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Strawberry Lemonade Cupcakes

Every year I get excited when I see strawberries in the grocery store.  I’m not really big on fruit desserts, but I do love strawberry shortcake, cupcakes, and ice cream.  I saw these cupcakes at the perfect time and decided to make them to celebrate this beautiful warmer weather that we’ve been blessed with!  These cupcakes were a pretty standard white cupcake with lemon flavoring, but it was the frosting that made them stand out.  This frosting was simply incredible!  I like pretty much any frosting, but a Swiss buttercream works great in sweets because it’s not overly sweet.  It’s more about the creamy,  buttery texture.  I added an entire carton of strawberries for extra flavor, which was just right for me.  David said that this is pretty much his favorite cupcake and he wants me to find even more excuses to make that frosting again!  These would be a great dessert to make for a spring cookout or for Mother’s Day- the perfect way to celebrate spring!

Strawberry Lemonade Cupcakes
Source: Confections of a Foodie Bride, originally from Martha Stewart

3 cups flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
4 eggs, at room temperature
3 Tbsp lemon zest (from 3 lemons)
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice (from 1-1.5 lemons)
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup buttermilk
Strawberry Buttercream, recipe follows

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Prepare muffin tin by either spraying with baking spray or lining with paper liners (my preferred method).

Whisk flour, baking powder and salt together and set aside. Cream butter and sugar on a high until pale, light, and fluffy (about 5 minutes). Add eggs one at a time, mixing thoroughly before adding the next one. Add lemon zest, lemon juice, and vanilla. Turn mixer to the low, and add the dry ingredients in three batches, alternating with the buttermilk in two batches. Mix only until just incorporated.

Fill each muffin cup ~3/4 full. Bake for 25 minutes or until a skewer shows only moist crumbs attached, rotating the pans at the halfway point. Allow cupcakes to cool completely in the pans before removing.

Yields: 24 cupcakes

Strawberry Buttercream Frosting
2 cups sugar
8 egg whites
3 sticks butter, room temperature
4 Tbsp lemon juice
1 pint strawberries, pureed
1 tsp vanilla

Place the stand mixer bowl over a simmering pot of water (the bottom of the bowl should not touch the water). Whisk the sugar and egg whites until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture registers 160 degrees with a candy thermometer.

Place bowl on the stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and whisk on high speed until the mixture is cool and holds stiff, glossy peaks (approximately 10 minutes). Change to the paddle attachment and beat in one tablespoon of butter at a time on medium. The mixture might appear curdled but keep going, it will pull back together. Add lemon juice, strawberry puree, and vanilla. Increase speed to high and beat until the frosting reincorporates and is smooth and fluffy (this will take about 10 minutes).

Yields: Frosting for 24 cupcakes

All-in-One Holiday Bundt Cake (TWD)

Just like last year’s Thanksgiving Twofer Pie, Dorie has once again proved that you can have the best of both worlds.  Can’t choose between pecan pie and pumpkin pie for dessert?  Make a pie that has both!  This year, we baked a dessert that combines fall’s favorite spice cakes: pumpkin, apple, and cranberry.  You have all three in one delicious cake.  This cake is full of flavor, spice, and had just the right amount of moistness thanks to the pumpkin and apples.  Some TWD members reported difficulty getting the cake out of the pan, but I followed Jaime’s advice and greased and floured my pan.  I love the punch of color the cranberries give this cake, and the flavors are well balanced.  This would be a great snack to have around when you have Thanksgiving guests! Britin chose the recipe, but won’t have it posted until next Tuesday, so you can get the recipe here.  For the month of November, we are not baking in any particular order, so you can look at the TWD blog to see some more November recipes- there’s some variety this week!

