Monday, August 31, 2009


Wow. It has been well over a year since I first joined the lovely interactive baking group; Tuesdays With Dorie, and my day has finally come...the recipe rotation gods have spoken! It's my week to choose a recipe from Dorie Greenspans, "Baking: From My Home To Yours" and my opportunities of choice seemed endless. There were pies, tarts, cookies, cakes--oh so many I could have selected without batting an eye. However, when my eyes scanned page 104-105; it was love at first site. Espresso? Brownies? Cheesecake? All in one?--I had to plea no contest.
These brownies were absolutely delicious. Each creamy, espresso-spiked, chocolaty, brownie bite got better and better as my consumption continued...and continued...and (we all know how this story ends) resulted in my dinner for the evening that left me with a sugar hangover. And a worthy hangover at that.

Rather than the suggested 9X9 square pan I baked these guys in a 9 inch round pan and sliced them in thin wedges. Chocolate chunks, dark chocolate covered espresso beans, cappuccino chips, cocoa powder, and a chocolate wafer cigar were among many of the toppers. Please please pleaseeee make this if you haven't already. They are a great end-of-the-summer cool treat for season ending BBQ's! Labor Day, anyone? You're welcome.

Espresso Cheesecake Brownies
From Dorie Greenspan's Baking From My Home to Yours

For the brownies:

1/2 cup ap flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into cubes
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/3 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 F, with a rack in the center. Butter a 9" square baking pan placed on a baking sheet and set aside.

To make the brownies:

Whisk together the first three ingredients. Put the butter and chocolate over a double boiler with water simmering. Stir until the ingredients melt, but don't overheat so that the butter separates. Remove the top of the double boiler and set aside.

Stir the sugar into the chocolate mixture with a whisk, then add the eggs one at a time. Beat well after each egg, then beat in the vanilla. Next, gently stir in the dry ingredients until they disappear. Set aside.

For the cheesecake:

1 1/2 teaspoons instant espresso powder dissolved in 1 tablespoon boiling water
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1/4 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon ap flour

Allow the espresso to cool to tepid. With a stand mixer fitted with the paddle, beat the cream cheese on medium until it's completely smooth. Add the sugar and continue to beat for 3 minutes more. Beat in the vanilla and espresso before adding the eggs one at a time. Beat for 1 minute after each egg, then reduce the speed to low and add the sour cream, then the flour. The batter should be smooth.

Pour about 3/4 of the brownie mixture into the prepared pan. Smooth it out, then pour the cheesecake layer over the top, taking care to make it even. Place spoonfuls of the rest of the brownie batter on top, and use a knife to swirl the dark and light batters together. Be careful, however, not to plunge the knife into the base brownie layer. Swirl only as much as necessary.

Bake for around 30 minutes. The brownies should come away from the sides of the pan. The cheesecake will puff and turn lightly browned around the edges. Transfer the pan to a wrack to cool. Once it reaches room temperature, refrigerate for at least 2 hours, until well chilled.

For the topping:

1 1/4 cups sour cream
1/2 cups confectioners' sugar

Warm the sour cream and sugar in a small saucepan over very low heat. You need to stir constantly until the sugar is dissolved. Pour over the chilled brownies, then return them to the refrigerator and chill for at least another hour. Cut the brownies into squares and serve.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


I made these tonight with left over cake batter. They are adorable. They are delicious. They are minuscule. Three adjectives that would highlight any great dessert, in my mind. I experimented with my own recipe for a full-on fluffy, moist, white cake. No no no folks, no egg yolks in these bad boys. Many people get confused with the traditional white cake. I've seen several recipes for "golden vanilla cakes" that have the taste of vanilla but not the appearance; keyword golden. In this case, it's all vanilla from the inside out and it's darn tasty at that.
I topped these minis with a creamy, rich, instant fudge frosting and garnished with blue and white non pareils. I'd love love loveeee to publish this recipe for ya'll because I feel like I'd be doing an injustice to the world of sweet teeth if I didn't, butttttttt I think I need to keep this one to myself because it just may be my next unique go-to white cake recipe. Everyone should feel special, shouldn't they?

