Celebration Hummingbird Cake

INGREDIENTS:
makes one three-layer 6″ cakefor cake:

  • 1 1/2 cups AP flour (~216 gr)
  • 1 tspn ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tspn baking soda
  • 1/2 tspn salt
  • 1/2 cup (~2.5 oz) pecans, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened dried coconut, shredded
  • 1/2 cup (100 gr) sugar
  • 1/2 cup (100 gr) loosely packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 egg + 1 egg yolk, beaten
  • 4 oz. fresh pineapple, finely chopped
  • 3 very riped bananas, mashed
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tspn vanilla extract

METHOD:

  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Prepare three 6″ round cake pans, greasing and flouring the sides and lining the bottoms with parchment paper rounds. If desired, wrap each pan with a bake-even strip. Set aside.
  2. In a bowl, combine the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, chopped pecans, and shredded coconut. Mix thoroughly. Set aside.
  3. In a mixer bowl, combine the egg, egg yolk, and sugars and beat on high until smooth, about one minute.
  4. Add the chopped pineapple, mashed bananas, vegetable oil, and vanilla extract to the egg mixture and beat until combined.
  5. Add the dry ingredients to the wet in two stages, beating well after each addition.
  6. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pans. Bake for 40-45 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out nearly clean.
  7. Remove from oven and let cool on wire rack for about 15 minutes before turning the cakes out of the pans. For ease of frosting, freeze the cake layers.

for frosting and assembly:

  • 1 stick butter, at room temperature
  • 1 tspn vanilla extract
  • 1 tspn coconut extract
  • 5 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 16 oz. cream cheese, cold
  • toasted pecans, finely chopped
  • fresh pineapple, chopped

METHOD:

  1. Beat the butter on medium high for 2-3 minutes until light and fluffy.
  2. Beat in the vanilla and coconut extracts.
  3. Gradually beat in the sifted powdered sugar.
  4. Gradually add the cold cream cheese, beating well after each addition. Use immediately to frost the cake.
  5. In between each layer of the cake, sprinkle a layer of chopped and toasted pecans and fresh pineapple chunks.
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Hazelnut and Dark Chocolate Cakelettes with Basil Buttercream

INGREDIENTS:
makes ~eight 3 x 2″ cupcakes
for cake:

  • 10 Tbspn butter
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 6 eggs, separated
  • 12 oz. dark chocolate, melted and cooled
  • 1 1/2 Tbspn espresso
  • 1 Tbspn vanilla
  • 1/2 tspn salt

METHOD:

  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Butter and flour the cake molds or tins. Line the bottom with parchment paper and grease again. Set aside.
  2. In a mixer bowl, beat the butter and light brown sugar on medium until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
  3. Add the egg yolks one at a time to the butter and sugar mixture, beating well between each addition.
  4. Beat the melted dark chocolate, espresso, vanilla, and salt into the batter until well-combined.
  5. In a separate bowl, whip the egg whites until soft peaks.
  6. Fold 1/3 of the egg whites into the chocolate batter, then fold the remaining egg whites into the batter just until combined.  Be careful not to overmix!
  7. Divide the batter evenly amongst the prepared pans. Immediately place in the oven and bake for 15 – 18 minutes.  Meanwhile, prepare the meringue.

for meringue layer:

  • 2 oz. dark chocolate, chopped
  • 1/2 cup hazelnuts, toasted and chopped
  • 1/2 Tbspn cornstarch
  • 2 egg whites
  • 2 Tbspn sugar

METHOD:

  1. Combine the dark chocolate, hazelnuts, and cornstarch
  2. Whip the egg whites to stiff peaks, gradually adding the sugar as you whisk.
  3. Fold in the hazelnuts and chocolate mixture to the egg whites, being careful not to deflate the whites too much.
  4. Remove the chocolate cakes from the oven and spoon the meringue over the chocolate cakes.
  5. Return the cakes to the oven for ~15-20 minutes until the meringues are set.
  6. Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes on a wire rack. Using a knife, unmold the cakelettes and let cool completely before frosting.

for basil buttercream:

  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 large handfuls of basil, roughly shredded
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 2 sticks butter, at room temperature
  • green food coloring, optional

METHOD:

  1. In a small saucepan with a tight-fitting lid, combine the milk and the basil. Bring to just a simmer, cover, and let steep for ~30 minutes.
  2. Strain the basil from the milk and discard the basil. Set the milk aside.
  3. Whisk together the sugar and flour in a saucepan. Gradually whisk in the prepared basil milk and the cream, making sure that there are no clumps.
  4. Cook the flour and milk mixture over medium heat until it boils and thickens, about 5-10 minutes. Remove from heat and transfer into a bowl.
  5. Beat with a paddle attachment on high until the flour and milk mixture is completely cool.
  6. With the mixer on low, gradually add the butter. Then, increase speed to medium-high and whip until light and fluffy. (If the buttercream gets too soft, put it in the refrigerator for a few minutes before re-beating.) Briefly beat in a few drops of green food coloring, if desired.
  7. Use immediately to frost the cakelettes.

Banana Nutella Ice Cream & Whoopie Pies

INGREDIENTS:
Banana Nutella Ice Cream

  • 2 cups heavy or manufacturing cream
  • 3/4 cup Nutella
  • 1 medium extra-ripe banana
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • big pinch of salt
  • 1 1/2 Tbspn cocoa powder (I used Dutch-processed)
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 tspn vanilla

METHOD:

  1. Combine 1 cup of the cream, the nutella, and the banana in a blender or food processor. Blend until smooth. Pour the banana mixture into a bowl and prepare a fine mesh sieve on top of the bowl. Set aside.
  2. In a saucepan, combine the remaining cup of cream with the milk, sugar, salt, and cocoa powder. Whisk until the cocoa powder is evenly distributed throughout the milk. Bring the milk to a bare simmer.
  3. Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks together in a separate bowl. Set aside.
  4. When the milk comes to a simmer, remove from heat. Whisking constantly, pour the milk gradually into the prepared egg yolks to temper them. Return the egg yolks and milk to the saucepan and to heat.
  5. Cook the milk and yolk mixture over medium heat while stirring constantly until the mixture thickens and can coat the spoon/spatula. Remove from heat immediately and pour through the strainer into the nutella and banana cream. Whisk until smooth.
  6. Add the vanilla and stir.
  7. Chill the mixture thoroughly in the fridge, then freeze it in your ice cream maker of choice.  Transfer from your ice cream maker to the freezer to harden, preferably overnight.

Note: this ice cream mix probably won’t harden completely in your ice cream maker, so please allow for extra freezing time in the freezer.

Banana Whoopie Pies with Nutella Cream Cheese Frosting
makes about 20 mini whoopie pies

for banana cakes:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tspn baking powder
  • 1/2 tspn baking soda
  • 1/2 tspn salt
  • 1 tspn ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup mashed banana (~1 large extra-ripe banana)
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 stick butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar, unpacked
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tspn vanilla

METHOD:

  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Prepare baking sheets lined with parchment paper or silpats.
  2. In a bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Set aside.
  3. In another small bowl, stir to combine the mashed banana and sour cream. Set aside.
  4. Beat the butter, sugar, and light brown sugar on medium high for about three minutes, until light and fluffy.
  5. Add the egg and vanilla to the butter mixture and beat until incorporated.
  6. Add the banana mixture and the flour to the butter in two separate additions, alternating between wet and dry.
  7. Using a scoop or a piping bag fitted with a large round tip, form small mounds of batter on the silpat, leaving about 1-1 1/2 inches between each mound.
  8. Bake 12-15 minutes. Remove from the oven when done (cake will spring back if pressed lightly) and let cool completely before filling.

for nutella cream cheese frosting:

  • 1/2 stick butter, at room temperature, cut into small cubes
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature, cut into small cubes
  • 1/2 cup nutella
  • 1 tspn vanilla
  • 1 1/2 – 2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  1. Beat the butter and cream cheese on medium high for about three minutes, until light and fluffy.
  2. Beat in the nutella and vanilla extract to the butter and cream cheese mixture until completely incorporated.
  3. Gradually beat in the powdered sugar until the desired consistency (~stiff peaks) is reached.
  4. Using a piping bag or spoon, spread a small amount of frosting onto the bottom of half of the cakes and sandwich together with the other half. Roll in sprinkles, if desired.
  5. Keep refrigerated until serving.

