A number of gluten-free recipes have been gathering dust in my books and binders. Gluten-free baking can be expensive and cumbersome since you need various flours and xanthum gum to create a suitable blend that can sub for all purpose flour. Several companies have worked to take the hassle out of gf baking by offering prepackaged flour blends. After learning about these blends, I decided to use King Arthur Flour‘s Gluten-Free Measure for Measure flour blend. This blend includes rice flour, whole grain brown rice flour, a couple starches, and xanthum gum. What does this all mean? It means that this is the only thing you need to buy when adapting a non-yeast recipe to be gf (Note: always check your other ingredients to ensure that they are also gf).
For my first adapted recipe, I went with the lemon blueberry pound cake, which you may remember from the Portal cakes post. The only substitution was the gf flour instead of the ap flour.
The good news first: The flour swap was great! I’m really happy with how the cake turned out with the gf flour.
The bad news: The cake was 90% inedible. Why? I forgot about my blueberries until I started pouring the batter into the pan. In my scramble, I completely forgot (once again) to dry them and toss them in some of the gf flour. This resulted in a lot of extra moisture in the cake. The blueberries all gathered in the same section of cake and those sections did not bake fully. I had already glazed the cake before slicing, so I wasn’t able to toss the slices back into the oven to finish them up.
Fortunately, there were some parts that were baked that I was able to taste. I’m now chomping at the bit to try another recipe using the gf flour. While I have not tried any other brands, I do recommend King Arthur Flour’s gluten free blend, as do many others (shout out to those who commented on Facebook and Instagram!).
My second Passover bake this year is an apple cake. Instead of regular flour and baking soda, this cake utilizes potato starch and matzoh cake meal. The recipe for this bake came from ReformJudaism.org.
2 tsp cinnamon
3/4 cup sugar
Juice of 1 lemon (or 2 Tbsp lemon juice)
5 large Granny Smith and/or Braeburn apples, peeled and diced
1/4 cup sugar
1-2 tsp cinnamon
Grease a 9″ spring form pan. Place parchment on the bottom of the pan. Preheat oven to 350ºF.
Beat eggs with sugar until blended. Add oil and beat. Sift together potato starch and cake meal. Add sifted items to the egg mixture.
For the filling, mix together the cinnamon, sugar, and lemon juice. Mix in the apples.
Put two cups of dough (or half the total amount of dough) into the pan. Spread evenly. Add the apple filling using a slotted spoon, leaving the accumulated liquid behind. Make sure filling is distributed evenly.
Put in the remaining two cups of dough. Spread evenly. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar topping (you won’t see this in my photo as I forgot this step and dusted the top after the cake was baked).
Place the pan on a cookie sheet since liquid may seep out.
Bake for one hour.
Let cool in the pan before releasing.
Unbaked Passover apple cake (sans cinnamon sugar topping)
Pastry cream is not something I’ve had on my to-bake list, but finding the right recipe for cannoli filling has been. I grew up having cannoli from Long Island, so the bar has always been set pretty high. Last year, I took a stab at making a cannoli filling using a recipe for cannoli dip. As you may recall, it was more of a learning experience than a dining experience.
For my second attempt at a cannoli filling, I tried a recipe by Ginger Barragan of Moonlight Bakes Bakery. Since her recipe utilizes pastry cream, I ended up adding it to my to-bake list. King Arthur Flour is a great source for recipes, so I decided to give their pastry cream a spin.
Having watched shows like Chopped and the Great British Bake Off, making pastry cream had become a bit intimidating. It seemed too easy to ruin the cream and end up with inedible scrambled eggs. The one piece I kept forgetting about was that they were working against a clock. It is easy to see how one slip up can ruin the whole batch, but overall the process was simpler than expected.
Since these experiments were for the filling and the cream, I decided to bake and torte a single devil’s food cake as a vehicle for eating the results instead of going whole hog with fresh pastry. Those challenges are for a later time.
