Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Chocolate Dulce de Leche Cake

In my last post  I made "Chocolate AlmondTriangles", and  talked about making the cake in a more traditional round shape, and simplifying the frosting.  That is just what I've done here (with a different flavoring for the frosting, as well).  Buttercream is usually one of the hardest things to make, especially for novice bakers or those with modest equipment.  Buttercream goes from the traditional method of trying to beat a hot sugar syrup into beaten egg whites, to beating the egg whites with the sugar, to using egg whites from a carton, and now to using Marshmallow Fluff instead of beating the egg whites from scratch.  Instead of spending 20 -30 minutes to make one batch of buttercream, you can probably do it in 5-10 minutes, and it's just as delicious as the real thing.  But even with this method, problems can arise, unless you follow the recipe carefully.  Make sure that you use only Marshmallow Fluff, and not another brand, as MF has nothing artificial in it except for vanillin. Instead of doing a random design on the top of the cake ( mine looks like ghosts or wisemen, but I was really just playing), it would be easy to write "HAPPY NEW YEAR" or whatever else you might like to write. Please note that if you want to pipe on any decorations, you’ll need to make more buttercream, as you really just have enough to get the cake frosted.

This recipe can now be found on my CD-rom or download: Amazing Desserts - A Photographic Guide to Better Baking. For order information, please click on MY BOOKS, above.

Sunday, December 20, 2009


For our 2009 BCC Rally (for Rally for the Cure) fundraiser in September,   I made several of these cakes, along with two other desserts, co-chaired the auction, was assistant webmaster, and had a few other items on my plate as well.  To make a long story short, I neglected to write down the recipe for this cake.  I did have a shopping list, however, and from that I thought I could reconstruct the cake. Christmas week seemed to me to be a perfect time to work on it, because I knew that I had a few events to go to, and could also give the cake    to someone who might be having a celebration that week.  The layer-making went beautifully, and they came out as expected.  The cake layers are made in a 17x11-inch jellyroll pan.  When I made it in the fall, I cut the cake in half, layered it, and then cut the cake into squares and then triangles.   But for Christmas, I thought it would be nice to make it as a whole cake.  After cutting off a quarter inch all around, the final cake would be about 10x8, which seemed a little skimpy to me.  Instead, I opted to make a pave (pronounced paveh - a paver) by cutting the cake in half lengthwise.  That was my first bad decision. 
For one thing, I didn't have a cakeboard that long. The longest I had was 14 inches, so I cut off a few inches from the length, cut the cakeboard to fit, and finished making the cake - which wasn't that easy either, trying to balance the cake on my cake turntable.

 The next day when I went to photograph the cake, I realized that I didn't have a cake plate that was 14-inches long.    And, I realized that even if I did have plate that big, maybe the person who was going to get this cake wouldn't have that much room in their refrigerator.  Off to the cutting board to lop off a few more inches of my cake - only now I also had to cut through the cakeboard.

My next error was not correctible.  I had designed the frosting for the cake that I had made in September to come to the proper consistency after being out of the refrigerator for only 10-15 minutes (meaning that the frosting was much softer than regular buttercream).  I had wanted this because the dessert was going to be served as part of a trio, and the other two desserts both had to stay refrigerated until serving time.  I figured that by the time the servers had everything delivered, all three would be at the proper temperature.  But this limits the places you might serve the cake.  For example, you wouldn't want to take it to a buffet where the cake would sit out all night (my 3 parties for this week are all in this category).  So, it's a great cake to serve at home when you can control exactly when dessert will be served, or if you are going out, and then plan on coming back to the house for dessert and coffee, but not the perfect dessert for Christmas.  I had also thought it would be nice to make the cake without the chocolate glaze - trying to offer some options for cutting down on prep time, but I forgot that in order to do this, I'd need more frosting.  So there I was at 10 PM, with only half the cake frosted. I couldn't face having to make another batch of real buttercream, though, so I did a quick version, which turned out to be a bit sweet with all of the white chocolate that I added (that recipe won't be included here because it does need a little work).  So, if I had to do it again, I'd just cut the cake in half, or make it round, and I might cut out   the cream in the frosting to give it more staying power at room temperature.  But that's for another day...

