Pure Pumpkin Cheesecake

My sister was visiting from Ohio for Thanksgiving and I had a small dinner party for her while she was here.  While I was planning the dinner I kept trying to think what to have for dessert.  As we had just had the traditional Thanksgiving dinner I wanted something a bit different but still wanted the theme to be sort of holiday related.  I kept thinking about a pumpkin cheesecake and when I checked for this weeks Heavenly recipe, low and behold it was pumpkin cheesecake.  That sealed it, it certainly had to be a sign that this is what I should serve.

This was delicious.  I often times find cheesecake to be too heavy, I love it to pieces and never refuse a slice but then always wish I had because it is just too heavy.  This cheesecake was scrumptious with wonderful pumpkin flavor but at the same time it was silken and almost light.  I and my sister and guests truly enjoyed it and it will certainly become a part of the holiday traditions around my house.

This recipe was just a slight bit different from my go to cheesecake recipe.  The crust was simple with gingersnaps crumbs, a bit of sugar, pinch of salt, a handful of ground nuts and some butter.  It differed from my usual graham cracker crust in that it wasn’t baked first before the filling was put in.

Completed crust

The pumpkin filling was also simple to prepare and where my usual recipe is done in the stand mixer this was done in the food processor.  A small added step was the cooking of the pumpkin and sugar and just smelling it simmering on the stove I could tell that this was one step that was going to add that deep caramel flavor to the cake.  Once the pumpkin simmered a few minutes it was added to the workbowl with cream cheese, eggs, egg yolks, and cream.  It was mixed a bit to incorporate all the ingredients and then set in a water bath in the oven to bake.  My usual cheesecake doesn’t use a water bath but it has a much heavier batter and I don’t think it needs it.  The water bath helps to ensure that smooth velvety texture that this cake has.  Once baked, the cake rests in the oven for an hour to ensure the cake doesn’t crack and then comes to room temperature on a rack and is then refrigerated.

Baked cake

Making the caramel glaze was a simple process of caramelizing sugar, corn syrup and water until a deep amber and then adding warm cream, vanilla and butter and stirring until smooth. 

Decorated cake

After a large and satisfying meal, this etheral cheescake was the perfect finish and all my guests were very happy they saved room for dessert.

Next Up:  Fruitcake Wreath

Catalan Salt Pinch Cake

I have to admit I had some real reservations about this cake.  Usually its the title of a recipe that first grabs me and then the recipe introduction seals the deal on whether I try it or not.  When I first got this book and was looking through it, when I came to this recipe my first reaction was YUCK and then I thought, WHY?  Why would anyone want to make this, it sounded totally unappealing to me.  I even debated about making it at all but since I had all the ingredients on hand I figured I would give it a try.

I prepped my pan, and measured out the nuts and put them in the oven to toast while I weighed the eggs, got the egg whites ready and weighed and sifted the flour and sugar.  When the nuts were toasted I cooled them and then ground them with some sugar and set it aside.  I whipped the egg whites with the remaining sugar until they formed soft peaks.  Then I began adding the whole eggs 2 tablespoons at a time and beating for 2 minutes after each addition.  I could see what was happening with the batter as it continued to beat but this would have been one of those times when I would have liked it if Rose explained the science behind this as it seemed a little odd to do this 2 tablespoons at a time.  At any rate, it wasn’t hard and it did give me time to clean up the dirty pots and pans and by the time the batter was ready to go in the oven, my kitchen was all cleaned up.

The completed cake batter

The cake ready for baking

The cake out of the oven

I admit that I am opinionated.  Anyone who knows me will attest to it and I think anyone who has read my posts for previous cakes can see that I don’t have a problem saying when I think something is overcomplicated, fussy or just plain isn’t any good.  I am afraid that I really did not like this cake.  It had a strange spongy, sticky, cottony texture that I found really unappetizing.  The flavor wasn’t all that bad but it just didn’t appeal to me in the slightest.  I know that I will never make it again but if someone twisted my arm to make it, I think I would use orange zest instead of the lemon zest.  That was my first reaction upon tasting it was that it should be orange.  I made this cake on Wednesday afternoon and I couldn’t get anyone in my family to try it.  Everyone just kept looking at it and saying no way.  I finally broke down and had a piece on Saturday morning with coffee and then I threw the rest of it away.  If I had to sum this one up I would say that it should have been left out of the book because it certainly wasn’t heavenly.

