Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Austrian Pound Cake #The Cake Slice Bakers

Sometimes the needs of the day mesh nicely with the desires of the spirit. A little over a week ago that happened for me. I wanted to make this luscious sounding pound cake as my choice of this month's challenge recipes for the Cake Slice Bakers. That was the desire. The need was unexpected; a dear friend died unexpectedly and my scholarship group was asked to provide some of the food for the reception after the memorial service. So I baked the Austrian Pound Cake in a dairy-free version and took it to the memorial, where it was enjoyed and commented upon favorably.

Phyllis was an amazing woman, born just before the Great Depression to a local family, raised with love and lots of extended family. She was college educated, wife and mother, business woman and volunteer, expert seamstress and needleworker, childhood athlete and super S.F. Giants baseball fan, amazing mother, wife, aunt, grandmother and great grandmother as well as friend, a club woman, including Red Hat Society, Model T Club, Graton Community Club and our own P.E.O. scholarship group. She always made each person she was with feel special, which is a gift. She demonstrated how life is when everything is done with love. She will be very much missed and would have enjoyed the cake!

Other than swapping out margarine for butter and soy creamer for milk, I made this just as written. It is tender, with a delicate orange flavor, with delicious bits of apricot and golden raisin here and there, and with just a bit much oil I think. I would reduce the amount of butter called for by a few tablespoons, although not using real butter as I did might be the problem. It baked up very nicely in a Bundt pan. I recommend this would be a really nice Easter treat.

Each month The Cake Slice Bakers are offered a selection of cakes from the current book we are baking through. This year it is The European Cake Cookbook by Tatyana Nesteruk. We each choose one cake to bake, and then on the 20th - never before - we all post about our cake on our blogs. There are a few rules that we follow, but the most important ones are to have fun and enjoy baking & eating cakes!

Follow our FacebookInstagram, and Pinterest pages where you can find all of our cakes, as well as inspiration for many other cakes. You can also click on the thumbnail pictures below to take you to each of our cakes, or visit our blog where the links are updated each month. If you are interested in joining The Cake Slice Bakers and baking along with us, please send an email to thecakeslicebakers at gmail dot com for more details. The Cake Slice Bakers also have a new Facebook group called The Cake Slice Bakers and Friends. This group is perfect for those who do not have a blog but want to join in the fun and bake through this book.

March Cakes:
1. Triple-Citrus Mousse Cake
2. Toscaka Torte
3. Creme Brulee Cheesecake
4. Austrian Pound Cake

Austrian Pound Cake

1/2 cup (75g) golden raisins
1/2 cup (75 g) diced dried apricots
2 tablespoons (30 ml) orange liqueur (I used Grand Marnier)
1 cup (227g) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup 990g) white chocolate chips, melted
4 large eggs
1 cup (219g) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (48g) almond flour
4 teaspoons (16g) baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
zest from 1 orange
Confectioners' sugar for dusting

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. (163 degrees C)
Spray a 9-inch (23 cm) Bundt pan with baking spray, or grease very well and flour.

In a small bowl, combine the golden raisins and the apricots with the orange liqueur. Allow the fruit to soak up the liquid while you prepare the batter.

In a large bowl cream together the butter and sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy, a few minutes. Add the melted white chocolate and then the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Pour in the milk, but don't mix in.

In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients: flour, almond flour, baking powder and salt. Sift these dry ingredient into the butter mixture bowl, then mix, just until combined. Fold in the raisin and apricot mixture and the orange zest.

Transfer the cake batter into the prepared Bundt pan, smoothing the top. Bake in the preheated oven for 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted into the thickest part comes out clean. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minute, then turn out and cool until barely warm. Serve warm with a dusting of confectioners' sugar.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Sweetie's Instant Pot Cheesecake

Sweetie has loved cheesecake ever since I have known him and likely before that. He never asks me to make one for him but I often do for his birthday. One year in Berkeley we had a surprise birthday desserts party for him that included a green cheesecake with Irish whiskey in it. Having your birthday on St. Patrick's Day gets you that kind of strange thing.

This year we were in LA visiting our daughter. Kate has an Instapot so I thought that it would be fun to try making a cheesecake in the pot. I'd been told that everyone who tried that method was quite taken with the results. Ours was amazing! Although I couldn't eat any, I was told that it was the best cheesecake ever...creamy, just sweet enough, the perfect texture with a great crust.

There are only four things, plus one technique that make this different from any other cheesecake. First, you need an Instapot or Instant Pot or similar appliances that have a pressure cooking feature. Second, you need a 7" in diameter spring form pan. They are easily available on Amazon. Third, you need a trivet or rack that fits in the bottom of the pot. Some pots come with that, but we needed to buy one. We found a silicone trivet at Target that will work well for other things, too. Four - You need an electric hand mixer for making the batter. This works much better than a stand mixer to avoid adding extra air. Extra air gives you a souffle instead of a cheesecake.

The technique that is different is that you need to be sure to beat in as little air as possible during creation of the batter...well, and steaming in the Instapot is different than baking.

The recipe itself is the usual one of a graham cracker crust with a cream cheese based filling, enriched with eggs. I also added some Meyer lemon zest for zing and we decorated it with blueberries and some sliced strawberries that I had marinated with a little bit of sugar and lemon juice due to the fact that it's not yet strawberry season.