While the cannoli filling isn’t where I want it to be, it is very tasty and a great place to start while honing in on the right ingredients and proportions. I highly recommend giving both of these recipes a go.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Pastry Cream via King Arthur Flour
3 cups whole milk
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 Tbsp all purpose flour
4 large egg yolks*
4 Tbsp (1/4 cup) butter
1 cup heavy cream (optional)**
Before starting, set up a bowl with a strainer in an ice bath (place the bowl into a larger bowl, add water and several ice cubes between the two bowls, keeping the inner one dry).
In a medium saucepan, stir together 2 1/2 cups of milk and all of the sugar. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar.
Meanwhile, whisk the cornstarch, flour, and egg yolks with the remaining 1/2 cup of milk.
Whisk some of the hot milk mixture with the yolks to temper them. This keeps the yolks from turning into scrambled eggs when you add the simmering milk.
Pour the egg/milk mixture back into the remaining simmering milk. Doing this through a strainer will prevent lumps later. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, with a whisk, until mixture thickens. Once the cream comes to a full boil, stop cooking immediately or it can curdle and separate.
Remove from the heat and strain through a fine strainer into the bowl set in an ice bath. Stir in the butter and vanilla extract (I sliced the butter so it melted faster and mixed more easily). ***If you would like to flavor the pastry cream, do so here*** (See King Arthur link for flavoring suggestions)
Cover the cream with a piece of plastic wrap, making sure the wrap touches the cream to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until cool.
Will keep covered in the fridge for up to five days before it begins to weep.
Pastry cream going into the fridge to cool
Pastry cream and raspberries in a torted 9″ round of devil’s food cake.
Cannoli Filling via Ginger Barragan
3/4 cup pastry cream
3/4 cup ricotta cheese (depending on brand, your cheese may need to be strained through cheesecloth overnight. A dry ricotta like Kraft Polly-O (my favorite!) can be used immediately.)
2 Tbsp powdered sugar
1 Tbsp mini chocolate chips (I used more than 1 Tbsp. add to desired density of chips)
Stir pastry cream, ricotta, and powdered sugar until well-combined. Mix in chocolate chips. Chill for 1 hour before filling shells or using in cake.
A surprise inside cake looks simple enough. It’s a cake of any flavor with a design or different color cake inside of it. One complaint I’ve seen pop up in a lot of conversation about surprise inside cakes is that the design typically ends up dry since it’s baked twice. Having baked one now, I can see how easily that can happy but I also see room for tweaks to prevent that from happening.
For this experiment, I kept the cake simple so that I could focus on trying my hand at the technique. To figure out my approach, I checked out cakes by i am baker and My Cupcake Addiction. I love the colors in My Cupcake Addiction’s love heart cake and may try that as a rainbow surprise in a future surprise inside cake. For my first try, I opted to use a ghost cookie cutter to make Pinky, one of the Pac-Man ghosts.
Surprise Inside Cake
1 box of white cake mix
1 box of devil’s food cake mix
Prepare one box of white cake mix either by using the instructions on the box or by the modified box method substituting melted butter for oil and milk for water. Add desired color (in this case, I added red with a dab of black to get a muted pink color). Line a cookie sheet or sheet pan with parchment paper and pour batter onto pan. Bake at 350F for 23 mins (or as described on the box).
Place a piece of parchment paper on a cutting board large enough to place the cake on. When the cake comes out of the oven, place the paper and cutting board on top of the cake and flip it so that the cake sits on the board. Lift the pan and peel off the parchment paper that is now on top. Pop the cake on the board into the freezer for 10-30 mins to firm up. This will help prevent the cake from crumbling as much when you use the cutter. Select a cookie cutter for your design and make sure it’s small enough to sit in the cake pan you’re using for the final cake. My ghost cutter ended up being slightly taller than what I needed it to be. Remove the sheet cake from the freezer. Flip the cake over again and remove the parchment paper. Trim the top of the cake with a knife to remove the browned part of the cake and reveal the brighter colors underneath. Use the cutter to cutout shapes from the sheet cake. Cut the shapes close to each other to maximize the number of cutouts. Any extra make tasty snacks.
