Always Choose Chocolate!

Dark Chocolate Caramel Cake“If in doubt, choose chocolate,” has always been my mantra. So when my husband and I host a supper at our house next week for his class at Amherst College, guess what the the dessert will be!  Definitely a chocolate creation, and in this case a rich dark chocolate caramel cake.

What makes this luscious single-layered confection unique is that the batter is studded with caramel candies that soften and blend into the dark chocolate mixture while baking.The recipe is based on one I spotted several years ago in a French magazine, but in the original version the candies were laid atop the batter. After baking the cake several times, I discovered that submerging the caramels so that they are completely covered produced a richer, more interesting texture. Continue reading

A Deep Dark Chocolate Cake for Snowy Valentine

Valentine Dark Chocolate Cake 1My husband joked last week that if you walked though our house you’d find every TV turned to the weather channel and each computer screen set on the weather forecast. We have had so much snow in western Mass that one might mistake our backyard for a scene from Siberia. To counter the chaos outdoors, I’ve made countless runs to the supermarket, loading up on food so I could cook during the storms. The dense, deep dark chocolate cake featured here has been one of my projects since Valentine’s Day is so close at hand.

This classic, flourless cake calls for four primary ingredients—bittersweet chocolate, butter, sugar, and eggs. You need only to melt the chocolate and butter together, stir in the sugar, and finally add the eggs one a time before pouring the batter into a deep sided pan and baking it.To give this traditional cake a little extra embellishment for Cupid’s Day, I cut out a paper heart and centered it on the top before dusting the cake with powdered sugar. A bowl of espresso-scented whipped cream is a tempting garnish.

Panorama Scene 1 4580x2386

A view of our snow-covered back yard!

Continue reading

A Glorious Cake for Mother’s Day

Genoise Cake with Pineapple Rum Buttercream Icing 1Years ago as a fledging syndicated columnist, I created a delectable genoise cake with pineapple rum buttercream icing. I didn’t worry for a minute that this dessert called for a hefty 3 sticks of butter and that it included multiple steps. Since this gateau has remained a personal favorite, I recently gave the recipe a facelift for Mother’s Day, reducing the butter, and streamlining the directions.

Genoise (from French for Genoese referring to Genoa) is the name of a sponge cake made with eggs, sugar, and vanilla. These ingredients are warmed over a pan of simmering water, then beaten in an electric mixer for several minutes until they have tripled in volume. Flour and melted butter are folded in next. When baked, this style of cake is golden and feathery light. For my genoise, I created an extra special buttercream icing with fresh pineapple. To make it, a pineapple sugar syrup is gradually beaten into egg yolks and then bits of softened butter are whipped in until the mixture is silken smooth. A touch of dark rum adds even more flavor. Continue reading

Scrumptious Blueberry Cake for a Crowd

Blueberry Cake with Lemon Creme Fraiche 2Fresh blueberries are in full season here in New England. At the local farmers’ market, every fruit vendor has bountiful displays of these luscious little orbs neatly packed in pint and half pint boxes. And, they’re not the only ones featuring this summer staple. The bakers are including them in pies and muffins, while the local yogurt maker is turning out blueberry smoothies sweetened with maple syrup.

I wasn’t surprised then when my culinary assistants, working in my kitchen last week, were all abuzz about blueberry recipes. Mary Webber, a new member of our team, described a simple blueberry pan cake that she has baked for years, and had us all pleading for the directions. Continue reading

Apple and Golden Raisin Cake with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

Early this spring I had a chance to dine at Ottolenghi, an excellent, yet unpretentious restaurant in the Islington area of London. My meal was so memorable that I wrote about it on my blog, mentioning a celestial Apple and Sultana Cake with Maple Frosting.

Back home, I couldn’t get the heavenly cake out of mind, and set out to reproduce it.  After multiple tries, including several failed icing attempts, I had a version close to my remembrance of the original. Then, by chance, I found the recipe for the Ottolenghi cake on line, reprinted from one of the chef’s earlier cookbooks. The British cake was made with olive oil, mine Continue reading

Lemon Pudding “Cakes”

Lemon pudding “cakes” are actually a cross between a pudding and a light, airy souffle-like cake. In the following recipe, you simply cream butter and sugar, and then add egg yolks, lemon juice and zest along with milk and a small amount of flour. Finally, you fold in beaten egg whites, and bake until the batter is set. When done, the pudding cakes seem to divide into two distinct layers, an airy cake-like layer on top and a dense rich pudding one on the bottom. They are heaven to eat either warm, at room temperature, or chilled. Continue reading

Cranberry Pear Upside Down Cake

In October a young friend and former assistant told me of a Concord Grape Upside Down Cake that she had baked for a special dinner. Intrigued, I asked for the recipe, but put off trying it for a few weeks. By the time I got around to testing this seasonal dessert, Concord grapes had passed their peak, and my results were lackluster. The clever concept for an unusual upside down cake, however, stayed etched in my mind, and I began to think of other possibilities.   Continue reading

Espresso-Scented Coffee Cake

As soon as the leaves start to turn and the glorious fall season gets underway here in New England, our friends, family, and, yes, even just acquaintances, start calling or emailing to ask if they can come for an overnight to savor the gorgeous foliage. These visits usually include breakfast so I am always searching for new creations for the first meal of the day. This year, I’m in luck since I’ve just completed Sunday Brunch, which is due out in Spring 2012. Although there is a cornucopia of recipes in this collection, an espresso-scented coffee cake is one of my favorites. Continue reading

Chocolate Caramel Pecan Cake

Perfect for Valentine celebrations, this rich, moist, single-layer torte prepared with semisweet chocolate, ground pecans, and a generous amount of butter, is irresistible. The soft texture of the cake, the creaminess of the caramel, and the crunch of the nuts and chips combine to form a celestial trinity. This recipe serves eight easily so you can make it for a crowd, or offer it to a single special person and have some delicious leftovers.
Continue reading