Saturday, February 27, 2010

Year of Cake: Memories and Reflections, by Elizabeth

What a great year!! I loved this year's theme --- more than I expected to.

I'll admit that I started slowly, and didn't really get into the spirit of things until August (I had moved over the summer). But then I took off with excitement! I loved it. I made so many cakes from August to December, it'll probably be the subject of legends told to small children all over the world for years to come.

Now for my annual awards:

Most fun thing about Year of Cake:
- Everyone loves cake. A lot of people don't love pie. Or they only like certain, very specific pies. But everyone loves cake. I enjoyed the Year of Cake a little bit more than the Year of Pie for that reason. A cake is easier to surprise someone with, because you don't have the risk of them saying "Oh....I hate custard pies." or "Oh......I hate fruit pies." or "Oh......I just plain hate pie!" And if you volunteer to take a cake to an event, you don't have to clear the type of cake with them beforehand to make sure it's going to be acceptable. I found that freedom to be really satisfying. Also, cakes are generally showier than pies, and that was pretty darn fun. I loved the looks of delight and the cheers that went up several times during the Year of Cake. I'm going to miss that feeling this coming year. ("Here's your slice of bread." "Thanks." Where's the fun in that?????)
.....That was a major clue in the coming year's theme, in case you didn't already know!

Proudest moment in the Year of Cake:
- Adam's baptism and confirmation!

Okay....proudest CAKE moment in the Year of Cake:
- Probably the straight sides and top of Ella's birthday cake. I wish I had taken a proper picture up close. I was really proud! It looked just like a bakery cake. Well......minus the mounds of buttercream decorations (I used multicolored tall candles instead).

Most fun moment with cake:
- Luke eating his first birthday cake.

Tastiest cake:
- Almost Fudge Gateau

One really crazy-great moment in the Year of Cake:
- Kicking off the year with my sister, Printer (Ann), while we made our January cakes. Wonderful!

The cake that delighted and surprised me (In much the same way that my apple pie delighted and surprised me) :
- Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

Cake of Ann's that I most wished I could have tasted:
- Peanut Butter Ice Cream Cake

Best cake to share with a friend, any day of the week:
- Swedish Visiting Cake

Things I wish I had done during the Year of Cake:
- I wish I had done more with the piping requirement. I fulfilled it, but just barely. I really thought this would be the year I'd finally do some fancy cakes for my kids' birthdays, and I didn't. I still made cakes for them, but I didn't pipe the cakes. I also wish I had found and made my holy grail of cakes: the layered fudge cake, or layered mousse cake, or whatever it is that I am craving and wasn't able to produce! It is what I think of when someone says the word "cake," and I'd like to be able to make it. I'm talking fudgy, deep chocolate cake layers, sliced thin, with mousse or ganache in between. Or maybe mousse in between and ganache on top. A true chocolate lover's dream. If you have a link to a recipe like that, post it in the comments!

Of course there are dozens and dozens of cakes that I think about and wish I had made this year, but I had an awesome Year of Cakes! Besides, I will continue to make cakes. Because who doesn't love a good cake?

A cake I wish I had made

I don't want to steal any of their glory, so I'll just include a link so you can see for yourself.

From "Serious Eats."

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Ann Presents: Some Good Cake

I had a few good cakes this year (p.s. Listle - I don't remember a bakery-cake-buying requirement, just that we had to comment on good cake!), and I would now like to share them with you.

First, I bought some cupcakes from one of my favorite local bakeries, Blu Boy Chocolate Cafe & Cakery. They have the craziest awesome macarons that blow my mind, but everything I've tried has been spectacular. I bought a couple of cupcakes to share with some friends, and my ever-so-talented friend Mrs. H-B photographed them for me.

I need a camera like hers so bad... These were excellent chocolate and cherry flavored cupcakes. Nom nom nom!

Next, I had some good cake in Cincinnati at a German restaurant that Ol' Blue Eyes and I tried when he had an audition there in November. We got some apple strudel and German chocolate cake, but before we started eating, OBE said I needed to take a picture, because, "Ann! It's the Year of Cake!" :)

Finally, OBE and I had some good cake in honor of our one year anniversary on February 2nd (this wasn't in the actual Year of Cake, but oh well - it was still good). It was just a cake from the grocery store, but it was triple chocolate, with tons of chocolate cream between the chocolate cake layers, and a chocolate ganache on top and little chocolate hearts. We were trying to get back on our diets at this point, but this cake certainly didn't help. Unfortunately I don't have a picture of it, but it was really pretty!

