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 🙂

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.

Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake

Some people wait for special occasions or holidays to try new decadent recipes when there is a crowd to appreciate it. Well not for me. When the craving for chocolate hits, then its an occasion to indulge in a rich piece of chocolate heaven. Sure, I could settle for some Häagen-Dazs or Ben & Jerry’s Ice cream or curb my sweet tooth with half a dozen chocolate chip cookies and a tall glass of milk. But why settle for store bought when you have all the ingredients to whip up something more satisfying.

This triple threat is much easier than it looks. It just takes a bit more patience, but in the end will be worthwhile. Its kind of hard to resist all this chocolate goodness. The bottom layer is an oh so moist dark chocolate cake, the middle layer is smooth chocolate mousse and the top layer is a very light creamy white chocolate.

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Ingredients

Bottom layer ( If you have a favorite chocolate cake recipe, then you can opted for that)

1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
1 cups  sugar
1 stick unsalted butter
2 medium eggs, room temperature
3 ounces  dark chocolate, melted
½ cup  cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon  salt
½ cup  strong coffee
½ cup  milk

Middle Layer ( you can opt to using an instant mousse. 2 pkg will be enough. It will taste just as good).

7 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
6 tablespoons hot water
2 cups whipping cream (heavy cream)
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
pinch of salt

Top Layer (sorry, I haven’t found a substitute for this yet)

1 ¼ teaspoon powdered gelatin (unflavored)
2  tablespoon water
8 ounces  white chocolate
1¾ cups heavy whipping cream, divided
¼ cup powdered sugar
Preparation
Preheat oven to 350° and grease and flour a 9″ spring form pan. Set aside
Beginning with the bottom layer, prepare cake as you would any other cake. Whisk the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda) together in one bowl, and in another cream the butter and sugar until lite and fluffy. Then add eggs one at a time to the mixture. Next add in the cocoa powder. Mix until blended.
Combine milk and coffee and heat in the microwave for 30 seconds. In another bowl, melt the chocolate in the microwave for 45 seconds. Begin to blend all ingredients together. Alternate between the flour mixture and the milk coffee, adding to the already creamed butter mix. Next pour in the melted chocolate and blend well. Pour the mixture into prepared pan and bake for 20 t0 25 minutes or until toothpick a clean or have a few crumbs.
The middle layer is a bit easier. Combine hot water and cocoa powder in small bowl. In a heat proof bowl, melt chocolate in microwave for 45 seconds. stir until smooth (you can use the tempering method by placing the bowl over a saucepan filled with  a bit of simmering water, stirring occasionally until chocolate is melted). Using a stand mixed, use the whisk attachment and blend on low speed the sugar, whip cream, and salt until blended. Increase to medium speed until  mixture begins to thicken, about 20 seconds then increase speed to whip until peaks are formed.
Add the cocoa powder mixture to melted chocolate. Blend until smooth. Using a hand whisk, fold part of whipped cream into chocolate mixture to lighten. The use a spatula to fold in remaining whipped cream until no white streaks remain. Spoon the mixture into spring form pan over cooled cake (before I did this, I evened off the top of the cake and placed in back into the pan). Taking your time, smooth the top of the mousse with spatula. Clean any stray drips inside the side of the pan. Refrigerate for  at least 20 minutes. In the meanwhile begin preparing top layer.
For the top layer, add gelatin to a small bowl of water; stir and let stand at least 4 to 5 minutes. In a saucepan bring ½ cup cream to simmer over medium heat. In another bowl, place white chocolate. Remove the cream from heat, allow to cooled 2 minute, then add the gelatin mixture and stir until dissolved and no lumps exist. Next, pour cream mixture over white chocolate and whisk until mixture is smooth. Allow to cool at room temperature. The mixture will become very thick. No worries, simply stir frequently.

Using a stand mixer with a whisk attachment, whip remaining cream at medium speed adding powder sugar as you go until it starts to thicken. As it begins to thicken, increase the speed and whip until soft peaks start to form. Check the whisk after about 30 seconds for soft peaks when whisk is lifted. Using a hand whisk, fold some of whipped cream into white chocolate mixture to lighten it up. Then use a spatula to fold remaining whipped cream into the chocolate mixture until there are no streaks. Gently spoon white chocolate mousse onto the middle layer of mousse. Smooth to the sides to avoid bubbles. Placed cake back in the refrigerator and allow to set for at least 3 hours or until ready to serve.

20170208_0836491I hope you enjoy it as must as I enjoyed making it! I just love when a plan comes together!

Happy Baking!

THE CHOCOLATE CAGE CAKE

Happy First of February!!!!!

