Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Cream-Filled Vanilla Cupcakes With Strawberry Buttercream


The flu hit our house like a ton of bricks this week and it hasn't been fun. Lily turned into a snot-machine (a cute snot machine, but still!) and all mama and daddy could do was pass each other some Kleenex and Theraflu and snuggle in bed all day long singing her favorite songs off-key.

Cups getting ready to be filled with sweet cupcaky batter
Lovely domes

Oh, and during those magic times when the drugs kicked in, we baked cupcakes. The cupcakes weren't actually for us, though. They went to a bridal shower for my sister's best friend, whom I've known since she was four years old. Sometimes, when I look at her, all grown up, engaged, almost married, I still see the four year old who helped me tease my sister mercilessly. (Well, she still does that. Good to know that some things don't change, huh!) So when I promised to bake her some cupcakes, I knew that these had to be special. I picked a simple Martha Stewart recipe for cupcakes, but then -- oh, then! -- I filled them with rich pastry cream and topped them with even richer strawberry buttercream made with fresh strawberries and the best butter I could find. Oh YEAH.

Guess who gets to eat the doughnut holes... :)

What can I tell you? These were really good! Actually, people at the bridal shower were asking my sister (I couldn't go - damn flu!) whether I had quit my job at the law firm to open a cupcake shop. Hehehe. The cupcakes had a nice, light crumb, and weren't too sweet - which is exactly what I was looking for. It's a great basic cupcake recipe that lets you play with fillings and toppings. I definitely recommend it!

Vanilla Cupcakes
(Makes 24 cupcakes) [made about 27 for me, but I didn't overfill]
(Martha Stewart)

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups milk
Pastry Cream (I used the Tartine recipe for light pastry cream)
Strawberry Buttercream (recipe below)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two standard 12-cup muffin tins with paper liners; set aside. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl; set aside. Cream butter and sugar on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs, 1 at a time, mixing well after each egg. Add vanilla. Reduce speed to medium. Mix in 3 batches of flour mixture, alternating with 2 batches of milk. Raise speed to medium-high; mix until thoroughly blended, 10 to 20 seconds.

Fill each muffin cup about 3/4 full with batter. Bake until a cake tester inserted into centers comes out clean, about 17 minutes. Let cool in tin on wire racks 10 minutes. Remove cupcakes from tin and decorate.

If filling with cream, use a small spoon or the tip of a knife to make a small hole in the center of each cupcake, going about half way through the cupcake. Fill the hole with cream and then pipe buttercream on top.

Strawberry Buttercream
2 sticks (16 tbsp) of butter, room temperature
1 cup strawberries, pureed (I measured out the strawberries first and then pureed them)
3-4 cups powdered sugar

Cream the butter in the mixer on medium-high speed for about 3 minutes. On slow speed, gradually add about 2 cups of powdered sugar and turn back up to high for a few minutes to really incorporate the sugar. Turn to slow speed again and fold in the strawberries. Add more sugar until desired consistency is achieved. Once all the sugar is incorporated, turn to medium-high for a few minutes to mix well.

Continued after the jump...

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Kahlua Chocolate Chocolate Chip Bundt Cake


So it turns out that babies are kind of needy (who knew?!) and it took this mama a whole five and a half months to get back into the kitchen. I assure you, nothing less than the promise of alcohol and chocolate could have done it, both alcohol and chocolate being essential parts of the unofficial "Mommy Survival Pack." Earplugs and grandparents are also part of that pack, in case you were wondering. (haha, hi Mom and Dad!)


