BraveTart’s Brown Butter Carrot Cake

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Ugly spatula work, delicious cake

These days, I bake desserts rather infrequently, and when I do decide to make something, I want it to be worth my while – and I trust Stella Parks from Serious Eats. Her recent April Fools’ article for the site was an embodiment of the surgical attention to detail that she stands for. And her carrot cake recipe is just that. I always read recipes before I begin them, and even then, I made a few mistakes which thankfully didn’t hurt the cake at all.

This carrot cake is really delicious and well worth the hours of attention it demanded. It’s moist, is generously studded with pecans, and the cream cheese frosting is not overly sweet. However, I did make a few tweaks to the original recipe:

  • I had halved the recipe because a) I didn’t want to have to shred two pounds of carrots and b) I’m going to get pretty sick of eating all that carrot cake after some time. It still produced a substantial two-layer 8-inch cake, and there weren’t any volume issues when it came to mixing the cake in the stand mixer, so I would highly recommend
  • I also accidentally used 25% less butter in the cake than prescribed – I had set aside 1.5 sticks of butter for the frosting, but instead used it for the cake (which required 2 sticks). I thought the cake did not suffer from this reduction at all.
  • I used 19% more carrots than instructed because I didn’t read the recipe carefully enough – the ingredient list called for 405g whole, unpeeled carrots, while you only need 340g of shredded carrots in the cake. I didn’t think the extra carrots hurt the recipe either.
  • I did not have a vanilla bean and just used 1 tbsp of regular vanilla extract in the cream cheese frosting. It ended up tasting way too artificial, so I would recommend procuring a vanilla bean, or using maybe just 1 tsp instead of 1 tbsp of extract as a substitute.
  • This might be a controversial opinion, but as moist the cake was and as wonderful the crunch from the pecans were, I was really missing the burst from plump, juicy raisins. If I were to remake this, I’d probably add in some golden raisins (they tend to be juicier) or at the very least, raisins re-hydrated in hot water, that’s 50% the volume of the pecans.

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BraveTart’s Brown Butter Carrot Cake

Makes a two-layer 8-inch cake
Adapted from Serious Eats
Note: I’ve modified the recipe and instructions to better suit the half-recipe I made with the inadvertent “healthier” substitutes (i.e. less butter, more carrots).

For the Cake:
7 ounces pecan pieces (1 3/4 cups; 198g) (I got the toasted version from Trader Joe’s which eliminated the toasting step)
14 oz finely shredded carrots (approx 3.5 firmly packed cups, 405g) can be refrigerated up to a week in advance)
6 ounces unsalted butter (1.5 sticks; 170g)
7 ounces white sugar (1 cup; 198g)
4 ounces light brown sugar (1/2 cup, gently packed; 113g) (I used 100g of white sugar and 13g of Grandma’s Original Molasses)
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 + 3/8 teaspoons (3.5g) Diamond Crystal kosher salt; for table salt, use about half as much by volume or the same weight
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
3/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 tbsp vanilla extract (7g)
3 large eggs, straight from the fridge
5.5 ounces all-purpose flour, such as Gold Medal (1 1/4 cups, spooned; 155g)
2.5 ounces whole wheat flour, not stone-ground (1/2 cup; 70g)

For the Frosting:
(The amount below makes 50% of the original recipe, but the surface area to be frosted only dropped by 33%. This will mean a slightly thinner frosting than if you weren’t making a half-recipe, but I was fine with the amount of frosting the cake had.)

Custard
6 ounces milk, any percentage will do (about 3/4 cups; 170g)
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
4 ounces sugar (about 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon; 113g)
3/4 ounces cornstarch (about 1/6 cup, spooned; 23g)
1.5 large eggs, straight from the fridge (for the half egg, use 2 tbsps of a beaten egg)
1/2 tbsp vanilla extract (7g)

Buttercream
8 ounces full-fat Philadelphia cream cheese, softened to about 65°F/18°C (1 eight-ounce packages; 227g)
6 ounces unsalted butter, softened to about 65°F/18°C (1.5 sticks; 170g)
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 1 tablespoon; 15g)

Instructions
To better synchronize the downtime between recipes, make the cream cheese frosting first, which is made of a custard and a buttercream.

FROSTING, PART 1 of 2: The Custard
1. In a 3-quart stainless steel saucier, combine the milk and vanilla bean and bring to a simmer over medium heat. When it begins to bubble, shut off the heat, cover, and steep 30 minutes. Alternately, cover and refrigerate until needed, up to 24 hours to extract the deepest vanilla flavor. Meanwhile, whisk the sugar and cornstarch together in a medium bowl, followed by the eggs.

