Chocolate Orange Olive Oil Cake + 5 Must Read 2020 Baking Books

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Starlings in Winter by Mary Oliver

Chunky and noisy,
but with stars in their black feathers,
they spring from the telephone wire
and instantly

they are acrobats
in the freezing wind.
And now, in the theater of air,
they swing over buildings,

dipping and rising;
they float like one stippled star
that opens,
becomes for a moment fragmented,

then closes again;
and you watch
and you try
but you simply can’t imagine

how they do it
with no articulated instruction, no pause,
only the silent confirmation
that they are this notable thing,

this wheel of many parts, that can rise and spin
over and over again,
full of gorgeous life.

Ah, world, what lessons you prepare for us,
even in the leafless winter,
even in the ashy city.
I am thinking now
of grief, and of getting past it;

I feel my boots
trying to leave the ground,
I feel my heart
pumping hard. I want

to think again of dangerous and noble things.
I want to be light and frolicsome.
I want to be improbable beautiful and afraid of nothing,
as though I had wings.

 

Anne looked for Tess in the everyday.  At first, it was the strong breeze at Tess’ funeral on an otherwise calm day.  How beautiful the cherry blossoms rained on them.  The grievers, the grief-stricken, the heart-broken, the lost.  Cherry blossoms floating, flying through the air, landing on their jackets, settling in their hair.

Are you the tenacious breeze Tess?  You made yourself known again.  It was a beautiful display of your all-encompassing presence. Bursts of lightning and hail at Red Rocks while Grace and Anne watched the Avett Brothers sing holding out hope the storm would pass.  And then it did pass.  You pushed out the weather and revealed the stars.  We sang and danced.

Months later an enormous dragonfly landed on Anne’s mailbox, her tiny head facing the house as if ignoring the world. She refused to leave.  Anne poked at it. Nothing but a slight movement in the wing.

What’s wrong with it, Mama? 

I’m not sure.  How do you explain a living thing desiring to stay when it knows it would be best to leave?  You don’t.  Some things are unexplainable.

Fall came and so did the dead bird.  The bird lay on the stone steps outside of Anne’s house, wings to the ground, its underbelly exposed to the sky, bright white, her tail feathers ombre shades of pale blue.  A single leaf-covered her head as if she were part of a crime scene.  Anne stared at it for a few seconds before the kids came out of the house, backpacks in hand ready to go to school.

Mama, what happened?

Gross!

Can we have a funeral for it? 

Not now.  Get in the car. We are late.  

Later that day they did have a funeral for the bird.  Not really.  The kids lost interest and just wanted Anne to get rid of it.  Except for her older son.  He handed Anne the shovel after a failed attempt at digging a hole into the semi-frozen ground.  Anne forced the shovel through the frosted ground, raising the handle above her head and coming down as hard as she could breaking through the ground.  Over and over again.  Anne’s heart pumped hard.  She could feel it.  Tears welled but never spilled over.  Anne gently placed the bird in the ground and covered her with the earth.

I’m glad we planted her there, Mama.  He walked into the house and closed the door.  If only we could plant the things we love and loose and eventually they come back in the spring blooming once again.

The last visitor was a ladybug.  She landed on Anne’s hand at some point without Anne noticing.  It wasn’t until Anne lifted the toilet brush out of the now clean toilet that Anne spotted her.  How strange.  Anne walked down the creaky old stairs.  The ladybug was still sitting on her hand.  She opened the front door and blew as if blowing out birthday candles.  She flew away.

Did you make a wish?

I forgot.

Anne didn’t forget.  She wished for peace.  Not world peace.  That won’t happen.  But peace in her crippled heart.  Peace in the heart she felt beating, once again, after a long silence, when she buried the bird.

 

Chocolate Orange Olive Oil Cake

Serves 8

Recipe adapted from Simple Cakes by Odette Williams

Ingredients:

1 + ½ cups of unbleached all-purpose flour

½ cup unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa powder

1 tablespoon of baking powder

½ teaspoon of kosher salt

½ teaspoon espresso powder

3 eggs, at room temperature

1 + 1/3 cups of sugar

¾ cup of mild extra virgin olive oil

½ cup of whole milk

½ cup of buttermilk

¼ cup of freshly squeezed orange juice

1 tablespoon of orange zest

Ingredients for glaze:

2 cups confectioners’ sugar,

1 tablespoon of unsalted butter, softened

2 tablespoons of boiling water,

½ teaspoon of vanilla

Pinch of kosher salt

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 350F.  Butter, flour, and line with parchment paper 1 8×3 inch cake pan.  Set aside.

Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl.  Set aside.