Hooray for good other cake!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Elizabeth's Cake Review - West Side Bakery and West Point Market

Ann, I almost forgot to review my bakery-bought cakes!

I thought I'd love the "Must buy a cake from a pastry shop" rule, and that I'd buy a few during the year. But as it turned out, I only bought cakes once --- for Adam's baptism.

Adam was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in October. What a wonderful occasion for him and for our family! He was so excited to be baptized, and had been praying about the truthfulness of the Church for several weeks, so by the time his big day rolled around, he was very ready. I was so proud of my little boy.

I get pretty nervous at events that I'm in charge of, and I had 4 house guests (my mom, my in-laws, and my sister PRINTER [Ann]) so I didn't want to leave too many details up in the air. Early in the year, I decided to buy cakes for Adam's baptism, instead of making them. I wanted several different flavors and styles, so I decided to just go to the bakeries a couple of days in advance and buy some random 8-inch cakes. It worked out great -- just the way I thought it would. I bought two buttercream cakes with interesting stuff in the middle (I can't remember what), one lemon-coconut cake, and one carrot cake. (The only thing I didn't like so much was that it was more expensive than I had expected. I thought the cakes you special-ordered -- with all the writing and froofy stuff that's personalized to you -- would be more expensive or equally priced. I didn't expect the cake "off the shelf" to be so much more expensive. I would have known that, though, if I had researched it for 2 minutes!)

I loved the display of the cakes, I loved the variety, I loved the cake stands, and most of all.....I loved that I wasn't scrambling around trying to bake stuff for the baptism while I had a house full of guests!

(Side note: I learned something about myself from these cakes: I learned I hate real buttercream frosting. HATE. Oh well. The lemon-coconut cake was divine!)

Our family

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Ann's December Cake - Chocolate Caramel Chestnut Cake

Behold, the mother of all cakes! My official December cake was truly a showstopper, and was filled with not a little drama. It was totally worth it because it was INCREDIBLE. Here is the story.

I wanted to keep trying out recipes from Baking, by Listle's new BFF, Dorie Greenspan, and her chocolate caramel chestnut cake seemed big and dramatic, and the chestnuts sounded like they would be fun for a December cake. I knew that they sold them at Williams-Sonoma during the holidays, so I knew I had to get up to Indy to pay a trip to the store since I didn't have time to order them online and make the cake before everyone would leave for Christmas and I would be forced to eat the entire thing myself. Luckily, Ol' Blue Eyes and I had other reasons to go to Indy.

I really need to learn a lesson about trying to fit too much into a short amount of time because OBE and I had a Salvation Army bell ringing appointment, and then we still had to drive to Indy and get to Williams-Sonoma before driving to the concert. We were in a huge rush, and when I got to the store, they said they didn't carry the chestnuts during Christmas! Are you kidding me??? Chestnuts are only for Thanksgiving??? I was so mad. But I still bought a 9-inch-square commercial-quality cake pan. As I was walking back to the car to meet OBE, I remembered that there was a specialty cheese shop nearby in the mall. I walked in, turned to my right, and instantly happened upon a jar of chestnuts. Hooray for me!!!! They happened to be $20, but I was so excited and cackled something about a Christmas miracle as I bought them. So between the really good chocolate, the chestnut puree, and the jar of whole chestnuts I bought for it, this cake is officially the most expensive one I made.

Star Wars was great, too.

The cake wasn't difficult to make, but there were a lot of parts to it. First, I made the actual cake, which looked awesome in the perfectly squared pan (I've only had pans with rounded edges before this and I was surprised at what a difference it made aesthetically). It included sweetened chestnut puree which I thought was a fun ingredient. Then I made some caramel, which never works when I try to make it, but it did this time! I mixed it into some melted chocolate to create a caramel ganache. I can't even explain how good it was - the initial chocolate flavor gave way to burnt sugar. I chopped up half of the whole chestnuts and then finally made a bittersweet chocolate ganache. Finally all my pieces were ready for assembly.

I split the cakes into three layers, then stacked layers of caramel ganache and chopped chestnuts between the cake. After the top layer, I frosted the entire thing with the remaining ganache.

