Lemon and Mixed Berry Striped Cake

Last month I started cooking out of the Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh cookbook “Sweet” and it has been both fun and rewarding. If you missed it, check out my blog post.  Last week I was alerted that the US/Canadian version of the “Sweet” cookbook had some errors with oven temperatures and baking times. If you have a copy of the book, you can email sweet@tenspeed.com to inquire how to obtain a corrected copy when it comes out. In the meantime, there is a link to a document that you can print out to get the corrections.

My family celebrated Christmas on the Eve and my niece and I made the lemon and mixed berry striped cake for dessert. I call it the vertical cake. In my opinion, it is the most stunning dessert in the entire cookbook. A friend of mine had already made it for me for my birthday in November and now it was my turn.

There are three parts to the recipe. There is the cake, the buttercream, and the fruit purée that is used for the drizzle on top as well as in the buttercream. With my new mixer, prepping has gotten a lot easier with better results.

I was impressed how light and airy the cake batter was. The batter is spread out as a sheet cake so it’s much easier than a layer cake. The cake is “trained,” meaning it is rolled up while it is still warm.  I suspect that if you didn’t do that, the cake would crack.  When it has cooled down it is rolled back out and cut into three even pieces and spread with buttercream. Starting with one piece, it is rolled and each additional piece is added.

The large cylindrical cake is turned on its side where the remaining frosting covers the cake thoroughly. Finally, the mixed berry purée is drizzled on top.

The cake doesn’t actually look all that impressive until you cut into it. It’s like magic and it tastes like magic too. No corrections needed on this recipe!


Working My Way Through Sweet

It’s been an extremely busy Fall for me where I decided on a short hiatus from blogging. I began feeling like it was more of a chore than it was enjoyable. Last week, I took a week off of work believing I needed to recharge. What would reenergize me besides a vacation? I wanted to be productive as well. I bought Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh’s cookbook “Sweet” when it came out in the States on October 3 and have yet to make anything from it. I was so excited about the cookbook launch that I even attended two events for it. I had been anticipating the new cookbook for many months seeing pictures on Instagram of photo shoots and test kitchens. I was intrigued with the beautiful desserts and the exotic flavors and spices that went in many of them. It’s stuff I wanted to eat.

I challenged myself to make a new recipe from Sweet each day for 7 days and here are the results:

Day 1

I made a version of the Custard Yo-Yos with roasted rhubarb icing at my friend’s house. As I shopped for ingredients, I realized that rhubarb was not in season. Something that I remembered distinctly from the interview that I attended with Ottolenghi and Goh at the Jewish Community Center in San Francisco was that you can substitute different fruit and choose according to the season. I contemplated what could be a good replacement for rhubarb. Rhubarb is sour when cooked so I thought cranberry would be a good alternative. There was no shortage of cranberry being that it was Thanksgiving week.

The cookies came out looking pretty good. With a shortbread consistency, I thought two cookies glued together with the icing was a bit much. The cookies were tasty and so was the icing. I would prefer to frost one cookie instead of having them as a sandwich.

Day 2

I really wanted to make the saffron, orange and honey madeleines, but I didn’t have a madeleine pan. I figured I could also interchange the pan and used a decorative mini cake pan that I borrowed from a friend. I had to guess the bake time since my cakes were quite a bit larger. I did pretty well as I got a good bake on them. I enjoyed the flavors of saffron, vanilla, and honey that came through in each bite.

Day 3

I made kaffir lime leaf posset with fresh raspberries instead of papaya. There was no baking involved here, but you had to cook the cream and chill it overnight. This was perfect for me to bring to Thanksgiving Dinner since there would be plenty of other things to be preparing for. It’s also a day to splurge on calories so no one would mind an extra dessert. I loved the tart flavor of the kaffir lime with the cream. I also made enough to share with a few friends and they provided high praises.

Day 4

On Thanksgiving, we were also celebrating my niece’s birthday and she likes cupcakes, so I decided to make lemon and raspberry cupcakes. The recipe calls for lemon curd, which I prepared a day ahead. Fresh raspberries are mixed into the batter which gave it a beautiful color. I was most impressed with the frosting. It took one minute of mixing lemon curd and mascarpone to create this beautiful marriage. This frosting is life changing as I will use this recipe forever.

Day 5

The strawberry and vanilla mini-cake recipe recommends using a popover pan which I actually own. I was excited about being able to use it for something other than popovers. Unfortunately after baking them, the tops broke off. It reminded me of the Seinfeld episode about Elaine’s idea to open up a bakery that only sold the muffin tops, the best part of the muffin. The icing on these cakes were a bit too sweet for my taste. The cake which uses some corn meal was delicious and I would definitely make this again without the icing.

