Ruffled Birthday Cake

I just turned 31. This somehow seems more profound than 30 and makes me feel like I’m getting old! But I know 31 is not really old at all and where this notion came from I’m not really sure. I was enthusiastic about turning 30 because 30 seems more respectable, especially if your client happens to ask your age. I don’t know that I’d fully trust a 28 or 29 year old to design my house (but many people did thankfully). So now that I’m 31 I decided it was time to make my own birthday cake. Gasp! But why? Well, I really love making cake and experimenting with new recipes which I don’t often do when I make cakes for other people. I also think I can beat out most bakeries in the cake department (or at least tie them) and there is no need to spend $45 on a cake for myself! Lots of people make their own cakes… especially other baker bloggers I know. So I made myself an experimental chocolate cake with a frosting technique I’ve been wanting to try for a really long time!

cake 1

Chocolate cake is hard to get right. There is an intricate balance of moist vs fluffy with just the right amount of sweetness. I’ve been attempting different chocolate cake recipes for a long time now and think this one is the winner so far. I used an intensely dark cocoa powder given to me as a gift for 2/3 of the cocoa in the recipe and it turned out amazingly dark and delicious. I also learned after 12 years with Michael that he feesl “ho hum” about chocolate cake and would actually rather eat a brownie. It’s amazing what you learn after being together for this long, especially with the amount of baked goods that come out of my kitchen. It also makes sense because I don’t think he has ever requested a chocolate cake for his birthday!

I pinned a few cakes a while ago as inspiration to try a ruffle. I would suggest using a Swiss buttercream instead of an American buttercream just because they are less sweet and a bit more shiny. Both pipe well and set up firm in the refrigerator. If you are frosting a cake that needs to be outdoors in a hot environment for a long time, maybe try a shortening based buttercream, though I think these don’t taste as good. The frosting turned out beautifully. Unfortunately there is just so much of it we ended up scraping off the ends and not eating it because it was too sweet.

So, be adventurous and try new things. No one will complain and you just might end up with a delicious and gorgeous cake in the end. Oh, and don’t be shy about baking something you want for yourself! Do however accept an invitation for someone else to bake a dessert for you on your actual birthday. We had a lovely dinner at Longman and Eagle in Logan Square for my birthday dinner and the dessert was fabulous.

cake 2

Chocolate Cake

1 ¾ C flour
1 ½ C sugar
¾ C unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt
1 C buttermilk (or sub soy milk for dairy intolerance – see below)
½ C canola oil
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1 C hot coffee

  • Preheat oven to 350˚F (or 325˚F for convection oven), grease two 9” pans, line with parchment, and set aside.
  • Sift dry ingredients together.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk eggs with buttermilk, oil and vanilla.
  • Whisk in the dry ingredients until the batter is just moistened.
  • Add the hot coffee and stir with a spatula until smooth.
  • Divide between two cake pans.
  • Bake for 25 – 30 minutes. Cakes are ready when they spring back lightly when pressed. (Convection oven cakes may be done sooner so check at 25 minutes).
  • Cool in pans for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a cooling rack to cool completely.
  • Refrigerate for 2 hours before frosting or freeze overnight wrapped tightly in plastic wrap.
  • To make a dairy free cake, you’ll need to substitute the buttermilk. Add 1T white vinegar to a 1 C measuring cup. Then fill the rest of the way with plain soy milk. Whisk or stir with a fork to combine. For the best consistency, refrigerate for 3 hours before using.

