Funfetti from Scratch

I first learned about the magic that is making funfetti from scratch when I was team leading a New York Care's cooking class in the Bronx. While my classes were ostensibly supposed to focus on healthy cooking, my Bronx class happened on the weekends and was three hours to create a whole meal including dessert (don't ever tell my East Harlem kids who met for one hour after school and only got to make desserts near the holidays). I tended to focus my classes on familiar foods for which I could buy all the ingredients at the local Pathmark but made from scratch. So, corn flake crusted baked chicken tenders, take out style fried rice and chow mein, mac and cheese, etc and then occasionally throw in something new, like kale chips. (Seriously, these kids loved kale chips, one semester we made them at least four times by request).

The first time I made funfetti cake, we made it using leftover ricotta from the lasagna that was our main course. Yep, I took a ricotta based cake, which sounds pretty adult and fancy and I funfettied it. Because it turns out, all you need to do to make a cake "funfetti" is add a cup (more or less) of sprinkles to whatever white or yellow cake you're making and you'll get those confetti dots inside when it bakes up.

Last week I got a freelance request for a friend's husbands birthday for a cake shaped like America. When I asked the flavor, my friend said "not chocolate-y and moist". At first I offered a vanilla and lemon curd cake but then I asked if she wanted to go all out American and have a funfetti cake. This cake was maybe one of the most ridiculous things I've ever made and a resounding success.

Ingredients

Cake:

  • 7 oz (1 3/4 stick) room temperature Butter
  • 1 cup Sugar
  • 4 Eggs (room temperature)
  • 2 teaspoons Vanilla Extract
  • 1 1/3 cups AP Flour*
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon Baking Powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 3/4 cup rainbow sprinkles

Frosting:

  • 12 oz (3 sticks) Butter, softened
  • 5-7 cups Powdered Sugar (sifted)
  • 2 teaspoons Vanilla Extract
  • 1/2 teaspoons Salt
  • 1/2 cup Rainbow Sprinkles

The Cake

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour a 9"x13" (quarter sheet sized) cake pan.
  2. Combine dry ingredients and set aside. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy and then add eggs, one at a time, incorporating well after each addition. Mix in vanilla extract and lemon juice. Mix in flour in two parts with the mixer on low and then mix on high for three minutes to aerate the batter. Fold in sprinkles.
  3. Spread the batter evenly in the pan and bake for 25-30 minutes until golden brown and just starting to pull away at the edges. Cool in pan for ten minutes on a wire rack and then invert directly onto the rack and cool completely before assembly.
  4. Yes, it really is that easy.

The Frosting

  1. Cream together butter, salt, vanilla and five cups of powdered sugar until smooth and fluffy add up to two cups more powdered sugar for your own personal consistency and taste. Mix in the sprinkles. You've just made funfetti frosting. Try not to make it every day now.

Assembly:

Of course, you have a couple of options here. You could just frost the outside of the cake and leave it at that or you could cut it in half and frost the middle and outsides, you could turn it in to one big U.S.A or you can make a smaller, double layered U.S.A. which is the option for which I'm writing instructions.

  1. Cut your cooled cake in half. Place one layer on a cakeboard and spread with a generous even layer of frosting, place the other half on top. Stick this in the fridge for fifteen minutes to firm up.
  2. Draw or print an outline of America (or any shape you want) that will fit within the dimensions of the cook hanging out in the fridge. Cut out the outline.
  3. Remove the cake from the fridge and place the outline on top, you can use a couple of dabs of frosting to hold it in place if you want. Use a paring knife to cut around the outline. Remember, you don't have to do this all in one go, use the picture in the upper right square as an example for how to cut parts of the coastline away.
  4. The sides of the cake are going to be pretty crumbly, so this is a time when it's pretty crucial to crumb coat your cake. Crumb coating is when you spread a thing layer of frosting over your entire cake to act as a base layer to seal in the crumbs so they don't mix in with the frosting. After you've crumb coated the cake, stick it back in the fridge for another fifteen to twenty minutes to set up.
  5. After your cake has set up, give it it's final, generous layer of frosting, on a cake this size, you're bound to lose some of the details of the coast (sorry, Puget Sound) try not to worry about it too much, I promise your guests (or client) won't care.
  6. This cake can be stored at room temperature if your house isn't too warm but in the Summer months I'd recommend sticking it in a sealed container in the fridge.

