Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Henna cake

Ever known someone who seems just absolutely perfect?  That would be my sis-in-law, Pume.  Always smiling.  Never gets angry or agitated.  Sweet as pie to everyone she meets.  Giving?  Check.  Compassionate?  Resoundingly, yes!  Hard-working?  Absolutely.

We could stop there & be fine, but alas, there is more.  Pume is one of those girls that we would love to hate, but it's just impossible.  She is also tall & gorgeous.  Prom queen?  Yup, that's her.  Modeling?  Yeah, she did that too.

And then there are her talents.  Dancer.  Artist.  Organizer extraordinaire.  Which leads me to this post.

She is active in her church & very involved with their India outreach.  She's been there twice.  Deep into the heart of India, to the remote villages.  I don't know the specifics, but I know they contribute clothes, medical supplies/care, and even got the ball rolling to get a school set up.
She always comes back with goodies-food, spices, saris.  But this last time, she came back with henna.  She practiced her henna art on all the family.  Beautiful designs on our feet, wrists, hands, shoulders, etc.

And then it hit me!!!!  The way she held the henna dye was just like holding a piping bag.  This was going to be a marriage made in heaven.  My baking and her designs.

I would love to tell you all our cakes are perfect & beautiful.  Well, actually our finished products always are, but our trial runs...oh the trial runs.

We are both self-taught.  So everything we do is trial-and-error.  And oh the errors....the messy, crumbly, lopsided, ooey-gooey errors.  Oh, yum.  I'm drooling just thinking about them.

It was only natural that we decided to bake a "henna cake" for this year's India fundraiser.

The cake is a rich, sturdy chocolate cake filled with my own recipe for mint chocolate ganache and frosted with mint swiss meringue buttercream.  I had a little batter leftover and made us 2 cupcakes, so I can attest to the wonderfulness of this cake.  Chocolatey, minty, yummy goodness.

I hear it was a top-seller at the silent auction.  I can't wait to see how our bidder liked it.

I hope to feature many more cakes featuring the talents of Pume.  And while I absolutely LOVE our cakes, I must tell you that I treasure the time, the conversations, the laughter & the memories we share while bonding over baking.

Yield: 2-9 inch cakes with extra batter for a couple of sample cupcakes.


For the cake:

¾ cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
¾ cup hot water
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1¼ tsp. coarse salt
1½ cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter
2¼ cups sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
4 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup sour cream, at room temperature

For the filling:
1 cup heavy cream
4 oz of semisweet chips
4 oz of creme de menthe baking chips
4 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces, at room temperature

For the frosting:
6 large egg whites
1 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
3 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
2-3 tsp. mint extract

To make the cake, preheat the oven to 350˚ F.  Butter and flour 2-9 inch cake pans and line with parchment paper.

 In a small bowl, whisk together the cocoa powder and hot water until smooth.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

In a medium saucepan, combine the butter and the sugar over medium heat.  Heat, stirring occasionally to combine, until the butter is melted.  Remove the mixture from the heat and transfer to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment.  Beat on medium-low speed, 4-5 minutes, until the mixture is cooled.  Mix in the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed and beating well after each addition.  Mix in the vanilla and then the cocoa mixture and beat until incorporated.  With the mixer on low speed add in the dry ingredients in two batches, alternating with the sour cream, beating just until combined.

Divide the batter between the prepared cake pans.  Bake 28-32 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Allow the cupcakes to cool in the pan 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the ganache place the cream in a small sauce pan and bring to a boil over medium high heat.  In a medium mixing bowl(heatproof) place the semisweet chips and creme de menthe baking chips.  Immediately after the cream starts to boil, pour it over the chocolate.  Let stand about 1 minute.  With a whisk, gently stir the chocolate and cream together in small circles.  When the ganache has become smooth, whisk in the butter 1 piece at a time until incorporated.  Transfer the bowl to the freezer or refrigerator to chill and thicken the ganache a bit.  Whisk every 5-10 minutes to help it cool evenly.  Once the mixture is slightly thickened and no longer runny, you are ready to fill the cake.

To make the frosting, combine the egg whites, sugar and salt in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water.  Heat, whisking frequently, until the mixture reaches 160° F and the sugar has dissolved.  Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Beat on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form and the mixture has cooled to room temperature, about 8 minutes.

