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Life in a slow place that quickly steals your heart.

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Cakes

Black tea with lemon cake

This cake is a sunny little gem to serve on a hot summer day. It’s dressed up for a party with candied lemon, a rich buttercream flecked with vanilla bean and the surprise of a hit of flavour in the black tea buttercream filling. I’ll have an iced black tea with lemon and lots of ice in a frosty glass to go with it please.

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There are five steps to making this triple layer six-inch cake: candied lemons, lemon butter cake, Swiss meringue buttercream, black tea buttercream and vanilla bean buttercream.

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Candied lemon ingredients

  • 2 lemons, thinly sliced and seeded
  • 1 1/2 cup sugar

Directions

Prepare an ice bath and set it aside.

Place 1 1/2 cups of water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Blanch the lemon slices in the boiling water for about a minute, then use a slotted spoon to transfer them to the ice bath.

Reduce the heat to bring the water to a simmer. Add the sugar and stir to dissolved. Return the blanched lemons to the pan and simmer for about 30 minutes. Place the lemons on a wire rack to drain. Let them dry completely on a piece of parchment pater for 2 to 4 hours, or overnight.

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Lemon butter cake ingredients

  • 2 1/4 cups cake flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest
  • 3/4 cup room temperature unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 4 large egg yolks (thanks to my chickens!)
  • 1 cup buttermilk

Directions

Pre-heat the oven to 350 F. Grease and flour three 6-inch cake pans and set aside.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt and set aside.

Place the sugar and lemon zest in a small bowl and rub them together with your fingers until fragrant.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until smooth. Add the sugar mixture and mix on medium-high until the butter is light and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl.

Turn the mixer to medium-low and add the vanilla and egg yolks, one at a time. Scrape the bowl.

Turn the mixer to low and add the flour mixture in three batches, alternating with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Mix on medium for no more than 30 seconds after the last bits of flour are incorporated.

Evenly divide batter among the three pans and bake for 22 to 24 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the centre of the cakes comes out clean. Let them cool on a wire rack for 10 to 15 minutes before removing from the pans.

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Black tea infusion

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 5 black tea bags

Directions

Place one cup of water and the sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to maintain a simmer and add the tea bags. Simmer for about 8 minutes. Remove the tea bags and continue to cook until the syrup has reduced to about 1/4 cup, 20 to 30 minutes. Remove from heat and cool. You will be adding 3 tablespoons of this infusion to some Swiss meringue buttercream to make the filling.

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Vanilla Swiss meringue buttercream

  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons egg whites
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 cups unsalted butter (very important that it be at room temperature or it won’t combine properly) cubed
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Directions
Place the egg whites and sugar in the bowl of a stand-mixer. Whisk them together by hand to combine. Make a double boiler by filling a medium pot filled with water over medium-high heat. Place the mixer bowl on top of the pot. The bottom of the pot should not touch the water.

Whisk intermittently and heat the egg mixture to 160F (candy thermometer) or until it is hot to the touch. Carefully fit the mixer bowl onto the stand mixer and whip with the wire attachment on high speed for 8 to 10 minutes, until it holds medium-stiff peaks. The bowl should be back to room temperature at this point. Stop the mixer and swap out the whisk attachment for the paddle.

With the mixer on low, add the cubed butter, a few tablespoons at a time then the vanilla. Once incorporated, turn up the mixer speed to medium-high and beat until the buttercream is silky smooth, 3 to 5 minutes.

Black tea buttercream

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix 1 1/2 cups of the buttercream until silky smooth. Add 3 tablespoons of the black tea infusion and mix until combined. Transfer to a separate bowl and set aside. Wipe out the mixer bowl.

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Vanilla bean buttercream

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix the remaining Swiss meringue buttercream with 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla bean paste.

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Talk about sticker shock. Vanilla is going up in price and vanilla bean paste is expensive but goes a long way and can easily replace vanilla beans in your recipes.

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Some assembly required

Level your cakes and choose a layer for the bottom. Spread on half of the black tea buttercream with an offset spatula. Top with the next layer of cake and repeat with the remainder of the black tea buttercream, ending with the third layer. Frost the cake with the vanilla bean buttercream and decorate with candied lemons.

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Sweet salty chocolate cake with an almond bark crown and a secret sauce

IMG_4647.jpgThis rich and satisfying little chocolate cake has a secret sauce that makes it unforgettable. The salty component of this beauty comes from tamari (Japanese) soy sauce and it’s in the cake batter and the crunchy almond topper. Easy to make, this six-inch cake is perfect for eight small slices or four huge ones.

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  1. Tamari almonds
  • 2 cups raw almonds
  • 1 tbsp tamari or Japanese soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp neutral oil, eg grapeseed

Preheat oven to 350°F. Place almonds on a baking tray. Pour over tamari or Japanese soy sauce and oil and mix through evenly. Spread almonds evenly in dish and roast until fragrant and crisp, about 15 minutes. Cool before storing in a sealed jar. They will keep for several weeks.