Chocolate Almond Triangles or Layer Cake
Before you get started on making a layer cake, especially one with real buttercream , you’ll need to have a lot of equipment. You’ll need a cake board for the cake, which you’ll need to cut to size if not making a standard round cake. I have a box cutter that I only use in the kitchen, for this purpose. Parchment paper is also essential. For the frosting you will probably need a standing mixer and preferably either two bowls that fit it, or an additional hand beater.

You can make the cake with the chocolate glaze (pictured above) or skip the chocolate and frost the entire cake (pictured below). It’s a bit faster to simply frost.

( This cake was partially frozen when photographed, which is why the cake looks so firm.  Also, you notice that the top and side frosting is a different color from the center frosting.  It's not an illusion - they were different recipes. )
Fudgy Chocolate Thin Sheetcake
5 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
2 tablespoons oil
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon-size chunks

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

2 large eggs, room temperature
1-1/3 cups water, room temperature

1-3/4 cups + 2 tablespoons (244 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour, measured by fluffing, scooping and leveling
1/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process (alkalized) cocoa-powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

White Chocolate Almond Buttercream (enough to frost the entire cake)
180 grams pasteurized egg whites (Organic Valley, or 6 large whites)
2 tablespoons water
1-1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup corn syrup + more to taste

1/2 cup heavy cream
7 ounces white chocolate (Black and Gold with Madagasgar Vanilla), chopped

2 cups (1 pound) unsalted butter, at cool room temperature
1 cup natural almond butter
2 tablespoons Di Saronno liqueur (amaretto)
1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup almond slices
Chocolate Glaze, optional - recipe follows

For the cake:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. with a rack in the middle of the oven. Spray a little grease in a 17x 11-inch jellyroll pan and then line it with parchment paper. Grease and flour the paper.

In a large microwave safe bowl, place the chocolate, oil and butter. Micro-cook on medium power (5) for 2 minutes. Stir, and let stand for 1 minute. If the chocolate is not completely melted, place back in the microwave and reheat in 30 second bursts, stirring between, until the chocolate is completely melted. Whisk in the brown sugar, sugar and vanilla. Whisk in the eggs, and then the water. The batter will be very thin.

In a bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt. In 5 additions, stir this into the chocolate batter. Pour the batter into the pan. It will be very thin and will need just a slight spreading to get it to fill the pan. Shake the pan side to side to get the batter to level out.

Rap the pan sharply on the counter to remove air bubbles.
Place in the oven and bake for 15-25 minutes until a tester inserted into the center of the cake comes our clean. Set the pan on a cooling rack and let the cake cool completely.

To get the cake out of the pan, loosen the edges with a butter knife or spatula (so that you don’t damage the pan). Cover the cake with a piece of parchment paper.  Place a board, rack or other rigid surface on top of the cake and then holding the two together, flip the pan upside down. Remove the top parchment carefully. If the cake is not on a firm surface, slide the parchment onto one now.  At this point the cake is upside down.

Trim 1/4-inch off all sides of the cake. Cut the cake in half all the way through the parchment, so that you now have two layers, each about 8x10-inches. Place a cake cardboard, slightly smaller than the cake, on one layer, and the same or larger on the other layer. Slide a cookie sheet, board or giant spatula under 1 layer and holding everything together, flip the cake again, so that the cake is now right side up, and is on a cake board. Remove the parchment paper. Repeat with the second layer. Freeze the top layer. Cover the bottom layer with foil until the frosting is ready.

For the Frosting:
The egg whites will need to be cooked over simmering water, so you’ll have to find a pot that the mixer bowl will fit into without the bottom touching the water. Place a few inches of water in the pot and set it on the stove to simmer.

