Archive for the 'Dessert' Category

Peach Sorbet

Posted by alannak on Jun 11 2011 | Dessert

Every summer as I delve into peaches, nectarines, cherries and plums, Alex gives me puppy eyes and reminds me of his “allergy” to stone fruits. I put “allergy” in quotation marks because really he’s fine–he just gets itchy mouth.

Today, we decided to whip up a delicious peach sorbet so that he could experience the sunny, sweetness of the fruit without the mouth itch that comes from eating it whole, with skin. All it took was 4 ingredients and a few hours to produce what tasted exactly like a fresh peach, only it creamy, frozen form.

This sorbet is pretty tart, so feel free to add a touch of sugar if you like. It’s also a great recipe for adding in other summery flavors, like mint or ginger if you have them around.

1/2 cup water
3 tbsp sugar
4 ripe peaches, blanched, peeled, and sliced
juice of 1 lemon

Heat sugar and water together until it comes to a boil, then remove from heat and let cool. Combine simple syrup (sugar and water mixture), peaches, and lemon juice in a blender and blend until smooth. Freeze according to machine instructions. NOTE: You can refrigerate the liquid before putting it the machine, but it may brown slightly.


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Mocha Birthday Cake

Posted by alannak on Mar 18 2011 | Dessert

Very often when I write that we cooked something on this blog, we means Alex. But this time, we is ME. Me bake cake.

Me bake cake for same friend whose last birthday occasioned the coconut strawberry cheesecake we featured right before our hiatus. Baking is something I don’t mind doing without Alex being kitchen bossy over my shoulder because I trust that following the recipe will yield the best result. With cooking, we rarely follow recipes precisely because Alex reads them and starts brainstorming ways to improve/deviate.

If I believed in the spirit of Carl Jung, I would say that this is because Alex is an “N” for intuiting (he interprets and adds to information he receives) and I am an “S” for sensing (I prefer to just focus on basic information). I freak if we ignore instructions/directions; Alex prefers to see them as more of a guide than a mandate. Sometimes I feel jealous of his ability to listen to his intuition and be innovative, but mostly I feel safe processing facts step-by-step and then forming a larger picture.

But back to cake. This is a delicious chocolate number with a frosting that is to die for. It actually tastes like the softest, creamiest coffee ice cream you’ve ever had (key ingredient: mascarpone). It complements the dark chocolate flavors in the cake perfectly. I think birthday friend and other friends loved it, as plates were scraped clean and birthday friend seemed happy to take home the remains.

The recipe is de Epicurious, as per nearly all my cakes. Recipe following the batter shot:


2 cups cake flour
3/4 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups (packed) golden brown sugar
3 large eggs
11/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk
4 teaspoons instant espresso powder dissolved in 3/4 cup hot water

1/3 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
1 1/2 cups chilled heavy whipping cream, divided
1 1/3 cups sugar
2 8-ounce containers chilled mascarpone cheese
Bittersweet chocolate curls (optional)

Preheat to 325°F. Butter two 9-inch cake pans and dust with flour. Line bottom of pans with parchment paper. Sift cake flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt into medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until smooth. Add brown sugar and beat until well blended, about 2 minutes. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix in vanilla. Add flour mixture in 3 additions alternately with buttermilk in 2 additions, beating just until blended after each addition. Gradually add hot espresso-water mixture, beating just until smooth.

Divide batter between pans. Bake cakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 30-35 minutes. Cool cakes before removing from pans.

To make the frosting, sift cocoa powder into large bowl and add espresso powder. Bring 1 cup cream to boil in small saucepan. Slowly pour cream over cocoa mixture, whisking until cocoa is completely dissolved, about 1 minute. Add 1/2 cup cream and sugar; stir until sugar dissolves. Chill until cold. Once mixture is cold, add mascarpone to chilled cocoa mixture. Using electric mixer, beat on low speed until blended and smooth. Increase speed to medium-high; beat until mixture is thick and medium-firm peaks form when beaters are lifted, about 2 minutes (do not overbeat).

