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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

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

 

Christmas Cheesecakes

In Cakes & Cupcakes, Desserts, Creams & Sauces, Holidays On December 13, 2013 0 Comments

I learned how to make these mini-cheesecakes when I was 14 years old. The place was Watertown, Massachusetts. And my teacher was a great neighbor and friend, Susan Pallotta.

Since then, these Christmas Cheesecakes have been the hit of all our holiday parties. They’re fun to make and easy to eat. All you have to do is peel off the paper cups and enjoy the mini-cheesecakes.

Btw, let me know if you miss washing the spatula and dessert plates.

Prep time: 35 to 40 minutes
Bake time: 12 to 14 minutes
Makes: 24 mini-cheesecakes

Prepare the Cherry Filling:
One 24.7-ounce jar Trader Joe’s® Dark Morello Cherries in Light Syrup
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons plus 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
1/4 cup cold water

1. In a 3-quart sauce pot set on a counter, stir together the dark cherries with the syrup and the sugar. Set aside on counter.

2. In a 2-cup bowl, mix together the cornstarch and the water.

3. Using a wooden spoon, gently stir the cornstarch-water mixture into the cherry mixture in sauce pot.

4. Set the sauce pot on a burner and bring the cherry mixture to a boil. Cook on medium-high heat and stir with a wooden spoon until mixture boils.

5. As soon as the cherry mixture comes to a boil, lower the heat to medium. Cook and stir until cherry filling begins to thicken. This will take 25 to 50 seconds.

6. When the cherry filling has thickened, gently transfer it to a glass or porcelain bowl. Cover the bowl and set it aside so that the cherry filling has time to cool.

Meanwhile, make the crust:

Prepare the Crust:
24 holiday muffin paper cups
1 cup graham cracker crumbs or animal cracker crumbs (ground in a food processor)
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted
-OR-
1/2 cup sunflower or safflower oil

1. Preheat oven to 375°F.

2. Divide the paper cups among two muffin baking pans (each one should hold 12 paper cups). Set aside.

3. In a shallow bowl and using a fork, mix together the crumbs, cinnamon and either butter or oil.

4. When mixture is uniform, using a teaspoon, put some crumb mixture into each paper cup.

5. Using the back of an espresso spoon or small teaspoon, press down, into the crumb mixture.

6. Set the muffin pans with paper cups aside while you prepare cheesecakes.

Prepare the Cheesecakes:
Two 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened to room temperature
3 large eggs
1/2 cup regular or natural cane (unbleached) sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1. In a 4-quart mixing bowl or in a stand mixer fitted with a bowl, beat together the above ingredients on high speed until mixture is creamy and smooth.

2. Drop 1 tablespoon of the cream cheese mixture over the crumb mixture in paper cups.

3. Set each muffin pan on its own rack in oven.

4. Bake the cheesecakes for 6 to 7 minutes.

5. After 6 to 7 minutes, invert the muffin pans.

6. Bake the cheesecakes for an additional 6 to 8 minutes or until tops look puffed and slightly crack.

7. After baking the cheesecakes, set them IN MUFFIN PANS on a counter to cool completely.

8. When the cheesecakes have cooled completely, lift them out of the muffin pans. To avoid crushing the still-soft cheesecakes, use both hands to grab the paper cups and lift them out.

9. Carefully set the cheesecakes on a serving platter. Cover them with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve.

10. As soon as the cherry filling has cooled to room temperature, set it in an airtight container. Refrigerate the cherry filling until the cheesecakes are ready to be served.

11. About 2 hours before serving cheesecakes, place 3 cherries on top of each one. Carefully cover the cheesecake platter with aluminum foil and refrigerate.

12. At serving time, remove the aluminum foil and set the cheesecakes on a table.

Note: The cheesecakes and cherry filling can be made up to 2 days ahead and refrigerated.
Text and Photograph ©2013 Nancy DeLucia Real

Peachy Plum Upside-Down Cake

In Cakes & Cupcakes On August 24, 2013 7 Comments

Summer is the season for peaches and plums. As I taste samples at various fruit stalls of the Santa Monica Farmers Market, I lose control and buy at least 15 to 20 pounds of both fruits. What’ll I do with all that fruit? After making some preserves, I’m thinking of making this peachy plum upside down cake for my next pool party.