Using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, beat the eggs and sugar on medium speed until very pale, about 3-5 minutes.  Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.  Next, add the oil, buttermilk, milk, orange juice, zest.  Beat on low speed until frothy, about 1 minute.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and whisk until well combined.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan.  Bake until the cake springs back when touched or a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 45 to 50 minutes.  Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes.  Remove cake from pan and allow to cool completely.  While the cake is cooling, make the vanilla glaze.

 

Directions for the glaze:

Sift the confectioners’ sugar into a medium-size bowl.  Add the softened butter.  Pour boiling water over butter.  Whisk until the butter melts and the sugar and water come together to make a glaze.  Add vanilla and a pinch of salt.

Assembly:

Pour the glaze over the cooled cake, spreading gently with an offset spatula if necessary.  Decorate with sanding sugar or sprinkles if desired.  The cake can be stored at room temperature in an air-tight container until ready to serve.  Enjoy!

5 Baking Books to Check Out in 2020

Midwest Made by Shauna Sever is on all the lists right now.  Her recipes come straight from the heart of America.  You can get your copy here.

Weeknight Baking by Michelle Lopez, the author of the blog Hummingbird High, is a must-read for any home baker with easy and delicious recipes, as well as, suggestions for riffs to make it your own.

Looking to try something new this year or up your pastry skills?  Check out Pastry School by Le Cordon Bleu.  This baking book is a step by step baking guide for beginners, as well as, professionals.  Check it out!

Joanne Chang is by far one of my favorite bakers.  Her latest book Pastry Love is on my must-purchase list.

New to baking?  Buy a copy of Beginner’s Baking Bible by Heather Perine you will become an expert in no time…or at least more capable in the world of butter, flour, and sugar.

Snickerdoodle Ice Cream Sandwiches + 5 Ice Cream Sandwich Links

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Summer is holding on in New England despite the days inevitably growing shorter.  I’m grateful for the warm breeze and sunshine.  It will all change soon enough.  Tomorrow marks the first day of fall.  Fall feels like a time of reflection.  I am not quite ready to reflect on all the year, so far, has brought my way.  I have trouble letting go. For just a bit longer I will savor summer and eat an ice cream sandwich or two.   I hope you enjoy these as much as I did.  More stories and recipes to come soon.

Snickerdoodle Ice Cream Sandwiches

Cookie recipe adapted from Baker’s Royale

Vanilla ice cream recipe adapted from The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz

Ingredients for ice cream:

1 cup whole milk

A good pinch of salt

¾ cup of sugar

3 teaspoons of vanilla

2 cups heavy cream

5 large egg yolks

Directions:

First, pour the cream into a metal bowl set inside a larger bowl filled with ice water.  Set aside.

Using a medium saucepan, heat the milk, salt, and sugar until the sugar is dissolved and just comes to a boil.  Remove from heat.  Using a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks.  Slowly pour a little of the warm milk into the egg yolks, whisking constantly.  Add the egg yolks to the saucepan with the remaining milk.  Cook the custard over low heat, stirring and scraping the bottom of the saucepan with a heat-proof spatula until the custard thickens.  The custard is ready when it covers the back of a spoon or spatula.

Using a fine-mesh strainer, strain the custard into the heavy cream.  Stir until cool to the touch.  Next, stir in the vanilla extract.  Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Churn the custard according to your ice cream manufacturer’s instructions.  Store in an air-tight container in your freezer.  This recipe makes 1 quart.  Enjoy!

Snickerdoodle Cookies

Makes 2 dozen

Recipe adapted from Baker’s Royale

Ingredients for cookies:

2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons cream of tartar

1 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon cinnamon + 1 tablespoon of cinnamon for sugar/cinnamon mixture

¼ teaspoon nutmeg

¼ teaspoon ginger

1 ¾ cups sugar, divided

½ cup of vegetable shortening

1 stick + 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter, room temperature

2 eggs

2 tablespoons milk

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions:

Pre-heat your oven to 400F.  Grab two baking sheets and cover with parchment paper.  Set aside.

Using a medium bowl whisk together flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, salt, ¼ teaspoon of cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger.  Set aside.

Using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, cream the butter, shortening, and 1 + ½ cups sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl once or twice.  Add the eggs, one at a time until thoroughly combined.  Next, add the vanilla.  Reduce the speed to low and add dry ingredients.  Add the milk and mix until just combined.

Mix together 1 tablespoon of cinnamon and ¼ of sugar in a small bowl.

Using a cookie scoop, make round cookies balls.  Roll the dough in the cinnamon-sugar mixture until well coated and place on a prepared baking sheet.  Space the cookies two inches apart.  Place the baking sheet in the fridge.  Allow the cookies to chill for 20 minutes before baking.

Bake cookies until lightly golden brown, about 8-10 minutes.  Cool on pan for two minutes then remove and place on a wire rack to cool completely.  Store cookies in an air-tight container at room temperature until ready to make the ice cream sandwiches.

