March 19, 2010

Red Velvet Cake

The Red Velvet Cupcake seems to be one of the most frequently requested type of cupcake we get from friends and family, no matter what time of year. We think the classic combination of the tender and slightly sour cake with the sweet flavor and smooth texture of the cream cheese icing is irresistible for most.

After trying several Red Velvet Cupcake recipes, the one that we like the best, is from the blog: This is a lovely blog that we both really enjoy. Perhaps you might want to check it out as well! We love how specific she is with her directions.

This cake turns out tender and moist every time we make it. It really is important to be sure the ingredients are at room temperature as noted.

Red Velvet Cupcakes (a.k.a. Waldorf Astoria Cake)

2 1/2 cups sifted cake flour*
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons cocoa powder (unsweetened)
2 oz. red food coloring
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
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

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two 12-cup muffin tins with cupcake papers.

2. 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.

3. 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.

4. 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!

5. Cool the cupcakes in their tins on a wire rack for 10 minutes then remove and allow to cool completely before frosting. Frost cupcakes with cream cheese icing (recipe below).
Recipe Notes: *Sift cake flour once before measuring, then sift again with the other dry ingredients per recipe instructions. As you’re mixing the cake batter, use a spatula to scrape down the bowl frequently throughout the entire process.

Cream Cheese 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

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).

Recipe Notes: If you prefer a sweeter and/or stiffer frosting, more powdered sugar can be added (up to four cups). But remember, the more sugar you add, the less you’ll be able to taste the tangy cream cheese!

March 1, 2010

Pistachio Tea Cakes

Pistachio, what a wonder nut it is!  Over the last few years, this nut has slowly been making its way into my life.  Now that I discovered what a treat it is, I can’t stop searching for new ways to eat it. 

CJ and I like the idea of mini-size or bite-size desserts.  We feel that they are normal size portions that give a person a sense of satisfying a sweet craving without overdoing it.  That led us to purchasing “bite-sized desserts” by Carole Bloom.  So, imagine my excitement when I stumbled upon this recipe for Mini-Pistachio Tea Cakes.  I could not pass it up and neither can you. 

Pistachio paste can be homemade, but it is much easier to purchase a can.  Whole Foods carries Love’n Bake Pistachio Nut Paste.  The nuts are toasted prior to the grinding process, which intensifies the flavor.  Be warned that when you open the can, there is a natural layer of oil on top that must be mixed in prior to using. 

Also, when a recipe calls for all-purpose flour for a cake of any type, I tend to use cake flour.  So, for all cupcakes and cake recipes I use cake flour.  Personally I like the texture of the final product better.

If you make these, you will not be disappointed.  This recipe is so simple and these little bitty pistachio bites pack a big flavor.  You won’t stop at just one tea cake. 

3 ozs Unsalted Butter, Softened
½ cup Granulated Sugar
1/3 cup Pistachio Paste
½ tsp Pure Vanilla Extract
2 Extra-Large Eggs, Room Temp
½ cup All-Purpose Flour
¼ tsp Kosher Salt
2 tbsp Confectioners’ Sugar

  1. Pre-heat oven to 400°F and place mini-muffin pan on a baking sheet. 
  2. Beat the butter until light and fluffy, approximately 2 minutes. 
  3. While butter is beating, sift the flour and salt together and set aside. 
  4. Add the granulated sugar and beat until smooth. 
  5. Prior to adding the sugar and while beating the butter and sugar scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula. 
  6. Add the pistachio paste and vanilla and mix until thoroughly combined. 
  7. Add the eggs one at a time and completely incorporate before adding the next egg. 
  8. Add the sifted flour in two stages, blending well after each addition and scraping down the sides before each addition. 
  9. Once all ingredients are well combined, pour into mini-muffin pans.  
  10. Bake for 13 to 15 minutes. 
  11. After the cakes have cooled, dust the tops with the confectioners’ sugar.

February 19, 2010

Chef Meyer’s Awesome Never Fail French Buttercream Recipe

While in culinary school, we had a chef that really liked to share his recipes. So now we are going to share it here! He has this French Buttercream recipe that he says will NEVER FAIL. He is right! This recipe is wonderful!
We tried many different buttercream recipes in our classes and of all the recipes we tried, this is the one that we keep going back to. It has an excellent mouth feel and it melts in your mouth when you taste it. It has an extremely sweet flavor, yet it is still light and creamy.

We both had been using this recipe after we finished school, but we were finding that Heather’s buttercream would come out just a little bit creamier than mine. We have similar mixers and followed the same procedures, but we couldn’t figure out why there would be a difference in texture. One day we were grocery shopping together for our baking projects. I talked Heather into buying the store brand butter because it was on sale at a significant savings. This is when we discovered where our texture difference was coming into play. The buttercream she made using the store brand had the same texture problem that I had been having. I have now vowed to never purchase butter based on price again! Excellent lesson in quality!

