Goodcookbecky's Blog

Letting the juices of life (or food) drip from my chin!


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Mocha Chocolate Icebox Cake

img_3921Here is another easy dessert recipe.  It is Ina Garten’s Mocha Chocolate Icebox Cake (Barefoot Contessa Food Network)  I loved the ease of preparation.  While she recommends a specific brand of chocolate chip cookie, I used a generic crunch chocolate chip cookie (it softens overnight).  The dessert reminds me of Tiramisu.  No baking involved!  Icebox cakes are layers of cookies and whipped cream/cream cheese in a spring form cake form and refrigerated overnight. Next day simply cut around the cake and release the sides of the cake form.  Slice and enjoy!

Mocha Chocolate Icebox Cake

adapted from Ina Garten, Food Network

Serves 10

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups cold heavy whipping cream
  • 12 oz Mascarpone cheese
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup Kahlua
  • 2 Tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1 packet instant espresso coffee (like Starbucks brand instant coffee single)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 24 oz crisp chocolate chip cookies
  • shaved milk chocolate for garnish

Instructions:

In your mixing bowl, add whipping cream, mascarpone cheese, sugar, Kahlua, cocoa powder, instant espresso coffee, and vanilla extract.  With the whisk attachment mix the ingredients on low speed until combined; then increase to medium speed and whip until soft peaks form.

In the bottom of a 8 inch spring form cake pan, place a layer of chocolate chip cookies in the bottom of the cake pan.  Break cookies into smaller pieces to fill in any gaps.  Spread one fifth of the whip cream mixture over the top of the cookies all the way to the edge of the pan.  Repeat with cookies alternating with whipped cream until you have 5 layers of cookies and a fifth layer of whipped cream at the top.  Use a vegetable peeler to create chocolate shavings to top the whipped cream for garnish.  Cover the spring form pan with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator overnight.

Carefully cut around the edge of the spring form cake pan loosening the whipping cream from the edge.  Carefully open the form and remove the sides.

Cut the cake into 10 slices and serve.

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Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

IMG_8349My husband loves Pineapple Upside-Down Cake.  I recently made one in my cast iron skillet and it turned out great (other than the fact that I used a 12 inch skillet instead of a 10 inch the recipe called for, but it was still delicious – I had to reduce the cooking time as a result. ) I will be getting a 10 inch cast iron skillet soon, so I can make this correctly.  The recipe is from The King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion it is a real treasury for baking that I really recommend.  I have made a few recipes from this book and the Pineapple Upside-Down Cake is a keeper as well. (Amazon: The King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion)

I overdid it on Maraschino cherries.. but my family says there is no such thing!  I also omitted the nuts, but I will leave them in the recipe so you can decide if you want it in yours.  My husband said it was like the cake he remembers having as a child.

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

adapted from King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion p 376

Serves 10

Ingredients:

  • 5 Tbsp butter
  • 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 (16 oz) can pineapple rings, drained (juice reserved)
  • 12 to 16 maraschino cherries (or more … like the whole jar! minus the two you ate)
  • 16-20 pecan or walnut halves, optional
  • 1 cup unbleached all purpose flour, sifted
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup reserved pineapple juice
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 2/3 cup sugar

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Melt the butter in a 10 inch cast iron skillet (though I used a 12 inch and it turned out okay too… just reduced the cooking time, but the cake was very thin).  Sprinkle the dark brown sugar into the melted butter and place the pineapple on top.  Arrange the maraschino cherries inside the pineapple rings and additional gaps.  If you are also using nuts, place those in the gaps in addition to the cherries.

In a medium bowl, soft the flour, baking powder, and salt together.  Set aside.  Combine the pineapple juice and vanilla and set aside.

In a stand mixer, beat the eggs until they have thickened and are light in color.  Sprinkle in the sugar with the mixer running.  Add the pineapple juice mixture and slow the mixer down as you add the flour mixture to the batter gradually.  Mix at medium speed for about 1 minute.

Pour the batter over your pineapple rings and cherries.  Bake the cake for 45 minutes, or until the center is springy to the touch and the cake is pulling away from the sides of your cast iron skillet.  Remove it from the oven.  Then place a serving platter upside down on the skillet and carefully (with oven mitts!) invert the pan over the platter- allow the pan to stay over the cake for about 5 minutes or longer so that the sugar drips back down onto the cake.  The cake should have loosened enough from the pan to easily transfer to the plate leaving the beautiful pineapple rings exposed.  Slice into 10 wedges and serve.

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Strawberry Pound Cake

IMG_7259 Strawberry season has arrived in Southern California.  I stopped at a stand and picked up some beautiful berries.  This dessert is one of our favorites and is really simple to make!  My husband likes pound cake more than short cake, so this is our new Strawberry Short Cake. I agree it is better (and easier) to make.

