Happy New Year!

January 2, 2012


Egg Nog Cake

Happy New Year!!

It’s been said that layer cakes may be one of the food trends in 2012 and with that in mind Anna at Cookie Madness put together a list of favorite layer cakes, and provided a link to another list of her favorite chocolate cakes. Her list is better than any magazine spread I’ve seen in awhile. With all of that layer cake love and inspiration I realized that I could make a layer cake a month in 2012 without making the same cake twice!

There is a cake on that list that I can’t wait to get to, but with some eggnog in the refrigerator needing to be used up I decided to start with the eggnog cake. I buy organic eggnog to make cinnamon eggnog scones at Christmas time. I love those scones! The only problem is that no one in my family likes to drink eggnog and I always end up with leftovers that most often get thrown out. We like the flavor but the glugginess is a turn off.

So on New Year’s day after a week plus of eating too much sugar and eating too much in general there I was in my kitchen making cake! I only had enough eggnog to make a half recipe and I only own nine inch round pans so I made one layer of cake, cut it in half and layered it.

We like this cake quite a bit. It has a slightly course texture, but is moist without being wet. It’s very easy to make. We both liked it on day one but we like it even better on day two. The nutmeg and eggnog make this cake very flavorful and will be enjoyed by anyone who likes those flavors. The frosting is that old fashioned frosting where you make a roux and then incorporate it into a creamed butter and sugar mixture. It sounds funky but is actually quite good and a good technique for making frosting when you realize you don’t have any powdered sugar in the pantry. There is a chance that the roux will have lumps in it, but I didn’t have any problems with lumps using the microwave method and the frosting was super smooth.

I’m retyping the recipe in the half batch version and including instructions for making the roux in the microwave. For the full version and stovetop instructions for making the roux you will find the recipe here.

Julia Waldbaum’s Festive Eggnog Cake

1 cup all purpose flour (4.5 oz.)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1.5 tsp. baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 rounded tsp.nutmeg (I used already ground nutmeg even though the recipe notes to use fresh and that it’s worth it to use fresh)
2 ounces unsalted butter softened
1 large egg + 1.5 T. egg
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup eggnog

2 T. flour
1/8 tsp. salt
1/2 cup eggnog
1/3 cup butter, soft
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray one 8 or 9 inch round metal cake pan with cooking spray and coat with flour.

In a mixing bowl, stir together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and nutmeg. Add softened butter and stir it in, mashing it into the dry ingredients and coating them with butter. When the mixture is moist with butter, add the eggs, vanilla and eggnog. With a spoon or lowest speed of electric mixer, beat until mixed. Turn speed to medium high and blend for about a minute. Pour batter into cake pans, dividing evenly. Bake for 28 to 30 minutes or until cake springs back when lightly touched.

Cool in pan on rack for 10 minutes. Flip and cool completely.

In a microwave bowl, whisk together flour and salt and about 2 T. of the eggnog. Continue adding the egg nog 2 T. at a time and whisk each addition until all lumps disappear. Microwave on 50% power for 2 minutes stirring once. Remove from microwave and whisk again. I didn’t have any lumps.

In a mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar until creamy. Add flour mixture and continue beating on high with an electric mixer for about 8 minutes or until the sugar is dissolved and the icing isn’t grainy. (It only took me 5-6 minutes to get to the non grainy stage. Beat in the vanilla. Ice the cake.


Sweets Bakeshop Macaron!

August 15, 2011

Macaron on the dashboard of my car.

Is anyone tired of reading about macaron? I don’t blame you if you are. I hesitated to bring them up again for fear that another blog post about macaron might make the Internet come crashing down around all of us. I decided to risk it for people living in the Minneapolis – St. Paul area who have not yet found Sweets Bakeshop.

In the comment section of my previous post about macaron reader Maria suggested I try the macaron at Sweets Bakeshop. Now I get it! Now I understand why people go gaga over these little french style cookies. I had one filled with chocolate ganache which was very good, praline also very good, and salted caramel which were the best. Next time I’m headed straight for the salted caramel.

For better or worse I’ve decided I’m still not going to make my own. They’re very good, but the next time I need a macaron fix I’m headed toward Sweets Bakeshop. You’ll find them (and maybe me) at 2042 Marshall Ave, St. Paul, MN, or 4747 Nicollet Ave S., Minneapolis, MN.  And like Maria said. Have a cupcake while you’re there. You won’t regret it.

Cupcake on the dashboard.

Cafe Latte’ style Turtle Cake

August 12, 2011

Turtle Cake

There is a restaurant called Cafe Latte’ on Grand Avenue in St. Paul, MN. It’s almost three restaurants in one. They serve up-scale food cafeteria style, they have a pizza/wine bar, and a retail bakery. We’ve enjoyed every single thing we’ve ever tried there, and that’s saying a lot because we’ve been going there for a lot of years. One of the things they’re most known for is their Turtle Cake. It’s absolutely delicious!

