Monday, June 10, 2019

Chocolate Sheet Cake with Whipped Salted Caramel Ganache Frosting

I've started experimenting with potential birthday cake recipes since next month is my birthday month. I even keep a group in Pinterest marked "Birthday Cake" for potentials as I encounter them, then of course I have shelves of cookbooks that also hold potential. Hopefully I'll try a mix. First up is a recipe from the internet - Chocolate Sheet Cake with Whipped Salted Caramel Ganache Frosting.

This recipe comes from Edd Kimber, aka The Boy who Bakes. I guess he won the first season of The Great British Bake Off but we didn't start watching until Season 2, so I first encountered him in one of the many baking Instagram accounts I follow (@theboywhobakes.) He also posted a video about making this cake that shows how quick and straight-forward of a recipe it is. The flavor mirrors the infamous Martha Stewart salted caramel chocolate layer cake that everyone made a few years back, that was messy and divine. I would say this recipe is similar in flavor but much simpler to assemble, so that's a win/win. See more notes from my attempt after the recipe!

Chocolate Sheet Cake with Whipped Salted Caramel Ganache Frosting
(recipe from Edd Kimber, not sure if recipe copyrights are different in UK, trying to give all credit where credit is due since it's available online!)

Chocolate Sheet Cake
Makes a 9x13 cake that serves 12-18 people

250g plain flour
75g cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
300g light brown sugar
2 large eggs
100ml oil (you can use something neutral tasting or olive oil)
225g sour cream
225ml hot coffee

Whipped Salted Caramel Milk Chocolate Ganache

200g milk chocolate, finely chopped
400ml double cream
200g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
1 tsp flaked sea salt
50g unsalted butter

salted peanut and cocoa nibs, for garnish 

Preheat the oven to 350F/180C/160C fan and lightly grease a 9x13 inch brownie pan, lining with a strip of parchment paper. The excess parchment should hang over the sides of the pan which will make removing the cake a lot easier later.

Make the ganache first as it needs a couple hours to chill before whipping. Place the chocolate into a medium bowl and set near the stove. Place the cream into a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Place the sugar into medium sized saucepan and place over medium heat and cook until melted and caramelised to the colour of a rusty penny. Once caramelised add the butter and salt and stir to combine. Add the cream in two additions, being careful as it will bubble up viciously. Once the bubbling has subsided you should have a smooth caramel, if the cream wasn’t hot enough you may have a couple lumps which will melt if you just pop it back over low heat and stir for a couple minutes. Stir in the vanilla and then pour the hot caramel over the chocolate, set aside for a couple minutes before stirring together to form a smooth ganache. Pop the bowl in the fridge for a couple hours or until thickened. Make sure you don’t leave the ganache in the fridge for too long as it will become too firm to whip, it still needs to be spreadable.

For the cake sieve the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, salt and brown sugar into a large bowl and use a whisk to combine so everything is evenly combined. Make a well in the middle of the bowl and pour in the remaining ingredients and whisk together until a smooth cake batter is formed. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake in the oven for about 25-30 minutes or until the cake springs back to a light touch and it is slightly pulling away from the sides of the pan.

Notes from JennyBakes:

What I love about this recipe is that it is pretty forgiving. I was too lazy to use my scale so I searched online for ounce/cup equivalencies for the ingredients and may not have gotten them exact. The cake still worked. All of my 9x13 pans were occupied so I divided it into 2 9" square pans. The cake still worked. I had a few clumps in the caramel that refused to melt back in despite his reassurances, and then the milk chocolate didn't melt as smoothly as I would have liked (it was harder to find milk chocolate bars for baking as I usually use dark, so I bought Cadbury dairy milk bars and they are probably more intended for eating) so you can seem chocolate and/or caramel bits in the frosting but the cake still worked. I didn't use his recommended cake toppings since I was birthdayfying it and also am trying to get rid of these sprinkles that I keep using on everything, and the cake still worked. It is probably more sophisticated with the cocoa nibs and nuts, so I'd still recommend doing that.

Also I don't have a way to transport a 9x13 cake outside of its original pan so part of my cake division strategy was purely so I could take half to work!

