Tag Archives: dessert

Make A Wish…

It’s birthday time again!

This past weekend the family celebrated Smidget’s birthday. For the special occasion, I wanted to make something tasty and different for dessert. We had some apricots that needed to be eaten up, and since they are Smidget’s favorite, I figured it would be great to have a cake that used the fresh flavor of the apricots. Remember that time I made the plum cake that was a Dorie Greenspan recipe? Well, that’s just what I did again, but this time with apricots!

Dorie does say in her cookbook that other stone fruits can be used instead and even gives some directions on her favorite combinations of fruits and spices. Since the plum cake was such a success, I decided to barely mess with the perfection of Dorie’s recipe. One of my favorite parts about the cake was the subtle hint of spice that came from the cardamom. Dorie recommends using cinnamon with the apricots, but I knew it was all about the cardamom.

Needless to say, it was delicious. The cake was moist and sweet, with that hint of spice thrown in. The apricots that delicately dimpled the top were sweet, juicy, and just a tad tart in the best possible way that apricots are. Instead of just leaving the cake un-topped like I had previously, I took some of the mascarpone cheese we had (anybody else tempted by the cheese’s recent appearance on the shelves at warehouse stores?) and whipped it together with a hint of honey for sweetness, creating a delectable and not-too-sweet frosting.

The birthday went well, Smidget seemed to really enjoy the day and her present load. I’m actually listening to one of her presents right now…SMASH soundtrack, anyone? But it was the cake that really ended the whole day on a high note. Plus, with the fresh fruit and cheese and honey topping, it was actually a rather healthy cake! At least that’s what I’ll keep telling myself.

Dimply Apricot Cake with Mascarpone ‘Frosting’

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
Scant 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup (packed) light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/3 cup flavorless oil, such as canola or safflower
Grated zest of one orange
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
8 fresh, ripe apricots, halved and pitted

1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter an 8-inch square baking pan, dust the pan with flour, tap out the excess, and put the pan on a baking sheet.
2. Whisk the flour, baking powder, salt, and cardamom together.
3. Working with a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or a hand mixer in a large bowl), beat the butter at medium speed until soft and creamy, about 3 minutes. Add the sugar and beat for 2 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for a minute after each addition. On medium speed, beat in the oil, orange zest, and vanilla. The batter will look very light and smooth, almost satiny. Reduce the mixer to low-speed and add the dry ingredients, mixing only until they are incorporated.
4. Run a spatula around the bowl and under the batter, just to make sure there are no dry spots, then scrape the batter into the pan and smooth the top. Arrange the apricots cut side up in the batter, jiggling the apricots a tad just so they settle comfortably into the batter.
5. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until the top is honey brown and puffed around the apricots and a thin knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Transfer the cake to a rack and let cool for 15 minutes – during which time the apricots’ juice will return to the fruit – then run the knife around the sides of the pan and un-mold the cake. Invert and cool right side up.

Recipe adapted from: Dorie Greenspan’s Baking from My Home to Yours

 

Mascarpone ‘Frosting’

6 oz. Mascarpone cheese
1 Tbsp. honey
Splash (about 1 tsp.) of whipping cream

1. Whisk together the Mascarpone cheese and honey, adding a splash of whipping cream to smooth and loosen the cheese. Whisk until thoroughly combined and reached desired consistency and flavor.

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Blue Moon Cupcakes

A good friend and I went for a hike today, even though the trail is completely covered with snow and we had to balance along the part that had already been packed down by previous hikers. We, the city of Anchorage, did break out record for snowfall in one season this year. Did I mention that? We broke the record by just over an inch, which our local paper headlined as “In By An Inch”. Hehe, dirty. Anyway, back to the hike.

View during our hike - taken via cellphone

I have been friends with this lovely lady since high school and after a few years spending time working towards an art degree (she’s an amazing drawer, absolutely fantastic) she has decided her heart lies is in writing. So, naturally, us two writers struck up a conversation along the trail about our craft. She’s been big into writing fan fiction of some of her favorite stories while working on her own plot lines and characters for school work, but she mentioned having a hard time recently with coming up with her own ideas. I knew exactly what she meant: drawing blanks on what to write about is an issue I often have as well.