Ice cream sandwich assembly

Working quickly, add a rounded scoop of vanilla ice cream to one cookie.  Place another cookie on top.  Push down on the cookie top gently and evenly until the ice cream is evenly distributed.  Wrap in plastic wrap, place in a freezer bag, and freeze for 4 to 6 hours.  Create an assembly line to make this process go faster!  Enjoy!

5 Must Check Out Ice Cream Sandwich Links

The cherry season may be over but don’t let that stop you from making Brown Butter Blondie’s dark cherry ice cream sandwiches.  I love the combination of fruit and chocolate, especially in ice cream.  Yum!

Samoas are by far my favorite girl scout cookie.  In high school I could easily eat an entire box on my own then truly wonder why I had a bellyache.  Broma Baker’s recipe for samoas ice cream sandwich cookies makes me want to make myself sick all over again.  Check them out!

Coffee ice cream fans head to Zoe Bakes for her no-churn coffee ice cream sandwiches.  They look like the perfect treat to whip up this weekend!

Rum raisin ice cream reminds me of my grandmother.  She loved it.  Head to The Candid Appetite for an oatmeal rum raisin ice cream sandwich that is sure to turn any non-believer into a believer.

It is officially fall and time to embrace all things pumpkin and gingerbread.  Head to Canelle et Vanille for a pumpkin and gingerbread ice cream sandwich recipe that is sure to satisfy your pumpkin craving.

Simple White Cake With Whipped Strawberry Frosting + 5 Spring Party Cake Links!

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I have been away from this space for far too long.  After a long winter of constant illness, including the flu, I’m finally regaining some energy.  I’m back and ready to bake, cook, write and share all of this with you.

So where do we begin?  We begin with a simple white cake with whipped strawberry frosting.  This cake is light and fresh, reminiscent of spring and brighter days.  I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

See you soon with more stories and recipes to share.

Simple White Cake with Whipped Strawberry Frosting

recipe adapted from Bake from Scratch

Makes 1 9-inch cake

Ingredients for cake:

3/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 + 1/2 cups granulated sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 teaspoon almond extract

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

2 + 1/4 cups cake flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

3/4 cup whole milk, at room temperature

4 large egg whites, at room temperature

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350F.  Butter and flour two 9 inch cake pans and line the bottom of each pan with parchment paper.  Set aside.

Grab a medium bowl and sift together flour, baking powder and salt.  Set aside.

Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat butter and sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes.  Add vanilla and almond extract.  Lower the speed on the mixer and add the flour mixture alternating with the milk.  You should begin and end this process with the flour mixture.  Beat until just combined.  Transfer batter to a large bowl and set aside.

Next, beat the egg whites at medium speed until stiff peaks form.  Be sure to use a clean bowl when beating the egg whites!  Fold half of the egg whites into the batter, then fold in the remaining egg whites.  Divide batter evenly between pans.

Bake until the cake tester inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean, about 25-20 minutes.  Cool in pans for 10 minutes.  Remove from pans and allow to cool completely on a wire rack.

Next, make the whipped strawberry frosting.

Whipped Strawberry Frosting

Ingredients:

1/3 cup freeze-dried strawberries

8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar, divided

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 cup chopped fresh strawberries

1 + 1/4 cups whipping cream, chilled

2 tablespoons fresh orange juice

Directions:

Place freeze-dried strawberries in your food processor and pulse until they turn into a powder.  Set aside.  Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat cream cheese, 1/3 cup of confectioners’ sugar and salt.  Add fresh chopped strawberries and the strawberry powder and beat until combined.  Transfer to a large bowl and set aside.

Clean the bowl of the stand mixer and attach the whisk attachment.  Beat cream and orange juice on medium speed.  Slowly, add the confectioners’ sugar.  Continue to beat until stiff peaks form.  Fold half of the cream mixture into the cream cheese strawberry mix.  Next, add the remaining cream.  Use the whipped frosting immediately, decorating cake layers as desired.

Refrigerate the cake until ready to use.  Bring to room temperature before serving.  The cake tastes best the day it is made.  Refrigerate any leftovers in an air-tight container.  Enjoy!

5 Spring Cake Links

Love lemon cakes? Check out Spoon Fork Bacon’s unique twist on a classic lemon cake.

I love this beautiful watercolor buttercream cake from Sweetpolita.  It is so pretty I’m not sure I could eat it!

Strawberry season and sunny days are just around the corner. Embrace this time of year and make Hungry Rabbit’s strawberry banana milkshake cake or make my strawberry buttermilk birthday cake.

One of my favorite baking blogs, Hummingbird High, now has a recipe for my favorite cake/frosting combination with a slight twist: classic yellow cake with chocolate creme fraiche frosting. My mouth is watering!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Strawberry Buttermilk Birthday Cake + 5 Unique Birthday Cake Links

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Wilson May didn’t care much for birthdays.  And yet he acquiesced, celebrating with family, [family he didn’t care much to see], at the request of his pushy daughter, year after year, cake after cake.