Frost top of one cake, then add second cake layer and frost entire cake. Decorate and serve!


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Coconut Strawberry Cheesecake

Posted by alannak on Mar 21 2010 | Dessert

Maybe this blog should be called The Epicurious Cake Blog, because this is the third post in a row featuring a cake recipe from the site.

It actually wouldn’t be such a bad idea–blogging through Epicurious’s cakes Julie Powell-style.  In fact, I’m adding it to our list of future blogs, along with Stalking George Washington (in which Alex and I record our visits to George Washington sites across the nation) and Dinner Salads (self-explanatory).

This was yet another birthday cake, and yet another roaring success.  The toasted coconut was just subtle enough and the texture was so creamy and soft.  The fresh strawberries added both refreshment and flavor.  And the crust?  Oh my goodness!  Adding coconut to a graham cracker crust is positively brilliant.

Speaking of brilliant, you may notice that the style of two of our photos today (the solo slice shots) are slightly different than what we usually post.  This is because our (not-so) humble cheesecake had the honor of being photographed by renowned photojournalist Peter van Agtmael, who is also our roommate/my cousin.  That puts our blog right up there with the New York Times Magazine for publications featuring Peter’s photos this weekend.  TFA + NYT = sames.

So again, here’s the recipe, reposted with our baby modifications below.


6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, divided
3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut, toasted, cooled
1/4 cup sugar

3 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
3 tablespoons cornstarch
4 large eggs
1 cup canned sweetened cream of coconut (we used Coco López as recommended)
1/4 cup coconut rum (we used Malibu as recommended)

1/4 cup seedless strawberry jam
2 tablespoons water
1-pint containers strawberries, stemmed, sliced

Day 1
Make the crust.  Preheat oven to 350. Brush 9-inch-diameter cake pan with 1 tablespoon melted butter, line pan with parchment paper, and lightly brush paper with some of melted butter. Blend crumbs, coconut, sugar, and remaining butter in medium bowl. Press mixture over bottom of prepared pan, and up the edges slightly. Bake crust until lightly browned at edges, about 10 minutes. Cool. Reduce oven temperature to 300.  Make filling. Using electric mixer, beat first cream cheese, sugar, softened butter and cornstarch in large bowl until blended. Beat in eggs 1 at a time. Beat in cream of coconut and rum. Pour batter over crust. Place cake pan in large roasting pan and enough water to roasting pan to come 1 inch up sides of cake pan. Cover roasting pan with foil and bake for one hour then remove foil, and bake another 40 minutes until cake is just set in center.  Cool for two hours in the water bath, then knife around the edges to loosen cake and refrigerate overnight covered.

Day 2
Preheat oven to 350.  Place cake in oven 2 minutes. Remove from oven. Place sheet of foil, then large plate on top of cake. Turn pan over. Shake gently, allowing cake to settle onto foil and round. Remove pan and parchment. Place platter atop cake and turn cake right side up onto platter. Remove plate and foil. Make topping.  Simmer jam and 2 tablespoons water in small saucepan. Brush top of cake with warm jam. Overlap berries atop cake, covering completely. Brush remaining jam over berries, chill and serve!


And finally finally, our menu for the week:

Poached salmon
Cucumber dill Salad (something like this)
Cooked potato salad with rosemary and thyme

Pan-roasted chicken sausage
Steamed artichokes
Rice pilaf

Gnocchi with lemon, olive oil, peas and Parmesan cheese
Steamed green beans

Shrimp Caesar salad (like this extremely old post, with shrimp)


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Double Chocolate Layer Cake, Mint Chocolate Chip Oreo Ice Cream Cake

Posted by alannak on Feb 28 2010 | Dessert, Meal Plans

Two weeks, and two unique and delicious cakes.

One ridiculously delicious cake, which we finished today, we’d been meaning to bake for precisely 1 year and 360 days–since Editor-in-Chief Tanya Steel told me in an interview that it is among her favorite recipes on the site.

