Sunday, April 28, 2013

Extra-Creamy Cooked Cream Cheese Frosting

Paired with the unexpected off-season festive taste of my birthday molasses cake, is this delightful cream cheese frosting.  The surprise to me was there is absolutely zero powdered sugar in it.  Who knew?  It's subtly sweet with just enough to balance out the bitterness of the molasses cake, with a delightfully telling cream cheese flavour.

The recipe is a bit complicated, so it won't replace my more every-day cream cheese frosting recipe, but paired with the cake, and pulled out for my event somewhat last minute, it's well worth the effort.  I felt the frosted cake stands on its own -- the flavour impact and visual contrast between light and dark removed the real need for any fancy frosting techniques.

Extra-Creamy Cooked Cream Cheese Frosting
Makes: more than enough to frost the 10-inch springform molasses cake

16 ounces (2 bars) full-fat cream cheese, softened at room temperature for at least 1 hour
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup white sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup whole milk
1 tsp vanilla

Place the softened cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer (or simply use a large bowl and hand beaters). Whip the cream cheese on high speed for several minutes, until it is completely smooth and silky. Scrape the cream cheese out into a separate bowl and set aside.

Whisk the flour, sugar, and salt together in a small saucepan. Turn the heat on to medium and slowly add the milk, whisking constantly. It will look lumpy at first but whisk vigorously to create a smooth paste. Continue whisking as the mixture comes up to a simmer. It will thicken rapidly and dramatically as it comes to a boil. Simmer for 1 full minute, then turn off the heat. Scrape the flour and milk paste into the mixer bowl. (If you want to be 100% sure there are no small lumps, pour it through a mesh sieve.)

Turn on the mixer or beaters and whip the flour-milk mixture for 10 minutes, or until it is lightened and no longer piping hot. It should be lukewarm or cooler. Slowly add the whipped, softened cream cheese, whipping constantly. Add the vanilla. Continue whipping until the two are completely combined and smooth and silky.

It is best to let this icing firm up a bit more in the refrigerator but you can use it now to ice a completely cooled cake. If not using immediately, store in the fridge for up to 3 days. Whip again briefly on high speed before using. It is also best to refrigerate cakes that are iced with this frosting. It is best eaten within three days or so.

Source: The Kitchn.

Dark Molasses Cake

I made a mistake.  I assumed, given that I surround myself with tons of cake inspiration (recipes, pictures, courses, pans, etc.) that my birthday cake would jump out at me. The one that screamed "make me!"  I didn't really give it much though, assuming that an idea would pop out at any given moment.  Yeah, I assumed wrongly.  As the day inched closer, my ideas dried up.  I thought maybe lemon cake? Maybe peanut butter? Maybe tiered?  Couldn't settle on an idea at all.

Finally, I stumbled upon this recipe.  It is essentially a giant molasses cookie, but as cake, and with frosting!  My house smells like giant molasses cookie.  Yum!  The frosting is delicious, and balances out the bitterness in the cake.  After making two cakes last weekend, and one in addition to this one for this weekend, I was very tempted by the idea of a cake with "bitter sweetness," as quoted.  It was time for a small sweetness break.

The one trouble I had with this cake was in the doneness test -- when I first checked on the cake at 45 minutes, as written in the recipe, it was still soup in the middle, so I didn't even poke it with the tester.  Five minutes later, it had firmed up, and puffed up, so I thought maybe it's okay, and poked in the tester.  Big mistake: the cake sunk, and still wasn't finished baking, so it stayed sunken in the middle.  I ended up giving it an additional 5 minutes (so 55 minutes total baking time) and cooled it for well over an hour before removing it from the base of the springform pan in order to put it on my cake pedestal for the party.

One note: this cake is for molasses lovers only.  It's quite potent with molasses and espresso nearly overpowering the spice.  If the idea of a strong spiced cookie doesn't appeal to you, keep moving.  More spice for me!