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2. Chocolate Cake

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 tbsp cocoa powder sifted
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tbsp tamari soy sauce
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup milk

Directions

With the rack in the middle position, preheat the oven to 350F. Butter the sides of a 6-inch springform or cake ring and line the bottom with parchment paper.

In a bowl, whisk together the egg, sugar, oil, soy sauce and vanilla. Stir in the dry ingredients alternately with the milk until smooth. Spoon into the prepared pan.

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IMG_4616.jpgBake for 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Let cool for 15 minutes. Unmould and let cool completely on a wire rack. Clean the ring or springform ring.

3. Almond Crisp

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Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp tamari almonds, coarsely chopped from step 1

Directions

Line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper. Place the ring of the springform pan on the prepared sheet.

In a saucepan over medium-high heat, melt the butter with the brown sugar and soy sauce. Simmer for 30 seconds and remove from the heat. Stir in the flour. Working quickly, pour into the ring and spread into a thin layer. Sprinkle with the almonds.

Bake for 10 minutes in a 350F oven. Let cool completely on the baking sheet, then unmould.

4. Ganache

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Ingredients

  • 170 grams good quality dark chocolate, chopped
  • 2/3 cup 35% heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened

Directions

Place the chocolate in a bowl. In a saucepan, bring the cream to a boil. Pour over the chocolate and let melt for one minute without stirring. Using a whisk, stir until smooth. Stir in the butter. Cover and refrigerate for a half hour or until the ganache is spreadable.

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Some Assembly Required

Slice the cake in half horizontally to obtain two layers. Spread the ganache onto each layer and stack them. Top with the almond crisp.

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It is all solved by Chocolate Salted Caramel Cake

IMG_3637.jpgWhen you combine vast quantities of Swiss chocolate with Dutch cocoa powder, French fleur de sel, fresh Canadian whipping cream and buttermilk there is no possibility on earth that this little gateau is not going to solve your problems.

The combination of rich chocolate cake, velvety frosting and a hidden layer of salted caramel is a perfect antidote to winter’s grey skies.

A single layer of luscious chocolate cake is carefully cut in half, spread with homemade salted caramel, topped with a chocolate ganache frosting and finished with a gorgeous glacage. An added bonus, the cake can be baked, frosted and frozen ahead of time with only the glacage step required before serving.

This recipe was adapted from the amazing Duchess Bake Shop Cookbook by Giselle Courteau. The shop is located in Edmonton if you get a chance to stop in, and this cake is their number one seller.

Step one

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Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp unsalted butter cubed
  • 1/4 cup finely ground almonds
  • 3/4 tsp fleur de sel

IMG_3526.jpgDirections

Heat the cream in a small saucepan on the stove until scalding. Set aside and keep hot as you melt the sugar.

Place about a quarter of the sugar in a wide-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Gently melt the sugar, swirling the saucepan around occasionally. Do not stir. Once the sugar is almost melted, add another quarter and repeat twice more until all the sugar is completely melted and has turned amber coloured.

Remove from heat and slowly pour in the hot whipping cream mixing with a spoon or spatula until the smooth. Using a fine mesh strainer, immediately strain the caramel into a bowl.

Mix in the butter, ground almonds and fleur de sel into the hot caramel until the butter is melted. For extra smooth caramel, use an immersion blender. Transfer the caramel into jars, let cool and refrigerate until set. It will keep in the fridge for up to two weeks and is an amazing ice cream topper.

Step two

Chocolate Cake

IMG_3547.jpgIngredients

  • 1/2 cup hot brewed coffee
  • 3 Tbsp dark chocolate
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup quality cocoa powder
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract or paste

IMG_3562.jpgDirections

Preheat your oven to 325F and line an 8-inch cake pan with parchment paper and spray it with vegetable oil.

In a large bowl, pour the hot coffee over the chocolate, whisking until all the coffee is poured in and the chocolate has completely melted. Set aside.

Sift all the dry ingredients together and set aside.

Whisk the egg, oil, buttermilk and vanilla together in a bowl. Slowly whisk the mixture into the melted chocolate and coffee.

Add the sifted dry ingredients and whisk until the batter comes together. The batter will appear a bit lumpy. Don’t be tempted to overmix.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 45 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.

Cool completely. Run a knife around the edge of the pan and flip the cake out.

Step three

Ganache Frosting

IMG_3569.jpgIngredients

  • 188 grams of good dark chocolate (I love Lindt)
  • 1/2 tsp fleur de sel
  • 2/3 cup whipping cream
  • 2 Tbsp water
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 Tbsp light corn syrup
  • 3/4 cup plus 1 Tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature, cubed

Directions

Slowly melt the chocolate over a double boiler. Once the chocolate is melted, add in the fleur de sel. Set aside.

Heat the whipping cream on the stovetop until scalding. Set aside while keeping hot.

