Sunday, August 31, 2008

Daring Baker's Challenge: Chocolate Eclairs

Finally I've completed a Daring Baker's challenge! This challenge came from Pierre Herme and a cookbook written by Dorie Greenspan called Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Herme. I made these eclairs last weekend and had the best time making them! The inside is filled with chocolate pastry cream and instead of dunking the entire tops in chocolate ganache, I chose to drizzle it, creating a nicer presentation. I made a few cream puffs with the leftover dough. I'm not so into puffed pastry sweets but these were really good.  I had made a cream puff ring a while back to which this recipe was significantly similar to considering they both derived from Dorie Greenspan.

I'm looking forward for the next Daring Baker's challenge for the month of September! Check out the Daring Baker's blogroll for all the other fabulous eclairs!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The "U" Cake

I am a HUGE college football fanatic and alumnus at the University of Miami. Football fanatic+ UMiami alum= lunatic fan! It is exactly 1 day until the UMiami football season kicks off and I wanted to start it off with a bang! With that said, I had to bake something UMiami related, obviously . Since fondant has been my new flavor of the month (no pun intended) I envisioned making a fondant covered cake in University of Miami colors as well as the "U" logo. So that's exactly what I did after work yesterday. I am not particularly proud of this cake as I was semi-rushing to get it done so that I could go for a much needed run, however, real team spirit was put into it! Next up...a Super Bowl Champions NY Giants cake!! Woo hoo!

Enjoy and GO CANES!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

TWD:Chocolate Banded Ice Cream Torte

Amy of Food, Family, and Fun picked this week's TWD recipe: Chocolate banded ice cream torte. The no-bake aspect of this recipe really excited me considering I've been doing nothing but baking;, non-stop!  This week I decided to stay true to the recipe, with only one exception; the addition of crushed Oreo's. In my opinion, it is essential to add a crunch factor to any ice cream related dessert, such as chocolate chips, peanuts, sprinkles, etc.  So, I did just that by layering Oreo crumbs atop each ganache layer. 

The torte consisted of raspberry ice cream, chocolate ganache, and crushed Oreo's resulting in a summery, chocolaty, berry-filled treat! The lack of oven/baking time in this recipe was surely made up with waiting time. Even though the recipe said to allow the ganache layer to set for 30 mins, I bumped it up to 45 mins and allocated 25 mins per ice cream layer. Next time I make this I will most definitely use a chocolate-based ice cream flavor without berries...think: chocolate cookie dough ice cream banded torte!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Cookie Sandwiches

I needed a quick fix so I took mini chocolate chip cookies, sandwiched them between Billy's Vanilla buttercream and gently rolled them in colored sprinkles. The catch: I used Famous Amos chocolate chip cookies making this a no bake easy-as-pie recipe that comes together in a matter of minutes (as long as your butter is at room temperature!). If you need something quick, easy, and  tasty that requires no oven, make these. You can get creative and try other Famous Amos products and pair them with a variety of fun fillings. They just came out with peanut butter cookies which would be so delish with a peanut butter cream cheese frosting rolled in salty chopped peanuts! I think I just solved my dessert problem for tonight...

1 Box Famous Amos chocolate chip cookies
Billy's Vanilla Buttercream (or, if you really want to make this super quick you can just use canned frosting)
Colored Sprinkles (or any kind of mix in)

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Fun with Fondant Cake #2

Since my last fondant cake post, I've read a couple introductory novice fondant books. Above is proof of my latest creation! I almost feel embarrassed to have posted my first fondant cake being that the above is so much better! I couldn't sleep last night for the life of me so I baked the chocolate cake I made last week (found here) using 2-6inch round pans, then sliced each cake into two's leaving me with 4 layers. I iced the tops, sides, and in between the layers with a fantastic mocha buttercream recipe found here. This buttercream was very simple and didn't involve using hot coffee, only instant powder (I used espresso) dissolved in milk. Anything to make my life easier I jump on! I will most definitely be using this buttercream again. It had a wonderful coffee zing to it.  

Rather than using Wilton fondant which I personally find to be completely awful tasting, I finally took a trip to this amazing cake depot in Manhattan, NY Cake & Bake, and  bought their chocolate and white fondant. This fondant tasted amazing and made the cake so much better! It was even easier to work with. Perhaps I could have chosen a different color scheme being that brown, yellow, and white are nothing to write home about, but it was late and I was trying to avoid using dark food coloring due to the fact that I was out of plastic gloves. I finally figured out how to create the fondant rope around the bottom. The flowers were fun to make and had I had more time, I would have detailed them further. The entire cake is covered in chocolate fondant which I found to be softer than the white. What do ya'll think? I need feedback!

