mardi gras king cake

king cake 1

We celebrated Shrove Tuesday with our Dutch Baby from Baked Occasions. Here in the U-S-of-A this day is called “Mardi Gras” – aka: Fat Tuesday and is celebrated by eating our faces off in preparation for Lent, or ya know, just because we can.  Continue reading

salted caramel pumpkin roll

pumpkin roll 0110

Pumpkin rolls are one of my favorite desserts and it kinda sucks because I only get to eat them once a year. For some reason it’s less acceptable to enjoy a pumpkin roll from January through October, but November? November is fair game. I think I’m going to make an effort to bring it back in 2015. This March, PUMPKIN ROLL BIRTHDAY  CAKE! You heard it here first, guys.

I took a big risk making this for Thanksgiving. We’ve talked about it before, the fact that Mr. Eats has a deep love for my praline pumpkin cake. I mean, I love it too, but I also like to not eat the same exact thing every year for Thanksgiving. This meant that a regular old pumpkin roll just wasn’t going to cut it. I needed to kick it up a notch. I

First thought? I know! Praline pumpkin roll! Which did seem like a good idea until I realized the praline would just crack off of the roll, assuming I was able to even roll the cake with hot, molten, drippy praline all over it. So I used my second thought instead: salted caramel.

pumpkin roll 0125

Initially I thought a beautiful salted caramel layer swirled between the cake and frosting would be gorgeous and delicious, and maybe it would have been, except for one small issue… You see, caramel is liquid and so it did what liquid does and oozed out… all over the counter. I really wish I had been able to snap a picture but I was too busy trying to fanangle my pumpkin roll and yelling “I MADE A MISTAKE” and “OH GOD NO” in the kitchen, so there was no time.

Back to the drawing board.

The solution, of course, was to beat the caramel IN the frosting. That way you get all of that salted caramel flavor and zero mess on the counter. Well, not zero mess. Pumpkin rolls are a bit on the messy side, but the mess won’t be caramel, so at least you’ll have that going for you.

 

 

This is the part where I tell you how to roll up your pumpkin roll without it cracking. And I would really love to tell you that, except that I’m 0 for 3 at the moment… However, I did some research (read: talked to some pumpkin-rolling masters) and we decided that I was most likely rolling the cake too tightly. So when you’re rolling, roll it loosely and gently and with care. Then say a prayer.

The good news is that if you do crack it, it will still taste just as good. And if you use some artistic liberty in your photos and angle the roll “just so” and crop out most of the cracks no one will ever know it cracked to begin with! Well, except the people who are actually eating it. Just slice it before you serve it and those dummies won’t know any better anyway.

pumpkin roll 0116

salted caramel pumpkin roll

Prep time: 

Cook time: 

Total time: 

Serves: 1 10-inch roll

Ingredients
Cake:
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • ⅔ canned pumpkin puree
  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup powdered sugar
Salted Caramel:
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspooon fleur de sel
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons light corn syrup
  • ¼ cup water
  • ¼ cup sour cream
Filling:
  • 1 (8-oz) package cream cheese
  • 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup salted caramel
Instructions
Make the cake:
  1. Preheat oven to 375F. Grease a 10 by 15-inch jelly roll pan and line with parchment.
  2. In a small bowl, mix together flour, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
  3. In a large bowl, eat the eggs and sugar on medium speed until thick and foamy.
  4. Add pumpkin puree and continue to beat until combined. Stir in flour mixture and pour into prepared pan.
  5. Bake 10 to 15 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  6. Dust a dish towel with ¼ cup powdered sugar and invert cake onto towel. Starting from the short end, loosely roll the cake until a spiral and place on a wire rack to cool completely.
Make the salted caramel:
  1. In a small saucepan mix the water, sugar, and corn syrup. Stir to combine.
  2. Mix heavy cream and fleur de sel in a small measuring cup and heat in the microwave for about 1 minute until it is hot. Stir to dissolve the salt.
  3. Heat over high heat until it reaches about 340F and is dark amber in color. Remove from heat and allow to sit for 1 minute.
  4. Carefully pour the heavy cream into the sugar mixture (it will bubble and spit), whisk to combine. Add the sour cream and continue whisking until it is incorporated. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside to cool completely.
Make the filling.
  1. In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and butter at medium high until combine. Add the vanilla and powdered sugar and continue beating until light and fluffy.
  2. Add the salted caramel and beat to combine. (You could also probably just stir the salted caramel in for a more swirly effect but, whatever)
Fill the cake:
  1. Carefully unroll the cake, if it breaks just keep going, you've come too far to stop now.
  2. Spread filling onto cake leaving one inch un-frosted at the end and re-roll into spiral. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and place into refrigerator to chill for at least 4 hours.
Notes
Once chilled, you can move the roll to the freezer for up to 3 months. Thaw roll overnight in the refrigerator prior to serving.