I have to warn you right off the bat - this cake uses *sounds of horror* the Dreaded Cake Mix of Dread. So, if you are a cake purist, avert your eyes now! Before I had a kid, I swore that I'd never use cake mix, but when your little helper insists on eating your utensils, it's either that or no cake at all, and believe me when I tell you that this cake is so worth it. The recipe comes courtesy of a fancy restaurant in LA which my mom and I went to on one of my "leave the baby to fend for herself with Daddy" excursions. I generally don't ask for recipes from chefs, especially at nice restaurants, because it feels somehow very personal, like asking to see someone's diary. Yet, this cake was so deliciously rich, with just the right undertones of coffee and liqueur enveloping your taste buds in moist, silky, slightly bitter chocolaty heaven, that I braved my own shyness and asked. The pastry chef actually came out to us and we chatted for a while, and she hand wrote this recipe for me. Frankly, I was amazed at her graciousness and warmth as she talked about the recipe, the restaurant and herself to two total strangers. I guess that experience adds a special richness to this cake, because being given something as a gift elevates it from a merely excellent cake to a lovely memory.


Kahlua Chocolate Chocolate Chip Bundt Cake
(makes 1 bundt cake, 2 9" round cakes or 24 cupcakes)

1 box Duncan Hines Devil's Food Cake mix (or any other chocolate cake mix)
3 eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 cup (8 oz) full fat sour cream
1 cup Kahlua
8 oz bittersweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350F and butter a bundt cake pan really well.

In a large mixer bowl, combine cake mix, eggs, vegetable oil, sour cream and Kahlua. Mix on slow speed for 30 seconds and then on medium-fast for 2 minutes.

Stir in chocolate chips.

Bake for 45-60 min for bundt cake; 25-35 min for 9" cakes; 20-25 min for cupcakes. Check that a tester comes out clean or with only a few crumbs attached. It's ok to slightly underbake this cake, but do not overbake.

Continued after the jump...

Saturday, August 28, 2010

One Bowl Chocolate Cupcakes


I think some of the best gifts I've ever gotten were food. Cocoa powder from Belgium, boxes of golden raisins, freshly baked bread. I love it all. And it's not because I consider myself a "foodie" or a connoisseur of the finer things in life. It's because I'm picky and also practical, and food is something I can always find use for and appreciate. In turn, I love giving food because I've seen people's faces light up at the sight of a chocolate tart or a loaf of cinnamon raisin bread. There is something personal about food, something very primal that speaks to our inner humanity. It's no wonder that the first thing guests are offered in many cultures as soon as they cross the threshold is something to eat. Well, a martini is good too, but you get my point.


So when I'm asked to create party favors, I immediately think of food because hey, we can all use a cupcake once in a while, right? I was a tad skeptical about making chocolate cupcakes with only cocoa powder, but these turned out just lovely. Valhrona cocoa powder gives them a perfectly dark, indulgently chocolaty flavor, and the soft crumb and flat heads are just waiting to be topped with rich buttercream and devoured on the spot. Which is what we did with a few "test" cupcakes ("Oh, look, this one isn't perfect enough to go in the box - now, we have to eat it! Darn!"). Also, magic words: ONE BOWL. There's really no downside to these cupcakes and the biggest upside is that the guests truly loved them and almost everyone asked to take more than one so they could share with their spouses, kids and grandkids. It's the biggest compliment a cook/baker could get!


One Bowl Chocolate Cupcakes
(from Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook)
Yields 24 cupcakes

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups dutch-process cocoa powder
2 1/2 cups sugar
2 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1 1/4 tsp salt
2 large eggs, plus 1 large egg yolk
1 1/4 cups whole milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil, plus 2 tablespoons
1 1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups warm water

Preheat oven to 350F and line or spray two standard 12-cup muffin pans.

Sift into the mixer bowl: flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add the eggs, yolk, milk, oil, vanilla and warm water.

Beat with a paddle attachment on low speed until smooth and combined, about 3 minutes; scrape down the sides of the bowl if needed.

Divide batter evenly among the muffin cups (my batter was pretty liquid, so I used a measuring cup to pour it out into the muffin cups).

Bake, rotating pans halfway through the baking time, until a cake tester inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool in the pan for a little bit and then transfer onto a wire rack or board to cool completely. Frost with swiss meringue buttercream!

