries to finish. Whew.

This is a one-bowl recipe with little clean-up, and can be modified to your liking depending on what kind of flavorings or extracts you want to include. Sub the vanilla essence with peppermint oil, and you get a melty, cakey, After Eights. Add a dash of paprika for an inexplicable tingle on the tongue. Just let your imagination guide you 🙂

Small Batch Gluten-Free Molten Lava Cake
Makes 2 6-oz ramekins
Adapted from Paula Deen

47g bittersweet chocolate
47g butter
20g all-purpose or gluten-free flour
1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 large egg
1 egg yolk
1/3 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 tablespoons orange liqueur (optional)
Directions
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Grease 2 (6-ounce) ramekins. Melt the chocolates and butter in the microwave, or in a double boiler. Add the flour and sugar to chocolate mixture. Stir in the eggs and yolks until smooth. Stir in the vanilla and orange liqueur. Divide the batter evenly among the ramekins. Place in the oven and bake for 14 minutes. The edges should be firm but the center will be runny. Run a knife around the edges to loosen and invert onto dessert plates.

Sachertorte – A Success

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About a year ago, I attempted my very first Sachertorte – a classic Austrian chocolate cake with an apricot jam filling and a chocolate glaze. Unfortunately, my version failed miserably. This cake is a really old-school recipe that doesn’t involve any chemical leavening, and since I didn’t have an electric mixer at the time, whipping egg whites into stiff peaks was an utter bitch by hand.

But things are different now. This recipe is in fact, quite a piece of cake with a stand mixer.

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My cake ended up with a tight crumb that was still light in texture, and soaked up all that rummy Stroh-apricot jam goodness. The chocolate cake itself is rather dry and not very sweet by itself, so liberal amounts of apricot jam mixed with rum (if you can use authentic 160 proof Stroh, even better) is imperative. Let the glaze harden and set before eating even though it might be tempting – I promise it will be worth the wait.

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I chose to go by Wolfgang Puck’s recipe because I knew he was Austrian, so he must know what he’s talking about. It didn’t fail me, but I have some edits that I made and I’ll recommend going forward.

  1. I used XL eggs, and hence just used an equal number of egg yolks and egg whites.
  2. My cake ended up rather thin, and without a specialized cake layering tool, it’ll be nearly impossible to cut it horizontally into thirds. Just make a half cake by slicing it all the way through and stacking it, like I did.
  3. To that note, I would halve the amount of apricot jam filling I make. I had quite a bit left over.
  4. I cannot emphasize more the importance of sifting your flour before mixing. This is a tight-crumbed cake that’s relatively low in fat compared to American cakes, so the texture of the flour will make an appreciable difference to the outcome of the cake.

Sachertorte
Makes 1 half 9-inch cake
Adapted from Wolfgang Puck

Cake:

6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, cut into small pieces
3 ounces butter
4 egg yolks
1 ounce sugar, plus 3 ounces
5 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup flour, sifted

Apricot Filling:
3/4 cups apricot preserves
1/2 tablespoon apricot brandy or rum

Glaze:
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, cut into small pieces
1 ounce butter
2 ounces heavy cream
Schlagobers, or whipped cream

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour a 9 by 2-inch cake pan.

In a bowl, combine the chocolate and butter and melt over a double boiler. Set aside to cool. In a mixer, using a wire whisk, whip the egg yolks with 1 ounce sugar until light and ribbony. Beat in the chocolate mixture.

In another bowl, beat the egg whites and salt until soft peaks. Slowly add the remaining 3 ounces of sugar and continue to beat until stiff peaks. Fold in the flour and then fold in 1/3 of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture to lighten it. Fold in the remaining egg whites, gently but thoroughly. Pour into prepared cake pan.

Bake for 40 minutes or until done. To check for doneness, insert a paring knife in center of cake. It should come out dry. Remove from the oven and cool on a rack.

To make the apricot filling: puree the apricot preserves. Stir in brandy.

Slice the cake into half to get two half-moons. Spread half of the apricot filling on the bottom layer. Top with a second layer of cake. Spread a thinner layer of apricot filling on top, but scrape off any protuberant preserve pieces. Chill for at least 30 minutes.

To make the glaze: in a bowl, combine the chocolate and butter. Melt over a double-boiler. Bring the cream to a boil. Stir into the melted chocolate. Cool until it reaches glazing consistency. Spread over and around the cake. Chill for another 30 minutes before serving. Serve a slice with Schlagobers or whipped cream.

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

IMG_3893I started my first real job out of college about a month ago, and now that a considerable chunk of my time is devoted to work, I have much less time to blog. I still cook and bake quite often – I recently made two chocolate cakes and a soy sauce chicken, but not having daylight to snap my food in makes blogging an afterthought. These red velvet cupcakes, however, were for a specific occasion. Every month, my work place hosts a birthday party for people born in that month. I wanted, nay, needed an excuse to bake up something more elaborate than a utilitarian chocolate cake that fulfilled my dessert cravings.

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The original recipe for these were for an 8-inch layer cake, but for ease of transport, I decided to make them into cupcakes. I’ve made the cake a few days ahead in time and froze them, and I intend to frost them in the office pantry. Transporting frosted cupcakes often require large, bulky carriers, and as a bike rider, I prefer to fit everything into my backpack as much as possible. I used all-purpose flour instead of cake flour for the cupcakes, and that contributed to a slightly coarser but more firm texture that’s transportation-friendly. I baked up about 18 cupcakes with the batter, and I would recommend checking for doneness at around 15 minutes and swapping the racks at half-time. Also, I cannot stress how important it is to sift your flour and confectioner’s sugar before mixing. It’ll help create a more uniform texture with less lumps and clumps.

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Red Velvet Cake
Makes 18 cupcakes
Adapted from Cookie Madness

Ingredients
4 oz unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 whole eggs, room temperature
2 slightly heaping tablespoons cocoa powder (natural)
2 ounces (1/4 c) red food coloring
2 1/4 c of cake flour (9 oz), sifted
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon white vinegar

Frosting for Red Velvet Cake
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese
1 stick (4 ounces) butter, softened
1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice (optional)

Instructions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 18 (or potentially more) cupcake moulds with cupcake liners.

In bowl of a stand mixer or in a large mixing bowl using an electric mixer, cream butter, sugar and salt until light. Add the vanilla and the eggs beating 30 seconds after each egg is added. Make a paste of food coloring and cocoa and add to the creamed mixture. Add buttermilk and flour alternately, beating at low speed until mixed.

In a small cup, combine the soda and the vinegar and let it foam up. Pour the foaming mixture into the batter and stir until it’s mixed in. Immediately pour into the cupcake liners and bake for 15-20 minutes. When a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake emerges without crumbs, it is done.

Let cool for 10 minutes in pan set on a rack. Remove from pan and let cool completely. Make icing.

Beat the butter and cream cheese until smooth. Beat in vanilla. Add confectioner’s sugar slowly, beating until smooth. For a little tartness, beat in some lemon juice.