How to make Frosting Ruffles using your favorite buttercream

  • You’ll need about 8-10 cups of frosting for one double layer 9” cake
  • Frost the cake with a crumb coat and refrigerate for 20 minutes
  • Fill piping bag fitted with a #104 Petal Decorating tip. (I’ve seen these for $1.00 at JoAnn Fabric Stores).
  • Use a parchment cake pan liner (I buy mine in bulk packs) or cut a parchment to fit the size of cake you baked. Then fold the circle in half and keep folding in half until you have the desired slice size. Unfold the parchment and set it on top of the hardened crumb coat. Use a knife or dough cutter and mark the folds vertically in the frosting around the whole cake. Remove the parchment from the top, or mark the top as well if you decide to ruffle the top of the cake. For the top ruffle, stick a toothpick through the center point and remove the parchment. Then line your pastry cutter or knife with the center point and vertical line along the edge and press gently into the top of the cake frosting.
  • With your pastry bag held vertically and the large end of the decorating tip close to the cake, start piping at one side of a vertical mark and continue the width of one “slice” of cake. Fold the frosting back and forth until you reach the top and then add one to two extra folds. Continue until you have finished the entire circumference of the cake.
  • Following within the lines will make your ruffles perfectly vertical. (There are some you-tube videos of people using this frosting technique and it looks all willy nilly and slanted.)
  • You can continue the folds across the top of the cake to the center point if you marked the top, or you can frost the top using concentric circles as I did. It’s easiest to do this with a turntable, but if you don’t have one (I don’t!) then just spin the cake stand in one hand and keep the piping bag in the other. Always keep the large end of the piping tip next to the cake.

ruffle tutorial


Red Velvet Cake

I have a hard time passing up an opportunity to make someone a birthday cake, especially when that someone is a friend I’ve known for almost ten years. And even better, that someone really really likes my baking.

People have very different reactions to red velvet cake. Every time I mention it to one of my friends, she immediately quotes Steel Magnolias “… people are gonna be hacking into this poor animal and it’ll look like its bleeding to death!” which she can do surprisingly well. And though these cupcakes were not tiny armadillos with gray icing, they were pretty tasty. Others have an aversion to using large amounts of food coloring and use beet powder to tint the cake, and some just stick with no food coloring since a true red velvet is not actually red (it’s an ugly brownish color from the cocoa powder in the recipe). I like a red cake myself piled high with cream cheese frostingbut tend to alternate with regular buttercream depending on who I’m baking for. Both are delicious accompaniments to this lovely cake. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

30 is the new 29

I know a lot of people born in 1982 and you know what that means… they will all be turning 30 this year. Thirty is a big deal. People have extravagant parties and destination parties and I happen to be going to two before May. I’m also happy to report I was born in ’83. There is still time! Apparently I need to start planning something amazing. Oh, and I’ll need to begin my list of Thirty before Thirty (the 30 things you want to accomplish before you turn thirty). Until then, I’ll keep baking you cakes!

Heed these words of wisdom from Lucille Ball, “The secret to staying young is to live honestly, eat slowly, and lie about your age.” HAPPY BIRTHDAY to all my 30-somethings and a pre-happy birthday to those of you who will soon be thirty (aka my sister!).

Cakes worthy of a 30th Birthday Celebration

Low-Fat Blueberry Coffee Cake

I use the Whole Foods Recipes app for my iPhone a lot. The format is great. You can search for foods on hand, or in a certain category (vegan, slow cooker, quick and simple…) which I find is a huge help for making quick meal plans. I have a couple other apps for recipes but this one I use the most. I keep recipes bookmarked in my “Favorites” tab and have a fairly dynamic collection. I finally made the time to try this recipe recently and am very happy with the results. 
I happened to be babysitting the day I decided to make this coffee cake and finished up the prep with a one-and-a-half-year-old on my hip. He seemed mesmerized by my one handed mixing, all the while educating him on each ingredient I was using. He also liked to peek in the oven window with me to check the progress. Thankfully, amid the distractions of the wee one running amuck in a non-baby-proof house, the coffee cake turned out stunning. 
The cake has a much lighter crumb topping than most coffee cakes (remember it’s low-fat) but the almonds help give texture. There is hardly any fat in the recipe, so the moisture comes from fat free yogurt. Michael says you can tell it’s low-fat but he is also not a big fan of blueberries. The girls in my office liked it a lot and I enjoyed it as well. I’d definitely make it again and recommend serving it to guests. It’s fast to put together and friendly for your summer bikini body. 