Lemon Meringue Cake

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Over the past four years, David and I have been very active in the young adults group at our church.  This group is so special to us, and we have met some of our very best friends there.  We recently found out that the priest who is in charge of our group is leaving to pursue opportunities in another church.  She was the one who really got our group started, and David and I have been there since the beginning.  She even traveled to our hometown to perform our wedding in May 2008.  So, as you can tell, we were sad to see her go.  For her last Wednesday night meeting, I asked her to choose the dessert.  The only thing she told me was peanut butter cookies and anything fruity or lemon.  I immediately thought of this cake.  It’s definitely something to be saved for a special occasion such as this.

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It was a pretty big project, but it was not particularly difficult.  It just required organization.  I made the chiffon cake layers on night, and the rest of it the next day.  The cake layers were very light and fluffy, almost like angel food cake.  The lemon cream was very similar to the lemon cream used for the Lemon Tart I made for TWD last year.  I remember having problems getting the cream to the correct temperature, but Bridget suggested using a stainless steel bowl.  I tried that this time, and it worked perfectly.  Thank goodness I found a way to make this cream easier!  The caramel seemed out of place at first, but it added the right amount of sweetness to the cake.  Next time I would actually double the caramel to take out some of the tartness of the lemon.  One thing I did change was the meringue.  I was short on time and wasn’t able to spend the time making the meringue in the original recipe, so I used the same recipe used in this lime pie. Even though this cake was a lot of work, it was worth it for the occasion and everyone really enjoyed it.

I’m also submitting this to Livestrong with a Taste of Yellow Day, hosted at Winos and Foodies.  It’s so important to do everything you can to try and prevent cancer, and to support those whose lives have been affected.  I am thankful for the people I know who have survived, especially my younger sister Amanda, who had leukemia as a child.

Lemon Meringue Cake (from Tartine, by Elisabeth Pruett and Chad Robertson, as seen on The Way the Cookie Crumbles)

Makes a 10-inch round cake

I made ⅓ of this recipe and divided the batter between two 6-inch pans. I cut each layer in half to create 4 even layers. Mark has the recipe amounts for an 8-inch cake.

Chiffon Cake:
2¼ cups (11.25 ounces) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1½ cups (10.5 ounces) sugar
¾ teaspoon salt
½ cup vegetable oil
6 large egg yolks, at room temperature
½ cup water
¼ cup lemon juice
1½ teaspoon grated lemon zest
10 large egg whites, at room temperature
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar

Preheat the oven to 325F. Line the bottom of a 10-inch cake or springform pan with 3-inch sides with parchment paper cut to fit exactly; don’t grease the pan.

Sift together the flour and baking powder into a large mixing bowl. Add 1¼ cups (8.75 ounces) of the sugar and the salt and whisk to combine. In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, egg yolks, water, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Make a well in the flour, add the yolk mixture, and then whisk thoroughly and quickly for about 1 minutes until very smooth.

In another large mixing bowl, beat the egg whites until frothy, then add the cream of tartar and beat on medium-high speed until it holds soft peaks. Add the remaining ¼ cup (1.75 ounces) sugar slowly while beating on medium-high speed until the whites hold firm, shiny peaks. Add a third of the egg whites and fold into the yolk mixture to lighten, then fold in the rest of the whites until just combined.

Pour the batter into the pan, smoothing the top if necessary. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 45-55 minutes. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack. Once completely cool, run a thin knife around the sides of the pan to loosen the cake an then release and lift off the pan sides. Invert the cake and peel off the parchment.

Caramel:
⅔ cup heavy cream
¼ vanilla bean
1¼ cup (8.5 ounces) sugar
¼ cup water
¼ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
¾ teaspoon lemon juice
4 tablespoons unsalted butter

Pour the cream into a small, heavy saucepan. Split the vanilla bean in half lengthwise and use the tip of a sharp knife to scrape the seeds from the pod halves into the milk. Place over medium-high heat and bring to just under a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat to low to keep the cream warm.

In a medium, heavy saucepan, combine the sugar, water, salt, and corn syrup. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Then cook, without stirring, until the mixture is amber colored, 5 to 8 minutes. Remove from the heat.