The cake is quite tall when baked and frosted.  It will easily serve 16 people.  Frosting recipe can be found here.

Dark and Damp Molasses Spice Cake
Makes: 10 inch springform pan

12 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1 1/2 cups (12 ounces) unsulphured blackstrap molasses * (see Note below)
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup white sugar
3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp fine salt
2 1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp espresso powder (optional, but strongly recommended)
1 tsp vanilla
2 large eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups whole milk


Heat the oven to 350°F. Lightly butter or grease a 10-inch springform cake pan.

Place the chunks of butter in a 2-quart saucepan set over medium heat. Pour in the molasses and whisk in the brown sugar and white sugar. Whisk as the butter melts. When the butter has melted and is completely liquid, and the sugar has dissolved and is no longer grainy, give it a final stir and turn off the heat. Set the pan aside to cool. (The molasses will look slightly separated from the melted fat; they won't be smoothly combined.)

Use a clean dry whisk to combine the flour, salt, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon and espresso powder in a large bowl. (The espresso powder is optional; it will lend one more dimension of flavor to your cake.)

Whisk the vanilla, eggs, and milk into the saucepan with the molasses and melted butter. When it is completely combined, pour this liquid slowly into the bowl of dry ingredients. Whisk thoroughly to combine, making sure there are no lumps.

Pour the thick batter into the prepared springform pan. Bake at 350°F for 45 to 50 minutes or until a tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cool for 20 or 30 minutes, then run a thin, flexible knife around the inside of the pan to help the cakes edges release. Remove the cake from the pan and let it cool completely on a cooling rack before icing.

* Note on molasses: If you want the very dark, nearly black cake seen here, use unsulphured blackstrap molasses. Lighter molasses varieties will still work fine in this cake, but it won't be as dark or have any many bitter notes. If you want a lighter spice cake, then use regular molasses.

Source: The Kitchn.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cake

This weekend is celebration weekend for my own birthday.  Now I know it's not polite to talk about yourself all the time, but this weekend, it really was just about me.  Haha.  Or, at least, the food was.

In anticipation of a potluck (aka sugar delivery party) I started searching around for a clean eating cake to take with me to the farm for my family's small gathering.  Mom and Dad are just starting into calving season right now so they don't have a lot of spare time, so I come to them, instead of them coming to me.  I thought a healthier cake would be good considering the next day I was looking forward to eating a very, rich, dark, unhealthy cake (more on that to come later.)  This cake fit the bill.  It's thick, chewy, and not overly sweet.  Just make sure you have a tall glass of milk at the ready.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cake
Makes: 10-inch springform cake


Chocolate Cake
2 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
1 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 1/2 cups unsweetened applesauce
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 cup honey
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tsp vanilla
12 egg whites

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough
2 Tbsp butter, softened
1/4 cup honey
1/2 tsp vanilla
2/3 cup white whole wheat flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
pinch salt
1/2 cup chocolate chips, 70% cocoa or higher

Chocolate Syrup
1/4 cup chocolate chips, 70% cocoa or higher
3 Tbsp milk 

Make chocolate chip cookie dough first. Beat together all ingredients except chocolate chips in a medium bowl. Once combined stir in chocolate chips. Drop onto a waxed paper lined baking sheet, aiming to have 12 - 18 small drops. Cover loosely with waxed paper and place in freezer for 10-15 minutes. 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  

Prepare chocolate cake: In a large bowl combine first 5 ingredients. In a small bowl, mix together the next 6 ingredients. Pour wet ingredients into dry and mix until incorporated. Do not over mix.

In a stand mixer or using an electric beater, beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Using a rubber spatula, fold egg whites into cake batter. Batter may be a little lumpy, do not over mix. Pour batter into a 10 inch springform nonstick pan. Remove cookie dough from freezer and drop into cake batter. 

Bake for 45 minutes or until top of cake cracks and a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Cool on a wire rack completely (at least one hour).