Low-Fat Blueberry Coffee Cake
from Whole Foods Recipes

2 C fresh or frozen and thawed blueberries divided
1 C whole wheat flour
1/2 C unbleached all purpose flour
1/4 C sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 C plain non-fat yogurt
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
1/3 C sliced almonds

for the topping:
2 T whole wheat flour
1/4 C brown sugar
2 T butter
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cardamom

Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Spray a 9 inch springform pan with cooking spray and set aside. Mix together the ingredients for the topping in a small bowl with your fingers until it you have pea sized clumps.

Whisk together the remaining dry ingredients. Combine yogurt, eggs, and vanilla in another small bowl and add to the dry ingredients. Mix until just combined. Add half the blueberries and smooth into the prepared pan. Sprinkle the topping evenly over the batter and add the remaining blueberries. Top with the almonds. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes and remove the sides of the pan. Let cool another 20 minutes before serving. Store covered in the fridge for up to 5 days.

You can also use a standard 12 tin muffin cup with liners instead of the springform pan. Reduce the baking time to 22-25 minutes.

Halloween! It’s so close I can taste it….

Holidays are fun to make treats for, especially Halloween! There are parties to attend and parties to throw and parties to organize for your children (or yourselves if you live in sf where everyone seems to be crazed by Halloween well over the age most people dress in costume). If you are going to a party or just want to make something really cute, I have some ideas for you. Some are links, some are my own recipes, but all are good and fun. 

1. Vampire Bites
My sister was feeling extra crafty the other day and decided to make these Apple andPeanut Butter Sandwiches for my nephews’s Halloween party at their day care. A little less sugary than all the cupcakes, cookies, and candy kids consume and easy to make. They were so cute I was inspired to share some of my favorite Halloween treat ideas with you. Most of them are links to other blogs so I hope you enjoy and feel inspired too! 

What you need:
Red Apples (the darker the skin the better) or you could go super stylish and have different shades of vampire lipstick…
Peanut Butter
Marshmallows (small and large)
Slice apples into thin wedges cutting out the core, spread some peanut butter on the insides of two slices. line the curved side with some small marshmallows for teeth. Cut the large mallow (you can use scissors) into pointy teeth and add two of these for fangs. Voila. Simple and fantastic. Just look how much my cute little nephew likes them!

2. Boo-tiful Ghost Cake
How can you resist these cute little marshmallow ghosts? Annie of Annie’s Eat’s has been on a rampage of all things cute and halloween the past few posts. Please check out her blog – you might be blown away by all of these cute treats. 

3. Witches Fingers Cookies
I first had these cookie in college when a friend’s mom made them for a halloween party for some church folks. Other great memories from this night were M dressed as a pink flamingo lawn ornament… and a fantastic bird bath and garden gnome were also present. 

4. Caramel Apples
These are one of my favorite things… if you look closely you will see me staring longingly into the display case at these beauties. We didn’t buy one though (sad face) we bought a giant sugary disc some may know as an elephant ear? Anyways, I love caramel apples. We used to get them at a local apple orchard when we were younger. At some point we got lazy (or my parents decided they were too expensive) and just bought caramel dip from the grocery store – dangerous – but I’m returning to one of my all time favorites for number 4. 

Food Network Recipe – caramel from scratch
All Recipes – caramel pieces recipe
Be creative with your toppings!

5. No-Bake Spiderweb Cheesecake
Martha’s army is at it again. Spiderweb treats are very cute and creepy. Even better if you can find gummy spiders to decorate with. This cheesecake seems easy enough since you don’t have to bake it. No-Bake cheesecake is definitely a time saver when you are planning a party! 

6. Devil’s Food Cake with Flame Tuiles
Maybe for a more sophisticated crowd. This cake just looks sexy. Fit for a vampire (but not the Twilight kind – they are too nice for this cake). 
Another Martha. She is just too good at holiday baking. 