Strawberry Pound Cake

Serves 6

  • 1 frozen family size pound cake, thawed
  • 1/2 stick of butter
  • 3 tsp sugar
  • fresh strawberries, washed, hulled and sliced or chopped
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • whipped cream

Instructions:

Place sliced strawberries in a bowl with 1/4 cup of sugar. Stir.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a few hours.

Slice the thawed pound cake into 12 equal slices. Heat a non stick skillet over medium heat.  Melt butter in the pan and place a few pound cake slices in the skillet.  Sprinkle the pound cake with sugar and turn over.  Sprinkle second side with sugar.  After the first side has browned, flip to brown second side.

To assemble: Place two slices of the grilled pound cake on a dessert plate. Spoon some strawberries over the pound cake. Top with whipped cream.

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Authentic Black Forest Cherry Cake

IMG_6893This is one recipe that has been on my “cooking bucket list” for years.  My Mom would make this cake for special occasions, and unusual ones too!  I think my all time favorite memory was the time I was returning to go to Bible School in England after having spent Christmas with my parents in NJ.  My flight was out of  John F Kennedy Airport in NY and my Aunt and Uncle who lived in Long Island at the time met up with us… on a day when  there had been a snow storm and all the flights  were delayed.  So here we were in the terminal of the airport eating Black Forest Cherry Cake and having a mini family reunion with jealous passengers looking on in curiosity!  Great memory!  My High School was located in Kandern, Germany and we sometimes were able to sample the cherries that grew in the Black Forest region.  I have fond memories of Europe and still love to eat the foods in that region. The German name for this torte is Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte.

I invited my friend Lori to learn to make this cake too.  I cook much more than I bake.  Baking is exact science and I have to wait for layers to cool before taking the next step and I am often about instant gratification!  Well, we had fun.  The cake was not perfect, but it was delicious!  This dessert is not overly sweet – I think we American’s use way too much sugar in our desserts.  It took us 3 hours start to finish, so it is not a cake you can just pull out of the hat for an event.  Plan ahead!  It really is best if you refrigerate the cake for 24 hours before cutting into it.  The layers will be well refined and the flavors of the kirschwasser will have worked its magic as well.  I did not have the patience to wait even an hour after making it, but had some left over the next day, so I really do have to say the 24 hours makes a lot of difference in the flavor and texture.

The layers consist of an almost cookie crust chocolate layer as the base, then cherries and whipped cream, then at least two (or if you are great at slicing 3)  layers of  chocolate sponge cake which are separated by more cherries and whipped cream. The entire cake is then  covered with more whipped cream that has gelatin as a thickener and topped with cherries and sprinkled with milk chocolate shavings.

My cherries spilled out of the layers and onto the base of the cake, so when I covered the cake with the coating of whipped cream the cream turned pink in color but it was still beautiful to look at.  When I encounter errors like this, I rename it rustic and it is all good!  Perfection is for the 4th time I make this! 😉  I used a 9 inch spring form pan to bake my cake, my friend Lori used a 10 inch. They both turned out great, but mine was a little taller and actually works a little better for this torte.  Though the original recipe called for a 10 inch.. use what you have.

Cherry Filling:

Image 4-12-14 at 4.10 PMI found Morello Cherries at Trader Joes (24 oz).  They are a product of Germany and are sweet with just a hint of tart. It is with light syrup and needed to be thickened.  I added 3 ounces of Kirschwasser (if you really cannot find any, use Rum).  To thicken, I combined 1 tablespoon of cornstarch with 2 tablespoons of cold water and added them to my pan with the cherries and kirschwasser.  Bring the mixture to a boil and cook for 30 seconds to a minute longer and the mixture has thickened.  Then transfer to a bowl and cool completely.  Before you use the cherry filling in the layers pull out 10-20 cherries to decorate the top of your torte.

You could use a cherry pie filling, but I find them to be overly sweet.

 

Bottom Chocolate Crust

Image 4-12-14 at 4.31 PMPreheat oven to 375°F.

Combine the dry ingredients and whisk them together: 3/4 cup flour, 2 Tablespoons cocoa, 1 teaspoon baking powder.

In a separate bowl, combine 1/3 cup melted unsalted butter, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and 1/3 cup sugar.

Combine the two mixtures together and make a thick dough.

Line a 9 inch spring-form pan with parchment paper. And press the dough into the bottom of the prepared pan.  Poke the dough with a fork and then bake for 15 minutes.

After it baked, allow it to cool in the pan for at least 15 minutes before removing it from the spring-form pan.  Carefully transfer to your plate. It may crack, but it will be okay. Be as careful as possible.

Here  is a picture of my baked crust:

IMG_6867 I allowed this to cool completely while I made the sponge cake layers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image 4-12-14 at 5.04 PMFor the Sponge Cake Layers:

Combine 4 egg yolks, 2 tablespoons warm water, 1/3 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla, 1/2 teaspoon almond flavoring and 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon.  Beat with an electric mixer until the egg yolks are pale.