Arrange the cutouts on the same cutting board and pop the board back in the freezer for at least 30 mins (I did 30 but will let them freeze longer next time to better prevent the moist batter of the second cake from soaking into the cutouts).
Prepare the second box mix as above (either via the box or modified). Using a rubber spatula, place some of the batter on the bottom of a greased and floured bundt cake pan and spread it out to cover the bottom of the pan. My Cupcake Addiction suggests a half inch of batter. Bake this layer of batter at 350F for 7 mins.
Take the pan out of the oven and immediately spread a layer of raw batter on top of the baked layer in the pan. The new batter will thin out quickly since it’s going on top of hot cake. These layers of cake and batter will help to hold the cutouts in place. Take the cutouts out of the freezer and start placing them in the pan. The top of the cutout should be in the bottom of the pan (remember, the cake is upside-down in the pan). The cutouts can be arranged close to each other or with lots of space in between depending on how your want your slices to look. A more spaced out arrangement will result in not knowing whether you’ll get an all devil’s food slice or a slice with a surprise design when the cake is served. If you do a more crowded arrangement, leave some space for batter in between. Don’t press them together too tightly.
Place the rest of the batter into a large piping bag. Cut a wide tip at the bottom. Using the bag helps to get the batter between the cutouts and between the cutouts and the edges of the pan. Pipe the batter into all the sections around the cutouts. After filling the sides and in between, pipe the batter on the top of the cutouts to cover them. Since my ghost cutouts were a bit too tall, my batter did not completely cover them. I used a rubber spatula to try to coat exposed areas of cutouts with batter to encourage the cake to cover them all. When done, tap the pan on the counter a few times to get the batter to fill any gaps. Bake at 350F for 33-35 mins (or as long as directed on the box). Let the cake cool in the pan for 15 mins before flipping it over. The cake should release easily. When ready to serve, cut slices and enjoy the surprise image inside.
Cake scraps and extra cutouts from the white cake. Tasty snacks.
The batter didn’t quite cover the bottom of the ghosts, so my based ended up uneven. Once the cake was flipped, you’d have no idea this is how the bottom looked.
A quick recap from the last post: I was recently asked if I would donate some goodies to a fund raising event for a local chapter of The Harry Potter Alliance. Cavendish Brewing Company was hosting a Yule Ball and was interested in treats for their room of requirement as well as pieces for the auction. I couldn’t resist supporting a good cause and coming up with themed bakes!
The second recipe to share from this experience is for my Survival by Chocolate: A Dementor Salve cake. This is pretty simple to put together and tastes amazing! This was an auction item for the night.
Start with a chocolate cake. I made a devil’s food cake but dark chocolate would work very well, too. I baked this one into two 9” rounds.
Then, make a Nutella buttercream. My Baking Addiction’s recipe utilizes a lot of powdered sugar and produces enough buttercream to top a large batch of cupcakes or very generously frost a 9” cake. I still had enough leftover buttercream to mix it with my cake scraps to make three large parfaits! Check out the recipe and notes on the site: https://www.mybakingaddiction.com/nutella-cupcakes/
To really help bring out the flavor of the Nutella, be sure to generously add baked and chopped hazelnuts and top with a chocolate ganache. For the ganache on this cake, I used a 1:1 ratio of heavy cream to chocolate.
Survival by Chocolate: A Dementor Salve
Bake a devil’s food cake in two 9” round pans. Once the cakes have cooled completely, trim the tops so that they are flat. Save cake scraps for later. Add a generous amount of buttercream to the top of the first round. Make sure the buttercream layer is level. Sprinkle some chopped hazelnuts on top. Place the second round on top of the buttercream and nut layer. Add buttercream to the top of the new layer. Frost the sides of both cake layers. Work frosting until the top and sides are smooth. Save extra buttercream for later. Pour the chocolate ganache over the entire cake. Decorate with more chopped hazelnuts.