7. Spooky Drinks
This cocktail reminds me of a Moscow Mule (slowly making a come back  in SF) but with Rum instead. You could pretty much top any cocktail with black decorating sugar and spiders but I’ll share the recipe anyways. 

8. Pumpkin Cookies
Yep, I just posted about these the other day! (self promotion) They were one of three recipes for the Easy Bake cOven’s October recipe list. 

9. Pumpkin Ice Cream Sandwiches

To make Ice Cream Sandwiches, thaw your favorite pumpkin ice cream at room temperature until easy to scoop. Using a spoon or small ice cream scoop, add some ice cream to the flat side of one cookie and flatten it slightly. Place another cookie on top and smooth sides. Keep in freezer until ready to eat. It might be good to under-bake your cookies slightly so they don’t get hard in the freezer. 

10. Mini Mummy Dogs (Halloweenies)

I made these with my sister for Halloween last year. She is just so crafty right? I think she has a picture somewhere on her camera but I don’t have it (ahem….) Ours were cuter, because we used little smokies. Use hot dogs if you like, and wrap with crescent roll dough cut into thin strips. The thinner the better. 
Here is the link in case you forget (little smokies + crescent roll dough) hehe

What is your favorite Halloween Treat? 

Friendship Bread Part 2

Last post, I told you about making friendship bread starter and revealed some silly things about my tween years. Now, I’ve made the bread and frozen the starter for victims who have yet to appear. I’m not surprised. Only M’s Aunt was excited about the Chain Bread (Yeah Aunt J!) but some of you just don’t know what surprise awaits you. I’ve decided to pursue the sneak attack method… I surprise you with starter and you feel obligated to make it. ha! 

I made the bread on a warm sunny day after a short hike near Emerald Bay in Tahoe. It’s our yearly pilgrimage to nature and escape from the city. It’s never been anything but relaxing and fantastic. I spent more time in the kitchen than normal (bread + dinner) but what else is there to do but sit around and read, or play cards, or ping pong in the yard? star gazing. Thankfully it was not so cold at night as it has been in the past. M took some amazing night photos off the pier.  

I didn’t plan the starter very well since I had to bring all of my ingredients on the trip, but I was making myself impatient waiting. Like I mentioned before, I made this once in college, and remember my mom making it when I was young. I imagine PTA moms were the culprits. (My mom was PTA president so she is considered “culprit” too.) Since I don’t remember actually making it, I chose a recipe at random from the sea of recipes on the internet. The recipe listed below I found while going through some things in the attic at my mom’s house. This was the recipe we used as kids and it is printed on pink cardstock. I think it is better than most of the recipes on the internet – though very similar. In order to save some trees, I’m not going to send printed instructions with the starter (if you are a sneak attack victim). 

I only made one loaf. I had a lot of starter and ended up dividing it into 5 segments. I didn’t realize it was ok to have more than the one cup you give everyone else. I also didn’t have pudding mix. I think I’m going to try it again with one of the starter bags in my freezer. I thought the bread was pretty tasty. It was a bit dry since I cooked it too long. Purposefully though – it didn’t look done on top so I sacrificed the bottom. It’s easy to cut the bottom off a loaf of bread. I think the sweetness of the bread surprised M. Sourdough starter makes you think you will eat a loaf of sandwich bread. I’d like to try making yeasted waffles or pancakes with the starter. It may not work at all or be totally disgusting but fun to try. If you follow the instructions, it shouldn’t be difficult at all to make two slightly tangy and sweet loaves. Let me know if you’d like to try. If you want to begin the starter on your own, follow the steps below. 

It is very important to follow these rules with the starter:
Never use metal utensils or bowls. Always use wood, plastic or glass. Keep the starter on your countertop – never refrigerate. If you receive the starter in a plastic bag, transfer it to a glass bowl loosely covered with plastic wrap so that the bag doesn’t pop. 

