Food & Drink

Ultimate Peanut Butter Cup Cake

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Last month, Ian celebrated his THIRTIETH birthday.  To celebrate, I baked him a 4-tiered, peanut butter cup cake.  A lot of recipes online simply did chocolate cake with a peanut butter frosting.  But I wanted the cake itself to have chocolate & peanut butter combo.  The result?  Peanut butter goodness.

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Ultimate Peanut Butter Cup Cake

  • Servings: 8-10
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Ingredients

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake

  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 2 Tb vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup boiling water

Peanut Butter Buttercream

  • 1 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 5 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup milk

Toppings

  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 6 Reese’s peanut butter cups, coarsely chopped

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.  Grease two 6-inch deep cake pans with unsalted butter.  Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of flour.  Gently rotate and tap the pan, until the entire pan is lightly coated with flour.  Tap out the excess.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, stir together flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Add eggs, buttercream, sour cream, peanut butter, oil, and vanilla extract.  Beat on medium speed for 2-3 minutes.  Gently stir in boiling water until combined.  Pour cake into prepared pans and bake the cakes for 30-35 minutes.
  3. Remove cakes and place on wire racks until completely cool.  Turn cakes out.  Slice each cake in the middle horizontally so you have 4 layers in total.
  4. While the cakes are baking, make the buttercream by whipping unsalted butter on high speed until light and fluffy.  Add the peanut butter and continue to whip until creamy.  Slowly add powdered sugar, 1/2 cup at a time,  whipping on low speed until each addition is incorporated.  Add salt, vanilla extract and whip until fluffy.  Slowly add milk until desired consistency.
  5. Make the ganache – melt the chocolate chips and heavy cream in a double boiler,  stirring occasionally until glossy.  Set aside to let cool slightly.  (You could also make the ganache in a microwave by microwaving in 30-second intervals)
  6. Assemble the cake – put one cake layer on a cake board.  Add some buttercream and smooth out.  Repeat with additional layers until the final layer of cake is adhered.  Spread the remaining buttercream on top and sides of cake,  smooth out the cake as needed.  Spoon cooled ganache over the top of the cake, and use a spoon to encourage the ganache to drip down the sides.  Top with chopped peanut butter cups.

Food & Drink

Castella (Honey Cake)

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If macarons are the finicky, pain-in-the-butt to make cookies, then castellas are the macaron-equivalent of a cake.  At first glance, castellas don’t look super difficult.  It’s a loaf cake.  What can be so hard about it?  Well, the hardest part is keeping the shape once it’s out of the oven.  A lot of times, castellas will sink in the middle and create this dip in the center.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s still crazy delicious, but it just doesn’t look as nice.

The tricky thing about castella is that the only rising agent is eggs.  That’s right, there’s no baking powder, baking soda, nada.  Additionally, there aren’t a lot of flour in the cake mixture, so whipping the eggs to the correct stages is absolutely crucial to ensure the perfect castella.

I have such fond memories of castella (my family calls them honey cakes).  My mom would always buy one from the Asian grocery store when we were growing up.  Since we don’t really like overly sweet desserts in my household, this was the perfect amount of sweetness.  And the best part is it only uses 5 ingredients – that you probably already have at home.

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Castella (Honey Cake)

  • Servings: 4-6
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Ingredients

  • 4 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 Tb honey
  • 1 Tb water
  • 3/4 cup bread flour, sifted

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.  Line a 9×5 loaf pan with parchment paper.
  2. In a stand mixer, whisk eggs on high speed for 3-5 minutes, until light and fluffy, slowly add granulated sugar.  Continue whisking until the mixture is thick and pale.
  3. Stir together the honey and water.  Microwave in 10-second intervals until the honey is easily pourable.  Pour honey into the egg mixture with the mixer running.  Continue mixing for another 2 minutes.
  4. In 2 parts, slowly shake in the bread flour.  Using a rubber spatula, carefully fold in the flour into the egg mixture.  Be sure to not overmix.
  5. Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes.  Then lower oven to 300°F and bake for an additional 30 minutes.  Remove cake from the oven and tap the loaf pan on the counter to prevent it from sinking.  Turn cake upside down and transfer to an airtight container (or wrap in plastic wrap).  Refrigerate for a minimum of 24 hours.
  6. Using a serrated knife, cut the sides off of the cake before serving.

Food & Drink

Angel Food Cake

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Okay, so this past 2 weeks, I’ve been making so many recipes that require egg yolks.  So now I’m left with an overrun mason jar of egg whites.  There are only so many egg whites omelets I can eat.  I thought the easiest way to get rid of egg whites fast is by making an angel food cake.

