Mini Fruit Tarts

I recently made a bunch of bite-sized treats (and cookies) for a party some friends of mine were having. A lot of brainstorming went into what I should make. I was all over the place with ideas. At one point I was actually thinking of making petit fours, but, I quickly nixed that idea when I couldn’t find or come up with a recipe that would be completely foolproof. I knew I was going to make cheesecake brownie bites (which are always a hit, you can find the recipe here), Raspberry Ripple Cupcakes, Rugelach (another hit), Chocolate Chip Cookies and Peanut Butter Cookies, but, I wanted something new to make. So, after some random Google searches I settled on Mini Fruit Tarts. They seemed simple enough, and, I made things even easier for myself when at the last minute I decided to buy frozen phyllo shells instead of making the dough myself.

I found these phyllo shells at my local supermarket in the frozen food section. To prep the shells I simply placed them on a baking sheet and baked them in a 350 F preheated oven for four minutes to make them crispy.

While they were cooling I made the filling. I combined mascarpone cheese, heavy whipping cream and confectioners’ sugar in a large bowl and used a handheld mixer to beat the ingredients until stiff peaks formed. I transferred the mixture to a piping bag fitted with a medium-sized round piping tip and piped the filling into each of the shells, but, you could use a small spoon to spoon the mixture into them as well. I then placed the filled tarts in the refrigerator while I chopped up strawberries and kiwis to top them. Once the fruit was ready I topped each of the tarts with a piece of strawberry and kiwi and a blueberry. I honestly think that I had 45 tarts done in less than an hour. You can’t beat that!

Here are some pics of all the desserts I made. Oh yeah, at the last minute (the night before) I decided to make mini carrot cupcakes as well. I ended up using my go-to Carrot Cake recipe and since I didn’t halve it I ended up with about 100 mini cupcakes. I only ended up frosting half of them and the rest ended up being the perfect little snack to munch on.

 

Mini Fruit Tarts

  • Servings: 22 (2 each)
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Ingredients:

3 boxes of phyllo shells*

1 cup mascarpone cheese

1 cup heavy whipping cream

5 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar

Fruit for topping**

 

*I used Athens Phyllo Shells, each box contains 15 shells

**I used chopped strawberries and kiwis and blueberries

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Place phyllo shells on a large baking sheet and bake for 3-5 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool on the pan.

In a large bowl combine the mascarpone cheese, heaving whipping cream and confectioners’ sugar and using a handheld mixer beat the ingredients until stiff peaks form.

Transfer the mixture to a piping bag fitted with a round tip and pipe the mascarpone cream into the cooled shells. You could also use a spoon to spoon the mixture into the shells.

Top with your desired fruit and chill until ready to serve.

Lemon Pudding Cakes

It’s the first day of spring and unfortunately the temperatures aren’t spring-like and there’s snow in the forecast for tomorrow. Too bad the weather doesn’t automatically switch with the seasons – of course people would only enjoy that for the warmer months. Not many people would be too keen on frigid temps and snow the first day of winter, although it would make for a white Christmas! I’m welcoming spring today with a lemon treat. I’m not all that sure that lemon is synonymous with spring – I think it more of a summer flavored dessert – but, when I Googled Spring desserts a bunch of lemon ones were the first to come up. So, the lemon treat I settled on was Lemon Pudding Cakes.

I started by making the lemon base of the cakes by mixing together egg yolks, buttermilk, lemon juice and zest. Once those ingredients were well combined, I sifted in flour, sugar and salt and mixed these ingredients until combined.

Next I beat the egg whites until stiff peaks formed. Now, we all have those kitchen tasks we’re not fond of doing. I used to dislike having to mince garlic until I purchased a garlic mincer. Another task I dislike, beating egg whites into stiff peaks, well by accident, well not really accident, I finally realized what I was doing wrong… I was using the wrong bowl. I would normally beat them in a wide stainless bowl and I guess it would take long because of the larger surface of the bowl. I didn’t feel like grabbing that bowl when making these pudding cakes so I grabbed a smaller stainless bowl instead and my egg white were ready in half the time. I apologize to those of you who are like “Duh.” Sometimes we get so used to doing things a certain way we don’t stop to think of a more efficient way to do it.

After the egg white were ready I folded them – a small amount at a time- into the lemon mixture. I then divvied up the batter among 4 ramekins and baked them in a water bath. After letting them cool, I inverted them on a dish and topped them with fresh strawberries and confectioners’ sugar.  I knew these were going to be delicious, but, I was surprised by just how good they are. The cake texture was reminiscent of a ricotta cheesecake and there was a nice layer of lemon pudding on top… Hence, a Lemon Pudding Cake. This was a quick dessert if you are looking for a nice dessert for a small get together or, you just want a dessert that will remind you of the warmer temps that are sure to come.

