Snapshots: Cake Tasting

Cake Tasting

We are finally in less than one year stretch and still doing things ridiculously ahead of time.  We headed down to Orange County this past weekend to visit a friend who just moved back from Hawaii, and conveniently, she lives 15 minutes from our wedding venue.  We decided to take the opportunity to schedule not one but two cake tastings while we were in the area.

Note to brides to be, don’t schedule two tastings back to back. I’m pretty sure I had a sugar hangover when I woke up Sunday morning.  Although the sugar overload wasn’t my favorite, it was nice to try both places in a short period of time because we could remember the things we liked about each place and make a more informed decision.

Cake Tasting

Our first tasting was at Sweet & Saucey Shop in Newport.  Before we arrived for our tasting, we were giving a huge sheet of flavor options and made selections based on what we wanted to try.  For the frosting we chose: cream cheese based: regular, espresso, coconut, peanut butter, and Oreo, buttercream: vanilla, salted caramel, and Nutella, chocolate ganache, strawberries, raspberries, hazelnut crunch, Valrhona chocolate pearls, toffee bits and salted caramel drizzle.

Cake Tasting

We opted for the chocolate, vanilla almond and strawberry cake flavors.  And if you thought the frostings and toppings above were enough, think again – we also tried a few creamy fillings – whipped cream, vanilla Bavarian cream, lemon cheesecake mousse and chocolate mousse.

Cake Tasting

And those were just the cake options… We also tried a few mini desserts- traditional cheesecake with fresh fruit, cappuccino cheesecake, chocolate salted caramel tarts.  Last but not least, we sampled some mini cupcakes: candy bar, chocolate espresso, chocolate peanut butter, carrot cake, coconut, strawberry cream and nutella hazelnut.

After reading all of that, you probably are asking yourself how we didn’t get sick or need to roll each other to the car afterward… Patience my friends, it’s all about small bites.  Just enough to get the flavor combination and not enough to get yourself sick.  It also helped that we preferred the cream cheese frostings, which are less kick you in the stomach sweet compared to their buttercream cousins.  When it came to testing the mini desserts, we only ate a quarter of the tarts and one small fork full of each mini cupcake.  It was the perfect amount to taste the cake, frosting and any fillings, but no need to overload the tummy.

The entire experience at Sweet and Saucey Shop was super enjoyable.  Their décor is very cute and the fact that they have Styrofoam sample cakes all over the shop, helps you get an in person idea of the size of your cake.  We wanted a very simple textured design, so the pricing was extremely reasonable when it came time to talk numbers.  In our discussions with our consultant, we opted for a smaller cake, a simple two tiered style with two different flavors, which we will probably top with fresh flowers and a simple topper.  If cake is not our guests’ thing, we will have 4 different mini dessert options to satisfy everyone’s sweet tooth.   Our consultant was very knowledgeable and didn’t feel pushy.  She gave her opinion and was very helpful when it came to pointing out different sized cakes featured in the store to help us picture the cake in person.

I won’t spoil the surprise of what we ended up choosing for our wedding, but just know this – my sweet tooth will be more than satisfied 😉

Chocolate Mousse Pie with Phyllo Crust

Chocolate Mousse Pie with Phyllo Crust

Around the holiday season, a lot people put the emphasis on the main course or finding the perfect easy, yet satisfying appetizer; whereas, for me it’s all about dessert. The more the merrier, the more complicated, the more impressive, and the better the table photographs… Am I right or am I right? I absolutely love trying something new and exciting for a holiday meal, but it is definitely a little nerve-racking not knowing if your dish is going to turn out well of if that back-up pie in the freezer is going to make an appearance.  This next recipe is the perfect star for your Christmas dessert table.

I made this mousse for Thanksgiving this year and let me tell you it was everything short of a Thanksgiving miracle. First, I bought puff pastry instead of phyllo dough. Heads up, I could only find phyllo dough at Gelson’s which was up bright and early Thanksgiving and basically saved the day. Second, I thought I was being brilliant by using a spring form pan- no need for a parchment paper lift apparatus. Too bad, I let the phyllo dough fall and bake right over the spring form release. Also, half way through the phyllo draping butter process, I ran out of butter and had to stop and melt another stick. Note to readers: buy correct dough, double the butter, use spring form pan, but do a better job “crumpling” the dough above the edge of the pan, try not to let it bake over the edges or else you will have a shorter, crust like mine.