2. Return milk to a simmer and discard vanilla bean after scraping out the flavorful pulp inside. Ladle 1/4 cup hot milk into the eggs and whisk to combine. Repeat with a second and third ladleful, then pour the warmed eggs into the pot. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until the custard turns thick and lumpy, about 3 minutes. After it begins to bubble sluggishly, continue cooking and whisking 2 full minutes to neutralize a starch-dissolving protein found in the yolks, and until the custard is smooth.

3. Off heat, stir in vanilla extract, then pour custard into a large baking dish to speed the cooling process. Press a sheet of plastic against the surface and refrigerate until thick and cool, about 1 hour, or to roughly 68°F (20°C). Alternatively, refrigerate up to 1 week and stand at room temperature until warmed to roughly 68°F.

Now that the custard is cooling, move on to making the cake. I would finish the frosting recipe while the cake is cooling.

CAKE
4. Adjust oven rack to the middle position and preheat to 350°F (180°C). Toast the pecans on a baking sheet until golden brown, about 10 minutes, and cool completely.

This would be a good time to shred your carrots, if you haven’t already done them.

5. To make browned butter for the cake: in a small saucepan, completely melt the butter over medium-low heat. Increase to medium and simmer, stirring with a heat-resistant spatula while the butter hisses and pops. Continue cooking and stirring, scraping up any brown bits that form along the pan, until the butter is golden-yellow and perfectly silent. Pour into a heat-safe measuring cup, along with all the toasty brown bits, and proceed as directed, or cover and refrigerate up to 1 week; melt before using.

6. Preheat oven to 350 F (180 C). Lightly grease two 8-inch anodized aluminum cake pans and line with parchment (instructions here). If you don’t have two pans, it’s okay to bake the cakes in stages; the batter will keep at room temperature until needed.

7. Combine white sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, baking powder, salt, baking soda, nutmeg, cloves, vanilla, and eggs in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Mix on low to moisten, then increase to medium and whip until thick and fluffy, about 8 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk together all-purpose and whole wheat flours. Drizzle in the brown butter in a steady stream, then reduce speed to low and add the flours. Once smooth, fold in shredded carrots and pecans with a flexible spatula.

8. Divide batter between the prepared cake pans, about 28 ounces each. If you don’t have two pans, the remaining batter can be held at room temperature up to 3 hours. (Note that if you only have one cake pan, this will mean you’ll have to be in the kitchen at 30 minute to 60 minute intervals. So don’t commit to anything else. Really.) Bake until cakes are golden, about 30 minutes. A toothpick inserted into the center will have a few crumbs still attached, and your fingertip will leave a slight indentation in the puffy crust.

9. Cool cakes directly in their pans for 1 hour, then run a butter knife around the edges to loosen. Invert onto a wire rack, peel off the parchment, and return cakes right side up (covered in plastic, the cakes can be left at room temperature for a few hours).

Now that the cake is cooling, it’s a good time to prepare the buttercream to finish up the rest of the frosting.

FROSTING, PART 2 of 2: The Buttercream
10. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the softened cream cheese and butter on medium speed until fluffy and light, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, stir the thick pudding in its dish to create a thick, dough-like mass. Scrape the bowl and beater with a flexible spatula, then switch to whisk attachment and whip on medium speed. Add pudding a few tablespoons at a time, then drizzle in the lemon juice; if you like, season to taste with a pinch of salt (see note). Scrape the bowl once more and whip a few seconds to ensure no lumps remain. The finished frosting should be light and creamy, but thick enough to hang upside down from a spoon.

Once the cake layers are cooled, it’s time to stack it up!

11. I didn’t think the cake needed leveling since they didn’t dome that much, but please use a serrated knife to do so if you wish. I also did not have a cake turntable or an offset spatula, so I placed the cake on an inverted plate and used the back of a chef’s knife to apply the frosting.

12. To crumb coat the cake:Use 1 cup of the frosting to spread it on one of the cake layers. Place the second layer on top, and top with another cup of frosting. Cover the sides of the cake with about 3/4 cup of frosting, as thinly as you can. Refrigerate the cake for 30 minutes so the frosting sets.

13. Decorate the cake with the rest of the frosting. Under a cake dome or an inverted pot, the frosted cake will keep 24 hours at cool room temperature. For longer storage, freeze the sliced cake for a couple of hours until the frosting is hard and no longer tacky. Wrap each slice well with cling wrap to avoid moisture loss or air exposure. Freeze cake for up to a month.

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.