Cupcakes can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days (or frozen for a few months).

*I ordered the cupcake boxes from here.
*Labels: I adapted the sign and the labels from the amazingly creative and talented Amy from the Eat Drink Chic blog. I printed them out on full sheet shipping labels and cut them out. If anyone wants the template, send me an email and I can make it available.

Continued after the jump...

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Everyday Bread

Everyday bread

There is an undeniable mystique around bread baking. So many unfamiliar terms, so many techniques, starters, proportions, secrets that have been passed down through generations. It's intimidating, to say the least, and it kept me from baking bread until about a year ago.

Everyday bread

Thankfully, there are lots of places to start for a yeast noob like me. Kind of like this bread, which is pretty much full proof (or fool proof). My friend Gabe, who is Italian, brought this over to a BBQ recently and we couldn't get enough, and when I got the recipe, I was floored by how easy it was to make. I couldn't help making one little change, though - I brushed the bread with a mix of olive oil, garlic and herbs, which gave it a crispy, garlicky crust that's impossible to resist. This is truly a bread you can make every day - and should make every day because it's dang good.

Everyday bread
Everyday bread

Gabe's Everyday Bread

400 g all purpose flour***
1 tsp salt
240 g water at 115F
1 tsp active yeast
1 tablespoon honey

For topping:
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon dried Italian herb mix

***Flour: using the right flour for bread-making really does matter. I know, because I started off using cheaper flour and when I switched to a better brand, I could really taste the difference. So, even though I generally avoid giving brand recommendations, I'm going to break my own rule here and tell you that for bread, I almost always use the King Arthur brand of flour.

Whisk flour and salt in a mixer bowl. Heat water to 115F and add yeast and honey.

Pour the water mixture into the flour and knead with the dough hook for 5-10 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic. It shouldn't be very sticky - if it is, knead in a bit more flour until the dough is still soft and only very slightly sticky.

Rub or spray a large bowl with olive oil and put the dough inside, turning it to coat with oil. Cover and let rise in a warm, draft free place until doubles in size (about an hour).

Preheat the oven to 450F.

Turn the dough out onto a floured counter and shape into a loaf (I made mine round).

Combine olive oil, crushed garlic and herbs, and brush the bread with about 3/4 of the mixture.

Place the loaf in a cast iron, a dutch oven or a baking sheet (I also put a layer of wax paper sprayed with olive oil under the bread) and bake for about 30 minutes. The crust should be a deep golden color and the bread should sound hollow when tapped from the side.

Immediately upon taking the bread out of the oven, brush again with the olive oil/garlic mixture and let cool to room temperature. Enjoy!

Continued after the jump...

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Tomato Goat Cheese Tarts in an Herb Parmesan Crust


I have to give myself a budget at the farmer's market because I tend to go a little crazy there in the summer. It's all the smells, you see, and the colors that make me lose my head - the tiny red strawberries and the golden blush of peaches and apricots, side by side with boxes of fragrant basil, shiny yellow squash and sweet peppers. Everything calls out to me, the asparagus and the big white leeks, home-made hummus, local goat cheese and honeys, and humble cucumbers, not nearly as straight or perfect as at the supermarkets and therefore more beautiful. But the one thing that I can never pass by are tomatoes. Summer tomatoes, to be specific. They are a story onto themselves.


As soon as I saw these, I knew that they must be made into mini tarts for our lunch today. I could almost taste them, sweet and juicy and warm from the oven, encased in a buttery Parmesan and herb crust.


The crust is not difficult to make at all, do not be afraid of it. The whole wheat flour and the Parmesan take it to another level, and the smell of it as you are making it, and as it's coming out of the oven is kind of insane. I mean, you want to stop right there and just break off the crunchy, herby pieces that give off that unmistakable and irresistible scent of toasted cheese. But then you top them off with the goat cheese and the tomatoes, and add a bit of really good salt, and you'll be just so, so happy that you waited for the whole thing to come together. A nice glass of cold, crisp wine finishes these off perfectly, and though I was not able to enjoy them in exactly that way, it did not for one second detract from their deliciousness.