 

Happy Spring!!!

 

Lemon Pudding Cakes

Ingredients:

2/3 cup superfine sugar, plus more for dusting

2 eggs, separated

2/3 cup reduced fat buttermilk

2 tablespoons lemon juice*

1 tablespoon lemon zest*

1/4 cup flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

 

Topping

Fresh berries

Confectioners’ sugar

 

Directions

Preheat the oven to 325 F. Butter and lightly sugar 4 ramekins.**

In a large bowl add egg yolks, buttermilk, lemon juice and lemon zest and using a hand mixer beat until well combine on medium speed. Sift in flour, sugar and salt into the mixture and beat on low until well combined.

In a separate bowl, beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Gently fold the egg whites into the lemon mixture a little at a time until completely incorporated.

Divide the batter evenly among the ramekins and bake in a water bath. Place the ramekins in a large roasting pan and fill hallway with water.

Bake for 45 minutes until the top springs back when gently pressed. All the cakes to cool slightly and then invert onto a plate and garnish with fresh berries and confectioners’ sugar.

**I sprayed my ramekins with cooking spray then sprinkled sugar in them.

Recipe from Food Network

Food Network

 

Tres Leches Cake

Pardon my blogging hiatus… Maybe another day I will explain, but for now, in honor of Cinco De Mayo I’m bringing you a super simple, a tad bit sweet but perfectly textured Tres Leches Cake. Many versions of this cake can turn into a mushy wet mess thanks to the tres leches (three milks) the cake is soaked in – heavy cream, evaporate milk and condensed milk. But this one holds together perfectly and you’re not left feeling as though you’re eating a cake pudding but an actual cake.

I began by making a sponge cake. In a medium bowl I whisked flour along with baking powder and salt. In the bowl of my stand mixer I combined 3 eggs with sugar and vanilla extract and beat them on medium-high speed until the mixture was light and fluffy. I then added in half of the flour mixture at low speed, then gradually added in whole milk and finally the remaining flour. After pouring the batter into a 9×13-inch buttered dish I baked it in a 350F preheated oven for about 25 minutes.

I let the cake cool for about a half hour and then poked holes in it with a fork and then poured the three milk mixture over the cake.

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After letting the cake sit overnight in the fridge, the following day I enjoyed a piece with some strawberries and whipped cream. One word for this dessert… YUM!!!

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Tres Leche Cake

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 large eggs, at room temperature

1 cup sugar

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup whole milk, at room temperature

1 1/2 cups heavy cream

1 12oz. can evaporated milk

1 cinnamon stick

2 whole cloves (about 1/8 teaspoon ground)

1 14oz. can sweetened condensed milk

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

 

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Spray a 9×13 inch glass dish with non-stick spray (or lightly butter). In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. In the bowl of a stand mixer combine the eggs, sugar and 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract and beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy – about 10 minutes. Switch the mixer to low speed and add half of the flour mixture, then gradually add in the milk and finally the remaining flour mixture.

Pour the batter into the prepared baking dish and bake for 20-25 minutes, until the center of the cake springs back to the touch. Transfer the dish to a wire rack and let cool for at least 30 minutes.

While the cake is cooling, in a medium saucepan whisk the heavy cream with the evaporated milk, cinnamon stick and cloves and bring to a boil over moderately high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat, cover and let steep for 10 minutes.

In a heatproof bowl, combine the condensed milk with the remaining 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract and ground cinnamon. Strain the steeped cream mixture into the condensed milk and stir to combine and let cool for 20 minutes.

With a fork, poke holes all over the cake and gradually pour the milk mixture over the entire cake. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.

Serve with strawberries and/or whipped cream.

Recipe from Food & Wine

A Sweet Way to Ring in the New Year… Chocolate and Strawberries!

Happy New Year! So, how did you ring in the year? Asleep? Out and about? Or like me, surrounded by family and friends? In my case, the friends actually fall under the family category, so I should say I rang it in with family. Either way, I hope it was an enjoyable time and a great kick off to the new year ahead. And how about those resolutions? Did you make any? I may have mentioned it before, but, I don’t make resolutions. I think it’s great for those people who do so, but, I don’t think you need a new year to make a new start. Every day you wake up is an opportunity to do something different and better for yourself and those around you. I sound like self-help guru or something… LOL! But, it’s true. Every day we have a choice as to how we are going to lead our day and we can make the decisions that are best for us or the ones that are not so great. But, it’s up to each of us to make those decisions. So, maybe that’s my resolution, to live the best day possible each and every day. And trust me I know from experience that it’s not always easy, but, you always have to try and find the silver lining because if you don’t you may always wonder, “Why me?” And now on to the Chocolate and Strawberries!