Place the water, sugar and corn syrup in a small saucepan over medium heat and cook until the sugar turns amber coloured. Do not stir. Remove from the heat and slowly pour in the hot cream and stir until combined. Pour this mixture over the chocolate and fleur de sel in three parts, mixing until smooth between additions.

Transfer this ganache into a stand mixer bowl and cool to room temperature Ensure both the ganache and butter cubes are at room temperature.

With the mixer on low speed, add the butter cubes to the ganache a few at time until all incorporated then turn the mixer up to medium and beat until the frosting is light and fluffy.

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Step four

Assemble the cake and frost

Using a sharp serrated knife, cut the cake in half horizontally into two layers. Flip the top layer so its cut side is facing up.

If the salted caramel has been in the fridge, warm it in a microwave for a few seconds to soften it slightly. Spread about 1/2 cup of salted caramel over the bottom layer of the cake leaving about 1/2 inch around the edge.

IMG_3589.jpgSpread about 1 cup of the frosting over the caramel, leaving a bit of space around the edges. Place the other cake layer on top, cut side up that your cake will have a flat top and gently press down. Transfer the cake to a turntable and spoon about 2 cups of frosting on top, reserving extra frosting to finish the cake. Spread it evenly over the top and sides of the cake and smooth it out with an offset spatula. The smoother the better as the glacage will show all the imperfections.

Transfer the cake to a flat plate and freeze for at least two hours (or up to a week, if making ahead).

Step five

Glacage

IMG_3597.jpgIngredients

  • 1 cup good dark chocolate
  • 3/4 cup plus 1 Tbsp whipping cream
  • 2 Tbsp water
  • 3 Tbsp light corn syrup

Directions

Slowly melt the dark chocolate over a double boiler. In a saucepan heat the whipping cream, water, and corn syrup until just scalding. Pour the hot cream over the dark chocolate in three parts, mixing in between additions until smooth.

Step six

Final assembly

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Remove the cake from freezer and place it on a flat cooling rick with a pan or foil underneath to catch the drippings. Using a measuring cup or ladle pour the glacage over the top of the cake. Using an offset spatula spread the glacage over the sides, making sure to cover the whole cake. Immediately move the cake to a serving plate using a long offset spatula.

Decorate the cake with the reserved frosting. Pipe five dots on top and a decorative border around the bottom. The cake will keep at room temperature up to four days.

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Got thyme to make a fancy ass orange raspberry brown sugar buttermilk cake?

IMG_1322.jpgWhen you have a raspberry farm you seek out raspberry recipes. This one is a gem. The thyme and orange flavours add a lovely sharp counterpoint to the rich brown sugar buttermilk cake with raspberry filling. The only downside, it only uses a scant half cup of berries!

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Orange thyme syrup

  • 1/2 cup of fresh orange juice…use blood oranges if you can find them
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 5 to 8 sprigs fresh thyme

Combine the orange juice and sugar in a saucepan and bring them to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce to a simmer and add the thyme. Simmer for 8 or 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and let steep until cool. Strain the syrup and discard the thyme. You can make this a day ahead and refrigerate if you are organized.

Brown sugar buttermilk cake

  • 2 1/4 cups cake flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 cup room temp. unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
  • 3 large farm-fresh organic eggs
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350F and grease and flour three 6-inch cake pans.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda and set aside.

In the bowl of stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the butter until smooth. Add the sugars and orange zest. Turn the mixer to medium-high and mix until the butter is light and fluffy (5 minutes or so). Stop mixer and scrape down the bowl.

Turn the mixer to low and add the flour mixture in three batches, alternating with the buttermilk. Mix on medium for 30 seconds.

Evenly divide the batter in the three prepared pans. Bake for 23 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of the cakes comes out clean. Let them cool on wire racks for 15 minutes before removing from pans.

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Raspberry Buttercream (Makes a bit over three cups…you will need 2 cups)

  • 1/2 cup large egg whites
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups unsalted butter at room temperature cubed
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup of fresh raspberries from your local farmer
  • 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
  1. Make the buttercream

Place the egg whites and sugar in the bowl of a stand-mixer. Whisk them together by hand to combine. Make a double boiler by filling a medium pot filled with water over medium-high heat. Place the mixer bowl on top of the pot. The bottom of the pot should not touch the water.

Whisk intermittently and heat the egg mixture to 160F (candy thermometer) or until it is hot to the touch. Carefully fit the mixer bowl onto the stand mixer and whip with the wire attachment on high speed for 8 to 10 minutes, until it holds medium-stiff peaks. The bowl should be back to room temperature at this point. Stop the mixer and swap out the whisk attachment for the paddle.

With the mixer on low, add the cubed butter, a few tablespoons at a time then the vanilla. Once incorporated, turn up the mixer speed to medium-high and beat until the buttercream is silky smooth, 3 to 5 minutes.