Chocolate Hazelnut Buttercream:
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 13-oz jar of Nutella or other chocolate hazelnut spread
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1.5 lbs confectioner’s sugar, sifted
6-8 Tbsp heavy cream or milk
In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and Nutella until well combined, thick, and fluffy (about 5 mins). Slowly add the confectioner’s sugar and continue mixing until well-blended.
Add vanilla and 3 Tbsp of heavy cream. Blend on low speed until moistened. Add an additional 3-5 Tbsp of heavy cream (I used 5) until you reach the desired consistency. Beat at high speed until frosting is smooth and fluffy (about 3 mins).
6 oz milk chocolate baking chocolate, broken or chopped into pieces
6 oz heavy cream
Heat heavy cream on the stove or in the microwave. For the microwave, heat for 45 seconds to 1 minute. Cream should be steaming but not boiling. Keep a close eye on it.
Pour heated cream over the chocolate pieces. Let sit for 2-3 minutes to melt the chocolate. Stir using a whisk until the chocolate and cream are well-blended into a rich chocolate sauce. Pour ganache over cake (cake should be sitting on a cooling rack that is over a cookie sheet covered with plastic, parchment, or wax paper to catch the drippings).
Using the leftovers:
Place the scraps left from leveling the cake rounds into a bowl. Add all of the extra buttercream to the scraps. Stir until combined. Spoon mixture into cups, layering with hazelnuts. Top with whipped cream or serve over vanilla ice cream. Serve as parfaits.
Crystal adding whole hazelnuts to the outer border of the cake
Nutella buttercream coating
Parfaits made of the cake scraps, leftover buttercream, and extra hazelnuts
I finally built up the nerve to try a mirror glaze and I am so glad I did. The recipe for this experiment is from Sugar Geek Show and I definitely recommend it. For the cake, I made a devil’s food box cake replacing the water with milk and oil with butter. After taking the cake out of the oven, I popped it out of the pan and wrapped it several times with plastic wrap before putting it in the freezer for at least an hour. Then, it was time to try for some magic.
Add the sugar, sweetened condensed milk, and the first quantity of water to a medium sauce pan and heat over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally.
While waiting, pour the second quantity of water into the powdered gelatin and mix with a spoon. Leave to fully absorb for a few minutes.
When the sugar, milk, and water mixture begins to simmer, remove from the heat and add the bloomed gelatin. Stir until the gelatin is dissolved.
Pour the hot liquid on top of the chocolate and leave to sit for 5 mins to melt.
Use whisk to stir the glaze until the chocolate has completely melted.
Separate the glaze into separate containers (keeping the containers the same type will help keep cooling time around the same. Metal bowls will retain heat resulting in a much longer cool down time). Add desired food coloring to each container of glaze and stir until well-mixed.
Leave the glaze to cool. (Now is a good time to take the cake out of the freezer.) Once the glaze cools to 90F*, pour it over the frozen cake which is on top of a cup or cooling rack which is sitting on a tray lined with plastic wrap to catch the drippings. Transfer the cake to the fridge to set for a few hours before serving.
*94F worked fine for me. I got a bit impatient because I made the metal bowl mistake. To remedy the mistake, I transferred the glaze to a plastic bowl.
Stir cooling glaze when ready to pour to ensure good consistency. If one or more containers of glaze get too cool, you can reheat the glaze in a pan or by using a baking torch and stirring.
Box cake mixes do not hold mix-ins well. No matter how many times I try this, I refuse to learn my lesson. The result is all of the fruit or nuts sinking to the bottom of the pan/top of the cake. This experiment included adding blueberries and lemon zest to a boxed cake mix. Very simple, very tasty, but would be better if the berries were better distributed.
Lemon Blueberry Bundt Cake
Take a small amount of the dry cake mix and place it in a small bowl. Rinse and dry the fresh blueberries. Toss blueberries in small bowl of cake mix until they are coated.