Monday, June 03, 2019

Chocolate Chunk Cookies from Genuine Pizza

This is my last official post as a member of the Abrams Dinner Party. Part of the behind the scenes happenings that you can't see is that all the members have a private online group where we can share recipe experiments, ask questions, etc. Well when we first got Genuine Pizza, other people started raving about this cookie recipe - best ever, makes a ton, multiple batches, etc. I was determined to make pizza from a pizza cookbook but then I had a leftover half stick of butter sitting around from the cake I posted last weekend that I decided to make a quarter recipe. They are amazing!

At some point I will return to Genuine Pizza and make, oh I don't know, pizza, particularly the one with porcini cream that I have my eye on, but for now please understand that these cookies demand to be shared.

Chocolate Chunk Cookies

2 sticks (1 cup/225 g) cold unsalted butter, cut into several pieces
3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp (175 g) granulated sugar
generous 3/4 cup (175 g) packed dark brown sugar
2 large eggs, cold
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups (405 g) all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
12 (1-oz/30 g) chocolate chunks or 84 chocolate feves (7 per cookie)
Flaky sea salt, such as Maldon

Preheat oven to 350 F (175 F).

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, until fully incorporated. Pause the mixer motor to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl between each addition. Add the vanilla and mix to incorporate.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and baking soda until combined.

Add the flour mixture to the butter-egg mixture and mix on low speed until just combined. Do not overmix.

Using a large cookie scoop (2 oz/55 g), scoop out the dough and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Press a chocolate chunk or 7 chocolate feves into each of the cookie dough balls and wrap the dough around the chocolate so it's completely encased and the dough balls are round. Return the cookie balls to the parchment-lined baking sheet, flatten the cookies so they're a bit squat, and sprinkle each with some flaky salt.

Bake the cookies for 10-12 minutes, or until they are golden brown and about 1/2 inch thick. Remove from the oven and transfer the cookies to a cooling rack. Let cool completely, then transfer to a container with a lid and store the cookies at room temperature for up to 1 week.*

Notes from JennyBakes: I had some small chocolate truffles leftover from the holidays (the type that are dark chocolate ganache rolled in cocoa powder) and this is what I chopped up to stuff inside the cookie. It worked great but didn't take much! I also didn't realize it called for cold butter and used room temperature, and used regular brown sugar instead of dark. Guess I'll have to make them again, oh darn.

* It is impossible for them to last this long because you will eat them, obviously.

This post is sponsored by ABRAMS Books, as part of the ABRAMS Dinner Party.

Monday, May 27, 2019

Orange Honey Cake

This is my penultimate post as part of the 2018-19 Abrams Dinner Party, but I'm not done with these cookbooks. I will keep cooking and baking from my favorites moving forward. The cake this recipe comes from is one of those that will serve as an endless source of inspiration.

When I first went through Icing on the Cake by Tessa Huff, I had marked the pink lemonade cake to try. But then I ran out of strawberries, and then I ran out of butter. And then I didn't pay enough attention to the strawberry mixture and burned it, and that was the last of them. So I had to put the ideas aside for a week. But I kept thinking about this cake that had salted honey and orange together and it just seemed so perfect for spring, and when a co-worker announced her resignation I knew it would be a good one to bring for the goodbye break.

As laid out in the cookbook, this cake would have three 6-inch layers, a salted honey custard, an orange cake, and a honey buttercream. I think I've said before that I don't have three 6-inch cake pans, nor would I have a cake holder that would fit a cake that high if I did. So I was adapting this recipe to two 9-inch layers. This mean I wasn't sure it was worth making the salted honey custard for just one layer, but I do think it would have been a nice textural and taste contrast to the other two parts. I also didn't do the flower petal icing technique on the outside that she shows, choosing instead to borrow the side technique from the cake I originally intended to make, and use the rest of the remnants of that to just put a few things on top. I will only include the parts below that I used.

I was worried about the sweetness of the buttercream, which seemed very sweet when I first made it. But I made this cake two days before the party, and the buttercream the night before, and apart from two separate 15-minute periods where I put the cake in the fridge to set it, I left it out at room temperature. By the time I tasted the final product around lunchtime the next day, it all was lovely and mellow, but you could still taste the honey and orange. This may be the perfect tea party cake, or Easter, or baby or bridal shower. I know I will be making it again.