So, I always want to make something different and delicious as a sweet treat for New Year’s Eve and I was pondering attempting to make macarons, but, I quickly decided against it. I think that’s best left for when it’s just a random day and if they don’t come out well I don’t have to scramble to make something else in their place. So I opted for cupcakes. Something that is foolproof and always a crowd favorite. And these were cupcakes that I wanted to make for a month or two now. I came across the recipe when I was flipping through an old holiday magazine for cookie recipe ideas – remember I am a bit of a recipe hoarder! They are a super simple mocha chip cupcake with a chocolate sour cream frosting. The coffee in the cupcake offsets the chocolate from the chocolate chips in it and the sour cream adds a nice tang to the frosting so overall this isn’t an overly sweet or chocolatey cupcake. And to make it festive I sprayed a few using an edible gold shimmer spray and topped the others with strawberries.

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And since I had leftover strawberries and half a bag of chocolate chips left it was the perfect set-up for some chocolate covered strawberries. I simply melted the chocolate chips in the microwave in minute intervals and then dipped the strawberries in it and then placed them on a wax-paper covered cookie sheet and placed them in the refrigerator until set. Once they were set I drizzled more melted chocolate over them. These were a HIT and barely made it to midnight!

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So, stay tuned in 2016 for more sweet treats, slow cooker meals, beaded jewelry and yarn projects!

 

Mocha Chip Cupcakes

  • Servings: 12 cupcakes
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Ingredients:

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

1 cup sugar

2 large eggs

1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled slightly

2 teaspoons instant espresso powder, dissolved in 1/2 cup cool water

2/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

 

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 F and line a 12 standard cup muffin tin with paper liners.

Sift the flour, baking soda, and salt together in a bowl and set aside.

In a large bowl beat the butter on medium speed until smooth, 30 to 60 seconds. While the mixer is running, slowly poor in the sugar, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary, with the mixer on medium-high speed beet until the mixture is light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, on medium speed. Beat until the batter is smooth and scraping the bowl as necessary. Add the vanilla and the melted chocolate and beat until smooth and blended. With the mixer on low speed add the flour mixture in three parts, alternating with the dissolved espresso powder. Finally stir in the chocolate chips by hand.

Divide the batter among the prepared muffin tin and bake 20 to 22 minutes, until the cupcakes spring back when gently pressed in the center.

Let the cupcakes cool in the tin for 5 minutes on a wire rack and then remove them allowing them to cool completely on the wire rack.

Recipe from Fine Cooking

 

Chocolate Sour Cream Frosting

  • Servings: 1 1/4 cups
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Ingredients:

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/3 cup sour cream

3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

pinch of salt

1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar, spooned and leveled

2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled slightly

milk, if necessary

Directions:

In a medium bowl whisk butter, sour cream, vanilla extract and salt to blend. Gradually whisk in the sugar until smooth. Add the chocolate and beat it in with the whisk until the frosting is smooth and creamy. The frosting must be thick and spreadable; if it’s too thick thin it with a drops of milk. If it’s too thin, chill it briefly, stirring occasionally until thickened.

Recipe from Fine Cooking

Mixed Berry Galette

The unofficial end of summer is upon us… Labor Day. While the day temps feel like summer the drop in the evening temps definitely signal the arrival of Fall is imminent, kids are heading back to school and everywhere you look there is something flavored pumpkin. I am not complaining though… Fall is by far my favorite of the four seasons. I love the crispness in the air, apple picking, the leaves changing colors and the return of scarf season. If you didn’t know, I love scarves!!! But before all that fun begins I have one last summer themed dessert… A Mixed Berry Galette. While you can get berries – blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, etc. – anytime of the year, summer is when they are at their peak.

Just look at how vibrant and delicious these berries look…

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While you could make your dough from scratch, I opted to go the easier and quicker route by using a puff pastry sheet. After thawing the sheet out I rolled it on a lightly floured surface into a 12-inch square. I then transferred it to a parchment lined cookie sheet and placed it the refrigerator for about 20 minutes.

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Following that I put my berries – which I tossed with corn starch, sugar and salt – in a small mound in the center of the sheet and folded the edges around it. I brushed the edges with an egg wash – an egg beaten with a teaspoon of water – and sprinkled granulated sugar on it.

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After refrigerating it for 15 minutes I the baked it in a 400 F preheated oven for 30 minutes – until the puff pastry was golden brown and the berries were bubbling. Unfortunately my galette opened up a bit while baking.