2. Make the raspberry puree

Blend the raspberries and 2 teaspoons of sugar together in a food processor until combined. Strain to remove seeds through a mesh sieve set up over a bowl. Add a 1/4 cup of this pureed mixture to 2 cups of the buttercream (you will have extra buttercream) until combined.

IMG_1315.jpgSome assembly required

Once the cakes have cooled, level them and choose which one will be at the bottom. Generously brush the cake layers with the orange thyme syrup. Place the bottom layer on a cake plate and spread on 3/4 cup of the raspberry buttercream with an offset spatula. Top with the next layer of cake and repeat with the buttercream, ending with the third layer. Use the remaining buttercream to fill in any gaps between layers and give the cake a rustic coat of icing.

Make the orange glaze

  • 1 1/4 cups confectioner’s sugar sifted
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon fresh orange juice (blood orange juice works well here if you can find it as gives the icing a nice colour)

In a small bowl, whisk the confectioner’s sugar and orange juice together until the sugar has dissolved. Pour the glaze onto the centre of the top of the cake and spread it evenly letting it drip over the edges.

Top with a thyme crown.

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Naramata Peach Spice Cake

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It has to be tasted to be believed. This rustic-looking cake belies its simple appearance. It is a toothsome combination of ingredients such as cocoa, cinnamon, fresh-ground nutmeg made light and moist with fresh eggs, butter, grapeseed oil and buttermilk. The smell from the oven is as enticing as it gets. Take it up a notch by soaking the cakes in a glaze made with peach jam and spices. Blow it into orbit with a fluffy caramel cream cheese frosting and give it some delicious crunch with rosemary toasted pine nuts and fresh summer flavours with dynamite organic peaches from Naramata’s T NT Farm and you have something worth the afternoon it will take you to bake it and a run-on sentence worth running on about.

This amazing creation, which I Naramatified, is from British Columbian Tessa Huff and her spectacular Layered cookbook. In a Julie and Julia type scenario I’ve been baking my way through her cake cookbook, adding a few custom touches here and there and sourcing my ingredients locally. This recipe gets a 12 out 10. Enough hyperbole…let’s get cracking. There are six separate recipes to tackle…none of them hard: Spice cake, peach glaze, rosemary pine nuts, salted caramel sauce and Swiss meringue buttercream. You will need a two 8-inch cake pans for this beauty that serves 12 to 15 peeps.

 

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Spice Cake ingredients

  • 2 3/4 cups cake flour
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/4 cut grapeseed oil
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla
  • 4 large eggs (I walk out to my yard, and get them from my chickens Maria and The Baroness…bragging a little)
  • 1 1/4 cups buttermilk (from the store…I don’t have a cow yet)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350F, grease and flour two 8-inch cake pans and line with parchment rounds.

Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, cinnamon, baking powder, ginger, baking soda, salt, nutmeg and cloves and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle, beat the butter on medium. Add the oil and sugar. Turn the mixer to medium high and mix for 3 minutes. Turn mixer to low, add the vanilla and eggs, one at a time. Scrape down the bowl.

Turn mixer to low and add the flour mixture alternating with the buttermilk in three batches. Only mix for 30 seconds or until just combined.

Divide the batter between the prepared pans and bake for 25 to 28 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of the cakes comes out clean. While the cakes are baking work on the peach glaze as you will need to spread it over the cakes as soon as they come out of the oven.

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Peach glaze ingredients

  • 1 cup peach jam
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated ginger

Directions

Combine the jam, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg in a saucepan. Heat over medium until the jam melts…five minutes or so. Strain the mixture through a fine sieve set over a bowl to remove any solids. Evenly pour the warm peach glaze over the top of the two cakes just after they come out of the oven. Let them cool completely on a wire rack before removing the cakes from their pans. Do not turn the cakes upside down to remove as the tops will be sticky. Rather pry them up with the parchment or a lifter.

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Cakes just out of the oven with their glaze.

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Rosemary pine nuts ingredients

  • 1/2 cup pine nuts
  • 1 tablespoon Okanagan honey
  • 1 teaspoon rosemary (you can use dried)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions

Heat a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and dry-roast the nuts for about three minutes. Add the honey, rosemary and salt and stir until nuts are evenly coated. Cook, stirring for another 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and spread on piece of parchment paper to cool and dry … about 10 minutes.

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Salted caramel sauce ingredients

  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup of heavy cream at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced
  • 3/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or vanilla bean paste which I use exclusively as it’s better…Nielsen-Massey is great.)

Directions

Place the sugar, corn syrup and 2 tablespoons of water in a heavy-bottomed small saucepan. Stir. Heat over high heat, stirring occasionally swirling the pan, until in turns a medium golden amber colour…8 to 10 minutes. The sugar mixture will begin to rapidly boil before slowing down and darkening in colour. Remove from the heat and whisk in the cream. Be careful as it will foam up and sputter. Add the butter and stir until melted. Add the salt and vanilla and stir. Pour into heat-safe container and let if cool or refrigerate. It will thicken as it cools.