This year we celebrated a bunch of spring and summer celebrations at one small family event. I decided I should try to make my own version of Turtle Cake. The recipe for the Cafe Latte’ Turtle Cake can be found on the web, but truth be told I had a little trouble with that recipe and decided to strike out on my own. I melded together some different recipes to come up with an excellent cake of my own.

The cake starts with a really moist, chocolate cake which I ever so slightly adapted from the King Arthur Flour Favorite Fudge Birthday Cake recipe. Next is a smooth fudgy frosting studded with toasted pecans, and then all of that layered with caramel sauce. You could use caramel sauce from a jar. Next time I’ll either do that, or I’ll make caramel sauce from scratch. The recipe you’ll find here is a little too runny.

Here’s how I made the cake.

Cake: (recipe adapted from Favorite Fudge Birthday Cake by King Arthur Flour)
2 cups (14 ounces) sugar
2 cups (8 1/2 ounces) King Arthur  Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
2 tablespoons (3/8 ounce) cornstarch
3/4 cup (2 1/4 ounces)  Dutch-process cocoa
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons espresso powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs
3/4 cup (5 1/4 ounces) vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups (10 ounces) water

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease and flour,  then line with parchment, three 9″ round cake pans.

To make the cake: Whisk together the dry ingredients. Add the eggs, oil, and vanilla, beating until smooth. Gradually add the water, beating until smooth. Pour the batter into the prepared pans dividing equally. (A kitchen scale comes in really handy here.)

Bake the cakes for about 25-30 minutes  or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool the cakes in the pan for 15 minutes, then turn them out of the pans to cool completely on a rack.

Caramel Sauce – Warning! This recipe is runny and I recommend using caramel sauce from a jar for a less runny sauce.

One package Werther’s Caramels
2 T. heavy cream

Remove the caramels from their wrappers and place in a small saucepan with the cream. Place the pan over medium low heat and stir occasionally until the caramels melt. Set aside to cool. You will need about 3/4 c. of sauce

Fudge Frosting
1/2 cup milk
1 cup sugar
6 T. butter
2 cups good-quality semisweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 c. toasted pecans for garnish

Mix sugar and milk in saucepan. Add butter and bring to a boil.
Remove from heat. Add chocolate chips. Using wire whisk, mix until smooth. If
frosting is too thick or grainy, add 1 or 2 teaspoons hot coffee.

To assemble cake: Place one cooled cake layer, top-side down, on cake plate. Spread
with one-third of frosting, pushing it out gently from edges to make a petal effect.
Sprinkle with 1/2 cup pecans, Drizzle with 1/4 cup caramel. Add next layer, again
top-side down. Repeat frosting and sprinkle with 1/2 cup pecans and drizzle with 1/4 cup
caramel. Place final layer top side up. frost with petal effect and finish with remaining
pecans and caramel.

Time to slice and serve!

By the way! The photos have not been altered. The grass in the above photo really was that green!!

Blueberry Buckle

August 10, 2011

Blueberry Buckle

Today, Wednesday August 10, 2011 there will be a guest post by me on Cookie Madness.

For the story and the recipe, click on the link.  And check out the previous post here at Basically Baked for a peach and mixed berry crisp that was one of the contenders for my guest post at Cookie Madness.

Peach and Mixed Berry Crisp

August 9, 2011

Peach and Mixed Berry Crisp

On Wednesday August 10, 2011 there will be a post written by yours truly on Cookie Madness! I couldn’t be any more excited about the opportunity to do a guest post for Anna while she’s on vacation. The inspiration for the post is the Ginsberg’s Alaskan cruise.

When Anna and I chatted we talked about ice cream desserts but as I did my research and thought about Alaska I kept coming back to berries. One of the recipes I was really excited about is this crisp recipe I found on Epicurious. Apparently it is on the menu at a place in Anchorage called Marx Bros. Cafe. A google search for Marx Bros. Cafe told me that if I ever get to Anchorage I will make time for a meal there.

The peach berry crisp is excellent. It didn’t make the cut for my Cookie Madness post because it was the slightest bit runny and I didn’t think the photos were very appealing. That said, it’s a very tasty dessert and one I would make again. I loved the flavors of all the fruits and the topping was nice and crisp.

My husband enjoyed this with vanilla ice cream. I ate mine straight up.