[ Pumpkin roll recipe source: Libby’s Pumpkin ]

[ Salted caramel recipe source: Baked Sweet & Salty Cake FROM: BAKED: New Frontiers in Baking ]

oreo cheesecake cookies

oreo cheesecake cookie main

After I missed National Cheesecake Day, I vowed never to miss another food holiday again. Well, it turns out that I was a bit on the naive side. Did you know that there is a food holiday every day? Like, literally, EVERY DAY. I mean, I love food as much as the next girl… in fact, some may argue that I love food significantly more than the next girl, but every single day?? Isn’t that a bit overkill?

Monday was Root Beer Float Day, and today is Raspberries in Cream Day. August 5th was not only National Waffle Day, but National Oyster Day as well. We couldn’t even make them related? It had to be two of the most un-related foods celebrated on the same exact day? Granted, maybe Oyster Waffles are super delicious and I just have no idea. But seriously, calm down guys. We don’t need a food holiday every day... It will be OK.

I promise.

I’m on board for S’more Day on August 10th (THIS FRIDAY, GUYS!), maybe even Rum Day on the 16th, but  Soft Ice Cream Day and Julienne Fry Day are a bit much. What’s wrong with just “Fry-Day” (that could conveniently fall on a Friday every year), or just plain “Ice Cream Day”… why do we need to be so specific?

Anyway, I digress, moral of the story is that I missed Cheesecake Day and I’m sure that I missed Oreo Cookie Day (Which was apparently March 6th, for the record. Pretty sure I knew that thanks to the Birthday Cake Oreo, actually.)

So, In honor of belated Cheesecake Day & belated Oreo Day… in honor of all the other hundreds of food holidays I will miss (and have already missed)… and if you follow me on Pinterest, in honor of my apparent intense craving for Oreos…. I give to you:

Oreo     Cheesecake      Cookies.

Soft, chewy, cream cheese cookies rolled in Oreo cookie crumbs. So, essentially, a delicious cookie rolled in crushed delicious cookies, another cookie inception perhaps?

Oreo Cheesecake Cookies – Yields about 30 small cookies

[ Printable Recipe ]

  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (7 ounces) sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (4.8 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup mini chocolate chips
  • 1 cup oreo cookie sandwich crumbs (about 8 oreos)

1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. In a large bowl, beat the butter, cream cheese and salt on medium speed until smooth and creamy. Gradually add the sugar and continue beating until the mixture is light and fluffy, 1-2 minutes. Beat in the vanilla, and then add the flour and mix on low just until combined. Mix in the chocolate chips.

3. Roll or scoop the dough into 1-inch balls. Drop the dough balls into a bowl of oreo cookie crumbs and roll to coat. Arrange the dough balls 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets.

4. Bake the cookies for 8-10 minutes, until the edges just start to brown and the tops are set. Cool for a minute or two on the sheets, then transfer the cookies to wire racks and cool completely.

[ Adapted from crumblycookie.net ]

happy birthday to me

choco pb bday cake

Friday is my birthday… I don’t even want to talk about how old I’m going to be. Being a grown up sucks. Let’s just leave it at that. I had promised myself that I would make my own birthday cake this year. Chocolate and peanut butter, of course. Because what is better than chocolate and peanut butter? (Nothing, that’s what).