Chocolate Mousse Pie with Phyllo Crust

ingredients:
CRUST
1 stick unsalted butter, melted, plus more for cake pan (I doubled this)
8 sheets thawed frozen phyllo dough (each 17 by 12 inches)
2 to 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
3 1/2 ounces semisweet chocolate, melted

FILLING
4 large egg yolks
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
3 1/2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (about 3/4 cup)
2 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
Chocolate shavings, for serving (optional)

Chocolate Mousse Pie with Phyllo Crust

directions:
CRUST
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-by-2-inch cake pan (spring form is ideal), then line with two 17-by-2-inch strips of parchment, forming an X in center and leaving a 2-inch overhang. Butter parchment.

Place 1 sheet of phyllo on a work surface with a long side facing you, keeping remaining phyllo covered with plastic wrap. Lightly brush entire surface with melted butter, then sprinkle some of granulated sugar on right half of phyllo. Fold left half over to enclose sugar. Brush top lightly with butter. Press folded phyllo into pan, buttered-side down, leaving a 1/2-inch overhang on one side; gather and crumple dough slightly as you go to make fit and to create a ruffled edge. Repeat with remaining phyllo sheets, overlapping to completely cover bottom of pan and create a 1/2-inch overhang on all sides. Bake until golden, about 20 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes.

Brush melted chocolate over bottom and 1 inch up sides of crust. Refrigerate 10 minutes.

FILLING
Meanwhile, in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water, whisk together yolks, granulated sugar, and salt until sugar is dissolved. Whisk in bittersweet chocolate until melted. Remove from heat. Let cool 10 minutes.

Beat 1 cup cream until medium-stiff peaks form. Whisk one-third of whipped cream into chocolate mixture. Gently but thoroughly fold in remaining whipped cream. Pour mixture into cooled crust. Refrigerate at least 3 hours.

Beat remaining 1 cup cream with confectioners’ sugar until soft peaks form. Dollop onto pie, sprinkle with chocolate shavings, and serve.

Recipe from Martha Stewart.

Chocolate Mousse Pie with Phyllo Crust

Pumpkin Cheesecake with Gingersnap Crust

Pumpkin Cheesecake with Gingersnap Crust
One of my most vivid memories from my childhood is from a beach bbq my mom hosted when I was around eight years old. I had a desire to be in the kitchen and loved box cake mixes. For this particular party, I convinced my mom to let me buy a devil’s food cake mix, luscious chocolate glaze and little chocolate figures to decorate the sides of the cake. I already knew I was opting to use a Bundt cake pan and was super excited to see it all come together. It probably took me all of an hour to make the cake, which I left on the kitchen counter until it was time for dessert later in the day. Turns out, I was not the only one excited to try this cake… my dog, Darcy (a steel stomached Rottweiler), decided to take the opportunity while the coast was clear to devour half of my chocolate masterpiece. When my mom and I discovered the cholate mess, my mom cool and collectively carved away the destroyed cake and made the untouched half look presentable. {Sidenote: yes, Darcy ate waaaay too much chocolate, but miracle of miracles, she was fine!}

Flash forward to the present, we held our Thanksgiving dinner at my grandmother’s home this year. My responsibilities included mashed potatoes and a couple desserts. I opted to make a delicious pumpkin cheesecake with gingersnap crust and a chocolate mousse with phyllo crust. Since my mother’s birthday falls right around Turkey Day, I turned the pumpkin cheesecake into her very own birthday cake. I plated the cake on a silver cake stand, placed the cake safely in the middle of the table and went to round everyone up for the birthday song. As I turned the corner to head back to where I left the cake, I saw a large golden retriever, my grandmother’s unruly puppy, perfectly balanced on a chair and the table, munching away at my gorgeous cheesecake. Cue flashbacks of my childhood, including my mother fixing her own birthday treat. Luckily this cake was a little more dog friendly and we had a whole second dessert to enjoy.

Pumpkin Cheesecake with Gingersnap Crust

ingredients:
CRUST
12 ounces gingersnaps (about 50), broken into small pieces
6  tablespoons sugar
8  tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

FILLING
12 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup canned pumpkin puree
1 large whole egg, plus 1 large egg yolk
1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
Pinch of ground cloves

Pumpkin Cheesecake with Gingersnap Crust

directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pulse gingersnaps and sugar in a food processor until fine crumbs form. Add butter and pulse to combine. Press mixture evenly into bottom and up sides of a 9-inch pie dish. Freeze until firm, about 30 minutes.

Bake crust until golden in spots, about 15 minutes. With the bottom of a measuring cup, gently flatten bottom and sides of crust. Let cool completely on a wire rack. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees.

Pulse cream cheese in food processor until smooth. Add sugar and pumpkin and process until smooth, occasionally scraping down sides of bowl. Add egg and yolk, flour, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves; process until incorporated.