This is a quick and easy recipe, but it requires a bit of planning ahead. DO let the ingredients sit out to come to room temperature...essential if you want that smooth, creamy filling that we love. DO freeze the graham cracker crust for at least 20 minutes. That way you have a stable crust to hold the filling. DO chill at least four hours before serving after cooking, or overnight. We did overnight, just to be sure.

Spring is coming with all the delicious berries...and this is the perfect dessert to serve with them!

Instant Pot Cheesecake
by Amy & Jacky - Pressure Cook

10 (120g) graham crackers, finely ground (I used a food processor)
3-4 tablespoons (42g - 56g) butter or margarine, melted
a pinch sea salt

Batter (7 inches x 3 inches)

16 oz. (454 g) cream cheese, room temperature
2 large eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup (120g) sour cream, room temperature
2 tablespoons (16g) cornstarch
2 pinches sea salt
2/3 cup (133g) granulated sugar
2 teaspoons (10ml) vanilla extract

Crust: Melt the butter. Add the fine graham cracker crumbs and sea salt and mix to thoroughly combine. Before you do this, make sure that you have put out the cream cheese, eggs and sour cream to come to room temperature.

If desired, line the 7-inch x 3-inch springform pan with parchment paper. Add the crust mixture and firmly pack all over the bottom and part way up the sides. (See sides in the photos.) The back of a teaspoon works well for packing the mixture firmly. No butter is needed on the parchment or you can skip the parchment as I did. Put the pan in the freezer for at least 20 minutes while you make the cheesecake batter.

Batter: Use a hand mixer, not a stand keep the batter from having too much air.

In a small bowl mix together the cornstarch, salt and granulated sugar. Set aside.

Check to make sure that the cream cheese, eggs and sour cream are at room temperature. If they are not, wait until they are.

In a large mixing bowl place the cream cheese. Using low speed, briefly use the hand mixer to break up the cheese by beating it for 10 seconds.

Add in half the sugar mixture and beat just until incorporated using low speed, for about 20-30 seconds.

Scrape the bowl and beaters.

Add in the rest  of the sugar mixture and beat just until incorporated using low speed, for about 20-30 seconds.

Add the sour cream and vanilla to the mixture and and beat just until incorporated using low speed, for about 20-30 seconds.

Scrape the bowl and beaters.

Blend in the eggs, one at a time, beating just until incorporated using low speed, about 20 seconds for each eggs. Scrape down bowl and beaters after each egg.

Use a silicone spatula to fold the mixture a few times to make sure everything is fully incorporated.

Remove prepared pan from the freezer and pour in the cheese batter. Spread top to even, using the silicone spatula.

Rap the pan sharply against the counter a few times. Air bubbles will rise to the surface. Pop the air bubbles with the tines of a fork or with a toothpick. Repeat until you are satisfied. Ensure the surface is clear of air bubbles or fork marks. It is almost impossible to remove all the air bubbles.

Make a foil sling for the springform pan by folding aluminum foil in a long strip about 3-4 inches wide.

Pour 1 cup (250ml) cold water in the Instant Pot Pressure Cooker.

Place a steamer rack in the bottom of the pot. put in the foil sling with the ends to the top of the pot. Gently lower the springform pan down to the rack. Tuck the ends of the sling down so they are below the top edge of the pan.

Close the lid.

Pressure cook on High Pressure for 26 minutes, then Full Natural Release (takes roughly 7 minutes). Open the Pressure Cooker lid gradually. As much as possible try to avoid dripping the condensation from the lid onto the cheesecake.

Absorb any condensation on the surface by lightly tapping it with a soft paper towel (I found that the paper towel edge would wick up the moisture.)

Allow the cheesecake to cool to room temperature on a cooling rack after using the sling to carefully lift the pan out of the Instant Pot.

After cooling 10-15 minutes, you can release the cake by carefully running a thin paring knife between the sidewall and the cheesecake (or parchment paper) and then opening the spring to release the sidewall. You can also chill the cake in the pan and do this same step once you are ready to serve the cake.

Chill cake for 4 hours or overnight.  Releasing the chilled cake from the springform bottom can be done by sitting the cake and pan bottom on a hot wet towel (damp towel microwaved for 30 seconds) for a few seconds until the butter melts slightly...cake will slide off the pan bottom.  Parchment, if used, can be carefully removed after cake is chilled. I didn't use parchment. I removed sides and bottom after chilling the cake overnight.

Place cake on serving plate and decorate or garnish as desired. I used sliced fresh strawberries and rinsed and dried fresh blueberries.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Babes Take the Road To Morocco

This month our challenge bread is a Moroccan flatbread Ksra brought to us by our wonderful Kitchen of the Month Kelly of A Messy Kitchen blog.

I enjoyed this bread because I eliminated the anise seeds (which is a flavor I don't care for at all) but that probably ruined it's Moroccan influence, too. Mine also rose enough that it didn't seem all that flat, but I liked that it was the perfect size to have a chunk of with soup or stew or, in my case, pasta with a tomato sauce and zucchini and basil.

I followed the recipe pretty closely except for eliminating the anise seeds and using some white whole wheat flour for part of the flour. I used barley flour, not rolled barley because I love bread made with barley flour. I did paint the top with olive oil and sprinkle with sesame seeds, but they mostly fell off when I served it, so I would recommend either skipping the seeds, or painting the loaf with egg white and sprinkling on the seeds. Egg white does a much better job of holding the seeds onto the crust.

