The Ultimate Carrot Cake Cupcakes w/Mascarpone Frosting

What is Easter without carrot cake? Better yet cupcakes?

When I was growing up my aunt Bea always made the best carrot cakes. I use to watch so intensely to find out what was the secret to her moist masterpiece. Maybe it was the mysterious blend of spices she sprinkled in, or the ratio of cream cheese to butter she added in the frosting. Perhaps it wasn’t the ingredients at all. Could have been her singing while she sifted, mixed and blended with love. Whatever it was, it made for the perfect carrot cake.

So after many years of trial and error, I have come up with my best combination for the most splendid carrot cake.  It is foolproof and simple to make. I guarantee you will be satisfied.

Nothing tops a carrot cake like a creamy frosting. Normally there is no question as to what I whip up. It’s always going to be a cream cheese frosting.  On the other hand, why not try something slightly different. I was feeling a bit frisky. So I found a delightful twist using  Italian mascarpone cheese on a recipe from one of my favorite chefs Ina Garten in her latest book Foolproof: Recipes You Can Trust.

To decorate, I made a few carrots out of fondant. Not necessary step.  Just a little something extra that the kids will enjoy and big kids like me too. Picsart2017-13-4--20-46-53

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 3 ½ cups grated carrots
  •  ½ cup raisins
  • 1 cup walnuts, optional

Frosting

  • 12 oz Italian mascarpone cheese, at room temperature
  • 4 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees; Line the cupcake pan with the cupcake molds.
  2. In the electronic stand mixing bowl, with the paddle attachment, mix oil and sugar together. Add eggs one at a time. Add vanilla and mix together.
  3. In another bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt and nutmeg. On low speed, add half the carrots to the wet mixture. Then add in the dry mixture. Now add the remaining carrots and walnuts. Blend well.
  4. Using a scooper, spoon batter into each cupcake molds. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes.
  5. Remove from oven and allow to cool in pan for about 5 to 7 minutes. Then remove from pan, place on cooling rack until ready to frost (best to allow cupcakes to completely cool before frosting).

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Frosting

  1. Add all ingredients into a medium bowl or stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment and beat until fluffy. Gently spread frosting on top of each cupcake. Plate and serve.

Hope you enjoy this as much as I did.

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Adapted from: My Aunt Bea 🙂

Madeleines with Love

Happy Monday!

Kid you not, I have always wondered about these Madeleines. Are they bite size cakes, are they cookies? Which side is up? Needless to say, I love them, whatever they are.

Madeleines are similar to sponge cake, but a tad bit lighter. These airy-buttery lemon flavored treats are great for breakfast, brunch, as a snack or a sweet addition to nightcap. Lightly dusted with powder sugar, I always have mine with a steaming hot cup of espresso.

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These little beauts are rather easy to make. A few simple ingredients, most of which you can find in you pantry. No really, nothing needed that will send you scrambling to the closest grocers mart.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of flour
  • ¹⁄3 cup sugar
  • 1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 tablespoon Agave syrup (maple will work too)
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 tablespoons Lemon Zest
  • 7 tablespoons melted butter

Instruction

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Lightly coat madeleine form with butter and flour. Shake off excess.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, salt and baking powder. Set aside.
  3. With a stand mixer, whisk eggs, zest and sugar together 1 minute. Then add in syrup and water. Alternate between dry ingredients and melted butter, adding to mixture. Whisk for 5 minutes or until all ingredients are fully incorporated. Cover bowl with a cloth and allow to sit for 10 to 15 minutes.
  4. In the prepared form using a spoon, fill each madeleine slot with batter. Be careful not to over fill. On the center rack, bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until golden brown.
  5. Dust with powder sugar and serve!

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Pear Tart w/ Almond Frangipane

Spring makes me feel all happy inside. All I can think about are warm pies and brightly colored fruits. Looking out the window yesterday, I was inspired by the yellow tulips to make something cheerful.  And thought, hmm how about a tart!

Tarts are always fun to make. Although the process can seem a bit time consuming, the delicate precision needed is well worth it. Whether sweet or savory, tarts are one of those desserts perfect for any occasion.

I was first introduced to Frangipane on a trip to our favorite city in South France a few years ago. It didn’t take much convincing as the main ingredient was one of my beloved nuts, Almonds. Frangipane is a custard made and flavored with almonds and can be used in a variety of ways. Peered with a sweet poached fruit, the flavors combined makes a wonderful explosion in your mouth.