The other ridiculously delicious cake, which we concocted last weekend, we very proudly invented.

Let’s begin with the more recent.  This Double Chocolate Layer Cake has over 1350 reviews on Epicurious, and nearly all of them are raving.  Understandably, as this cake is soft, chewy, chocolately, satiny, rich, spongy, dense, and completely delightful.  The chocolate ganache frosting provides a smooth and glossy finish that’s makes the cake just the right amount indulgent.  I’m reposting the recipe below with our very, very minor tweaks.

3 oz. semisweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups hot brewed coffee (we used hazelnut, and recommend that or a similar flavor)
3 cups sugar
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
3 large eggs at room temperature
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups well-shaken buttermilk
3/4 teaspoon vanilla

1 pound semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons corn syrup
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.  Grease pans, line bottoms with rounds of wax paper and grease paper.  Combine chocolate and hot coffee in a bowl, and stir until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.

In a large bowl, sift together sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In another large bowl, use an electric mixer beat eggs for about 5 minutes until thickened slightly and lemon colored. Slowly beat in oil, buttermilk, vanilla, and melted chocolate until combined. Add sugar mixture slowly and beat on medium speed until just combined (do not overbeat). Divide batter between pans and bake in middle of oven until a toothpick comes out clean, about an hour. Cool layers completely in pans on racks (we cooled them overnight) before frosting.

To make the frosting bring cream, sugar, and corn syrup to a boil in a saucepan over moderately low heat, whisking until sugar is dissolved. Remove pan from heat and add chocolate, whisking until chocolate is melted. Cut butter into pieces and add to frosting, whisking until smooth. Transfer frosting to a bowl and cool until spreadable, or refrigerate covered and bring to room temperature before spreading

Spread frosting between cake layers and over top and sides, serve and enjoy!


Now for the second–the Mint Chocolate Chip Oreo Ice Cream Cake.  This is a recipe that we invented for my cousin’s birthday last week, we’re so smug that we’ll tell you how freakishly delicious it was until your ears get toxic epidermal necrolysis and fall off kind of (but not really) like in Alex’s dermatology class slides (p.s. don’t Google that).  Yum!

What I love second most about this cake, after its eyes-roll-t0-the-back-of-your-head sweet creaminess, is the fact that the layers look the same, but are in fact different: fresh mint chocolate ice cream looks just like frozen whipped topping with Oreo cookie crumble.  As a result, the cake looks stunning cohesive, but still features delicious and complementary layers.

If you are going to make this cake and you have an ice cream machine available, we highly recommend making fresh mint ice cream.  We based ours off a recipe from the amazing Simply Recipes blog, and we absolutely swooned over the mojito-like flavor of the ice cream.  Here is the recipe on the blog (we doubled it for our purposes), and our entire cake recipe is posted below (note: it can take several days to assemble, so plan accordingly!).

(mint chocolate chip ice cream from Simply Recipes)
6 cups of fresh mint leaves (not stems), rinsed, drained, packed
2 cup milk
4 cups heavy cream (divided, 2 cups and 2 cups)
1 1/3 cup sugar
pinch of salt
12 egg yolks
12 oz.  dark chocolate, very finely chopped

(Oreo cookie crumble)
1 box Oreos
1/2 stick butter, melted

(whipped topping)
10 oreos
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tbsp sugar

Make ice cream.  Heat mint leaves, 1 cup milk, and 1 cup cream in heavy saucepan until steaming.  Then remove from heat, cover, and let stand for 30 minutes. While the mixture is steaming, place the remaining 2 cups of cream in a bowl in an ice bath and set aside.  Reheat the mixture until steaming, remove from heat and let stand for 15 more minutes.  Strain the mixture into a bowl (pressing on leaves), and return it to the saucepan. Add sugar and salt to the mixture. Heat until just steaming again, stirring until sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat.  Whisk the egg yolks in a medium sized bowl. Slowly pour the heated milk cream mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly so that the eggs do not cook, then scrape the mixture back into the saucepan.  Stir the mixture over medium heat with a wooden spoon until the mixture thickens enough to coat the spoon (about 10 minutes).  Pour this mixture through a strainer into the cold cream that you set aside.  Chill thoroughly (in an ice bath or overnight in the refrigerator), divide mixture in half, and cook in according to ice cream machine instructions in two batches.

