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Spice Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

In Cakes & Cupcakes On September 1, 2016 0 Comments

This delicious spice cake with melt-in-your-mouth cream cheese frosting is a perfect crowd pleaser for Labor Day Weekend! Celebrate, enjoy and stay safe!

Prep time: 20 minutes
Bake time: 25 to 35 minutes
Making & Frosting Cake: 15 to 20 minutes
Serves: 12 to 15

Ingredients for the Cake:
2-1/4 cups all-purpose, unbleached flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
4 large eggs
1-1/2 cups light brown sugar (slightly packed)
3/4 cup safflower or sunflower oil (other vegetable oil can be used as well)
3/4 cup applesauce (unsweetened)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
1 cup whole or low-fat milk

Preparing & Baking the Cake:
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter or oil a 13 X 9-inch rectangular cake pan; lightly dust cake pan with flour. Shake off excess flour and set prepared cake pan aside.

2. In a 1-quart mixing bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking powder and spices and set aside.

3. In a 3-quart mixing bowl (using a hand mixer) or in a stand mixer bowl, combine the eggs, brown sugar, oil, applesauce, vanilla and walnuts (walnuts are optional).

4. Mix these ingredients on high speed until they are combined and uniform.

5. Gradually (a little at a time) add about 1/2 cup dry ingredients at a time, mixing until batter is uniform.

6. Add 1/3 cup of milk and mix until batter is uniform.

7. Repeat the gradual addition of dry and wet ingredients until finished and batter is smooth.

8. Pour batter into prepared cake pan; set cake pan on a rack positioned in center of oven.

9. Bake the cake for approximately 25 to 30 minutes.

10. After 25 to 30 minutes, insert a pointed knife into center of cake. If the knife comes out clean, the cake is done. If there is batter around knife, bake the cake for an additional 5 minutes.

11. After 5 minutes, insert knife again. If needed, bake cake for another 5 minutes. If cake is done, it to a counter. Set cake in pan aside to cool (do not remove hot cake from pan). Meanwhile, prepare the frosting.

Ingredients for the Cream Cheese Frosting:
1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened to room temperature
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 tablespoon whole or low-fat milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
3-1/2 to 4 cups powdered sugar
*This frosting can be used on a 13 X 9-inch rectangular cake or on two 8 or 9-inch cake rounds.

Directions for the Frosting:
1. In a 2-quart bowl and using a hand mixer, or in a stand mixer, beat the cream cheese, butter, milk and vanilla on high speed.

2. Gradually add (a little at a time) 1 cup powdered sugar at a time on low speed until you have used 3-1/2 cups.

3. Mix until frosting is smooth and spreadable. If frosting is too runny or thin, add the remaining 1/2 cup powdered sugar.

Frosting the Cake:
1. When cake is completely cool, loosen sides with a knife. Gently invert cake onto a serving platter.

2. To keep platter “clean” when frosting cake, gently insert 3-inch strips of aluminum foil between cake bottom and platter.

3. Mound all the frosting on top center of cake.

4. Using a frosting knife, gently spread frosting on cake beginning in center top and then to the cake sides.

5. When finished frosting cake, gently remove aluminum foil strips and discard them.

6. Garnish cake with ground cinnamon over its top and chopped or whole cinnamon sticks around platter.

7. When ready to serve, cut the cake in 4-inch square pieces and set each piece on individual plates.
Text and Photograph ©2016 Nancy DeLucia Real

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Petits Fours for Valentine’s Day

In Cakes & Cupcakes, Holidays On February 6, 2016 0 Comments

Petits fours is French, for small ovens. In the eighteenth century, cooks and pastry makers baked miniature confectionaries or appetizers in smaller ovens, next to the main ovens.

Serve these romantic Petits fours to your sweetheart on February 14th! They’re also perfect for that Valentine’s Day party, since they come in single servings.

Prep time: 40 minutes (for glazing & decoration)
Bake time: 30 to 40 minutes
Yield: 12 to 16 single-serving cakes (petits fours)

Ingredients for the Cake:
2/3 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1½ cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1½ teaspoons vanilla
2¾ cups all-purpose, unbleached flour
2½ teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon salt
1¼ cups milk

Directions for the Cake:
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour a 13x9x2-inch baking pan.

