Friday, October 29, 2010

Sugar High Friday Roundup - Layer Cakes!

So many great cakes, I'll get right to it. Be sure to check them all out, there's a wide variety of flavors.  Happy Cake Baking!

Vanessa at Sweet Artichoke made this beautiful Chocolate "Truffé" Cake.

Akheela at Torviewtoronto made this Chocolate Cake with Raspberry Jam.  Check out the fancy plating!

I made this Yellow Cake with Amaretto Mocha Buttercream Frosting.

Barbara at Modern Comfort Food made this Carrot Cake with Pecan Coconut Frosting.

Valerie at Une Gamine dans la Cuisine made this Chocolate Sweet & Salty Cake from Baked.

Corina at Searching for Spice made this Chocolate and Macademia Cake.

Sunmi at A Heap of Lemon Zest made this Deep Dark Chocolate Cake.

Katie at Level2Mommy made this Lemon Coconut Cake.

Carolyn at All Day I Dream About Food made this Sugar High Chocolate Cake (fitting name or what?).

Melissa at Cute Kitty Punk in the Kitchen made this Sugary Sweet Spumoni Cake. Love the Italian theme!

Mihaela at De prin lume adunate made this Amandina Cake, a Romanian layered cake.

Alex at For the Love of Sucrose  made two cakes: 

Pumpkin Spice Cake with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting 

and  Four Layer Coconut, Lemon, Raspberry Cake

Dawn (no blog) made this Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting and Nuts.

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Monday, October 25, 2010

Yellow Cake with Amaretto Swiss Meringue Buttercream for Sugar High Friday

Small Chocolate Rose

Don't forget, time is running out to submit your cakes for this month's Sugar High Friday - Layer Cakes Edition!  Click here for more info. The deadline is tomorrow, October 26th.

Last week, I took the first of three week-long cake decorating classes from Toba Garrett at the Institute for Culinary Education in NYC.  It was a basic skills class which I had to take to take the more advances courses, but it was definitely worth it.  The chocolate rose alone was worth the cost of tuition.  And it was so much fun.  First you make modelling chocolate from chocolate and corn syrup. After it rests for 24 hours, you can mold the chocolate.  The rose above is a small chocolate rose or if you keep it a little tighter, the first step of the full chocolate rose, below.  It took about 2 hours to make the large rose for the first time, but it was great! 

We made this cake at the end of the week. Because the rose took so long, that left very little time to actually level, frost, fill, and decorate the cake.  The recipes can be found in Toba's book The Well Decorated Cake.  The cake was good, though I'm still a devotee of Shirley Corriher's yellow cake.  The buttercream is great if you like a very buttery buttercream; if you want a lighter frosting, try this swiss meringue recipe, and add the coffee & Amaretto mixture instead of the vanilla and jam.

Moist Yellow Cake 
(Toba Garrett's The Well Decorated Cake)

3 cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
2 cups sugar
5 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/4 cups buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350F, and spray 2 8" pans with baking spray.  Line with parchment paper, and spray again.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

Cut the butter up into small pieces, and beat on medium-high speed for about 4 minutes until light and creamy, scraping the bowl occasionally if you don't have a beater blade.  Gradually add the sugar, scraping the bowl occasionally.

Add the eggs one at a time, beating until each one is just combined.  

Stir the vanilla into the buttermilk.

Add the dry ingredients in 3 additions, alternating with the buttermilk.  Divide the batter between the two pans, and smooth the batter with a knife or spatula.  Drop the pans on the counter from a height of 3" or 4" to burst any air bubbles.  Bake for 45-50 minutes until a toothpick comes clean.  Let the cakes cool in the pans.

Double wrap the cake in plastic wrap.  Store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks or the freezer for up to 2 months.


Hand Sculpted Large Chocolate Rose

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Friday, October 1, 2010

Sugar High Friday - October's Theme is Layer Cakes!


Welcome to October's Sugar High Friday!

Sugar High Friday is a blogging event started by Jennifer at the Domestic Goddess.  Each month, the host chooses a theme, and you all get to make a dessert showcasing that idea.  At the end of the month, I'll post a round-up of all your delicious concoctions!

This month's theme:  Layer Cakes!  I love layer cakes, and with the weather getting colder out there, it's a perfect time to spend an afternoon in the kitchen.  You won't even need to worry about your buttercream melting!  Be creative with your flavor combinations  -anything goes:  peanut buttter, chocolate, carrot, almond, pistachio, lemon, pumpkin, .... 

Anyone can participate. Here are the details.

* Make a layer cake between now and October 26th.

* Post your cake on your blog (if you have one), with pictures, and a link to this announcement.