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That didn’t affect the taste though; once it cooled I cut myself a piece and was quite pleased with how something so quick and simple could turn into something so delicious!

Mixed Berry Galette

Ingredients:

1 frozen puff pastry sheet, thawed

All-purpose flour, for dusting

1 large egg, for brushing the pastry

3 cups mixed berries – strawberries, blueberries, blackberries

1/4 cup cornstarch

1/2 cup granulated sugar*, plus more for sprinkling the puff pastry

1/4 teaspoon salt

*If you would like your galette on the sweeter side add a tablespoon or two more sugar.

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400 F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Roll out the puff pastry into a 12-inch square on a lightly floured surface. Transfer the sheet to the prepared baking sheet and refrigerate for 15 minutes.

Make the filling by tossing the berries with the cornstarch, sugar and salt.

Place the fruit in the center of the puff pastry in a small mound and fold the edges of the sheet over the fruit, overlapping the sheet as you fold.

Brush the pastry with an egg wash – the egg lightly beaten with a teaspoon of water – and then sprinkle with granulated sugar. Refrigerate for about 20 minutes, until firm.

Bake until the edges are golden brown and the fruit is bubbling, about 30 – 35 minutes.

Patriotic Treats

Hope you all had a wonderful Independence Day and enjoyed the rest of the holiday weekend! Mine was filled with great food, great friends and a delicious and patriotic dessert.

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Before I get to that amazing cake though, here are some patriotic cupcakes that I made earlier in the week. They were simply a yellow cupcake with a vanilla frosting – sometimes there’s nothing better than a classic combination. To create the striped icing effect I brushed the inside of a plastic decorator bag with red food gel coloring on one side and blue on the other after fitting it with a 1M Wilton Tip. I then filled the bag with vanilla frosting and began piping each of the cupcakes. Once I ran out of frosting in the bag I simply brushed the colors once again inside the bag and then filled it with more frosting.

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Now, onto the cake. Prep work for this cake actually began a week before July 4th. I made the glitter stars that topped the cake by rolling out gum paste 1/8″ thick and used varying sizes of cookie cutters to cut out stars. After snipping 22 gauge silver floral wire into different lengths I dipped one end into egg white and gently pushed that end of the wire into the stars about 3/4 of the way up. I laid the stars out on a parchment lined cookie sheet and let them dry out (harden) for a full day, flipping them occasionally.

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After they were completely dry it was time to decorate them. To do so, I brushed the stars with egg white and then sprinkled glitter on them, making sure that I covered the edges of the stars as well.

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I let them sit out for a day or two to make sure they were completely dry and then stored them in a waxed lined plastic shoe box.

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To make the actual cake I began by baking the red velvet layers of the cake – 2 of them. I’ve made red velvet cake quite a few times before and this recipe was quite different than the ones I have normally followed. For one thing, instead of buttermilk this recipe called for sour cream to be whisked with water to thin it down to the consistency of buttermilk. I’ve heard of using lemon juice and milk as a substitute for buttermilk, but never sour cream. I was fine with this though as I usually have sour cream in my fridge as opposed to buttermilk. Also, this recipe called for butter and oil to be used, which turned out an incredibly moist cake. After making the batter I divided it into two 9-inch pans tapping the pans down to release any air bubbles and then baked them in a 350 F oven for twenty-five minutes.

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Following that I let the cakes cool in the pans for about ten minutes and then inverted them onto wire racks so they could cool completely.

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While the red velvet layers were cooling I baked the white cake which had a hint of lemon thanks to the addition of lemon zest. Once I made the batter I poured it into a 9-inch pan that I sprayed with baking spray and lined with parchment paper – which I also sprayed with baking spray. I did this same prep work for the pans I used for the red velvet layers as well. As I also did with the red velvet layers, I tapped the pan down to release the air bubbles and baked it in a 350 F once again for twenty-five minutes.

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After cooling the cake in the pan for a few minutes I inverted it onto a wire rack so it could cool completely.

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Once the cakes were cooled it was time to make the frosting – cream cheese frosting – and assemble the cake. I spread about a cup of frosting between each of the layers…

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And then crumb coated the cake and placed it in the refrigerator so the frosting could firm up.

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Once the crumb coat was firm I finish frosting the cake and created a design on the cake by using the back of a spoon. While rotating the cake on a cake turntable I ran the back of the spoon along the edge of the cake and around the top.

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And then it was time to decorate the cake with the glittered stars and some fresh berries – blackberries, blueberries and strawberries.

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And how did the stripes look once the cake was cut into…. Perfect!

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This was definitely one cake that tasted just as good as it looked!