Buttercream recipe

1.5 eggs
3 egg yolks
24 oz sugar (about 3 cups)
6 oz water (about ¾ cup)
24 oz unsalted butter, cubed (6 sticks)
6 oz vegetable shortening (about ¾ cup)


1. Cook sugar to soft ball stage, which is 240 degrees F, in a heavy bottomed pan. (Every time I think this in my head I hear Fat Bottomed Girls by Queen) It’s important that you do not swirl the sugar and water around, even though you will be very tempted to do so. It is also important that you take a pastry brush and clean any sugar crystals with water that may have decided to hang out on the side of the pan walls. The less crystals that have a chance to form in the syrup, the smoother the icing will turn out.

2. Once the sugar has been started add the eggs and yolks to your stand mixer and whip with the paddle attachment.

3. Add the sugar mixture to the whipped up eggs down the side of the mixing bowl very slowly. Be very careful when adding, as your mixer has the potential to whip the 240 degree sugar at you.

4. Continue to whip until cool.

5. Once cool add butter and shortening slowly. Only add the next cube of butter once the previous cube has been absorbed fully.

February 14, 2010

Chocolate Stout Cake with Frangelico (Hazelnut) Mousse

I once dated someone who was obsessed with Stout beer. After mentioning this to a friend, they passed along the below recipe to me. For Valentine’s day that year, I made this cake and layered and covered it with chocolate ganache. This is a very rich combination that usually gets excellent reviews. It is also a great cake for a birthday as well.

As you may have read in previous posts, the plain chocolate cake recipe has been eluding us as far as chocolate flavor and moisture come into play.

A friend asked me to make her wedding cake and mentioned that she wanted a chocolate cake. This put me into a panic as I still don’t have a chocolate cake recipe that I love. I mentioned that the chocolate stout cake recipe that I have is very moist and has a nice crumb that would hold up well with the Frangelico (hazelnut) mousse that she wanted me to pair with the chocolate cake. We decided to pair it with buttercream icing and the combination turned out to be absolutely magical! Since the wedding, I have had several requests for this cake including a Valentine’s Day replica request from the bride and groom themselves!

This Frangelico Mouuse recipe was found in a cooking magazine. I really like the consistency and think that it adds a very minimal hazelnut flavor to this combination. An added benefit is that it isn’t overpowering. This recipe will usually leave me with some mousse left over, so I like to fill some cups, add some whipped cream, and serve as a little bonus treat.

Chocolate Stout Cake

2/3 cup stout, such as chocolate or oatmeal stout
10 Tbs. unsalted butter (1 stick plus 2 Tbs.)
½ cup cocoa powder
1 1/3 cups cake flour, sifted
1 1/3 cups sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
1 large whole egg plus 1 yolk
2/3 cup sour cream

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 8-inch round cake pans. Line with parchment paper. Butter paper.
2. Bring stout and butter to a simmer in heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add cocoa; whisk until smooth. Cool slightly.
3. Sift flour, sugar, baking soda and salt in a large bowl to blend; set aside.
4. Beat egg, yolk and sour cream with electric mixer in another large bowl to blend. Add stout-chocolate mixture to egg mixture, and beat just to combine.
5. Add flour mixture and beat 30 seconds on slowest speed. Fold batter using rubber spatula until completely combined; pour into prepared pan.
6. Bake about 20 to 25 minutes, or until tester inserted into center of cake comes out clean. Transfer to rack; cool 10 minutes. Run small sharp knife around edge of cake to loosen and turn cake out onto rack; cool completely.

Frangelico (Hazelnut) Mousse

6 large egg yolks
¼ cup sugar
3 Tbs. Frangelico (hazelnut liqueur)
¼ cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, diced, room temperature
2 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, chopped
3 Tbs Nutella (chocolate-hazelnut spread)
½ cup chilled whipping cream

1. Whisk egg yolks and sugar in heavy medium saucepan to blend. Whisk in Frangelico.
2. Add butter. Whisk gently over medium heat until mixture is thick, about 4 minutes (do not boil). Remove from heat.
3. Add chocolate and whisk until melted. Gently stir in Nutella.
4. Transfer mixture to large bowl; cool to room temperature. Beat cream in medium bowl until cream holds peaks; fold into chocolate mixture in 2 additions. Cover mousse and chill up to 1 day.

February 4, 2010

Elusive Chocolate Cake

From our point of view chocolate cake should not only taste like chocolate, but should also be moist.  All of the saliva in your mouth should not be soaked up by a piece of cake.  Instead a cake should be tasty and just the right consistency.  Well, these two qualities in a chocolate cake have been eluding us.  We have tried several different recipes and the cake is either too dense or too dry.  The chocolate doesn’t have a chance to showcase itself when the consistency is the dominant factor.    