* Send me an email with the following info by Monday October 26th:  your name, your blog's name, the name of your cake, the link to your cake post, and a 250 x 250 pixel jpg of your cake.

* If you don't have a blog, send me an email with your name, the name of your cake, and a 250 x 250 pixel jpg of your cake by Monday October 26th.

*Check back here on Friday October 30th to see everyone's cakes!

Here are some more cakes, just to start your creative juices flowing.


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Sunday, September 5, 2010


It's about time I had an "About" section on this blog, so here it is.

I'm Allie, and I live in the Berkshires in northwest MA.  For my day job, I'm a math professor.  But I also run a home-based bakery called Zucchero Dolce.  And, oh yeah, I teach fitness classes as well.

I bake all sorts of things (typically sweet), including lots of French desserts.  But I have a very big Italian family on my father's side, and consider myself more Italian than anything else, hence the name Zucchero Dolce, which means "Sweet Sugar."

I'm also a vegetarian, and I'm a lover of healthy foods (except for dessert of course!):  fruits, vegetables, and whole grains make me swoon.  I blog more about dessert, but you'll find some savory vegetarian recipes here as well.  You'll find some baked goods just for your lovable furry companions soon as well!

Oh, and here's my dog Tsuki and me:

Click here to become a fan of Zucchero Dolce on Facebook!

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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Sugar High Friday: Almond Cake with Raspberry Filling and Brown Butter Frosting

The August edition of Sugar High Friday was hosted by Elissa at 17 and Baking.

The theme for this month is Brown Butter.  I was very excited.  I've made this brown butter frosting several times now, and it's one of my favorites.  It's not as time consuming or potentially tricky as a buttercream, but way tastier than a traditional powdered sugar based frosting.  And it's a great conistency for piping decorations.  And the brown butter, with its slightly nutty taste, pairs very well with the almond cake.

I'll be hosting the October edition of Sugar High Friday's, so check back on October 1 to see what the theme is, and please consider submitting an entry.

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Saturday, August 21, 2010

Berries & Cream Cake

This would have made a great cake for the 4th of July.  But berries are still in season, and it'll taste just as good on the 4th of September, or the 21st of August; well, you get the idea.  As far as layer cakes go, this is on the lower end of the difficulty level - the filling and frosting are the same, and you can whip the cream in just a few minutes.  The white cream is a great backdrop for all sorts of berry decorations, so have fun!

Berries & Cream Cake

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Sunday, August 15, 2010

Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes with Vanilla Frosting

I've been a vegetarian for close to 20 years, and I always will be, but I'll probably never be vegan.  I usually eat 2 vegan meals a day, but I often have cheese with dinner, and it would be really hard to give up all my favorite baked goods... but being vegan is becoming easier and easier with vegan bakeries springing up all over the place.   It wasn't so long ago that no one could even pronounce the word vegan, now it's a regular part of the culture.

I've done a reasonable amount of vegan baking and sampling, and unfortunately, many vegan desserts taste vegan - that doesn't mean they're not yummy, but sometimes they just taste a little... different.  I don't think that's the case with these cupcakes though, especially if you eat the cake and frosting simultaneously.  Go ahead, invite your friends over and have a taste test!

Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes

Adapted from Martha Stewart - Makes about 20 cupcakes

2 1/4 cups flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup canola oil
1 tablespoon instant espresso powder dissolved in 1 1/2 cups water
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons cider vinegar

Preheat the oven to 375F.  Spray muffin wells with baking spray, or line with muffin wrappers.

Whisk together the dry ingredients:  flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar

In a separate bowl, whisk together the oil, espresso, and vanilla.  Add to the dry ingredients, and whisk until completely mixed.  Add the vinegar, and stir quickly:  the baking soda and vinegar will begin to react, and you'll see pale swirls throughout the batter.

Pour the batter into the muffin tins - each one should be about 1/2 full.  Bake for about 12-15 minutes.

Vegan Vanilla Frosting

1/2  cup vegan margarine, soft
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1 teaspoon vanilla
3-5 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons water or soy milk
food coloring, optional

Beat the margarine and shortening together on medium speed for about 3 minutes, until very soft and smooth.  Beat in the vanilla (use clear vanilla if you want to keep the frosting pure white).  Add the sugar in 3 or 4 additions, beating well between each addition.  Beat in the water or soymilk.  The powdered sugar and water/milk measurements are flexible (and somewhat weather dependent) - add more powdered sugar if you want a stiffer frosting, and less if you want a creamier frosting.  You can also add water/milk to make the frosting softer and creamier.

Add a toothpick-full or more of gel food coloring if desired.

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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Yellow Cake with Raspberry Buttercream Filling and Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

My niece Kate turned 4 not so long ago.  This year, she had a family party and a kid party.  Clearly two birthday cakes were required.  The children’s party had a butterfly theme, and hence a butterfly cake.  And it had to be chocolate.  But more about that later.