Old School Hostess Cupcakes

As my co-worker so delicately put it, "you even have the white squiggly debacle on top".   I was in a retro-style mood last night and decided to make the old school creme-filled Hostess cupcakes that I enjoyed so much as a kid. Although I was privy to Hostess Twinkies, nothing beats a smooth vanilla creme-filled cupcake. I remember rushing to the lunch table with my Care Bear's lunch box and eating my cupcake first, before my PB&J. Back then, dessert was an appetizer! Ohhhh, the good ol' days...

 I googled around until I found a recipe that required no supermarket visit for ingredients. I came up with this one, from Food&Wine. I made regular sized cupcakes and mini's. This throw-back recipe put me in a state of absolute euphoria =)

Mini Cuppies

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

TWD:Granola Grabbers/Bars

This week's Tuesday's With Dorie recipe was chosen by Michelle of Bad Girl Baking and she selected Granola Grabbers. This cookie is made up of butter, sugar, raisins, granola, wheat germ, almonds, and coconut. Sounds good, huh? The only minor adjustment I made to this recipe was that I omitted the wheat germ as I didn't have any in the apartment. I didn't think it would be that detrimental to the recipe so I carried on without it.  These cookies have a super crunchy exterior with a sweet center and definitely satisfied my sweet tooth this weekend. I had Vanilla Crunch granola lying around that I knew would be perfect. The extra burst of vanilla and coconut together was divinely delicious. 

I thought that since granola was involved that granola bars were in order. I used 1/2 the batter to create cookies and the other half to create bars. Everyone at work loved these. This recipe is probably something I wouldn't make again, because for the amount of butter used, I would have preferred to waste my calories on something like cheesecake! Check out the TWD blogroll for the other TWD bakers!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Banana Pudding

This was the best thing I've ever made/tasted to date. It's embarrassingly easy and has the most unbelievable taste and texture. With that said, there are no excuses not to make this. Paula Deen, if your listening (or reading), I got nothin but love for ya.

Make this immediately and you're life will never be the same. 'Nuff said.

2 bags Pepperidge Farm Chessmen cookies 
6 to 8 bananas, sliced 
2 cups milk
1 (5-ounce) box instant French vanilla pudding 
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese softened 
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk 
1 (12-ounce) container frozen whipped topping thawed, or equal amount sweetened whipped cream

Line the bottom of a 13 by 9 by 2-inch dish with 1 bag of cookies and layer bananas on top. 
In a bowl, combine the milk and pudding mix and blend well using a handheld electric mixer. Using another bowl, combine the cream cheese and condensed milk together and mix until smooth. Fold the whipped topping into the cream cheese mixture. Add the cream cheese mixture to the pudding mixture and stir until well blended. Pour the mixture over the cookies and bananas and cover with the remaining cookies. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Banana Cream Pie

I hosted a dinner party on Friday that featured a Soul food/Southern themed menu. Think: fried chicken, baked beans, corn souffle, mac-n-cheese, and meatloaf. Anyway, one of the many desserts I made was Banana Cream pie.  I've always wanted to make this pie but never got around to it. I used the Chocolate Chip Banana Cream pie recipe from one of my new favorite cookbooks, "The Essential Chocolate Chip Cookbook" by Elinor Klivans. The graham cracker crust is filled with mini chocolate chips and the banana filling and whipped cream were a perfect compliment to one another. My favorite part of this pie is the top. While making the graham cracker crust, you set aside 2 cups of crust to be used as a crunchy topping. You do this by shaping the remaining crust into an 8 inch circle which is then baked on a cookie sheet for 6-7 minutes. 

Once cooled, you drizzle chocolate on top and then cut into crunchy little piece to garnish the top of the pie. This fun little detail definitely added uniqueness to the pie. Everyone enjoyed this! I would definitely recommend you try it...

Chocolate Peanut Butter Triple Layer Cake

This cake was fantastic. I'm not usually a lover of chocolate-based cakes, but this cake was so amazing that I had it for breakfast, lunch, and after-dinner dessert all weekend. Sadly, I'm not exaggerating. I bought the book "Sky High Irresistible Triple  Layer Cakes" about a month ago and have yet to bake something from it. While perusing Smitten Kitchen, I noticed a post on this particular layer cake from the book, "chocolate peanut butter cake". The words chocolate and peanut butter jumped out at me immediately and I knew this was the perfect cake for my  dinner party which took place this past Friday. I was even happier to see that the post's recipe came out of a book that I actually owned. At least I got my money's worth...

