Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Chocolate Butterscotch Cake

The weather has been rather ADD around here lately. Yesterday was warm and sporadically sunny, but great big lazy drops of rain would fall on me whenever I ventured outside and would stop whenever I went back in. I try not to take such behavior personally. Today it's cold and drizzly with a 5 minute lightning and thunder storm that popped in to say hi and dissipated before I could even find my umbrella. Despite the weather, my sisters came over last night and we went out to a lovely new restaurant over in my neighborhood, Found. The friendly bartender recommended a bottle of Cahors, and explained that it's the original French malbec, before Argentina got their hands on it, and is often cheaper than it's more popular cousin (I count that as the one new thing I learned that day). The delicious kale salad, the fried oyster tacos, the pistachio meatballs, the impossibly crispy chicken wings, and the decadent Turkish coffee gelato sundae were only surpassed by the 3 hour conversation as we lingered at our table and flipped through books that were technically part of the decor. If you're in the area, or thinking of visiting, I'd definitely recommend you stop in for a while, you won't regret it.

But you're here for the cake, not restaurant recommendations or my gripes about the weather, and this one does not disappoint. This cake seems smaller in the picture then it was in real life; it's like the messages written on rear-view mirrors in cars, so please come closer. This baby consisted of 4 layers of butterscotch cake, each layer drizzled with a bit of chocolate rum sauce, filled and covered with generous layers of butterscotch frosting, and garnished with ganache for an extra accent of chocolate. In real life, this cake came out huge. The towering beast was made for a friend's birthday a few months back and after it fed over 30 people there were nothing but crumbs left on the plate (which is why, once again, there are no pictures of the insides).

Chocolate Butterscotch Cake

Chocolate Butterscotch Cake
Adapted generously from Martha Stewart and the sauce is from Death by Chocolate. Note: The frosting will require some time to cool and set so you should start on that early, or even the day before to make sure you have everything ready when you go to assemble the cake.

For the Frosting:
12 ounces unsalted butter (3 sticks), 1 stick left whole, 2 sticks cut into small pieces, softened
2 cups packed dark-brown sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp coarse salt
20 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted

For the Cake Layers:

Pam baking spray, for pans (or some melted butter and flour)
3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
2 1/2 tsp coarse salt
10 ounces (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 1/2 cups packed dark-brown sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 Tbsp plus 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 Tbsp dark rum
1 1/4 cups buttermilk, room temperature

For the Chocolate Rum Sauce:
6 oz unsalted butter
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
1 1/3 cups heavy cream
8 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa, sifted
3 Tbsp dark rum
1/4 tsp salt
4 tsps instant coffee
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Chocolate Ganache Garnish (optional):
6oz semi-sweet chocolate
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 Tbsp unsalted butter

1. Melt 1 stick butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat until dark golden brown, about 10 minutes. Add brown sugar, cream, and salt, stirring until sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil, whisking constantly, and cook for 3 minutes. Transfer to a bowl, and let cool.

2. Once the sauce has cooled and thickened turn your mixer on low and with the machine running, add remaining butter, a few pieces at a time, and beat on low until incorporated. Raise speed to medium, and beat for 2 minutes. In another bowl, beat cream cheese and confectioners' sugar on medium-high until fluffy and smooth, about 3 minutes. Add brown-butter mixture to cream cheese, and beat until smooth. Cover, and refrigerate until chilled, at least 2 hours (or overnight, beating on low speed before using).

3. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Coat two 9-by-2-inch round cake pans with Baker's Pam, line with parchment, and coat parchment (or grease and flour with a bit of melted butter and a light dusting of flour). Set aside.

4. Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.

5. Beat butter and brown sugar with a mixer on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition, then add vanilla and rum. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with buttermilk. Raise speed to medium-high, and beat for 2 minutes. Divide batter among pans.

6. Bake cakes until golden brown and testers inserted in centers come out clean, about 40 minutes. Transfer pans to wire racks, and let cool slightly. Invert cakes onto racks. Let cool completely.

7. Heat the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Once melted, whisk in all the other ingredients. Bring to a boil and lower the heat, then allow to simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Allow to cool completely.

8. Chop up the chocolate and put into a bowl. Heat up the cream and the butter in a small pan just until the first bubbles appear at the edges then pour over the chocolate. Whisk everything together until the chocolate is all melted and incorporated and set it aside to cool to room temp and thicken.

9. To assemble the cake, trim tops of the 2 cake layers and then halve each one diagonally to make 4 layers, and place one on your serving plate, cut side up. Brush 1/4 cup chocolate rum sauce on the cut side of each cake layer including the one on the serving plate. Spread 3/4 cup frosting on the bottom layer, top with another cake layer sauce side down, spread more sauce on that and repeat, stopping when the last layer is up on top. Basically you want some sauce on both sides of each layer except the top and bottom with frosting in between. Spread a thin layer of frosting on top and sides (your crumb coat). Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour, and then spread remaining frosting on top and sides of cake. Pipe on your decorations with the cooled ganache or you can just rewarm it a bit and pour it over the top letting it drip down the sides if you like. Refrigerate until firm, at least 4 hours (or up to 2 days, covered).