And the end, I poured the bittersweet chocolate ganache over the top put it in the fridge to set up. A few hours before serving, I took it out again, to get it to room temperature, and dusted the remaining whole chestnuts in sugar to make them pretty for decoration. (You're supposed to paint them with edible gold dust, but I couldn't find it.) The final project was the most beautiful cake I've made, if it's not arrogant to say so.

The picture isn't great, but the cake was! There were so many layers of flavor - not too sweet, nutty, caramelized sugary, the best kind of chocolatey cake. Plus, it looked like a real bakery cake. Make this cake! Or come over and I'll make it again!

Chocolate Caramel Chestnut Cake

adapted from Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan

Caramel ganache:
9 ounces premium-quality milk chocolate (I used Guittard)
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
6 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons water
1 cinnamon stick
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature

2 cups cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups (packed) light brown sugar, divided
4 large eggs, separated
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup sweetened chestnut spread with vanilla (I got this at a ethnic foods market - it was a German manufacturer)
1/4 cup whole milk

24 jarred peeled whole chestnuts (about 7 ounces); 12 coarsely chopped, 12 left whole
1 cup sugar

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water

For ganache:

Combine milk chocolate and bittersweet chocolate in medium bowl. Stir sugar, 2 tablespoons water, and cinnamon stick in heavy medium saucepan over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat and boil without stirring until syrup turns deep amber, occasionally brushing down sides of pan with wet pastry brush and swirling pan, about 6 minutes (time will vary depending on size of pan). Add cream and salt (mixture will bubble vigorously). Bring caramel to boil, whisking until smooth and caramel bits dissolve, about 1 minute. Discard cinnamon stick. Pour hot caramel over chocolate; stir until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth. Let stand until completely cool, stirring occasionally, about 1 hour.

Using electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until fluffy. Beat in chocolate mixture in 4 additions. Cover and refrigerate ganache overnight.

For cake:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour 9x9x2-inch metal baking pan. Line bottom of pan with parchment paper. Sift flour, baking powder, and salt into medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until fluffy. Beat in 1 cup brown sugar, then egg yolks and vanilla extract. Beat in chestnut spread, then milk. Sift dry ingredients over and gently mix together. Using clean dry beaters, beat egg whites in another large bowl until soft peaks form. Add remaining 1/4 cup brown sugar and beat until stiff but not dry. Fold egg whites into batter in 3 additions.

Transfer batter to pan. Bake cake until golden and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 48 minutes. Cut around cake to loosen. Cool cake completely in pan on rack.

Turn cake out onto work surface. Peel off parchment. Using long serrated knife, cut cake horizontally into 3 equal layers. Place 1 cake layer, cut side up, on 8x8-inch cardboard square. Spread with 1 cup ganache. Sprinkle with half of chopped chestnuts. Top with second cake layer, cut side up. Repeat with 1 cup ganache, and remaining chopped chestnuts. Top with remaining cake layer, cut side up. Spread remaining ganache over top and sides of cake. Place cake rack on sheet of foil; place assembled cake on rack. Chill while preparing glaze.

For glaze:

Bring cream, sugar, and 1/4 cup water to boil in heavy medium saucepan, stirring until sugar dissolves. Add chocolate and whisk until melted and glaze is smooth. Let cool until thick but still pourable, about 4 hours.

Pour glaze atop cake, spreading evenly over sides. Chill until glaze sets.

Brush 12 whole chestnuts with sugar. Arrange chestnuts across top of cake. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover with cake dome and refrigerate. Let cake stand at least 4 hours and up to 8 hours at room temperature.) Serve cake at room temperature.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Ann's Cake Book Review: Baking Cakes in Kigali by Gaile Parkin