Why the hell does my daughter need to mark every goddamn birthday? He thought while his phone vibrated in his pocket.  It was her.  [Who else would it be?]  Calling to remind him about his birthday celebration later in the day.

As if Wilson needed a reminder that yet another year had passed.

He silenced the vibrating phone in his pocket [God damn phone.] just as the nurse he dreaded seeing pushed open the door to the long, stark hallway he wasn’t entirely sure he wanted to walk down.

Wilson May?  Wilson May?  the nurse said, her squirrel like eyes darting around the waiting room.  [Did her nose wiggle too? Is she sniffing me out?]

Wilson removed his cheap, cockeyed reading glasses placing them in the 3 button placket of his pink polo shirt, adjusted his now wrinkled pants and debated leaving.  In 20 minutes he could be home.  Alone.  A beer in hand and sitting in the sun on a large wooden deck only one rocking chair occupied, where he’d have more time to think about what was next for his tottery body, his tired soul. [If the pain dissipated? Golf everyday. Gone entirely? Travel, fucking, drinking.  Wilson as he imagined himself 25 years ago.]

And yet, Wilson’s inner thoughts never matched his outer life.  For the past sixty-six years he had lived and loved two very different lives.  The life the outside world saw, a life well-lived [to others], consisted of obligations, dependability…sometimes love varied immensely from the impractical, reckless and solitary life Wilson imagined daily.

[At times becoming so engrossed in the romanticized version of his life, Wilson was unreachable. Lost to his castle in the air, his black coffee growing cold in his large, hairy hands, the local paper left unread.  His now ex-wife called them staring spells.  Wilson knew better.]

Wilson May…Wilson…?  He sensed a bit of hostility in the squirrel nurse.  He had aggravated her now and in turn she would likely be less gentle with him.  Tit for tat, like so many relationships he once knew.

Squirrel nurse surveyed the room one last time before giving up on Wilson.  The beige door gradually closed behind her, as if allowing chance to take over.

Wilson stared straight ahead, unmoving.  No decisions would be made today.

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Strawberry Buttermilk Birthday Cake

Cake and frosting recipe adapted from Sweetapolita

Italian pastry cream recipe adapted from An Italian in My Kitchen

makes 1, 3 layer, 8-inch round cake

Serves 10-12

Ingredients for cake:

4 eggs at room temperature

2 egg yolks at room temperature

1 + 1/4 cups buttermilk, well shaken

1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped

3 cups cake flour, sifted

2 cups sugar

1 tablespoon + 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup or 2 sticks, unsalted butter, cold and cut into pieces

Ingredients for strawberry compote:

2 cups fresh strawberries, washed, hulled and sliced

1/4 cup sugar (a bit more if strawberries are not sweet)

1 tablespoon orange juice

pinch of kosher salt

Ingredients for Italian pastry cream:

1 cup + 1/2 cup whole milk

4 egg yolks

1/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon Grand Marnier

2 + 1/2 tablespoons flour

Ingredients for whipped vanilla frosting:

1/4 cup whole milk

3 sticks + 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

4 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted

2 teaspoon vanilla extract

good pinch of kosher salt

few drops of food coloring if desired

Directions for cake:

Pre-heat the oven to 350F.  Grab 3, 8 inch round cake pans and butter the bottoms and sides of each pan.  Line the bottoms with parchment paper and dust with flour.  Tap out an excess flour.  Set aside

Whisk the eggs, egg yolks, 1/4 cup of buttermilk and vanilla in a large measuring cup or small bowl.  Set aside.

Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Reduce the speed to low and add the cold, cubed butter, one piece at a time, leaving a few second in between each addition.  Continue to mix on low until butter  is well blended and looks like wet sand or cornmeal.

Next add the remaining buttermilk (1 cup) and mix on medium speed for about 4-5 minutes.  Stop the mixer and scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl to make sure everything is well incorporated.  On low-speed, slowly add the egg mixture.  Increase speed to medium and beat for about 1 minute.  Stop the mixer and fold the batter once or twice.

Divide the batter evenly among the three pans.  Bake two of the pans until the cake is golden and springs back gently when  touched in the middle or a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with just a couple of crumbs, about 25-28 minutes.  Cool cakes on a wire rack for 10 minutes before removing them from the pan to cool completely.   Next, bake the last pan for 25-28 minutes.  Allow to cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes before removing from the pan and cooling completely.

Directions for strawberry compote:

Combine 1 cup of strawberries, sugar, orange juice, vanilla and salt in a small saucepan.  Cook over medium heat, stirring often until the berries start to break down, about 10 minutes.