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Vanilla swiss meringue buttercream

  • 1/2 cup plus egg whites
  • 1  cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups unsalted butter (very important that it be at room temperature or it won’t combine properly) cubed
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste

Directions
Place the egg whites and sugar in the bowl of a stand-mixer. Whisk them together by hand to combine. Make a double boiler by filling a medium pot filled with water over medium-high heat. Place the mixer bowl on top of the pot. The bottom of the pot should not touch the water.

Whisk intermittently and heat the egg mixture to 160F (candy thermometer) or until it is hot to the touch. Carefully fit the mixer bowl onto the stand mixer and whip with the wire attachment on high speed for 8 to 10 minutes, until it holds medium-stiff peaks. The bowl should be back to room temperature at this point. Stop the mixer and swap out the whisk attachment for the paddle.

With the mixer on low, add the cubed butter, a few tablespoons at a time then the vanilla. Once incorporated, turn up the mixer speed to medium-high and beat until the buttercream is silky smooth, 3 to 5 minutes.

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Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting ingredients

  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 2 cups vanilla swiss meringue buttercream
  • 1/4 cup salted caramel sauce

Directions

In the bowl of stand mixer with the paddle, beat the cream cheese on medium until smooth, add the buttercream and caramel sauce and mix until combined.

Some assembly required

Level the layers. Place a layer on a cake plate and spread half of the frosting over it. Top with the next layer of cake and frost the top with the remaining frosting. Arrange peach slices from one or two peaches on top (I resorted to frozen peaches from T NT as it will be August before nice new fresh ones are ready) and garnish with a generous handful of the rosemary pine nuts.

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Allegory of Spring raspberry pistachio almond sponge gateaux

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Fit for Botticelli’s lovely ladies dancing on the wall’s of Florence’s Uffizi and good buddy Bill’s birthday.
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Here is a second version with violets for decoration.

This lovely little light cake serves eight with nary a crumb left. The homemade pistachio paste whipped into the Swiss meringue buttercream gives the cake’s layer’s a primavera hue and a nice nutty flavour that complements the almond sponge perfectly.

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Homemade pistachio paste

Expensive to buy, if you can find it, pistachio paste is not hard to make yourself and the results are pretty great.

Ingredients

  • 200 grams shelled pistachios (If you can’t find shelled, do the shelling yourself as I did…buy about 450 grams of  un-shelled pistachios to give you the 200 grams you will need allowing for snacking while you shell)
  • 50 grams ground almonds
  • 100 grams sugar
  • About an ounce of water
  • A few drops of almond extract

Directions
Using a coffee grinder (my choice), mortar and pestle or a blender, grind the pistachios until smooth.
Transfer the ground pistachios in a large bowl and mix in the almond meal
Add the almond extract. In a small saucepan, combine the water and sugar and heat until the temperature reaches 115-120 degrees C, stirring constantly.
Immediately pour the sugar/water mixture into the nut mixture and mix quickly to prevent the sugar from crystalizing.
While mixing the mixture to form a paste (kneading with your hands is best), you may have to add more water in order to achieve a marzipan-like texture. Add only 1 teaspoon at a time.
Wrap in plastic wrap and store in a plastic bag. Freeze for longest shelf life.
Makes about 12 ounces of paste so enough for this cake and for the next time you bake it.

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Almond sponge cake ingredients

Almond sponge cake

You will need a 10 by 15 inch cake pan to get the three six-inch round cake layers and you will need and a six-inch cake ring. Alternatively you can use a 9 by 13 inch pan and Macgyver one of the layers by cutting out two half circles and piecing them together to use in the middle layer of the cake (or you can use a hexagonal shaped pan if your husband remembers his math formulas and can calculate the area and compare it to the recommended 10 by 15 inch pan that I didn’t have.)

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Got to love it when a plan comes together.

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup (85g) icing sugar sifted
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (115 g) ground almonds
  • 1/2 cup (65g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp finely grated lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1/4 cup (50 g) granulated sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

Directions

Pre-heat the oven to 375F. Grease a 10 by 15 inch or 9 by 13 inch cake pan and line it with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together the icing sugar, eggs and vanilla until pale in colour. (I cheated and used an immersion blender). Sift in the flour, ground almonds, baking powder and salt. Add the lemon zest and mix until combined. Stir in the melted butter.

In a clean bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk the eggs whites until they start to foam and add the granulated sugar and cream of tarter and mix on high until stiff peaks form.

Carefully fold the egg whites into the batter. Pour the batter into the cake pan and spread it out with a spatula. Bake for about 10 minutes, until springy to the touch. Cool on a wire rack.