This is a book that I processed at the library a few months ago. I made a note of it at the time to read later in the year, so I took it home over Christmas break. Unfortunately, it took me much longer to finish it than I had intended. This was for several reasons, not the least of which was that this book was lame. Here's the basic premise: Angel runs a cake baking business from her home in Kigali, Rwanda, a few years after the genocide there. Through her business and her involvement in the community, she meets various native Rwandans, immigrants, relief workers, and officials, and listens to their stories (and dishes out advice and inserts herself into other people's lives). As a result, the book is really just a lot of little vignettes that are kind of held together by the premise of the cake business. The problem is that Angel is portrayed as always knowing what is best for everyone (this falls apart a little at the end of the book, but holds true for the majority), which makes it difficult to like her. In one particularly annoying scene, she explains to the wife of an ambassador who denies the existence of AIDS in her homeland that if all the countries surrounding that country are afflicted with AIDS, then her country must have it too. It just got really old to always hear Angel telling people what they should do in "cute" ways. For some reason, the fact that she is going through menopause is also featured prominently. The author of the book is a former relief worker in Rwanda and specifically says that she wanted to tell the stories of the people she met there, and I don't think that it's a bad desire, but this makes the book extremely self-aware and therefore doesn't give it a lot of depth. She could easily have told the same stories with better writing and more of a real plot, but everything is done in such a superficial, obvious way, with no subtlety. I know that I'm the one person who hates feel-good things, but essentially every bit of this book is meant to be "heart-warming" and "charming", and I just found it obnoxious. And there is really very little cake in the book - it doesn't delve into her cake baking much at all, and instead focuses on the cake decorating. But even that is treated in a really superficial way - it only talks about the finished product, and the reader almost never gets to see Angel in action with her cakes. If you like cute stories that are calculated to manipulate you into feeling good and hopeful about life, you may like this book, but who am I to say? There was almost no chance from the beginning that it could have won me over, and I know I'm the aberration. So instead, don't read it because you're not going to get your cake fix from this book.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

MORE of Elizabeth's Extra Cakes - Strawberry Cream Cake and Pine Nut Cake

I made lots of extra cakes in December. In fact, I was a cake-making machine that month! I even made a couple of tried-and-true cakes from earlier this year.

These two cakes were new to me, though. The first, and more complicated of the two, was Strawberry Cream Cake, from my good friends (I wish) at America's Test Kitchen. I took it to a Christmas Eve party, and it was admittedly an odd choice for that type of event, since it seems better suited for a summer picnic. But whatever! I wanted to make it before the year was done, and it was such a fab-u-lous cake that I can't imagine anyone minded.

I have loved looking at strawberry cream cakes in the past, but have not enjoyed eating them very much. They're pretty but not very flavorful. The things that made this cake different were these:
  1. A strawberry "mash" in addition to the whole strawberries. It really brought out the strawberry flavor,
  2. A flavorful cream filling (from the addition of cream cheese), and
  3. A cake sturdy enough to handle the berries and cream, but not so sturdy that it was dry.
I really do think this Strawberry Cream Cake was as good as it gets in the cream cake category. But if you like cake mixes, which get all goopy when stacked, this isn't for you. But please don't serve me yours. (Is that mean?...)

The first two layers

Here you can see the way the layers are constructed:
strawberries around the circumference, strawberry mash
in the middle, cream on top of that.

Julia wants to eat it all up!

I added a cut up strawberry to the top of the cake.

The second cake was an Italian pine nut cake from the Jamie Oliver cookbook, Jamie's Italy. I made this cake for a dinner party, and it was pretty good. It is a very dense cake and not too sweet, which is VERY Italian. In fact, in my year and a half in Italy, I saw this cake many times in bakery windows, but never ate it. This version mixes like a quick bread, but it has yeast in it. It doesn't sit out to rise or anything, so it felt very odd to mix it up quickly, pour it in a springform pan, and have that strong yeast smell come back at me. It was very dense in the end (was the yeast supposed to have done something? Did my yeast die?) and I got nervous about it. It just seemed that it might be too bland to serve as the finish to a dinner party. I whipped some cream before serving it and mixed cut up strawberries and oranges to spoon on the side of the plate. I thought it was good like that, but not spectacular. I think it would be a more appropriate cake to eat with a cup of tea on a winter day or something like that. A HAND CAKE!



Strawberry Cream Cake, by America's Test Kitchen / Cook's Illustrated Magazine

Serves 8 to 10. Published May 1, 2006.

If using a cake pan, you will need one with straight sides that are at least 2 inches high; otherwise, use a springform pan. The cake portion can be made ahead of time, wrapped in a double layer of plastic wrap, and frozen; thaw the frozen cake, unwrapped, at room temperature for about two hours before proceeding with the recipe.