Flourless Chocolate Cake, Fresh Strawberries and Whipped Sour Cream

 Flourless chocolate cake, fresh strawberries and whipped sour cream.

Am I posting this flourless chocolate cake recipe because it's Pesach? Yes. Yes I am. But you certainly don't have to be observing or even a member of the tribe or believe gluten is the root of all evil to enjoy the rich decadence of this cake. You can, of course, replace the flourless chocolate cake in this recipe with your favorite chocolate sponge, but the intensity of this cake contrasted with the sharpness of the whipped sour cream is what really takes this cake up a notch from Birthday Party to Plated Dessert.

You'll notice in this recipe I use gelatin to stabilize the whipped sour cream to allow me to build this cake in a ring mold. You can omit the gelatin but it means you'll probably want to build this cake right before serving, with a more rustic, icebox cake look or just serve it as slices of cake with a dollop of whipped sour cream and fresh strawberries on top.

If you just don't have a ring mold or like the idea of plating better, but still want to do as much as possible in advance, keep the gelatin in the recipe and the stabilized whipped sour cream should hold in the fridge for about twenty four hours.

This cake is incredibly rich, so even though it's only a nine inch round, I'd say it serves about 15-18.

Ingredients

For the Cake:

  • 8 oz Bittersweet Chocolate (chopped)
  • 1/2 pound (2 sticks) Butter
  • 1 1/2 cups Sugar
  • 6 Eggs (room temperature)
  • 1 cup Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon Salt

For the Filling:

  • 1 cup Heavy Cream
  • 1/4 cup Powdered Sugar
  • 3/4 cup Sour Cream
  • 3 sheets Gelatin (I don't know the strength I'm using because Korea)
  • 2 tablespoons Cointreau or other liqueur
  • 1 cup Strawberries (sliced)
  • 1/3 cup Strawberry Jam

Cake

  1. Preheat your oven to 350. Grease the bottom of two 9 inch pans, cover with parchment and grease again. (Your life will be easier if you have springforms, but I don't have appropriately sized ones and it worked out fine.)
  2. Using a double boiler, melt together your butter and chocolate. I always line my bowls with the butter before putting in the chopped chocolate as an extra precaution against burning. Once completely melted, whisk in one cup of the sugar and set aside.
  3. Using a stand or hand mixer (or a whisk and a lot of elbow grease) whisk the eggs and remaining half cup of sugar to ribbon stage. Reduce the speed to low and slowly pour in the melted chocolate mixtures. When the chocolate mixture is most of the way incorporated, whisk in the cocoa powder and salt.
  4. Divide evenly between the two prepare pans. Bake for twenty to twenty five minutes or until a tester poked in the middle comes out with moist crumbs.
  5. Cool cake for ten minutes in the pan before removing and cooling completely on a rack.

Whipped Sour Cream (When Cake is Ready for Assembly)

  1. Bloom sheet gelatin in cold water.
  2. Whip heavy cream and powdered sugar to medium peak. While whipping, squeeze out the bloomed gelatin and then melt in 3 tablespoons water or a mixture of two tablespoons liqueur and one tablespoon water. (I do this in the microwave, only do about fifteen seconds but you can also use a double boiler)
  3. With the mixer on low speed, drizzle the gelatin into the whipped cream. Add in the sour cream and mix until incorporated.