Tomato Goat Cheese Tarts in an Herb Parmesan Crust
Makes one 9-10" tart or four 4" mini tarts

Pate Brisee
1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 stick (8 tbsp) unsalted butter, chilled or frozen
2 tbsp grated Parmesan
1 tbsp dried Italian herbs (mine were a mix of oregano, basil and thyme)
2-4 tbsp ice water

4 oz goat cheese, softened
1/8-1/4 cup milk
1 lb (or thereabouts) of assorted tomatoes
1 tbsp chopped basil
salt and pepper

To make the crust:

Whisk flours, salt, Parmesan and herbs together in a large bowl. Cut butter into small squares and scatter on top of the dry ingredients. With a pastry cutter, quickly cut the butter into the dry ingredients until the biggest pieces are no larger than a small pea. Dribble in water, one tablespoon at a time, until the dough holds together when pinched. Refrigerate for ten minutes.

Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured counter and press together into a ball. [At this point, you can wrap it in plastic and refrigerate for an hour to let the flour absorb the water, but I didn't do this because I wanted a press in crust. If you like rolling out your crusts, refrigerate for an hour and then roll it out.]

If making mini tartlets, divide the dough into four pieces. If not, keep it in one piece. Spray or butter the tart pans and, working quickly so that the pieces of butter don't melt, press the crumbly dough into the pans. Refrigerate.

Heat the oven to 375F. Press parchment paper into the tart pans and fill with beans/rice/baking weights. Pierce the bottom of each crust several times with a fork. Bake for about 20-30 minutes, until the crusts are beginning to turn golden. Cool for 10 minutes.

While the crusts are baking, make the filling:

Put the goat cheese into a small bowl and add milk gradually until the mixture is roughly the consistency of sour cream. Slice the tomatoes and basil.

When the tart crusts are done, divide the goat cheese mixture between them and top with tomatoes. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and chopped basil. Bake for another 30 minutes.

I like these warm!

Continued after the jump...

Friday, June 25, 2010

Small Batch Peach Jam


Sometimes, it only takes half an hour for magic to happen in the kitchen. It took only half an hour for these gorgeous, but sadly hum-drum tasting peaches to be transformed into the multi-layered, golden deliciousness of peach jam. If I hadn't prepared it myself, I would not have believed that such a transformation was possible, aided only by some lemon juice, sugar and a few drops of vanilla and almond extracts - but indeed, it happened, and I'm here to tell you that I've found the answer to all that sad, tasteless fruit that all of us come across but feel too guilty to throw away.


I have to admit that real jam-making isn't (yet) for me. The thought of buying up large quantities of fruit, simmering it in a large pot (which must feel a bit like a Macbeth witch, I'm imagining) and then *shudder* sterilizing the cans properly just really freaks me out. This, however - this is easy peasy. Let's say that, like me, the peaches you bought aren't all that you thought they would be. Or you found some strawberries in the back of the refrigerator that look like they've seen better days. You just take this neglected fruit, add some lemon juice, sugar and some extracts, simmer a bit on the stove and watch the magic happen. I promise you, it's a darn good show.


Small Batch Peach Jam
Adapted from David Leite

4-5 cups of thinly sliced peaches or other fruit
1/2 - 3/4 cup sugar, depending on how sweet the fruit is
Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract

Slice peaches thinly and, in a large bowl, combine with lemon juice, sugar and extracts. Stir to dissolve sugar and leave in the refrigerator to macerate overnight [I left mine in there for an hour].

Drain out all the juices into a heavy-bottomed sauce pan. Add half the fruit, bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 15 minutes, until the juices are just thickened.

Cool it down for 10 minutes, then transfer to a food processor or blender and puree until smooth.