I surprised even myself with this one. Very rarely does something that I make really blow me out of the water. I mean, of course it’s good or else I wouldn’t post it, but it’s just silly to think that every single recipe I make is going to be mind-blowingly good.

This recipe, though… Mind = Blown.

It was so good that I even froze a piece to save for my actual birthday on Friday. It was so good I didn’t want to send it to work with the Boyfriend. I just wanted to keep it at home all to myself. The cake was so incredibly moist, the peanut butter frosting was perfect in flavor and texture, and yeah I technically “messed up” the ganache layer (aesthetically speaking), but flavor wise… my god. So good.
It was totally worth the extra trip to Sur La Table for a third cake pan. So worthy of being the first cake to be displayed on my brand new cake stand (which, by the way, was a steal at Homegoods). It was so good that I think I found my new go-to chocolate cake recipe.

On top of all of that… it’s so easy to make the cake layer that you don’t even need a mixer. Yep, you read that right, NO MIXER REQUIRED.

I don’t know if that piece in the freezer will make it to my birthday……. I mean, just look at that thing. I’m drooling just thinking about it.

Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting

[ Printable Recipe ]

  • 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
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and prepare three 8-inch cake pans with butter and parchment

2. Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl and whisk to combine. Add the oil and sour cream and whisk to blend. Gradually beat in the water. Once the water is incorporated, add the vinegar and vanilla. Whisk in the eggs and continue to beat until well blended. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl to make sure there are no flour bombs lurking in there. Divide the batter evenly 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. I was able to fit all three on one rack in the middle of my oven. If you can’t, just put two on the bottom 1/3 and one on the top 1/3 and rotate about 20 minutes into baking… but be careful or they might fall!

4. Let cool in the pans for about 20 minutes. Invert onto wire racks, carefully peel off the paper liners, and let cool completely. The cakes are very soft – chill the cooled cakes in the freezer for 30 minutes (or overnight if you don’t want to do it all in one day) before continuing.

5. To frost the cake, place one layer, flat side up, on a cake stand or large serving plate. Spread 2/3 cups 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.

Smitten Kitchen Recommends:

1: Making a crumb coat of frosting–a thin layer that binds the dark crumbs to the cake so they don’t show up in the final outer frosting layer–is a great idea for this cake, or any with a dark cake and lighter-colored frosting. Once you “mask” your cake, let it chill for 15 to 30 minutes until firm, then use the remainder of the frosting to create a smooth final coating.

2: Once the cake is fully frosted, it helps to chill it again and let it firm up. The cooler and more set the peanut butter frosting is, the better drip effect you’ll get from the Chocolate-Peanut Butter Glaze.)

6. 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.

This is where I failed – my glaze did not want to drip in a pretty fashion, so I just went for it and used it to cover the entire cake. Honestly, I can’t imagine not having the chocolate ganache all over the cake. I think it was a good move, but if you want it to look fancier, go ahead and try the drippy method.

Peanut Butter Frosting
Makes about 5 cups

  • 10 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature* (I used 8, because I only had one package of cream cheese and I wasn’t going to run to the store again)
  • 1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 5 cups powdered sugar
  • 2/3 cup smooth peanut butter

1. In a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. Beat in vanilla. 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. Taste it…. you know, for quality control

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

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

1. In the top of a 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.

Once the cake is fully frosted, it helps to chill it again and let it firm up. The cooler and more set the peanut butter frosting is, the better drip effect you’ll get from the Chocolate-Peanut Butter Glaze.)

 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.

This is where I failed – my glaze did not want to drip in a pretty fashion, so I just went for it and used it to cover the entire cake. Honestly, I can’t imagine not having the chocolate ganache all over the cake. I think it was a good move, but if you want it to look fancier, go ahead and try the drippy method.

[ adapted from Smitten Kitchen ]

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light as air pumpkin cheesecake

chscake22When I set out to make my very first cheesecake, I didn’t know that it would become a huge ordeal. It’s not that the recipe was exceptionally difficult, there were no strange ingredients, no extraordinary techniques… I think that some days the universe just aligns against me. Do you ever have those days? Those days where every little thing that could possibly go wrong does? Luckily, I worked through it, and was rewarded with this delicious cheesecake.

