This cake was supposed to be easy. I was going to brag about how fast I whipped it out. Ha Ha Ha. Oh the irony. One thing got in the way. That stupid virtue. You know the one. Patience. I’m scowling at the word as I type.
This recipe is easy. You just have to be patient. Don’t worry—I was impatient for you. I’ll let you know when you’re about to derail this simple recipe, making it complicated.
I really needed this cake to be simple. I got home from work at 5:30 pm, and had to be somewhere by 7:43 pm—leaving me a little over 2 hours to make a cake. Not bad. So while I made the cake, graduate school husband went to the grocery store to pick up the goods for the icing. Made the cake, no problem. I was home by 11 and ready to whip up a quick icing. In my defense, the word ‘icing’ was deceiving. Ganache would have been a better word choice. Needless to say, I exercised impatience. The icing wasn’t thickening as fast as I wanted to go to bed. So, I whipped up a meringue and added it to the icing thinking it would help it to stabilize. It was a runny mess. However, I proceeded to pour it all over the cake. What was I thinking? Meanwhile I looked at the remnants of the bowl with the orignal chocolate icing. Guess what. It had thickened up. In an abnormally calm manner, I directed graduate school husband to make another batch of ganache. He normally doesn’t involve himself in my baking adventures, but he was so helpful. I proceeded to scrape the cake of the runny chocolate mess. No lie, I wiped it down with a wet paper towel. We let the ganache set overnight and went to bed. 12:30pm. By morning, the ganache was perfect, so I re-iced the cake. Sprinkled with powdered sugar and shaved dark chocolate.
I was so thankful the cake was still salvageable. I’m not sure if this congrats sign ended up being for me or for my graduate school husband, although it was intended for him. He and his coworkers just finished up their practicum for the year and had a BBQ to celebrate/say goodbye. I’m going to miss those guys. They welcomed me into the group as if I were one of them. They gave me a nickname. They ate my food.
And they devoured this cake. Thank the Lord it turned out. I promise to be more virtuous.
1/4 c. milk
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 c. AP unbleached flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/2 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips
10 tbsp. unsalted butter, room temp
1 1/4 c. sugar
3/4 c. lightly packed brown sugar
1 large egg
1 egg yolk
1. Preheat oven to 335° and place rack in middle position. Line the bottom of two 9-inch round pans with parchment paper.
2. Combine wet ingredients in a bowl. Combine dry ingredients, except the chocolate chips, in separate bowl. Set aside.
3. Using a spatula, toss 2 tablespoons of the wet ingredients with the chocolate chips in a small bowl. Add 1/4 cup of the dry ingredients. Toss again to coat evenly. This will keep the chocolate chips from sinking to the bottom of the cake.
4. Mix butter and sugars in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment until well creamed, about 3 minutes.
5. Add egg and egg yolk one at a time.
6. Alternately add dry and wet mixtures about a quarter at a time without pausing between additions.
7. Removed the bowl and fold in the chocolate chips with a spatula. The dough will be thick—more like cookie dough than cake batter.
8. Divide dough into prepared pans. It will be too thick to fill the pan to the edges, but will spread under the heat of the oven. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until edges crown and surface is browned.
9. Cool the cakes in pans to room temperature, then invert them using a small offset spatula to release edges.
10. Make ganache. Spread thick layer between the two cakes. Dust the top with confectioners sugar. Shave dark chocolate and sprinkle on top.
1 c. heavy cream
1/4 c. sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
10 oz. bittersweet chocolate
2 tsp. vanilla extract
dash of sea salt
1. In a saucepan over medium heat, bring cream and sugar to a light simmer, stirring occasionally. Place the butter, chocolate, vanilla, and sea salt in a large bowl.
2. Pour hot cream over ingredients in the bowl and let stand for a few minutes to melt the chocolate. Whisk until smooth and set aside to cool, but do not refrigerate. Here’s the part where you may derail if you neglect that virtue. Be patient. It will set up.
3. Once the icing has thickened, stir it with a flexible spatula to a spreadable consistency.
For a downloadable PDF of the cake banner and instructions, click here.