Transfer back to the pan and add the rest of the fruit. Bring back to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer gently for another 15-20 minutes. To test if the jam is ready, drop a heaping teaspoonful onto a plate and slightly tilt the plate. The jam should not run off, but cling and slowly glide down. If the jam isn’t ready, put it back on the heat for a while.

Spoon the jam into small jars and refrigerate or spoon into resealable plastic containers and freeze. You need to keep it in the fridge and use it up fairly quickly [but I guarantee that this will not be a problem - it's DELICIOUS].

Continued after the jump...

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Quick Chocolate Buttercream


I totally had birthday cake for breakfast this morning. You see, when you are the birthday girl, you are practically forced into doing that by the last errant slice of birthday cake that your mom tucked away in the fridge, knowing that you'd want it later on. I know, my mom is the best. Surprisingly, though, I'm not here to talk about cake. If you want a really fabulous dark chocolate cake, this one is my favorite, but you probably knew that already. What I'm going to tell you about is the buttercream.


Silky, smooth, luscious, lovely chocolate buttercream. Holy cow, this one is for the books! And it's the quick kind, meaning no heating up egg whites, no worrying whether they will whip up or not, no curdling and ensuing tears, and if you've ever made Swiss Meringue buttercream, you know exactly what I'm talking about. Forget all other quick buttercreams you've ever known, guys. Break up with them and never look back. This one is Mr. Right.


There is a reason it works, of course. First, you do a bit of whipping, and then you add unsweetened cocoa powder and powdered sugar very very slowly, so that the butter has a chance to incorporate all that goodness. Then, you whip some more. Ta-daa! Lick-the-bowl good. Oh, yes, yes it is.


Quick Chocolate Buttercream
Frosts 24 cupcakes or a 2 layer 9" round/8" square cake
(I found the proportions online somewhere, but I don't remember where, sorry...)

2 sticks (1 cup) butter, room temperature [I use very lightly salted butter; if you use unsalted, you can add a pinch of salt to bring out the chocolate flavor]
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder [My favorite is Valhrona dutch processed for a little bitterness]
1/2 cup whole milk
3-4 cups of powdered sugar (more or less to achieve desired consistency)

Whip the room-temperature butter on medium speed with the paddle attachment for 2-3 minutes. Shift to low and add cocoa powder slowly, one teaspoon at a time, until fully incorporated. Still on low, add in the powdered sugar (also one teaspoon at a time), alternating with the milk, to achieve desired consistency and taste. Then, beat on medium speed until very light and fluffy, another 3-5 minutes. Add in more sugar if consistency is too thin.

[tip: to make a clean cut in a cake, put it in the refrigerator for an hour to let the cake and frosting harden a little. Then slice with a very sharp cake or bread knife, wiping the knife with a damp paper towel after each cut.]

Continued after the jump...

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Perfect Breakfast Muffin

Breakfast carrot muffins

For some time now, I've been on a quest to discover the perfect breakfast muffin. Though I love the rich, buttery taste of a good cafe muffin as much as the next girl, and much more so with a good sprinkling of streusel and sparkly sugar on top, I don't want to eat this every day. Maybe I've grown up (oh, these dreaded words) and maybe I've just become more picky about what I put in my body and when, but for breakfast, I want something that's not only good, but also that's good for me.

Breakfast carrot muffins

People, oh, people. These are the proverbial IT. When I took the first hot muffin out of the oven, soft and sweet-smelling, deeply golden and flecked with dark, jewel-like nuggets of cranberries, and when I took that first bite, chasing it with a cool gulp of fresh milk, I had to sit down for a moment because I was a little overwhelmed by how much I loved these.

Breakfast carrot muffins

It's the whole package, the earthiness of whole-wheat flour, the complex not-too-sweet sweetness of brown sugar, and that smell - the homey, vanilla-y, spicy smell of a freshly baked muffin. It got to me. I'm sold. Bring it on. (In the interest of full disclosure, I have to tell you that I immediately ate three. These are addictive, especially when warm.)