1 1/4 cups cake flour
1 1/2
teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1 cup sugar (7 ounces)
5 large eggs (2 whole and 3 separated), room temperature
6 tablespoons unsalted butter , melted and cooled slightly
2 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Strawberry Filling
2 pounds fresh strawberries (medium or large, about 2 quarts), washed, dried, and stemmed
4 - 6 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons Kirsch (I omitted this ingredient and added a bit of water instead)

Pinch table salt

Whipped Cream
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar (3 1/2 ounces)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon table salt
2 cups heavy cream


  1. FOR THE CAKE: Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour round 9 by 2-inch cake pan or 9-inch springform pan and line with parchment paper. Whisk flour, baking powder, salt, and all but 3 tablespoons sugar in mixing bowl. Whisk in 2 whole eggs and 3 yolks (reserving whites), butter, water, and vanilla; whisk until smooth.

  2. In clean bowl of standing mixer fitted with whisk attachment, beat remaining 3 egg whites at medium-low speed until frothy, 1 to 2 minutes. With machine running, gradually add remaining 3 tablespoons sugar, increase speed to medium-high, and beat until soft peaks form, 60 to 90 seconds. Stir one-third of whites into batter to lighten; add remaining whites and gently fold into batter until no white streaks remain. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake until toothpick or wooden skewer inserted into center of cake comes out clean, 30 to 40 minutes. Cool in pan 10 minutes, then invert cake onto greased wire rack; peel off and discard parchment. Invert cake again; cool completely, about 2 hours.

  3. FOR THE STRAWBERRY FILLING: Halve 24 of best-looking berries and reserve. Quarter remaining berries; toss with 4 to 6 tablespoons sugar (depending on sweetness of berries) in medium bowl and let sit 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Strain juices from berries and reserve (you should have about 1/2 cup). In workbowl of food processor fitted with metal blade, give macerated berries five 1-second pulses (you should have about 1 1/2 cups). In small saucepan over medium-high heat, simmer reserved juices and Kirsch until syrupy and reduced to about 3 tablespoons, 3 to 5 minutes. Pour reduced syrup over macerated berries, add pinch of salt, and toss to combine. Set aside until cake is cooled.

  4. FOR THE WHIPPED CREAM: When cake has cooled, place cream cheese, sugar, vanilla, and salt in bowl of standing mixer fitted with whisk attachment. Whisk at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes, scraping down bowl with rubber spatula as needed. Reduce speed to low and add heavy cream in slow, steady stream; when almost fully combined, increase speed to medium-high and beat until mixture holds stiff peaks, 2 to 2 1/2 minutes more, scraping bowl as needed (you should have about 4 1/2 cups).

  5. TO ASSEMBLE THE CAKE: Using large serrated knife, slice cake into three even layers. Place bottom layer on cardboard round or cake plate and arrange ring of 20 strawberry halves, cut sides down and stem ends facing out, around perimeter of cake layer. Pour one half of pureed berry mixture (about 3/4 cup) in center, then spread to cover any exposed cake. Gently spread about one-third of whipped cream (about 1 1/2 cups) over berry layer, leaving 1/2-inch border from edge. Place middle cake layer on top and press down gently (whipped cream layer should become flush with cake edge). Repeat with 20 additional strawberry halves, remaining berry mixture, and half of remaining whipped cream; gently press last cake layer on top. Spread remaining whipped cream over top; decorate with remaining cut strawberries. Serve, or chill for up to 4 hours.

Pine Nut Cake (La Torta Della Giovane Sara) from Jamie Oliver’s book – Jamie’s Italy

1 cup unsalted butter, melted, plus a little for the pan
3 & 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
4 eggs, preferably organic

2 cups sugar
zest and juice of one lemon
1 & 1/4 ounce packet active dried yeast
3 & 1/2 ounces pine nuts

Preheat the oven to 350F. Butter a 12 inch springform pan and line it with a disc of waxed paper. Sprinkle the waxed paper with a little bit of the flour. Beat the eggs in a large bowl, then mix the yeast with the melted butter. Add this to the eggs, with the sugar, remaining flour, and the lemon zest and juice. Mix together well and pour into the cake pan. Scatter the pinenuts over the top and bake in the preheated oven for about 40 minutes or until golden.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Ann's Extra Cake - Chocolate Almond Torte

After searching through all of my dessert books, I finally remembered the recipe for the extra cake I made in December (yeah, I know the official one isn't up yet. Bah!). I made this cake for a Christmas party with friends. I'm usually looking for ways to use up the almond flour that I always have around (it's so useful!), so I made this cake since I had all the ingredients. It turned out great! Everyone at the party loved its dense, pure, bitter chocolate flavor, and its almost-fudge-like texture (which is why I kept thinking I'd accidentally copied one of Listle's cakes). It also served as a delightful Santa Lucia/birthday cake for melyngoch.