 

Next Up:  Pure Pumpkin Cheesecake

Woody’s Lemon Luxury Layer Cake

finished cake 1I love Lemon Cakes and this was no exception, it was delicious.  It was, however, not without its complications.  First off it has 17 eggs.  17 EGGS, most of that egg yolks.  Certainly not something you would want to be eating everyday but for that special occasion, it sure was good.   Along those same lines, this cake does take awhile to put together so it certainly isn’t something you can throw together without a little advanced planning.  Nothing was difficult to do but with all the cooking, cooling, chilling and wait time, it did take a good part of the day to get it finished.  The good thing is that you don’t need to sit and attend it, you can go about your normal routine and keep checking back  and do it in stages.  All that being said, lets move on.

The cake as with many of the cakes we have done from this book was simple and went together in no time.  To start I melted the white chocolate and set it aside to cool.  In the meantime I whisked together the egg yolks, 1/3 cup of the milk and the vanilla.  I then mixed together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and lemon zest.  Once they were mixed I added the butter and the rest of the milk and mixed to combine and moisten the dry ingredients.  I then added the egg yolk mixture in 3 additions beating for 20 seconds to incorporate after each addition.  I then added the melted white chocolate and beat it in.  Then I divided the batter between 2 nine inch pans and put them in the oven to bake.  In my convection oven the cake took 30 minutes at 350 degrees. 

melted chocolate

Melted white chocolate

whisked eggs

Whisked egg yolks

finished batter

Completed cake batter

While the cake was baking I set about making the Lemon Curd.  While the lemon curd is not difficult to make, if you are pressed for time you can get away with using a good store bought brand of lemon curd.  There are many of them out there to choose from.  To begin, in a medium saucepan, I whisked together the egg yolks, sugar and butter, then I whisked in the lemon juice and salt.  I began cooking the mixture over medium heat stirring constantly.  I cooked mine in a double boiler just because it is my preferred method for handling cooking egg yolks, it really isn’t necessary.  Once the mixture was fully thickened, I removed it from the heat and stained it into a small bowl and added the lemon zest and set it aside to cool.

lemon curd

Freshly made lemon curd

Then I began on the White Chocolate custard base.  In a double boiler I melted the white chocolate and butter, stirring occasionally to insure it melted smoothly.  I broke up the egg and whisked them into the melted chocolate mixture and continued cooking until the mixture reached a temperature of 140 degrees.  I poured it into a bowl, covered and refrigerated it.  The recipe said to stir it every 15 minutes until it reaches 65 to 70 degrees but to be honest I just didn’t have the time to be tethered to this frosting so I just let it sit in the refrigerator knowing that it would eventually reach 65 degrees.  This was one of those steps where I feel Rose gets just a bit too fussy with her recipes.

custard base

White chocolate custard base

Once the custard had reached 65 degrees I moved on to complete the buttecream.  I beat the butter on medium-low spead until it was creamy, I then beat in the custard base and continued beating until it formed stiff peaks.  I then set the mixture aside for 2 hours.  This is another of those steps that I could not see the point of.  I really didn’t see any reason to let this sit at room temperature for 2 hours and then have to chill it down in order to work with it.  And, the recipe says to let it sit until it beomes “spongy”.   My buttercream was creamy when I set it aside and was still creamy 2 hours later so the next time, I will totally skip this whole step.  Again, too fussy for no apparent reason that I could see.  After the waiting period I added the reserved lemon curd and beat it to incorporate.  I then proceeded to assemble the cake.

I split my two cake layers into 4.  The method I use for splitting cake layers is one I learned years ago and it has always worked for me.  I wrap a long piece of dental floss around the first knuckle of the index finger of each hand.  With the cake layer in front of me, I rest the tip of each index finger on the counter in front of the cake.  Slide the floss into the cake and wiggle it a bit to get it started.  Then I pull the floss back toward myself and then cross it behind the layer and pull it out.  The layer slices evenly into two layers.