I decided to decorate this angel food cake like a Japanese-style strawberry shortcake, which is probably my favorite cake to make.  I made this into a 3-layer cake, each layer sandwiching cream and strawberries.  Ugh it’s so good.

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Angel Food Cake

  • Servings: 10-12
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Ingredients

Angel food cake

  • 1 1/4 cup cake flour
  • 1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cup egg whites

Topping

  • 1 pint heavy whipping cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 lb strawberries, cut into slices
  • 1/4 cup orange liqueur

Method

  1. In a large bowl, beat egg whites until still peaks.  Add cream of tartar, salt, and vanilla extract, mix well.
  2. In a medium bowl, sift together cake flour and sugar.  Repeat this 5x.  Slowly add cake flour mixture to egg whites, a little at a time, gently fold with a spatula with each addition.  Pour cake batter into angel food cake pan (if you don’t have an angel food cake pan, you can use a makeshift one, see below!)
  3. Place on the middle rack in a cool oven.  Turn oven on to 325°F.  Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until the top is golden brown.  Turn baked cake upside-down on a cooling rack.  Cool for about 1 hour before removing from pan.
  4. In a large mixing bowl, whip the heavy whipping cream until stiff peaks.  Add vanilla extract and salt.  Whip until combined.
  5. Slice the cake horizontally with a serrated knife into 1/3’s.  Put the base layer on your serving tray.  Using a pastry brush, dab orange liqueur sparingly over the top of the cake layer.  Top with 1/3 of the whipped cream, and layer with strawberries.  Repeat with the remaining layers.  If you have extra whipped cream, use it to pipe around the edges

Recipe notes

  • If you don’t have an angel food cake pan, no worries!  I used this awesome tutorial from Epicurious and I fashioned a makeshift pan out of a springform.  Basically, you use an old soda can, fill it halfway with water and wrap it in parchment paper.  Then you line the bottom of your springform pan with parchment paper and cut a starburst slit in the middle so your soda can fits (the Epicurious site has illustrations).

Food & Drink

Tiger Skin Swiss Roll

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Yesterday was Mother’s Day, and I didn’t get to celebrate with my mom since we live on opposite coasts of the country.  But in reflecting about my childhood with my mom, I am often brought back to going to Asian grocery stores (mainly 99Ranch).  Like most grocery stores, Asian grocery stores often come equipped with a bakery section that churns out cakes and pastries.  One of my family’s favorite was the tiger skin swiss roll (虎皮蛋糕).  Maybe it’s because my brother’s zodiac is the tiger?  I’m not sure, but we always pick one up for special occasions and celebrations.

I never attempted tiger skin rolls because I thought it would be difficult.  The construction of it clearly indicates that it is formed from 2 types of cakes.  There is the normal sponge in a swiss roll and the outer layer that forms the tiger stripes.  I decided to tackle that challenge and bake a tiger skin swiss roll.

From my research, I have learned that the tiger skin portion is baked from cornstarch in lieu of flour.  Cornstarch will cook very fast and form the crinkle that resembles tiger stripes that traditional cakes cannot.  The rest of the cake is fairly straightforward.  It might seem complicated from the lengthy instructions, but I promise this cake is quite simple and well worth the effort!

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Tiger Skin Swiss Roll

  • Servings: 6-8
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Ingredients

Chocolate Swiss Roll

  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup cake flour
  • 2 Tb cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 Tb unsalted butter