Prepare the rest of the dry box mix as directed on the box. For a bump in flavor, use an equal amount of milk instead of water and an equal amount of butter in place of oil.
Zest one lemon. Add zest to the cake batter and mix until combined. Fold in the blueberries.
Grease and flour a bundt pan. Follow the oven temp and baking time listed on the box. Start with the minimum bake time and increase time as needed until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean.
Turn the pan upside down to get the cake out into a cooling rack. Let cool completely.
Looking for a tasty little treat for a mid-day snack or and end-of-day dessert? These hand-cakes by Martha Stewart will hit the spot. You can easily customize the recipe by switching out the flavor of the filling and using or omitting the citrus.
Individual Strawberry Jam Cakes
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, room temp
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp finely grated orange zest (I left out the citrus)
2 large eggs, separated
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt (left out)
1/4 cup milk
6 Tbsp strawberry jam or preserves
1 1/2 cup confectioners sugar
1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (I substituted milk and added 1/2 tsp vanilla extract to make a vanilla glaze)
Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a standard 6-cup muffin tin and set aside.
In a medium bowl, beat butter, granulated sugar, (and zest) until light and fluffy. Beat in egg yolks one at a time until creamy; set aside. Into a small bowl, soft together flour, baking powder, (and salt). Add flour mixture and milk in alternating batches to butter mixture. Set aside.
In a clean bowl, whisk egg whites to soft peaks; fold into batter among muffin cups. Make an indentation in the middle of each; full with 1 Tbsp of jam. Top with remaining batter.
Bake until a cake tester inserted in top cake layer comes out clean, about 30 mins. Untold cakes and transfer them to a wire rack to cool. In a small bowl, whisk together confectioner’s sugar and juice (or milk). Place parchment paper; drizzle cake with glaze.
1. When separating batter, crest a thick enough base but conserve enough to cover the jam to reduce or prevent the jam leaning out.
2. When whisking icing, start with powdered sugar and slowly add the juice/milk to desired consistency. Blending all at once results in a thin, runny icing.
I’ve been reminded for weeks that someone wanted “a rainbow cake with rainbow icing” for his birthday cake. Ok. No problem. My first thought was to use it as an opportunity to try a mirror glaze! Unfortunately, I realized I wouldn’t have the time in the week leading up to the birthday so I went through several other ideas – 6” rounds each of a different color, two 9” rounds with the colors carefully layered – before I settled on a tie-dye 9”x13” and decided to wing it with the design of the buttercream.
For the cake, I used a boxed white cake mix and the recipe on the box. I substituted milk for water and melted butter for oil. Note that you can either us just egg whites or the entire egg with the box recipes. Since I wasn’t leaving any of the cake white, I used the whole egg. After making the cake batter, I separated it into five individual bowls. I used Betty Crocker gel coloring for each color except for purple, which was a liquid coloring. I realized too late into coloring that my dark colors had gone bad so I was not going to get the typical red, yellow, green, etc. The colors ended up very bright which ended up being perfect! I alternated pouring batter of different colors into the greased 9×13 pan so they sat on top of each other. Half of each bowl would get poured in. After each half, the second half was added to keep the variety going in the layers. When the batter was all in the pan, I realized it looked like the imaginary food the kids had a food fight with in the movie “Hook”! Now I’m calling this bake “Imagination Cake” (imagination pie was referenced in the food fight scene). Take a toothpick and run it up and down the length of the cake or make swirl designs to add additional twists of color. Place in the oven for 30 mins at 325F. When done, let cool.
2 sticks of butter, softened
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp almond extract
4 cups of confectioner’s sugar, sifted (her recipe goes as high as 8 but I found the minimum to be perfect)
2 Tbsp whole milk (She notes that you can go up to half a cup for a more creamy and loose icing. I found 2 Tbsp to be perfect.)
1 pinch of salt
Beat butter in the bowl of a stand mixer with he whisk attachment on medium-high speed until light and fluffy – about 3 mins. Add vanilla and almond extracts. Continue to mix.