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Pistachio Buttercream

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Pistachio buttercream and raspberries for the layers.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup large egg whites
  • 1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups (340 g) unsalted butter at room temperature cubed
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup pistachio paste

Directions

Place the egg whites and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer. Whisk them together by hand to combine.  Fill a medium saucepan half full with water and place over medium heat. Place the mixer bowl on to top of the saucepan to make a double boiler. The bottom of the bowl should not touch the water. Whisking intermittently, heat the egg mixture until it is hot to the touch. Fit the mixer bowl onto the stand mixer and with the whisk attachment, beat the egg white mixture on high speed for 8 minutes, until it holds medium-stiff peaks.

Change to the paddle attachment. With the mixer on low, add the butter a few cubes at a time then the vanilla and pistachio paste. Once all incorporated, turn the mixer up of medium-high and beat until the buttercream is silky smooth.

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Some assembly required

Lift the cake out of the pan using a spatula. Invert it on a clean work surface and peel off the parchment. Using a 6-inch cake ring cut out three rounds of cake. Place the cake ring on a cake board or plate and place the bottom layer of cake inside the cake ring. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a round piping tip with the pistachio buttercream. Pipe about a 1/2 cup of the filling and press into sides of the cake ring. Smooth out with an offset spatula. Place half the raspberries on top of the buttercream pressing them in lightly. Fill in the gaps between the berries with more buttercream. Add another cake layer pressing down lightly and repeat with the buttercream and berries. Top the final layer of buttercream with the third layer of cake and refrigerate to set for about 20 to 30 minutes.

Once set, insert a knife around the inside of the cake ring carefully wiggle the cake ring off. Dust the top with icing sugar before serving and add edible flowers to garnish if you like.

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Allegory of Spring ladies just before they sat down to a picnic lunch with my cake for dessert.
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Digressing…hard left…but I love the Florence home to the Botticelli ladies. Favourite city in Europe. Hope to go back some day…
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I think Botticelli would have liked this cake…Bill did.

Do not leave this cake out in the rain, takes so long to bake it sure but mostly it will make you happy, two slices happy

IMG_3256.jpg“Cake is happiness! If you know the way of the cake, you know the way of happiness! If you have a cake in front of you, you should not look any further for joy!”
― C. JoyBell C.

From start to chocolatey towering finish, this velvety white chocolate, rich dark chocolate, strawberry filled, Swiss meringue vanilla buttercream topped, chocolate glazed, chocolate-covered strawberry four-layer Neapolitan Cake took six hours to bake and assemble. I can’t think of a better way to spend six hours can you?

There are a total of five recipes involved including two cake recipes that will give you a pretty dramatic piece of cake when sliced with alternating layers of white chocolate and dark chocolate cake. I can totally picture an evening dress and a tuxedo to celebrate its formal look whereas expanding sweatpants are probably a better option.

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White Chocolate Cake

  • 5 large egg whites (My eggs came from Bella Wines farm…thanks Jay!)
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 2 3/4 cup (360 g) cake flour
  • 1  1/4 cups (250 g) granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup (170 g) unsalted room temperature butter
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 6 ounces (170 g) white chocolate, melted and cooled
  • Note — you will also need a jar of (80 ml) strawberry preserves for assembling the cake and 12 strawberries

Directions

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour two 8-inch cake pans.

Stir together the egg whites and 1/4 cup of the milk in a small bowl, set aside. Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on low until combined. With the mixer on low add the butter, vanilla and the remaining 1/2 cup of milk until the dry ingredients are moistened. Turn the mixer to medium and mix for about a minute until combined. Stop the mixer, scrape down the bowl.

Turn the mixer to medium. Add the egg white mixture in three parts, mixing for about 20 seconds after each addition. Stop the mixer, scrape down. Add the white chocolate and mix until just combined.

Evenly divide the batter between the two prepared pans. Bake for 25 to 28 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of the cakes comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes before removing the cakes from their pans.

Yipeee…you have completed one recipe at this point!

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Chocolate Cake

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup unsweetened high-quality cocoa powder
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (150 ml) grapeseed oil (could use canola)
  • 2 cups (400 g) granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup hot strong-brewed coffee

Directions

Grease and flour two 8-inch cake pans. Your oven will also be at 350 F for these layers.

Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, salt and baking soda, set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle, beat together the oil and sugar on medium for 2 minutes. Add the eggs, egg yolk, vanilla and almond extract. Stop the mixer and scrape bowl.

Turn the mixer to low and add the flour mixture in three batches, alternating with the milk, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Stop the mixer and scrape bowl. With the mixer on low, stream the coffee. Mix on medium-low for no more than 30 seconds or until combined.

Evenly divide the batter between the prepared pans and bake in a 350 F oven for 25 to 28 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of the cakes comes out clean. Let them cool on a wire rack for 10 to 15 minutes before removing the cakes from the pans.

IMG_3230.jpgChocolate-dipped strawberries

  • 1 1/3 cups (8 ounces/ 226 g) chopped semisweet chocolate
  • 12 medium strawberries, washed and dried well

Directions

Melt the chocolate in the top portion of a double boiler. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Remove the chocolate from the heat and dip each strawberry into the chocolate one at a time and set it on the parchment paper to dry and harden.