I was expecting a loaf with more air holes, but even without that artisan appeal, the crumb was lovely and the flavor good for a bread made the same day. I put half the dough into the fridge and will bake it later in the week. I imagine it will have improved flavor.

This is a super easy loaf to actual kneading, very little shaping, no pan to clean, and you end up with nice fresh bread...what's not to like about that!

To be a Bread Baking Buddy, just make the bread, take a photo, and email Kelly by March 29th. She will send you a Buddy Badge (similar to the one above) created by our talented Elizabeth, and include you in the round-up.

Ksra (Moroccan Anise and Barley Flatbread)
from the New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day
Makes two 7-8" rounds

340g (1 1/2 cups) lukewarm water (100 degrees F or less)
5 g (1 1/2 teaspoons) dry yeast
8.5 - 12.5 g (1 1/2 - 1 3/4 teaspoons) kosher salt
3.5g (1 1/2 teaspoons) whole anise seeds (I omitted these seeds)
46g (6 tablespoons) barley flour OR 35g (6 tablespoons) rolled barley
407.5 g (2 3/4 + 2 tablespoons) all purpose flour (I used 207g bread flour and 200g white whole wheat flour)

To make the dough:

Mix together the yeast, salt, anise (if using) and water in a large bowl or container. Stir in the remaining ingredients with a large wooden spoon, dough whisk, or in a mixer with the paddle. Mix until the flour is incorporated fully.

Cover and rest until the dough has fully risen and collapsed back down a bit, about 2 hours. At this point you can refrigerate or you can bake.

You may use the dough after the initial rise, but it's easier to work with cold. Dough will keep up to 10 days in the fridge.

To bake:

Divide the dough in half, dust with flour, and shape each portion into a ball by stretching the sides down to the bottom of the ball and olding under. You may also work with only on portion of dough if you like; the other will keep in the fridge for another day.

Flatten each ball into a 3/4" thick round and let rest on a parchment lined or cornmeal dusted pizza peel for 20-30 minutes. Optional to brush the surface with oil (or egg white?) and sprinkle with sesame seeds or more anise seed. Also optional to poke the dough with a skewer in a few places prior to baking. (I didn't poke, but did cut shallow cuts around the outer edge of the flt ball once it had risen.)

While the dough is resting, preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Place a baking stone near the middle of the oven and a metal pan or broiler tray on an unused oven rack and heat a cup of water to use for steam while baking.

Slide rested loaf directly onto hot stone. Pour 1 cup of hot water into the metal pan or tray for steam and quickly close the oven door. Bake for about 20-25 minutes until richly browned and firm.

Allow to cool before cutting into wedges to serve.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Happy Pi Day!

Our beloved dog is named Pi. He was Pi when we rescued him and still is Pi.

This is the first time on Pi day that I've baked a Pie, even though March 14th has become well known as a day to bake pies for Pi Day.

Here is what I made...a thrown together recipe. It has pie crust (yum!), two kinds of berries and a frangipane topping...sort of like a cross between a berry pie and a Bakewell tart. It's delicious.

Pi Day Pie

Start with an unbaked pie crust lining a pie pan. Paint bottom only with 2-3 tablespoons raspberry jam. Turn edges under and crimp.

In a bowl create a mixture of a pint each fresh blueberries and raspberries (tossed with a mixture of 1 tablespoon confectioners' sugar and  2 tablespoons dry breadcrumbs and 2 tablespoons flour) which is spread on top of the jam.

Oven is preheated to 400 degrees F.

On top put frangipane:

125 g soft butter
125 g confectioners sugar
3 eggs
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
125 g almond flour
30 g all purpose flour
Cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Scrape bowl and add eggs, one at a time. Pour in the almond extract and mix 30 seconds. Scrape bowl. Spoon in the ground nuts and flour. Mix well. Pour over the fruit in the pie shell and bake at 400 degrees F for about 35-40 minutes. (If crust seems to be browning too quickly, either shield with pieces of foil or reduce heat to 355 degrees F and bake an extra 5 - 10 minutes. Test with knife blade. It should come out clean. Cool. Serve!

Happy Pi Day!

Note to self: Serving leftovers when you get the pie in the oven late is a great idea. Repeat!

Saturday, March 09, 2019

Remembering Phyllis with Lemon Cookies

Phyllis Welsh was a lady, a kind and thoughtful woman, a diehard Giant's fan, a bit of a mischief maker now and then, and my friend, as well as a P.E.O. sister. She is gone now, after a brief illness.

This coming Wednesday we will gather to remember her, along with her family, and along with friends from the Model T Club that she and her husband started, along with friends from her church and along with neighbors and many others. She loved to entertain and people were drawn to her love of people and of life.

For the gathering I'm bringing cookies. The star shape is one of the shapes of P.E.O. so the cookies are stars. P.E.O. is a 150 year old group that raises funds for scholarships for women. There are chapters all over the U.S. and Canada and Phyllis was probably the member who most embodied our goals and aspirations for ourselves. I will miss her a lot and I know there are many others who will, too.

You may want to try these delicious cookies. They are plain rolled cookies but the lemon adds a bright note to them, perfect for the return of daylight savings time. That's right, time to set our clocks forward when we go to bed tonight if you live in most of the U.S.

Meyer lemons are wonderful for this cookies, but regular lemons you find at the market are fine, too. In a pinch, you can use lemon extract.