Lower the heat and simmer for about 15-20 minutes.  The compote is ready when it covers  the back of a spoon.  Remove from heat and allow to cool.  Using a handheld masher,  mash the strawberries until juicy.  Add remaining fresh strawberries.  Store in an air-tight container and refrigerate until ready to use.

**The compote can be made up to 3 days ahead of time!**

Directions for Italian pastry cream:

Heat milk in medium sauce pan over low heat.  Do not boil.  Remove from heat.  Using another sauce pan, whisk together egg yolks and sugar until combined.  Next add the vanilla and flour.  Slowly pour in warm milk and cook over low heat, whisking constantly until it thickens, about 10 minutes.  Cool slightly and stir in the Grand Marnier.  Pour into glass bowl and place plastic wrap directly on the pastry cream.  Refrigerate for at least 3 hours.

**Pastry cream can be made several days in advance.  Store in air-tight container with plastic wrap covering the surface of the cream and refrigerate.**

Directions for whipped vanilla frosting

Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter until very pale and creamy, about 8 minutes.  Add sifted confectioners’ sugar, vanilla, salt and milk.  Mix on low-speed for about a minute.  Increase the speed to medium and whip for 5-6 minutes.  Add food coloring, if desired.  Frosting will be very light and creamy.

Assembly Time!!!

Place first cake layer on cake stand, face up.  Using a pastry bag, filled with the Italian pastry cream, pipe a two-inch circle around the perimeter of the cake layer.  This will keep the compote from leaking out.  Add a few spoonfuls of the strawberry compote to the center of the cake layer.  Spread the compote just to the pastry cream.  Add your next cake layer, pressing gently in place.  Again, pipe a two inch circle around the perimeter of the cake layer.  Add the remaining strawberry compote to the center of the cake layer.  Spread the compote just to the pastry cream.  Next, add the final cake layer, pressing gently into place.  Cover the entire cake with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Once the cake is chilled add the whipped vanilla frosting  to the entire cake, decorating however you wish.   Flowers, sprinkles anything goes!  Serve at room temperature.  Enjoy!

**Cake can be made 2 days in advance.  Be sure to keep it refrigerated.**   

5 Unique Birthday Cake Links

Looking for a special gluten-free cake for the chocolate lover in your life?  Head to the Tartelette blog for Helene’s flourless chocolate cake with salted butter caramel sauce.

Take advantage of fresh summer berries and make Camille Styles’ summer berry ice cream cake.

My husband loves chocolate chip cookies so I may need to make him Pastry Affair’s cookie dough cake for his next birthday.  Check it out!

Key lime pie in birthday cake form?  Yes it exists.  Head to Bakerella for the recipe.

My birthday was last week.  I’m thinking I’ll take some me time and celebrate a new year alone with a fork and this angel food cake.

Baileys Butterscotch Pudding Pie + 5 Unique Pudding Pie Links

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She drove home from the hospital in silence, headlights of passing cars illuminating her briefly before disappearing into the night.  If she hadn’t been alone, one might have noticed the smeared mascara underneath her tired, blue eyes.  Or maybe they would have noticed her wrinkled blue scrubs, a bit of blood splatter on the right leg from a man, or rather, a boy she attempted to save just hours before.

[“Please don’t let me die!” He pleaded while grabbing her shirt, yanking her stethoscope.  She, now, a metaphysical lifeline to a boy nearly gone.  When his grip on her softened, she removed his hand from her shirtsleeve and placed it across his heart.  Stupid kid, she thought.  Look what you have done.  No, she wasn’t cold, but removed.  After all, how could one carry the pain of so many? Damn near impossible.  She had tried.]

The headlights of her station wagon grazed the moonlit snow as pulled into the driveway of her picturesque, yet, modest colonial standing dark and peaceful at midnight.

[Tonight the kids would be asleep.  And her husband?  Passed out in their loveless bed, entangled in the sheets, snoring, farting, reeking of beer.  At least he was in bed.  A welcome change, really, to the nights when he chose to pass out on the living room floor among the toys that were never picked up and the dog hair that blew around the matted carpet like tumbleweeds.]

She sat in her car inside their cluttered garage (bikes, broken toys, Costco bags of toilet paper and paper towels, trash cans permeating the bitter night air) and thought briefly about not going inside.  Is that really an option?  Of course not.

The house-keys slid easily into the lock, reminding her she was home.  She placed her jacket on the overcrowded coat hat rack, someday I’ll organize this, and walked into the kitchen.  Dirty dishes were piled high in the sink, dried ketchup smears decorated their kitchen island, beer cans acted as cairns, marking where his latest, desperate internal battle took place. 

[She sighed.  12:15 AM .  Instead of tackling the mess in the kitchen and the one sleeping in her bed, she would have a drink, ring in the new year with a cold glass of Baileys. ]

The family dog slept curled up against the over-stuffed, milk stained Lazy Boy chair.  She lowered herself into the chair, careful not to wake the dog or spill her drink.  [Did it matter?]  She muted the TV , watched the lovers and strangers in Times Square kiss, desirous for an imagined fresh start.  She understood that craving.

