Thursday, June 28, 2012

Flag Cake

Happy 4th of July! This is one of our family's favorite holidays. We can almost always count on great outdoor weather and a lovely party with Mrs. A and her family. Mrs. A volunteers her home and pool, and lots of her famous foods, from homemade pickles to bbq chicken, and everyone else brings something to go along with her amazing spread. With both Mimi Jr. and Mini Me home to help, and we decided to create a festive cake that would look pretty inside and out.
  It is a fun holiday project that can be as easy as your favorite cake mix, or you can try the one below, which is our current favorite. All you need are your cake layers, vanilla frosting, and red, white, and blue jimmies. I had some snowflakes that we used for stars but any white candy, or a few white jimmies would be fine. We also had some marshmallow fondant, so we colored some red and blue and cut out stars for the sides of the cake, but you could use jimmies on the sides or leave them plain.
You need three layers total, so you can either make 1 1/2 the recipe below for three full layers, or simply divide the batter from one recipe evenly into three thin layers. *If you only make one recipe, your layers will be thinner so you may need to reduce your cooking time.* Once your batter is made, add red food coloring to 1/3, add blue food coloring to 1/3, and leave 1/3 white. Bake and cool your cake layers. Assemble and frost your cake with the red layer on the bottom, the white layer in the middle, and the blue layer on top.
To decorate the top of the cake we used a ruler to mark off 1 inch intervals for the stripes and a 3 inch area in the upper left hand corner for the blue/stars. Using rulers as guides (one on each side of the stripe) we covered the cake in jimmies alternating between red and white. 

Vanilla Cake
adapted from Ina Garten
This recipe makes 2  2-inch layers

3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
5 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons pure almond extract
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the pans
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup milk

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour 2 (9-inch) round cake pans.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium-high speed for 3 to 5 minutes, until light yellow and fluffy. Crack the eggs into a small bowl. With the mixer on medium speed, add the eggs 1 at a time, scraping down the bowl once during mixing. Add the vanilla and almond extracts and mix well. The mixture might look curdled; don't be concerned.
In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the dry ingredients and the milk to the batter in 3 parts, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Mix until just combined.
Pour the batter evenly into the 2 pans and smooth the top with a knife. Bake in the center of the oven for 30-35 minutes, until the tops are browned and a cake tester comes out clean. Cool on a baking rack for 30 minutes, then turn the cakes out onto a baking rack to finish cooling.

American Butter Cream Frosting
1 cup softened butter
4 cups of sifted powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 cup milk
pinch of salt

1. Cream the butter and slowly add powdered sugar and beat until fairly well incorporated, mixture will be crumbly.
2. Add salt, milk, and vanilla. Beat at medium-low speed until combined and then increase your speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy.
printable recipe

If you prefer you can use cream cheese frosting

Links: Foodie Friday

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Cherry Mascarpone Cream Tart

Cherries and almonds a natural combination, so we were excited that they were the Improv Challenge ingredients for this month. We always start by tossing around ideas until we come up with something-either a great recipe we have seen and want to try, an old favorite with a new twist, or just a combination of ideas we think will work well together in one dish. After thinking about it for a few days, we knew we wanted a cool and creamy tart, with an almond shortbread crust, topped with fresh sweet cherries. Sometimes shortbread crusts can be hard to eat when they are cold, causing your bite to fly across your plate (or the table) when you press your fork into it. We wanted to avoid the problem of having half a piece of tart end up on the floor, so we made a shortbread crumble for the crust. To hold the crust in place we covered it in a layer of chocolate ganache. The chocolate holds all the crumbs together but stays soft enough to get a fork through without incident. On top of the chocolate we added a thick layer of almond flavored mascarpone cream filling and topped the whole thing with sweet and soft poached cherries.

This a great summer do ahead dessert. All the parts can be made ahead and the tart almost completely assembled a day a head of time. Take the tart out of the fridge a few minutes before you are ready to serve so the ganache warms slightly, and add the crumb and fruit toppings. We also think this would be quite delicious when made with fresh peaches. We would use a white chocolate ganache and simply top the tart with some peaches macerated in some sugar and amaretto.  