One of the great things about the writing classes I took in college was the prompts I walked away with to write about after each class. Now that I don’t even have a small writing group to work with (planning on changing that in the future…) and share prompts with, coming up with my own stories has proven difficult. Luckily I stumbled upon a great tool the other day. The group behind NaNoWriMo has another writing challenge called Script Frenzy, where you are challenged to write a 100 script in the month of April. I decided not to participate this year, as scripts are not my thing yet, but maybe in the future I will take up the challenge. What I did find great, though, was a small thing on the homepage called the Plot Machine. It creates, wacky, fun, and all together silly yet inspiring plots to get you going with writing.

I mentioned this wonderful machine to a few writing friends of mine, including the one I went on a hike with today, and am eager to try my hand at a few of the random plots I find. Up first: After suffering a heart attack, the entire cast of Riverdance goes on to try out for the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders team.

Let the writing begin!

To keep me going along the process I find it important to have a few things, including baked goods and good drinks. Ever since seeing Blue Moon Cupcakes on Pinterest, I knew I had to try my hand at them. They are delicious, velvety cupcakes with a hint of orange and wheat. The original recipe calls for a light meringue frosting, which I would love to try, but since my batch of cupcakes wouldn’t have been eaten up entirely in a few hours, I opted for a longer lasting orange cream cheese frosting. So get on up and make yourself a batch, they are worth it. And you’ll even get a little bit of leftover beer to enjoy while the cupcakes are baking!

Blue Moon Cupcakes

3/4 cup (a stick and 1/2) unsalted butter, softened
1 3/4 cup sugar
2 1/2 cup flour
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
3 eggs, room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla
2 drops red food coloring*
10 drops yellow food coloring*
1/2 tsp. orange zest
1 cup Blue Moon beer
1/4 cup milk

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375° F. Line 24 cupcake trays with liners. In a medium bowl, mix together flour, baking powder and salt.

In a stand mixer, beat butter on medium speed for 30 seconds. Add sugar a little bit at a time, beating well. Once it’s all added beat for 2 more minutes.

Add eggs, beating after each.

Add vanilla, food coloring and orange zest and beat.

Mix beer and milk in a measuring cup. Alternatively add beer / milk mixture and flour mixture to butter mixture in the large bowl, beating after each. End on the flour mixture.

Fill cupcake liners 2/3 full. Bake for 18 minutes until cupcakes are golden and a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Once cool, frost each cupcake with a generous amount of frosting. Just before serving, garnish each with a small orange slice.
Frosting:
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup whipping cream
2 tsp. orange zest
juice of 1 orange
5 cups powdered sugar (plus more, if needed)

Beat the cream cheese in mixer until fluffy. Add in whipping cream and continue to beat on medium speed until cream in mixed in fully and has gotten slightly fluffed.

Add in orange zest and juice, continuing to beat on medium speed.

Slow mixer speed and add in powdered sugar a cup at a time, making sure sugar is incorporated fully before adding next cup. If you want your frosting stiffer add more powdered sugar, if you want your frosting thinner add more whipped cream.

Frost on top of cooled cupcakes.

*Instead of using liquid food coloring drops, I used a bit of orange gel food coloring.

Recipe adapted from: Miss Make

Springtime

Yesterday was the official start of the season of spring, which means (at least according to recent TV commercials) it’s also the start of grilling season!

What? What do you mean our grill doesn’t look ready? What makes you say that? Is it the bit of snow that is still on that little tray? Or the grill scraper that is still partially buried? Oh. I see. It’s all the snow that is still piled up all over the deck and around the grill that makes it so we can’t even get to it, never mind use it. You know, you may have something there.

Ok, so moving on then, I bet that wonderful raspberry bush we have is looking wonderful and like it can’t wait to start sporting little red berries as the long, warm, sunny days arrive.

No?

Check out the snow build up on our neighbor’s little shed there too, pretty cool huh?

Alright, so while us Alaskans (at least my other foodie friends and I) cry a little every time the warm weather is mentioned in the lower 48 and every time we see something online, or on TV, or in the newspaper, or hear something on the radio about spring being here, that doesn’t mean we can’t begin our anticipation of warmer, brighter days ahead.

Although, we still want that record snow fall. Three more inches of snow, then spring. Like, spring instantaneously. Thanks.

Until then, just delve into these tasty Apricot-Oatmeal Cookies for a bit of a sunny and warm feeling.