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Vanilla swiss meringue buttercream

  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons egg whites
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 cups unsalted butter (very important that it be at room temperature or it won’t combine properly) cubed
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • Note…you may end up making two batches to fully cover your cake and have enough left over for the rosettes…

Directions
Place the egg whites and sugar in the bowl of a stand-mixer. Whisk them together by hand to combine. Make a double boiler by filling a medium pot filled with water over medium-high heat. Place the mixer bowl on top of the pot. The bottom of the pot should not touch the water.

Whisk intermittently and heat the egg mixture to 160F (candy thermometer) or until it is hot to the touch. Carefully fit the mixer bowl onto the stand mixer and whip with the wire attachment on high speed for 8 to 10 minutes, until it holds medium-stiff peaks. The bowl should be back to room temperature at this point. Stop the mixer and swap out the whisk attachment for the paddle.

With the mixer on low, add the cubed butter, a few tablespoons at a time then the vanilla. Once incorporated, turn up the mixer speed to medium-high and beat until the buttercream is silky smooth, 3 to 5 minutes.

Some Assembly Required

Once the cakes are cool, level them and choose which layer will be at the bottom. Place it on a cake plate. Spread on about 1/3 cup of strawberry preserves. Place the second layer of cake on top, alternating between the white and dark chocolate cakes and repeat. Smoothly frost the cake with the buttercream and refrigerate it, uncovered until firm.

Chocolate Glaze

  • 2/3 cup (4 ounces/115 g) chopped semisweet chocolate
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

Directions

Place the chocolate, cream and corn syrup in a small saucepan. Heat over medium-low until the cream begins to steam and the chocolate starts to melt. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla and salt until combined. Cool to room temperature, about 10 minutes.

More Assembly

Starting with about 1/2 cup at a time, pour the chocolate glaze into the centre of the frosted cake and use an offset spatula to spread it around the top allowing it to drip over the edges. Add more glaze until you like the way it looks.

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Fill a pastry bag with a star tip with the remaining buttercream. After the glaze has set, pipe rosettes around the top edge of the cake. Place the chocolate-dipped strawberries on the rosettes.

Voila!

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“Your good friend has just taken a piece of cake out of the garbage and eaten it. You will probably need this information when you check me into the Betty Crocker Clinic.” Cynthia Nixon

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Newsflash…Sugar is bad but it’s pretty spun and carrots are good right? Lovely Lizzie Lemony Carrot Cake

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This three-layer carrot cake has three cups of carrots and a cup of pineapple and the cream cheese frosting is livened up with lemon zest and fresh lemon juice.

Every birthday deserves a home-made layer cake. Making one for my daughter Lizzie gives me as much pleasure as it gives her, more really. Healthy lifestyles are super important to our family but come on… it’s a birthday and a once-a-year excuse to pull out all the stops.

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Fresh garden carrots and pineapple make this cake deliciously moist.

Carrot cake ingredients

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup grapeseed oil
  • 1  1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 4 large free run eggs
  • 3 cups shredded carrots
  • 1 cup crushed pineapple, drained

Pre-heat oven to 350F and grease and flour three 8-inch cake pans.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt and set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle, beat together the oil and sugars for 2 minutes and turn the mixer to medium-low and add the eggs, one at a time. Add the flour mix in two batches and mix until just incorporated. Add carrots and pineapple and mix until just combined. Evenly divide the batter among the three pans and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of the cakes come out clean. Cool and remove from the pans.

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The addition of lemon adds a nice zest and pretty colour to the frosting.

Lemon cream cheese frosting

  • 4 ounces softened cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup butter at room temperature
  • 3 1/2 to 4 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tsp finely grated lemon zest
  • 2 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla

In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and butter on medium speed until smooth. Turn the mixer to low, gradually add the confectioners’ sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice and vanilla and mix until fluffy.

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Vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream ingredients.

Buttercream

  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp large egg whites
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 cups butter at room temperature, cubed
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • few drops of yellow food colouring

Place the egg whites and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer and whisk together by hand to combine. Place the bowl on the top of the a saucepan filled with a few inches of water on medium-high heat to create a double boiler. Whisking intermittently, heat the eggs mixture until it registers 160F or is hot to the touch. Once hot, fit the bowl onto your mixer and whisk the egg white mixture about 8 to 10 minutes. The mixing bowl should be room temperature and the eggs should hold a medium-stiff peak when done. Swap out the whisk for a paddle attachment and add the butter a bit at a time with the mixer on low. Once all the butter is added, turn up the mixer and beat until smooth for about 3 to 5 minutes. Add a few drops of yellow food colouring to achieve a light lemon colour.

Some assembly required

Choose which will be your bottom layer and place it on a cake plate. Spread half the cream cheese frosting with an offset spatula. Top with another layer and spread the remaining frosting. Add the final layer and ice the top and sides of the cake with the vanilla buttercream. Make the spun-sugar decoration just before serving as it will only hold its shape for a short time.

