Friday, August 12, 2011

Ruffles, Ruffles, Ruffles Cake

Reminiscent of men's fashion in the 70's, this ruffle cake is deceivingly quick and forgiving. Any cake can be used for the base, so I use my favorite chocolate cake recipe. It's filled with fresh strawberries and topped with plump raspberries, comprising a beloved chocolate-and-fruit combination.

Chocolate berry ruffle cake

For the cake:
* 2 cups white sugar
* 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
* 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
* 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
* 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 2 eggs
* 1 cup milk or water
* 1/2 cup vegetable oil
* 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
* 1 cup boiling water
For the frosting:
* 1 cup butter, softened
* 2 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
* a few drops of red food coloring
For the filling and topping:
* 1/2 cup heavy cream
* 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
* 1/2 tablespoon confectioners' sugar
* 1 lb. strawberries
* raspberries to cover the cake

For the cake:
* Preheat oven to 350F. Line the bottom of two 9-in. round pans with parchment paper. Grease and flour the sides of the pan.
* In a large bowl, mix dry ingredients. Add all wet ingredients except boiling water and mix well.
* Add boiling water and mix well. Batter will be thin.
* Pour into cake pans and bake 30-35 min, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
* Wait 10 min and invert the cake on a flat surface (cutting board or cookie sheet). Remove paper. Invert the cake on another surface so that it is right-side-up. Allow the cake to cool to room temperature.
For the frosting:
* In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle or whisk attachment, beat butter and sugar together on low speed, gradually increasing to medium-high. Beat until butter is lightened and the frosting is thick and fluffy.
* Add red food coloring, a drop at a time, until the desired shade is attained.
For the filling:
* In a large bowl, whip cream until stiff peaks are just about to form. Beat in vanilla and sugar until peaks form. Make sure not to over-beat, cream will then become lumpy and butter-like.
* Hull and halve the strawberries.
For assembly and decoration:
* Level the tops of the cakes with a long, sharp knife. Evenly place as many strawberries that will fit onto one cake. Stack the strawberries if desired.
* Spread the whipped cream filling on top of the strawberries, trying to have it go into the crevices of the berries without falling off the sides. Discard extra cream.
* Carefully invert the other cake and place it on the filling. Create a crumb layer by spreading a thin layer of frosting over the cake. Place the cake in the refrigerator for 30 min or until appropriately chilled. Leave the rest of the frosting at room temperature.
* Fill a pastry bag with a small petal tip (I used Ateco 104) with remaining frosting. Frost according to the video tutorial from My Sweet and Saucy Shop.
* Arrange the raspberries on top of the cake as shown. Serves 12-16.

Monday, January 18, 2010

A Focaccia Tutorial

My friend Sandi asked me if I could make my recipes more geared toward beginners, so I thought it would be fun to make a photo tutorial. The recipe is time-extensive, but the ingredients are few, no special equipment is required, and the process is straightforward. Above all, the final product is a versatile masterpiece. You may dip this soft, flavorful flat bread into marinara sauce, use it for a sandwich, or simply eat it by itself.

Poolish Focaccia
Source: The Bread Baker's Apprentice, by Peter Reinhart

Note: This recipe is a two-day process, but Day 1 only takes 30 minuets to make the poolish and the herb oil. Day 2 will take 6-7 hours mostly because of resting time. Don't worry, you can do it!

For the herb oil:
* 1/2 cup olive oil
* 3 tbsp dried herbs or 1/2 c fresh
For the poolish:
* 2 1/2 c bread flour
* 1 1/2 c water, room temperature
* 1/4 tsp dry yeast
For the focaccia:
* Poolish (recipe above)
* 2 2/3 Cups bread flour
* 2 tsp salt
* 1 1/2 tsp dry yeast
* 6 Tbs olive oil
* 3/4 cup water, warm
* 1/2 cup herb oil (recipe above)

Day 1:
* Heat the olive oil to about 100F and remove the oil from heat. Mix in the herbs and let it stand overnight at room temperature, covered. The dry herbs I used were: 1 tbsp rosemary, 1/2 tbsp basil, 1/2 tbsp oregano, and 1/2 tbsp thyme.