This recipe is one that my mother got from an old friend of the family, Irene Johnston. The cookies are simple and not too sweet. With the addition of Meyer lemon zest and juice they have some zing. Irene’s recipe didn’t have the salt and had nutmeg instead of the vanilla extract. Adding the lemon was my idea. Bake just until the outer edges of the cookie begin to brown for the best cookies. For these stars that meant when the tips of the stars were just beginning to brown a little.

You can use any shape cutter you like and you can decorate them any way you like, but this lemon glaze is easy and adds another kick of lemon.

The dough is usually pretty easy to roll out. If the dough seems too crumbly, add a little bit (1-2 tablespoons) of milk. If it's too sticky to roll out, try chilling it first.

Meyer Lemon Sugar Cookies
by Irene Johnston

1 cup butter or margarine
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon real vanilla extract
Mix the above ingredients together until creamy.
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
zest from ½ a medium Meyer lemon (or use regular lemon…it’s delish, too)

Mix the flour, baking soda, salt and zest together. Combine with the butter mixture. If too dry, add mile, one tablespoon at a time until dough forms.

Roll the dough to 1/8 inch thickness. Cut with cookie cutters. Place unbaked cookies on a greased cookie sheet. Bake at 400 degrees F. until lightly browned, about 6-7 minutes. (If dough sticks while rolling, refrigerate briefly). Remove from oven when done, cool on baking sheet a minute, then cool on cake rack until fully cooled.

After cookies have cooled, can be frosted and decorated as desired.

Meyer Lemon Glaze
Zest from ½ a lemon
1 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
juice from Meyer lemon, heated for one minute in the microwave

Place zest and confectioners’ sugar in a bowl. Whisk in a little of the lemon juice. Add dribbles of the juice until a glaze is formed. If too thin, add a little more sugar; if too thick whisk in more lemon juice. Reserve left over juice for another use.

Using small offset spatula, ice tops of each cookie. Set on cake rack to dry.

Tuesday, March 05, 2019

Winter Update

I've long had this idea that when the pyracantha shrubs are covered with berries that it will be a wet winter. During the drought there were berries, but lots of stem showing. Last year we had more berries, and more rain. This year you can't really see the many berries...and so much rain!

We have been fine, only losing power a couple of times and, of course, not flooding since we sit at the top of a hill. Last week many of the surrounding roads were flooded. The major highway that stops in Sebastopol, Hwy. 12, was closed for a couple of days when the Laguna flooded the roadway and a nearby shopping area (the Barlow) and the Community Center and a few other places nearby. For people who have lived here longer than a dozen years or so this wasn't a huge surprise since similar flooding occurs anytime the Russian River crests over it's banks...the streams that feed into it like the Laguna have nowhere to empty, so they back up and flood out into the surrounding farmlands and, eventually, onto the roads and into the low lying structures. The Community Center has been through this many times so they moved everything that was movable upstairs or out of the area and that made the cleanup and refurbishment much easier. For most of the businesses in the Barlow, which has only been around for 5 years, it was a major shock and many lost all their stock. Some businesses are just going to close down after losing machinery, inventory, etc.  In the photo above, the railing is around an outdoor seating area that is actually many feet above the sidewalk. (photo: NBC)

Another community that was badly flooded was Guerneville, but there, again, they are used to this and many houses were built higher after the last major flood in the 90s, so those houses came through fine. Others suffered the flooding and many also lost their vehicles to the flooding. It is a close knit community with great spirit, so many businesses are already open and ready for you to come visit. The river is still pretty muddy, but seeing that power as it sweeps under the old bridge and the new one reminds us that you don't want to mess with Mother Nature...and we have been. (Photo: San Jose Mercury News)

On a more positive note, I spent much of the last rainy period painting the downstairs bathroom. Gone are the egg yolk yellow walls and most of the cider colored trim (lowest photo). The walls are now a warm ivory and the trim a vibrant deep turquoise. There is a new light fixture, too, with LED bulbs that give a warm but bright light but use much less electricity (upper photo).There are still a few areas that need to be finished but overall it's a nice, new, clean feeling space just in time for spring. I have some new towels, but still need to buy a few more, plus soap dish and that sort of thing.

As you might have guessed, during the time I've been painting I haven't been baking and have barely been cooking. The cooking has been things like a Almost-Cobb salad the other night with chicken chunks from a Costco cooked chicken, cooked bacon pieces, hard boiled egg, avocado, cherry tomatoes, and lots of shredded lettuce. Sweetie had a blue cheese dressing and I had cole slaw dressing. There was a tiny bit of cooking involved in cooking the bacon and hard boiling the egg, but mostly it was chopping and peeling and layering the ingredients. I didn't even get a photo!

We have more rain coming for the next four or five days, so keep your fingers crossed that the flooding is over.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Lemon Mushroom Caper Sauce

Still cooking a lot with lemons. Sometimes you need a nice sauce to boost the flavor of your entree, especially if you just picked up a rotisserie chicken on your way home. Make sure the chicken is hot, spoon some of this sauce over each portion and you will impress your family and friends. They'll never know that it's easy.

I posted this recipe soon after I started blogging, a good long time ago, and it's still a great sauce to put over chicken, fish, or just a plate of cauliflower rice. Do use a fresh lemon so that the zest has lots of lemon oil. I ran through the rain and grabbed one from my Meyer Lemon shrub, but one recently  purchased from the market or farmer's market - Eureka or Meyer are both great - is fine.

