Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Thee Holiday Cake

Okay folks, I mentioned in my last post that I was going to be adding a wonderful cake recipe. I recently made this cake for my cooking group. I thought the cake looked good- it fit the bill for a unique and impressive holiday cake. I read the reviews on and began to have my doubts. A lot of bakers said the cake was fussy, and it is. Some said the actual cake recipe was only so-so, so I it. After a slight bit of cake terror, this thing came together to be the best cake I have tasted in quite some time. What was so challenging about it you wonder? Well, there are several components to this cake. None of them are very hard though, mind you. You can do it!

I ran into a couple problems because in the heat of a perfectionist moment I took a layer off to adjust something and then put the cake layer back, I don't think it was ever the same after that. While moving it from the stack, it lost some it's integral structure and wasn't so sturdy when it came to time to assemble the other layers. There is a lot of whipped cream between layers and it just gave out on me. The second layer up split and all kinds of problems started to occur. In a panic and resourceful mode, I decided to girdle up this beast of a woman cake and wrapped her oh-so-tightly in loads of plastic wrap. I basically made her suck it in and then held her there. I also added a layer of foil to the outside and then I stuck HER outside in the cold! To my shock and happiness, the next morning when I unwrapped her the cake she completely intact. Okay, enough referring to this cake as a 'her'. The cake held it's shape and was totally workable! I've never had a scare like that when baking a cake!

Now, that I've totally taken away any excitement and possibility of you actually making this cake I have tell you that it's not that bad and that it's totally worth it! This cake is DELICIOUS! This cake is like the perfect chocolate cake with peppermint ice cream, it's like a peppermint patty, or chocolate bark. It's that good. And really, it's like all of those things combined. You see, this cake's got it going on. Let's walk together arm in arm as I describe this cake to you. Fudgy chocolate layers of Devil's food cake, in total, four of them. Blanketing each layer of cake is a thin layer of Dark Chocolate Ganache. The layers are chilled and then pillowed cozily with two whole cups of Peppermint-laced White Chocolate Creme. The monstrous and very gorgeous cake is then wrapped with a shiny and silky Marshmallow-esque Peppermint frosting. It is to die for.

During the course of this cake making experience, I tried a new chocolate cake recipe. The original recipe was titled, The Only Chocolate Cake You'll Ever Need. I think it lives up to it's name. It's dense, fudgy, chocolaty, and most importantly super-duper moist! I used if for this recipe and I think it seems like a better choice than what Bon Appetit originally put in the recipe. If you want the original recipe you can look it up on One last note, if you make this cake, I would chill the whole thing, without frosting, overnight. I would ice it the next day right before you are to serve it. You could also chill it for an hour or two afterwards, though gravity moves the icing around a bit. Also, I wonder if adding some meringue powder to the icing during mixing would help it stay in place better? Let me know if you try it. With ALL of that said, here is the recipe for this mouth-watering cake. I know you will love it, I know all of the people you know will love it! And just as any woman out there, she gets better with age! Day two, three, and four are where it's at... Happy Baking!

Devil's Food Layer Cake with Peppermint Frosting
adapted from Bon Appetit
by Claudia Fleming
December 2008
This showstopping cake is layered with dark chocolate ganache and white chocolate cream, then topped with marshmallowy peppermint frosting. To give the final product pastry-shop flair, set a pile of chocolate curls in the center. Or lean chocolate shards against each other, teepee style. (I also crushed candy canes and added to the top, they made it even prettier and tasted so good!)
10 to 12 servings
3 cups all-purpose flour
1.5 teaspoon salt
1.5 teaspoon baking powder
3 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 3/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup melted butter, cooled
1.5 cup hot coffee
1.5 cup milk
3 large eggs
1.5 teaspoon vanilla
Preheat oven to 335-345 degrees.

Prepare your pans:
Use Two 9-inch round pans. Prepare pans by buttering, fitting parchment into the bottoms, and flouring.
In a large mixing bowl, sift together dry ingredients.
Add oil, butter, coffee and milk and mix at medium speed for 2 minutes.
Add eggs and vanilla and beat 2 more minutes. Expect batter to be thin.
Pour into pan/pans.
Bake 35-42 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean.
Cool in pans for 15 minutes and then carefully remove from pans on a rack.
Slowly peel off parchment paper and cool completely.
Store this cake in the refrigerator and enjoy it cold. It can also be eaten at room temperature.