Sunday, August 23, 2009


OK, I realize I'm SEVERAL months behind in my favorite little baking group, The Cake Slice Bakers. I've been so incredibly overwhelmed that I've completely neglected this interactive monthly baking group for oh so long. However, my mini hiatus has come to an end. What better time to start back up being that I'm in my Advanced Cakes module in culinary school...? Any excuse to bake cakes, consider me in!
Well, I'm back and better than ever and began catching up with July's cake which was posted on the 20th; marbled lemon blueberry buttercake. Luckily I already made August's cake selection; Pistachio Petit Four cake, last year so I'm up to date for September. Wow, I came back just in time because this cake was absolutely fantastic. It was very similar to the base of Dorie's perfect party cake with an added marbled blueberry throughout, a homemade lemon blueberry puree, and a lemon swiss meringue buttercream. Mmmm mmmm delicious!
I went the extra mile and made my own lemon swiss meringue buttercream. The original recipe called for whole eggs and I'm really not a fan of that kind of buttercream. I stuck shaved coconut around the sides of the entire cake and colored a portion of my buttercream purple to pipe across the top. I sprinkled a touch more coconut on the rosettes and stars and dropped a blueberry on each, as well as 3 in the center. I had dinner with my 94 year old grandma last week in the city and brought her this cake. For a woman who weigh 85lbs and doesn't have much of an interest in food, she sure scarfed this cake down faster than you could imagine. She called me the next morning to inform me that she had it for breakfast as well.
Go ahead and check out the cake slice bakers blogroll and become a member today. We'd love to have you!

September's selection features Sky High's triple chocolate fudge cake. Keep your eyes peeled!

Marbled Lemon Blueberry Butter Cake
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
2 tsp grated lemon zest
1½ tsp lemon extract
7 egg whites
3 cups cake flour
4 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1¼ cups milk
Fresh blueberries, for decoration

Lemon blueberry preserves (below)
Lemon buttercream frosting (below)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the bottom and sides of three 8 inch round cake pans. Line the bottom of each pan with a round of parchment or waxed paper and butter the paper.
In a mixer, cream together the butter, sugar, lemon zest and lemon extract until light and fluffy. Gradually add the egg whites 2 or 3 at a time, beating well between additions and stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl.
Combine the flour, baking powder and salt, whisk gently to blend. In 2 or 3 alternating additions, beat the dry ingredients and milk into the butter mixture, scraping down the sides of the bowl several times. Beat on medium-high speed for about 1 minute to smooth out any lumps and aerate the batter.
Scoop 1 cup of the batter into a small bowl. Divide the remaining equally among the 3 prepared pans, smoothing the tops with a spatula. This gives you a smooth surface to work with. Add 2½ tbsp of the lemon blueberry preserves to the reserved batter and blend well. Drizzle heaping teaspoons of this blueberry mixture over the batter in the pans. Use a skewer to swirl the blueberry mixture in short strokes to drag it down through the lemon batter without mixing it in.
Bake for about 25 minutes or until a cake tester or skewer stuck in the centre comes out clean and the cake pulls away from the sides of the pan. Lat the layers cool for 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack, peeling off the paper and leaving to cool completely.

Lemon Blueberry Preserves
3 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen
¾ cup sugar
2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1½ tsp grated lemon zest
1 tsp grated fresh ginger

Puree the blueberries with any juices that have exuded in a blender. Pass the puree through a coarse strainer to remove the skins.
In a heavy medium saucepan, combine the blueberry puree with the sugar, lemon juice, zest and ginger. Bring to a gentle boil over a medium heat, stirring often for 20 minutes, or until the preserves have thickened and are reduced to 1 cup. To check the proper thickness place a small amount of a saucer and put in the freezer until cold. Drag your finger through it. If a clear path is made through the preserve then it is ready. Let the preserves cool before using. (Can be made up to 5 days in advance).

Lemon Buttercream Frosting
1 cup sugar
¼ cup water
2 eggs
3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

In a small saucepan, combine the sugar and water. Bring to the boil over a medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Continue to boil without stirring, occasionally washing down the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush until the syrup reaches the soft-ball stage, 238 degrees F on a candy thermometer. Immediately remove from the heat.
In a large mixer bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed, beast the eggs briefly. Slowly add the hot syrup in a thin stream, pouring it down the sides of the bowl; be careful to avoid hitting the beaters or the syrup may splatter. When all the syrup has been added, raise the speed to medium,-high and beat until the mixture is very fluffy and cooled to body temperature. This can take 15-20 minutes.
Reduce the mixer speed to medium-low and gradually add the softened butter 2 to 3 tablespoons at a time, beating well between additions. As you’re adding the last few tablespoons of butter, the frosting will appear to break, then suddenly come together like whipped butter. Beat in the lemon juice, and the frosting is ready to use.