The first sign of trouble was the graham crackers. They just didn’t want to crush (I ended up hand-crushing some of the larger chunks as I was pressing them into the pan out of a final act of desperation), then I didn’t have a pan large enough to make a water bath, nor a kettle to heat enough water for it, and then I discovered that I only had half the amount of cream cheese necessary. A trip or two to the store later and I was ready to go… Thankfully it’s Thanksgiving time so they had those cheap “one-use” roasting pans… Even though I thought it was a perfectly good excuse to buy the $160 fancy roasting pan, the grocery store was much closer, and clearly the more economical choice. :)

Returning from the store, If I started the cheesecake THAT MOMENT, I would be right on schedule to pull the cheesecake out of the oven JUST IN TIME to head to dinner. I mixed my spices and whipped my cream cheese, then I decided it would be a great idea to catapult my brand new glass jar of pumpkin pie spice onto the concrete floor. Yes, it shattered. Everywhere.

All of my hopes and dreams, all of my hard work, gone in a puff of orange colored spice dust. This is normally where I would give up, decide that I “gave it my best” and “today was just not my day”, but the crust was already bakes, the cream cheese was already whipped, the pumpkin was already drained… I was too far in to quit now, so I forged on.

Screw it, I’ll just make my own “pumpkin pie spice”. I really wanted to take a picture of my shattered dreams scattered across the kitchen floor, but I had to use every last ounce of motivation to convince myself to carry on. I quickly cleaned up the mess before of glass and spice before the kitties (or my feet) had a chance to track through it…

By the end of my adventure, it looked like a Tasmanian devil went through my kitchen.  As soon as the cheesecake went into the oven I began frantically cleaning… It bakes for 1.25 hours, and we had to leave for dinner in exactly 1.5 hours… Actually, now that I think of it, I think I spotted a sprinkling of pumpkin pie spice that landed inside the pantry…. Note to self: make sure to clean that up when you get home…

When I first saw the recipe, it reminded me of the hauntingly good piece of cheesecake I had at Cheesecake Factory just a couple weeks earlier… Unlike the usual dense cheesecakes, this one was rich and flavorful while still remaining light and airy. A sweet, pumpkiny cloud of delicious…

See that? Much fancier. I actually made some fancy vanilla bean whipped cream to go with my cheesecake, too, but I was so excited with how well the cheesecake came out that I had completely forgotten about it by the time I was eating the cheesecake. Oops? Anyway, I think I came pretty darn close to that one. Although looking at the picture, it looks like their crust went up the sides of the cheesecake. I’ll keep that in mind for next time.

Now that I know the technique, I can apply it to any cheesecake I make. The trick? Are you ready? Heavy cream. Just whip some heavy cream right into the cream cheese mixture and voila – light, airy cheesecake. I know, rocket science, right?

This cheesecake would be the perfect alternative to your run-of-the-mill pumpkin pie this Thanksgiving (or, since it’s Thanksgiving today, maybe next Thanksgiving. But you could make it this year for practice…). I give it five stars, two thumbs up, and two toes up. All of the stars and all of the digits up. I don’t love cheesecake, I don’t even particularly like it, but this cheesecake might just be the talk of your (next) Thanksgiving feast, and I can say with medium certainty that you will be able to accomplish this cheesecake with 90% less disaster than I did. Don’t blame the recipe for my misfortune, I believe in you! You can do it!

Light as Air Pumpkin Cheesecake

[ Printable Recipe ]

Crust
·         5 ounces graham crackers (1 packet/ 9 whole crackers), broken into large pieces
·         3 tablespoons granulated sugar
·         1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
·         1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
·         1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
·         6 tablespoons unsalted butter , melted

Filling
·         1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
·         1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
·         1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
·         1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
·         1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
·         1/8 teaspoon allspice
·         1/2 teaspoon salt
·         1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin
·         1 1/2 pounds cream cheese ; cut into 1-inch cubes, softened about 30 minutes
·         1 tablespoon vanilla extract
·         1 tablespoon lemon juice
·         5 large eggs , room temperature
·         1 cup heavy cream

For the crust:

1.  Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Spray bottom and sides of 9-inch springform pan evenly with nonstick cooking spray, line with parchment.