The blue glow from the TV lit her scrubs just enough for the blood splatter to reappear. She rubbed a single finger across it.  The blood soaked in and dry now.  [For a moment she thought of licking  her finger.  A single lick of his blood: water, salt, red and white blood cells, microscopic bits of him dissolving on her tongue and living for as long as she lived.]  She held the glass to her mouth, let the ice cubes hit her lips and took a long sip of the creamy, sweet Baileys.  This year she would save the only life she could save: her own.

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Baileys Butterscotch Pudding Pie

pudding recipe adapted from Aida Mollenkamp’s Keys to the Kitchen

chocolate wafer crust adapted from Williams Sonoma

Serves 6

Ingredients for Pudding:

5 large egg yolks

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1 cup dark brown sugar, packed

1/2 cup of water

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 cups of milk (not fat-free)

2 cups heavy cream

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2-3 tablespoons Baileys Irish Crème

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

whipped cream for topping (optional)

chocolate shavings or crushed chocolate wafer cookies for topping (optional)

Directions:

Grab a medium bowl and whisk the egg yolks and cornstarch until well combined.  Set aside.

Add the brown sugar, salt, and water to a medium saucepan placing the pan over medium-low heat.  Stir until the sugar dissolves and begins to bubble.

Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil, without stirring, until the mixture becomes thick and dark, about 5 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Add the milk and heavy cream.  (Be careful! It will bubble.)  Whisk until all butterscotch bits at the bottom of the pan dissolve.

Place the pan over medium-high heat and bring the mixture to a boil.  Do not step away, the mixture could boil over!  Once it reaches a rapid boil, decrease the heat and slowly pour half of the butterscotch mixture to the egg yolks, whisking well to combine.  Now add the custard to the remaining half of the butterscotch mixture.

Whisk over medium heat until the custards just begins to gently boil and coats the back of your spoon, about 3 minutes. ( The custard is ready when it coats the back of spoon.  To be sure, draw your finger across the back of the spoon.  Your finger should leave a mark through the custard and not run back together.)  Remove from the heat.  Add butter, Baileys and vanilla.  Stir until butter is completely melted and the custard is smooth.  Strain through a fine mesh sieve.  Pour custard into a bowl and chill, uncovered, until very cold and pudding like, about 4 hours.   I chilled it overnight.  Transfer to air-tight container and refrigerate until ready to use.

The pudding can be made two days ahead.

Chocolate Wafer Crust

Ingredients:

1 + 1/4 cups crushed chocolate wafers

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1 tablespoon sugar

Directions:

Pre-heat your oven to 350F.

Place chocolate wafer cookies in a Ziploc bag and crush with a rolling pin until they resemble crumbs.

Stir together cookie crumbs, melted butter and sugar in a bowl until the crumbs are moist.  Pat mixture firmly and evenly into a 9 inch pie pan.  Be sure to cover both the bottom and sides of the pan.

Bake for 10 minutes.  Cool completely before filling.

Crust will last, unfilled, for several days well covered and at room temperature.

Assembly!

Add pudding to pie crust, filling it to the top.  (You will have leftover pudding.)  Top with fresh whipped cream, shaved chocolate and/or cookie crumbs.  Chill until ready to serve.  Enjoy!

**Add the pudding to the crust no more than a day before serving it.  The crust will start to get soggy after a couple of days**

5 Unique Pudding Pie Links

Looking for a unexpected spice in your life?  Head to A Cozy Kitchen and make green chili chocolate pudding pie.  Sounds weird but I bet it is delicious.  Embrace the weird.

Vegans rejoice! Ambitious Kitchen has a recipe for vegan chocolate avocado pie that sounds amazing!

A fudgey layer of chocolate pudding covers a sweet chocolate cookie crust and is topped with a light and airy vanilla pudding.  Intrigued? Want the recipe?  Head to Mel’s Kitchen Cafe for the recipe.

Butterscotch pudding meets cheesecake and makes this amazing pie by Bake or Break. Check it out!

Dreaming of peach season in January?  Check out my peach ricotta pudding cream pie recipe.  Swap out the fresh peaches for frozen and you’ll have a bit of summer in January.