Red, White and Blue Cake

Red Velvet Cake Layers:

2 1/2 cups sifted cake flour (sift before measuring)

1/4 cup unsweetened natural cocoa

1 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 cup vegetable oil

2 large eggs

1 1-ounce bottle red food coloring

1 1/2 teaspoons white vinegar

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3/4 cup sour cream mixed with 1/4 cup water

1. Heat oven to 350°F. Butter two 9-inch round cake pans, then line bottoms with rounds of wax paper. Butter paper and dust pans with some additional flour, knocking out excess.

2. Resift cake flour together with cocoa, baking soda, and salt into a bowl.

3. Beat butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer (fitted with paddle attachment if using stand mixer) at medium-high speed until combined well, then add oil and beat until very pale and creamy, about 3 minutes.

4. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition, and beat in food coloring, vinegar, and vanilla extract.

5. Reduce speed to low and mix in flour mixture and sour cream mixture in batches, beginning and ending with flour mixture, and mixing until batter is smooth.

6. Divide batter between pans (about 3 cups in each) and smooth tops. Rap pans on counter a couple of times to expel any air bubbles. Bake in middle of oven until a wooden pick comes out clean and cake begins to pull away from sides of pans, 25 to 30 minutes. Keep oven on.

7. Cool layers in pans on racks 10 minutes, then run a thin knife around edge of pans. Invert layers onto racks and peel off wax paper. Cool layers completely.

White Cake Layer:

1 1/3 cups sifted cake flour (sift before measuring)

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

3 large egg whites

1/4 cup sour cream mixed with 2 tablespoons water

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

3/4 cup sugar

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1 tablespoon grated lemon zest

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Butter one 9-inch round cake pan, then line bottom with wax paper. Butter paper and dust pan with some additional flour, knocking out excess.

2. Resift cake flour together with baking soda and salt into a bowl. Whisk egg whites in another bowl with sour cream mixture until combined.

3. Beat butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer (fitted with paddle attachment if using stand mixer) at medium-high speed until combined well, then add oil and beat until very pale and creamy, about 3 minutes. Beat in zest and vanilla extract.

4. Reduce speed to low and mix in flour mixture and sour cream mixture in batches, beginning and ending with flour mixture and mixing until batter is smooth. Transfer batter to pan and spread evenly. Rap pan on counter a couple of times to expel any air bubbles.

5. Bake in middle of oven until a wooden pick comes out clean and cake begins to pull away from side of pan, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool in pan on a rack 10 minutes, then run a thin knife around edge of pan. Invert layer onto rack and peel off wax paper. Cool layer completely.

Cream Cheese Frosting:

2 1/2 8-ounce packages cream cheese (20-ounces total), softened

2 1/2 sticks (1 1/4 cups) unsalted butter, softened

2 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon salt

3 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted

1. Beat together cream cheese and butter in a large bowl with an electric mixture until creamy and smooth. Beat in lemon juice, vanilla extract, and salt.

2. Sift confectioners’ sugar into a bowl and add to cream cheese mixture. Mix on low speed until incorporated, then increase speed to medium-high and beat until smooth.

Frost cake:

Brush loose crumbs from cake layers with a pastry brush.

Put a red velvet layer, bottom side up, on a cake plate or stand. Spread 1 cup of frosting over layer. Cover with white layer, bottom side up, and spread with another cup of frosting. Top with second red velvet layer, bottom side up.

Spread a thin layer of frosting around sides and over top of cake. (This is called crumb-coating. It tamps down any loose crumbs to keep them out of the top layer of frosting and fills in any crevices. This is particularly important with red velvet cake layers.) Chill or briefly freeze cake just until frosting is firm.

Spread sides and top of cake with remaining frosting. Chill or briefly freeze cake just until frosting is firm.

Fruit Topping:

1 pint (8 ounces) strawberries, halved

1 pint (12 ounces) blueberries

1/2 pint (6 ounces) blackberries

Toss fruit together in a bowl, add a teaspoon of sugar if desired. Top cake with fruit and spread some around the sides of the cake.

For a complete list of supplies and a more detailed description of how to create the stars check out this link. I’m planning on using this technique to create other shapes for cakes in the future.

Cheesecake… Is it a Pie or a Cake?

Well, for today the answer to that question is going to be pie in honor of Pi Day! Yes, it’s the day that Math lovers around the world celebrate in honor of Pi, the irrational number (meaning it cannot be written as the ratio of two integers) that begins with 3.14 and goes on infinitely. This year’s Pi Day is extra special though because it only comes around once every 100 years… The first five numbers of Pi Day is the date (3/14/15) and to go even further at the time 9:26:53 you will have the first ten numbers of Pi in sequence, i.e. 3.141592653. Okay, I’ll stop being a Math geek now and go back to the pie. The idea of cheesecake falling under the pie category isn’t too much a stretch, especially for this cheesecake. Pies tend to have a crust and this one has a graham cracker crust and they also have a filling, the cheesecake part. Okay, maybe it is a tad bit of a stretch, but, I really couldn’t think of a pie I wanted to make but I have wanted to make a cheesecake.