Chocolate Almond Torte

adapted from The Cake Book by Tish Boyle

13 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 cup plus 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into teaspoons
2.8 ounces almond flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoons salt
4 large eggs

1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease the bottom and sides of a 9 x 3-inch springform pan. Line the bottom of the pan with a round of parchment and grease the paper. Cut an 18-inch square of heavy-duty aluminum foil and wrap the foil around the outside of the pan.

2. Put the bittersweet chocolate and butter in a medium stainless steel bowl and place over a pot of barely simmering water. Heat, stirring frequently, until the chocolate and butter are completely melted. Remove the bowl from the pot and set the mixture aside to cool until tepid.

3. In a medium bowl, combine the almond flour 1/4 cup of sugar, and salt.

4. In a large bowl, beat the eggs at medium speed with an electric hand mixer until blended. Gradually adding the remaining 3/4 cup sugar, increase the speed to high and beat until light and pale, about 4 minutes. Reduce the speed to low and add the tepid chocolate and the ground almond mixture, mixing until almost completely blended. Finish blending with a rubber spatula.

5. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Place the pan in a roasting pan, place in the oven, and pour enough hot water into the pan to come almost halfway up the sides of the springform pan. Bake the cake for 40 to 50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, or with a few moist crumbs clinging to it. Set the pan on a wire rack and carefully loosen the foil. Let the cake cool in the pan for 30 minutes.

6. Run a knife around the sides of the pan to loosen the cake. Remove the side of the pan and carefully invert the cake onto a cake plate. Remove the bottom of the pan and the parchment round. Refrigerate the cake for at least 2 hours before serving.

7. To serve, cut the cake with a thin-bladed sharp knife, wiping the knife clean between each cut.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Elizabeth's December Cake - Chocolate Mousse Layer Cake

For December, I made another chocolate layer cake. This time, I made it to celebrate the birthday of one of the girls in the Young Women's class that I teach at church. I teach the 16- and 17-year-olds, and I love it. They crack me up, make me think, and inspire me -- sometimes all at the same time.

I got this recipe from the Food Network Website. It is an Emeril Legasse recipe. I learned so much from this cake!! Let me explain.

I was looking for a rich, moist, deep chocolate cake, and I didn't get it in this cake at all. But that was MY fault for not knowing enough about cakes yet! (HURRAY, YEAR OF CAKE.) I didn't understand that the "egg foam method" (like a genoise) produced such a dry, tough cake, with a subtle flavor. I know this sounds like a criticism, but it's not. As soon as I cut into the cake when I was serving it, I realized that I have had cakes like this many times: in Europe, and a couple of times in European restaurants in America. They're not supposed to be rich and moist! They're supposed to be airy and dry. When you whip whole eggs for that long, this is the style of cake you get. I ended up liking it quite a bit (other than the ultra-sweet frosting. You tricked me again, Emeril!), but it was not what I was going for. Again, if I had understood the egg foam method, one look at the instructions would have told me the kind of cake it would turn out to be.

So even though I don't fault the cake or the author, I still wish I had made something else. I still prefer the AMERICAN style of cake (despite what I said in my very last post. That's something different. That's un-frosted European-style cake -- more of a home-style cake than a pastry-chef-style cake.) And I'm still craving rich layered chocolate cake! I can't believe I didn't recreate it during Year of Cake. It's my Holy Grail!

American cakes rely on fat. (Mmmmmm....delicious fat....) European cakes rely on syrup soaked into the sponge cake. Here I am soaking the cake:

Now spreading the mousse:

Now stacking the layers together:

Now the finished cake. I frosted the cake with a separate frosting, and then added the chocolate curls:

I learned how to make chocolate curls from Julia Child:

1. Spread melted chocolate on the bottom of a jelly roll pan.

2. Cool it in the fridge, and then scrape it off with a spatula.

Oops! Too cool.

3. Leave it on the counter for a few minutes to warm it up.

4. Scrape again. Perfect!

Here are some girls from my class, with the cake in the foreground. (We meet on the stage. That explains some of the crazy equipment.)

Sarah, on the right, is the birthday girl!