* To make the poolish, mix the flour, water, and yeast with a wooden spoon until all the flour is moistened. Cover with plastic wrap, and let stand overnight at room temperature.

Day 2:
* The poolish should have doubled in volume and have lots of bubbles!

* To the poolish, add the rest of the flour, water, oil, and salt. Mix until the dough comes together and releases from the sides of the bowl, but not the bottom, about 5 min.

* Pour the dough out onto a well-floured surface. Dust the dough with flour so that it is not sticky, and pat it into a rectangle. Brush any flour off the dough as best as you can. Cover with plastic wrap, and let it stand for 5 minuets.

* Tri-fold the dough like a letter by folding the shorter edge toward the middle and doing the same with the other side. Cover with plastic and let it rest for 30 minuets.
* Stretch the dough out and repeat the tri-fold, but this time instead of folding left-right, fold up-down. Cover with plastic and let it rest again for 30 minuets.

* Do a third and final stretch and fold, and let it rest for 1 1/2 hours.

* In the meantime, line a 17x12 in. baking sheet with parchment paper.
* When the dough is ready, transfer the dough to the baking sheet. It's nice to have someone help you here! Drizzle half of the herb oil onto the dough and poke straight down into the dough with your fingers to spread the dough out into the pan. Pop the large bubbles if you like, but try to leave the small bubbles intact.

* Cover the dough and let it rise for 2 hours.

* Add the rest of the herb oil and poke the dough once more. Let the dough rest for 15 minuets.
* In the meantime, preheat the oven to 500F.
* When the dough is ready, put it in the oven and reduce the temperature to 450F. Bake for 20-25 minuets.

* Immediately take the focaccia out of the baking sheet and place it on a cooling rack for 20 min. Makes 12 servings.

Friday, January 1, 2010


If only I could make 2,010 of these. The chocolate cake recipe is ridiculously simple, and it yields the best I've ever had. Add only a kiss of confectioner's sugar to the matcha whipped cream, and muah! - the subtle green tea notes are absolutely perfect when paired with chocolate cake. Top the cake with a fluffy cloud of freshly whipped cream and a quick dust of matcha, and you're all set to start a new year!

Matcha and Chocolate Layer Cake
Source: Alicia (chocolate cake recipe) and me!

For the cake:
* 1 cup sugar
* 3/4 cup + 2 tbsp flour
* 3/4 tsp baking soda
* 3/4 tsp baking powder
* 1/4 cup + 2 tbsp cocoa powder
* 1/4 tsp salt
* 1 tsp vanilla
* 1 egg
* 1/4 cup vegetable oil
* 1/2 cup water
* 1/2 cup boiling water
For the cream:
* 1 cup chilled heavy cream, divided
* 1 tbsp + 1 tsp confectioner's sugar
* 1 tbsp matcha

For the cake:
* Preheat oven to 350F. Line the bottom of a 9-in. round pan with parchment paper. Grease and flour the sides of the pan.
* In a large bowl, mix dry ingredients. Add all wet ingredients except boiling water and mix well.
* Add boiling water and mix well. Batter will be thin.
* Pour into cake pans and bake 30-35 min, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
* Wait 10 min and invert the cake on a flat surface (cutting board or cookie sheet). Remove paper. Invert the cake on another surface so that it is right-side-up. Allow the cake to cool to room temperature.
For the whipped cream:
* With a chilled bowl and beaters, beat 3/4 cup heavy cream until slightly frothy. Add 1 tbsp sugar and matcha and beat until stiff peaks form. Do not over-beat. Keep chilled when finished. This will be for the cream filling.
* With a clean bowl and beaters, repeat with the remaining cream and sugar. This will be for the topping.
For assembly:
* Once the cake has cooled, level the cake by slicing off the top, if needed. Cut the cake into 3 equal layers with a long, serrated knife and a gentle sawing motion. It's easier than it sounds! Start at the edges, keeping an eye on the thickness of the cake, and turn the cake as you work the knife closer to the center.
* Use cookie or biscuit cutters to cut out rounds of cake.
* Place cake round on serving plate. Pipe the matcha whipped cream over the cake by outlining the outside and swirling inward. Place another cake round on top and pipe more matcha cream. Add another cake layer.
* Pipe plain whipped cream on top, and finish by using your fingers to sprinkle a pinch of matcha. The number of cakes this recipe yields depends on the size of your cutter.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Blackberry Love

