Birthday Cake

Recently I baked a birthday cake for my good friend, Susan Fae. It was a special birthday and I thought it deserved a special cake. The recipe is from Caprial’s Desserts by Caprial Pence. I am not including the recipe because it is a compilation of four recipes. To make it reasonable, you need to spread the construction out over a few days. I like to allow 3 days. I baked the cake layers about a week ahead and froze them. I took photos once I started the rest of the recipes to give you a glimpse of the process. I give you the Chocolate Toffee Mousse Cake.cake layers toffee toffee pieces cake filling chopped toffee filling with toffee building the cake chopped chocolate chocolate melting in cream ganache mixing ganache cake almost done birthday cake

Green Tea Shortbread

I failed dismally when I tried to come up with a clever name for this post. So instead of wasting any more time looking for something that isn’t ever going to appear, I’ll take the straight forward approach. Here’s a recipe I found on Martha Stewart, and have since located similar versions in a web search. I love the flavor of Matcha tea ice cream, so the idea of cookies with a similar flavor really appealed to me. I tried them twice. The dough is a vibrant green color, but it fades somewhat during baking. The first time I baked them enough to colour to slightly bronze, but the second time I shortened the baking time so the cookies just started to colour. Either way they were very tasty. If you like shortbread and you’d like to broaden your baking repertoire, I suggest you give these a try. Enjoy!

Green Tea Shortbread

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons Matcha green-tea powder
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar

Sift flour, tea powder, and salt into a small bowl; set aside. Place butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Cream on medium speed until fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Add sugar; continue to beat until very light in color and fluffy, about 2 minutes more. Add flour mixture; combine on low, scraping sides of bowl with a spatula if necessary, until flour is just incorporated and dough sticks together when squeezed with fingers.
Place a piece of parchment on a clean surface; dust with flour. Roll dough to 1/4-inch thickness; chill in refrigerator or freezer until firm, about 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment. Cut chilled dough with chosen cutters.
Using a wide spatula, transfer to baking sheets. Chill until firm.
Gather scraps together, re-roll, chill, and cut shapes.
Bake until firm and barely starting to color, 15 to 20 minutes, rotating halfway through. Cool completely on wire rack; store in an airtight container for up to 3 to 4 weeks.cutting out cookies cookies ready to bake cookies in the oven baked cookieslots of cookies

Christmas is coming – it must be time to bake!

How did it get to be December already? Am I the only one who just noticed that Christmas is now less than a month away? Good thing I’ve started Christmas baking. First of all, let me share with you my big baking news for 2013. Every year for as long as I can remember, I have baked dark fruit cake for Christmas. I think the most I baked in one year was 70 cakes, and these were regular sized cakes – not Gulliver’s Lilliputian sized ones. However, this year, I am not baking cakes. As much as I think people enjoy them, I doubt that anyone will be too disappointed, and I will have saved myself days worth of work. Now, if I could only figure out where those days have gone…

But back to the baking. Every Christmas season I bake with my good friend, Lois. We bake a number of recipes which have become our family standards, and then try one or two different recipes as well. On a recent Sunday we spent about seven hours baking. We baked gingerbread snowflakes and stars, two types of biscotti and loads of magic toffee. It was a great day. Then the following Friday we baked for nearly 10 hours. This time we baked gingersnaps, mocha slices, pecan crunch cookies and some green tea shortbread. We still have one more baking day scheduled together, along with our special invited guest baker, Barb, from Just a Smidgen. I wonder if she knows what she’s getting herself into!

Here are a few photos of the baking so far.gingerbread snowflakes and stars magic toffee gingersnaps mocha cookies twice dipped pecan crunch cookies cookie assortment unbaked green tea cookies green tea shortbread cookiesMust point out a couple of thing. Note the sleeping cat in a box (supervisory position) above the cookie assortment. The green tea shortbreads were bright green before baking, but the color was more mellow and golden after baking. The recipe was for green tea shortbread leaves, but after struggling with 2 or 3 leaves, I decided that we should bake green tea shortbread coins. Much better. The taste of macha tea was subdued after baking and quite delicious.