2. In a large mixer bowl, mix butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla until fluffy.

3. Beat for 2 minutes, scraping bowl with a rubber spatula occasionally.

4. On low speed, mix in the flour, baking powder and salt alternately with milk.

5. Pour the batter into prepared pan.

6. Place pan with batter on a rack positioned in center of preheated oven.

7. Bake the cake 25 minutes. After 25 minutes, place a pointed knife in center of cake to check for doneness – if knife comes out clean, the cake is done.

8. If the knife has batter clinging to it, bake the cake for an additional 5 to 7 minutes. Check cake once more by inserting knife in its center.

9. Let cake cool in pan on a kitchen counter or a wooden board.

10. When cake is cool, cut it into 12 to 16 equal pieces.
Note: each piece should measure 2 x 2 inches. Set aside on a baking sheet covered with parchment or aluminum foil.

Meanwhile, prepare the glaze and decoration for cakes-

Ingredients for the Glaze & Decoration:
2 pounds (32 ounce) confectioners’ sugar (powdered sugar)
2/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons juice from fresh lemons
One 4.25-ounce tube green decorating icing (for leaves)
One 4.25-ounce tube red or pink decorating icing (for flower)
One rosette-shaped plastic cake decorating tip -and-
One flat-ended plastic cake decorating tip (both available at cake decorating supply shops or online)
16 cupcake papers
Optional: You can use color of your choice for flower decoration.

Directions for Glazing the Cakes:
1. In a large mixing bowl, combine glaze ingredients.

2. Beat on low speed just until blended; beat on high until smooth.

3. Apply glaze evenly over tops, letting the glaze drip on sides of cakes.

4. Set the glazed cakes aside to dry.

5. When cakes are dry, place a rosette cake decorating tip on desired color icing tube.

6. Squeeze tube to create a rosette or flower in center top of each cake.

7. Place a flat-ended decorating tip on green icing tube and pipe a leaf on each side of flower on center top of cakes.

8. Place cakes on flattened cupcake papers set on a serving platter.

9. Alternatively, place cakes directly on serving platter. Cover with tented foil until ready to serve.
Text and Photograph ©2016 Nancy DeLucia Real

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Ricotta Cake

In Cakes & Cupcakes, Desserts, Creams & Sauces, Holidays On April 2, 2015 0 Comments

During Easter week, my family and I prepare a variety of celebratory foods. In my opinion, the best is always saved for last – the traditional ricotta cake.

Encased in pasta frolla or a sweet shortcrust pastry dough, the ricotta filling is rich with rum, cinnamon, sugar and eggs. The flavors of this ricotta cake bring back all the memories of Easter in Italy. It doesn’t get more authentic than this. Happy Easter and Happy Spring!

Prepare the Pasta Frolla (Shortcrust Pastry Dough):
2 1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated, unbleached sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
7 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch squares
2 large eggs, slightly beaten
1/3 cup plus 3 tablespoons cold water
One 9-inch pie plate
Powdered sugar, for sprinkling cake
5-Minute Sweetened Whipped Cream, previously published on this website
1 pint fresh strawberries

1. Combine dry ingredients in a 12-cup mixing bowl.

2. Using a pastry cutter or a fork, blend in the butter until mixture is uniform and resembles small peas.

3. Mix in the eggs. Add water, one tablespoon at a time, mixing gently after each addition.

4. As soon as mixture amalgamates and dough is formed, divide it in half; shape each piece into a ball.

5. Wrap each dough ball in plastic wrap and freeze 10 minutes.

6. After 10 minutes, transfer dough balls to refrigerator while you prepare the ricotta filling.

Prepare the Ricotta Filling:
16 ounces whole milk ricotta cheese
2/3 cup granulated, unbleached sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 to 4 tablespoons Rum
Dash ground cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.

2. In a 2 to 3-quart mixing bowl, using a wire whisk, stir together all ingredients.

3. Make sure the ingredients are well-blended; cover the bowl and refrigerate the ricotta filling.

4. In the meantime, roll out the pastry dough.

Roll out pastry dough:
1. With lightly floured hands, flatten one dough ball to a 6-inch circle.