Rainy weekends were meant for staying home and making bar cookies. These are delightfully crisp on the top, supported by a moist, satisfying base. And they're surprisingly easy to make - the topping recycles a portion of the base batter! I made a blackberry-sugar reduction for a deep, flavorful jam, but you can use any preserve you like. These rustic bars are even better the next day since the cookie fully absorbs the jam that smothers it. Enjoy with your weekday coffee or tea.

Blackberry Oatmeal Squares
Source: adapted from Joy of Baking

For the oatmeal base/topping:
* 1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
* 1 cup (215 grams) light brown sugar
* 1 large egg
* 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
* 1 1/4 cups (175 grams) all purpose flour
* 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
* 1/4 teaspoon salt
* 2 cups (180 grams) old fashioned rolled oats, divided
For the fruit preserve (or use 1 cup store-bought preserve):
* 2 cups frozen unsweetened berries
* 1/4 cup sugar

* Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C) and place rack in center of oven. Butter (or use a non stick cooking spray) a 9 x 9 inch (23 x 23 cm) pan. Set aside.
For the oatmeal base:
* In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy (about 2 - 3 minutes). Add the egg and vanilla extract and beat until incorporated.
* In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Add to the butter mixture and mix until well combined. Stir in 1 3/4 cups (155 grams) of the rolled oats.
* Press 2/3 of the dough into the bottom of the prepared pan.
For the berry jam:
* Place frozen unsweetened berries and 1/4 cup sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 20 - 25 minutes or until most of the liquid has evaporated. Do not let it burn.
* Remove from heat and pour into a heatproof measuring cup. You should have about 1 cup of preserves. Cover and place in the refrigerator overnight.
To assemble:
* Spread the raspberry jam over the oatmeal base.
* To the remaining dough add the remaining 1/4 cup of rolled oats. Crumble this mixture evenly over the top of the raspberry jam.
* Bake for about 25 - 30 minutes or until nicely browned.
* Place on a wire rack to cool and then cut into squares. Makes about 16 - 2 inch squares. Store leftovers in the refrigerator.

Friday, July 31, 2009

How to Make Girl Scout Cookies

This is the second time I've made these cookies, and it certainly won't be the last. They were meant to be eaten straight out of the freezer since the thin layer of chocolate takes on a crunch, and the soothing peppermint flavor develops a kick. This recipe tastes so authentic, you'll swear you paid $4 for a dozen!

Homemade Thin Mints
Source: 101 Cookbooks

For the Chocolate Wafers:
* 8 ounces organic butter, room temperature
* 1 cup organic powdered sugar, (I use Wholesome Sweeteners brand)
* 1 teaspoon natural vanilla extract
* 1 cup cocoa powder (I use Dagoba's cacao powder)
* 3/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
* 1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
For the Chocolate Peppermint Coating:
* 1 pound good quality semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
* Peppermint oil to taste