Amish Friendship Bread Starter
In a 2 quart glass bowl, dissolve 1/4 C warm water (110-115˚) with one package yeast
Add 1 cup flour, 1 C sugar, and 1 C milk. Stir vigorously to break up the lumps. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and follow the instructions for days 1-10 below. 

Amish Friendship Bread
Day 1 receive the starter
Day 2 Stir 
Day 3 Stir
Day 4 Stir
Day 5 Add one cup each Flour, Sugar, Milk
Day 6 Stir
Day 7 Stir
Day 8 Stir
Day 9 Stir
Day 10 Add one cup each Flour, Sugar, Milk. Stir well. Divide the starter into three separate containers with one cup each and reserve the rest for yourself. 

To make the bread on Day 10:
To the reserved started add:
1 C vegetable oil
1/2 C milk
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla

In another bowl, combine:
2 C flour
1 C sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 C chopped nuts (optional)
1 large box instant vanilla pudding

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Grease two loaf pans. 
Add the dry ingredients to the wet and stir well. Pour into two greased loaf pans. Sprinkle the top with cinnamon and sugar. Bake for 1 hour. If bread doesn’t spring back when lightly touched, reduce heat to 325˚F and continue baking 10-15 minutes. Cool in pan 10 minutes, then turn out onto a rack to finish cooling. 
You can also use different kinds of pudding, raisins or dried fruit, or peeled and chopped apples. 

Easy Bake cOven – Chow’s Ginger Cake

I was a little scared about the ginger cake. I’m not a huge ginger fan, especially fresh ginger, because it can be so overpowering. I am happy to say that I really enjoyed this cake! Thanks Gretchen for choosing this recipe. 

We have been so busy lately, I waited until Thursday night to make the cake… and the caramel…. but I did plan ahead and made Vanilla Bean Ice cream to accompany it. Yum! Apparently, July was National Ice Cream Month. Had I know about this sooner, I think I would have tried making some more ice creams. I love ice cream! It is one of my favorite desserts, and making it at home is so easy. I might make August into my own “Christina Loves Ice Cream Month… and it is Her Birthday Month so Why Not Eat a Lot of Ice Cream Month.” Looking forward to this idea…. 

Back to the cake. The recipe made way too much batter for one 9 inch pan as was called for in the recipe. I ended up filling one pan pretty full… then second guessing the rules and adding the rest to a 6 inch pan. Even then, they were both really full and very tall. I was pretty worried it was going to spill over and create a mess for me in the bottom of the oven. Thankfully that didn’t happen, and the cake just kept rising taller and taller. I have no clue if the Chow cake is tall like mine, but I can say that I liked it. I used half the amount of fresh ginger that was called for and probably like it better this way. I bought a large seeming chunk of ginger and once it was grated, there was a lot less than expected. 

This cake is one of those that gets better with age. I snuck a bite while I was photographing it and it was much better than the first night. Sorry to my guests who had to eat it warm from the oven… oh so terrible! I suggest if you enjoy gingerbread or gingerbread men, or ginger in the slightest you should try this cake. Thanks CHOW for making something so lovely, and allowing the Chronicle to post it for us all. 

Chow’s Ginger Cake With Caramel Sauce & Whipped Cream

The secrets:

Two kinds of ginger: Loads of fresh ginger, backed by the powdered product, gives the cake a fresh spike of flavor. Dark molasses: This adds a rich, earthy element to the blend. Warming before serving: While the cake is good cold, it tastes even better gently reheated in the oven. Caramel sauce: The caramel adds a pleasant dose of sweetness and sets this cake apart. Serves 16
Ginger cakeButter and flour to prepare pan
2 ounces ginger, peeled and finely grated on a Microplane (about 3 tablespoons)
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup rice bran oil or other neutral flavored oil
3/4 cup dark molasses (see Note)
4 large eggs
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon baking soda
Caramel sauce1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup heavy whipping cream at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup unsalted butter (1 stick), cut into pieces
Whipped cream1 cup very cold heavy whipping cream
1/4 teaspoon Tahitian vanilla extract
1 tablespoon powdered sugar, + more to garnish
For the cake: Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly butter TWO 9- by 9-inch cake pans and dust very lightly with flour or line with parchment paper (see Note).
Combine ginger with 1/2 tablespoon water in a mixing bowl; add sugar, oil and molasses. Mix on low speed. Add eggs; continue mixing at low speed until fully incorporated.
Combine flour, cinnamon, cloves, white pepper, ground ginger and baking soda in another mixing bowl. Add dry ingredients slowly to the egg mixture, continuing to beat slowly, scraping mixing bowl occasionally. Increase speed to medium for 2 minutes. Scrape; decrease speed to low and slowly add 3/4 cup hot tap water. Mix until just combined, occasionally scraping. (The batter will be slightly thin.)
Pour into prepared cake pan and bake until a toothpick comes out clean, about 40-45 minutes.
For the caramel sauce: In a medium-size stainless steel pot, combine sugar and 1 3/4 cups hot water, stirring until sugar dissolves. Add corn syrup and cream of tartar; mix. Wipe down the inside of the pot with a wet towel to remove any sugar crystals. If needed, also brush inside of pot just once with a wet pastry brush. Bring to a boil over high heat without stirring, until mixture becomes a deep caramel color or a candy thermometer reaches 335°.
Remove pot from heat and immediately add cream in a slow stream while stirring (be careful – it will pop and sputter). Whisk in salt and the butter, a little at a time.
The caramel sauce can be made ahead and refrigerated. Carefully reheat in a water bath or in a microwave before using. Makes approximately 2 cups.
For the whipped cream: Vigorously whisk cream, vanilla extract and powdered sugar in a cold bowl until the cream reaches soft peaks. You want the cream to be relatively soft so it can slowly run over the sides of the cake. Makes about 2 cups; refrigerate leftovers to use another time.
To finish: (At Chow, the cake is cut into 2-inch squares and reheated 2 1/2 minutes in a 350° oven.) Place the cake square in a shallow bowl, top with caramel sauce and a dollop of whipped cream. Finish with a dusting of powdered sugar.
Note: If you plan to turn the cake out of the pan before cutting, also use the parchment paper, which helps the cake release more easily. Dark molasses (also labeled “full”) is more intensely flavored and less sweet than light or mild molasses. Avoid using blackstrap, which is less sweet and has a stronger flavor than dark molasses.

Better Than Betty Spice Cake

I was asked to make a spice cake for a 60th birthday celebration combined with a housewarming party. The birthday man apparently likes Betty’s Box Spice Cake (which I completely understand because it was my favorite growing up) and I needed to one-up Betty for this party. 

When I was a kid I really did like spice cake. But there is a gross part… I’m not sure you are ready yet… ok maybe now… I liked to eat my cake with ice cream… mixed in… like one giant cake-flavored-ice cream-goo. I’m pretty sure Cold Stone Creamery owes me royalties for inventing this flavor (cake batter). I haven’t had Betty’s version in a few years, but the version I made might knock her socks off (more like stockings off, that is if she really existed). 

Now that you know about my weird childhood cake techniques, I’ll tell you a little about making these cakes. They needed enough to serve 150, so I made some sheet cakes and a three tiered cake for lighting ablaze with 60 candles. I recommend keeping a fire extinguisher handy. I used fresh ground cloves, nutmeg, and cinnamon. M decided that cloves consumed within baked goods is much less offensive than standing near the coffee grinder filled with fresh ground cloves. Cake flour, and buttermilk to finish her off. I frosted them with a fantastic cream cheese frosting recipe and boxed them up for delivery. 