Peach and Mixed Berry Crisp (adapted by Sue at Basically Baked)


3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup (packed) light brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter

Fruit layer

2 large peaches, peeled, pitted, chopped (about 2 1/2 cups)
1 1/3 cups blueberries (about 6 ounces)
1 1/3 cups raspberries (about 6 ounces)
1 1/3 cups blackberries (about 5.6 ounces)
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8×8 inch baking dish.

In a small bowl whisk together the dry ingredients for the topping, then add the butter and rub all of the ingredients together with the back of a spoon until the crumbs are very fine. You can also do this with your fingers but I prefer to use a spoon. Set the mixture aside.

Put all of the fruit in a separate bowl and toss it with the sugar and flour.

Place the mixture in the prepared baking dish and bake for 40 minutes stirring every ten minutes until the juices are bubbling. Bake another five minutes.

Remove from the oven. Increase the oven temperature to 400 degrees.

Top with the reserved topping mixture and bake for another 20 minutes, until the topping is golden.

Remove from the oven and cool slightly. Serve slightly warm.

A healthier chocolate muffin

August 4, 2011

Banana Chocolate Muffins

Anna at Cookie Madness posted a recipe for Apple Butter Chocolate Muffins and I nearly went running to the kitchen to make them. The only problem is I don’t have apple butter on hand, I don’t have enough apples to make any, I don’t have applesauce to reduce, and I don’t have time to run to the grocery store. I didn’t let any of that stop me. I did have an overripe banana on the counter and I thought it might be okay in place of the apple butter.

I have a personal pet peeve about comments on blogs and recipe sites that say, “I made  your recipe but I changed this, that and the next thing and my results are different than yours. What did I do wrong”? Swapping out banana for apple butter is a major ingredient swap. I hoped it would work, but if it didn’t I could only blame my cavalier ways in the kitchen. (All that said, I love to read your comments, and am happy to answer any questions you might have… even if you change things up to suit your own tastes or what you have on hand.)

The muffins are relatively low in fat and the fruit adds to the sweetness in a tasty, healthy way. The white whole wheat flour adds to the nutritional profile and the chocolate chips and cocoa add a bit of decadence without being over the top.

How did they turn out? They’re very tasty and just moist enough. They’re tall with nice crowns, and they smell great! When apple season rolls around I’ll definitely make some apple butter and make these according to Anna’s recipe. In the meantime. Here’s how I made them.

The banana substitution made me concerned that they wouldn’t be as moist as they would be with apple butter. Let’s face it. There are a lot of differences between banana and apple butter. I added a little almond milk, and upped the spices and hoped for the best.

Cross section of Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

Banana Chocolate Muffins (Adapted from Cookie Madness’ Apple Butter Chocolate Muffins)

3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons white whole wheat flour (114 grams)
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (28 grams)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch of allspice
pinch of cloves
1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar (63 grams)
1/2 cup mashed overripe bananas (114 grams)
2 large egg whites
3/4 teaspoon vanilla
2 generous tablespoons vegetable oil (30-33 ml)
1/2 T. almond milk
1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Spray 6 silicone cupcake molds with release spray. Mix the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, salt and spices together in a bowl. In a mixing bowl, stir the brown sugar, mashed banana, egg whites, vanilla, almond milk and oil together. Pour the dry mixture into the banana mixture and stir until almost mixed. Add the chocolate chips and mix just until incorporated. Divide batter equally among the cupcake molds. Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with moist crumbs.

Hamburger buns again

July 13, 2011

50% White Whole Wheat Hamburger Buns

A few weeks ago I made hamburger buns that we loved. They were easy to make and better than store bought buns by a long shot. With those buns under my belt I decided to give hamburger buns another go but replaced half of the all purpose flour with King Arthur White Whole Wheat Flour. We also loved these buns and like that the nutritional profile is slightly improved. They aren’t as light and fluffy as the all purpose flour batch, but they’re still very good, and with 50% whole wheat flour their slight heaviness is an acceptable trade off. We ate these with hamburgers, and used them for sandwiches, and I’m pretty sure my husband ate them out of hand as a snack on more than one occasion.

I like my buns on the small side, so I divided the dough into twelve pieces when it was time to shape them. For more normal size hamburger buns you’ll want to divide the dough into just eight pieces.

I weigh flour as much as possible when I bake. If you’re measuring with measuring cups, you want a combined total of 3.5 cups of the two flours.