Prep time: 20 minutes
Bake time: 35 to 40 minutes
Makes: One 9-inch cake

Ingredients (for preparing & placing fruit at bottom of pan):

2 tablespoons melted butter or vegetable oil (for greasing)
One 9-inch springform pan
One 9-inch parchment paper circle (cut the parchment to fit inside bottom of pan)
Juice of 1 lime
2 medium peaches
2 large plums
1 to 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/3 cup granulated sugar (preferably unbleached)
1 extra peach (for garnishing cake)
1 or 2 extra plums (for garnishing cake)

Ingredients (for cake batter to pour over fruit in pan):

2 cups unbleached white flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cup granulated sugar (preferably unbleached)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-1/3 cup milk (whole, 2% milk fat, 1% milkfat or nonfat)

Slice & Prepare the Peaches & Plums:

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.

2. Grease and flour the sides of springform pan.

3. Place parchment paper circle to fit in bottom of pan; set aside.

4. Squeeze lime juice into a 2 or 3-quart bowl and set aside.

5. Meanwhile, peel the peaches, cut them in half and remove pit. Thinly slice the peaches and place them in bowl with lime juice, giving them a light stir (be careful not to break the slices). Set aside.

6. Thinly slice the plums (do not peel them) and add them to the peaches in bowl. Give them a light stir and set aside.

7. Brush the parchment paper in pan with vegetable oil and then sprinkle it with 1/3 cup sugar; set pan aside.

Prepare the Cake Batter:

1. In a 1-quart bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder and salt; set aside.

2. In a stand mixer fitted with a bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar and vanilla extract (alternately, this step can be done with an electric hand mixer and regular bowl). Stir in the milk and mix well until batter is uniform.

3. Pour the batter over prepared fruit in pan.

4. Set the pan on a rack positioned in center of oven.

5. Bake the cake for 25 minutes.

6. After 25 minutes, test doneness of cake by inserting a sharp, pointed knife in its center. If knife comes out clean, the cake is done.

7. Since each oven heats differently, it may be necessary to bake the cake in additional increments of 5 minutes, testing doneness with knife each time.

8. When cake is done, transfer it (do not remove cake from pan) to a counter to cool.

9. Cool the cake in pan for 30 minutes.

10. After 30 minutes, invert cake onto a serving platter.

11. Remove sides of pan and peel off the parchment paper from cake.

Serve cake, garnished with mint leaf sprigs and additional slices of peaches and plums.

Optional: Garnish each cake slice with our 5-Minute Sweetened Whipped Cream recipe, previously published on this website (in Desserts, Creams & Sauces).

Text and Photograph ©2013 Nancy DeLucia Real

Golden Chocolate Cupcakes

In Cakes & Cupcakes On July 11, 2013 0 Comments

This recipe is perfect for festive events or casual ones such as pool parties this summer. Your guests will not only be enticed by luscious chocolate cakes and rich frosting, but also by a sprinkling of precious “gold dust”.

Prep time: 35 minutes (for cake & frosting)
Bake time: 25 to 30 minutes

Prepare the Cake:

2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1-2/3 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup butter, softened (this can be substituted with 1/2 cup vegetable oil)
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
1-1/4 cups milk or water
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 large eggs
24 cupcake paper cups
Chocolate Buttercream Frosting (recipe follows)
Edible Gold Dust (found at professional bakers’ supply stores)

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Place cupcake paper cups in two cupcake metal pans (12 each).

2. In an 8 to 10-cup mixing bowl, beat together all ingredients (except for frosting and gold dust) with an electric hand mixer. Alternatively, place ingredients in bowl of a stand mixer.

3. Beat on high speed for about 3 minutes, scraping bowl occasionally with a rubber spatula.

4. Divide the batter evenly among the 24 cupcake paper cups in pan.

5. Bake for approximately 25 minutes. After 25 minutes, insert a pointed knife in center of one cupcake to check doneness. If knife comes out clean, the cupcakes are done. If not, bake for an additional 5 minutes and check doneness once more.

6. Remove cupcake pans from oven and set aside on a counter to cool (do not remove hot cupcakes from pans).

7. When cupcakes have cooled completely, prepare the chocolate frosting.

Prepare the Chocolate Buttercream Frosting:

3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate, melted and cooled
3 to 4 tablespoons milk

1. Mix powdered sugar and butter in medium bowl with a wooden spoon or electric hand mixer on low speed.

2. Stir in the vanilla and the chocolate.

3. Gradually beat in a little milk so that the frosting is smooth and spreadable (the frosting should be on the thicker side).

4. Transfer the thick frosting to a piping bag fitted with a star tip.

5. Squeeze and spread the frosting over each cupcake, in a swirling motion.

6. Top each cupcake with a sprinkling of gold dust.

7. Refrigerate up to 4 hours before serving.

Text and Photograph ©2013 Nancy DeLucia Real