While cake is cooling, make the chocolate drizzle.  Set a small heat-proof bowl over a pot of barely simmering water. Add chocolate and stir until melted. Remove from heat, add milk and stir until smooth. Drizzle over cake and let cool.

Source: Clean Eating Cookbook 2, via Sugar Free Mom. 

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Irish Cream Cake Balls

Yesterday was the birthday of a good friend of mine.  Last year, I made a Black Forest cake for this occasion.  This year I thought I'd make something he's been hinting at for a long time: cake balls!  This was a call I was more than happy to answer.

I know traditionally, people bake a cake using their favourite recipe or a box mix, then blend in their frosting, and go from there.  I decided to go about it in a more round-about way.  Since January, when I started my latest cake decorating course, I've been saving the scraps from any cakes I have leveled, or any layers that stuck to the pan, or crumbled coming out of the pan.  Basically stuff that would have been either thrown into the compost or eaten as scrap snacks, but never given away as gift cakes.  By the time we got to April, I had a pretty good sized freezer bag going.  I figured this was win-win: my friend could get his cake balls, and I'd save the time baking one more cake.

This whole process is really simple once you understand it.  I used this tutorial to figure out the basics, then used chocolate coating melted in my 1-quart slow-cooker to melt the chocolate.  The whole process is messy and slow,  but isn't very hard, and the end results are always delicious!  For these particular balls, to make them Irish cream flavoured, I added a little Bailey's into the frosting in place of vanilla when I was making it.  It adds just enough flavour to give the balls a little kick.
The cake crumbs.

The cake balls.

Chocolate dipped.


Thursday, April 18, 2013

Bailey's Chocolate Cheesecake

I told you last time that I started a fitness program recently.  It's moving along.  I'm eating healthy and exercising and all the normal jazz that goes with such a thing.  Every day starts out promising, and every night ends with a resolve to keep going tomorrow.  What is helping me get through the hard days, the ones where I'm craving sweets, or where I'm feeling lazy and want to go out to eat, are a combination of things: chewing gum, and eye candy.  Well, I suppose a little will power and determination too, but mostly, chewing gum and eye candy.

Tonight, I present one of those pieces.  This is actually a cake I made someone for Christmas, but hadn't gotten around to posting.  Bonus! I get to relive the joys of baking, without the temptation of licking the bowl at the end.  I'm also not a huge fan of either Baileys or baked cheesecake, which helped at the time.  But it looks pretty, doesn't it? And I was assured, by many taste testers, that if you happen to enjoy Baileys and cheesecake, this one's a slice of heaven.

Take a bite, for me.

Bailey's Chocolate Cheesecake
Makes: 1 9-inch springform


1 1/2 cups chocolate graham (or chocolate cookie) crumbs
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup butter, melted

3 (8 oz) packages cream cheese, softened
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
3 eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup Bailey’s Irish Cream

1/2 cup heavy cream
4 ounces dark chocolate, chopped small

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. 

As the oven is preheating, slip a 9"x13" casserole dish half-filled with water onto the second rack below where your cheesecake will bake.  This produces a water bath (necessary to keep the cheesecake from cracking) and helps collect any potential drips that fall from the springform, saving you from some heavy-duty oven cleaning later.

Grease your springform pan to prevent sticking. 

In a large bowl, mix together the cookie crumbs, powdered sugar and 1/3 cup cocoa from the crust ingredients list. Add melted butter and stir until well mixed. Pat into the bottom of the 9-inch springform pan. Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes; set aside. Increase oven temperature to 450 degrees F.

In a large bowl, combine cream cheese, granulated sugar, 1/4 cup cocoa and flour. Beat at medium speed until blended and smooth, being careful not to over-mix.  Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Blend in the sour cream and Irish cream, mixing on low speed until evenly blended. Pour filling onto baked crust.