* Preheat your oven to 350. Racks in the middle zone.
* Make the cookie dough: In a mixer cream the butter until it is light and fluffy. Add the powdered sugar and cream some more, scraping the sides of the bowl a couple times if necessary. Stir in the vanilla extract and then the salt and cocoa powder. Mix until the cocoa powder is integrated and the batter is smooth and creamy, sort of like a thick frosting. Add the whole wheat pastry flour and mix just until the batter is no longer dusty looking, it might still be a bit crumbly, and that's o.k. You don't want to over mix and end up with tough cookies.
* Turn the dough out onto a counter, gather it into a ball, and kneed it just once or twice to bring it together into once nice, smooth mass. Place the ball of dough into a large plastic bag and flatten it into a disk roughly 3/4-inch thick. Place the dough in the freezer for 20 minutes to chill.
* Rollout and bake: Remove the dough from the freezer and roll it out really thin, remember how thin Thin Mints are? That's how thin you need your dough, about 1/8-inch. You can either roll it out between two sheets of plastic, or dust your counter and rolling pin with a bit of flour and do it that way. Stamp out cookies using a 1 1/2-inch cutter (this time I used one with a fluted edge, I've done hearts and other shapes in the past). Place cookies on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes. Remove the cookies from the oven and allow them to cool completely on a baking rack if you've got one.
* Make the peppermint coating: While the cookies are in the oven you can get the coating ready. I use a makeshift double boiler to melt chocolate (a metal pan over a saucepan of gently simmering water), but I know many people who swear by melting chocolate in the microwave. Slowly melt the chocolate, stirring occasionally until it is glossy and smooth. Stir in the peppermint extract. If you think the chocolate needs a bit more peppermint kick, add more extract a drop or two at a time - but don't go overboard.
* Finishing the cookies: You are going to coat the cookies one at a time and then gently set them on a parchment-lined baking sheet to set. Drop one cookie into the chocolate and (using a fork) carefully make sure it gets fully coated. Lift the cookie out of the chocolate with the fork and bang the fork on the side of the pan to drain any extra chocolate off the cookie. You are after a thin, even coating of chocolate. Place on the aforementioned prepared baking sheet, and repeat for the rest of the cookies. Place the cookies in the refrigerator or freezer to set. They will set at room temperature, it just takes much longer. Makes 4 or 5 dozen cookies.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Roll Out the Red Velvet Carpet

With the opening of countless cupcake shops in California, these little cakes have finally made their way to Hollywood (and my kitchen...and my stomach) after decades of being a classic tradition of the South. Since then, they have spread like wildfire, but people seem to have no problem putting them out. It's been said that the idea of a red cake originated from a reaction between cocoa powder and vinegar used for leavening in a chocolate cake. This red hue was then intensified with red food coloring, and the rest is history!

The recipe below is one of my all-time favorites. It calls for only a bit of cocoa powder, which not only lets the whopping two bottles of red food coloring shine through, but it also creates a uniquely subtle cake that is not quite chocolate, not quite vanilla. I was sure these cupcakes would be amazing after tasting the batter, and when they came out of the oven, they did not disappoint. They were madly moist and tender - the perfect cupcake, I daresay. There's nothing more intriguing to me than brightly colored food, and no food is more brightly colored than red velvet cake!

Waldorf-Astoria Red Velvet Cupcakes
Source: Pinch My Salt

For the cupcakes:
* 2 1/2 cups cake flour, sifted before and after measuring
* 1 teaspoon baking powder
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
* 2 oz. red food coloring (two bottles)
* 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
* 1 1/2 cups sugar
* 2 eggs, at room temperature
* 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
* 1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
* 1 teaspoon white vinegar
* 1 teaspoon baking soda
For the frosting:
* 16 oz. cream cheese (2 packages), softened
* 1/2 cup unsalted butter (one stick), softened
* 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
* 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
* pinch of salt