50% White Whole Wheat Hamburger Buns (adapted from King Arthur Flour)

3/4 to 1 c. lukewarm water
2 T. butter
1 large egg
7.5 oz. unbleached all-purpose flour
7.25 oz. King Arthur Flour White Whole Wheat Flour
3 T. honey
1 1/4 t. salt
1 T. instant yeast

3 T. Melted butter for brushing on top

Place all of the ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer and stir together. Use the dough hook and knead on speed 2 until you have smooth elastic dough. About five minutes.
Place the kneaded dough in a plastic container that has been lightly sprayed with spray oil and cover lightly. Place in a warm place and allow it to double in volume. This takes anywhere from 1-2 hours.
Take the risen dough and gently flatten it into a circle. Divide the dough into 8 or 12 pieces depending on how big you’d like your buns. Shape the dough pieces into round balls, and flatten slightly. The idea here is you want hamburger buns, not dinner rolls. You’re looking for slightly flattened not flat as pancakes. Place the buns on a lightly greased baking sheet, cover with oil sprayed plastic wrap and let rise for about an hour. After an hour they should look puffy.
While the buns are rising preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Brush the buns with half of the melted butter.
Bake the buns for 12-14 minutes if your buns are small. 15-18 minutes if your buns are large. They should look golden. Remove the buns to a wire rack to cool. Brush them with the remaining melted butter while they’re still hot.

A CCC link

June 30, 2011

Lisa at Sweet as Sugar Cookies went on a baking quest to find her favorite Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe. Being the baking geek that I am, I love her comparison tables and admire her for all the work she put into baking the cookies and blogging about the results. I know that most of you will also want to know how some pretty famous recipes fared. Check out Lisa’s post where she talks about her top four favorite recipes, shares the comparison table, and provides links to the recipes.

Sweet as Sugar Cookies CCC winner and comparisons.

Hamburger Buns

June 25, 2011

Homemade Hamburger BunsThere are some things that cannot be explained. Why a woman who wasn’t planning on burgers for dinner would feel the need to make hamburger buns is  unexplainable. I made them anyway and have no regrets. They’re wonderful and I can’t wait to have them with burgers!

The recipe is from King Arthur Flour. I made the buns according to the recipe but used my bread maker on the dough cycle. One problem I had is that I used too much water. That’s not a problem with the recipe. I just over did it with the water and my dough was quite sticky and difficult to work with.  I wanted twelve buns but only managed to get eleven because I wasn’t willing to fuss with the dough any more than necessary due to the stickiness. They could have been prettier too if not for the sticky dough. Live and learn. Next time I’ll start with the lesser amount of water.

We love, love, love sesame seeds so I opted for the egg white wash and sprinkle of sesame seeds. They would also be great without them and just a brush of butter when they come out of the oven.

If you want to make these you’ll find the recipe here. Your friends and family will thank you!

Midwest macaron

June 24, 2011

Katrina from Baking and Boys suggested I do a google search for Parisian bakeries in my area. I live in Central Minnesota. There are no Parisian Bakeries here. Period. There is the ever popular Cold Spring Bakery 20 or so miles from here. If you’re looking for donuts, and sweet rolls, Cold Spring Bakery can’t be beat. The last time I was there I even saw some macaron but they didn’t look the least bit appetizing so I passed in hopes that I would find ‘the real deal’ sometime in the future.

Fortunately I make regular trips to Minneapolis and if a Central Minnesotan really wants a foodie item, almost anything can be found in the Twin Cities metro area. Following Katrina’s advice I googled ‘Parisian Bakeries Minneapolis’ and Chez Arnaud in Maple Grove is not only the closest to me, but pretty conveniently located not far off of I-494. It’s over an hour from where I live but since I was on my way to Minneapolis yesterday I decided to allow some extra time and hunt down my first ever macaron. It was an educational experience.

I’ve read about macaron everywhere, on the web, in cookbooks and in magazines. I’ve watched countless videos about how to make them, and I’ve read countless blog posts about them. I was insanely interested in this mysterious to me little cookie. My interest is now satiated. I had one. Okay I had more than one. I had to try each flavor that Chez Arnaud had to offer yesterday. No offense to Chez Arnaud but I’m underwhelmed. They’re beautiful to look at little cookies. They have a fascinating texture. Crisp or crackly on the outside. Soft and moist on the inside. The flavors didn’t grab me. The sales clerk told me the  yellow one is lemon, the pink is strawberry, and the orange is pineapple mango. I couldn’t detect any pineapple in the orange cookie. I think it’s mango. The lemon had the most flavor and was my favorite even though I’m not sure it was lemon. The strawberry was good, not great. Perhaps macaron are an acquired taste? Perhaps the flavor profile would have been better earlier in the day? I think I made my purchase a little after four in the afternoon so maybe they are better fresher?

If I have the opportunity to try macaron again I will definitely give them another try. I won’t hunt them down, and definitely won’t be trying to make them at home.

All of that said. I picked up a Pain au Chocolat and had it with tea this morning for breakfast. I would definitely return to Chez Arnaud to try their croissant, breads, and pick up another Pain au Chocolat. The Pain au Chocolate was absolutely excellent, even a day old.