Remember when I redid my post on Spinach Quiche a couple weeks ago? Well, I’m at it again. But I promise this is the last re-do for awhile. Brand spanking new content is on the way.
By the way, sorry I’ve been MIA this week. I’ve been working on a couple freelance design projects. Not only have I neglected the blog, but I’ve neglected dinner. We’ve been ordering pizza or scrambling eggs every night. Don’t judge. This week will probably be no better. I’ll be spending the week at the HOW Design Conference.
Enough about work. Let’s talk about Baked French Toast. It’s a classy breakfast casserole in my book, if you can even call it a casserole. It’s wonderfully versatile. The best part about baked french toast—you prepare it the night before and bake it in the morning. I don’t know about you, but I’m not much of a morning person. The less work I have to do in the AM, the better. How do all you mom’s do it? I can barely get myself out of the door in the morning. Needless to say, baked french toast makes my mornings easier. And on the weekends, it lets me sleep in longer. Baked French Toast, I love you.
This recipe has a simple nutty orange flavor. I am a little obsessed with orange right now. I think it may be the new lemon. May I suggest that you serve it with 100% pure maple syrup? I made the switch a couple years ago. Once you go pure, you’ll never go back. And yes, that is a Coke bottle I’m serving the syrup in. It’s time invest in a syrup dispenser.
If I tell you a secret, will you promise to keep reading?
I don’t really like cinnamon rolls.
I can hear the gasps and the cars outside screeching to a halt. I know it’s a sin not to like these. But if I eat anything too sweet first thing in the morning, my blood sugar is off the rest of the day. And then I’m grumpy. With a headache. Please forgive me? Luckily, my husband and his co-workers love cinnamon rolls. They devoured these little muffins.
I use the term muffin loosely literally. Graduate school husband had to transport these guys to work—problem #1. And, with no plates or forks around at work, they needed to be edible by hand—problem #2. So I came up with the parchment paper muffin idea. I’m sure it’s been done before, but it’s new to me. Not to mention, they’re kinda cute served individually.
Please forgive me, but I hope you enjoy these more than I did. Dang blood sugar.
3/4 c. whole milk, warmed to 110°
1 envelope (2 1/4 tsp.) rapid rise yeast*
6 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted and cooled
3 large eggs
4 c. AP unbleached flour
1/4 c. sugar
1 1/4 tsp. salt
1. Add a pinch of sugar to the warmed milk. Add yeast and allow to proof for 5 minutes until foamy.
2. Whisk together melted butter and eggs.
3. Combine 3 1/2 cups of the flour, sugar, and salt together in a standing mixer fitted with the dough hook. With the mixer on low speed, add the yeast mixture and the egg mixture, and mix until the dough comes together, about 2 minutes.
4. Increase the mixer speed to medium and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. If after 5 minutes more flour is needed, add the remaining a little bit at a time until the dough clears the side of the bowl but sticks to the bottom (The more flour you add, the tougher the dough. Try to add as little as possible).
5. Turn the dough out onto a clean surface and knead by hand to form a smooth, round ball. Place dough in a bowl and wrap tightly with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm draft free place until doubled in size, about 2 hours. (For the procrastinator method, click here.)
*If using instant yeast, there’s no need to activate the yeast with warmed milk. Use chilled milk instead.
SWEET CINNAMON MIXTURE
3/4 c. packed brown sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. cloves
Pinch of salt
2 tbsp. butter, melted and cooled
1. After dough has doubled in size, mix dry ingredients together in a small bowl.
2. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Roll it out to a 16″ x 12″ rectangle (about the size of a Silpat).
3. Leaving a 3/4″ border along the top edge, brush the dough with the melted butter. Sprinkle with sweet cinnamon mixture, and press to adhere it to the dough.
4. Loosen the dough from the counter using a bench scraper, and roll the dough into a tight log. Pinch the seam closed and roll log seam side down.
5. Slice the cylinder into 12 evenly sized rolls using a serrated knife. Arrange the rolls cut side down in a 13″ x 9″ baking pan. OR, cut 12 squares of parchment paper and press into muffin tin.