2. Place dough between two floured 16-inch long waxed paper sheets.

3. Gently roll out dough to a 14 or 15-inch circle. To prevent sticking, peel off the waxed paper sheets and dust each side of the pastry sheet with flour two or three times while working.

4. Peel off the top waxed paper sheet. With one hand underneath bottom sheet and the other on top of exposed pastry, quickly flip pastry over and into a 9-inch buttered pie plate.

5. Peel off the second sheet. Gently fit the pastry into plate sides and, using a fork, randomly make holes in the pastry. Trim edges to a one-inch overhang and set aside.

6. Repeat rolling instructions with other dough ball; set aside.

7. Peel off the top waxed paper sheet from rolled out pastry; set aside.

Fill & Assemble the Ricotta Cake:
1. Pour the ricotta filling into the pastry-lined pie plate; set aside.

2. Using a pastry wheel, cut the second rolled-out pastry into 1/2 to 3/4-inch wide strips.

3. Place the longest pastry dough strip across the center surface of ricotta filling.

4. Take the next longest strip and place it one inch apart and parallel to the first strip.

5. Continue placing the strips, one inch apart, until there are about 5 strips across filling surface.

6. In a diagonal fashion, place the remaining strips, in the same manner, over the first layer of strips.

7. Trim overhang pastry to one inch; roll the overhang underneath and tuck it between the plate and the pastry edges.

8. Using 1-inch wide aluminum foil strips, cover the pastry edges (this will avoid blackening).

9. Bake the ricotta cake for about 30 to 45 minutes.

10. After 30 minutes and to test doneness of cake, insert a pointed knife in center of cake. If it comes out clean, the cake is done. If not, bake the cake for an additional 8 to 10 minutes. Test again.

11. When cake is done, transfer it to a cooling rack or counter. Let cool to room temperature.

12. Cover the cake with aluminum foil or plastic wrap and refrigerate for 3 to 4 hours or overnight.

13. Serve cake with a sprinkle of powdered sugar, 5-Minute Sweetened Whipped Cream (see above) and fresh strawberries.
Text and Photograph ©2015 Nancy DeLucia Real

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Halloween R.I.P. Carrot Cakes

In Cakes & Cupcakes, Fun Foods, Holidays On October 18, 2014 0 Comments

This year, for Halloween, I transformed my traditional carrot cake into spooky R.I.P cakes. They’re topped with buttercream frosting and, of course, tombstones.

These Halloween carrot cakes are fun to make, especially if you include the kids. Happy Halloween!

Prep time: 20 minutes (for the cupcakes) and 20 minutes (to mix the frosting and decorate cupcakes)
Bake time: 25 minutes
Makes: 12 cakes* (cupcakes)

Ingredients for Carrot Cakes:
2 cups finely-shredded carrots – do this first and set aside in a bowl
1-1/2 all-purpose, unbleached white flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 large eggs
1-1/4 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Make the Carrot Cakes:
1. Preheat oven to 350°F.

2. In a 3-cup bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon; set aside.

3. In a 2-quart mixing bowl, combine the eggs, vegetable oil and vanilla.

4. Beat the mixture until it is uniform.

5. Fold in the shredded carrots and walnuts and mix well. The batter will be firm.

6. Line a muffin pan with 12 cupcake papers and divide the batter evenly among them.

7. Transfer the muffin pan to a rack positioned in center of preheated oven.

8. Bake the cakes for 20 to 25 minutes.

9. After 20 minutes, insert a sharp knife in center of one cake. If knife comes out dry, the cakes are done. If not, bake the cakes for an additional 5 minutes.

10. When the cakes are done, transfer the muffin pan to a kitchen counter; set aside to cool for 2 hours.
Meanwhile, prepare the buttercream frosting:

Ingredients for Buttercream Frosting:
One package (16-ounces) confectioner’s sugar (this is powdered sugar)
One stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
1/4 cup milk
6 drops red food color
9 drops yellow food color

Prepare the Buttercream Frosting:
1. In a mixing bowl and using a hand mixer, cream the sugar, butter and milk together. Alternatively, stand-mixer fitted with a bowl can be used.

2. When the buttercream frosting is creamy and uniform, mix in the food color. This will convert the white frosting into a light orange frosting.