A couple of the girls from my class surprised me by hiding from the camera because they didn't "look good" that day, which ruined my whole theory about their generation! I'd never seen someone from their generation object to a picture being taken (or posted online), as opposed to MY generation, in which girls wouldn't eat anything in front of anyone, and definitely wouldn't let anyone take a picture of them not looking their best. Ugh. I like the current generation's way of doing things better -- so much more self confident. I still think I'm right about their generation being more open, but I was still surprised that some of them avoided the camera. In fact, it wasn't until I was posting this that I realized that Nusly did manage to escape the photo. I'll get you next time, Nusly! Actually, Nusly took loads of pictures the next Sunday, but then she was ready for the pictures, which is fine. I've had days when I haven't wanted to be photographed either. There are women from my generation who still always run from the camera, no matter what, and I just think it's goofy.

More of my awesome girls:

Katie loved the photos so much, she appeared twice!

The woman on the right, Giselle, is the Young Women's President. She's amazing.

Now for the recipe:

Emeril Legasse's Chocolate Mousse Layer


For the cake:

  • 8 eggs
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 cup bleached flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons butter

To finish:

  • 1 pound confectioners' sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 stick butter, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup boiling water
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 8 ounces semisweet chocolate, melted
  • 3/4 cup simple syrup, (equal amounts sugar and water, simmered until sugar dissolves)
  • 3 ounces semisweet chocolate, shaved into curls


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

For the cake: Put the eggs and 1 cup of the sugar in a large mixing bowl and, with an electric mixer fitted with a wire whisk, beat on medium-high speed until the mixture is pale yellow, thick and has tripled in volume, about 8 minutes. Sift the cocoa, flour and baking powder together in another large mixing bowl. Add the egg mixture and fold to mix thoroughly.

Grease 2 (9 by 2-inch) round cake pans with the butter. Sprinkle each with a tablespoon of the remaining sugar. Pour the cake batter evenly into the pans and bake until the cake springs back when touched, about 25 minutes. Let cool for about 2 minutes.

Using a thin knife, loosen the edges of the cakes and flip onto a wire rack. Let cool completely. Sift together the confectioners' sugar and cocoa powder into a medium-size bowl. Add the butter and mix with an electric mixer until incorporated. Add the vanilla and boiling water and mix until smooth. Let cool. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the cream and the chocolate. On medium speed. Whip until stiff peaks form, set aside.

To assemble the cake:
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place a wire rack over it. Using a serrated knife, cut each cake in half horizontally. Brush the tops of three of the layers with 1/4 cup of the simple syrup.

Place the bottom layer on a 9-inch round of cardboard and set it on the wire rack. Spread 3/4 cup of the mousse evenly on top of the cake. Top with a second layer of cake. Spread another 3/4 cup of the mousse over the top of the cake. Repeat the same process with the third layer. Top with the fourth layer. If necessary, shave off any uneven pieces of the cake with a serrated knife so that it is smooth and even on all sides. Chill for 2 hours.

Spread the frosting evenly over the sides and top of the cake. Refrigerate until the frosting sets. Place the chocolate curls on top of the cake.

Elizabeth's extra cakes - Yiaourtopita and Blueberry Crumb Cake #3

BONUS CAKES! This post is about 2 extra cakes I made this year.

The first is a recipe for Yiaourtopita, which means yogurt cake. (pronounced yeeah-oor-TOH-pee-tah)

I found this recipe on I was making Greek meatballs for some friends for dinner and I wanted a Greek dessert to finish. If you can't find thick Greek yogurt, the recipe says you can start with plain yogurt and strain it to thicken it. I bought Greek yogurt, but used half of it in a cucumber salad (tasty!), so I had to augment the rest with some plain yogurt that I strained. I hate changing more than one thing in a recipe, BUT I also didn't have a 13" square baking pan. I used two 8" round pans instead.

I don't have any photos! Here's why: I found out our friends were coming to dinner only an hour and a half before dinnertime. I ran to the store for ingredients, cooked dinner, and got the cake into the oven at the very last minute. The cakes cooked while we ate the meatballs. When the cakes came out of the oven, we ate them within 15 minutes and polished them off like nobody's business! (because it was nobody's business, alright? Don't make me come over there!) Hence, no pictures.