To Assemble
To assemble the cake, place a layer, flat side up, on a cake stand. Spread half of the lemon blueberry preserves over the top. Place a second layer on top of the first and spread the remaining preserves over it. Finally place the third layer on top and frost the top and sides with the lemon buttercream.
Decorate with fresh blueberries and serve.
Makes one 8 inch triple layered cake.


This is an engagement cake I made for a friend of a friend's engagement party. The cake consists of 4 layers (it was huge!) of interchanging chocolate and vanilla sponge cakes and each layer was filled with a whipped chocolate ganache. The entire cake was iced with a chocolate swiss meringue buttercream and I used a cornet to pipe the writing using white chocolate. I made chocolate sablee cookies and piped their initials on them which I then stuck around the sides of the cake. I made marzipan white roses in bunches around the 4 corners of the cake and piped pretty borders around the top and bottom perimeters. I heard the cake was a huge hit and I was so happy to share my love of decorative sweets with the bride and groom to be! Enjoy!


As I mentioned earlier, I've been knee deep in cakes. All day, everyday I'm immersed in the art of cake baking, cake technique, and decorating in school. I still have 2 more weeks of my advanced cakes module so stay tuned. Here's what I've been up to lately in both school and extra curricular projects:
Horseradish Grill's chocolate cake filled with whipped praline chocolate ganache, iced with vanilla swiss meringue buttercream with a rich chocolate ganache glaze across the top and drizzled down the sides. Piped buttercream rosettes garnished with shaved chocolate and toasted hazelnuts
Triple layer chocolate genoise cake soaked with brandy syrup, filled with a mocha swiss meringue buttercream with piped buttercream kisses and "mocha" written across in chocolate using a cornet.
Petit Fours: Almond frangipane cakes sandwiched together with raspberry and apricot jams and topped with poured fondant. Decorated with dried lavender, chocolate, and almond slivers.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


Cake, cake, and cake. Yes folks, it's official..I've entered my 3rd module of culinary school and it's all about cakes! I've been looking forward to this module since I first read the curriculum long before I enrolled. Is it everything I thought it would be? Absolutely. I'm so incredibly obsessed with school these days I can hardly wait to wake up at 6:38am everyday. By 8am the baking, assembly, and decoration of cake madness begins. It's fantastic!

With all this said, the next several posts over the coming weeks will be tons of cakes; so suit up, buckle in, and join me down the aisle of cake love.
The first week of class featured a lemon scented white cake which is very similar to Dorie Greenspan's perfect party cake. This wasn't a surprise to me when I found out that Dorie and Nick Malgieri, who wrote the curriculum for my baking and pastry arts program, are very dear friends. Perhaps Dorie emulated Nick's lemon scented white cake for her perfect party cake..? Nonetheless, it tasted exactly the same; delicious.
When our cakes are done baking, each student individually has to select one of several flavor/design combinations offered to us in our books. Once you choose a cake theme you stick with it through the filling, stripping (if applicable), the frostings of the outside and top, glazes, as well as a particular design. In my case, I chose the orange Grand Marnier cake which featured an orange marmalade stripping, Grand Marnier swiss meringue buttercream filling in between layers and around the cake, and then garnished with sugared almonds. I piped 12 rosettes across the top indicating 12 slices and added some criss-crossed candied orange rind.

I've learned the art of cake assembly in the first 2 weeks of 'Advanced Cakes'. My layers are all neat and even, the top and sides of the cake are perfectly flat and straight, and my slices look divine! I have many many more cakes to come so don't be a stranger!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


Well, it's hard to believe I haven't posted a TWD recipe in months. There's been culinary school, recreational baking, and lots of traveling. I apologize to all you TWD'ers out there who have been participating all summer. I promise to get back on the bandwagon stat, beginning with this classic banana bundt cake chosen by Mary of The Food Librarian. Have you ever takin' a peek of Mary's blog? If not, I suggest you mosey on over there immediately! She's absolutely incredible from her recipes to her photographs; she's unbelievably talented.
This hunk of banana deliciousness was the epitome of banana bundts. It was moist, super flavorful, light, and perfect with a cup of joe in the morning or as a midnight snack. I added chopped pecans, coconut, and a touch of rum to the bananas before baking. The coconut and banana combination was excellent and it's a flavor combo that I would definitely use in the future. Oddly enough I had an entire lesson on bundt cakes yesterday in class, so I brought this into school this morning. My classmates loved it and my chef instructor, who's a big banana fan, said it was great!