Tiger Skin Roll

  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch

Whipped Cream Filling

  • 1 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Method

  1. Make the swiss roll: Preheat oven to 375°F.  Line a 9×13 jelly roll pan with parchment paper.
  2. In a microwavable bowl, heat milk and butter until butter is melted.  Set aside.  In a large heatproof bowl, beat together eggs and sugar for about 2-3 minutes.  Place the bowl over a double boiler, and continue beating until the mixture is thick and pale (and pass the figure 8 test).  Sift in cake flour and cocoa powder and fold using a spatula.  Lastly, fold in melted butter and milk.  Bake in preheated oven for about 10-12 minutes, until the texture is spongy and has a slight bounce when you tap it.
  3. Cool the cake in the pan for about 5 minutes, then lift the cake out of the pan, and gently roll the cake loosely to resemble a swiss roll.  Place the cake seam side down and allow it to cool completely while holding this shape.  This will help the cake “remember” the roll later.
  4. Make the tiger skin: Preheat oven to “broil” setting.  Line a 9×13 jelly roll pan with parchment paper.
  5. Beat together egg yolks, cornstarch, and powdered sugar on high speed for about 5 minutes.  Pour prepared mixture on prepared pan.  Place on center rack in the broiler for about 2-3 minutes.  Watch the cake very diligently!  When you are happy with the shading of the tiger stripes, take it out.  Repeat step #3 (cooling and rolling process) with this cake as well.
  6. While cakes are cooling, prepared whipped cream filling.  In a large mixing bowl, beat together heavy whipping cream and sugar until light and fluffy, just shy of stiff peaks.  Beat in vanilla extract.
  7. Unroll the cooled chocolate swiss roll and spread about 2/3 of the whipped cream all over the inside of the swiss roll.  Roll it back tightly, pulling away from the parchment paper as you roll.  When you are done rolling, put it seam side down.
  8. Unroll the tiger skin roll.  Spread the remaining whipped cream over the inside.  Place finished chocolate swiss roll on top of the tiger skin roll and roll it tightly.  Again, place seam side down.  Allow cake to retain shape in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Recipe notes:

  • If your oven broiler has options for Hi/Lo, make sure to set it to low to have more control when baking the outer layer.

Food & Drink

Chocolate Lava Cake

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Yoo-hoo!  This past weekend, we welcomed May and I baked up a storm.  The theme was all things chocolate.  So this coming week, you’ll be seeing so. much. chocolate, and I’m thrilled about it all.

First up on the list is this decadent chocolate lava cake (aka molten chocolate cake or petit gâteau, if you’re French and fancy).  This actually came from a challenge my husband jokingly gave me.  We were chatting about our favorite desserts, and he mentioned that his favorite dessert is the Chocolate Lava Crunch Cake from Domino’s.  Yes, Domino’s as in the place that you get cheap pizza from.  He then challenged me to bake a homemade version that tastes better than Domino’s.  Honestly, I wasn’t sure if this challenge was insulting or not, but nevertheless, I was up for the challenge.

We did a side-by-side comparison.  Honestly, the Domino’s version is so overwhelmingly sweet, the chocolate flavor doesn’t really come through.  The flavor reminds me of an Oreo.  This homemade version has very sophisticated chocolate notes and the texture is much better in terms of mouthfeel.  The best part is, the whole thing comes together so fast, AND YOU CAN EAT IT OUT OF THE OVEN.

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Chocolate Lava Cake

  • Servings: 4
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Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 Tb granulated sugar, plus more for coating the ramekins
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 Tb all-purpose flour

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 450°F.  Grease four 5-oz ramekins with butter.  Sprinkle each ramekin with 1 tsp of sugar, rotate to coat and tap out the excess.  Place ramekins on a baking sheet.
  2. In a double boiler, melt dark chocolate chips and butter until smooth.  In a separate bowl, beat together eggs, egg yolks, sugar, and salt until pale the mixture falls like ribbons.  Pour in chocolate mixture and flour,  mix well.
  3. Pour evenly into ramekins.  Bake in preheated oven for 7-9 minutes. (The top should be just set and when you shake the pan there should be a slight jiggle).  Let cool for a couple minutes.  Turn out to serving plates.  Serve with fresh fruits or ice cream.
Adapted from Jean-Georges Vongerichten

 

 

Food & Drink

Sugar-Crusted Chocolate Chip Muffins

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If you ask me, there are two types of muffins in the world.  One is moist throughout and has a shiny, cracked top.  The other is moist inside and has a crusted top.  I often find the challenge with baking muffins with a crusted top is keeping the moisture inside.  I want to share with you my recipe for a super moist and fluffy muffin with a thin and crispy sugar crust that complements the muffin so well.

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Sugar-Crusted Chocolate Chip Muffins

  • Servings: 12
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Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 Tb baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup yogurt
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 large egg
  • 2/3 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 tb granulated sugar
  • 1 tb brown sugar

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.  Line or oil 12 muffin tins.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.  In a medium bowl, whisk together milk, yogurt, vegetable oil, and egg.  Stir the wet mixture into the dry mixture until well incorporated.  Mix in chocolate chips.  Scoop mixture into prepared muffin tins, about 3/4 full.
  3. In a small bowl, mix together granulated sugar and brown sugar,  sprinkle this over each muffin.  Bake for 20-25 minutes.

Recipe notes

  • If you would like your chocolate chips to be seen on the top (unlike what I’ve done here where all the chocolate chips are incorporated).  When you mix in your chocolate chips, only use 1/3 cup.  When you are sprinkling the sugar mixture, also dot each muffin with reserved chocolate chips.