Day 6

Yesterday, I attempted the saffron and pistachio brittle. For this recipe, you need to heat the ingredients at the right temperature and then pour it in a pan to cool. It was still quite gooey even after letting it sit for twice the amount of time asked so I put it in the refrigerator for another 45 minutes. This gave it the right crunch. The brittle is very malleable so it has the tendency to soften up again. So nutty, this makes a great snack and can also be a nice thing to package up for holiday gifts.

Day 7

I thought of how nice it would be to have Sunday doughnuts today. I stayed up late last night preparing the dough and the custard for doughnuts with saffron custard cream. This definitely took the most time to make as there is a lot of waiting time for the dough to rise. It was cool to see the science involved in every aspect of this recipe. The doughnuts are dusted into a cardamom sugar mix that brings another flavor dimension.

I feel proud of myself for completing my seven day challenge. Everything also looked and tasted great giving me a sense of accomplishment. I will continue to work my way through Sweet. With 120 recipes, I got a ways to go.

Playing with Persimmons

It’s persimmon season and you are lucky if you know someone with a persimmon tree that will give you some of its fruit. There are two types of persimmon, Hachiya and Fuyu. The Hachiya persimmon is cone shaped on the bottom and has to be completely ripened to a soft mushy point before it is edible. Because if it’s moist texture, they are good for baking. 

 The Fuyu persimmon has a flat bottom with a crunchy texture. 

 I love this time of year when restaurants will add Fuyu persimmon as a seasonal ingredient to salads. Here’s a photo of a delicious salad that I recently had from Cosecha in Old Oakland. 

 Last month I picked up a few Hachiya persimmons that a coworker left in our break room. It took a couple of weeks to ripen. As soon as it did, I was in search for a recipe for persimmon cake. I stopped when I found the recipe for boozy persimmon pudding on Chowhound 
This very moist cake was full of flavor, spice, and brandy. It tasted even better the next day when the flavors enhanced even more. I warmed it up and topped it off with some fresh whipped cream.  
I recently was given one beautiful organic Hachiya persimmon. After some thought about what to do with it, I decided to look for a recipe for a cookie. Today I used the one persimmon and basic ingredients I already had in my kitchen to make persimmon chocolate chip cookies. The recipe is from the website momtastic.com.    
These cookies didn’t spread and came out like scones, which isn’t a bad thing. I think it makes for a good breakfast. I liked the balance that the chocolate chips gave to the fragrant spices.    
Now what will I do with the Fuyu persimmons I have?

DIY: Fall Pumpkin Cupcakes

About 50 million pumpkin pies are eaten every Thanksgiving. I am never part of that statistic because I don’t like the texture of pumpkin pie. I wanted to bake something with my niece for Thanksgiving and still celebrate pumpkin. It’s been awhile since my niece and I made cupcakes together and I found a recipe for pumpkin cupcakes. I would still get the flavor of pumpkin, but avoid the texture I dislike in pumpkin pie. These came out so good that I made another batch so I could document the experience and here it is:

Ingredients for Cupcake Batter:
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated white sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup canned organic pumpkin
1 tablespoon fresh and finely grated ginger

Ingredients for Cream Cheese Frosting:
4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

1 Heath Milk Chocolate English Toffee Bar, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a bowl, mix your dry ingredients – flour, baking powder, baking soda, ground cinnamon, and salt.
In a separate bowl, using a mixer or hand blender, blend the room temperature butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla extract.
Mix in one third of the flour mixture and half the pumpkin.
Add the second third of the flour mixture and the rest of the pumpkin until well blended. Add the final third of the flour mixture and blend well. Mix in the fresh ginger.
Line cupcake pan with cupcake liners. Fill the cups about 3/4 full of batter.
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Place in the oven and bake for about 18 – 20 minutes. You can also use the clean toothpick test. Place on a wire rack to cool.
While the cupcakes are baking, you have time to make the frosting. Using a mixer or in my case a hand blender, mix the softened cream cheese, the room temperature butter, and vanilla. Add the confectioners sugar and blend until smooth.
When the cupcakes are cool, spread the frosting and sprinkle with chopped Heath candy bar.
These are hands down the best cupcakes I have ever made, probably because they were made from scratch. No more boxed cake mix for me! Enjoy pumpkin cupcakes with your favorite coffee beverage. Tis the season for pumpkin cupcakes!