Once your ice cream is made and you are ready to start assembling the cake, make the cookie crumble.  In a large bowl, smash 1 box Oreos into coarse crumble.  Add melted butter, and stir to combine.  Divide cookie crumble in half.

Spread half of cookie crumble in the bottom of a 10-inch springform pan.  Press crumble down pat with a spatula.  Add half of the ice cream, slightly softened, and freeze until hardened (several hours).  Add second layer of cookie crumble, followed by second half of the the ice cream, softened, and freeze again until hardened (several hours).

To make whipped topping, beat together cream and sugar until soft peaks form.  Crush the remaining 10 oreos, and gently fold them into the whipped cream.  Spread whipped topping on top of the cake, and freeze again for several more hours until the topping is also hard.  Let stand for about 15 minutes before serving, and enjoy!


Finally, finally, finally, just because we are actually posting recipes, it doesn’t mean I will neglect my promise of posting our weekly menu as well.  Here’s what’s up this week:

Paprika-roasted chicken
Baked Japanese yams

Spinach salad with roasted portobello mushrooms, goat cheese, and toasted walnuts with a lemon vinaigrette

Salmon with soy ginger sauce over soba noodle salad (we are making our own soy ginger sauce) from Whole Foods

Chicken tortilla soup from Serious Eats

And phewf, that’s all folks.


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Red Velvet Cupcakes and Menu Planning

Posted by alannak on Feb 15 2010 | Dessert, Meal Plans

So clearly, we’re not great at posting recipes during the winter.

I’ve realized that this is because we end up making most of our food when it is dark outside, and we really dislike posting pictures taken in artificial light.

In light of this realization, I’ve decided that until the days stretch out a bit, I’ll try to post our weekly menus.  We began menu planning at the beginning of this school year, and it has easily doubled (maybe even tripled) our eating/cooking happiness.  I pick meals for the week on Saturday, Alex makes the grocery list, and we shop together for the week’s ingredients on Sunday mornings.  So far, we’ve been eating amazing meals without the stress of having to shop and throw them together at the last minute.

Here’s this week’s meal plan:
Quick and Easy Cioppino

Spinach and Lentil Soup from Padma Lakshmi’s “Tangy Tart Hot and Sweet

Salmon with Spinach, Olives and Golden Raisins and Couscous

Salad with Tofu, Broccoli, and Miso-Tahni Dressing

Banh Mi

Now that I’ve said we never post during the winter, here are some beautiful Red Velvet cupcakes that we made today in the light of day/dusk.  Hence, the lovely photographs.  They’re not for Valentine’s Day.  Just like these weren’t.

The recipe for the cake is from Magnolia Bakery, found here.

The icing recipe is from Simply Recipes, found here.  We added about 3 1/2 cups of confectioner’s sugar (compared to the recipe’s 2-3) because we love thick frosting.


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Gingerbread House

Posted by alannak on Jan 05 2010 | Dessert

When we originally conceptualized this gingerbread house, we planned to create it in the image of Mount Vernon.  It just so happens, we are major GW dweebs.  I mean, have you seen this?

In the end, it was less George Washington than we imagined, and significantly more . . . glitz.  Though we did stay true to original by replicating the rounded driveway.  And there’s always next year to cut original molds for archways and weather vanes.

The house took three days to complete.  Day 1: making dough from this epicurious recipe (it’s not super sweet, but it holds up beautifully).  Day 2: making icing and gluing molds together.  Day 3: decoration.

Ginger GW and Martha felt quite at home.


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