Orange Honey Cake
(adapted from the Orange Salted Honey Cake in Icing on the Cake)

For the Orange Butter Cake:
2 1/4 cups (295 g) cake flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups (300 g) granulated sugar
2 tbsp finely grated orange zest from about 2 large oranges
1/3 cup (80 ml) fresh orange juice
2/3 cup (160 ml) buttermilk
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks/170 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
3 large eggs

For the Honey Buttercream:
4 large egg whites
2/3 cup (160 ml) honey
2/3 cup (135 g) granulated sugar
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 cups (4 sticks/450 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature

Make the Orange Butter Cake
Preheat the oven to 350 F (175 C). Grease and flour three 6-inch (15-cm) cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl.

In a small bowl, rub the orange zest and granulated sugar together between your fingertips until fragrant. In a separate bowl, stir together the orange juice and buttermilk.

In the bowl of a stand mixture with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed for 2 minutes. Add the sugar-zest mixture and mix on medium-high until light and fluffy, 3-5 minutes. Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl.

Turn the mixer to medium-low and add the vanilla. Add the eggs one a t time, mixing until each is incorporated before adding the next. Mix until combined. Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl.

Turn the mixer to low and add the flour mixture in three batches, alternating with the buttermilk mixture, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. After the last streaks of the flour mixture are incorporated, mix on medium for no more than 30 seconds.

Evenly divide the batter among the prepared pans. Bake for 25-28 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of each cake comes out clean. Let the cakes cool on a wire rack for 10-15 minutes before removing from the pans. Allow the cakes to cool completely, right-side up, on the wire rack before removing the parchment. Level the tops of the cakes with a long serrated knife as needed.

Make the Honey Buttercream
Put the egg whites, honey, and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer. Gently whisk them by hand until just combined. In a medium saucepan, bring an inch or two (2.5 to 5 cm) of water to a simmer over medium-low heat. Place the mixer bowl on top of the saucepan to create a double boiler (be sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water). Whisking intermittently, heat the egg white mixture until it reaches 160 F (70 C) on a candy thermometer.

Carefully affix the mixer bowl to the stand mixture (it may be hot) and fit the mixer with the whisk attachment. Beat the egg white mixture on high for 8-10 minutes, or until it holds medium-stiff peaks and the outside of the bowl has returned to room temperature.

Turn the mixer down to low and add the vanilla. Add the butter a couple of tablespoons at a time, mixing until each is incorporated before adding the next. Stop the mixer and swap out the whisk for the paddle attachment.

Turn the mixer to medium-high and beat until the buttercream is silky smooth, 3 to 5 minutes.

(Please see cookbook for assembly directions since I went rogue!)

This post is sponsored by ABRAMS Books, as part of the ABRAMS Dinner Party. 

Icing on the Cake came out April 2, 2019. 

Inside you will find recipes for beautiful and decadent cakes, cupcakes, pies, tarts, and even two styles of macarons. When I have some days off I plan to come back to this one and maybe try macarons again. So far they have eluded me but her directions are so clear!

Monday, May 20, 2019

Banana Pudding

Growing up in the northwest, we would have "a barbecue" and that might mean a picnic or gathering or potluck, whether it included meat or fire or not. Here where I live in the south, we would never use the word barbecue that way, and barbecue is serious business. In my state of South Carolina alone, there are four different bbq regions (with different sauces) and even a BBQ Trail Map. One of my coworkers has been trained as an official bbq judge. Only in the last few years have I even eaten meat, so I'm still learning about the difference in meat styles. But up to that point (and part of me may still believe this now) I thought that bbq was like Thanksgiving - it's important that the meat centerpiece is good but that people are more interested in the sides.

One side you see everywhere in the south is banana pudding, from seafood shacks to the finest dining establishments downtown (ten years ago I made Soby's White Chocolate Banana Cream Pie for friends visiting from Oregon, and I think that was intended as an elevated banana pudding.) But just like macaroni and cheese, a side-dish I also made from this same cookbook, you never eat the same pudding twice. Everyone has their own take, their own technique. This recipe has you assemble the pudding and bananas and cookies at the last minute, where many southerners would have had you put the pudding and cookies together overnight so everything is soft. Maybe we all find our own way.

Banana Pudding(from BBQ&A with Myron Mixon)

Makes 6 servings


5 large egg yolks
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/3 cup sugar
Dash of kosher salt
2 cups whole milk (do not use skim)
2 tbsp unsalted cold butter
2 tsp vanilla extract*
18 Nilla wafer cookies, coarsely crushed
3 ripe bananas, thinly sliced*

In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the cornstarch, sugar, and salt. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, gradually bring the milk to a boil. Gradually whisk the milk into the egg yolk mixture until smooth. Transfer the pudding mixture (back) to the saucepan. Cook over moderate heat, whisking, until the pudding is thick, about 3 minutes. Scrape the pudding into a bowl and whisk in the cold butter and vanilla. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled, at least 4 hours, or overnight.