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Secure two wooden spoon handles to your sink with tape.

 

Spun sugar

  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup

Secure two wooden spoon handles with tape over your sink. Add the sugar, corn syrup and 1/2 cup of water to a saucepan and heat on medium-high until the mixture reaches 300F, about 10 to 15 minutes. Meanwhile prepare an ice bath in a large metal bowl and set aside. As soon as the sugar reaches 300F remove from the heat and submerge the bottom of the pan in the ice bath. Let it stand about a minute and then dip a wire whisk into the sugar and wave it back and forth over the spoon handles. Working as you go, gather the strands and shape into a round shape with your hands about the size of your cake and add to the top of your cake.

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Your spun sugar will dissolve if you refrigerate your cake…
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Lovely Lizzie Lemony Carrot Cake!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bodacious red wine chocolate blackberry cake

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Juicy blackberries from our berry farm, red wine and chocolate give this cake a rich flavour punch.

The blackberries are the last of our berry crops and one of the most beautiful. Their size and juiciness is a marvel enjoyed by us and our bear visitors so picking as soon as they are ripe is important. This very Naramata cake recipe combines our berries with red wine and was a perfect late summer cake for my good pal Janet’s birthday.

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Succulent blackberries before picking.
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Mis en place for the red wine cake with my new antique cupboard from Arundel, England in the background.

Lips that touch wine will never touch mine. Come on, who wrote that nonsense. I suppose they don’t like cake or chocolate either.

I sent The Handyman off to the Naramata store for a bottle of red with a good price point for it’s cake ingredient fate and he came back with a $10 bottle which I was worried was too good to be true…even for a cake. Surprisingly, Bodacious was pretty darn good in the cake and in the chef’s glass.

This recipe makes one three-layer 6-inch cakes that served our party of 10 perfectly with no left-overs.

Red wine cake

  • 1  1/2 all purpose flour
  • 1/2 plus 1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder (I like Droste, amazing chocolate…)
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter at room temperature (never skip the room temperature step…if you don’t have time…put the butter in a bowl in a warm water bath in your sink to soften it up)
  • 1  1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 cup full-bodied red wine

Pre-heat the oven to 350F and grease and flour three 6-inch cake pans and set aside. I did it the hard way and used my one and only 6-inch pan and made the cake in three batches.

Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium until smooth. Add the sugar and mix on medium-high until the butter is light and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Stop the mixer and scrape the bowl.

Turn the mixer to low and add the flour mixture in three batches, alternating with the red wine, while taking sips from your wine glass in between, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Mix on medium for no more than 30 seconds.

Evenly divide the batter among the prepared pans and bake for 23 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of the cakes comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack for 10 to 15 minutes before removing the cakes from their pans.

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Blackberry ganache ingredients.

Blackberry ganache

  • 3 cups whole fresh blackberries
  • 2 tbs granulated sugar
  • 1 cup chopped good quality bittersweet chocolate
  • 3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted

Place the blackberries and granulated sugar in a saucepan. Heat over medium-high until the berries start to break down and expel their juices, about 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and strain the juice through a fine-mesh sieve set over a bowl. Discard the solids.

Place the chocolate in a heat-safe bowl and set aside. Reheat 6 tablespoons of the blackberry juice in the saucepan until it begins to simmer (reserve the remaining blackberry juice for finishing the cake). The simmering juice smells amazing p.s. Pour the hot juice over the chocolate. Let sit for 30 seconds, then whisk until combined. Set aside until the ganache cools to room temperature but is still spreadable.

Once the ganache has cooled, whisk to loosen it and stir in the confectioners’ sugar until smooth.

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A Naramata evening walk while the cake cools. This view of the lake is on our regular walking route. Never gets old.

Some assembly required

Once the cakes have cooled completely, level them and choose which layer will at the bottom. Generously brush the layers with the remaining blackberry juice. Place the bottom layer on a cake plate or serving dish. Spread about 1/3 cup of the blackberry ganache with an offset spatula. Top with the next layer of cake and repeat with the ganache, finishing with the final layer. Frost the top and sides of the cake with remaining ganache and top with the whole blackberries.

Review

This is an excellent cake from a few standpoints. It’s relatively easy to make as the filling between the layers and the icing is one recipe. It looks great with the blackberry topping and doesn’t involve mad piping skills. Verdict on the taste was a 10 at the party it was served at…”rich, moist, earthy and chocolatey”. I will make this one again.

This recipe comes from fellow Canadian’s Tessa Huff’s amazing book, Layered. Every cake I’ve made from this book has been stellar. Her easy to follow instructions will make you a better baker. As Tessa says, “layer cakes are the ideal vehicle for both creative expression and deliciousness…And let’s fact it — everyone loves a layer cake…It’s time to toss the cake mix and canned frosting and reach the height of your cake-baking potential!” Cheers to that.

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