I will tell you, though, that this cake rocked! It had a slight sourness to it, because of the yogurt, and that made it FABULOUS! When I was plating it up, it looked very plain, so I sprinkled each slice with powdered sugar and put a single strawberry on the side. They looked lovely and tasted terrific. I'll be making this cake often. I love thicker, European style cakes without frosting. I like to call them "Hand Cakes," because you can hold a slice in your hand without getting all messy. Well, unless you're my 18-month-old. (Recipe at the end of the post.)

My other BONUS cake is another Blueberry Crumb Cake (the second for me this year, and the third overall. ....uh..I mean NUMBER ONE overall! YEAH!!! Woot! Woot!)

This is a Dorie Greenspan recipe. She's my new best friend. I adore her and want to be just like her, minus the short, short hair.

I made this for some other friends of mine. We all sat around my table talking and drinking tea/cocoa and eating this cake. Wonderful.

Here is a picture of it in my trash can. What?! YES, that's right. My husband, who liked it very much, decided after a couple of pieces that what he really liked was the crumb topping, so he ate the top off a piece and threw it away. I couldn't believe it! The bottom was MY favorite part. We could have been like Jack Sprat and his wife, for crying out loud!! But Jeff didn't even ask. The nerve. Oh well. I guess it was his piece, after all.

The recipes:


Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes

* 5 eggs
* 3 cups of all-purpose flour
* 1 1/2 cups of sugar
* 1 1/8 cups of thick yogurt (Greek preferable)
* 1/2 pound of soft margarine (2 1/4 sticks)
* 1 1/2 tablespoons of baking powder
* grated peel of 1 orange or lemon or bergamot orange
* 1 tablespoon of butter
* confectioner's (powdered) sugar (optional)


Preheat oven to 300°F (150°C).

In a mixing bowl, beat the margarine with the sugar and butter until creamy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Whisk together the flour and baking powder and, alternating between the flour and yogurt, add them slowly to the mix. Mix until smooth and add the grated orange (or lemon or pergamot orange) peel last.

Transfer the mixture to a lightly buttered 13" (or equivalent) cake pan, and bake at 300°F (150°C) for 45 minutes. If desired, when the cake rises, sprinkle with confectioner's sugar and cover with foil until done.

Yield: serves 12-15

Note: If the yogurt is not very thick, baking time will need to be increased. Test for doneness.

Blueberry Crumb Cake
Source: Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: from My Home to Yours

For the Crumbs:
5 tbsp unsalted butter at room temp
1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar (packed)
1/3 cup all purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

For the Cake:
1 pint (2 cups) blueberries (preferably fresh, or frozen, not thawed)
2 cups plus 2 tsp all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
2/3 cup sugar
grated zest of 1/2 lemon or 1/4 orange
3/4 stick (6 tbsp) unsalted butter at room temp
2 large eggs, at room temp
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup buttermilk
Preheat oven to 350. Butter an 8-inch square pan and put it on a baking sheet.To make the crumbs: Put all the ingredients except the nuts in a food processor and pulse just until the mixture forms clumps and curds and holds together when pressed. Scrape the topping into a bowl, stir in the nuts and press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface. Refrigerate until needed. (Covered well the crumb mix can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.)

To make the cake: Using your fingertips, toss the blueberries and 2 tsp of the flour together in a small bowl just to coat the berries; set aside. Whisk together the remaining 2 cups flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg.

Working in the bowl of a stand mixer or in another large bowl, rub the sugar and zest together with your fingertips until the sugar is moist and aromatic. Add the butter and, with the paddle or whisk attachment, or with a hand mixer, beat the sugar with the butter at medium speed until light, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs one by one, beating for about 1 minute after each addition, then beat in the vanilla extract. Don’t be concerned if the batter looks curdled — it will soon smooth out. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the flour mixture and the buttermilk alternately, the flour in 3 parts and the buttermilk in 2 (begin and end with the dry ingredients.) You will have a thick, creamy batter. With a rubber spatula, gently stir in the berries.

Scrape the batter into the buttered pan and smooth the top gently with the spatula. Pull the crumb mix from the fridge and, with your fingertips, break it into pieces. There’s no need to try to get even pieces — these are crumbs, they’re supposed to be lumpy and bumpy and every shape and size. Scatter the crumbs over the batter, pressing them down ever so slightly.

Bake for 55 to 65 minutes, or until the crumbs are golden and a thin knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Transfer the cake to a rack and cool just until it is warm or until it reaches room temperature.