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Christmas Cheesecakes

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

PeachyPlumCakePhoto

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

CupcakesGold2

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

LemonAlmondCakeWatermrk

Lemon and Almond Cake (Torta di limone e mandorle)

In Cakes & Cupcakes, Desserts, Creams & Sauces On June 16, 2013 0 Comments

Prep time: 15 minutes
Bake time: 20 to 23 minutes
Makes: One 9-inch round cake

Are summer weather, bright colors and flavors on your mind? Because lemons are all of the above, I thought of using them in this Lemon and Almond Cake that I grew up with in Southern Italy.

This cake is so rich with butter, lemon and almonds, that you should just omit the whipped cream garnish. All you need are freshly-sliced lemons, complementing the cake’s essence!

Ingredients:

Prepare the pan –
-1 tablespoon butter & small amount of flour (to butter a spring form pan)
Parchment paper

Make the cake –
-¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon unbleached, all-purpose flour (preferably organic)
-1 teaspoon baking powder
-Dash each salt and ground cinnamon (very little amounts)
-Zest of 2 small lemons, set it aside in a small bowl
-Juice of 2 small lemons, set aside in a small bowl
-5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into slices and softened at room temperature
-½ cup granulated sugar
-3 large eggs, separated (put yolks in a small bowl and whites in another bowl)
-½ cup ground raw, unsalted almonds
-Confectioners’ sugar (powdered sugar)
-1 lemon, for slicing and cake garnish

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a 9-inch spring form pan and place parchment paper circle at bottom of pan.

2. Cut 3-inch wide strips of parchment; line pan sides with parchment strips. Set aside.

3. Measure the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon into a small bowl; set aside.

4. In a medium bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff; set aside.

5. In a 6-quart mixing bowl and using a hand mixer (or a stand mixer), beat together the butter, sugar and egg yolks until mixture is creamy.

6. With mixer set on low, stir in the ground almonds and mix until batter is uniform.

7. Stir in the zest and lemon juice; set the bowl with batter aside.

8. Using a spatula, gently fold the beaten egg whites into the batter.

9. When the batter is uniform, gently pour it into the prepared spring form pan.

10. Place the spring form pan with batter on a rack positioned in center of oven; bake cake for 20 minutes.

11. After 20 minutes, insert a pointed knife in center of cake. If the knife is clean, the cake is done. If there is batter stuck to the knife, bake for an additional 2 to 3 minutes and test with knife once more.

12. Transfer the cake to a counter and slightly cool (about 10 minutes).

13. Loosen sides of spring form pan from cake with a spatula. Remove pan sides and parchment strips.

14. Invert the cake onto a serving platter; lift off the pan bottom and gently peel away the parchment paper.

15. Let cake cool to room temperature.

16. Gently and lightly sift the powdered sugar over cake. Garnish with lemon slices and serve.

Text and Photograph ©2013 Nancy DeLucia Real

Leprechan Pudding Cake

Leprechan Pudding Cake

In Cakes & Cupcakes, Holidays On March 7, 2013 0 Comments

For Saint Patrick’s Day this year, I feel like cake – but a healthy kind. Along the lines of carrot cake, I decided to use a neutral vegetable that would also serve as a natural colorant. You got it – spinach!

The end result is a moist cake with a texture as smooth as pudding. Moms – when your little Leprechans eat this delicious cake, they’ll have energy to play for hours. Just be sure to serve this cake early in the day – lol!

Prep time: 15 to 20 minutes
Bake time: 25 to 35 minutes
Makes One 9-inch round cake

Ingredients:
2/3 cup thawed spinach, packed (thaw a package of frozen spinach first, drain it and then measure)
2 large eggs
1/3 cup cold water
1-3/4 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup granulated sugar
4 ounces cream cheese, softened to room temperature
1/4 cup vegetable oil (safflower or sunflower preferred)
1/2 cup milk (whole or 2% milk fat)
1 teaspoon vanilla
Confectioner’s sugar (powdered sugar)
Candy sprinkles (nonpareils)

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour a 9-inch springform or regular cake pan; set aside.

2. In a blender, purée the spinach with 1 egg and 1/3 cup water until mixture becomes creamy and uniform. If needed, add 1 to 2 more tablespoons water until spinach mixture is uniform. Set aside for later use (you will only need 1 cup of this spinach mixture).

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

3. In a stand mixer or in a 4-quart mixing bowl using a hand mixer, beat together 1 cup of the spinach mixture, sugar, cream cheese, vegetable oil, milk and vanilla.

4. Gradually stir in the dry ingredients and beat until batter is smooth.

5. Pour the batter into prepared pan.

6. Place the pan on a rack positioned in center of oven.

7. Bake the cake for 25 minutes. After 25 minutes, insert a knife in center of cake. If knife comes out clean, the cake is done. If not, bake for an additional 5 to 10 minutes and test doneness again.

8. If needed, bake for an additional 5 minutes.

9. Cool Leprechan Cake completely.

10. Mix 1 cup confectioners’ sugar with 2 to 3 tablespoons milk to make a glaze. Pour it over cake and decorate with candy sprinkles.

Text and Cake Photograph ©2013 Nancy DeLucia Real