A recent recipe we tried was from a book called “Chocolate.”  One would think that a book all about chocolate would result in the Best Chocolate Products.  That really was not the case with the chocolate cupcakes that we tried.  So, we are still on the lookout for our go to recipe.   Here is to hoping that we come across just the right chocolate cake recipe before we have to create our own.  If you have ideas, send them our way.

½ cup Unsalted Butter
½ cup Sugar
3 Eggs
1 cup less 2 tbsp Cake Flour
3½ tbsp Cocoa Powder
1½ tsp Baking Powder

1.  Pre-heat oven to 375°F.
2.  Fill muffin pan with baking cups.
3.  Cream together the butter and sugar until well light and fluffy.
4.  Add in the eggs, one at a time.
5.  Sift the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder together.
6.  Add sifted flour mixture to the butter mixture.
7.  Mix just until combined.
8.  Fill the baking cups a little over half way and bake for 15 minutes.
9.  Cool completely before frosting.

February 1, 2010

CJ’s Thick and Chewy Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies.

I have a lot of vegan friends that struggle finding sweets to eat. So, I started researching zines to find recipes that I could modify to come up with yummy vegan desserts. This is the recipe that I came up with for vegan chocolate chip cookies.

I struggle with a constant battle of: heathlier product vs tastier product. I’ve heard so many terrible things about hydrogenated oils and trans fats that I avoid them as much as possible in my life and in my baking. While this is my tried and true go-to recipe for thick and chewy vegan chocolate chip cookies, I do prefer the taste of the cookies when I used ingredients that contain trans fat and hydrogenated oils.

The next time I make these cookies I am going to add a bit of applesauce to see if it will add some moisture back in to the cookies. I still love this recipe and the cookies always turn out great, but using the other products I always had that big eyed question-y look after someone would take the first bite, immediately followed by, “are these really vegan!”

2 1/3 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt

¾ cup sugar
¾ cup light brown sugar
½ cup veg shortening (I like Spectrum, because it is trans fat free)
½ cup room temp vegan margarine (I like Earth Balance, because it is also trans fat free)
2 tblsp + 1 ½ tsp of water
1 tsp vanilla extract

12 oz vegan chocolate chips

Sift together and set aside dry ingredients.
Cream together the remaining ingredients. The consistency should almost feel broken. Slowly add the dry ingredients until well incorporated.

Then add the chocolate chips and nuts if you would like them.

Ball the cookies and bake at 325 degrees for 13 minutes or until light and golden brown.

Should yield between 18-24 cookies depending on how big you like them.

January 28, 2010


Peanut butter and jelly is good on bread, right? Then turning a PB&J into a cookie only makes sense. I happened upon a recipe from Desserts Magazine ( that looked very appealing. So, I figured I would give it a shot. The recipe is a fairly basic recipe and makes a lot of cookies. These cookies are similar to a thumb print cookie. You know the cookies that are rolled into a ball and you press your thumb in the middle prior to baking.

Since I am kind of a perfectionist, my thought was to use a measuring spoon to make the depression in the center of the cookie. I have this measuring spoon that is a perfect circle and I thought just the right depth that needed for the jelly in the center of the cookie. Imagine my surprise and frustration when I removed the cookies from the oven and the depression in the middle of the cookie was gone. The center of the cookies rose, which only makes sense. The next batch of cookies I figured to heck with perfection and used my thumb. Yet again when I removed the cookies, the center had risen. Luckily the cookies were pretty soft, which allowed me to use my measuring spoon to make the depression in the middle of the cookie while they were still warm. While they were cooling I filled the center with either strawberry preserves or grape jelly.

I liked that after the cookies sat for some time, the jelly added a bit of moisture. I personally felt like there could have been a bit more of a peanut butter taste. Next time I will opt out of using preserves and only use jelly. However, the reviews from my coworkers were pretty good. They were talking about them for days. Since they are potential customers, I take that as a good sign.

260 g Peanut Butter
112 g Unsalted Butter
180 g Light Brown Sugar
2 eggs
1tsp Vanilla Extract
240 g All-Purpose Flour
1tsp Baking Powder
250 g Jelly

1. Pre-heat oven to 375°F.
2. Line baking pans with parchment paper.
3. Cream together the peanut butter, butter and sugar.
4. Add the eggs, one at a time and add the vanilla.
5. Sift together the flour and baking soda.
6. Add the sifted flour with the peanut butter mixture.
7. Mix until well blended, dough will pull away from the sides and form a ball easily.
8. Form the dough into one inch bass and place them on the baking pans.
9. Make a depression in the center of the ball.
10. Bake for eight minutes. While the cookies are cooling, fill each depression with about 1 teaspoon of jelly.