Love is already in the air. This month host the day of hearts, all things red, lots of glam and chocolates galore. So what better way to start the sweetest month than with a favorite of mine: The Chocolate Cage Cake. My favorite thing about this cake is the contrast of colors and flavor. The way the chocolate cage encase the vanilla buttercream icing while the red fruits and green flowers play peek-a-boo through the whimsical windows.

I never really need an excuse to get in the kitchen. I love baking and creating something special. With it being the anniversary of my only brother in-law, what better way to celebrate than with a beautiful edible gift from me. After all, who doesn’t like cake?

The cake itself is pretty basic. It’s a white vanilla cake which I substituted with almond flavor. Almond has such a sweet aroma to it, I just love it. The icing is my go vanilla buttercream. It’s the old faithful that many bakers use. Plus I normally always have butter and sugar so it’s the most convenient for me.

So here it goes:

White Vanilla Cake

  • 2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour + a little more for pans
  • 1 stick butter at room temperature + some for the pans
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • ½  cup vegetable oil
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup milk

Frosting

  • 3 sticks butter
  • 5 cups sifted confectioners sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoon heavy cream

Chocolate Cage

  • 7 ounces dark chocolate

Yield: two 9 inch cakes ¦ Prep: 30 min ¦ Cook: 30 min

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350º F (120ºC). Butter and flour the pans tapping off the extra flour.

Combine the flour, salt and baking powder in a bowl; whisk and set aside. In another bowl beat sugar, butter and oil together on medium speed until nice and fluffy. The mixture will get lighter, the fluffier it becomes. Then beat in one egg at a time. No worries if the mixture looks like it’s separating. You’re on track, don’t panic. I added my almond extract and continue mixing for another minute (I substituted the vanilla for almond extract, but use vanilla if it is your prefered taste of cake).

Now alternate adding the flour mixture and the milk starting and ending with the flour until everything is combined and smooth. You don’t want to over beat the mixture or the cake will have a few air pockets. I normally let my batter sit for about 15 minutes to let the ingredients mingle a bit.

Divide the mixture evenly into the pans. Bake for 30 minutes or until the cakes are golden brown. Use a toothpick to ensure it is done. Remove from pans and set on racks to cool. Trim the tops of the cakes to make them even. Set aside until ready to put together.

On to the frosting. . .

The frosting is simple and very easy to make. When using a stand mixer its less work too. WORK SMARTER, NOT HARDER!!!!

Some people prefer using a paddle attachment for mixing, but i find that the whisk paddle adds more air in and gives the icing a lighter and fluffier look. In the bowl, add the butter and confectioner’s sugar until combined. Add in the heavy cream as needed and continue to beat until it looks clouds my daughter says. But what she means is very fluffy. Then add the vanilla and until combined.

Time for the fun part. . .

Okay, so another great thing I love of about the Chocolate Cage Cake is that the application of the buttercream doesn’t have to be perfect. Just smooth enough for the cage to sit around the cake.

So first thing is to place one of the cakes on to a secure platter. Then smooth a layer of the buttercream on the top of this bottom cake and then add the second cake directly on top. Push down lighty so that it is secured. But not to much. You dont want all that delicious cream to come out. Make sure it is evenly placed to avoid having to trim a lot of the cake off. Spread a thin layer of the buttercream around the sides and top of the cake. This will hide any stray crumbs when you do your second layer of icing. Place in the refrigerator for about 1 hour. During this time I prepare my chocolate for the cage.

The quickest way to melt the chocolate is to microwave for about 30 seconds. I usually use the tempering method with a boiler when handing chocolate. But this process is quicker.  Once the chocolate has melted, I pour into a homemade piping bag (made with wax paper or you can use a piping bag with a small round tip) and cut a small hole at the end. Roll out a piece of parchment paper onto the table. In a quick circular motioning, squeeze the chocolate onto the parchment paper a few layers (just a note, I measured to paper to the exact size of the cake) . Be careful not to apply to much pressure to the pipping bag as to avoid a big mess. It can get messy. Set aside to let air dry partially . At least until the second coating is of the cake.

Remove the cake from the refrigerator and begin applying a thick coat of buttercream to the sides and top of the cake. It does not have to be perfect, but try to get it as smooth and even as possible. Place in the freezer for about 10 minutes, just enough to set.

At this time your chocolate should be dry but still flexible enough to bend. Begin to smooth around the cake gently pressing the chocolate onto the buttercream. Give it a few rubs on the side and place in the refrigerator for about 2 hours.

Carefully remove the cake from the refrigerator not to break the top of the chocolate cage. Slowly unwrap the parchment paper from the chocolate. A few pieces may fall of, but not to worry. Once you have removed the paper, you can assemble the fruits or decor of your choice on top and around the cake.20170201_1512451

And there you have it! I hope the directions were easy to follow. But if not, dont hestitate to ask anything and I will do my best to assist.

ENJOY!!!!