To get the egg whites to whip up thickly, you’ll need to make sure that the mixer bowl and utensils have no grease on them. Thoroughly clean the mixer bowl, washing it down with vinegar to get rid of grease. Place the egg whites into the clean mixer bowl. Gently whisk in the water, sugar and corn syrup. Place the bowl over the simmering water and whisk constantly until the mixture reaches 120 - 130 degrees F. (1 - 3 minutes). The mixture will be very warm and the sugar granules should have dissolved. Remove the bowl from over the water. If you see any un-dissolved sugar crystals in the bowl, wipe these off with a paper towel. Beat the egg white mixture, on medium-high to high speed, until the mixture looks like thick shaving cream and the egg whites and bowl are cool (about 15-20 minutes). This is most easily done with a standing mixer using a balloon whisk attachment. To hasten the process, the bowl of eggs can be placed into a large bowl of ice water as you beat them.

While the egg whites are whipping, place the cream in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave for 1 minute or until beginning to bubble. Add the white chocolate. Let the mixture steep for 1 minute and then stir. If the white chocolate isn’t completely melted, microwave on medium (5) for 1 minute, stir and repeat as necessary to get the chocolate melted. Stir until smooth. Set aside to cool.(If you want a firmer buttercream, leave out the cream, and melt the white chocolate by itself)

When the egg whites are whipped and cool, place the butter into another large mixer bowl and beat until creamy. On low, beat in the whipped egg whites, a third at a time.

Increase the mixer speed to medium-high and until the mixture curdles and then smoothes out into a thick and creamy frosting (10-15 minutes). Beat in the white chocolate mixture, almond butter, the liqueur and the vanilla. Refrigerate the frosting for 15 minutes.

Place the almonds on a piece of foil and set in the toaster oven on 350 degrees F. for 3 minutes or until the nuts are aromatic and just starting to color. Let cool.

Spoon on a 1/2-inch layer of frosting on the the bottom layer of cake and then spread it evenly with a cake decorating spatula. Top with the partially frozen top layer cake.

Smooth the frosting on the sides, filling in all gaps. If frosting the entire cake, frost the sides and ends. Crush the almonds by squeezing them with you hands. Have a jellyroll pan and the nuts next to the cake. Slide a spatula underneath the bottom cakeboard and then slide your hand under so you can hold the cake up. Over the jellyroll pan, pat the nuts onto the sides of the cake. Decorate the top with piping, writing or chocolate drizzles, as desired.

Chocolate Drizzle
2 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
1 teaspoon canola oil

Place the chocolate and oil in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave on medium (5) power for 1 minute. Stir for 30 seconds. If the chocolate is not completely melted, set back in the microwave and heat for 15 seconds. Stir and repeat as necessary to get the chocolate to melt. Let the chocolate cool until it mounds slightly, and then spoon into a very small pastry bag.
For the glaze:
If glazing the cake with chocolate, you can put a very thin layer of butter cream on the sides to seal in the crumbs. Refrigerate the cake for about an hour to firm up the buttercream. Make the glaze:

8 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped (use very good chocolate)
1-1/2 sticks (6 ounces) unsalted butter
2 tablespoons corn syrup

Combine all of the ingredients in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on medium power (5) for two minutes. Stir and let the mixture stand for a minute. If the chocolate and butter are not completely melted, reheat in 30 second bursts (on 5), stirring between, until everything is melted. Stir, gently, until the glaze is completely blended and smooth. Strain the chocolate into another bowl. Let the chocolate cool for a minute. Set the cake on a rack over a jellyroll pan and pour the glaze over the cake, letting it flow completely over the top and into the pan below. If necessary, use a small spatula to spread chocolate on any spots on the sides of the cake where the chocolate didn’t adhere, but do not smooth the top. Hold the cake on one hand and pat on the crushed nuts onto the sides of the cake. Refrigerate to set the glaze and then store until 15 minutes before serving.