Friday, April 12, 2013

Gluten Free Cinnamon Pecan Scones

A good friend has learned a while back that a large number of her health issues were due to a soy and gluten intolerance. She's lived her whole life having no idea and simply suffering through one thing after another. But when the doctor figured out the problem she was even more frustrated. She cooks every day for herself and her daughter, but she doesn't love it like I do and quite often pasta or pizza would be the go-to because they're easy, and both suddenly became non-options. Gone were the pancakes, the pb&j sandwiches and pretzels, and her search for reasonable replacements began.

Cinnamon Pecan GF Scones Raw
Everything that's gluten free and commercially made is more expensive and as a single mother she's been on a budget for as long as I've known her. She laughed at me when I told her that she could make her own bread, she doesn't think the way I do so most of my "helpful suggestions" simply would not work for her. While she's been figuring out her own way, I've been trying to make sure that she's not excluded from special occasion treats, and one of the main staples have been my scones. I've been making the same scones whenever she's been over for breakfast and she sings their praises to everyone she meets, but all of the sudden the scones became a no-can-do. The first time I tried making my usual recipe, swapping out the King Arthur's GF Flour mix for the regular stuff, what came out was a crumbly mess. A tasty mess, to be sure, but not what I wanted. I dug around more online and I found a bunch of great mixes that people put together themselves, but after testing a few of them out, the best one by far was Jeanne's GF Flour Mix. I've tried it in several recipes now, from tart crusts to coffee cakes, but this scone recipe was the ultimate test. And it passed with flying colors!

Cinnamon Pecan GF Scones

Gluten Free Cinnamon Pecan Scones
I know I've written about these already in their non-GF form, but I was so happy with the result of all the substitutions that I wanted to share it with you again. And again, since my recipe could not have come together without them I'm citing both Smitten Kitchen and Art of Gluten Free Baking.

2 cups of Jeanne's GF Flour Mix
1 Tbsp baking powder
3 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
5 Tbsp chilled, unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup pecans, lightly toasted
Turbinado sugar, optional

1. Before you do anything else, click through to Jeanne's site and mix up a batch of the flour mix. Double it, triple it, put it into a big jar and you'll have it ready to use just as you would regular flour, whenever you need it.

2. Adjust the oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 425°F.

3. Dump flour, baking powder, sugar, salt and cinnamon into your food processor fitted with steel blade and pulse a few times to combine everything. You can also just mix everything in a bowl if you like, but I love my food processor.

4. Open up the food processor and distribute the butter chunks evenly over dry ingredients. Cover and pulse a couple of times. If you're doing this by hand, use two forks, a pastry cutter or your fingers to mush the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse meal with a few larger butter bumps.

5. Pour in heavy cream and pulse a few times, just until the dough barely starts to come together. Add in the pecans and pulse 3-4 times again to incorporate/chop them in. If you're doing this by hand, stir in the cream with a spatula until a dough starts to form, chop up the pecans and fold them in as well.

6. Transfer dough and all dry, floury bits to countertop and knead the dough by hand just until all the flour is incorporated, then pat it into a rough round disk about 3/4 inches thick. You can cut it with a biscuit cutter, pressing the scraps together to make more biscuits, but I like to just shape it into a disk and cut it into 8 wedges. It's less work and still comes out delicious.

7. Place rounds or wedges on an ungreased baking sheet or a silpat, sprinkle some turbinado sugar over the top for an extra crunch and press it in a bit so that it sticks. Bake until scone tops are light brown, 12 to 15 minutes and cool on wire rack for at least 10 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature, plain or with soft butter and jam.

Share with a friend or two and enjoy!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Dulce de Leche Lemon Cake

I've been baking for a long time. Each time I try to remember when exactly I first pulled the flour bin out and tried something new, I give up and go do something more useful, like wash the giant pile of dishes that kitchen gremlins keep sneaking into my sink. There has always been an unspoken rule in my family though: I make whatever the heck I want, but mom makes the birthday cakes (except for her own that is, though even then she gets a say in what I make). My older sister has mom's Drunken Cherry cake, without which a birthday is not a birthday, and my younger sister has had mom's "L'ubimiy" (quite literally "The Favorite").  It involved lots of butter, homemade dulce de leche, fresh lemon and fluffy yellow cake layers, and it has been her go to for a long time. That is until a few years ago. I don't recall why, either mom couldn't or she asked me specifically, but I was asked to make my sister my lemon cake instead. I think I mentioned it on here a long time back, it was a cake that involved slightly dense lemon cake layers with lemon curd spiked whipped cream inside and out. I got the recipe from an old issue of Gourmet and modified it slightly over the years based on my family's preferences and it was pretty good. Since then it's been an alternating battle. Does she choose mom's lemon cake or mine?