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This pear frangipane is a classic French tart. Don’t be deceived by the appearances. It is unbelievably simple, and a perfect way to showcase the main ingredients. The sweet poached pears are fanned out in an almond cream baked in a buttery pâte sablée shell. The results are intoxicating. You can smell the sweet fragrance of the Pear liquor, cinnamon and vanilla throughout the entire house.

Here is what we need:-

Ingredients

Pâte Sablée (Shell)

  • 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons almond powder
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • pinch sea salt
  • 4 oz unsalted butter, cold cubes
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the frangipane

  • 3 oz toasted almonds (3/4 cup)
  • 1/3 cup  sugar
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temp
  • 2 tablespoons Williams- Christ Pear Liquor
  • 1 large egg, room temp

Poached Pears

  • 3 medium, ripe Bosc pears, halved
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 star anise
  • 4 fresh ginger slices
  • 2 teaspoon whole cloves
  • all spice or peppercorn
  • 1 split vanilla bean pod
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon Williams- Christ Pear Liquor
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 4 cups water

Preparation

  1. For the shell: You make the Pâte Sablée pretty much the way you would make any pastry dough. I normally make mine by hand, but you can use a food processor to make it a bit easier and faster. Combine flour, sugar, almond powder in a bowl and blend together. Add butter cold butter cubes and begin to cut the butter into the flour mixture until crumbly. Add milk and vanilla and blend by folding everything together until dough forms. place dough on a workplace and form a ball. Press slightly to form a circle. Cover with plastic and refrigerate for 20 to 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 325°F.
  2. Roll out dough to fit a tart tin with a removable bottle (14″ x 4″ x 1″) Cover with foil and bake the shell for 15 minutes or until pale yellow.

I’m always tasting always sampling in this second part!

  1. For the Poached Pears: Peel the pears, trim both ends, then cut each pear in half lengthwise and core them. In a large pot, place the butter, Williams liquor, and sugar. Heat over medium until sugar dissolves. Add water, and all spices and bring to a boil. Once boiling, add pear halves ( Although the recipe calls for 2 pears, I always add an additional just in case). Reduce boil to a low simmer and cook pears for 15 to 20 minutes or until soft to touch. Then remove from heat and allow pears to cool in the liquid.

  1. For the Frangipane:  Using a food processor, finely ground the almond. Pour in a large bowl and add sugar, butter and the Williams-Christ liquor. Blend together with a hand mixer. Continue whipping until the mixture is creamy, about 1 minute. Add the egg and continue whipping at medium speed until thick, about 2 more minutes. Spread the almond frangipane in the prepared tart shell.
  2. Slice each half lengthwise into about 7 even slices, hold the pear as you slice them. Slightly fan the slices and arrange them on top of the frangipane. Whatever design you would like.
  3. Bake the tart for 30 to 35 minutes until the frangipane is golden. Remove from oven, brush the pears with a bit of the sauce the pears were boiled in and allow to cool at room temperature. Sprinkle the tart with powdered sugar.
  4. Serve with ice cream or whipped cream. Alone is great too.

Although this is classically made with almonds, you can use just about any nut. And undoubtedly, any poached fruit can find it home in this creamy delight.

Hope you enjoy this as much as we did!

Adopted: From My Home to Yours

Sinfully Delicious Chocolate Cake

FOR THE LOVE OF CHOCOLATE!

Its HumpDay guys! And boy do I have something decadent for you.

Okay, most know that I have had a secret love affair for many years. But the secret is out and I am not ashamed to say, I L O VE CHOCOLATE! It should come then as no surprise that chocolate is apart of my daily life like breathing. In some shape, fashion or form, this cocoa goodness makes an appearance.

So instead of just a cup of hot chocolate today, I decided to share the love with my in-laws during “Nachtisch” (German for dessert after dinner). Come on, who doesn’t love chocolate?

I have tried a few recipes and as you guess, some were no so great. The thing is, when using different textures of chocolate in a cake, you have to make sure the right ingredients in the correct amounts work well together for the particular outcome you want to achieve. Not all products work together.

But I think I have found the perfect combination and have been using this recipe ever since. This is the most moist, flavorful chocolate cake you will ever make.