Place the cheesecake in the oven on the shelf above the water bath, and bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 250 degrees, and continue baking for 60 minutes.  Remove from oven and place on a cooling rack with a piece of wax paper or a baking sheet beneath it to catch the drips from the ganache.

With a knife, loosen cake from rim of pan. Let cool, then remove the rim of pan.

To prepare the ganache, place the dark chocolate in a bowl. Then heat the cream (or half and half) in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until it is almost boiling. Remove from heat, and pour over the chocolate and let sit for 30 seconds. Then stir until the chocolate has melted and has mixed in well with the cream. Pour over the top of the cheesecake, then let set.  Chill for a few hours before serving.

Source: Gimme Some Oven.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

"Everything But the Kithen Sink" Healthy Snack Bars

I started participating in a fitness program recently that is supposed to kick my butt into fit form for the upcoming summer.  While I can't complain about the food (all clean eating: fresh meats, veggies, and fruits, yummy granola and nut mix) I found myself missing my usual habit of flipping through recipes and looking for the object of my next craving.  I found a happy compromise in this recipe -- it gives me a healthy snack, and a fix to my itch to bake.

This recipe is a snap.  The bulk of the ingredients exist perpetually in my cupboards due to various other recipes I've tried and a general bent on natural nutrition.  (The obvious exception to this is my cake decorating habit, but hey, nobody's 100%.)  Toss everything into the food processor, press it into a pan, cool, cut, and go.  The only other thing I could suggest is to make 12 balls instead of bars and keep them in the freezer for a quick snack whenever.  Personal preference :)

Everything But the Kitchen Sink Healthy Snack Bars
Makes: 12 bars

1/2 cup rolled oats
1/3 cup quinoa flakes
1/4 cup each walnuts, pecans, cashews
1/3 cup flaxseeds
1/4 cup chia seeds
5 Tbsp hemp hearts
1 tsp cinnamon
dash sea salt

1 cup dried dates
1/2 Tbsp vanilla extract

Line an 8x8" pan with plastic wrap.

Soak dates in hot water for 5 minutes.  Drain, discard water, set dates aside.

Pour all ingredients except dates and vanilla into foodprocessor and pulse until grainy.  Add drained dates and vanilla and pulse until combined.  Smooth into prepared pan and let cool in fridge for 30 minutes.  Cut into bars and wrap in plastic wrap.  Store in the fridge for up to one week or in the freezer for longer.

Source: The Social Home.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Butterscotch Pie

A couple of weeks ago, a friend mentioned she's making changes to her house, and it meant she was getting rid of some unused furniture, including her guy's futon.  Now, as someone who is in need of a guest bed-type arrangement, this immediately caught my attention.  While most people buy or sell to get things, we've made a different arrangement: pie.  That's right, pie.  I'm trading pies for the futon.  Over the course of the next month or so, I owe her guy 5 pies.  Lemon, apple, key lime, raspberry, and butterscotch.

Now, since I've previously blogged some pies, such as the raspberry pie, I'm not going to repeat all of them because where's the fun in that? What I will show you instead is this "cheater" butterscotch pie.  I was all prepared to make a really great all-homemade pie, you know, give it my all, and my friend told me that his favourite recipe is the one his mom used to make for him.  Lucky for me she knew his mom's secret: Shirriff & Tenderflake.  :)

It's a wonderful solution: he gets the pie he's craving, and I get an easy-peasy pie to make with no stress at all.  Love it!

Shirriff Butterscotch Pie
Makes:1 pie

3 cups cold milk
1 package butterscotch cooked pudding & pie filling mix
1 pre-made pie crust (9" / 23 cm)

Bake pie crust as directed on packaging.

In a saucepan, mix contents of pouch with milk.  Cook and stir constantly over medium heat until boiling.  Stir for 1 minute more, until thickened.
Remove from heat and cool 5 minutes, stirring twice.
Pour mixture into 9" baked pie shell.  Chill for 3-4 hours.

Source: Package instructions.