1 1/3 cups heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
14 oz bittersweet chocolate chips
Bring cream and corn syrup to simmer in medium saucepan. Remove from heat; add chocolate and whisk until melted and smooth. Transfer to small bowl. Chill until firm enough to spread, about 1 hour. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 day ahead. Before using, let stand at room temperature until soft enough to spread, about 30 minutes.


12 oz high-quality white chocolate chips
3 cups chilled heavy whipping cream, divided
2-2.5 teaspoons pure peppermint extract (I only found imitation... tasted great anyway)

Place white chocolate in large heatproof bowl. Bring 1 cup cream to simmer in saucepan. Pour hot cream over white chocolate. Let stand 1 minute; whisk until smooth. Whisk in extract. Cover; chill until mixture thickens and is cold, at least 2-4 hours. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 day ahead. Chill.

Add 2 cups chilled cream to white chocolate cream and beat until smooth and peaks form. DO AHEAD Can be made 3 hours ahead. Cover and chill. Rewhisk to thicken, if necessary, before using.


Using long serrated knife, cut each cake horizontally in half. Place 1 cake layer on platter, cut side up. Spread 1/3 of dark chocolate ganache over cake. Spoon 2 cups white chocolate cream in dollops over cake; spread evenly to edges. Top with second cake layer, cut side down; spread 1/3 of ganache over, then 2 cups white chocolate cream. Repeat with third cake layer, cut side up, remaining ganache, and remaining cream. Cover with fourth cake layer, cut side down. Chill while preparing frosting. Overnight preferably.

2 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
3 large egg whites
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1- 1.5 teaspoon pure peppermint extract
Bittersweet chocolate curls
Candy Canes, crushed (4?)

Combine sugar, 1/2 cup water, egg whites, and corn syrup in large bowl of heavy-duty stand mixer. Whisk by hand to blend well. Set bowl with mixture over saucepan of gently simmering water; whisk constantly with hand whisk until mixture resembles marshmallow creme and ribbons form when whisk is lifted, 8 to 9 minutes. Whisk in peppermint extract. Remove bowl from over water and attach bowl to heavy-duty stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment. Beat on high speed until mixture is barely warm to touch and very thick, 7 to 8 minutes.

Using offset spatula and working quickly, spread frosting over top and sides of cake. Sprinkle chocolate curls over top. Add candy cane if using. Chill for one to two hours before serving, or serve IMMEDIATELY!

You Have To

As some of you know, I've joined a 'gourmet' cooking group. We don't have a name yet I'm afraid to report. We get together about once a month and contribute dishes resulting in a usually-fabulous dinner. This last meal was themed Classic Holiday Feast. The lovely Mallory hosted, and let me tell you, enchanting! Her home is adorable, eclectic and really, just super fun to take in and look at! It inspired me in many ways, as did she. In true hostessing fashion, Mallory was garbed in a dress, heels, and vintage apron when we arrived. The table was so delightfully festive and completely decked out in all things red! Her and her bf made Martha Stewart's Tissue Balls in red and white, so those were staggered and hung over the table. They created a really dramatic focal point and screamed PARTY. The table also had special paper place mats, tulle, red Christmas lights, and little Christmas tree bulbs strewn everywhere. It was truly lovely! I snagged a couple pictures from Mallory's blog (with her permission of course) so you could see for yourself...

I wish I had had my camera to take pictures of the food! Next time, I guess! Anyway, we started the night off with fresh-juiced Pear Martinis. Our glasses were dipped in crushed Jolly Ranchers which was a fun and tasty surprise. Martinis were then followed by several courses, the first being a roasted pear stuffed with ricotta and mascarpone cheeses, dates, and celery. Then it was onto Roasted Red Pepper Soup and homemade sun dried tomato and mozzarella bread. The main part of the meal involved something I've always wanted to try... Beef Wellington. Mallory prepared the main entree and it was so delicious! For those of you that don't know what Beef Wellington really is, it's a very tender cut of beef topped with mushrooms and in this case some bleu cheese as well, then the whole thing is wrapped in puff pastry. You then bake it at a high temperature until the pastry puffs and browns, while the inside of the meat stays pink and rare. It's slightly retro but so luscious! The beef was served with mashed potatoes,gravy and the most amazing brussel sprouts- which I have to share with you. The night was swept away with cider and Devil's Food and Peppermint cake. If you stay tuned, my next post will pay it's respects to this amazing cake. Trust me, it deserves it's own story.