With mixer on low, slowly add the sugar, milk, and salt, frequently scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl. Once incorporated, whip the frosting for at least 3 minutes on medium to high speed. I ran mine for 7 minutes, same as in the recipe.
If the frosting is too thick to spread, gradually beat in the additional milk (up to a half cup, total).
Separate into five different bowls. Add selected food dye to each bowl and stir until combined. Place an open baggie into a small cup with the top of the bag folded over the lip of the cup. Pour frosting from one bowl into one bag. Lift up bag, zip or twist to close, and use scissors to snip a small tip off of one of the bottoms of the bag. Holding the bag over the cooled cake, squeeze the bag to pipe the icing in a straight line longways along the cake. Use a butter knife, rubber spatula, or icing knife, smooth the row of colored frosting across the cake and down the sides. Repeat the bagging and popping steps for your next color. Overlapping color in each row helps with coverage. Repeat until the entire cake is covered. Run a toothpick through the frosting, lengthwise, to give the frosting a little extra flair. I ended up with plenty of leftover frosting but I also didn’t make a thick layer of frosting on the cake. Let sit or place in the fridge to firm up. It’s been so hot here that I popped mine in the fridge overnight. It gave the frosting a nice texture. The frosting also softened up again nicely after sitting out for a bit.
The almond extract works really well with the other flavors and makes this frosting stand out.
Some days more than one experiment fails. This trial saw two fails in one day! The idea behind this bake was to try my first recipe for my long venture down the road to figuring out my ideal cannoli dip/filling. Unfortunately, the recipe I tried turned out really runny and had way too much almond extract. I hoped the filling would firm up in the fridge but no luck. I still tried to salvage it by scrambling and throwing together a chocolate ganache to maybe lock in the filling, but I ended up only adding half the amount of chocolate necessary so that, too, turned out too runny. Instead of ending up with a tasty cake experiment, I ended up with a few lessons learned. #weKeepItMessy
Cannoli dip from Cookstr.
1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese (I used Polly-O which did not require straining)
1/4 cup powdered sugar
2 Tbsp milk or heavy cream
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract
Mini chocolate chips (I used semi-sweet)
Combine ingredients and place in the fridge to set.
1/2 cup heavy cream
4 oz chocolate (I used only 2 oz of semi-sweet chips)
Place chocolate into a heat-safe bowl. Heat cream in a small pan and bring to a boil on medium heat. Pour hot cream directly onto the chocolate. Let sit for 2 mins to let the chocolate melt. Stir until smooth. Pour onto cake.
Some family was recently traveling in Italy and started sending my photos of some goods in the local bakeries. They’re returning back this weekend and asked about two different cakes. After some Googling and talking with some fellow bakers, we determined that one was a chocolate pear cake and the other was an Italian apple cake. Today I tried the chocolate pear cake using a recipe by An Italian in my kitchen.
It smelled delicious while it baked and looks very tasty now that it’s done. Looking forward to everyone tasting it tomorrow.
Chocolate Pear Cake
2 large pears either William, Anjou, or Bartlett – I used Bartlett
1 1/4 cups + 2 Tbsp cake flour
1/4 cup cocoa
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp Greek yogurt
2 Tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup + 1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1/4 cup mini chocolate chips, dark chocolate (I chopped up some full-sized morsels instead)
Preheat oven to 350F.
Grease and flour or parchment a 9” cake pan. I used a spring-form pan.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
In a small bowl, mix together the yogurt and milk until combined. Set aside.
Peel, core, and slice the pears.
In a large bowl, beat the eggs, vanilla, and sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy (about 5 mins). Then, slowly add the vegetable oil and beat until combined (about 1 min). Alternate adding the dry ingredients and the yogurt mixture. Beat until combined (about 1 min).
Pour batter into the prepared pan. Top with pear slices, sliced side down. Sprinkle with mini dark chocolate chips.
Bake for approximately 45 mins or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool. Dust with powdered sugar before serving.