The mixture will continue to cook off the heat and become darker, so make sure to have your cream close by. Carefully and slowly add the cream to the sugar syrup. The mixture will boil vigorously at first. Let the mixture simmer down, and then whisk until smooth. Add the lemon juice. Let cool for about 10 minutes.

Cut the butter into 1-inch chunks and add to the caramel one at a time, whisking constantly after each addition. Then whisk the caramel periodically as it continues to cool.

Lemon Cream:
½ cup + 2 tablespoons lemon juice
3 large eggs
1 egg yolk
¾ cup (6 ounces) sugar
pinch salt
16 tablespoons (8 ounces) unsalted butter

In a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water, combine the lemon juice, eggs, yolk, sugar, and salt (make sure the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water). Whisk them together constantly until very thick, or 80°C (180°F) on an instant-read thermometer. Remove from the heat and let it cool down until warm to touch (60°C or 140°F on a thermometer). Place the lemon cream in a blender and with the motor running, add the butter in small pieces. Allow to cool completely. (You may refrigerate it, but allow to come to cool room temperature before using.)

Lemon Syrup:
⅓ cup water
⅓ cup (2.5 ouncs) sugar
⅓ cup lemon juice

In a nonreactive saucepan, combine the sugar and water and bring to a boil over medium heat. Transfer to a cool bowl, let cool for a bit, then chill for half an hour. Stir in the lemon juice.

Assembly:
Split the chiffon cake horizontally into four equal layers. Place one layer on your serving plate (which I lined with wax paper around to cake) and moisten evenly with ¼ of the lemon syrup. Spread ⅓ of the caramel over the cake, then ⅓ of the lemon cream. Repeat with 2 more layers, using up the remaining caramel and lemon cream. Top with the fourth cake layer and moisten with the remaining lemon syrup. Cover the cake completely with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least four hours or overnight.

Swiss Meringue:
7 egg whites
1¾ cup (12.25 ounces) sugar
pinch of salt

In a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water, combine the egg whites, sugar, and salt and whisk until the whites are hot to the touch, about 120F, about 5 minutes. Beat on high speed until the mixture is very thick and holds stiff, glossy peaks.

Unmold the cake and spread the meringue all over. Use a spatula or a spoon to create dramatic swirls. Using a propane torch if available, scorch the meringue, blackening the tips and swirls.

Peach Melba Cake

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I got the book Sky High for Christmas, and one of the first cakes I noticed was this Peach Melba Cake.  I showed it to David and he told me that he wanted that to be his birthday cake.  It looked so good, and I was excited about making it, even though I would have to wait until August.

I had never heard of peach melba until David and I started dating.  Peach melba basically means a combination of peaches and raspberries.  His mom likes to make a peach melba dessert, which is basically just vanilla ice cream with peaches and warmed raspberry jam spooned over.  Peaches and raspberries are a great combination, so I knew they would go together well in this cake.  The peaches in South Carolina have been really good this year, and I couldn’t wait to use them in a dessert other than the usual peach cobbler or peach sorbet.

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The cake wasn’t difficult, but it was time consuming and required multiple steps.  I had fun making it one afternoon and highly anticipated tasting the results.  I made half of the recipe, which gave me two six-inch layers.  Since the cake is meant to be a tall triple-layer cake, I decided to split the layers in half to create 4-layer cake to give it a taller appearance.  This turned out to be a great cake.  The layers were perfectly moist and light thanks to using all cream and no butter, and the raspberry and peach flavors complimented one another nicely.  We both agreed that it needed a more substantial frosting (surprising to hear from David, but I am a frosting whore, so no shock there!).  Next time I would use the raspberry buttercream I used for the Raspberry Cupcakes, since I loved it so much.  It was the perfect 24th birthday celebration cake, and would make a great cake for any summer celebration.