Okay, these brussel sprouts. I have two words for you. Creme. Braised. I know, we Americans are supposed to spell that creme as cream. But you see, I like to pretend I'm foreign and exciting so I choose creme as my spelling of choice. Now that we've covered that small issue, back to these mouth-watering and utterly orgasmic brussel sprouts. I came across this recipe during a cooking class I took. The class was titled Misunderstood Vegetables and was taught by Orangette and her hubby. We tasted and learned about some really outstanding and to me, new ways, to prepare some of the more unpopular veggies. Among these, and at the end of the samplings, came something so simple and explosive in it's greatness. Creme-braised Brussel Sprouts. I knew right away that this recipe would stay by side. That could also be taken quite literally, unfortunately!

Brussel sprouts can be so boring and understated when prepared in the usual ways. Sure, I've sauteed them with shallots, raisins, and bacon. And they were good. But not great. This recipe ensures that you will have the best brussel sprouts of your life. I promise. They are caramelized and then slowly cooked in a lovely pool of creme until they are fork-tender. A splash of lemon juice, enough salt and pepper and voila! These are so delicious. I insist that YOU HAVE TO MAKE THEM and soon. They are perfect. And here is the recipe and a gorgeous photo to accompany them. Of course it's Molly's too... I just kept the recipe exactly the way Molly has it written on her blog. So make these asap, and while you're at it check out Orangette - she'll have you back in the kitchen in no time. I'm sure of it.

Cream-Braised Brussels Sprouts

Adapted from All About Braising and Molly from Orangette

1 ¼ lb. Brussels sprouts

3 Tbs unsalted butter

¼ tsp coarse sea salt, plus more to taste

1 cup heavy cream

1 Tbs fresh lemon juice, or more to taste

First, prep the Brussels sprouts. Trim the stem end of each sprout and pull off any ragged or nasty outer leaves. Cut the sprouts in half from stem end to tip, and then cut each half in half again. Ultimately, you want little wedges.In a large (12-inch) skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the Brussels sprouts and salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sprouts are nicely browned in spots, about 5 minutes or so. I like mine to get some good color here, so that they have a sweetly caramelized flavor.Pour in the cream, stir to mix, and then cover the pot. Reduce the heat to low or medium low: you want to keep the pan at a slow simmer. Braise until the sprouts are tender enough to be pierced easily with the tip of a paring knife, about 30-35 minutes. The cream will have reduced some and will have taken on a creamy tan color.Remove the lid, and stir in the lemon juice. Taste for seasoning, and adjust as necessary. Let the pan simmer, uncovered, for a minute or two to thicken the cream to a glaze that loosely coats the sprouts. Serve immediately.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Peanut Butter Brownies

I felt like such a little kid playing around with these brownies. I was a girl back in preschool finger-painting, but my paintbrush was a chop stick and my paints were chocolate and peanut butter. Okay, these are some incredible brownies from my favorite lady of all time, Ina Garten. They are dense and fudgy and wonderful. I've made them once before and really enjoy them on the cooler side. I used crunchy peanut butter because it's what we had. I also opted to line the sheet pan with foil, cooking spray, and then a sheet of parchment. It's so much easier to lift the brownies out and cut them this way.

Barefoot Contessa Peanut Butter Brownies

1 pound unsalted butter
1 pound plus 12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips, divided
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate
6 extra-large eggs
3 tablespoons instant coffee granules
2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup smooth peanut butter

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour a 12 by 18 by 1 1/2-inch sheet pan.
Melt together the butter, 1 pound of chocolate chips, and the unsweetened chocolate in a medium bowl over simmering water. Allow to cool slightly. In a large bowl, stir (do not beat) together the eggs, coffee granules, vanilla, and sugar. Stir the warm chocolate mixture into the egg mixture and allow to cool to room temperature.

In a medium bowl, sift together 1 cup of flour, the baking powder, and salt. Add to the cooled chocolate mixture. Toss the remaining 12 ounces of chocolate chips in a medium bowl with 1/4 cup of flour, then add them to the chocolate batter. Pour into the prepared sheet pan. Spoon the peanut butter over the top of the chocolate mixture and using a knife, swirl it through the chocolate mixture.

Bake for 20 minutes, then rap the baking sheet against the oven shelf to force the air to escape from between the pan and the brownie dough. Bake for about 10 to 15 minutes more or until a toothpick comes out clean. Do not over bake! Allow to cool thoroughly, refrigerate, and cut into large squares.