Delivering cakes makes me nervous. I have flashbacks of delivering the wedding cake (almost a disaster) and decided that the trunk was my friend. The boxes fit the cardboards well to eliminate sliding, and I packed them in so well they wouldn’t move. This delivery turned out much better than the last, except the only person there to accept them was a teenage boy and his friends. Strange. So I drove home, and M and I went to the movies. Just before the movie started, I got an email from my client that said she had made a huge mistake and told me the wrong day! Well, that explained a lot, but they asked if I could do it all over again this weekend. Not horrible since I was paid for all of the cakes, but it sure was a lot of baking! These are the times when I wish my oven would mute into a fancy well tempered double oven. And that I could magically duplicate pans to bake multiple cakes at once. But I survived, and my dear Kitchen-Aid survived too, and my client ate spice cake for days. 

a tiny Carrot Cake, a giant scoop of Goat Cheese Ice Cream

I’ve posted about carrot cake before. It is my favorite, so I continue to fill your thoughts with cream cheese frosting and dense, spicy, moist cakes. I’m still trying to figure out why one of my friends doesn’t like cake…. to counter balance this un-likeness of cake, I have another friend who is mildly obsessed with my carrot cake. I oblige and make them at her request. She is a loyal supporter of the “dream bakery” and asked me recently to make a cake for her significant other’s birthday.

I also threw out the idea of home made ice cream to pair with the cake. I had no idea which flavor, so I consulted the ice cream genius David Lebovitz directly. He responded (yay! I was really excited he answered my question) and suggested Cream Cheese Ice Cream or Goat Cheese Ice Cream. I ran it past my carrot cake fanatic, and she decided on the Goat Cheese Ice Cream. David Lebovitz also suggested adding some rum soaked raisins to the mix might be good, so I followed suit.

How delightful to make cake and ice cream for a birthday. I made a 6 inch cake with 3 layers, cream cheese frosting, and toasted walnuts. I like the walnuts on the sides. I fell in love with the look in college at a local coffee shop. They served giant slices of carrot cake with walnuts decorating the sides, and it looked so pretty in the case…. so tempting. The only ingredient I have mixed feeling about is the raisin. Sometimes I like them, sometimes they are a little overwhelming. I like to change it up and use currants instead of raisins sometimes, especially if making it for myself, because they are smaller and sweeter than your typical raisin. I usually let the paying customer choose this battle.

The goat cheese ice cream was interesting to make as well. It’s simple. It tastes like sweet, creamy (yet icy), sweet goat cheese. If you’re not a goat cheese fan don’t try this at home. If you are… and you are weeping because you don’t have an ice cream maker… don’t fret! I have a feeling you can make this without one. After preparing the custard and mixing it with the cheese, you can freeze it in your ice cream maker (but this doesn’t freeze the same as most ice creams) or you can mix it together really really well, place it in the freezer, and take it out and stir it every hour until it is thick enough to add some rum soaked raisins. Then let it freeze overnight. The reason I say this is because in the ice cream maker (since there is no whipping cream in the mix), the ice cream doesn’t increase in volume, it just chills really well, and it looks curdled rather than smooth. The curdles smooth out during freezer time – and this is why I think it is unnecessary to churn. I imagine you can do the same with Cream Cheese Ice Cream.

Let me know how it goes in case you try this without one. The end result of cake and ice cream turned out well. The sweets were praised (how nice) and commended on their original pairing. Thanks to David Lebovits for the suggestion. And thanks to my friends for enjoying my baking so much!

Goat Cheese Ice Cream
adapted from The Perfect Scoop, by David Lebovitz
makes 1 pint

2 1/4 C whole milk
1 C sugar
11 oz goat cheese
9 egg yolks

Mix the milk and sugar together in a medium saucepan, set over medium heat. Remove the goat cheese from the packaging and place it in a large bowl. Mix it up with a fork and set a mesh strainer over the top.

In another bowl, whisk the egg yolks. After the milk is warm to the touch, slowly temper the egg yolks and return the mix to the saucepan. Continue cooking over medium heat making sure to scrape the bottom of the pan to prevent burning, until it coats the back of the spoon. (to test this, run your finger down the back of the spoon and see if the custard leaves a nice straight line – if it does, it is ready, if not keep heating).