Here's another decorating idea.  The ribbon is made out of rolled fondant (I bought it), that I colored red and green.  To make it look more like ribbon, I added a shiny glaze (that I bought from a cake decorating store) and then sprinkled on edible glitter.  To keep the bow from collapsing, I put cotton in each loop, which I removed only after the fondant had dried in shape.  The tag is just a slab of white chocolate, which I wrote on with chocolate.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


Every year since my kids left home, I vow not to make jelly donuts, and every year (sometimes just in the nick of time before Chanukah ends), I scurry to get them made.  I guess there's just nothing that says Chanukah like freshly fried jelly donuts.  That fresh, wonderful quality doesn't last long - hours really, and so this year I invited a few friends for  a light lunch, and then finished off with these treats.  The remainder of the donuts I gave away to a few families with children.  Poor hubby - no donuts for him this year...

Makes 24 small donuts

3-1/4 cups (423 grams) all-purpose flour, measured by fluffing, scooping and leveling, plus more for sprinkling the work surface
1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons (17 grams) instant yeast (rapid-rise)
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup dry milk + 1 cup warm water OR 1 cup warm milk
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 large egg, room temperature
1 large egg yolk, room temperature

2 12-ounce jars seedless raspberry jam
Sugar for sprinkling
Canola or peanut oil for frying

If using milk instead of the dry milk/water combination, place the milk in a small saucepan and bring it to a boil. Remove the skin that has formed across the top of the mil, and add the butter. Pour the milk mixture into a container and place in the refrigerator for about 10 minutes to bring the temperature down to about 105-110 degrees F.

Combine 2-1/4 (293 grams) cups flour, yeast, sugar and dry milk, if using, in a mixer bowl. Add the water (or milk mixture), butter, egg and egg yolk, and beat on low speed for 3 minutes.

Stir in enough of the remaining flour to make a soft dough. It should be firm enough to come together in a ball, but sticky enough that it will stick to your fingers if you push you fingers down into the dough. (Don’t take the dough out of the bowl – I’ve only done that to demonstrate the texture.)

Cover the bowl with a tea towel or plastic wrap and let rise 1 hour or until doubled in volume. To test, flour your finger and poke it down into the dough gently. If the indentation remains, the dough has doubled.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface, and knead the dough for a few minutes, as follows:

Press with the heal of the hand          

 Roll the dough up towards you

Press down with the heal of the hand again

Roll the dough to 1/2-inch thick. Cut out circles with a cookie cutter (we like small ones- maybe 1-5/8-inch round).

Cover the donuts with a cotton dish towel, and let rise until doubled, about 45 minutes to 1 hour (this time when you poke one, it should spring back)

Heat oil in a deep fryer or in a pot ( I used a Delonghi deep fryer – not rotary type).

If using a regular pot, the oil should be about 3" deep.

Fry the doughnuts for about 2 minutes, flip them over and cook for 2 more minutes. They should be well browned on both sides.

Drain them on paper towels briefly and then immediately roll in sugar.

Fit a pastry bag with Bismarck tip if you have one, or use a 1/8-inch round pastry tube. To fill the bag with the jam., place the bag in a large glass and turn down the top of the bag for stability, and then spoon in the jam.

                Bismarck Tip                                              


Stick the tube into the side of the doughnut and fill the doughnut with jam. I like to tip the tube side to side while squeezing in the jam to make sure that plenty of jam gets inside.

Serve the donuts as soon as possible. They should be eaten within 4-8 hours and cannot be frozen.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


Chanukah is fast approaching, and I usually make either cheesecake ( in honor of Judith) or fry up some jelly donuts (symbolic of the Temple flame).  I thought I would post a few recipes for cheesecake, as I imagine that more people would be willing to do that than to rise dough and fry it.  I spent the entire weekend making, and throwing out cheesecake.  I'm an experienced baker - the year before last, I made 200 cheesecakes for a fundraiser, so I was completely baffled when all of my cheesecakes failed. Some of them overbrowned, and other underbaked, and I finally figured out that my oven wasn't working properly.  It can be a challenge trying to determine when a cheesecake is baked through, especially if you have a low-end oven that is inconsistent.  In the meantime, all of the minis that I made came out great, so I knew that this would be an easy recipe for any kind of baker, using any kind of equipment.  They're also the perfect size if you're having more than one dessert, or if you've just had a large meal containing fried foods!