The key thing to remember is to add the liquid all at once, then stir vigorously until it thickens, which doesn't take long. You might think that this way there will be lots of lumps, but if you cook the flour mixture a minute and then stir, stir, stir once the liquid goes in, the flour will mix with the liquid and you'll get a great sauce. If you have more lemon zest than called for, just throw it in...just gets you a more lemony flavor which is delicious. You can skip the capers if you don't care for capers, but I think they add more zing. I used brown mushrooms because they have more flavor, but regular white mushrooms are fine. Fresh parsley is a very good idea.

Lemon Mushroom Caper Sauce
an Elle crafted recipe

2 tablespoon olive or grapeseed oil
1 cup prepared mushrooms (wiped clean, sliced)
1 clove minced garlic
2 tablespoons wheat flour or potato flour
1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
juice of one lemon (zest the lemon first)
Pepper to taste
zest of one lemon
1 tablespoon capers, drained
2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley

In a medium saucepan heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the prepared mushrooms, stir to coat with the oil, and saute' 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the garlic, stir, and saute' 1 minute, stirring frequently. Add the wheat flour or potato flour, stir to combine with mushrooms and garlic, and continue to cook for another minute, stirring frequently.

In a measuring cup mix together the broth and lemon juice. Add to the mushroom mixture all at once, stirring constantly, and continue to stir until mixture thickens. You can save about 2 tablespoons of the broth mixture and add some at the end to adjust the thickness to what you prefer. Add pepper to taste.

Add the lemon zest, capers, and Italian parsley. Stir to combine. Taste and add salt and/or pepper if needed. (I avoid adding salt and often by now you will see that it isn't needed, but now is the time to add it if you find you do need to.)

If holding the sauce while you cook what it will garnish, cover sauce with plastic wrap laid right on top of and touching the sauce. Cover the pot. Re-heat (removing the plastic wrap first), if needed, using low heat.

Makes enough to sauce 4 servings.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Shadow Cake Baking

I've loved being a part of the Cake Slice Bakers for the last few years. We've baked from some great cookbooks and I could always find something to bake that was fairly easily convertible to dairy-free. Our latest cookbook, The European Cake Cookbook, is much more difficult because it uses quite a lot of whipping cream, cream cheese and mascarpone, none of which I've yet to find a good substitute for.

It isn't quite within the rules of the group, but hopefully within the spirit, for me to bake similar recipes and post them around the 20th on the month. For February there was a cake that looked pretty good, the Lemon Meringue Cake. Because I had to bake a birthday sheet cake ahead of time for my scholarship group (served on Feb. 20th), I did part of it, but baked it as a sheet cake and finished it with canned frosting instead of meringue. Meringue just wouldn't hold up for the two to three hours that the cake sat there waiting for its turn.

The cake was lovely and delicious and lemon curd is always delicious. This is the perfect time of year to make it, too. The recipe we were given is very close to the one I always use, but since I had already made lemon curd for my birthday and still had some, I used that.

Of interest, perhaps, is part of the decoration I did on the top. The writing of Happy Birthday AJ and the piping around the edges of the star was done with plain Royal Icing, but the fun, and new for me part, was that I wrote on a gold toned Wilton Sugar Sheet star shaped cutout and then removed the backing and put that on the cake. The moisture in the canned vanilla icing (could have done "Buttercream" like I did on my birthday cake, but ran out of time) held down the sugar sheet star and moistened it enough that when the cake was cut it cut easily and since it's edible I could serve bits and pieces of it with the center servings and it was fine. I recommend it - easy to use and you can cut any shape or even make ribbons or layered flowers, etc.

Didn't get good photos once the cake was cut because I was doing the cutting and got distracted.

Hope that is is OK for me to sort of do the recipes like this.

Each month The Cake Slice Bakers are offered a selection of cakes from the current book we are baking through. This year it is The European Cake Cookbook by Tatyana Nesteruk. We each choose one cake to bake, and then on the 20th - never before - we all post about our cake on our blogs. There are a few rules that we follow, but the most important ones are to have fun and enjoy baking & eating cakes!

Follow our FacebookInstagram, and Pinterest pages where you can find all of our cakes, as well as inspiration for many other cakes. You can visit our blog where the links are updated each month. If you are interested in joining The Cake Slice Bakers and baking along with us, please send an email to thecakeslicebakers at gmail dot com for more details. The Cake Slice Bakers also have a new Facebook group called The Cake Slice Bakers and Friends. This group is perfect for those who do not have a blog but want to join in the fun and bake through this book.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Bread Baking Babes Go Hollywood - Paul, that is

Having obsessed over the Great British Baking Show for took me months to watch all the many episodes and then all the Master Class episodes I could find on Netflix (or was it Amazon Prime??)... it was wonderful to find that our Kitchen of the Month maven, Tanna of My Kitchen in Half Cups, chose a recipe from Paul Hollywood from one of those episodes for our monthly bake and for our Anniversary month. I didn't make too many changes to the dough, but changed the filling quite a bit.

This one was originally themed for Christmas, with Chelsea buns shaped into a Christmas Tree shape and then decorated, once baked, with swags of icing and candied fruit and pistachios for color. Since it was Valentine's day when I baked mine, I went with a free-form heart, but you really have to use your imagination to see the heart shape - see photo above. For a filling I combined diced Granny Smith apple with chopped dates, dried cranberries, and chopped walnuts, plus non-dairy margarine and some brown sugar. The filling also had some apple-pear juice, some cinnamon, and some orange peel. Once baked, I glazed the buns with melted marmalade. They were much less showy than the Christmas tree, but delicious and just right for dessert on Valentine's day after our very healthy and veggie rich dinner. My Sweetie managed to consume three of the buns, so I know they were appreciated.