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I began by making the crust… Using a food processor I ground up 18 graham crackers until they were fine crumbs. I then added in a stick of melted butter, sugar and salt and pulse to combine them. Following that I pressed the crumbs into the bottom and approximately 2-inches up the side of a 9-inch springform pan.

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Next I moved on to make the actual cheesecake. Using a stand mixer I beat three 8-oz. bars of cream cheese with a cup of sugar until it was smooth. It’s important to use room temperature cream cheese to ensure you won’t have any lumps in the mixture.

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I then added in a cup of room temperature sour cream and a teaspoon of vanilla extract; beating until these two ingredients were well incorporated.

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And finally I added in three eggs, one at a time.

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Before pouring it into the crust, I gave the cream cheese mixture a few stirs with a rubber spatula to make sure all of the ingredients were blended together well. I tend to find that sometimes ingredients are left on the bottom of the bowl of the stand mixer untouched since the paddle attachment doesn’t fully hit the bottom of the bowl.

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After pouring the cream cheese mixture into the prepared crust I baked it in a preheated 325 F oven for about an hour; until it was set but still wobbly in the center.

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A few minutes before removing the cheesecake from the oven I combined a cup of sour cream, a few tablespoons of sugar and vanilla extract in a bowl. I was happy that the cheesecake didn’t have any cracks in it – that normally happens when I bake cheesecakes.

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I then spread this sour cream mixture over the cheesecake and then placed the cheesecake back in the oven for about five minutes.

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The cheesecake right out of the oven… I let it cool for a few hours before covering it and placing it in the refrigerator.

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I ended up leaving it in the refrigerator overnight and then added some sliced strawberries on top of it the following morning in the shape of the Greek letter used to represent “Pi.” I had to validate this being a Pi Day pie somehow!

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And how did it taste… It was perfectly creamy and not overly sweet! A winning combination for the perfect cheesecake!

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Classic Cheesecake

Ingredients:

18 graham crackers (2 sleeves)

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup plus 4 tablespoons sugar

3 8-oz. packages cream cheese, at room temperature

2 cups sour cream, at room temperature

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3 large eggs, at room temperature

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 325 F. In a food processor pulse the graham crackers until fine crumbs form. Add the butter, salt and 2 tablespoons of the sugar and pulse to combine. Press the mixture on the bottom and 2-inches up the side of a 9-inch springform pan.

2. Use an electric mixer to beat the cream cheese and 1 cup of sugar until smooth. Add 1 cup of the sour cream and 1 teaspoon of the vanilla extract and continue beating until combined. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Pour the mixture into the prepared crust and bake until just set (the center will be slightly wobbly), 50 to 60 minutes.

3. In a small bowl combine the remaining 1 cup of sour cream, 2 tablespoons of sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract. Spread over the hot cheesecake, then bake until set, 3 to 5 minutes more. Let cool to room temperature in pan, then refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Run a knife around the edge of cheesecake before unmolding.

 

Strawberry & Champagne Cupcakes

Happy New Year!!! I hope you all ringed in the New Year with much love and happiness surrounding you! I was where I usually am, surrounded by a wonderful group of friends eating delicious food and enjoying some sweet treats. This year those treats were Strawberry Cupcakes with Champagne Frosting; you really can’t get more festive than strawberries and champagne. And the two go together wonderfully!

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To create these cupcakes I began by pureeing strawberries…

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I then combined the pureed strawberries with whole milk and vanilla extract. In another bowl I whisked together flour, baking powder and salt.

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Next, in the bowl of my stand mixer I creamed room temperature butter until it was light and fluffy. Following that I gradually added in a cup of sugar. And finally I added in 1 egg and 2 egg whites.

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With the mixer on low I added in half of the flour mixture, then all of the strawberry mixture and then the other half of the flour mixture. I mixed it until it was just combined and then finished mixing it by hand using a rubber spatula so I wouldn’t accidentally overbeat the batter.

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After dividing the batter evenly among a paper lined muffin tin I placed it in a 350 F preheated oven.

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And after 20 minutes the cupcakes were ready to come out of the oven and be transferred to a wire rack to cool completely.

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Then it was on to the frosting… Using Sweet Rose Champagne I made a Champagne Buttercream Frosting,

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That I then piped onto the cupcakes.