Apricot-Oatmeal Cookies

8oz (2 sticks) butter
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 cups AP flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
3 cups old-fashioned oats
1 1/2 cups diced dried apricots

Preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare two baking sheets with either parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
In medium bowl or stand mixer, cream butter and sugar together until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, and vanilla to butter and sugars.
In another medium bowl, combine oats, flour, baking soda, and salt.
Mix dry ingredients into the wet until just combined.
Add in diced dried apricots, mix until apricots are dispersed through dough.
Measure out dough by tablespoons onto prepared baking sheets. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until nicely browned on the bottom and edges.
Let cool on wire rack.

Makes about 4 doz smallish cookies.

Dig in and enjoy a hint of spring/summer!

Happy Pi(e) Day!!

Just popping in to say a quick Happy Pi(e) Day!! Celebrate with this amazing Meyer Lemon Meringue Pie! Just look at those meringue peaks…listen, they’re calling out to you…

Meyer Lemon Meringue Pie

Crust:
1 1/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon finely grated Meyer lemon zest
1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
2 tablespoons (or more) ice water

Filling:
1 cup sugar
4 teaspoons cornstarch
2/3 cup fresh Meyer lemon juice
4 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon finely grated Meyer lemon zest

Meringue:
3 large egg whites, room temperature
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup sugar

Directions:
Crust – Blend flour, sugar, and Meyer lemon zest in processor. Add butter and process until mixture resembles coarse meal. Transfer mixture to medium bowl. Drizzle 2 tablespoons ice water over and stir with fork until moist clumps form, adding more ice water by teaspoonfulls if mixture is dry. Gather dough into ball; flatten into disk. Wrap in plastic and chill at least 20 minutes.

*Dough can be made 1 day ahead. Keep chilled. Let soften slightly at room temperature before rolling out.

Roll out dough disk on lightly floured surface to 12-inch round. Gently roll up dough onto rolling pin and unroll into a 9-inch-diameter glass pie dish. Press into dish. Fold dough overhang under, even with edge of pie dish. Crimp dough edges decoratively. Freeze crust until firm, about 15 minutes.
Preheat oven to 400°F. Line frozen crust with nonstick aluminum foil. Fill foil with dried beans or pie weights. Bake until crust is set, about 15 minutes. Remove foil and beans. Continue baking crust until golden, about 10 minutes longer. Remove crust from oven. Reduce oven temperature to 350°F. Let crust cool on rack while preparing filling.

Filling – Whisk sugar and cornstarch in heavy medium saucepan to blend. Gradually whisk in Meyer lemon juice. Whisk in egg yolks 1 at a time. Stir in Meyer lemon zest. Whisk constantly over medium heat until mixture thickens and boils, about 10 minutes. Spoon warm filling into crust; smooth top.

Meringue – Using electric mixer fitted with whisk attachment, beat egg whites and salt in large bowl until very soft peaks form. Gradually beat in sugar, continue beating until mixture is stiff and glossy. Using silicone spatula, spread meringue over warm filling, covering to crust edges and creating peaks and swirls. Bake until meringue is pale golden, about 15 minutes. Cool pie completely on rack and serve.

Recipe adapted from: bon appétit Desserts cookbook

Chocolate-Banana Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting

Ever find yourself with the last banana of the bunch that has just become over ripe? Well we did earlier this week. My family, my dad and brother in particular, really love us some bananas. There is usually a bunch that is just beginning to turn ripe in our fruit bowl next to a smaller bunch (usually just 2-4) that are nice and perfectly yellow. Which makes it so we always have a banana ready to be eaten and we never run out of bananas, because by the time both bunches are gone it’s time to go food shopping anyway.

There are times, like this past week, when our banana craze gets away from us and suddenly we find ourselves with over ripe bananas. The kind that are perfect for banana bread. If things get really out of hand, we have been known to freeze a few of these perfect baking bananas to use at a later time, but that wasn’t necessary this week. Instead, this week we only had one banana ready for the loaf pan.

This was a problem. When we make banana bread we use at least two bananas, not one. Which also means that when we freeze bananas we tend to freeze them in pairs, because we’ll just end up using two anyway, right?  Suddenly I found myself with a challenge: Bake something with this banana without having to thaw out any others.