For the cupcakes:
* Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two 12-cup muffin tins with cupcake papers.
* Sift together the cake flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl; set aside. In a small bowl, mix food coloring and cocoa powder to form a thin paste without lumps; set aside.
* In a large bowl, using a hand mixer or stand mixer, beat butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, about three minutes. Beat in eggs, one at a time, then beat in vanilla and the red cocoa paste, scraping down the bowl with a spatula as you go. Add one third of the flour mixture to the butter mixture, beat well, then beat in half of the buttermilk. Beat in another third of flour mixture, then second half of buttermilk. End with the last third of the flour mixture, beat until well combined, making sure to scrape down the bowl with a spatula.
* In a small bowl, mix vinegar and baking soda. Yes, it will fizz! Add vinegar mixture to the cake batter and stir well to combine. Using an ice cream scoop, fill cupcake cups with cake batter (they should be 2/3 - 3/4 full). Place muffin tins on the middle rack of a preheated 350 degree oven. Bake for approximately 20-22 minutes, rotating pans halfway through. Cupcakes are done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Check early and don’t overbake!
* Cool the cupcakes in their tins on a wire rack for 10 minutes then remove and allow to cool completely.
For the Frosting:
* With an electric mixer, blend together cream cheese and butter until smooth.
* Turn mixer to low speed and blend in powdered sugar, salt and vanilla extract.
* Turn mixer on high and beat until light and fluffy. Use immediately or refrigerate, covered, until ready to use. If refrigerated, the frosting will need to be brought to room temperature before using (after frosting softens up, beat with mixer until smooth).
* Frost cupcakes and decorate with red sprinkles, if desired. Makes 2 dozen cupcakes.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Birthday Ardy!

My baby brother is already 21, and I made a birthday cake just for him! This cake was inspired by the lovely birthday rounds my parents used to buy at a Chinatown bakery in Downtown Los Angeles. From those nostalgic cakes, I adopted a thick coat of sliced almonds for the outer facets and a bed of fresh, plump strawberries for the filling of this double-layered cake. But instead of using the classic red gel for a hand-written message, I used purple fondant for cut-out lettering. And since my piping skills have yet to be born, I used fresh blackberries for an alluring finish. No time for taking quality pictures - I'm late to the birthday dinner!

Happy Birthday Cake
Source: adapted from RecipeZaar and Allrecipes

For the cake:
* 3 cups cake flour
* 1 tbsp baking powder
* 1/2 tsp salt
* 1/4 tsp baking soda
* 1 1/2 c butter or margarine, softened
* 1 1/4 c sugar
* 2/3 c milk
* 1 1/2 tsp almond extract
* 4 eggs
For the frosting:
* 1 pint heavy whipping cream, chilled
* 1/3 c powdered sugar
* 1/2 lb sliced almonds
* 10 oz strawberries, stems removed and quartered
* 5 oz blackberries
* 2 oz fondant

* Heat oven to 350º.
* Grease and flour a 9x13” cake pan. Mix flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda; set aside.
* Beat butter and sugar in large bowl with electric mixer on high speed, scraping bowl occasionally, until fluffy.
* Beat in flour mixture, milk, vanilla, and eggs on medium speed until blended. Beat 2 minutes longer. Pour into pans.
* Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool ten minutes, remove from pans to wire rack, cool completely.
* For frosting, beat cream on low speed until thickened. Add powdered sugar and beat on high speed until stiff peaks form.
* Cut the cake in half to form two long pieces of cake, and trim edges. Level the cakes by cutting off the rounded tops.
* Place one cake layer, cut side up, on serving plate. Carefully arrange a single layer of strawberry quarters to fit as many as possible. Top with 1/4 of the whipped cream and spread evenly, allowing cream to edge the sides.
* Gently place the other cake layer, cut side down. Spread entire cake with remaining frosting, making the top layer as even as possible.
* Spread a handful of almonds on your open hand, and quickly but gently press them to the sides of the cake until they are completely covered.
* Decorate with fresh blackberries.
* On a piece of parchment paper, roll out fondant and stamp with letter cutters. If the fondant sticks to cutters, remove by using a toothpick.
* Arrange letters on cake, being careful about the spacing. Keep cake wrapped and chilled until ready to serve. Serves 12.