Reduce the speed to medium and add the butter, 2 tablespoons at a time, adding more once each addition has been incorporated.  If the frosting looks soupy or curdled, continue to beat on medium-high speed until thick and smooth again, about 3-5 minutes more (don’t worry, it will come together!)  Stir in the mint extract and mix just until incorporated.


Saturday, October 15, 2011

A tale of apples, dieting and apple spice cupcakes 2 ways

 How bout them apples? 

Quite frankly I can't believe I can even stand to look at apples.

A little over a month ago as I sat down to do my charting, I felt an uncomfortable pinch at my waist.
My gosh, these are already SCRUBS & worse yet they are my 'fat girl' scrubs.  Sigh...

Yes, my baking obsession had gotten the best of me, or more appropriately, the worst.  I had been slowly gaining weight, but I was in denial.  I wore dresses instead of pants.  When I went to the beach, I sported a rash guard and surf shorts.  Sexy, right?  I avoided my scale like the plague.  But there was no denying the weight gain once my baggy scrubs started to have "screaming seams" as my co-worker, who is not known for mincing words, put it.  I won't go into the details of the diet, but let's just say it was intense. Strict!  NO SUGAR(processed or refined) or carbs whatsoever.  Well, I had done it to myself and drastic times called for drastic measures.

I baked without sampling.  That's right.  Not even a lick of the beater.  Not one single cookie crumb.  Torture!

I learned to enjoy baking through smell.   Baked good right up to the nose, eyes closed, and then inhale deep and long.  Ahhh.  My niece actually started offering me to "smell her food" before she ate it.  She so gets me.

I was allowed to eat 3 different fruits-apples, oranges and strawberries.  The oranges and strawberries saved my diet.  But the apples never cut it for me.  Worse yet, they were almost double the calories of the oranges and strawberries.  Didn't matter though.  I still had to eat them about once every 1.5 days.   Literally an apple a day.  Bleck.  Boring.

I made it through the diet.  My baggy scrubs were once again baggy.  I could wear my jeans(comfortably)again.  No more apples.  That was until I came across this recipe.

It IS fall and honestly, how bad can apples be in a cupcake?

Apples are AWESOME in a cupcake!!!

This cupcake is sturdy, almost muffin-like.  It has hearty chunks a fuji apples in every bite.  Very moist.  "10 out of 10" is my hubbie's rating.  And I reluctantly admit, that apples can be good in the right context.

I used 2 different frostings for these.  The first was my own experiment.  It is a whipped mascarpone honey frosting.  It is delicious, but the Hawaiian humidity got the best of it and it was more of a glaze as far as consistency.  I was hoping for big fluffy mounds of frosting.  Nonetheless, it was delicious.


The second frosting is homemade whipped cream and if you like a lighter, less sweet frosting, I would go with this one.

Both are good warmed up in the microwave for a few seconds and then topped with your choice of frosting.

Apple Spice Cupcake from Cupcakes


1/2 C unsalted butter at room temperature
3 apples(about 1lb), peeled, cored and cut into 1-inch cubes
2 T plus 3/4 C sugar
1 C AP flour
3/4 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1/4 t baking soda
1/2 t cinnamon
1/4 t ground allspice
pinch of nutmeg
2 large eggs at room temp
1/2 t vanilla extract
1/4 cup sour cream


Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 F.  Line a standard 12-cup muffin pan with paper or foil liner.  In a saucepan over medium-high heat, melt the 2 T of the butter.  Add the chunks of apples and the 2 T of sugar and cook, stirring often, until the apples are translucent and soft, 5-7 minutes.  Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
In a bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg.  In another bowl, with an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat the remaining 6 T butter and the 3/4 C sugar together until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Add the eggs and vanilla and beat until combined.  Slowly add the flour mixture and beat on low speed until combined.  Add the sour cream and reserved apple mixture and fold in until just incorporated.
Divide evenly among the prepared muffin cups, filling each about 2/3 full.  Bake until golden brown and toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean, 18-20 minutes.  Let them cool on a wire rack in the pans for 5 minutes.  Then remove from pan and place on wire rack an let them cool completely, about 1 hour.

Whipped frosting


2 and 1/4 C heavy cream, chilled
1/4 cup powdered sugar


To make the frosting, place the heavy cream in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Whip on medium-low speed at first, gradually increasing to high speed.  Blend in the confectioners’ sugar gradually.  Whip until stiff peaks form, being careful not to over-beat.  Use a pastry bag fitted with a decorative tip to frost the cooled cupcakes.  Sprinkle with ground cinnamon and drizzle with caramel sauce.  Store in an airtight container and refrigerate.