I took to the internet looking for recipes (as I often do). Luckily I didn’t have to search too far before I found a great recipe for chocolate-banana cupcakes that used just one banana!

These cupcakes are wonderful: they are fairly light, very moist, and very chococlatey with just a hint of banana. The recipe didn’t make too many (my batch only made 11), but for a small family with some to give away, it happened to be the right amount. I decided to top these beauties with a peanut butter frosting, mostly because I liked the idea, but also because the frosting from the cupcake recipe I found used another banana. That would ruin the challenge, although I will have to try it some time soon. The frosting was soooooo good. One batch of frosting was more than I needed to cover all the cupcakes, so we had a bit left over to spread on other things, like apple slices.

The cupcakes were a hit with the whole banana loving family (well, except for brother as he’s on the other side of the country, but nevertheless) and were perfectly moist and delicious. I hope we have just one banana get nice and over ripe again soon so we can have some more cupcakes. Oh, did I mention they’re also vegan? Well, the cupcakes, not the frosting.

Notice the cute Snoopy and Woodstock cupcake liners? Thanks craft store!

Chocolate Banana Cupcakes

For the Cupcakes:

1/2 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup ripe banana (about 1 banana)
1/3 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

For the Frosting:
1/2 cup butter or margarine, room temperature
1/4 cup ripe banana (about 1/2 banana)
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 1/2-3 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line muffin pan with paper liners.

In a small bowl, mash the banana with a fork. Whisk in the coconut milk, sugar, oil, and vanilla extract until incorporated. Mixture will still be a little lumpy because of the nature of the banana, but whisk out as many large lumps as you can. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Make a well in the center of dry ingredients and pour in banana mixture. Stir until just smooth (do not overmix).

Pour into liners, filling each with 3 tablespoons of batter (cups should be no more than 2/3 full). Bake 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool completely.

For the frosting:
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, softened
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup milk, plus more if needed

To prepare the frosting cream together the butter and peanut butter until well combined.  Add in the powdered sugar and half the milk and mix until smooth, fluffy and your desired piping consistency. (I actually used some milk and some heavy whipping cream to lighten it up a bit, plus it was in the fridge)

Cupcake Recipe adapted from: Love and Olive Oil
Frosting Recipe adapted from: evilshenanigans

 

Time Keeps on Slipping…

It seems like I keep losing track of time lately. I could have sworn it was barely February and suddenly the month is almost over. My plans for getting my applications to graduate schools in by Thanksgiving took a nose dive as I am still trying to pull everything together. A couple of days this past week I wondered when Mardi Gras was and had been contemplating making a King Cake for such occasion, only to get online today to find out today was, in fact, Mardi Gras.

On occasion, time actually can work in your favor. I woke up to my alarm this morning and a friendly reminder that I had a dentist appointment just before noon. Before long it was time for me to head out the door and after a rather thorough brushing (is it just me, or do you spend more time than usual on your teeth just before a dentist visit?) I grabbed my bag and took off to my car. I slung my bag over to the passenger seat, put my keys in the ignition, and turned.

Silence.

A quick call to my Dad, who knows more about cars than I will ever pretend to, confirmed that the battery was probably dead and in order for the car to start I would need a jump. With no one home to give said jump, my only option was to call the dentist’s office and reschedule.

Suddenly I found myself with a sizable chunk of time free, so what to do? Bake! What did you think I was gonna do? Shine my shoes? Actually…they are looking a little worn…

Although it isn’t the best season for them, when I saw plums at the store this weekend I knew I had to get some and make something delicious with them. This super tasty dream was made true with a little help from Dorie Greenspan. See, I called her up and said “Plum cake?” and she came running over to dance around my kitchen while we made tonight’s dessert and belted it out along with Adele, who had just happened to also stop by…at least that’s how I wish it had happened. In reality it was just me, a bunch of plums, and a pinch of cardamom.

The resulting cake is sweet, succulent, and slightly spicy. It is juicy from the plums, which add their own depth of flavor and offer a bite as well. The actual cake is moist, soft, and intriguing from that hint of cardamom. Dorie mentions having it with coffee as an early morning treat and, after the taste I had tonight, I am looking forward to a slice for breakfast tomorrow!