Backyard Apple and Walnut Cake

INGREDIENTS:
makes one 9 x 3″ round cake

  • 975 g (~9 – 10) small apples
  • 2 1/2 cups (300 g) whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 tspn salt
  • 1 tspn baking powder
  • 1/4 tspn ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup + 5 Tbspn (297 g) butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups (300 g) light brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 90 g walnuts, coarsely chopped

METHOD:

  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Grease and flour the insides and bottom of a 9 x 3-inch round cake pan. Line the bottom with a parchment paper round. Wrap the outside of the pan with bake even strips (see note).
  2. Using a mandolin, very thinly slice two of the apples. Arrange the slices on the parchment paper at the bottom of the cake pan, starting from the inside and working outwards.
  3. Finely grate the remainder of the apples, resulting in about 600 g of grated apple. Set aside.
  4. In a bowl, whisk to combine the whole wheat pastry flour, salt, baking powder, and ground cinnamon. Set aside.
  5. In a separate bowl, combine the butter and brown sugar. Beat on medium until light and fluffy, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the grated apple until combined. Add the flour mixture in two parts, alternating with the buttermilk. Beat briefly until combined, but do not overmix. Fold in the chopped walnuts.
  6. Carefully pour the batter into the prepared cake pan. Use the back of a spatula to gently press the batter into the apple slices on the bottom and to smooth out the top. Tap the bottom of the pan gently on a counter to release any air bubbles.
  7. Bake the cake for about 1 hour and 5 minutes to 1 hour and 15 minutes. The cake is done when the top is golden brown and just beginning to pull away from the edges, and when a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out cleanly. Remove the cake from the oven and transfer to a wire rack. Let cool for 15 minutes, until the pan is cool enough to touch. Run a sharp, thin knife along the inside edge of the pan to loosen the cake. Invert the cake onto a plate, remove the pan and parchment round. Let cool completely.

Note regarding bake even strips: Normally, I’d say that bake even strips were optional, but because this cake will be flipped on its head, a flat top is preferable. If you don’t have bake-even strips, try using a 9 x 3-inch springform and trimming the top before flipping the cake over.

Note regarding peeling apples: For the sliced apples on top of the cake, I prefer to leave the skins on so that there are borders to the design on top of the cake. Just make sure to use a mandolin to make very thin slices so that the peels don’t get chewy. For the grated apples inside the cake, I left the peels on because the apples are finely grated and a teeny bit of peel doesn’t bother me much. If you’d like a smoother texture, you can peel these apples first before grating them.

Almond and Blackberry Cake

INGREDIENTS:
makes one 8×3-inch cake
for cake:

  • 3/4 (105 g) + 1/4 (35 g) all-purpose flour
  • 2 tspn baking powder
  • 3/4 tspn salt
  • 1 1/4 (250 g) sugar
  • 8 oz (225 g) almond paste
  • 1 cup (8 oz/225 g) butter, at room temperature
  • 1 tspn orange blossom water
  • 1 1/2 tspn almond extract
  • 6 large eggs, at room temperature

for topping:

  • 12 oz. blackberries
  • 1 Tbspn sugar
  • juice of half a meyer lemon
  • 1/4 tspn orange blossom water, opt.
  • bittersweet (72%) chocolate curls (see note)

METHOD:

  1. for cake. Preheat oven to 165° C. Butter and flour the insides of an 8 x 3-inch round cake pan. Line the bottom of the pan with a parchment round. Set aside.
  2. In a bowl, whisk to combine ¾ cup (105 g) flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

3. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the remaining ¼ cup (35 g) of flour, sugar, almond paste, and butter. Process until the almond paste is finely ground and well-combined with the butter.
4. Add in the orange blossom water and the almond extract and pulse briefly to combine.
5. Add the eggs, one at a time, processing well between each addition. Continue to process until the mixture is smooth and light.
6. Add the flour mixture to the batter in two additions, pulsing briefly after each addition just until combined, but do not overmix.
7. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake in the oven for 60 – 65 minutes, until the top is brown and the sides are just beginning to pull away from the pan. Remove from the oven, let cool for 10 minutes on a wire rack.
8. Run a thin knife around the edge of the pan and turn the cake out. Place upright on a wire rack and let cool completely.
9. for topping. In a bowl, gently toss to combine the blackberries with the sugar, meyer lemon juice, and orange blossom water, if using. Let sit for 10 minutes. Top the cake with the blackberries and sprinkle liberally with chocolate curls before serving.