Honey-Mascarpone Whipped Frosting


8 oz mascarpone
6 T butter
1/2 vanill extract
3/4 powdered sugar
2 T honey


In a bowl, with an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat the mascarpone, butter and vanilla together until light and fluffy, 2 minutes.  Gradually beat in sifted powdered sugar and mix until thoroughly combined, scraping your bowl as needed.  Add 2 T honey and mix until combined.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Pumpkin Spice Latte Cupcakes

Ahhh, autumn!  What a glorious season.  The crisp air.  The golden & rust colored leaves.  A time to pull out your cute boots and....caps?  What would be another cute article of clothing that would surface in the fall?
You see, it's been 15 years since I've had the pleasure of donning any cool weather clothes.  No season changes for me.  I live on an island smack dab in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.  Hawai'i.  Actually, Oahu to be exact.    I know some of you might have a difficult time feeling sorry for me.  I live here.

Well, my husband works here & this is where we have all of our family gatherings, but you get the idea.
So while I'm sure you won't be crying me a river any time soon, surely you can appreciate my nostalgia for fall & spring.
It doesn't help that all of the blogs that I frequent are practically bragging to me about their recent trips to the apple orchard.  How they taunt me with their stories of football games, hay rides, blah, blah, blah.  Bitter?  Maybe just a tad.
So, I bake.  I make fall-themed items.  Frito pie, pumpkin cookies, chili.  Anything that conjures up images from my childhood.
These cupcakes are the perfect homage to autumn-a moist pumpkin cake brushed with coffee & topped with the yummiest homemade whipped cream dusted with cinnamon.
 I sit here at my desk with my coffee.  I eat one & imagine that it is twilight & I can hear the high school marching band playing in the distance.  The air is cool and the wind howls.
Ok, that'll have to do for now.
I feel chilly and my thermometer confirms that it's a cool 66 degrees.  Time to break out the sweat pants.

Yield: about 2 dozen cupcakes
For the cupcakes:
2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
3 tbsp. espresso powder
2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. grated nutmeg
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. salt
1 (15 oz.) can pumpkin puree
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup canola or vegetable oil
4 large eggs
½ cup coffee or espresso, for brushing
For the whipped cream:
2¼ cups heavy cream, chilled
¼ cup confectioners’ sugar
For garnish:
Ground cinnamon
Caramel sauce(for me, this was more for presentation as it did not add much to the overall flavor).

To make the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 350°F.  Line cupcake pans with paper liners.  In a medium bowl, combine the flour, espresso powder, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and salt.  Stir together and set aside.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, blend together the pumpkin, granulated sugar, brown sugar and oil. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.  With the mixture on low speed, add the flour mixture in two additions, mixing just until incorporated.
Fill the cupcake liners about three-quarters full.  Bake until the cupcakes are golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 18-20 minutes.  Transfer the pans to a wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes, then remove the cupcakes from the pans.  While the cupcakes are still warm, brush them two or three times with the coffee or espresso, allowing the first coat to soak in before repeating.  Let cool completely.
To make the frosting, place the heavy cream in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Whip on medium-low speed at first, gradually increasing to high speed.  Blend in the confectioners’ sugar gradually.  Whip until stiff peaks form, being careful not to over-beat.  Use a pastry bag fitted with a decorative tip to frost the cooled cupcakes.  Sprinkle with ground cinnamon and drizzle with caramel sauce.  Store in an airtight container and refrigerate.
Source: cake adapted from Williams Sonoma
Source:  Annie's Eats

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Brown sugar peaches over ice cream

What do you do when your chef husband asks you "can you make me something for dinner?" as he's heading out the door for work?  Would you  protest?  Something along the lines of, "um, okay, do you want cupcakes or cookies for dinner?" or maybe even "Sugar, I'm the baker.  You are the cook.  I don't know HOW to cook".  No, of course YOU wouldn't say that.  You would kiss your sweet husband bye and tell him to "bring your appetite when you come home tonight".  Maybe if I would've followed your example I would not have gotten this posted on my refrigerator.