White Wine Cupcakes with Chocolate Buttercream + 5 Cupcake Links for Mom

“Most was said in our first moment, when we were so quiet.  He swam through the air to me and there was nothing.  No spaces.  I suppose it was the first moment I was thoroughly alive because I fell too far in it to ever describe it.  There was nothing to look at because I was too busy seeing, and I got to be a beginner too.  Will always be now, as every moment with your child will never repeat itself with something lovely after it, like a sunset or a passage in a book.  Real time with them, I think, is the only actual.  Everything left over is just a weather report.” Mary-Louise Parker, Dear Mr. You

[My words, lost for now, adrift in a dense, gunmetal fog will come back.  Thank, whomever, whoever or whatever for Mary-Louise Parker’s insight.  Happy Mother’s Day. xo]

White Wine Cupcakes with Chocolate Buttercream

A lightly sweet cupcake with a tight crumb topped with a super silky chocolate buttercream

Recipe adapted from Silver Palette Cookbook and Cambridge School of Culinary Arts

Makes 24 cupcakes

Ingredients:

2 cups sugar

4 eggs, at room temperature

1 cup vegetable oil

1 cup dry white wine ( I used Pinot Grigio)

2 + 1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

2 + 1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

Pre-heat your oven to 350F.  Line two standard muffin tins with cupcake liners.  Set aside.

Grab a medium bowl and sift together the flour, salt and baking powder.  Set aside.  Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the sugar and eggs on medium speed until incorporated, about 30 seconds.  Reduce speed to low and add oil, wine, dry ingredients and vanilla.  Increase speed to medium and beat until well combined, about 1-2 minutes.  Pour batter into prepared muffin pans.  Place 1 pan on the middle rack and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 20-25 minutes.  (Be sure to check at 20 minutes.)  Once baked, remove cupcakes from pan and allow to cool completely on a wire rack.  Proceed with baking the next pan of cupcakes.

Once cool, frost the cupcakes generously with chocolate buttercream.  Enjoy!

*Cupcakes are best the day they are made.  However, they still taste great the next day.  Be sure to store them in an air-tight container, at room temperature.*

Chocolate Buttercream

Ingredients:

6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled to room temperature

6 eggs, whites only, at room temperature

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup water

1lb. unsalted butter, at room temperature

pinch of kosher salt

Directions:

Cut the butter into tablespoon chunks and set aside.  Melt your chocolate either in the microwave or stove top and set aside.

Using a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, place egg whites in bowl and beat on medium-high speed until soft peaks form.  While the egg whites are beating, combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan.  Attach a candy thermometer to the side of the pan.  Cook on high until it reaches 238F or the softball stage.  Immediately, with the mixer on medium speed, add the hot sugar in slow but steady stream.  Beat until the whites have cooled.

Reduce the speed to low and the add the butter, one chunk at a time, until it is completely incorporated.  Increase the speed to high and beat until glossy and light.  Turn the mixer off.  Grab a rubber spatula and fold in the melted chocolate until smooth.  Mix in a pinch of salt.  Frost your cupcakes generously!

**If your buttercream breaks or looks curdled when mixing, hold a cloth ice pack or ice against the bottom of the bowl and continue to beat on medium speed.  The buttercream will eventually come back together.  Be patient!  This happened to me and the cloth ice pack trick worked!**

5 Cupcakes Just for Mom

Rhubarb is showing up the in market just in time for Mother’s Day so why not make mom cupcakes studded with fresh rhubarb?  Head to Kitchen Konfidence for the the recipe.

Looking for a quick and easy cupcake recipe mom is sure to love?  Head to i am Baker for Amanda’s coconut angel food cupcakes.

Eat your bananas and make Local Milk’s buttermilk and roasted banana cupcakes with Lindt truffle filling and marshmallow frosting.  This sounds like a bite of heaven to me!

David Lebovitz’s chocolate, peanut butter and pretzel cupcakes will make any mom forgot a horrible, no good, very bad day.

Keep it simple and make my chocolate cupcakes with white chocolate buttercream.

 

Chocolate Cupcakes with White Chocolate Buttercream + 5 Classic Cupcake Links

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When I overthink things I get myself into trouble.  I overthought these chocolate cupcakes. I agonized over thoughts of various fillings, my mind racing with options: raspberry curd, mocha whipped cream, chocolate ganache, Dulce de Leche.  [No, next.]  So, I focused on frosting choices: Swiss meringue buttercream, sea salt caramel frosting, dark chocolate ganache, a simple fruit icing.  [No, no. Tasty, but not what I’m looking for…today.]

“Keep it simple, Kel.” She tells me, one hand on the steering wheel as she applies a thick coat of lipstick without looking, once, in the mirror.  [Light blue Ford Taurus station wagon that smells like sour milk and old coffee.  She doesn’t care.  She gave up on caring about incidentals a long time ago.  I get that…now.]  

I stare, memorized by her confidence, memory recall, her lips as they transform from a pale, wrinkled pink to a smooth, as, buttercream mauve.  How does she do that?  A mystery to me in so many ways.  

Her beautiful bright blue eyes dart over me, examine my face.  “What’s with you today?”  I turn my face into the light coming through the passenger’s window, a rural landscape runs alongside.