This year her birthday was going to be celebrated late and while talking over her plans late one night on IM, I typed out loudly "I'm making your cake this year! What do you want?" "I'm sure whatever you make will be lovely. Something with lemon. Or chocolate. Or lemon. Did I mention lemon?" she replied. I reeled through all the different cakes I'd like to try out next in my head before I decided that no matter how crazy I want to get, it's not about what I want to try, but about what she would want. It would be for her birthday after all. And then it hit me! I'd make the ultimate cake for her: I'd combine her two favorites into one giant confection to blow her mind. And this is how the "New Favorite" was born. 

photo (5)

The process is a little lengthy, and I apologize for the lack of good pictures of the cake (it was the middle of the night when I finished it), but trust me, it came out awesome and the birthday girl was blown away. And yes, I did insist on having the correct number of candles on the cake. I'll continue to do that until she's 93 and the cake looks like a flammable porcupine. I may be a middle child but for a few years I was the little sister, and those lessons are hard to unlearn.

photo (4)

The New Favorite (or Dulce Lemon Cake)
This recipe is a combination of several sources, including an old Gourmet recipe, but I'd changed so much about all of it over the years and now combining it with my mom's recipe, the result is all my own. Note: Plan to make this over two days because the lemon curd and the dulce de leche will need time to cool down.

For the Frosting/Filling:
1 14oz can of condensed milk

Zest of 2 lemons
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar
3 large eggs
3/4 stick of unsalted butter (6 Tbsp), cut up into pieces

2 8oz packages of cream cheese, at room temp
1 cup of unsalted butter (2 sticks), at room temp

For the cake:
3 cups cake flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
16 Tbsp unsalted butter, at room temp
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 cups sugar
5 large eggs, at room temp
1¼ cups buttermilk, at room temp
1 tsp vanilla extract

1. Place the unopened can of condensed milk into a deep pot and cover completely with water. Cover the pot and place over high heat until the water boils, then lower the heat to medium high to keep a steady boil going and cook for 2.5-3 hours. Check on the pot every 30 minutes or so and add water as needed to make sure that the can stays submerged. Don't forget about it because if you don't have water in there the can can blow up and you don't want all your hard work splattered on the ceiling. Take the whole pot off the stove, carefully take out the can with tongs and let it stand out until it's completely cool. Don't try to open the can until it's cool or, once again, it will blow up. 

2. In a separate pot, combine the lemon zest, lemon juice, sugar and eggs. Whisk together lightly, add in the chopped butter and cook over moderately low heat, whisking constantly, until the butter has melted and the custard has thickened enough to hold the marks of the whisk for a bit and you start seeing a few bubbles around the edges. Don't let it boil. Once it's thickened take it immediately off the heat and pass it through a strainer into a bowl to remove any bits of cooked egg and the lemon zest. Cover with saran wrap pressed over the surface of the curd (this will prevent a skin from forming) and let it cool to room temp before you transfer it to the fridge to set completely.

3. Once both the dulce and the lemon curd are completely cool, beat the cream cheese and the butter together until fluffy, beat in the whole can dulce de leche until combined and then beat in the lemon curd in several stages. I added the entire batch in, but my frosting came out a little bit on the softer side. You may want to reserve a little of the curd for your breakfast toast if you'd prefer your frosting a bit stiffer. Or you can just chill it for a bit before you use it. 

4. To make the cake, preheat the oven to 350° F.  Grease the bottoms of two 9-inch round cake pans lightly with butter, line the bottoms with parchment paper and then grease and flour the bottom and sides again. I use Baker's Pam, which is oil and flour in one and is awesome.

5. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the cake flour, baking powder and salt.  

6. In a large bowl of your mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter, the lemon zest  and the sugar on medium-high speed for 3 minutes, until light and creamy in color.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat for one more minute. Beat in the eggs one at a time until incorporated,  scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition.  

7. Combine the buttermilk, the lemon juice and vanilla extract in a liquid measuring cup.  With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients alternately with the wet ingredients, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients and mixing just until incorporated.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix for 15 seconds longer.

8. Divide the batter between the prepared baking pans.  Bake until golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 20-22 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking.  Let cool in the pans about 10 minutes, then invert onto a wire rack and let cool completely.

9. Once the layers are cool, cut each one in half, lengthwise. Place one layer on your serving plate and top with a thin layer of frosting. Top with another layer and repeat until you have all four layers stacked with three layers of frosting between them. Use the rest of the frosting to cover the top and sides and pipe on decorations with anything you have left over. You want to get every last bit of that frosting onto that cake because it's the best part.  

The cake will keep for a few days in the fridge, provided you don't eat it all in one sitting.