Chocolate Whiskey Cake

IMG_3583When I saw this recipe, I instantly knew I had to make it. I know I’ve been diverting my attention lately to more European desserts, but you could never tear me away from anything combining chocolate and whiskey. I was deciding between using Jim Beam and some cheapo scotch lying around, and went for the scotch because I was counting on all that sugar and chocolate to cover it up. Cooking is the best way to use up bad alcohol anyway.

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What was interesting about this recipe was the preparation technique. I had to heat up a saucepan with coffee, butter, whiskey and cocoa powder, and then the addition of sugar turned it into a gloopy, caramelly liquid. Fortunately the cake turned out well, though. I really liked the slightly crisp muffin top-esque shell that formed, which was a nice foil against the tender and moist crumb. The chocolate chips added some gooey-ness to its insides so it was reminiscent of a molten chocolate cake. It didn’t taste very alcoholic at all, and I wish it had. This is a very decadent cake, and in a future iteration I might add a pinch of salt, or sub some of the coffee with whiskey, or omit the chocolate chips.

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Note: Although the recipe called for making a whole cake, I think the cake would benefit greatly from being split up into about 8 or so 3.5-inch ramekins, or even cupcakes. Reduce the bake time accordingly. You’d also get that delicious crusty muffin top.

Chocolate Whiskey Cake
Makes 1 10-inch round cake
Adapted from NYTimes

INGREDIENTS

12 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces, more for pan
85 grams unsweetened cocoa powder (about 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons)
1 1/2 cups brewed strong coffee
1/2 cup whiskey
200 grams granulated sugar (about 1 cup)
156 grams light brown sugar (about 1 cup)
240 grams all-purpose flour (about 2 cups)
8 grams baking soda (about 1 1/2 teaspoons)
3 grams fine sea salt (about 3/4 teaspoon)
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground clove (I omitted)
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips (I used regular chocolate chips)
Powdered sugar, for serving (optional)

PREPARATION

1.Heat oven to 325 degrees. Butter a 10-inch springform pan. Dust with 2 tablespoons cocoa powder.
2. In a medium saucepan over low heat, warm coffee, whiskey, 12 tablespoons butter and remaining cocoa powder, whisking occasionally, until butter is melted. Whisk in sugars until dissolved. Remove from heat and cool completely.
3. In a bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, pepper and cloves. In another bowl, whisk together eggs and vanilla. Slowly whisk egg mixture into chocolate mixture. Add dry ingredients and whisk to combine. Fold in chocolate chips.
4. Pour batter into prepared pan. Transfer to oven and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center emerges clean, 55 to 65 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack, then remove sides of pan. Dust with powdered sugar before serving, if you like.

Carrot Cake, French-Style

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This was an interesting cake to make. It was a joint creation between my French classmate and I for our presentation on David Lebovitz. He explains it better, but this cake is French because it originated from Provence. The French are very traditional with their desserts, and adding vegetable to cakes is quite unusual for them. This cake was handed around in class, and garnered pretty positive responses. The texture is less cake-like and more like a soft granola bar, due to the almond chunks. It’s like a Rice Krispie in terms of density and airiness. The carrots, although brightly coloring the cake, tasted unobtrusive and I thought the true star were the almond pieces that provided a nutty chew.

Making this would be substantially easier with a food processor or pre-chopped almonds. The grated carrots need to be relatively fine too. We had altered the original recipe by doubling up on the grated carrot, but since our almond chunks were larger than “relatively fine”, it still did not taste or feel distinctly vegetable-y. Overall, this was a very easy recipe to make up, and worth trying if you’re into almonds and/or carrots.

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Carrot Cake, French-Style
Makes 1 9×9 inch cake
Adapted from David Lebovitz

4 tablespoons butter, unsalted, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups (250g) sugar
pinch of salt
5 large eggs, at room temperature
1 3/4 cups (225g) toasted almonds
2/3 cup (90g) flour
1/4 cup, packed, (40g) finely grated carrot

1. Preheat the oven to 325F (160C). Butter two shallow 10-inch (23cm) cake pans and line each with a circle of parchment paper. Then lightly butter the top of each circle of paper.

2. Beat the butter, sugar and salt until smooth.

3. Meanwhile, pulverize the nuts and flour in a food processor or blender until relatively fine, but not powdery. If you don’t have a machine, simply chop the nuts by hand and toss them with the flour.

3. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Afterwards, stir in the ground nut mixture and the carrots, mixing just until smooth.

4. Divide the batter into the pans, smooth it evenly, and bake for 40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Cool, then release the cake from the pans and cut in wedges to serve.