Sunday, September 12, 2010

Chocolate Cake with Coffee Meringue Buttercream

The icing is so good that I wish I could slice each one of you a piece of this cake, right here, right now.

It is my favorite of the three cakes I made for Jeffrey's birthday.

For the cake, I made one from a mix - devil's food, I think. It was good - chocolately and tender.

This buttercream is heaven - satin. It's rich and very buttery but not so very sweet. It's the bomb.

The recipe from Rose Levy Berenbaum's The Cake Bible.

Coffee-Flavored Classic Buttercream

6 large egg yolks
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
2 cups unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla

2 tablespoons instant espresso powder or instant coffee, dissolved in 1 teaspoon of boiling water

Have ready a greased 1 cup heatproof glass measure near the range.

In a bowl beat the yolks with an electric mixer until light in color.

Meanwhile, combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan (preferably with a nonstick lining) and heat, stirring constantly, until the sugar dissolves and the syrup is boiling. Stop stirring and boil to the soft-ball stage (238 degrees). Immediately transfer the syrup to the glass measure to stop the cooking.

If using an electric hand-held mixer, beat the syrup into the yolks in a steady stream. Don’t allow syrup to fall on the beaters or they will spin it onto the sides of a bowl. If using a stand mixer, pour a small amount of syrup over the yolks with the mixer turned off. Immediately beat at high speed for 5 seconds. Stop the mixer and add a larger amount of syrup. Beat at high speed for 5 seconds. Continue with the remaining syrup. For the last addition, use a rubber scraper to remove the syrup clinging to the glass measure. Continue beating until completely cool.

Gradually beat in the butter. Then add the vanilla and finally, the coffee. Place it in an airtight bowl. Bring to room temperature before using. Rebeat to restore texture.

The icing can be made ahead. It will keep at room temperature for six hours, refrigerated for one week, and can be frozen for eight months. And let me tell you: I had icing leftover so it will go in the freezer. I will be dreaming up ways to use it, besides sticking my face into the container and eating it all.

Coconut Cake

This is what Jeffrey wanted as dessert following his birthday dinner of lasagne on Saturday with the family.

1 (18.25-ounce) package white cake mix
2 eggs
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup cream of coconut
1 (8-ounce) container sour cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour (or use butter, parchment paper, and more butter) two eight- or nine-inch cake pans. Or two six-inch cake pans plus about a dozen cupcake rounds.

Combine all ingredients and mix for two minutes. Pour into prepared pans and bake according to package directions.

Cool cakes in pans for 10 minutes, then turn out onto wire racks to cool completely. At this point, I split the layers in two (because the more layers, the more frosting in between), wrapped them well and put them in the freezer for a week.

8 ounces of cream cheese, at room temperature
1 stick butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons cream of coconut (there should be just that much left in the can, if not, use milk)
4 cups confectioners sugar
shredded coconut*

Unlike last time, we could not get our hands on a fresh coconut. Instead, we got dried, unsweetened coconut from Fresh Market. We freshened it up by making a simple syrup of sugar and water and pouring it over the dried coconut. It got plump and sweet.

To assemble:
I toasted a couple of cups of the dried coconut at about 325 degrees, watching it v-e-r-y closely, and stirring often.

I spread icing on a cake layer and topped it with the sweetened coconut.

And repeated, until all four layers were stacked.

I frosted the sides of the cake and then the top with the remaining icing.

Per request, I pressed the toasted coconut into the sides of the cake. This way, it looks like the famed coconut cake at The Peninsula Grill in Charleston, South Carolina.

German Chocolate Cake

This the cake pictured here on the right, a tower of chocolate, pecans, and coconut.

The Husband's birthday was Tuesday. I asked him what he wanted for dessert on his birthday-birthday (as opposed to last Saturday's birthday celebration in Starkville and this past Saturday's birthday celebration at home with family). He asked for German Chocolate Cake.

I found this recipe online. It bears a striking ressemblance to the one printed on the box of Baker's sweet chocolate.

1/2 cup water
4 (1 ounce) squares German sweet
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups white sugar
4 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk
2 1/2 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 egg whites

1 cup white sugar
1 cup evaporated milk
1/2 cup butter
3 egg yolks, beaten
1 1/3 cups flaked coconut
1 cup chopped pecans
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon shortening
1 (1 ounce) square semi-sweet chocolate

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Grease and flour three 9-inch round pans. For my cake, I baked it in two 6-inch cake pans and used the leftover batter to make German chocolate cupcakes. Winner!

I buttered the bottom of the cake pans, then lined them with parchment paper circles and buttered them, too. Probably overkill but I've had that sickening feeling that comes from turning a cake out and half of it plop out and the other half stick to the pan. Parchment paper helps ensure that doesn't happen.

Sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt.

In a small saucepan, heat water and 4 ounces chocolate until melted. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

In a large bowl, cream 1 cup butter and 2 cups sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in 4 egg yolks, one at a time. Blend in the melted chocolate mixture and vanilla. Beat in 1/3 of the flour mixture. Add half of the buttermilk and stir. Add another third of the flour mixture, the rest of the buttermilk, and then the rest of the flour mixutre, mixing until just combined.

In a large glass or metal mixing bowl, beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold 1/3 of the whites into the batter, then quickly fold in remaining whites until no streaks remain.

Pour batter into prepared pans. Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes*, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Allow to cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then turn out onto wire rack.

*The cupcakes took about 25 minutes or so to bake. Honestly, I can't remember how long the six-inch cakes took. I baked them until the batter was just beginning to pull away from the pans.

After the cakes were cool, I split both layers in half, so that there would be more layers to separate with lots of that pecan-coconut filling.

To make the Filling: In a saucepan combine 1 cup sugar, evaporated milk, 1/2 cup butter, and 3 egg yolks. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly until thickened, which takes way longer than it should. Remove from heat. Stir in coconut, pecans and vanilla. Cool until thick enough to spread.

Spread filling between layers and on top of cake. In a small saucepan, melt shortening and 1 ounce of chocolate. Stir until smooth and drizzle down the sides of the cake.

I laid it on thick - the filling, I mean. I still had some leftover, which I topped a few of the cupcakes with.

The Birthday Boy liked it!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Parmesan Roasted Broccoli with Pine Nuts

I first saw this recipe at Ezra Pound Cake. It's a weeknight staple.

Adapted from Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics – Ina Garten

1 (12-oz) bag of broccoli florets
3 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon lemon or lime zest
4 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, freshly grated
1 tablespoon basil, julienned
Salt and pepper to season

Toast the pine nuts in a dry skillet over medium heat until they are lightly toasted. It takes only a few minutes so stay close.

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Place the broccoli in a single layer on a baking sheet. Drizzle with a tablespoon or two of olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 15 to 20 minutes.

Remove the broccoli from the oven and toss with lemon zest, remaining olive oil, pine nuts, and chopped basil.

Serves about 4. I add any leftovers to a salad the next day.