Hop on over to Mary's blog for the recipe. Stay tuned for next week where I will be participating (2 consecutive weeks, woo hoo!) in brownie buttons. Yum.

Monday, August 3, 2009


With birthday cake (shown below), comes birthday cupcakes! What's a party without cupcakes? In addition to the cake featured below, I made cupcakes for all the attendees of Jana's birthday party. After all, the cake was solely intended for Jana's tummy and I didn't want to make her guests envious.
So, I brought these: a bevy of vanilla cupcakes with alternating chocolate buttercreams and vanilla/chocolate swirl buttercreams each topped with a different theme. I used leftover batter from the cake recipe below this post as well as Billy's chocolate buttercream.
Here is what I came up with...
Thin Mint Cupcake: Vanilla cupcake with chocolate buttercream topped with chopped thin mints, mint drizzle, and a whole thin mint cookie

Peanut Butter Brittle Chip Cupcake: Vanilla cupcake with chocolate buttercream topped with mini chocolate chips and a shard of homemade peanut brittle
Chocolate Oreo Cupcake: Vanilla cupcake with chocolate/vanilla swirl buttercream topped with Oreo crumbs and a Chocolate Cream Oreo

M&M Cupcake: Vanilla cupcake with chocolate buttercream topped with mini M&M's and a red sugar icing drizzle

Peanut Butter Coffee Cupcake: Vanilla cupcake with chocolate/vanilla swirl buttercream topped with peanut butter drizzle and a chocolate covered coffee bean

Chocolate Brownie Cupcake: Vanilla cupcake with chocolate buttercream topped with chunks of Dorie Greenspan's Katherine Hepburn brownies and a white chocolate drizzle


My best friend Jana turned the big 2-6 last week and I was thrilled to be making her a special birthday cake. I didn't need to ask what kind of cake she required because if a cake has frosting on it, this girl will eat it; be it chocolate, strawberry, vanilla, and what have you. If Sesame Street had a frosting monster character, she would surely get top billing. "Meee...wanttt..frostinggg"
Jana is a simple girl with simple tastes so I went with my favorite vanilla cake recipe with my favorite vanilla frosting and some quintessential birthday confetti sprinkles on top. I used funky black glittery candles and dolloped a chocolate kiss-like-shape of frosting in the center.
Trying this cake would have been at the top of my priority list, however, it was guzzled down in a matter of the privacy of Jana's herself...where it belonged :)

Saturday, August 1, 2009


I mentioned in the previous post that I made a 6 inch 4 layer birthday cake with the leftover batter from the Half Baked cuppies. Well, here it is. I've been a King Arthur fan since I've been baking; for both ingredients and recipes. This cake is absolutely delicious. The chocolate cake is fudgy and moist while the vanilla cake adds a firmer more textured cake. Together they make the best of both worlds with the most delicious fudge frosted filling sandwiched in between. I will most definitely be referencing back to this cake for my go-to birthday cakes.
The recipe can be found in the below post or just click here.


I did some part time fill in work at my old job last week and Ben & Jerry's flavors happened to be a major topic of discussion. Why, you ask? Because it was 4:00 on a Friday and these are the kind of filler topics that come up when everyone is ready for the weekend! Lucky for me, it was a conversation I could add some serious input to! As I deeply contemplated my favorite flavor, I knew there was no match for Ben & Jerry's Half Baked ice cream. Have you ever had it? If not, you must go try it immediately. They even make it in a Lo-Fat version, so I don't want to hear any excuses out of y'all. Chocolate and vanilla ice creams studded with fudge brownies and gobs of chocolate chip cookie dough. I mean, really??? Wow. Dear Ben & Jerry: you tryin' to kill me? Love, Melissa.
So, in honor of this fabulous flavor, I decided to create a cupcake version of Half Baked. At least with this creation, I could take my time to savor and not worry about the melting factor :) Here's what I came up with: swirled vanilla and chocolate cake studded with chocolate chip cookie dough, topped with a chocolate chip cookie dough whipped cream frosting with a brownie chunk and chocolate ganache drizzle. Yep, this reenactment definitely did the trick.
I used King Arthur's choco-nilla cake recipe for the actual cupcake (so delicious and super easy). I only made a few of these so the rest of the recipe was used to make a 4 layer 6 inch birthday cake which is featured above.
Half-Baked Cupcakes
For the Vanilla Cake:
1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream or plain yogurt (full-fat is best) [I used sour cream]
2 large eggs
1 cup (7 ounces) sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 ¾ teaspoons baking powder
1/3 cup (2 3/8 ounces) vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups (8 ½ ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour

For the Chocolate Cake:
1 1/3 cups (9 3/8 ounces) sugar
1 1/3 cups (5 3/8 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
2 tablespoons (3/8 ounce) Instant ClearJel® or cornstarch (1/2 ounce)
1/2 cup (1 1/2 ounces) Double-Dutch Dark Cocoa or Dutch-process cocoa
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons espresso powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
1/2 cup (3 ½ ounces) vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 cup (6 ounces) water
Eggless Cookie Dough:
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips [I used mini chocolate chips]
*reserve 1/4 of cookie dough recipe for frosting*
-Use any brownie recipe you prefer and cut up into 1 inch chunks. I used Dorie Greenspan's Katherine Hepburn brownies.
To make the vanilla cake:
1)Whisk together the yogurt or sour cream, eggs, sugar, salt, baking powder, vegetable oil, and vanilla.
2) Stir in the flour, mixing till smooth. Drop in little bits of cookie dough.
3) Pour the batter into one of the prepared pans. [muffin tins-marble in chocolate batter]
4) Bake the cake for 35 to 45 minutes, until the cake is beginning to brown on top. It may crack slightly; that’s OK. [I didn't time these, but keep an eye on them after 12 mins]
5) Remove the cake from the oven, and after 10 minutes turn it out of the pan onto a rack to cool.
To make the chocolate cake:
6)Whisk together the dry ingredients.
7) Add the eggs, oil, and vanilla, beating until smooth.
8) Gradually add the water, beating until smooth. Drop in little bits of cookie dough.
9) Pour the batter into the prepared pan. [muffin tin-marble in vanilla batter]
10) Bake the cake for about 35 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean.
11) Remove the cake from the oven, and after 10 minutes turn it out of the pan onto a rack to cool.
12) Divide the cooled cakes in half horizontally, to make four round layers. Place one vanilla layer on a serving plate.
To make the cookie dough:
In a bowl beat 1/4 cup butter or margarine with the brown sugar and 1/4 cup of the white sugar. Stir in the water and 1 teaspoon of the vanilla. Beat in the flour and the semisweet chocolate chips. Stir until combined. [Set 1/4 of the recipe aside for frosting]
Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Whipped Cream Frosting:
1 ½ cup heavy whipping cream
8 oz cream cheese, softened
¾ cup granulated sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
To make the frosting: in a medium bowl beat the whipping cream until stiff peaks form (do not overbeat); set aside. In a large bowl, combine cream cheese, sugar, salt, and vanilla. Beat for 2 minutes until smooth. Fold in the whipped cream. Fold the remaining cookie dough chunks into the frosting and immediately frost the cooled cupcakes. Drizzle chocolate syrup or ganache on top and use a brownie chunk for garnish.


Well, I just finished my second module of culinary school:bread and pastries. I can't believe how quickly the time has passed! I'm so psyched for the next module which begins Monday; Cakes!!!A big chunk of this module was dedicated to classic puff pastry which is totally awesome and very different from what I've ever done. I've never made puffed pastry before this and boy is it a fun dough to work with. It allows for sooooo much creativity and it tastes pretty darn delicious, especially when paired with the right fillings, pastry creams, fruits, etc. However, the one downfall of puffed pastry is the ridiculous amount of time it takes to prepare. It requires double turns (the lamination process), resting periods, more double turns, then the sheeting process all before it is even put in the oven. I now realize why and how puffed pastry is so expensive in bakeries and rightfully so due to the extreme labor and expense that is put into it. Below is a whole bunch of puffed pastry recipes that I made this past module.
Fresh Fruit Strip
Apple Tart
Spanakopita using Phyllo dough filled with feta, ricotta, spinach & dill