This cake is super super super rich and only a thin sliver is necessary to satisfy a chocoholic. The layers are made up of a chocolate sour cream cake with a peanut butter cream frosting used to fill the top, sides, and in between layers.  A peanut butter chocolate ganache is then poured over the entire cake. The book suggests you pour the ganache on top and then carefully spill it over the edges to create a thick drizzle look along the sides. Instead, I covered my entire cake evenly with the ganache and piped rosettes around the rim. I enjoyed this cake the best while cold; straight out of the fridge.

Sour Cream-Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting and Chocolate-Peanut Butter Glaze

Makes an 8-inch triple-layer cake; serves 12 to 16

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably Dutch process
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup neutral vegetable oil, such as canola, soybean or vegetable blend
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs

1/2 cup coarsely chopped peanut brittle (I skipped this)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the bottoms and sides of three 8-inch round cakepans. Line the bottom of each pan with a round of parchment or waxed paper and butter the paper.

2. Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. Whisk to combine them well. Add the oil and sour cream and whisk to blend. Gradually beat in the water. Blend in the vinegar and vanilla. Whisk in the eggs and beat until well blended. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and be sure the batter is well mixed. Divide among the 3 prepared cake pans.

3. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost clean. Let cool in the pans for about 20 minutes. Invert onto wire racks, carefully peel off the paper liners, and let cool completely. (Deb note: These cakes are very, very soft. I found them a lot easier to work with after firming them up in the freezer for 30 minutes. They’ll defrost quickly once assembled. You’ll be glad you did this, trust me.)

4. To frost the cake, place one layer, flat side up, on a cake stand or large serving plate. Spread 2/3 cup cup of the Peanut Butter Frosting evenly over the top. Repeat with the next layer. Place the last layer on top and frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining frosting.

5. To decorate with the Chocolate–Peanut Butter Glaze, put the cake plate on a large baking sheet to catch any drips. Simply pour the glaze over the top of the cake, and using an offset spatula, spread it evenly over the top just to the edges so that it runs down the sides of the cake in long drips. Refrigerate, uncovered, for at least 30 minutes to allow the glaze and frosting to set completely. Remove about 1 hour before serving. Decorate the top with chopped peanut brittle.

Peanut Butter Frosting
Makes about 5 cups

1. In a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. Gradually add the confectioners’ sugar 1 cup at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl often. Continue to beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes.

2. Add the peanut butter and beat until thoroughly blended.

10 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
5 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
2/3 cup smooth peanut butter, preferably a commercial brand (because oil doesn’t separate out)

Chocolate-Peanut Butter Glaze
Makes about 1 1/2 cups

8 ounces seimsweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 cup half-and-half

1. In the top of d double boiler or in a bowl set over simmering water, combine the chocolate, peanut butter, and corn syrup. Cook, whisking often, until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth.

2. Remove from the heat and whisk in the half-and-half, beating until smooth. Use while still warm.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Mini Cupcakery

As I mentioned in an earlier post this week, my Aunt asked me to make all the desserts for my cousin's baby-naming reception last week. Since the guest list extended to 50 plus people I knew for sure that I wanted to make close to 1 zillion mini cupcakes. I used Billy's Vanilla Vanilla and Billy's Chocolate recipe for the cakes and interchanged Billy's Vanilla and Chocolate buttercreams. (For the Vanilla recipe, click the links; for chocolate recipe, see below). It got so out of hand with the amounts of mini's taking over my kitchen that at the end I decided to make king size cuppies just to get rid of the batter!

OK, let me say this. I don't know why, what, where, when, or how these were the best tasting cupcakes I've ever made being that I've made this recipe several times before, but they were the most AMAZING this time around. The cupcakes literally melted in your mouth. As a person who doesn't really care for buttercream, Billy's Vanilla buttercream was the best tasting "frosting" I've ever had.  I will officially no longer use any other recipe but Billy Reece's. Billy, you are my hero....

Chocolate Cupcakes by Billy Reece
Yields 24 to 27 cupcakes
(I made mini's and it made about 1 million)

• 2 sticks unsalted butter (8 ounces)
• 1 cup granulated sugar (7 ounces)
• 1 cup light brown sugar (7-3/4 ounces)
• 4 large eggs (one at a time)
• 6 ounces unsweetened chocolate
• 2 cups cake flour (9-1/4 ounces)
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 1 cup buttermilk (room temperature)
• 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 sticks unsalted butter (8 ounces)
1 cup granulated sugar (7 ounces)
1 cup light brown sugar (7-3/4 ounces)
4 large eggs (one at a time)
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate (chocolate should be melted, then cooled for approximately 15 minutes before being added).
Add and alternate:
2 cups cake flour (9-1/4 ounces)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup buttermilk (room temperature)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Place cupcake paper into each cup of 2 muffin pans (each pan yielding 12 muffins). Then fill each cup with 1 leveled off scoop of an ice cream scooper.