But all protesting aside, I knew I could not deny my love a home-cooked meal.  If it was a disaster, I could at least say I told you so  that I tried.
Truth be told, I actually don't mind cooking.  I just despise chopping, shredding, etc.  I am very clumsy with a knife ya know?  Luckily for me, we already had minced garlic & chopped onions, so my fingers are still attached and where they belong.
I knew right away where I would find the recipes.  My favorite food blog, under the section 'Quick Meals'.  Panko-crusted salmon, lemon-roasted asparagus, and a strawberry spinach salad with strawberry champagne vinaigrette (no, I wouldn't know anything about using a T of champagne for the vinaigrette & then drinking the rest.  Hey, it was a tiny bottle).  And can you believe that it all went off without a hitch & tasted pretty darn good?
And with a meal that good, I had to 'bring it' with the dessert.  May I present to you my brown sugar peaches!
We were too stuffed from the meal to eat right away, so I prepped the ingredients & we started our night time movie.  At half-time, I whipped these up.  Less than 10 minutes from start to finish.  After practically licking his martini glass clean and many satisfied "yums", Duke declared this his favorite part of the meal.  And that, my friends, goes to show you that love & passion in what you do makes the difference between a good meal and a simple but stunning dessert!

Brown sugar peaches with ice cream


4 peaches
Juice of half a lemon
4 T unsalted butter
1/4 C firmly packed golden brown sugar(I used light brown)
2 T dark rum(optional)
1 pint rum raisin, vanilla or coffee ice cream


Half and pit the peaches, then cut them into slices 1/2 inch thick

In a nonreactive bowl, toss together the peach slices with the lemon juice.  Set aside.

In a large frying pan over medium heat, melt the butter.  Add the peaches and brown sugar and saute the peaches until they are lightly browned and the sugar has caramelized, about 5 minutes.  Remove from the heat and swirl in the rum.

To serve, scoop the ice cream into martini classes.  Top each serving with an equal amount of the warm peaches and drizzle with an equal amount of the pan juices.  May also drizzle caramel on top.

Serve at once.

Source:  Williams-Sonoma 'Entertaining'

Monday, October 3, 2011

Red wine chocolate cake

Oh my, it's Monday already?!  Where did the weekend disappear to?  Mine was fun-filled with anniversary celebrations, a night out with my coworkers, and then the family came over to eat & watch 'Dumbo'.

When I first saw this cake, I knew I had to make it for our anniversary.  Strange thing is that I'm not a wine drinker.  Insert gasps and tongue-clicking here.  I know, I know.  I wish I was.  I've always felt that my vodka cocktails are never as sophisticated as a glass of red wine.  Well, guess what?  Turns out that I might just happen to really appreciate wine.  I've just been drinking the wrong stuff.  My friend went to Italy & brought me back a bottle of AH-MAZING red wine.  Duke & I drank it with dinner for our anniversary & I think I enjoyed it more than the meal.  I had just been drinking the cheap wine all along, and c'mon, who really likes the cheap stuff?

Just so happens that the "cheap stuff" is perfect for this romantic, unassuming cake.  Slightly boozy & totally delicious, this cake comes together quickly & easily.  I love the aroma of red wine you get when you are cooking it and more so, when you open up your airtight container to serve it.  Make the frosting right before serving though for taste & presentation sake.

6 tablespoons (85 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup (179 grams) firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup (50 grams) white granulated sugar
1 large egg + 1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
3/4 cup (177 ml) red wine, any kind you like*
1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract
1 cup + 1 tablespoon (133 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (41 grams) Dutch cocoa powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon (this is a great place for that fancy Vietnamese stuff you stashed away)
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup (118 grams) chilled heavy or whipping cream
2 tablespoons (25 grams) granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Make the cake: Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line the bottom of a 9-inch round cake pan with parchment, and either butter and lightly flour the parchment and exposed sides of the pan, or spray the interior with a nonstick spray. In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, cream the butter until smooth. Add the sugars and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg and yolk and beat well, then the red wine and vanilla. Don’t worry if the batter looks a little uneven. Sift the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt together, right over your wet ingredients. Mix until 3/4 combined, then fold the rest together with a rubber spatula. Spread batter in prepared pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. The top of the cake should be shiny and smooth, like a puddle of chocolate. Cool in pan on a rack for about 10 minutes, then flip out of pan and cool the rest of the way on a cooling rack. This cake keeps well at room temperature or in the fridge. It looks pretty dusted with powdered sugar.
Make the topping: Whip mascarpone, cream, sugar and vanilla together until soft peaks form — don’t overwhip. Dollop generously on each slice of cake. It can also be covered and refrigerated for up to 4 hours.