For the family cake, we went with flowers.  Chocolate frosting was still an absolute necessity, but Kate decided to try something different for the cake itself.  We went with yellow cake, raspberry buttercream filling. chocolate buttercream frosting, and yummy vanilla flavored frosting roses.  Don’t worry, the buttercream can be made in one batch, then split up and flavored with raspberry and chocolate.  The roses can also be made a couple of days ahead of time. The raspberry and chocolate buttercreams are light and creamy and go together extremely well.  The yellow cake is very moist.

I was so worried about keeping the buttercream from melting during the 3 hour drive to New York City, that I totally forgot what a roller coaster the Taconic highway with its potholes and bumpy ridged roads can be.  Luckily, I had the cake in a bakery box, packed tightly into a soft cooler bag, placed snugly into a larger cooler, wedged between a suitcase and other assorted packages in the trunk of my car.  I was thrilled to arrive on the upper west side, cake unscathed.  Phew!

And most importantly, the birthday girl loved her cake!

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Thursday, July 15, 2010

Healthy Berry Cake

The food I tend to cook is definitely on the healthy side.  I love vegetables, avoid processed foods, don’t eat any meat, use only whole grain bread and pasta, avoid recipes with cream. My own personal definition of healthy definitely excludes all things labeled “low-fat”, “low-calorie”, and “reduced-sugar.” If you could somehow trick me into drinking a diet coke, you’d be treated to all sorts of strange facial contortions if not a big soda shower as I rid my mouth of  the offensive liquid.

Does that philosophy seem strange given the abundance of decadent treats on this blog?  I hope not.  I’d trade a small piece of Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake for plate full of sugar free cookies any day.  So it’s no surprise that I haven’t really baked with Splenda, and most of my recipes don’t call for applesauce or yogurt to replace the butter. 

This recipe, however, is a little different.  There’s applesauce and yogurt, and whole wheat flour (still no Splenda or anything else of that ilk).  And lots of berries.  But I promise, it won’t taste “healthy.”  Sure, it’s not as decadent as this Chocolate Cake with Brown Butter & Frangelico Frosting, but it’s perfect as a humble mid-week 9x13 pan cake that you sneak a square of  for your daily sweet tooth fix.  Or you can even dress it up a little in a 9” round cake pan and serve it at your next dinner party.  I've served it to lots of college students with fancier and more outrageous desserts at dessert parties, and it holds its own.

There are a lot of bowls to clean with this recipe, but it's very easy - you don't even need a mixer!
Also, I'm not quite sure where the recipe originally came from, my mom has been making it for a few years now.

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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Blogiversary: Almond Cake with Chocolate Raspberry Ganache Filling & Raspberry Buttercream

Happy Birthday to my blog!

It's been a great year!  I started my blog, my home bakery, I taught a 4-week baking course at Williams, and most importantly, I've done a lot of baking!  This weekend, I'm participating in the Northern Berkshire Food Festival in North Adams, so if you're in the area, stop by!

If you've been following my blog at all, you'll recognize the almond cake in this recipe.  I used it for my birthday cake this year with brown butter frosting, and with chocolate raspberry ganache and chocolate frosting for a client.  It's extremely versatile, and a great addition to your repertoire!  And this frosting may be my new favorite. It's not as heavy as some buttercreams can be. It's light and fluffy, with a beautiful pink hue and raspberry taste.  You may not want to make it without a stand mixer; there's probably a good 20-25 minutes of beating with the stand mixer.  But if you need any more reasons to get a stand mixer, swiss meringue buttercream is it.  No heavy, dense, sugary mouthfuls here, this frosting is more reminiscent of a smooth, high quality ice cream with a more subtle sense of sweetness.  You'll see this frosting again soon, I'm sure of it.

And now, to celebrate my blog's birthday, I'm off to make a cake of course!  A chocolate butterfly cake for my niece's 4th birthday tomorrow.  Happy baking!

p.s. Stop by my Zucchero Dolce facebook page for more pictures, or to become a fan. 

Almond Cake (adapted from Rose Levy Beranbaum)

4 eggs
1 1/3 cups sour cream, separated
2 teaspoons almond extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 1/3 cups cake flour, sifted
2/3 cups finely ground almonds, toasted and preferably unblanched
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3 sticks butter (12 ounces), room temperature

Preheat oven to 350F.  Spray 3 9" round cake pans with baking spray, line with parchment paper, and spray again.