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Peach Melba Cake with Raspberry Cream
Source: Sky High

Cream Cake:

1 ¾ cups cake flour

3 ¾ teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

1 cup heavy cream

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 ¼ cups sugar

2 whole eggs

2 egg yolks

3 tablespoons buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Butter three 8-inch round cake pans.  Line the bottom of each pan with a round of parchment paper or waxed paper and butter the paper.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt.  Return the dry ingredients to the sifter and set aside.

Combine the cream and the vanilla in a large mixer bowl.  With the mixer on high, whip the cream until soft peaks begin to form.  Reduce the mixer speed gradually to low and beat in the sugar, but do not whip until stiff.  Add the whole eggs and egg yolks and continue mixing until the batter forms soft peaks.

Sift about a third of the dry ingredients over the batter and fold in by hand.  Repeat 2 more times until all of the flour mixture has been added.  Finally, fold in the buttermilk.  Divide the batter among the 3 prepared cake pans.

Bake the cake layers for 18 to 20 minutes, or until a cake tester or a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Allow the cakes to cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then invert them onto wire racks.  Carefully peel off the paper, and allow them to cool completely.

The rest of the cake:

¼ cup plus 2/3 cup sugar

¾ cup water

¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons peach liqueur or schnapps

1 pound peaches, peeled and pitted fresh or thawed frozen with juices

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin powder

1 cup heavy cream

Raspberry Cream

Bake the Cream Cake as directed.  While the cake layers are cooling, make a peach syrup by combining ¼ cup of the sugar and ½ cup of the water in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Bring to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar.  Continue to cook until the syrup is reduced to ½ cup.  Remove from the heat and stir in ¼ cup of the peach liqueur.

To make the peach mousse for the filling, combine the peaches, the remaining 2/3 cup sugar, the lemon juice, and remaining ¼ cup water in a nonreactive saucepan.  Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer until the fruit is soft.  Transfer to a blender and puree until smooth.  Do this with great caution.  A blender canister filled with hot liquid has a tendency to shoot liquid out the top!  Measure out 1 cup of peach puree and set aside for garnish.  Place the remaining peach puree in a large mixing bowl.

Soak the gelatin in the remaining 2 tablespoons peach liqueur in a small heatproof bowl for about 5 minutes.  Microwave on low for 10 to 15 seconds to heat; stir to dissolve the gelatin.  Whisk into the peach puree in the large bowl.

Raspberry Cream:

12 ounces unsweetened frozen raspberries, thawed, with the juices (I used fresh)

1 cup heavy cream

¼ cup sugar

1 teaspoon rosewater (I omitted)

Put the raspberries and their juices in a medium non-reactive saucepan and cook over medium-low heat, mashing the berries with a large spoon, until they give up all their juices, about 15 minutes.  Let cool, the puree in a blender or food processor.  Strain through a sieve to remove the seeds.  There will be about 1 cup raspberry puree.

In a chilled bowl with chilled beaters, whip the cream until stiff.  Measure 1/3 cup of the raspberry puree into another bowl.  Add the sugar and rosewater and stir until the sugar dissolves.  Fold in the whipped cream.

Sweeten the remaining raspberry puree with additional sugar to taste and use for garnish.

Cranberry Bliss Bars

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I’ve had my eye on this recipe for a while and finally got a great opportunity to make it.  I know it’s not the time of year when you typically bake with cranberries, but I didn’t care- I was determined to make them anyway 🙂  These bars start with a cake-like base with a nice ginger flavor, as well as some white chocolate.  I love the cranberry-white chocolate combination.  Next comes a cream cheese frosting layer.  It was perfectly sweet and accented with lemon juice and dried cranberries, and then it was topped with a light drizzle.

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These bars are based on a baked good from Starbucks, but I am not a coffee drinker and have only been to Starbucks once or twice in my life, so I don’t know how they compare.  Jaime claims that these are actually better!  These got great reviews and were worth making, and it’s a great way to enjoy these wonderful flavors, even with summer upon us!