Note: To make chocolate curls, heat a block of chocolate on high in the microwave for 5 – 10 seconds. The key is just to warm it very slightly but not to melt the chocolate. Run a vegetable peeler along the flat edges of the chocolate block to create the curls. Keep curls cool before use.

Chocolate Sandwich Cookies (Homemade Oreos)

chocolate-sandwich-cookies-homemade-oreos-stack

chocolate-sandwich-cookies-homemade-oreos-group

chocolate-sandwich-cookies-homemade-oreos-box

INGREDIENTS:

For the Dough:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the Filling:

  • ½ stick (2 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ¼ cup vegetable shortening
  • 2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Garnish: Decorative sugar (optional)

METHOD:

  1. Whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt.
  2. Beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy, then beat in yolk and vanilla. At low speed, mix in flour mixture in 3 batches just until a dough forms. Divide dough in half and form each piece into a 6-inch square, then chill, wrapped in plastic wrap, until firm, 2 to 3 hours.
  3. Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Grease two baking sheets or line with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
  4. Roll out 1 piece of dough between sheets of parchment paper into a 14×10-inch rectangle (1/8-inch thick). Slide dough in parchment onto a tray and freeze until dough is firm, about 10 minutes. Repeat with remaining dough.
  5. Cut out as many rounds as possible from first chilled square with a 2-inch fluted or round cutter, reserving and chilling scraps, then quickly transfer cookies to a buttered baking sheet, arranging them ½ inch apart. (If dough becomes too soft, return to freezer until firm.)
  6. Sprinkle half of cookies with decorative sugar (if using), then bake cookies until baked through and slightly puffed, 10 to 12 minutes. Cool on sheet on rack for 5 minutes, then transfer to rack to cool completely (cookies will crisp as they cool).
  7. Make more cookies with remaining dough and scraps (re-roll only once).
  8. To make the filling, beat the butter and shortening together at medium speed until combined and smooth. Reduce the speed to low and gradually beat in the sugar and vanilla. Increase the speed to high and beat for 2 to 3 minutes until the filling is light and fluffy.
  9. To assemble the cookies, pipe a heaping teaspoon of filling onto the flat side of the plain cookies. Top with the sugared cookies to make sandwiches. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Oreo Cheesecake Bars

Oreo Cheesecake Bars

Oreo Cheesecake Bars

Oreo Cheesecake Bars

INGREDIENTS:

  • 23 Oreo cookies (store-bought or homemade)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For the Cheesecake:

  • 12 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 eggs, at room temperature
  • 6 tablespoons sour cream
  • 1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 12 Oreo cookies (store-bought or homemade), coarsely chopped

METHOD:

  1. Preheat oven to 165 degrees C. Line an 8×8-inch square baking pan with foil or parchment paper, allowing it to hang over two of the sides.
  2. Make the Crust: Process the Oreo cookies in a food processor until they are turned into fine crumbs. Drizzle the melted butter over top and pulse a handful of times until the butter is evenly distributed and all of the crumbs are moist. Dump the crumbs into the prepared baking dish and press into an even layer. Bake for 10 minutes (leave the oven on).
  3. Make the Cheesecake: Beat the cream cheese on medium-high speed until smooth, about 2 minutes. Gradually add the sugar and beat until incorporated.
  4. Slowly add the eggs, beating well after each addition, and mix until completely combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the sour cream and vanilla, beating until incorporated.
  5. Gently fold in the chopped Oreos, then pour the batter over the prepared crust, smoothing it into an even layer. Bake until the edges are set but the middle still jiggles slightly, about 40 to 50 minutes.
  6. Place the pan on a cooling rack and let cool to room temperature, about 2 hours, then cover the pan with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours (or up to 24 hours) before serving.
  7. To serve, lift the cheesecake out of the pan using the parchment or foil handles. Slice into bars and serve. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.