Cookie Crumb Crust
1 cup crushed Oreo thin crisps, or chocolate wafers
Powdered sugar to taste (typically 1-3 tablespoons)
1- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1 pound cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter (I used Skippy Natural)
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs, room temperature (add 1 more yolk if you like a lighter cheesecake)

Ganache Topping
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 ounces semisweet bar chocolate (I like Lindt™ gold), chopped

To make the cookie crumbs, process the cookies until finely ground, or you can place them in a large ziptop plastic bag and roll over them with a rolling pin. To get the crumbs out of the bag, cut a large hole in one bottom corner of the bag and let the crumbs fall out into a bowl.

To bring the eggs to room temperature quickly, immerse them, in their shells, into a bowl of warm water for 3-5 minutes.

PREHEAT OVEN TO 350 degrees F. with a rack in the lower third of the oven. Have ready a mini-cheesecake pan with removable bottoms (I like Norpro™) and a tart tamper (both are available from http://www.amazon.com/)

Place the cookie crumbs in a bowl and add the butter to the crumbs, a little at a time, stirring with a fork to moisten the crumbs. Add just enough butter for the crumbs to hold together when you press them with your fingers (the exact amount will depend on the cookies used).

Spoon 2 teaspoons of cookie crumbs into each cup, and then use the dough tamper to press the crumbs firmly into place .  Place in the oven and BAKE FOR 5-7 MINUTES until the crust is just starting to color. Remove from the oven and let cool.


For the filling: Processor Method
Place the cream cheese and peanut butter in a processor bowl (requires a 6 cup processor). Process until smooth. Add the sugar, and vanilla, and process until well mixed. Scrape down the bowl, and process to blend. Add the eggs (and egg yolk, if using) and process just to blend. Scrape down the bowl and process to blend.

Alternate: Mixer Method
Place the cream cheese and peanut butter in a large mixer bowl and beat on medium speed until creamy. Add the sugar and vanilla, and beat until well blended. Scrape down the bowl and beat a little to blend. Lastly add the eggs (and yolk, if using) one at a time. Beat on low speed just to blend together.

To continue:
Spoon the cheese mixture into each cup until it comes to within 1/4-inch of the top (you will have a little too much filling).

Place in the oven and bake for 15 minutes – the tops should not have any "wet" or raw looking spots in them.. Let cool for an hour, and then push up on the bottom of each cheesecake to get each out of the pan.  You won't need to run a knife around each one - they'll come out fine without doing that.  Place the minis in a container, cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.  Mop up any excess moisture on top of the cheesecakes with a paper towel before garnishing. 

For Ganache:
Pour the cream into a small microwave-safe bowl. Heat on high until bubbling. Add the chocolate to the bowl. Let set for a minute, and then stir. If the chocolate isn't completely melted, reheat it on medium power (5), in 30 second increments, stirring between each heating, until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Stir to blend the chocolate and cream completely. Spoon about 1/2 teaspoon onto each mini-cheesecake.  If desired sprinkle ¼ teaspoon of finely chopped unsalted peanuts into the chocolate of each cake. Refrigerate the cheesecake until about 5 minutes before serving. Cheesecake can be made 3 days ahead. Cover with foil and keep refrigerated until serving.

If you'd like to make plain cheesecake minis, use sour cream instead of peanut butter and don't add that extra egg yolk.  You can use the vanilla, or delete it and use orange or lemon juice instead.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Slice and Bake Butter Cookies

This recipe is no longer available on the Internet.  To obtain a copy, please purchase Amazing Desserts on cd-rom.