Bake at 350 degrees in regular oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until tester comes out clean.
(Because mine were mini's they obviously didn't need as much baking time so I just kept an eye on them around 15 minutes in)

Simple Chocolate Buttercream by Billy Reece
• 4 sticks butter
• 12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
• 2-3/4 cups confectioners' sugar
• 1/4 cup whole milk
• 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Cream (with hand or stand mixer): 
4 sticks butter (16 ounces) until light and fluffy, approximately 5 minutes

Melt (in microwave or double boiler):
12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate

Set aside and allow to cool for approximately 20 minutes. After chocolate has cooled, add it to the creamed butter and mix on low speed until just combined. Scrape sides of bowl then …

2-3/4 cups confectioners' sugar
1/4 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

On low speed of a hand or stand mixer, mix until fully incorporated; no confectioners' sugar should be visible. Mixture should be smooth and medium brown in color.

Do not refrigerate; use immediately or store in airtight container for up to 2 days.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Banana Bars

If you like banana-packed baked goods then you will most certainly like these. I had several left over bananas from when I made the black and white banana loaf and thought these bars would be a perfect way to get rid of them. I got this recipe from allrecipes and the reviews, once again, proved to be dead on.  There's nothing like selecting a recipe based on comments from random people all over the world! I used the left over cream cheese icing from the red velvet cake below to top the bars rather than the suggested frosting recipe. This was a simple delicious recipe definitely worth trying.

  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 very ripe banana, mashed
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts

  • *I used the cream cheese recipe shown in the below post*
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 1/2 ripe banana
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon lemon juice

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease a 9x13 inch baking pan.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together the shortening and sugar until smooth. Stir in the milk and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Combine the flour, baking soda and 1/2 teaspoon salt; stir into the sugar mixture. Mix in 1 banana, 1 teaspoon lemon juice and walnuts. Spread evenly into the prepared pan.
  3. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes in the preheated oven, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let bars cool in the pan on a wire rack.
  4. To make the frosting: In a medium bowl, mix together the melted butter, 1 teaspoon vanilla, confectioners' sugar, 1/2 banana, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon lemon juice using an electric mixer. Beat until smooth. Spread over cooled bars and then cut into squares.


I had my little cousin's baby-naming ceremony this past weekend and my Aunt kindly asked if I would cater the dessert portion of the afternoon. Of course I agreed and got to work. I decided on a Red Velvet cake, banana bars, and mini cupcakes (more posts to follow). This was the best Red Velvet cake I've ever made. The cake was moist, rich, and so delicious. I used the same recipe as I did for my fondant cake, however, instead of using the book's recipe for cream cheese icing, I reverted  back to the oh-so-handy allrecipes for suggestions. I made the most highly rated cream cheese frosting and boy was it good. This is officially my go-to cream cheese icing for carrot cakes, red velvets, etc. You can find the recipe here. I garnished the edges with chopped pecans for some extra crunch. I will be making this again, for sure!


Dolores of
Chronicles in Culinary Curiosity picked this week's TWD recipe, Blueberry Sour Cream ice cream. This was my first time making ice cream and I can hardly wait to make more! I bought the ice cream maker attachment for my Kitchen Aid a while back and for some reason never got around to making any. Naturally, I was excited to put it to use when I saw this week's recipe selection. I made a few minor changes to the recipe. I was away on vacation all last week so I hardly had time to shop. I rummaged through my freezer hoping to find some sort of frozen fruit and I found a bag of mixed berries, including raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries. I followed the rest of the recipe as is; using sour cream, lemon, sugar and cream and added mini chocolate chips at the end for some crunch. If there's one thing I learned throughout my baking adventures it's this: adding chocolate can never hurt anyone :)

P.S. Please disregard the mini fruit fly on the bottom right scoop of ice cream. My intent was to add chocolate chips not bugs! I noticed this as I was posting so lets just pawn it off as a berry seed...please forgive me =)

Tuesday, August 5, 2008


I have to make this quick as I'm out of town in Los Angeles! This week's TWD recipe was chosen by Ashlee of A Year In The Kitchen. Rather than using a big loaf pan, I made muffins and 2 mini loaves. I found these awesome cinnamon chips at the Farmer's Market here and sprinkled them on top of the muffins. Let's call these cinna-banana-chocolate muffins! These were so good! Check out the TWD website for all the other great loaves!