So you might be saying, "What are Chelsea Buns?" Really they are rolled buns like traditional cinnamon buns. This dough doesn't have sugar, but you could add some if you like. The filling I made didn't have sugar either, but the fruits are sweet-tart and the brown sugar I scattered over the fruits once they were spread on the rolled out dough did the rest of the sweetening. Even the marmalade was a low sugar type, because that's what I had. The dough is rich with eggs and 'butter' and I used some white whole wheat flour for part of the flour, too.

Do try these. They are fun to make and fun to eat. Your kitchen will also smell wonderful!

Be sure to visit the other Bread Baking Babes to see their versions.

If you would like to be a Buddy, make your version of the buns, take a photo, and e-mail Tanna with a short description of your baking experience, the photo, and a link to your own post. Do it by Feb. 28th and she will e-mail you our Buddy Badge to post, too.

Chelsea Bun Heart

Based on recipe By:

Serving Size: 15



800 g strong white flour, plus extra for dusting (I used 400 g bread flour and 200 g white whole wheat flour)
1 tablespoon salt
15 g sachet fast-acting yeast (about two packets of American dry yeast)
400 ml milk (I used same amount of soy creamer)
60 g unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing (I used same amount of non-dairy margarine)
2 free-range eggs

For the filling
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled , cored, and finely diced
100 g pitted dried dates, chopped
50 g dried cranberries
1/4 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
200 ml apple-pear juice
85 g  walnuts, chopped
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
40 g non-dairy margarine, softened
120 g brown sugar

To finish
3 tablespoons orange low-sugar marmalade


1. Place the flour into a large mixing bowl, add the salt to one side and the yeast to the other side. 

2. Warm the milk and butter in a small saucepan until the butter is melted and the mixture is lukewarm. 

3. Pour into the flour mixture, add the eggs and stir thoroughly until the contents of the bowl come together as a soft dough. The dough will be sticky. 

4. Tip the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead well for 5 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic. Alternatively this can be done in a stand mixer using a dough hook. 

5. Place the dough into an oiled bowl and leave to rise, covered with a damp tea towel, for one hour or until doubled in size. 

6. For the filling, mix the diced apple, dates, dried cranberries, orange zest, 
 cinnamon, apple-pear juice, and walnuts in a small saucepan. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until filling is cooked and most of juice has evaporated. Let cool.

7. Tip the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Roll out dough into a rectangle about 20 in x 14 in. 

8. Tack down the long side of the dough rectangle nearest to you by pressing it down onto the work surface with your thumb. Use a small offset spatula to make a thin layer all over with the non-dairy 'butter', leaving a 1" uncovered edge along the long edge. When you roll up the dough, roll from the opposite long edge. Then spread the cooled filling mixture over the dough leaving a 1" border. Roll the opposite long side of the dough towards you quite tightly, until the roll is complete and tight. Trim the ends to neaten. 

9. With a sharp knife, or crossed dental floss, cut into 15 thick rounds - about 1.5in. 

10. Line a very large baking tray (or use the grill tray from your oven) with baking parchment. 

11. Arrange rolls on the prepared tray, cut side up, in heart shape: You want them to be close enough so that when they rise further and then bake; they will bake with their sides touching. They can then be pulled apart and you get a lovely soft edge. (I used the cut off ends at the top outside of the heart for fun. Not much filling, but still tasty.)

12. Cover loosely and let rise for 30 - 45 minutes. 

13. Preheat oven to 350 F. 

14. When the buns are ready, put them in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes until golden-brown. 

15. Check after 15 minutes or so and cover the buns with foil if they are getting too brown. 

16. Remove the buns from the oven and let them cool slightly before transferring them from the tin to a cooling rack. 

17. Melt the marmalade in a small saucepan with a splash of water until melted. Brush the jam over the buns to glaze and allow to cool. It's OK if some pieced of candied peel are on the buns, too. Serve warm or cooled.


Note: This recipe contains U.K. measurements and may require conversions to U.S. measurements. 
For best results, use a kitchen scale with a TARE feature to weigh your ingredients. The recipe has also not been professionally tested. 

HAHA! see that last note ... sort of makes you feel free doesn't it. Mess with it, create your own filling....go wild!

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Perfect Party

I am a most fortunate woman! My loving and lovely daughter just planned and pulled off a magnificent birthday party for me at a local restaurant with 21 guests, a delicious lunch with choices of entree and side dish and salad, a champagne toast, coffee service and a beautiful themed decor. She did have help from Sweetie, of course, and a little help from me with ironing the linens (labeled cotton but clearly poly!), but most of it was her doing. A surprise guest, NoHandle, was the best part of all, especially because he is doing well after some major health issues.

My part in the event, other than compiling a guest list and showing up ready to party, was to create a two tiered birthday cake. Truly, I did try to find one that I could purchase, but most places don't do fully dairy-free cakes that taste good and the one I did find wanted $100. It helps that I love baking and took it as a challenge to create a major-event worthy cake with no dairy.