2.  Pulse crackers, sugar, and spices in food processor until evenly and finely ground, transfer crumbs to medium bowl and drizzle  with melted butter. Mix  until evenly moistened.

3.  Pour crumbs into prepared springform pan and spread crumbs into even layer. Using flat-bottomed glass, press crumbs evenly into pan bottom, then run a spoon around the edges to smooth crumbs into edges of pan.

4.  Bake until fragrant and browned about the edges, about 15 minutes. Cool on wire rack while making filling.

Boil water: bring about 4 quarts water to simmer in stockpot.

Dry pumpkin: Line baking sheet with triple layer of paper towels. Spread pumpkin on paper towels in roughly even layer.

Cover pumpkin with second triple layer of paper towels and press firmly until paper towels are saturated. Peel back top layer of towels and discard.

Grasp bottom towels and fold pumpkin in half; peel back towels. Fold again, into quarters. You can use the towel to help you carry the pumpkin to the bowl when you’re ready to use it.

Prepare spices: In a small bowl, whisk sugar, spices, and salt

Make filling:

1.  In standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat cream cheese at medium speed until soft about 1 minute. Scrape beater and bottom and sides of bowl well with rubber spatula.

2.  Add one third of sugar mixture and beat at medium-low speed until combined, about 1 minute; scrape bowl. Add remaining sugar in two additions, scraping bowl after each addition. You want to really beat it here, make it nice and fluffy:

3.  Add pumpkin, vanilla, and lemon juice, beating at medium speed until combined, about 45 seconds; scrape bowl.

4.  Add 3 eggs and beat at medium-low until incorporated, about 1 minute; scrape bowl and add remaining 2 eggs , beating at medium-low until incorporated, about 45 seconds. Scrape bowl and beater.

5.  Add heavy cream and beat at low speed (so you don’t spray cream everywhere) until combined, about 45 seconds. Using a rubber spatula, scrape bottom and sides of bowl and give final stir by hand, making sure to scrape up anything that may be lingering in the bottom of the bowl. The mixture will be very runny.

Fill the crust:

1.  Set springform pan with cooled crust on an 18-inch-square doubled layer heavy-duty foil and wrap bottom and sides with foil (that means yo buy the super long tube of “heavy duty” foil). Set wrapped springform pan in roasting pan and fill springform pan with your cheesecake filling, smoothing the surface when finished.

2.  Set roasting pan in oven and pour enough boiling water to come about halfway up side of springform pan. Bake until center of cake is slightly wobbly when pan is shaken, about 1 1/2 hours.*

3.  Set roasting pan on wire rack and use paring knife or offset spatula to loosen cake from sides of pan. Cool until water is just warm, about 45 minutes. (Mine cooled in the water bath while we went to dinner)

4.  Remove springform pan from water bath, discard foil, and set on wire rack. Continue to cool another 3 hours. Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled, at least 4 hours or up to 3 days.

To serve:  Slide thin metal spatula between crust and pan bottom to loosen, then slide cake onto serving platter. Let cheesecake stand at room temperature about 30 before cutting.

NOTES

–   When done, cake should register 145 – 150 F on an instant-read thermometer. Since my instant-read thermometer is not very reliable, I used the “tap the pan” method. This is where you tap the side of the pan and see how wobbly the cake is. The outsides should be still while the center still jiggles slightly.

–    Depending on the oven and the temperature of the ingredients, the cheesecake may bake about 15 minutes faster or slower than the instructions indicate; it is therefore best to check the cake 1 1/4 hours into baking.

–   Although the cheesecake can be made up to three days in advance, the crust will begin to lose its crispness after only one day.

–   To make slicing the cheesecake easy and neat, use a knife with a narrow blade, such as a carving knife; between cuts, dip the blade into a pitcher of hot water and wipe it clean with paper towels.

[ Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen; November 2011 ]