6. Cover and let rise until doubled in size, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. (If making ahead of time, forgo the second rise and place the rolls in the fridge. Allow for second rise in the morning before baking.)
7. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350°. Bake 25-30 if baking normal style or 15-20 minutes if baking muffin style.
1 1/2 c. confectioners’ sugar
3 tbsp. cream cheese, softened
3 tbsp. of heavy cream, half and half, or milk
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1. Allow rolls to cool for at least 5 minutes. (I made my rolls the night before, warmed them up for about 5 minutes in a 350° oven the morning of, and then iced them.)
2. Using an electric mixer, mix together the confectioners’ sugar, softened cream cheese, cream, and vanilla in a medium bowl until smooth. To thicken, add more powdered sugar. To thin add more cream.
3. Drizzle with the glaze and serve.
I’m not sure if anyone else has this problem—but from time to time, my bread flops. It fails to rise. And it’s the worst feeling ever. I’m embarrassed to say that I used to boil water before pouring it over yeast. Needless to say I killed the yeast. Big time.
Luckily, I’ve learned a thing or two since. So to ease your bread making, yeast rising fears, I made a video. Just humor me. This is my first video making attempt. Definitely a faux and not a pro when it comes to this.
How to proof yeast 1. According to your recipe, add warm liquid (s) to bowl. It should between 110°-115°. Use a thermometer to be sure. When you get more comfortable, you can ditch the thermometer. I hold my hand just above the water to detect warmth. You want it to be warm but not hot. I’m not a mom yet, but I imagine the baby bottle squirt on wrist technique will work for this as well.
2. Add a pinch of sugar to the liquid whether the recipe calls for it or not. Sugar feeds the yeast and helps it to grow. If the recipe calls for sugar, only add a pinch during this step.
3. Pour yeast into bowl. Give it a little stir and watch it proof or foam. Bubbles will begin to appear on the surface. This takes 5-10 minutes.
4. Use yeast mixture according to recipe.
Why proof? Proofing allows you to make sure the yeast is active before you add it to the rest of the ingredients. If it fails to proof, start over. Most likely you’ve only wasted water and a pinch of sugar.
Give it a try with the Brioche Burger Buns recipe. I wish you great success in your bread rising adventures!
Three years ago today, we said I do. Three years! I guess we’re not newlyweds anymore. And I’m not so sad about that. I love that I know my husband 3 years better than I did when we got married. I love that I love my husband 3 years more than I did when we got married. The path hasn’t always been straight or easy, but it has been rewarding. So thankful to share this journey with Kevin, my sweet graduate school husband. To many decades more!
Speaking of sweet, I made a cake. A mini anniversary cake. I think I’ve started a new tradition in our marriage.
Isn’t it cute? Anything tiny is somehow cute. At it’s widest, it’s 3.5 inches—perfect for 2 people. It tastes like a wedding cake too. You know the wedding cake taste—fruity, decadent, and rich. So I took a risk and crafted a new recipe with hints of orange and almond (based off this one). Luckily the risk paid off—it’s my new favorite cake. Happy Anniversary to us!
Anniversary Cake Almond + orange cake, inspired by Cake Love
makes one 9-inch pan
1/2 c.+ 2 tbsp. unbleached AP flour
2 tbsp. potato starch (I use Bob’s Red Mill)
3 tbsp. finely ground almonds
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. half and half
1/2 tsp. almond extract
1/2 tsp. orange zest
1 tbsp. orange juice, freshly squeezed
6 tbsp. unsalted butter, room temp
3/4 c. + 2 tbsp. extra-fine granulated sugar (I food process my regular sugar)
2 large eggs
1. Preheat oven to 350º. Set rack in the middle of the oven.
2. Set out ingredients and equipment. Sift flour. Finely pulse almonds to a flour like consistency. Measure dry ingredients into separate mixing bowl. Add flour and almonds and whisk together. Measure liquid ingredients into a separate bowl and set aside. Place butter and sugar in bowl of standing mixer. Crack eggs into a separate bowl and set aside.
3. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar on the lowest speed for 3-5 minutes. (This will feel odd, but keep it on low.)
4. With the mixer still on the lowest speed, add the eggs one at a time, fully incorporating after each addition. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl.