First I baked a 'practice' 9" cake because I had combined a few recipes to make the chocolate cake and I wanted to make sure that it would work. The cake needed to be firm enough that I could put two layers on top but still moist and delicious. For the filling I wanted to use raspberry jam and vanilla 'buttercream' because I love chocolate and raspberry together and the vanilla 'buttercream' would be a nice contrast to the intense chocolate. I use the marks around 'buttercream' because no actual butter was used. Instead I used a non-dairy margarine.

For the frosting I used a ganache that was nothing more than high-quality semi-sweet chocolate and Silk brand soy creamer. The key thing with ganache is to make it many hours ahead of using it because you want it to cool. Once it's cool it is spreadable and doesn't run off the cake. Too warm and it just blobs or runs, as I found out the hard way.

The practice cake was a big hit, probably because I split both 9" layers and so there were three ribbons of jam and vanilla 'buttercream' instead of one. The later, larger cake would have been better that way, too, but cutting and moving thin layers of split 12' diameter cake was more than I could manage. Remember, I've never made a 12" cake before, much less a tiered cake!

I baked all the cake layers the day before the party. Then I tried to make the 'buttercream'. It failed. It never was anything more solid than soup. Discouraging. Then I made the ganache so that it could cool overnight.

The next morning I tried again with the 'buttercream' and this time it worked! Everything went together really well, but by the time I had finished frosting the top tier, I was out of buttercream and ganache. I tried making a small batch of ganache to see if I could use it for decorating the area where the two tiers join, but it never thickened up enough. I added confectioners sugar and it seemed to be O.K., but when I piped some on, it started to run. We had some gorgeous magenta roses, still closed in buds, to use as cake toppers, so I used them to hide the blobby ganache instead. It looked like I had meant to do that...really made the cake look spectacular!

At the top is the photo of the decorated table, with the finished cake as the centerpiece. It did taste great and there was plenty left over to give to our local firemen, neighbors and family after the party.

Although it was a bit stressful here and there, I'm glad I made the cake and now know that I can create a tiered cake that is delicious, pretty, and dairy-free so that I can eat it. Give this a try yourself if you want a challenge and a great cake at the end of it!

Thank you Sweetie and Kate! Well done.

Special Chocolate Party Cake - Non-Dairy
my recipe
14 servings (For 42 servings [or more] if you make this amount as two 9" cakes and then make the recipe twice to fill a 12" diameter cake pan twice, then tier it. Will go into making it tiered this way at the end.)

Please use a kitchen scale for the chocolate and cocoa powder
1 oz. unsweetened or semisweet chocolate, chopped finely
1/4 teaspoon espresso powder
2.2 oz. unsweetened (alkalized) cocoa powder - I used Hershey's
1 cup boiling water
1 cup cake flour
1 1/4 cup bleached all-purpose flour (bleached gives more stability to the structure if making tiered cake, but you can use unbleached if only making the 9" cake)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 oz - 1/4 cup - soy milk or almond milk yogurt
2 large egg
2 egg yolks from large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) butter at room temperature (70 degrees F)

Prepare two 9" x 2" cake pans: grease the bottom and sides with shortening, then line bottom with parchment paper and grease the bottom again. Set aside.

In a medium bowl whisk the chocolate, espresso and cocoa powder. Add the boiling water and whisk until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and cool to room temperature. (About 1 hour.)

When chocolate mixture is cool, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a medium bowl, whisk eggs, yolks, yogurt and vanilla until just combined. Set aside.

In a stand mixer bowl use a flat beater to cake flour, bleached all-purpose flour, sugars, salt, baking powder and baking soda of low speed 30 seconds.

Add the butter, cut into roughly one-tablespoon pieces. Mix on low until dry ingredients are crumbly.

Add egg mixture and beat on medium speed for 1 1/2 minutes until light and well incorporated. Scrape the bowl and beater.

On low speed gradually add the cool chocolate mixture. Scrape any left in chocolate bowl into batter. Mix a few seconds, then scrape bowl and beater well. Beat at medium speed for 30 seconds. Batter will be slightly fluffy.

Divide batter between the pans. Smooth the top. Pans will be about half full.

Bake in preheated oven for 25 - 30 minutes. Toothpick inserted in center will come out clean.

Cool 10 minutes in the pans on a wire rack, then run a thin knife around the sides of the pans and turn each cake out and cool on wire racks sprayed with cooking spray (which will help cakes release from the wire racks). In general, cool with bottoms up. Remove parchment paper if it sticks to the bottoms. Once cool, trim tops, if necessary, using a serrated knife longer than the width of the cake. Layered cakes do best if the top and bottom both are flat. If you used cake strips on the outsides of the pans you may already have tops that are flat enough.

If only making a 9" layer cake, split each layer in half using that serrated knife. Place the first layer over a dab of icing/ganache/buttercream that you have put on the cake plate or cake cardboard. This little dab hold it in place. Use a fork to stir appropriate jam to break it up. Apply thin layer of raspberry, strawberry, or apricot jam, if desired, then a layer of buttercream. (I piped mine, then spread it together using a small offset spatula.) Place cut side down of next layer and repeat jam and buttercream. Place bottom of next layer, more jam and buttercream, then cut side down of final layer. Frost sides and top with buttercream or ganache. Decorate as desired. Chill at least an hour before serving. If chilled longer than an hour, let sit at room temperature for at least an hour before serving.

For a two tiered cake, make the 9" layers as described above. If you like, skip the splitting of the cakes, just doing the jam and buttercream between the two 9" cakes, then frosting them with buttercream or ganache. Then prepare a 12" pan with the shortening, parchment paper and shortening over the bottom as described for the 9" pan. Set aside. Have another parchment circle ready for the final layer.