Breakfast carrot muffins

The Perfect Breakfast Muffin
Hacked quite a bit from Gourmet, May 1998
Makes 18 muffins

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole-wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cups sugar (1/3 brown, 1/3 white)
1/4 pound carrots (about 2/2.5 cups, coarsely shredded)
1/2 cup pecans, roughly chopped
1/2 cup raisins, dried cranberries, dried cherries or chopped dried apricots
3 large eggs
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup plain yogurt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 large apple (coarsely shredded) [I used Gala]

Preheat oven to 350°F. and butter or line eighteen muffin cups.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt, and then whisk in the sugars.

Coarsely shred the carrots and chop the pecans. Add the carrots, pecans and dried fruit to the flour mixture and toss well.

In another bowl, whisk together the eggs, oil, yogurt and vanilla extract. Peel and core the apple and coarsely shred. Stir the shredded apple into the egg mixture and then add to the flour mixture, stirring until batter is just combined well and there aren't any large dry spots.

Divide batter among muffin cups and bake until puffed and golden and the tester comes out clean, 15-20 minutes (I had to bake for 25).

Cool muffins in cups on racks 5 minutes before turning out onto racks to cool completely. Muffins keep in an airtight container at room temperature 5 days [I also flash freeze mine in a tray and then drop into a large freezer bag so I can take one out for breakfast every day].

Continued after the jump...

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Baked Frittata

Baked frittata

I feel guilty that I haven't told you about this frittata yet, not just because I make it all the time, but because it's so easy, so delicious and so infinitely adaptable, that everyone should have something like it in their bag of tricks. I pull this particular one out when I have eight ten twelve guests for brunch (even if one of them is a small itty bitty person) and I don't want to spend the whole day in the kitchen in preparation for the event. Don't get me wrong, I love my guests... but this weather - this warm, lovely, springy weather that brings hints of honeysuckle and strawberries in the air - is tempting me to spend time outside, and so something has to give. Fortunately, in the case of this frittata, it's definitely not taste.

Baked frittata

There's really nothing to it - you break 12 eggs into a big bowl, add in some whole milk and a pinch of salt, pepper and whatever herbs you have lying around, and pour the whole thing over fresh-from-the-market vegetables (or not, I won't tell), sprinkle a handful of cheese on top, stick the whole thing in the oven and forget about it for an hour or so until the guests arrive. It bakes up tender and golden, warm and a little crusty on top and around the edges. It's also especially irresistible during a Sunday brunch, when the sun is pouring into the windows and Louis Armstrong is playing on the radio. Mimosas help too, but don't tell my mom I'm advising it.

Baked Frittata (with spinach, cheddar and cherry tomatoes)
serves 10-12

Needless to say, you can throw whatever herbs, vegetables and cheeses into the mix. Sundried tomatoes, asparagus and goat cheese might be nice, as would sauteed leeks and gruyere. A handful of chopped green onions would be really great too. I like to throw in a bit of chopped parseley and dill or sprinkle in some herbes de Provence for an added fragrance and freshness, but the whole point of this dish is that you should follow your own imagination and make it any way you want.

12 eggs
1 1/2 - 2 cups whole milk
1 lb spinach, stems removed (or use organic frozen chopped spinach, defrosted)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
a large handful of grated cheese (cheddar, gruyere, mozarella, etc)
handful of chopped parseley and dill
1 teaspoon salt

Turn the oven to 400F. Butter a 9"x13" pan.

If using fresh spinach: melt a tablespoon of butter in a skillet, chop the spinach and sautee it with garlic for several minutes until wilted and soft. Squeeze out excess liquid. If using frozen: defrost and squeeze out excess liquid, then mix in the garlic.

Spread spinach in the bottom of the 9x13 pan. Halve the cherry tomatoes and scatter them on top of the spinach. Scatter the parseley and dill on top as well.