Pour the custard through the mesh strainer into the goat cheese. Stir the mixture until the cheese is melted and set the bowl in an ice bath and stir until the mixture is cooled. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until it is completely cooled.

Freeze in your ice cream machine, or do as I said above if you don’t have one!

Carrot Cake
adapted from Birthday Cakes, by Kathryn Kleinman
(Full Recipe for 3 – 9″ Layers)

1 C dark raisins
1 lb carrots (about 4 C shredded – you can leave skins on)
2 C minus 2 T flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1 T cocoa powder
4 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1 C sugar
1 C dark brown sugar
1 1/4 C oil
1 1/2 C walnuts – roughly chopped

divide oven into thirds. Preheat to 350˚, butter and line 3 9″ pans with parchment. dust with flour. steam the raisins covered 10 mins (alternately add some water to a heat proof bowl and microwave covered for 30 seconds or so to plump). Drain and reserve.

Sift dry ingredients. In a large bowl, beat eggs, then beat in vanilla, sugars, and oil. Mix in dry ingredients until just incorporated, then stir in the carrots, raisins, and nuts.

Divide among pans. Bake about 35 minutes – until the cakes start to pull away from the edges of the pans. Remove from the oven and cool on wire racks for 3 minutes. Turn onto a rack right side up. Once completely cool, wrap and freeze for one hour. (Overnight works great). Frost using Cream Cheese Frosting recipe! This cakes serves a crowd. It is really dense and tall so you can get a lot of slices from one cake. If you half the recipe you can make 3 6″ cakes, or 18 regular cupcakes.

Cream Cheese Frosting
16 oz cream cheese (full fat)
1 stick butter
1 tsp vanilla
2 C powdered sugar

Beat butter and cream cheese (room temp please!) for a few minutes until fluffy. Add vanilla and sugar. Continue beating on high speed until smooth, scraping sides of bowl. Makes enough to frost 3 layers of cake plus sides.

When Life Gives You Lemons… Make Lemon Cake

I like fresh squeezed lemonade, but I like cake more than lemonade… and Meyer lemons are much more exciting to bake with. I made a cake for another office birthday using these great lemons. There are so many birthdays in the first 11 days of February – it’s a little strange. I know of 6, and made a cake for 3 of them (4 if you count the double office party). Sad I couldn’t make a cake for my sister on her birthday (shared with my boss who I did make this cake for). Next year I will plan it better and mail one! I only have one cake in my repertoire that I know mails well, which is the cookie cake tower. It’s also good if you don’t have to mail it.
My bosses are interesting people. They ballroom dance competitively, run an architecture firm, and enjoy watching Glee – which makes me laugh. I had the option of making chocolate or lemon cake, and I had that very day been offered a bag of lemons courtesy of a friend. I’m not exactly sure where they came from – maybe his uncle, or his uncle’s neighbor… I’m just glad I was offered! Thanks R! Since I had lemons on the way, it made the choice much easier. Making decisions is very hard sometimes. (Especially when feeding a diverse group of people, and attempting to make a nice cake for your boss.) I did some research and ended up making a lemon poppyseed bundt cake from a new cookbook.
Bundt cakes travel well (even on the bus), and feed a crowd without all the added layers. You can fancy them up with fresh fruit or fresh cream, and they look so pretty dusted with powdered sugar. Picture me in the office kitchen/library using a tea infuser to dust the powdered sugar on the cake! silly, but it worked well. The lemon poppy cake I made had a lighter texture than most bundt cakes and was drenched in lemony syrup after it finished baking. The recipe called for more poppy seeds than I would normally use, but they offered a nice crunch. Our office joked afterward that we should all avoid drug tests (though we have no such requirement in our office). I’m pretty sure that Myth Busters proved that if you eat enough poppy seeds you will test positive on drug tests. Innocent cake lovers be ware.
I’m looking forward to our next office birthday – not until next month though. Hopefully I’ll have something exciting to share with you all here.