Cake
1 cup butter , softened
1-1/4 cups light brown sugar , packed
3 eggs
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla or orange extract
1 teaspoons ground ginger
1/4 teaspoons salt
1-1/2 cups All Purpose flour
3/4 cup diced dried cranberries
6 ounces white chocolate, cut into chunks

Frosting
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
3 cups powdered sugar
4 teaspoons lemon juice or 2 tsp orange extract
1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup diced dried cranberries

Drizzled Icing
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon milk
2 tablespoons butter
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Beat butter and brown sugar with an electric mixer until smooth. Add eggs, vanilla, ginger, and salt; beat well. Gradually mix in flour until smooth.

Mix 3/4 cup diced dried cranberries and white chocolate into the batter by hand.

Pour batter into a well-greased 9×13-inch baking pan and spread evenly. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until cake is light brown on the edges. Let cool.

Frosting: Combine cream cheese, powdered sugar, lemon juice and vanilla with an electric mixer until smooth.

When the cake has cooled, spread frosting over the top of cake. Sprinkle top with diced cranberries.

Icing: Whisk powdered sugar, milk, and shortening. Drizzle icing over cranberries in a sweeping motion or use a pastry bag with a fine tip.

Allow cake to sit for several hours, then cut into pieces.

Source: Adapted from Good Eats & Sweet Treats, who adapted it from recipezaar.com

Raspberry Strusel Bars

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I love raspberries.  It’s one of my favorite fruits to have in a dessert.  I know a lot of people who enjoy fruity desserts, especially my husband.  I knew that he would be a huge fan of these, and I knew they would be a big hit with everyone else I made these for.  I’ve never had experience making raspberry bars before, but I knew this would be a good recipe.

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It started with a shortbread crust, which was baked while I made the filling.  I love how the filling contained both raspberry jam and real raspberries.  It made for such a rich, full raspberry flavor.  After the crust was prebaked, I added the filling and topped it with the strusel.  The combination of the shortbread, raspberry filling, and strusel topping went together so well and made for the perfect dessert.  These were a big hit and were gone very quickly!

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Raspberry Streusel Bars (from Cooks Illustrated September 2005, as seen on The Way the Cookie Crumbles)

Makes twenty-four 2-inch squares

CI note: This recipe can be made in a standing mixer or a food processor. Frozen raspberries can be substituted for fresh; be sure to defrost them before combining with the raspberry preserves. If your fresh raspberries are very tart, add only 1 or 2 teaspoons of lemon juice to the filling. The bars are best eaten the day they are baked but can be kept in an airtight container for up to 3 days (the crust and streusel will soften slightly with storage).

Bridget note: I prefer walnuts in this recipe.

2½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour (12½ ounces)
2/3 cup granulated sugar (about 4¾ ounces)
½ teaspoon table salt
16 tablespoons unsalted butter (2 sticks) plus 2 tablespoons, cut into ½-inch pieces and softened to cool room temperature
¼ cup packed brown sugar (1¾ ounces), light or dark
½ cup rolled oats (1½ ounces), old-fashioned
½ cup pecans (2 ounces), chopped fine
¾ cup rasberry preserves (8½ ounces)
¾ cup fresh raspberries (3½ ounces)
1 tablespoon lemon juice from 1 lemon

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 375 degrees. Cut 18-inch length foil and fold lengthwise to 8-inch width. Fit foil into length of 13 by 9-inch baking dish, pushing it into corners and up sides of pan; allow excess to overhang pan edges. Cut 14-inch length foil and fit into width of baking pan in same manner, perpendicular to first sheet. (If using extra-wide foil, fold second sheet lengthwise to 12-inch width.) Spray foil-lined pan with nonstick cooking spray.