In a medium bowl, stir together the eggs, 1/3 cup of the sour cream, and the extracts.  Set aside. Don't worry, it won't be smooth or pretty.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine all the dry ingredients - mix for 30 seconds.  Add the butter and the remaining 1 cup of sour cream, and mix on low until combined.  Mix on medium for 2 minutes to aerate batter.  Add the egg and sour cream mixture in 3 additions, beating 20 seconds after each addition.

 Split the batter between the cake pans, and smooth with a rubber spatula.  Bake for 30-40 minutes until a toothpick just comes out clean.  

Let the cakes cook in their pans for about 10 minutes, then turn on to cooling rack.  Cool completely, then wrap in plastic wrap and chill until ready to frost.

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Friday, June 18, 2010

Raspberry Ice Cream Cake with Homemade Ice Cream

Are you finding it much too hot out to turn on the oven?  Time for ice cream cake!

Chocolate and Raspberry is one of my new favorite flavor combinations - doesn't matter the form: cakes, brownies, cupcakes, or ice cream cake like this one... Plus, I love that it's pink!

Ice cream cakes are great for entertaining, because so much of the work can be done ahead of time.  And guests are always impressed with homemade ice cream, though feel free to use store-bought if you don't have an ice cream maker.  You can even stir in the raspberry puree into store-bought vanilla ice cream, if you want to go the semi-homemade route.

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Sunday, June 13, 2010

Best-Ever (Bakewise) Pound Cake & The Science of Baking

I taught a 4-week, 40-hour course in January called The Art & Science of Baking.  We used Shirley Corriher's book Bakewise for a textbook.  Shirley is a frequent guest on Alton Brown's show Good Eats.  She's a chemist, and explains the science behind the baking. If you want to develop your own recipes, this is a must-read book.  She explains how to check the math of a given recipe and the important differences between baking powder and baking soda, natural cocoa powder and Dutch-process cocoa powder, and so much more.  One of the most surprising things I learned - so many cake recipes are way over-leavened!!

Shirley examines pound cake early on in her book, and takes you through her process of developing the perfect recipe.  Make this cake immediately, and as you taste the moist buttery cake with just a slight hint of almond (perhaps unidentifiable to some, but you'll taste something a little different), with a dense (but not heavy) crumb, you'll see how successful she was.  The whipped cream is not a typical ingredient in pound cake, but after you make this cake, it might become a regular in all your cake recipes.  It adds moisture, and of course enriches the flavor of the cake; whipping air into the cream lightens the texture of the cake.  Replacing some of the fat (i.e. butter) with oil also adds moisture to the cake; oil is better at greasing the flour proteins than are butter or shortening, so less gluten forms.

Full-disclosure, I did adapt Shirley's recipe slightly.  Potato starch isn't readily available at my grocery store, so I stuck with flour; Shirley says the potato starch adds moisture to the cake, and that the large granules make the texture a little less tight than the average pound cake. I believe her, but my version of the cake is still extremely moist, and the texture is not as dense and tight as your everyday pound cake.  I also didn't add her optional cream glaze or pound cake icing. I didn't miss them. 

Other things to note:  don't make this cake in a loaf pan, it won't work.  The abundance of butter and sugar in this cake make the cake perfectly moist and sweet, but don't contribute enough protein structure for the cake to dome in a loaf pan.  Using a tube pan or Bundt pan insures that the cake remains fully in the pan; in a loaf pan, we would want the cake to dome nicely above the pan, but without the sides of the pan to climb, the cake needs sufficient protein structure to reach that high.  Also, if the cake sinks slightly on top, it's not noticeable with these pans, since you invert the cake before serving anyway.

Oh, and I'm not sure she mentions this, but this cake improves after baking, so try not to eat it all the first, or even second day.  It's still moist on day 3, and the butter flavor is even more pronounced (I haven't figured out why yet!).

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Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Carrot Cake Cupcakes

I've never quite understood the world's fascination with carrot cake, but everyone seems to love it.  I do think these cupcakes are pretty cute with the pecan on top, and I love cream cheese frosting, but carrot cake will never be my cake flavor of choice. To each his own...

By the way, if you don't already use an ice cream scoop to fill cupcake liners, I highly recommend it. It makes the whole process go much more quickly and I also think it makes it easier to fill the wells uniformly. Remember, each one should be filled just over halfway (for most recipes).

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Monday, June 7, 2010

Peanut Butter Cheesecake with a Brownie Crust

It's been months since I posted any chocolate and peanut butter treats, that's just not right!  So here's another.  I don't need to convince you how great the flavor combination is.  I made this as one of several desserts for a party for my Abstract Algebra students.  I never have students over without serving cheesecake, it's so easy and quick, it serves a lot, most people really like it, and there are endless flavor combinations!  And it can be made ahead of time, perfect for parties!  You could definitely serve this on an oreo crust if you prefer, but I really like the brownie texture.

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