When you are ready to serve the pudding: spoon the pudding into 6 bowls. Garnish with the thinly sliced bananas and sprinkle all over with the crushed Nilla wafers. Serve cold, right away.

Note: You can serve the cookies without crushing them - just allow 3 per bowl. You can also add a couple tbsp of banana or almond liqueur (or a combination of both) into the pudding mixture right after you transfer it to the saucepan.

*Notes from JennyBakes - I substitute banana liqueur for the vanilla because I've always thought it was strange that the only banana in banana pudding is the bananas! I wouldn't cut the bananas until right before serving, OR put them in a dish and smother with the pudding to chill, and top with the Nilla wafers so they get a little soft... this seems more standard for southern pudding. This recipes leaves the Nilla wafers pretty crunchy.

BBQ&A with Myron Mixon came out May 7, 2019, from ABRAMS Books, and has a lot of practical how-to information, diagrams too, that should be an asset to anyone wanting to up their barbecue game.

This post is sponsored by ABRAMS Books, as part of the ABRAMS Dinner Party.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Bread Pudding French Toast with Bacon and Rosemary-Orange Maple Syrup

Peter Sherman is the founder of BarBacon in NYC, a restaurant centered around bacon. His new cookbook, The Bacon Bible (by Peter Sherman with Stephanie Banyas,) came out April 23rd. It has a lot of what you might expect but also some surprises. I'm relatively new to eating meat again but of course one of the great pleasures of a meat eating life is bacon. BLTs! Cobb salad!  I wanted this bacon to be special so I bought local, from the Swamp Rabbit Butchery

I found I had marked a bunch but I kept coming back to this sweet and savory brunch recipe and decided to give it a try. Since not everyone in my household eats bacon, I made a half recipe by cutting everything in half and just using 4 eggs, and cutting back on cooking times a bit (20-25 minutes with the foil, 15 without) and it worked perfectly. The bacon is present but not overpowering, and overall the dish is not too sweet and has a lot of balance (don't skip the orange rosemary syrup which helps with this.)

Bread Pudding French Toast with Bacon and Rosemary-Orange Maple Syrup

1 loaf semolina-golden raisin bread, cut into 1-inch (2.5 cm) cubes*
7 large eggs
2 cups (400 g) sugar
2 cups (480 ml) whole milk
2 cups (480 ml) heavy cream
2 tsp finely grated orange zest
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
8 thin slices bacon, cooked until crisp, finely chopped

Rosemary-Orange Maple Syrup (recipe below)
Confectioners' Sugar for serving (optional)

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Spread the bread in a single layer on a baking sheet and toast in the oven until a pale golden blond color, turning once, about 12 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly. Increase the oven temperature to 350 F.

Grease a 9x13-inch baking dish with butter and nonstick spray. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar. Add the milk, cream, orange zest, and vanilla, and whisk until smooth. Stir in the bacon. Add the bread to the custard mixture and stir well to combine. Let the mixture sit, stirring a few more times, for 20 minutes, or until the bread has absorbed all the liquid.

Transfer the bread mixture to the prepared pan, cover with aluminum foil, and bake for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and continue baking until puffed and the top is golden brown, about 30 minutes longer.  Cut into squares and serve with the Rosemary-Orange Maple Syrup and a sprinkle of confectioner's sugar.

Rosemary-Orange Maple Syrup

1 cup pure maple syrup, preferably grade B
Zest of one large navel orange
3 sprigs fresh rosemary

In a small saucepan, combine the syrup, zest, and rosemary, and bring to a simmer over low heat. Cover, remove from the heat, and let steep for thirty minutes. Remove the zest and rosemary and reheat before serving, if needed. Makes 1 cup.

*If you prefer your french toast made with brioche or challah, feel free to use either, just add 1/3 cup golden raisins and 1/4 tsp fennel seeds to the egg mixture. (Or if you're like me, just wing it... I found a challah with regular raisins and called it close enough.)

I had a few pieces of bacon leftover so I made chocolate covered bacon from the candy section of the cookbook.