2. In bowl of standing mixer fitted with flat beater, mix flour, granulated sugar, and salt at low speed until combined, about 5 seconds. With machine on low, add 16 tablespoons butter one piece at a time; then continue mixing on low until mixture resembles damp sand, 1 to 1½ minutes. (If using food processor, process flour, granulated sugar, and salt until combined, about 5 seconds. Scatter 16 tablespoons butter pieces over flour mixture and pulse until mixture resembles damp sand, about twenty 1-second pulses.)

3. Measure 1 ¼ cups flour mixture into medium bowl and set aside; distribute remaining flour mixture evenly in bottom of prepared baking pan. Using hands or flat-bottomed measuring cup, firmly press mixture into even layer to form bottom crust. Bake until edges begin to brown, 14 to 18 minutes.

4. While crust is baking, add brown sugar, oats, and nuts to reserved flour mixture; toss to combine. Work in remaining 2 tablespoons butter by rubbing mixture between fingers until butter is fully incorporated. Pinch mixture with fingers to create hazelnut-sized clumps; set streusel aside.

5. Combine preserves, raspberries, and lemon juice in small bowl; mash with fork until combined but some berry pieces remain.

6. Spread filling evenly over hot crust; sprinkle streusel topping evenly over filling (do not press streusel into filling). Return pan to oven and bake until topping is deep golden brown and filling is bubbling, 22 to 25 minutes. Cool to room temperature on wire rack, 1 to 2 hours; remove from baking pan by lifting foil extensions. Using chef’s knife, cut into squares and serve.

Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies

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I am a huge fan of peanut butter.  I’ve loved it ever since I was a little kid, and I love making peanut butter desserts.  I was looking for a peanut butter cookie dessert to make, and I saw these on the Joy of Baking website and thought they looked perfect, especially since I’ve been loving the sandwich cookies lately.  These cookies are definitely for the peanut butter lover, since it is two peanut butter cookies with a rich peanut butter frosting sandwiched in between.

The cookies were nice and soft, which was perfect for a sandwich cookie.  You could choose any peanut butter cookie recipe to make this (I also really enjoy Dorie’s recipe).  The filling was good, although I think the peanut butter frosting from this cake would be even better).  I sometimes have aversions to cream cheese, and it was a bit too strong in this, so I think a sweeter frosting like this one would be delicious.  I always think of my dad when I make peanut butter desserts, and I wish I lived closer to my parents so I could pass on some of these peanut butter goodies to them!  These were a great dessert for the peanut butter lover!

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Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies

Peanut Butter Cookies:

1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature

3/4 cup (185 grams) peanut butter (smooth or crunchy)

1/2 cup (105 grams) light brown sugar

1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated white sugar

1 large egg

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 cup (140 grams) all purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon salt

Peanut Butter Filling:

6 ounces (170 grams) cream cheese, room temperature

1/2 cup (125 grams) smooth peanut butter

1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/3 cup (45 grams) confectioners sugar (powdered or icing)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C) and place the oven rack in the center of the oven. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Peanut Butter Cookies: In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), cream the butter, peanut butter, and sugars until light and fluffy (about 2 – 3 minutes). Add the egg and vanilla extract and beat to combine. In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Add to the peanut butter mixture and beat until incorporated.

Take about one tablespoon of the batter and place on the prepared baking sheet, leaving about 2 inches (5 cm) between the mounds of cookie dough. Press the dough flat with the back of a fork that has been dipped in granulated white sugar. Bake the cookies for about 10- 12 minutes, or until the cookies are lightly browned around the edges. Cool completely on a wire rack.

Peanut Butter Filling: In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), beat the softened cream cheese, peanut butter, vanilla extract, and sugar until smooth.

Assemble: Take one peanut butter cookie and spread about 1 tablespoon of the filling on the flat side of the cookie. Top with a second cookie, flat side down, to make a sandwich. If not serving right away, cover and store in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Makes about 18 sandwich cookies.

Source: Joy of Baking