1 lb cherries, pitted
3/4 cup simple syrup 

Put cherries in a sauce pan with simple syrup and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and let cherries cook until soft. With a slotted spoon or sieve remove cherries form syrup and set aside. Return pan with syrup to heat and bring to a boil.  Continue cooking until reduced by half. Cool completely and stir in the cooked cherries. Refrigerate until needed.

Simple syrup: Have ready equal parts water and sugar. In a sauce pan bring water to a boil, add sugar to the boiling water, stirring constantly until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat, and cool completely before using. 

1 cup blanched almonds
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt.

In the bowl of a food processor pulse the almonds and the sugar until finely ground. Add the salt and the butter and pulse until combined. Add flour and pulse until mixture forms crumbs.
Pour crumbs on a cookie sheet and bake in a 300 degree oven until golden brown, stirring occasionally for even cooking. 

Cream Filling
8 ounces mascarpone cheese
3/4 cups heavy cream 
1/4 cup sugar
1-2 tablespoons amaretto or 1 teaspoon almond extract

Whip heavy cream with 2 tablespoon sugar until firm peaks form.
In another bowl on low speed beat mascarpone, sugar and amaretto just until smooth. Fold in whipped cream.

Make this just before making the bottom layer tart. It needs to be warm to pour over the crumbs.

4 ounces chocolate (any kind you like. I used 70% dark chocolate)
1/3 cup heavy cream

In a microwave proof bowl combine chocolate and cream, and heat about 60 seconds to melt the chocolate. Stir to combine to a smooth pourable chocolate sauce.
printable recipe

1. To the bottom of a 9 inch tart pan, add an even layer of crumbs, using about 1/2 to 2/3 of the crumbs you made. Reserve the remainder of the crumbs for the top of the tart.

2. Pour the ganache over the crumbs and smooth over the entire crumb layer. Rap the pan on the counter to encourage the ganache into the crumb layer. Refrigerate until firm. (about 15-20 minutes)

3. Smooth cream filling over the ganache layer. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until set.

4. When ready to serve, remove cherries and tart from refrigerator. Drain cherries in a sieve and remove plastic wrap from the tart. Sprinkle the reserved crumbs around the outer edge of the tart and fill the center with the drained cherries.
For more about the Improv challenge visit Kristen at the Frugal Antics of a Harried Homemaker

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp

Boy Mimi loves rhubarb pie. When his auntie had a pie shop, that was always his request and she never let him down. Sadly, the pie shop is no longer around, but his rhubarb requests have not ceased. To make up for the lack of a family pie shop, I've been trying to grow rhubarb for a few years, but it always succumbs to the summer heat. This year I added a heavy mulch to keep the soil cool, and so far this seems to be doing the trick. The rhubarb is healthy and producing nice big stalks. Since I know my pies will never measure up to my sister's in Boy Mimi's eyes, I made a strawberry rhubarb crisp instead with our first harvest.

This crisp hit all the right strawberry rhubarb notes- sweet and juicy from the berries, with a nice burst of tart from the rhubarb. The crumb topping added the perfect amount of crunch to the soft baked fruit. Despite all my years of failed rhubarb crops, this crisp made all the work worth it. We will definitely be making it again before our rhubarb is gone this summer, and are looking forward to an even bigger harvest next year.

Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp

1/2 lb rhubarb
1/2 lb strawberries
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour
1/4 cup cold unsalted butter 
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Slice the rhubarb into 3/4 inch-thick slices and place in an 8x8 pan. Hull the strawberries and cut in half (or quarters if very large) and add to rhubarb. Toss with 1/2 cup sugar (more or less depending on the sweetness of your strawberries) and 2 tablespoons of flour.
2. In a food processor, pulse the remaing 1/4 cup flour with butter until you have pea sized pieces. Add the remaining 1/4 sugar, rolled oats, salt, and cinnamon, pulse to combine. Sprinkle over the strawberry rhubarb mixture.
3. Bake until rhubarb is tender and the topping is golden, 25-35 minutes. Serve warm with ice cream. 

link:Foodie Friday