Assembly

  1. If necessary, trim cakes to the size of the ring
  2. Put your ring on a cake board and line with a cake collar (acetate strip).
  3. Carefully place your bottom cake layer inside the ring. Arrange strawberries in an even layer covering the cake.
  4. Scoop half the whipped sour cream over the strawberries and use a small offset spatula to spread and smooth.
  5. Carefully place your second layer inside the ring.
  6. In a small ramekin, heat strawberry jam for twenty seconds in the microwave. Use a small offset spatula to spread a thin layer over the cake. Let cool.
  7. Scoop remaining whipped sour cream over the top of the cake. Use a large offset spatula to make a smooth top or use a smaller one to make swirls for a textured look.
  8. Cover in a cake dome and refrigerate for at least one hour or up to twenty four.
  9. Remove acetate strip and slice. This is definitely a cake where you want to have some hot water to clean your knife between every cut.
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Thailand Takeover: Five Spice Chocolate Mini Bundts with Coffee Glaze

 five spice chocolate bundt cake with coffee glaze

I am absolutely in love with the five spice powder we brought back from Thailand. I'm pretty sure it's made with white pepper instead of Sichuan but the bag didn't come with the ingredients listed and I don't care because it's so well balanced and flavorful. I have been putting it on everything despite my husband's objections that I didn't buy that much of it and I can't replace it without a trip to Thailand. Now that I've eaten four of these mini bundt cakes in the last twelve hours, maaaaybe I'll cool my jets with the five spice (probably not though).

In case you don't know this about me, I don't really like sweet things added to my savory food but I'm all about adding savory to sweet. The fantastic thing about five spice is that it's already a mix of spices we tend to think of as belonging in sweet food in Western desserts with a bit of savory kick. Basically it's doing my work of balancing sweet and savory for me. This bundt cake isn't too rich or sweet so it's a great way to add a unique pastry to a brunch menu without feeling like if you eat it you couldn't possibly try anything else. Which, if you're home alone with twelve of them like me, maybe actually a down side. Somebody please come take some bundt cakes off my hands.

Ingredients

For the Cake:

  • 1/4 cup Cocoa Powder
  • 1/4 cup Boiling Water
  • 3 Eggs
  • 1 1/4 cup All Purpose Flour
  • 1 cup Sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoon Five Spice*
  • 3/4 teaspoon Baking Powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon Salt
  • 6 ounces (1 1/2 sticks) softened Butter
  • 1/2 cup Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips

For the Glaze:

  • 1/2 cup Milk
  • 1 tablespoon ground Coffee
  • 1 1/2 cups Powdered Sugar

The Cake

  1. Preheat oven to 350 Fahrenheit. Grease bundt cake pan.
  2. Whisk cocoa powder and hot water to a smooth paste. Set aside to cool.
  3. Combine all the dries in the bowl of a stand mixer. (Sugar is considered a dry in this recipe)
  4. Whisk eggs into cooled cocoa powder until well combined.
  5. In the stand mixer (or using a hand mixer) add in butter and 1/2 the cocoa egg mixtures. Mix on low speed until well combined and then medium speed for one minute to aerate the batter. Repeat adding the rest of the cocoa mix in two batches, scraping down the bowl between each addition.
  6. Fold in chocolate chips by hand.
  7. Use a portion scoop or two large spoons to divide batter evenly in the mini bundt pan. (I made twelve very full bundts but I suspect you could actually get fifteen out of this batch.)
  8. Bake for 25 minutes or until a tester comes out clean/the cake springs back when lightly touched. Let cool for ten minutes before removing from pan and cooling on a rack.

The Glaze

  1. Heat milk over low heat just until it comes to a boil. Add ground coffee. Cover and steep ten minutes.
  2. Strain milk and let cool to room temperature.
  3. Slowly whisk coffee infused milk into the powdered sugar until you reach the desire consistency. I think I only used about 1/3 a cup.
  4. When the cakes are cool, drizzle glaze over the top or dip the top of the bundt in the bowl of glaze and flip over, letting the glaze run down the sides. (I recommend doing this on a cooling/glazing rack over a baking sheet so you don't end up with the mess I did.)
  5. Let the glaze set. Try to not eat the whole batch by yourself.