Dimply Plum Cake

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
Scant 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup (packed) light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/3 cup flavorless oil, such as canola or safflower
Grated zest of one orange
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
8 purple or red plums, halved and pitted

1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter an 8-inch square baking pan, dust the pan with flour, tap out the excess, and put the pan on a baking sheet.
2. Whisk the flour, baking powder, salt, and cardamom together.
3. Working with a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or a hand mixer in a large bowl), beat the butter at medium speed until soft and creamy, about 3 minutes. Add the sugar and beat for 2 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for a minute after each addition. On medium speed, beat in the oil, orange zest, and vanilla. The batter will look very light and smooth, almost satiny. Reduce the mixer to low-speed and add the dry ingredients, mixing only until they are incorporated.
4. Run a spatula around the bowl and under the batter, just to make sure there are no dry spots, then scrape the batter into the pan and smooth the top. Arrange the plums cut side up in the batter, jiggling the plums a tad just so they settle comfortably into the batter.
5. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until the top is honey brown and puffed around the plums and a thin knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Transfer the cake to a rack and let cool for 15 minutes – during which time the plums’ juice will return to the fruit – then run the knife around the sides of the pan and un-mold the cake. Invert and cool right side up.

Recipe adapted from: Dorie Greenspan’s Baking from My Home to Yours

How is Snowcitygirl celebrating Food Day?

Carrot Cake. I don’t know what else to say about it but that. Oh, maybe also With Cream Cheese Frosting. Yeah.

I guess I can say that we have tons (erm, pounds) of carrots in the fridge thanks to the farm that we get fresh summer veggies from via CSA share. Hurray for locally grown!

What should one do when face to face with pounds of carrots? Probably run. Cause, you know, being face to face with carrots would be a bit freaky. Aside from that though, the answer is really only two words: Carrot Cake. Well, six words: Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting.

For those who want more in their carrot cakes than just carrots (things like pineapple, coconut, raisins, etc.) this may not be the recipe you want to use. It is only carrot. A carrot purist cake, if you will.

That does not, however, take away from its delicious factor. It is moist, has a beautiful orange color, and tastes positively sinful when topped with smooth cream cheese frosting. I just wish there was more. Frosting, that is. I didn’t have enough cream cheese so it is fairly thinly frosted. Well, I wish there was more cake too, but that’s another story for another time.

No it’s not, who am I kidding? Story is this: Carrot Cake. Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting. It is tasty. I want more. The End.

Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
Recipe Originally from: Alton Brown
(recipe makes a single layer)

Unsalted butter, for the pan
12 ounces, approximately 2 1/2 cups, all-purpose flour, plus extra for pan
12 ounces grated carrots, medium grate, approximately 6 medium
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
10 ounces sugar, approximately 1 1/3 cups
2 ounces dark brown sugar, approximately 1/4 cup firmly packed
3 large eggs
6 ounces plain yogurt
6 ounces vegetable oil
Cream Cheese Frosting, recipe follows

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Butter and flour a 9-inch round and 3-inch deep cake pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper. Set aside.
Put the carrots into a large mixing bowl and set aside.
Put the flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices, and salt in the bowl of a food processor and process for 5 seconds. Add this mixture to the carrots and toss until they are well-coated with the flour.
In the bowl of the food processor combine the sugar, brown sugar, eggs, and yogurt.
With the processor still running drizzle in the vegetable oil. Pour this mixture into the carrot mixture and stir until just combined. Pour into the prepared cake pan and bake on the middle rack of the oven for 45 minutes. Reduce the heat to 325 degrees F and bake for another 20 minutes or until the cake reaches 205 to 210 degrees F in the center.
Remove the pan from the oven and allow cake to cool 15 minutes in the pan. After 15 minutes, turn the cake out onto a rack and allow cake to cool completely. Frost with cream cheese frosting after cake has cooled completely.

Cream Cheese Frosting

8 ounces cream cheese
2 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
9 ounces powdered sugar, sifted, approximately 2 cups

In the bowl of a stand mixer with paddle attachment, combine the cream cheese and butter on medium just until blended. Add the vanilla and beat until combined. With the speed on low, add the powdered sugar in 4 batches and beat until smooth between each addition.

Place the frosting in the refrigerator for 5 to 10 minutes before using.

Yield: approximately 2 cups

How are you celebrating Food Day?