Sift together dry ingredients: 2/3 cup flour, 1/3 cup cornstarch, 2 tablespoons cocoa powder and 1/2 teaspoon baking powder.

Whip the 4 egg whites with 1/3 cup of sugar until it is stiff.

First add the flour mixture to the egg yolks and combine and then fold the egg whites into the batter using a rubber spatula, about half the egg whites first and then the remaining half of the whipped egg whites after it is fairly well combined.

 

Image 4-12-14 at 5.21 PMPrepare the spring-form pan for the sponge cake by inserting parchment paper both on the bottom and the sides of the pan. I find that butter keeps it in place nicely and since it is outside the paper does not affect the cake any.

Pour the sponge cake batter in and spread it evenly in the pan.

Bake at 375°F for 25 to 30 minutes.  Cool in the pan for 15 minutes before removing it to a separate plate.  Once it cools completely, cut it horizontally into two layers. Try to cut them as evenly as possible.

For the Whipped Cream: Beat 2 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream with 1/2 cup powdered sugar.  When it is stiff, divide the whipped cream into two batches.  Use one half for the filling and the second half will be used for the topping, but is thickened with gelatin for extra stability.

1 1/2 packets of Knox Gelatin is combined with 2 tablespoons of water and brought to a boil and then cooled slightly and whipped into the second batch of whipped cream.

Now for the fun stuff: the assembly of your Black Forest Cherry cake.

Image 4-12-14 at 5.39 PMTop your cake base with half of the cherries.  Top the cherries with half of the whipped cream (that has not been stabilized with the gelatin).  Top with the bottom disk of the sponge cake and repeat by topping with the remaining half of cherries.  I should have not put as much of the thickened liquid.  It got a little sloppy… but a yummy sloppy, so I am okay with it.. remember if it is not perfect it is rustic!

 

 

 

Image 4-12-14 at 5.43 PMAdd the remaining whipped cream (not stabilized batch). Top with second layer of sponge cake.  Spread the stabilized whipped cream over the top and sides of the assembled cake. Mine should have been whipped just a tad longer, but it still worked okay.

Decorate with a circle of the reserved cherries.

 

 

IMG_6891 Then to finish decorating the torte, use a vegetable peeler and make chocolate curls by “peeling” a bar of milk chocolate over the cake.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_7221

It is best to let the cake set up in the refrigerator for a few hours before you slice into it. I am an impatient person though and was so excited to have made the cake that I could not wait to try it though. It turned out beautifully!

And it was as good as my Mom’s rendition too, which is a bonus.. now if only I could conjure up a snow storm and eat it in an airport!

 


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Tiramisu

If you are a coffee and chocolate lover like I am, then I am sure you are in LOVE with this popular Italian dessert.  Layered Mascarpone cheese mixture layered with coffee flavor induced lady finger cookies with a dusting of cocoa between the layers – a taste of heaven (I hope I can get it in heaven)!  Be sure to use really fresh eggs (yes they are used in the raw form – but so far I have not had any issues with it.)

As for lady fingers: Try to find the hard ones, but in a pinch you can use the soft ones (I did this time).  I found mine at Trader Joe’s, that is also where I bought my cheese.  I have a friend who has chickens and I lucked out with really really fresh eggs that way! It also has a little alcohol in it, so I don’t let my kids eat it (bummer for them!)

I use the recipe that is provided by Bel Gioioso.  They make a quality Mascarpone cheese and this is the recipe from their cheese container – if you cannot find that brand you can use any other brand.  I am just telling you where I first found the recipe.  The first time I made Tiramisu was in Washington State when my son was just an infant.  Now he is 8.  How time flies!

Tiramisu

adapted from Bel Gioioso’s Tiramisu recipe

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 8 oz Mascarpone cheese
  • 1 package Trader Joe’s soft lady fingers (or hard if you can find them)
  • 1 cup strong coffee or espresso
  • 2 Tbsp cognac (or brandy)
  • 1/8 cup cocoa powder (dust using a fine mesh sieve)

Instructions:

Separate your egg white and egg yolk into two separate bowls.  Add the sugar to the yolks.  Beat on medium for about 3 minutes.  Add the cognac, Mascarpone cheese, and 1 Tbsp cooled espresso or strong coffee.  Beat another 3-5 minutes on medium speed until it is well combined.

Add 1 Tbsp of sugar to the egg whites.  Beat on medium high until it is stiff and soft peaks form.  Fold the beaten egg whites into the egg and cheese mixture.  Use a rubber spatula to fold the cheese over the whites carefully, so as to not deflate the egg whites, but still well enough to combine the two into one nice filling.