5. Add the dry ingredient mixture alternately with the liquid mixture in 3 to 5 additions each, beginning and ending with the dry mixture. Move swiftly through the step to avoid overworking the batter. Don’t wait for the dry or liquid mixtures to be fully incorporated before adding the next. This step should take a total of about 60 seconds.
6. Stop the mixer and scrape the sides of the bowl all the way down. Don’t miss the clumps of ingredients hiding on the bottom. Mix on medium speed for 15 to 20 seconds to develop the batter’s structure.
7. Prepare the 9-inch round cake pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper. Do not spray the sides of the pan. (This helps to keep your cake from doming in the middle as it bakes. The cake is able to crawl up the side as it bakes and maintain an even shape.)
8. Place batter in pan. Bake for 28 minutes.
9. Once the top of the cake doesn’t jiggle in the center, test for doneness by inserting a toothpick into the middle of the cake. The center should be an even blonde color and the edges should be just beginning to pull away from the pan. When the skewer shows a touch of crumbs or comes out clean, the cake is done.
10. Cool cake for 20 minutes before removing from the pan. Use a small off-set spatula to loosen the cake from the rim of the pan. Carefully invert and remove parchment paper. Allow to cool completely before assembling.
Italian Meringue Buttercream with a hint of orange recipe from Cake Love by Warren Brown; makes 2-2 1/2 cups
* a candy thermometer is necessary for this recipe
1. Set out ingredients and equipment. Separate the egg whites into the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (for the 1/2 egg white, crack into separate bowl and only add half of the white). Measure 1/2 cup sugar and the water into a 1-quart, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Gently stir to combine. Measure the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar into a separate bowl. Cut the butter into tablespoon sized pieces and set aside.
2. To make the sugar syrup, place the candy thermomometer in the sauce pan and heat the mixture over medium-high heat. Partially cover with lid to capture the evaporating water—this helps to moisten the sides of the saucepan to prevent sugar crystals from forming.
3. With the mixer on high speed, begin whipping the egg whites to stiff peaks. When the peaks are stiff, you have a meringue.
4. Keep the mixture running and pour the 2 tablespoons of sugar into the meringue.
5. Raise the heat under the sugar syrup to bring the syrup to 245° if it’s not there already. When it has reached 245°, remove the thermometer and slowly pour the syrup into the meringue, with the mixer running. (It helps to hold the pan just above the height of the mixer. Pour confidently trying to hit the meringue and not the side of the bowl.)
6. After 1 to 2 minutes, reduce the speed of the mixture to medium for 3-4 minutes or until meringue is cooled. Add the butter 1 tablespoon at a time. Increase the mixer speed to high for 1 to 2 minutes or until the butter is fully incorporated. Add orange oil. Mix one final time.
Assemble the Cake 1. Using biscuit cutters, cut two 3.5″ circles and two 2.5″ circles.
2. Assemble the tiers separately. Fill bottom layer of each tier with buttercream. Apply a crumb coat to each tier. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
3. Ice bottom tier and top tier separately. To achieve the rustic look, pull a butter knife around the circumference of the cake. Start from bottom and work up.
4. Using a flexible spatula, carefully place the top tier of cake on to bottom tier. Clean up any knicks in the move. The italian meringue buttercream repairs easily.
5. Store cake in refrigerator, covered. Serve at room temperature.
*For in-depth cake assembly instructions, click here.
Progress is defined as the forward or onward movement toward a destination.
It’s cool to watch progress happen. To see how far you’ve come. To see that change really does happen. To see how bad you once were. A couple weeks ago, I made this spinach quiche again. I pulled up my post from two years back. Read it. Looked at the pictures and thought, “Wow, progress.” It’s cool to see. But it’s also a very good reminder of how far I have left to go.
The perfectionist in me couldn’t leave well enough alone. I had to re-shoot it. But this recipe is still the same one I pull out when guests come to town. I love the ratio of egg to crust to spinach. It’s one part healthy and one part decadent, which is just the way I like things. And maybe my favorite part, it’s baked in a tart pan.