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Ingredients

Chocolate Cake

  • 1 ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 ½ cup sugar
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 large eggs (room temp)
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • ½ cup canola oil**
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup coffee (strong)*
  • 3 oz semi-sweet chocolate (melted)

Chocolate Ganache (optional)

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 8 oz semi-sweet chocolate

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting 

Directions:

  1. Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round baking pans and set aside.
  2. In the microwave, melt half of the chocolate 45 seconds to 1 minute (microwaves vary in temperature), remove from microwave, add the remaining half of chocolate and blend until melted. Set Aside to cool.
  3. In a large bowl with a hand mixer or an electric stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and mix the dry ingredients until thoroughly combined.
  4. Add eggs one at a time, then pour in remaining liquid ingredients. Beat on medium speed for 1 minute then add melted chocolate and beat for another two minutes; the batter will become thin.
  5. Pour batter evenly into prepared pans.
  6. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes for round pans, 35 to 40 minutes for  square and rectangular pans or until inserted toothpick comes out clean.
  7. Remove from oven and allow to cool at room temperature for 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from pan and place on cooling rack for another 10 minutes
  8. For the chocolate frosting, I found a very quick and easy buttercream frosting by Savory Sweet Life that I used Chocolate Buttercream Frosting .
  9. For the ganache, chop chocolate in to pieces and place in a medium bowl. In a sauce pan, heat milk in a sauce pan, bring to a boiling. Add milk to the chocolate. Allow to set for 5 minutes before stirring. Decorate and design with chocolate as you choose. I used a spoon to drizzle the ganache.

Note:

  • Coffee is optional. You can use water in its place if so desired *
  • You can use vegetable oil **

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This truly is sinfully delicious. Just one slice will not be enough.

 

Braided Apple Strudel Made Easy

If you love Apple Pie like I do, then you would really appreciate this one. This is one of those quick easy dessert recipes that you must simply have in your rolodex.  It has all the taste of a traditional strudel, but with half the work in half the time.

The secret to easy is puff pastry! Puff pastry can be used in a number of ways from the simplest of dishes to the more intricate appetizers and desserts. When you are short on time this is the way to go.

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So Strudel is a European dessert, more specifically an Austrian pastry made of thin dough rolled up with fruit filling and baked. The name Strudel is actually a German word meaning “whirlpool”. It refers to the technique of rolling up the fruits in the dough. That makes sense 🙂

Well like the saying goes, when in Germany, eat Strudel. Or is it? Anyway, being in Germany it seems only natural to make a Strudel instead of an apple pie. I will save that for another post. So here we go!

Recipe yields 6 portions. Preheat oven to 375° F, 175° C

Ingredients:

  • 3-4 large apples peeled and sliced
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 4 tablespoons water
  • ¼ cup almonds/walnuts sliced (optional)
  • ¼ cup raisins (optional)
  • 1 egg beaten
  • 1 package of frozen puff pastry, thawed

Instructions:

  • Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and grease and flour lightly.
  • In a bowl pot, mix together apple slices, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, butter, flour, almonds (if using), raisins (if using) and 3 tablespoon water. Cook on medium low heat for 5 minutes. Then remove from heat and allow to cool.**
  • Floured flat surface and roll out dough*
  • Cut dough into 2 equal squares.*
  • Place the apple mixture down the middle of each prepared dough leaving a 2-3 inches on both sides free.
  • Cut 9 to 10 evenly spaced incisions into the dough on both sides. Try to cut them parallel to each other.
  • Begin folding one piece at a time alternating sides in a downward design creating a plat/braid. At the end, you can either tuck in the braid or allow apples to spill out.
  • Gently put strudel on baking sheet with the seam side down.*
  • Mix egg and remaining water. Brush on strudel.
  • Bake for 35 – 40 minutes or until golden brown.
  • Allow to cool before sprinkling with powdered sugar.
  • Serving with ice cream, vanilla cream, fruits or whatever you like.

Notes

** This step was my preference for this recipe. You do not have to cook the apples. Simply combine all ingredients minus the water and place on center of the stretched dough. I just like the buttery taste of cooked apples.

*  I did not stretch the dough on this recipe. I unfolded the dough and cut into 2 pieces and places directly onto the baking sheet to avoid any accidents because the warm apples softens the dough.

Hope you enjoyed this recipe! Let me know how yours came out.