Dip one side of your lady fingers into the remaining cooled coffee or espresso.  Do not drench them – just a quick dip will do the job.  Line a small (8×8 inch baking dish) with a layer of the coffee flavored lady fingers.  Top with 1/3 of the Mascarpone mixture.  Sprinkle the cheese with a dusting of cocoa.  Repeat with lady fingers, Mascarpone filling and cocoa two more times.  Topping it with the cocoa and then cover the dish with plastic wrap or foil (I used foil and tented it so that it would not touch the top of the tiramisu- because it filled the dish nearly to the top) and refrigerate at least 1 hour for it to set up.

Enjoy!

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Choir Cake

It is Birthday night at our church choir, and I signed up to bring dessert, which translated into I am bringing the cake!  Oh.. the cake.. I don’t bake all that often, my heart is in cooking, but I don’t completely stink at baking, it just means I don’t enjoy it as much as cooking.  The cakes turn out fine.  I made this cake for my mother’s birthday a few months ago (link)- well, not this cake.. I made a new cake using the same recipe!  I liked the cake, but was not a fan of the frosting, so this time I made a different frosting.  It was much better.  I found the recipe on a blog named “savory sweet life” and here is the link to the frosting.  I made a 1 1/2 recipe to be sure that I had enough frosting and in retrospect I am glad that I did.  It would otherwise have been tight.

Classic Vanilla Butter-cream Frosting

adapted from savorysweetlife

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups butter, softened (not melted!)
  • 4 1/2 – 6 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • 4 1/2 – 6 Tbsp heavy cream (or milk will work too)

Preparation:

Beat the softened butter with a mixer for a minute or two.  With the mixer on low speed, add 4 1/2 cups of powdered sugar to the mixing bowl and beat until it is incorporated.  Add the salt and vanilla extract and mix to combine.  Add 4 1/2 Tbsp cream and combine.  Add more powdered sugar to thicken the mixture, or more cream to thin the mixture out.

Frost your fully cooled cake.  Decorate as desired.  In this case I piped melted chocolate onto wax paper with a musical theme and after they had fully set (in the refrigerator) used them to decorate.


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Birthday Cake

My Mom and Dad are out from NJ for a two week visit.  My Mom’s 71st Birthday was during her visit and we wanted to celebrate her birthday right with a homemade cake. My daughters decorated it with a theme they found in the book “Hello Cupcake” using Oreo cookie crumbs and candies they made a garden theme for her.  She was thrilled!

I found this great recipe on the site of fellow blogger smitten kitchen.  It is listed under her recipes and category of celebration cakes (best birthday cake).  It is a wonderfully easy cake to make and is not super sweet like so many out there.  It is much better than the box mix cakes.  I like to cook more than bake, but I must say this is a recipe I will make again.  I was not a fan of the sour cream chocolate frosting, but I used cool whip and freshly sliced strawberries as a filling and it went really well with the cake!  Next time I will add another layer of cool whip and strawberries between another layer and frost it with cool whip. Also, I did not have cake flour and used the unbleached all-purpose flour instead and it turned out beautifully!  My girls decorated it with a theme they found in the cookbook Hello Cupcake.

Yellow Birthday Cake

adapted from Smitten Kitchen

4 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 cups buttermilk (475 ml), well-shaken

Instructions:

Cut out two rounds of parchment paper the same size as your cake pan.  Butter the bottom of your cake pan and place a parchment paper round on the bottom each pan.  Butter the parchment paper and the sides of the cake pans.

Preheat the ovens to 350F.

Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a medium sized bowl.  Cream the butter and sugar with your electric mixer at medium speed until the butter mixture is pale and fluffy and add vanilla.  Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well and scraping down the batter with a spatula to combine properly.  Add the buttermilk and mix into the batter.  The batter will look curdled, but don’t worry- this will turn out great!!! Gradually add the flour mixture in smaller batches (3-4).  Mixing just until combined.

Divide the batter evenly between the cake pans and smooth the top with a spatula.  Tap the cake pans on the counter several times to remove any bubbles from the batter.

Bake at 350F for about 35-40 minutes until the cake tests done when you insert a toothpick or skewer (it should come out clean and not have clumps of batter on the skewer or toothpick).  Cool the cake  in their pans for about 10 minutes before removing them.  Gently run a butter knife along the edge of the pan to loosen any cake that is stuck to the side of the pan before removing it.  Allow to cool completely before frosting.

If you are making a layer cake use a serrated knife to cut the top of the cake to make it level.  I filled mine with cool whip and sliced strawberries and frosted it with homemade chocolate frosting.  This cake pairs especially well with strawberries!  It would be great in cupcakes topped with strawberries and cool whip too.  Just reduce the cooking time for the cupcakes to around 15-20 minutes.

I will certainly be making this cake again!  It is really good.

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