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While these cupcakes were on the sweeter side they were delicious nonetheless. So, what are you all hoping to accomplish this New Year? As for me, I am not one to make resolutions, I just hope – as we all do – for a year that is just as good as or better than the previous one. And to continue to grow to be a better version of my younger myself.

 

Sprinkles’ Strawberry Cupcakes

Yields 12 cupcakes

Ingredients:

2/3 cup whole fresh or frozen strawberries, thawed

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon coarse salt

1/4 cup whole milk, room temperature

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature

1 cup sugar

1 large egg, room temperature

2 large egg white, room temperature

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 F degrees. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with cupcake liners; set aside.

2. Place strawberries in a small food processor; process until pureed. You should have 1/3 cup of puree, add a few more strawberries if necessary.

3. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside. In a small bowl, mix together milk, vanilla, and strawberry; set aside.

4. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter on medium-high speed, until light and fluffy. Gradually add sugar and continue to beat until well combined and fluffy. Reduce the mixer speed to medium and slowly add egg and egg whites until just blended.

5. With the mixer of low, slowly add half the flour mixture; mix until just blended. Add the milk mixture; mix until just blended. Slowly add remaining flour mixture, scraping down sides of the bowl with a spatula, as necessary, until just blended.

6. Divide batter evenly among prepared muffin tins. Transfer muffin tin to oven and bake until tops are just dry to the touch, 22 to 25 minutes. Transfer muffin tin to a wire rack and let cupcakes cool completely in tin before icing.

 

Champagne Buttercream Frosting 

Ingredients:

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature

3 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar

4 tablespoons champagne (I used a Sparkling Rose)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

In a large bowl beat the butter with a handheld mixer on medium until it’s creamy. Reduce the speed to low and add 1 cup of confectioners’ sugar and continue beating until combined. Then add in the champagne and vanilla and increase the speed to medium and continue beating until all the ingredients are incorporated. Once again reduce the speed to low and gradually add in the remaining sugar and beat until the frosting reaches a spreadable consistency.

Lemon Buttermilk Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

Hope you all had a wonderful 4th on Friday and that the rest of your holiday weekend was good. As for me, the 4th was a bit of a washout due to rain but the rest of the weekend was beautiful which meant I was able to do some yard work. The rain wasn’t all that bad though, it gave me the perfect excuse to stay in and bake some patriotic themed cupcakes. I settled on making Lemon Buttermilk Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting. I should note that the recipe for the Lemon Buttermilk was originally for a loaf cake, but, I decided to turn it into cupcakes and add some frosting.  
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I began by whisking together the dry ingredients -flour, baking powder and salt – in one bowl and the wet ingredients – oil, sugar, buttermilk, eggs, lemon zest and juice – in another.
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After whisking those ingredients together by hand I opted to use my hand mixer to whisk all of the ingredients together.
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I then used an ice cream scoop – I find it’s always the perfect size for scooping cupcake batter – to fill patriotic themed cupcake liners.
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I then baked them in a 350 F preheated oven for 20 minutes – rotating the tins halfway through. After letting the cupcakes cool for a few minutes in the pan I removed them and let them cool completely on a wire rack.
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I then whipped up a batch of Cream Cheese Frosting and used a large open star tip to pipe the frosting onto the cupcakes.
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And since these were patriotic themed cupcakes I added some red and blue with stars and stripes sprinkles, blueberries and strawberries and blueberries and raspberries.
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Final verdict… Lemon & Cream Cheese are a winning combination!
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Lemon Buttermilk Cupcakes – adapted from here

Makes 14 Cupcakes

Ingredients:

1/2 cup canola oil

2 cups all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 1/2 cups sugar

3/4 cup buttermilk

2 large eggs

1 tablespoon finely grated lemon

1/4 cup lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

1. Heat oven to 350 F. Line a cupcake tin with paper liners.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt; set aside

3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the oil, sugar, buttermilk, eggs, lemon zest and juice. Add to the dry ingredients.

4. Divide the batter evenly among the lined cups and bake until a cake tester comes out clean, about 20 minutes, rotating the tins halfway through.

5. Cool the cupcakes in the tins on a wire rack for a few minutes and then remove them and let them cool completely on the wire rack.

6. Frost and enjoy!

 

Cream Cheese Frosting

Ingredients:

8oz. cream cheese, room temperature

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature

2 cups Confectioners’ sugar, sifted

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

1. Cream together the cream cheese and butter with an electric mixer

2. With the mixer on low speed add the confectioners’ sugar 1 cup at a time until smooth and creamy

3. Beat in the vanilla extract

Lemon, Berries & Cream… Oh My!