Break 12 eggs into a large bowl and whisk with the milk, the salt and the pepper until fully combined.

Pour over the vegetables. Some will float - that's ok - in fact, it's good. Grab a large handful of grated cheddar (or other cheese of your preference) and scatter on top of the eggs.

Set into the oven and bake until golden and completely set in the middle, about 60-70 minutes (jiggle to make sure - an extra 5-10 minutes in the oven won't kill it).

Continued after the jump...

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Nutty, Chocolaty, Swirly Sour Cream Bundt Cake

Nutty, Chocolaty, Swirly Sour Cream Bundt Cake

There is a reason I come back to Dorie Greenspan's "Baking" again and again. It's not only because the recipes are simple, easy to understand, charming and delicious. On a basic level, I love this book because the recipes always work. After a disaster with [unnamed magazine]'s recipe for cookies which looked and tasted like cardboard, and chocolate ganache which was so sweet that I had to throw away the whole batch (throw away a batch of cookies! nooo!), I felt in need of some therapy, so I sidled up to "Baking," stroked the cover lovingly and opened it to the bundt cake page.

INutty, Chocolaty, Swirly Sour Cream Bundt Cake

Now, there was no photo of this bund cake in the book. I think it was a deliberate ploy to give your imagination room to run free, because when I saw the name, "Nutty, chocolaty, swirly sour cream bundt cake," my mind kind of exploded into bliss and I had to take a moment to calm myself down before running to the kitchen to take the butter out of the refrigerator.

Nutty, Chocolaty, Swirly Sour Cream Bundt Cake

Holy bundt cake, GOOD LORD YES. This cake was everything I had dreamt of and more. I used to think that bundt cakes were dry and boring, in need of coffee or tea to choke them down. The error of my ways is clear to me now. Dry? Boring??? This cake is anything but. The smell alone is enough to drive anyone crazy, and the taste, with the orange and the sour cream and the chocolate and the pecans/raisins/cinnamon trifecta, and mmmmm..... so much happiness.

Nutty, Chocolaty, Swirly Sour Cream Bundt Cake

Nutty, Chocolaty, Swirly Sour Cream Bundt Cake
Dorie Greenspan's Baking

The Swirl
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (or 1/3 c. mini chocolate chips)
1/3 cup plump moist raisins (dark or golden, or may use dried currants)
2 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
freshly grated nutmeg, a pinch
salt, a pinch

The Cake
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 orange, zest of
8 ounces butter, at room temperature (2 sticks)
2 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup sour cream
powdered sugar, for dusting

Position oven rack in center; preheat oven to 350°; butter a 9- to 10-inch Bundt pan, dust the interior with flour and tap out the excess; do not place the Bundt pan on a baking sheet.

Make the swirl: add all the ingredients to a bowl; stir to mix.

Make the cake: whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a bowl. Working in the bowl of a stand mixer, rub the sugar and zest together with your fingers until the sugar is moist and aromatic. Add in the butter; with the paddle or whisk attachment beat on medium speed for 4 minutes.

Add in eggs one at a time, beat for 1 minute after each egg goes inches. Beat in the vanilla; decrease mixer speed to low and mix in the sour cream. Still on low speed, add in the dry ingredients and mix only until they disappear into the batter.

Give the batter a last stir or two with a rubber spatula, then scoop about 1/3 of the batter into the Bundt pan. Evenly sprinkle on half of the swirl mixture, then spoon in the rest of the batter. Make a shallow indentation with the back of a spoon in the center of the ring of batter and fill it with the remaining swirl mixture, then cover the mixture lightly with the batter on the sides of the indentation—the batter probably won’t cover the mixture completely and that is fine.

Bake for 60-65 minutes, or until a pick comes out clean.

Transfer pan to a rack and let the cake rest for 10 minutes before unmolding it onto the rack to cool to room temperature. Just before serving, dust the cake with powdered sugar.

Continued after the jump...