Pour filling into cooled shell and bake until custard is just set, about 33 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire rack, then refrigerate until cold and firm, at least 4 hours and up to overnight.

Recipe from Martha Stewart.

Pumpkin Cheesecake with Gingersnap Crust

Blueberry Crumble Cake

Blueberry Crumble Cake

A couple weeks ago for the USC at Notre Dame Football game, my good friend hosted a Kegs & Egg tailgate party complete with a serve yourself Benedict Bar. First of all, if you’re a sane member of humanity, Benedict is the best and obviously your favorite egg breakfast option on any brunch menu anywhere ever. So when you hear Benedict bar, obviously there are few brunch items that will rival the best breakfast item ever. But this blueberry crumble cake comes pretty damn close. I shared this particular recipe a few years ago when I hosted a mimosa brunch for my roommate’s birthday. After making it a second time and getting multiple rave reviews, I decided this tasty baked good deserves its own post.

Blueberry Crumble Cake

ingredients:
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
For the cake:
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature (3/4 stick)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
2/3 cup sour cream
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup fresh blueberries
Confectioners’ sugar for sprinkling

Blueberry Crumble Cake

directions:
For the cake:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour a 9-inch round baking pan.

For the streusel:
Combine the granulated sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a bowl. Stir in the melted butter and then the flour. Mix well and set aside.
For the cake:

Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on high speed for 4 to 5 minutes, until light. Reduce the speed to low and add the eggs 1 at a time, then add the vanilla, lemon zest, and sour cream. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture to the batter until just combined. Fold in the blueberries and stir with a spatula to be sure the batter is completely mixed.

Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and spread it out with a knife. With your fingers,

crumble the topping evenly over the batter. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool completely and serve sprinkled with confectioners’ sugar.

Recipe from Ina Garten.

Blueberry Crumble Cake

Peach Cobbler

Peach Cobbler

I’ve been at my current company for over a year now, and one of the first requests I received when my co-workers found out that I like to bake was for a peach cobbler. It’s important to note, that while I love baking, I have actually never baked a cobbler, until now. When it came time to boil and peel the peaches, I was definitely out of my element. Don’t worry I made it work, but be forewarned, peeling, coring and slicing peaches sounds easy peasy but when they are slippery and sliding every which way in your hand, it takes extreme concentration not to slice off the tip of your finger. Back to the recipe, I love the fact that this recipe calls for alone peach cooking time, the result is a rich, delicate peach filling that literally melts in your mouth. Pair those perfectly baked peaches with a not too sweet crust and a scoop of vanilla ice cream and you’ll never crave another dessert again. Seriously, this might be the best baked good I have ever made. So good, I made individual ramekin cobblers a few days after bringing in a 9”x13” sized dish to work for a coworker’s birthday.

Peach Cobbler

ingredients:
8 fresh peaches, Peeled, Pitted and Sliced into Wedges
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 Tsp Cinnamon
1/4 Tsp Nutmeg
1 Tsp fresh lemon juice
2 Tsp cornstarch
2 Cups flour
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 Tsp Baking Powder
1 Tsp Salt
12 Tbsp Cold Unsalted Butter, Cut into Small Pieces
1/2 Cup Boiling Water
3 Tbsp White Sugar

Peach Cobbler

directions:
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Using a sharp paring knife make a small X on the bottom of the peach just through the skin. Drop the peaches into the boiling water one or two at a time for about 1 minute. Remove with a slotted spoon.

Plunge peaches into a bowl filled with ice and water. Using the tip of the paring knife, grab the edge of the skin at the X and peel.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, fold the peaches, 1/4 cup each white and brown sugars, cinnamon, nutmeg, lemon juice and cornstarch until all ingredients are well combined. Pour fruit mixture into a 9X13 inch baking dish.

Place in preheated oven and bake for 10 minutes. While peaches are in the oven, add all the cake topping ingredients, except the boiling water, to a blender. Combine until the mixture looks like coarse meal. Pour in the boiling water and pulse until the mixture comes together and is just mixed through.

After the peaches have baked the 10 minutes, pull them from the oven and drop large spoonfuls of the dough topping over peaches. Sprinkle the top of the dough with the 3 tablespoons of sugar evenly. Place the baking dish on a cookie sheet, in case the cobbler bubbles over and drips, and bake for 30 minutes or until the topping is golden and baked through and the peaches are tender.

Serve warm with ice cream.

Peach Cobbler

Yields 1 9×13 pan or 8 individual sized ramekins.

Peach Cobbler