Back in the fall I made a cake that I coined the Quintessential Fall Birthday Cake– an Apple Walnut Cake with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting (YUM!) – and recently I made a cake that could quite possibly be the Quintessential Summer Birthday Cake. A 4-tier lemon cake layered with pastry cream and topped with fresh berries (Delish!)
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Since the pastry cream needed to be refrigerated for at least 2 hours before using it I began this cake by cooking up 2 batches of it. I gathered up my ingredients (egg yolks, sugar, cornstarch, salt, milk and vanilla extract) and whisked together the eggs yolks in one bowl and in another cooked the sugar, cornstarch, salt and milk until the mixture thickened and was bubbling. I then poured about a third of the milk mixture in with the eggs to temper them. Once the eggs were tempered I pour them back into the remaining milk mixture on the stove and whisked the mixture constantly until the cream came together. I removed the cream from the heat and added in the vanilla extract.
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Following that I strained the cream through a sieve and then placed a piece of parchment paper right on top of it prior to refrigerating it. I had never made pastry cream before and was concerned this wouldn’t come out well, especially with tempering the eggs, but, it came out perfectly and I probably could have easily eaten the whole bowl it was so good.
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While the pastry cream was chilling I began to work on the Lemon Cake – a 1-2-3-4 Lemon Cake. A 1-2-3-4 Cake is an old-fashioned cake that gets its name from the list of ingredients – one cup butter, two cups sugar, three cups flour and four eggs. First up I sifted together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a bowl. I actually sifted the flour twice as I first sifted it to get the 3 cups I needed and then sifted it again along with the other ingredients.
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In the bowl of my stand mixer I beat butter until it was softened and then gradually added in sugar until it was pale and fluffy.
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And then the eggs.
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Next up I added in the flour mixture in 3 batches alternating with 2 batches of buttermilk.
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And finally I beat in vanilla extract and lemon zest.
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I divided the batter evenly between two 8-inch pans – which I prepped with baking spray and parchment paper – and baked it for about 45 minutes in a 350 F preheated oven, rotating halfway through.
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After letting the cakes cool 15 minutes in the pans I then removed them and let them cool completely on wire racks.
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In preparation to assemble the cake I split the two cooled cakes into four with a cake leveler and then whisked together the chilled pastry cream.
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After assembling the cake – I spread about a cup of pastry cream between each layer – I chilled it in the refrigerator for about an hour so the pastry cream could set and so I wouldn’t end up with a cake that had layers sliding all over the place.
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While it chilled I rinsed and dried the berries I would be using – strawberries, raspberries and blackberries.
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To make sure the berries would stay put on top of the cake I spread a layer of pastry cream on the top tier and then placed the berries on top of it.
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This cake was delicious… The three flavors worked so well together and I can definitely see myself making it again before the cold weather begins to creep in in a few months.
 
Makes about 3 cups
Ingredients:
4 large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
Pinch of salt
2 cups milk
1 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Directions:
1. Whisk egg yolks until smooth in a large bowl. Combine sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a medium saucepan, and heat over medium. Stirring constantly, gradually ass milk in a slow, steady stream, and cook until mixture thickens and begins to bubble, about 5 minutes.
2. Whisking constantly, slowly pour one third of the milk mixture into egg yolks. Pour mixture into remaining milk mixture in saucepan. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until mixture comes to a full boil and is thick enough to hold its shape when lifted with a spoon, 2 to 4 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in vanilla.
3. Strain mixture through a fine sieve into a heatproof bowl. Cover with parchment paper or plastic wrap, pressing it directly on surface to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until chilled and firm, at least 2 hours (or up to 2 days.)
 
Ingredients:
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
3 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups granulated sugar
4 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Zest of 2 lemons (I used one lemon so the cake wouldn’t be too “lemony”)
Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter two 8-by-2 inch round cake pans; line with parchment rounds, and butter parchment. Dust with flour, tapping out excess. (I used two 8-by-3 inch pans and used baking spray instead of butter and flour.) Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a medium bowl.
2. With an electric mixer on medium speed, beat butter until softened, 1 to 2 minutes. Gradually add granulated sugar, and beat until pale and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes, scraping down the sides of bowl once or twice. Gradually add eggs; beat until incorporated after each addition, scraping down sides of bowl once or twice.
3. Slowly add the flour mixture in 3 batches, alternating with 2 batches of buttermilk; beat until just combined. Beat in vanilla and lemon zest.
4. Divide batter evenly between prepared pans. Bake, rotating halfway though, until a cake tester comes out clean, 35 to 45 minutes. Transfer pans to wire racks to cool 15 minutes. Turn out cakes onto racks to cool completely.