3. When the frosting has turned orange, using a spoon, transfer it to a frosting bag fitted with a star tip.

4. Using a swirling motion, pipe the buttercream frosting onto the cakes.

5. Add a Halloween decoration of your choice to each cake.**

PREPARE CAKES ONE DAY AHEAD: These Halloween cakes can be baked a day ahead, cooked and transferred to a platter. Cover the cakes with plastic wrap and refrigerate them until the next day.

FROST THE CAKES ON THE DAY OF SERVING: Prepare the buttercream and frost the cakes up to 2 hours ahead. Cover them with tented foil and refrigerate until ready to serve.

*Alternatively, you can use a standard loaf pan. This will result in a carrot cake or bread.
**For this recipe, the R.I.P. cupcake kit was purchased at CVS Pharmacy® in Los Angeles.
Text and Photograph ©2014 Nancy DeLucia Real

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Valentine Chocolate Ganache Cake

In Cakes & Cupcakes, Holidays On February 7, 2014 0 Comments

Frosted with chocolate ganache, this flourless cake is absolutely magnifique for February 14th! First, shop for Valentine’s Day decorations. Then, make the cake and enjoy the romance. Happy Valentine’s Day!

For the Cake:

Butter, flour and parchment paper for 9-inch springform pan

7 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips

1 tablespoon rum

1-1/4 sticks unsalted butter

¾ cup granulated sugar

5 large eggs, separated

Four 3-inch wide strips of aluminum foil (for cake assembly)

1 cup ground, unpeeled almonds

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350°F oven. Butter a 9-inch springform pan.

2. Place a 9-inch round parchment paper circle at bottom of pan; dust the sides of pan with flour, shaking off excess.

3. Fill a double-boiler pan with about 2 inches of water. Place the double boiler element over the pan and place on stove burner set on high heat.

4. Add the chocolate, rum, butter and sugar to the double boiler. As the mixture heats, stir it with a wooden spoon until it becomes uniform.

5. When chocolate mixture is uniform, remove the pan from heat and allow to cool a little.

6. Meanwhile, in a 2 or 3-quart mixing bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Set egg whites aside.

7. In a separate 1-pint bowl, beat the egg yolks until they are uniform.

8. With a spatula, transfer the chocolate mixture to a 3-quart mixing bowl.

9. Gently stir the beaten egg yolks into the runny chocolate mixture.

10. Stir the ground almonds into the chocolate-egg yolk mixture.

11. Gently fold the stiff egg whites into the chocolate batter, taking care not to mash or deflate the egg whites.

12. When mixture is uniform, transfer it to the prepared spring form pan.

13. Place the spring form pan on a rack positioned in center of oven.

14. Bake the cake for 25 minutes. After 25 minutes, check to see if the center of cake has puffed up. If it still looks sunken and wet, bake the cake for an additional 5 minutes.

15. After 5 minutes, if the cake looks puffed up, insert a knife with pointed tip in center of cake. If knife comes out clean, the cake is done.

16. Transfer the cake to a rack or trivet set on a counter; let it cool completely.

17. When cake has cooled completely, remove the sides of spring form pan.

18. Invert the cake over a platter and gently lift off the pan bottom.

19. Peel off the parchment paper and set cake aside.

MAKE SURE THAT THE CAKE IS COMPLETELY COLD, BEFORE YOU PREPARE THE GANACHE:

For the Chocolate Ganache:

8 ounces semisweet chocolate chips

1 tablespoon rum

1 cup heavy whipping cream

Directions:

1. Place chocolate and rum in a medium glass or porcelain bowl (it should be heatproof).

2. Place cream in a small saucepan over medium heat and bring to a simmer.

3. When the cream has just begun to simmer, immediately pour it over the chocolate in bowl and let it stand 2 to 3 minutes.

4. After 2 to 3 minutes, whisk the chocolate-cream mixture until smooth. Let cool slightly before using. Set aside.

Pour Ganache Over Cake:

1.  Pour the runny ganache over cake, start pouring in center of cake and then pour over rim/sides of cake.

2. Let the ganache forms drips over the cake sides.

3.   Set the cake aside so that the ganache will solidify – about 30 minutes.

4. When the ganache has solidified, cover the the cake with aluminum foil and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.

5. This cake can be made one day ahead and refrigerated.

Text and Photograph ©2014 Nancy DeLucia Real