Make a full batch of the batter used for the 9" cake. That is just the right amount for one 12" layer. If at all possible, use cake strips around the outside of the 12" helps the outer part from becoming dry and helps the top be mostly level. Bake for 45-55 minutes in 350 degree F preheated oven. Use same test for doneness as above.

While the first 12" pan is baking, prepare the batter for the second 12" layer, but wait to mix the egg mixture and chocolate mixture into the dry ingredients until you remove the first 12" layer from the oven. Once the cake has cooled 20 minutes, carefully remove it from the pan to a wire rack coated with cooking spray and remove the used parchment paper from the bottom.

Clean the 12" pan, dry, and prepare it as you did the first time. Now continue with the batter, adding the egg mixture, scraping, adding the chocolate mixture, scraping, and incorporating the scraped portions for the final batter. Place in 12" pan, (make sure cake strips are moist and attached) and smooth top. Bake for 45-55 minutes and treat baked second layer as you did the first layer.

Place the bottom of one 12" layer on a dab of frosting or ganache on a cake cardboard. Apply jam and buttercream (recipe below) to the top (trimming to make the top of the layer flat first if necessary) then put on the second layer, top side down (again trimming first if top isn't flat). Frost with buttercream or ganache (ganache recipe below - if using buttercream, you will need to make more than one batch of the recipe below).

Use the 9" cake pan to use a toothpick to draw a thin circle in the frosting or ganache where the outside edges of the 9" layer will be placed on top of the 12" layer.

Get 9 plastic straws. Push one down in the middle of that circle and mark where the top of the cake is on the straw. Remove the straw and trim it to that mark, then use that as a template to mark the other 8 straws. Replace the center straw, then space the other eight roughly equally far apart around the drawn circle, but in about an inch. This will be the way the top layer is stabilized.

With your hand under the edges of the cake cardboard holding the 9" layer, carefully place the layer and cardboard on the 12" cake where the circle is drawn. Use extra buttercream or ganache to pipe stars all around where the cardboard meets the lower layer (or use any other decorative piping you choose as long as it covers any cardboard showing.

Decorate cake as desired.

Cake can sit at cool room temperature up to 24 hours. Once it is cut, refrigerate any leftovers.

Vanilla Swiss Buttercream
4 lg. egg whites, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 ½ cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, slightly firm (I used the same amount of non-dairy margarine)
1 tsp. vanilla

Place the egg whites in a large bowl of a electric mixer and beat with the whisk attachment until the whites are foamy and they begin to thicken (just before the soft peak stage). Set the bowl over a saucepan filled with about 2 inches of simmering water, making sure the bowl is not touching the water. Then, whisk in the sugar by adding 1-2 tablespoon of sugar at a time over a minutes time. Continue beating 2-3 minutes or until the whites are warm (about 120 degrees) and the sugar is dissolved. The mixture should look thick and like whipped marshmallows.
Remove from pan and with either the paddle or whisk attachment, beat the egg whites and sugar on med-high until its a thick, cool meringue – about 5-7 minutes. *Do not overbeat*. Set aside.

Place the butter in a separate clean mixing bowl and, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter at medium speed for 40-60 seconds, or until smooth and creamy. *Do not overbeat or the butter will become toooooo soft.*

On med-low speed, blend the meringue into the butter, about 1-2 Tbsp. at a time, over 1 minute. Add the liqueur and vanilla and mix for 30-45 seconds longer, until thick and creamy.

Refrigerate 10-15 minutes before using.

Wait! My buttercream won’t come together!  Reheat the buttercream briefly over simmering water for about 5 seconds, stirring with a wooden spoon. Be careful and do not overbeat. The mixture will look broken with some liquid at the bottom of the bowl. Return the bowl to the mixer and whip on medium speed just until the cream comes back together.

Wait! My buttercream is too soft! Chill the buttercream in the refrigerator for about 10 minutes and rewhip. If that doesn’t work, cream an additional 2-4 Tbsp. of butter in a small bowl– making sure the butter is not as soft as the original amount, so make sure is cool and smooth. On low speed, quickly add the creamed butter to the buttercream, 1 Tbsp. at a time.

Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 5 days, or can be frozen for up to 6 months. If freezing, store in 2 16-oz. plastic containers and thaw in the refrigerator overnight or at room temperature for several hours.


8 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, chopped fine (which you can do easily in a food processor, breaking into chunks before putting the chocolate into the processor)
8 oz. (1 cup) soy creamer (not soy milk - the creamer is thicker) plus 1 tablespoon

Put the chopped chocolate in a heat-proof bowl. Heat the soy creamer in a small pot until almost to a boil...there will be tiny bubbles just at the sides of the pot. Remove from the heat and pour over the chopped chocolate. Let sit one minute. Stir gently with a silicone spatula until smooth. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly over the chocolate mixture and then let sit until cool, about 4-5 hours. If necessary, use the spatula to stir the ganache a bit just before using it to frost the cakes. 

You will need a double recipe of this to do the two tiered cake. Do each recipe by itself and then let cool. Use one recipe for the bottom, one for the top and decorations.

Special thanks to Rose Levy Bernanbaum, author of Rose's Heavenly Cakes and the Cake Bible which were both helpful in this enterprise, and to Dorie Greenspan, author of Baking:from my home to yours which was also helpful.