“Nothing.”  My go to answer for many decades to come.  Poor Mom, tormented and relieved by the unknowns.  Juxtaposition at its best.

“Keep it simple.”  These words coming from a woman who has never kept anything simple in her life.  A woman who counted on plan b and plan c .  If the levy should break.  

She doesn’t know I will take her words, carry them with me, and sing them like a psalm.   

So, I  pushed options to the side.  Tucked them safely in a place, a corner of my brain, where they sit patiently and wait.   Wait for a day when I need them.  After all, I am my mother’s daughter.

So I kept it bald, bare, naked and made a rich, moist chocolate cupcake paired with a sweet and light white chocolate buttercream.  Nothing fancy, in fact, quite simple, but altogether delicious.

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Chocolate Cupcakes with White Chocolate Buttercream

Cupcake recipe from Not Without Salt

Buttercream recipe adapted from What To Bake & How To Bake It, Jane Hornby

Makes 24 cupcakes ( You may get more. I got 36!)

Ingredients for cupcakes:

3 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour

1 + 1/4 cups unsweetened cocoa powder

2 + 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 + 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

3 eggs

1 + 1/2 cups milk ( I used 1%)

3/4 cup canola oil

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

2 + 3/4 cups sugar

1 cup boiling water

Directions:

Pre-heat your oven to 350F.  Line two 12 cup muffin pans with cupcake liners and set aside.

Grab a large bowl and sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Set aside.

Using the a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the eggs, milk, oil and vanilla on medium speed.  Reduce the speed to low and add the sugar and dry ingredients.  Mix on a low speed for a couple of minutes, then increase the speed to medium and mix until the batter is smooth, about 2-3 minutes.  (You should not see lumps.  If you do, keep mixing.)  Slowly, add 1 cup of boiling water and mix on the lowest speed until completely smooth.  (Alternatively, mix the water into the batter with a wooden spoon until smooth.)  The batter will be quite thin.  Let the batter rest for about 15-30 minutes.  I let it sit for closer to an hour.  When ready to bake, gently stir the batter.

Fill the cupcake liners, about three-quarters the way full.  Bake until the tops of the cupcakes spring back when lightly touched or when a cake tester inserted in the center comes out with just a few crumbs, about 20 minutes.  Allow the cupcakes to cool in the pan for 5 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely.  While the cupcakes cool, make your buttercream frosting.

Ingredients for white chocolate buttercream frosting:

1/2 cup heavy cream

3 1/2 ounces white chocolate, chopped

3/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

a good pinch of kosher salt

2 cups of confectioners’ sugar, sifted

Directions:

Grab a small saucepan and heat the cream until the edges just begin to bubble.  Pour the hot cream over the chopped chocolate and let it sit, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes.  Once melted, stir until smooth.

Using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until creamy.  Add the vanilla and salt, scrape down the sides and continue to beat.  Slowly, add the confectioners’ sugar.  Continue to beat until fluffy and pale.  Pour in the cool chocolate and whip on high for 5 minutes.  Add more sugar if it seems too thin.  ( I didn’t need to add more sugar.)  Frost cupcakes with an offset spatula or fill a pastry bag and add your favorite piping tip.  Cupcakes are best the day they are made.  However, they taste just fine if made a day in advance and stored in an airtight container at room temperature.  Enjoy!

Chocolate Eggs

Ingredients:

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted

piping or Ziploc bag

parchment paper

Directions:

Using a pencil, lightly draw desired shapes on parchment paper: eggs, flowers, butterfly etc.

Melt 1 cup of semi-sweet chocolate in an oven proof glass bowl either using the microwave or nestled on top of a small saucepan with simmering water. * If using the microwave, watch carefully, as it will burn easily.  If using the stove top, be sure the bowl does not touch the simmer watering.*  Stir until the chocolate is smooth and allow to cool for a couple of minutes.  Pour melted chocolate into a Ziploc bag and trim just a bit of the corner with scissors.  Trace your drawings using the melted chocolate.  Allow to dry until completely hard, about 30 minutes.  Remove the chocolate from parchment paper with a spatula and carefully add decorations to cupcakes.

 5 Classic Cupcake Links!

My favorite cake and frosting match up is yellow cake with chocolate frosting.  Sally’s Baking Addiction has a recipe that is making me drool: moist yellow cupcakes with milk chocolate frosting.

Red velvet will never go out of foodie style.  Averie Cooks has a recipe for red velvet cupcakes with vanilla cream cheese frosting that looks divine!

Looking for a mouth watering all chocolate cupcake?  Head to Sweetapolita for Rosie’s dark and dreamy double fudge cupcakes.  

Kids and adults will go crazy for My Baking Addiction’s vanilla bean cupcakes.

I love all lemon desserts, but Cooking Classy’s lemon cupcakes with lemon buttercream frosting is really pulling on my heartstrings today!