I’ll post more photos after our last baking session. Perhaps I’ll arrange them on a pretty plate for the photo shoot. (Actually I will prepare a plate for an upcoming Christmas gathering.) I don’t like to do cookie platters until I have a full selection of baked goods to choose from. It just doesn’t seem right to put together a “partial” plate. Time to get back to work on some of the baking I do by myself. It’s not as much fun as baking with a friend, but I still love it!

Someone Takes the Cake

Recently I baked a cake to donate to a charity auction fund-raiser for the Good Samaritans. This particular event supports women in India who are trained to use sewing as a means of supporting their families. When they graduate from their studies, they are given a sewing machine, and money from the auction helps purchase those machines. Talk about a good reason to bake!

Last year I donated a large platter of assorted cookies, but this year I hadn’t even started Christmas baking before the event. I decided that a cake would be a suitable substitute, and I found a recipe that I’d been anxious to try. I was unable to taste the cake (didn’t think it would look good to take a slice, even if it was a small one!) but the batter that stuck to the beater was delicious. I mean dreamy delicious. I will be baking this again. So, here is my Espresso Gingerbread Cake, recipe compliments of Fine Cooking.cake cake 2 wrapped cakeThe cake sold for $325. That’s enough to pay for 3 sewing machines, and I feel pretty good about that. I think this event is a great way to start the holiday season. The recipe is on the link listed above but I wanted to include it as well. If you try it, please let me know what you think. I don’t dare bake one until I’m having guests, since it would be dangerous to have in the house.

Espresso Gingerbread Cake

For the cake:
  • 1/2 cup dark molasses
  • 1/2 cup very strong brewed coffee or espresso, cooled to just warm
  • 2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour; more for the pan
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground or freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1-1/4 cups unsalted butter, softened at room temperature; more for the pan
  • 1-1/4 cups packed light brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs plus 2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
For the espresso glaze (optional):
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 teaspoon dark rum (optional)
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons brewed espresso
    (or 1-1/2 teaspoons instant espresso powder dissolved in 1-1/2 tablespoons hot water)

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350ºF. Butter and flour a 10- or 12-cup bundt pan (or four 2-cup mini loaf pans). Tap out any excess flour.

In a liquid measuring cup, whisk the molasses with the brewed coffee. Sift the flour with the baking powder, salt, baking soda, espresso powder, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves.

With a stand mixer (use the paddle attachment) or a hand mixer, cream the butter in a large bowl on medium speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Add the brown sugar and beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in the eggs and yolks one at a time, stopping to scrape the bowl after each addition. With the mixer on low-speed, alternate adding the flour and coffee mixtures, beginning and ending with the flour. Stop the mixer at least one last time to scrape the bowl and then beat at medium speed until the batter is smooth, about 20 seconds.

Spoon the batter into the prepared pan (or pans), spreading it evenly with a rubber spatula. Run a knife through the batter to eliminate any air pockets. Bake until a wooden skewer inserted in the center comes out clean, about 40 minutes (about 30 minutes for mini loaves). Set the pan on a rack to cool for 15 minutes. Invert the cake onto the rack, remove the pan, and let cool until just barely warm. Drizzle with the glaze (if using) and then let cool to room temperature before serving. If you’re making the cake ahead, wrap it while still barely warm without the glaze. If you plan to freeze the cake, don’t glaze it until you’re ready to serve it or give it away.

Combine the confectioners’ sugar and rum (if using) in a bowl and, adding the espresso gradually, whisk until smooth. If necessary, add more espresso or water to thin the glaze to a drizzling consistency. When the cake is still barely warm, use a fork or spoon to drizzle the glaze over the top.

Make Ahead Tips

Wrapped tightly in plastic, the cake will hold up for as long as a week. You can also bake it up to a month ahead and freeze.