*After searching a bunch of online spice shops, I think this five spice blend from Frontier is probably the closest to what I'm using. You can often find five spice blends at American grocery stores but I've always found them a little bland. If not buying online, I would check your closest Asian market and buy the blend with the least English on it.

Rosemary Pear Brown Butter Spice Cake

Go ahead and say that name three times fast.

If you've ever gotten a weekly CSA then you know that you're always left with a few items of produce that you don't know how or don't want to use before the next box comes. A few weeks ago I impulse bought a huge amount of pork belly (who can say no to sale pork belly?!) and a whole duck. We turned my impulse buy into a dinner party and our dinner party into an excuse to use those items that didn't seem like they were ever going to leave our fridge. The napa cabbage cooked down with the pork belly and the EIGHT huge Asian pears I had let build up turned into this cake.

It always surprises people when I say I don't have much of a sweet tooth because it sounds like I don't like dessert. But I LOVE dessert. I just prefer the richness of butter and punch of spice over that taste of sugar. In terms of butter and spice, this cake ain't messin' around. Add in the succulent, caramelized but salty, rosemary scented pears and you have a dessert that literally tastes like everything you want from Autumn.

This recipe isn't hard but it does have a lot of inactive down time so you can certainly make the pears a day in advance if that's what works for you.

Ingredients

For the pears:

  • 4 large Asian Pears
  • 4 oz (1 stick) Butter (cubed)
  • 1/2 cup Sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Salt
  • 3-5 sprigs of Rosemary

For the Cake:

  • 10 oz (2 1/4 sticks) Butter
  • 1 cup Light Brown Sugar
  • 4 Eggs
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • 2 cups AP Flour
  • 1 teaspoon Baking Soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
  • 1 teaspoon Cinnamon
  • Ground Cardamom
  • 1 c Chopped Roasted Pears

Directions:

  • Pears. Preheat oven to 350. Prep the pears by peeling, coring and cutting into eights. Put all the pears into a large Pyrex baking dish. Sprinkle the pears with sugar and salt and evenly distribute the cubed butter throughout the dish. Throw on your whole sprigs of rosemary. Cover with foil and bake for forty minutes at which point the pears will have released their juices and you should have a bubbling syrup in the bottom of the dish. Uncover and cook for another hour, checking and stirring every twenty minutes. At the end of the hour your pears should be caramelized and the syrup at the bottom of the dish should be viscous and golden brown. If you've decided to make these a day in advance, let cool and store in the fridge.
  • Brown butter. Place 10 oz of butter in a heavy bottom saucepan over medium heat. Cook until the butter in a heavy bottom saucepan over medium heat. Cook until the butter begins to smell like toasted nuts and then pour into another container, I usually use something large and shallow so it cools faster. (Sidenote: A lot of chefs strain the caramelized solids out of brown butter, I go back and forth on doing it but both times I made this recipe, I was lazy and didn't bother. It turned out great, so if you don't have a fine mesh sieve or just hate cleaning the damn things, feel free to be a lazy bum like me.) Cool the butter in the fridge until it's the consistency of slightly softened butter. You can also do this in advance, just be sure to take it out with enough time to soften before you make the cake.
  • Let's make this cake! Preheat oven to 350. Oil and flour or oil and parchment a nine inch cake round.Whisk together flour, spices, baking powder and salt. Set aside. Cream butter, brown sugar and vanilla until light a fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Scrape down your bowl. Add the flour mix in three stages, beating lightly after each addition. After the last addition beat just until all the flour is incorporated. Fold in the chopped pears and scrape into your cake pan. Use a spatula to even out the batter and then pop in the oven for 30-40 minutes. The cake should be light golden brown and spring back when touched.
  • Uhh, in my mouth, please? Just a couple more steps. When the cake comes out of the oven, dip a pastry brush into the syrup in the bottom of the pear pan and generously soak the top with it. (If you made your pears in advance, you'll need to pop them in the oven for about ten minutes for this) Let cool in the pan until just warm to the touch and then cool the rest of the way on a rack. Slice into 10-12 pieces and serve with the remainder of the caramelized pears.