Other recipes I've marked to try include:

Bacon Ramen
BarBacon Cobb
Skillet Pasta Carbonara
Peanut Butter and Bacon Bars

This post is sponsored by ABRAMS Books, as part of the ABRAMS Dinner Party.

Monday, May 06, 2019

Mexican Chocolate Tres Leches Cake

By the time you see this cake, it will be 364 days until the next Cinco de Mayo, so write it down and come back. Or make it sometime this summer, whatever the reason. It is super moist, not too sweet, and refreshing. I made a half recipe and baked in a 9x9 pan for 30 minutes and that worked out great!

Mexican Chocolate Tres Leches Cake

Yields 9x13" cake

    For the cake:
  • 1 cup hot coffee
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 1/3 cups whole milk
  • 3 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped

  • For the milk mixture:
  • 1 cup sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 cup evaporated milk
  • 1 cup chocolate milk

  • For the whipped cream topping:
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Grease 9x13" baking pan with butter or cooking spray.
  3. Combine hot coffee and butter in medium bowl, stirring until butter is melted. If the butter doesn't melt all the way, microwave for 30 seconds.
  4. In a large bowl, combine eggs, milk, vanilla, and sugar, stirring until well combined.
  5. In a medium bowl combine flour, cocoa powder, cinnamon, cayenne pepper, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, stirring until well combined.
  6. Add flour mixture to egg mixture, stirring until about halfway combined, then add coffee mixture, stirring until well combined.
  7. Stir in chopped chocolate.
  8. Pour batter into the pan.
  9. Bake in preheated oven for 45-50 minutes, until a toothpick comes out with some loose crumbs on it.
  10. Let the cake cool completely.
  11. Once cake is cooled, combine condensed milk, evaporated milk, and chocolate milk and stir well to combine.
  12. Poke lots of holes in the cake with a toothpick or a fork - the more the better, so it soaks up all the milks!
  13. Pour the milk mixture over the cake.
  14. Refrigerate at least an hour.
  15. Make whipped topping by combining heavy cream, cocoa powder, cinnamon, and whipping until stiff peaks form. I use my electric mixer for this but if you want a good arm workout - use a whisk and your arm!
  16. Spread whipped topping over chilled cake.
  17. Dust with powdered sugar, cinnamon, and a sprinkle of more cayenne, if desired!
  18. Slice and enjoy!
Recipe adapted from How Sweet It Is

Monday, April 29, 2019

The Power of Sprinkles Cake Experiment

I have had this cake cookbook on my pile for a while to try and finally pulled all the pieces together! Amirah Kassem is the personality, baker, and cake decorator behind the sprinkle explosion cakes at Flour Shop. Her new book, The Power of Sprinkles, shows the method behind making the cake. Really The Power of Sprinkles is more of a decorating book, because it only contains one cake and one frosting recipe, but then goes on to demonstrate a bunch of variations, from the unicorn cakes to the sushi cakes to the cakes that look like other things (pizza, pancakes, etc.) Because of the one recipe issue, I am not including it in this post; please take a look at the cookbook!

It felt to me like sprinkles were the important thing, so I decided to make a small explosion cake. I had ordered fancy sprinkles already! I used the basic suggestions for the sushi roll cakes, which divided one cake recipe into two 9x13 pans (two colors) and used a half recipe of the icing. Amirah has very clear directions in her book, with pictures for each step. This is how I remembered to put holes in my cakes but not the top layer, and to remember to fill the cake with sprinkles before putting that top layer on! She also has helpful recommendations for timing, scaling up or down, or other variations.

I had been poking around the cake decorating part of the internet (a huge rabbit hole) and decided to try out the watercolor technique on the outside. 

I definitely used too much food coloring in the watercolor stage, but liked how this technique required less icing (I was worried I shouldn't have halved the batch!) and lets you use up all the dregs in the watercolor process, which is basically random blops that get smoothed to a vaguely abstract look (or in my case - almost smoothed. I really need a cake turner!)

This post is sponsored by ABRAMS Books, as part of the ABRAMS Dinner Party. 

The Power of Sprinkles came out April 9, 2019.

You can use the book for a whole host of ideas for seasonal parties or fun themes, or even just as a jumping off point for your own creative ventures. The cake I made is not exactly pictured, but I pulled inspiration from some of her versions and used her primary cake and frosting recipes.

Check out her website and Instagram too, which may be the two most colorful places on the internet!