1/2 c. (1 stick) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
4–6 tbsp. ice water
3 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
1/3 c. half and half
3 large eggs
10 oz. package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
1/2 c. grated cheddar
1/4 c. grated parmesan
1/2 large sweet onion, finely diced
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. olive oil
In a large bowl, combine flour, salt, and sugar. Add butter into flour mixture. Combine with a pastry blender or fork until the mixture resembles coarse meal. (You can use a food processor for this step, however, cutting the butter in by hand lends for a flakier crust.)
Add cold water 1 tablespoon at a time, mixing with pastry fork until dough holds together without feeling wet or sticky. Gather dough into ball. Flatten into disc, and cover with plastic wrap. Transfer to refrigerator, and chill at least 1 hour or freeze for 15 minutes. (Dough can be stored, frozen, up to 1 month.)
Preheat oven to 425°. Roll out dough to fit the size of a round, removable bottom, tart pan. Add flour to surface to keep dough from sticking. Work quickly as the dough will get warm, making it harder to handle. Flash freeze (place in freezer for 5 min) if it gets too warm. Press the dough into the tart pan. Roll the extra dough off with a rolling pin. Fix any holes in your dough. (I use a little water and extra dough to help mend the holes.) Prick the bottom with a fork to keep from bubbling during the bake. Line crust with parchment or foil and add pie weights. Bake for 10-15 minutes. (You can skip this step and bake the crust and filling at once. I prefer to bake my tart shell first. That way I can ensure my crust will be cooked all the way through.)
Make the filling. Sauté diced onion in olive oil with a dash of salt until translucent. Meanwhile, beat cream cheese in medium bowl until smooth. Gradually beat in eggs and half and half. Mix in remaining ingredients. Pour egg mixture into prepared crust. Bake until filling is set, 15–20 minutes. Cool 10 minutes before serving.
• Need to make this ahead of time? I recommend making and baking the crust the night before. You can also dice and sauté the onions, as well as thaw and drain the spinach. Morning of, whip the filling together. I wouldn’t recommend doing this the night before.
• Spinach still wet? I use paper towels to squeeze out the extra moisture.
• Wondering whether to buy a dark or light colored tart pan? I’ve used both, but I prefer a light tart pan. The darker pans tend to cook faster, leaving you with a more than golden crust.
• When working with dough, keep it cold. Number 1, it’s much easier to work with cold dough. Number 2, if you work with warm dough, the butter begins to spread throughout, decreasing flakiness. Keep those pockets of butter intact!
Today marked the start of the farmer’s market season in Oak Park. I’ve been looking forward to this day for weeks. I even popped out of bet a little earlier—with excitement. And the weather was just perfect for a walk. My graduate school husband got a couple homemade donuts—while I got some asparagus, rhubarb, and black raspberry jam. Perfect Saturday morning.
We love asparagus minus it’s after effects, if you know what I mean. It is super easy to cook. Very versatile. With a quick 10 minute cook time. You’re gonna love this recipe, if you can even call it that.
Bunch of fresh asparagus spears (support your local farmers!)
Drizzle of olive oil
Sprinkle of sea salt
1. Preheat oven to 425°.
2. Wash and dry asparagus. Break off hard woody ends.
3. Place on baking sheet covered with foil for easy clean up.
4. Drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with sea salt.
5. Bake for 10 minutes. Enjoy.
TIPS • This recipe is so basic, it’s easy to dress up. Try adding lemon or orange zest, lemon juice, orange slices, garlic slices, balsamic vinegar, or parmesan cheese.
• If you overcook your asparagus, they will no longer be spear-like, but limp and soggy and a little less nutritious.
PS—Do you notice anything different around here? The ole blog was in need of an update. I’m trying to do it myself with the little web knowledge that I have—scary! If only it was as easy as cooking asparagus.
Finally, it’s that season again. I think. We had a horribly long winter in Chicago. And spring has been anything but spring. Depending on the day, it’s felt more like winter, summer, and fall. We were supposed to go camping this weekend, but the cold rainy weather kept us away. Saturday night, when I should have been roasting marshmallows, I tried to will the weather warmer by making burgers on the indoor grill. According to the 5-day forecast, it’s working! Read more