I spread half the lemon curd between the first two layers.  Then a layer of the buttercream on top of this and then I added the third layer and spread the remaining buttercream on this layer and placed the fourth layer on top of this to complete the four layers.  Rose does this differently in her instructions but I think it is easier to buil it layer by layer than having to lift a cake with filling in it on top ot the first completed cake layers.  Whatever is easiest for you.  I then frosted the top and sides with the white chocolate buttercream. 

filled cake

Filled and stacked layers

While this frosting is delicious, I found that it was very soft and I had to keep refrigerating it and the cake in order to get it to apply smoothly and to adhere to the cake without sliding.  Even as tasty as it was, I really felt that it was way too much trouble for what I ended up with.  The next time I make this cake, I will just make a classic Julia Child French buttercream and be done with it.

 

finished cake

finished cake 2

 

Next Up:  Catalan Salt Pinch Cake

Tyler Wentworth 10th Anniversary Cake

aboveSome friends of mine who are doll collectors asked me to make a cake for their doll club to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the creation of their favorite fashion doll Tyler Wentworth by Robert Tonner of the Tonner Doll Company.  Since it is fall and so close to Thanksgiving I decided to make something pumpkin.  This pumpkin cake recipe is very easy to make and is always well received.  I have had it in my files for so many years that I don’t even remember where I got it or who I got it from.  It’s usually baked in a 10 inch tube or bundt pan but this time I decided to dress it up for the club and baked it in a heart shaped pan.

I split the cake into two layers and filled and frosted it with Cream Cheese frosting.  For decoration I printed a classic picture of Tyler doll on rice paper using edible ink and applied it to the top of the cake with clear piping gel. (While this ink and rice paper are edible, I must admit that they don’t  taste very good.  I usually just peal the rice paper decorations off when I serve the cake)  Then a few frills to complete the cake.  Happy Birthday Tyler.

 

 

finished

overall

Pumpkin Cake
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Serves 14

1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
2 cups white sugar
4 eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups solid pack pumpkin puree
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Grease and flour a 10 inch tube pan. Sift together flour, soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine oil and sugar. Add eggs one at a time and mix well. Add the flour mixture and beat until smooth. Add nuts and pumpkin and blend until smooth. Pour batter into greased 10 inch tube pan.

Bake at 375 degrees F  for 1 hour or until a toothpick inserted into the center of cake comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and finish cooling. Dust with confectioners sugar before serving.

Cream Cheese Frosting
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Makes 3 cups

2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a medium bowl, cream together the cream cheese and butter until creamy. Mix in the vanilla, then gradually stir in the confectioners’ sugar. Store in the refrigerator after use.

Orange Sauce, Sauce Bijou and Chantilly Cream

I have had several inquires about the orange sauce I used for my Chocolate Oblivions so I decided to post the recipe for those who are curious to try it.  This recipe is from Alice Medrich and one of my particular favorite dessert sauces.

Orange Sauce

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Makes 2 cups

4 cups fresh orange juice

1/4 cup sugar

3 teaspoons arrowroot, dissolved in 2 teaspoons water

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

2 teaspoons grated orange zest

In a medium nonreactive saucepan over medium heat, reduce the orange juice to 2 cups.

Add the sugar and dissolved arrowroot to the reduced orange juice,  Simmer for 1 minute until the sauce is slightly thickened.

Cool the sauce.  Add the lemon juice and lemon and orange zests.  Cover and refrigerate until needed.  The sauce will be thin.  Sauce keeps refrigerated for at least 3 weeks.

Another delicious dessert sauce that is also perfect for the holidays is Sauce Bijou.  This is a tangy cranberry-raspberry sauce that goes well with chocolate and it also pairs well with the orange sauce..  This is another sauce from Alice Medrich

Sauce Bijou

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Makes 2 cups

12 ounces raw cranberries, fresh or frozen

3/4 cup red seedless or strained raspberry preserves

3/4 cup sugar

Wash and pick over the cranberries.  Drain and combine with the sugar in the bowl of a food processor or blender.  Puree as finely as possible.

Press the puree through a medium-fine sieve to remove the toughest skins.  You will end up with about 1/3 cup tough dry pulp and skins to discard.  Stir the strained raspberry preserves into the cranberry puree.    The sauce may be made and stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks or frozen for 6 months.  Never heat the sauce, even to thaw it.

Chantilly Cream is nothing more that sweetened lightly whipped cream.

Chantilly Cream

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To make about 2 cups, pour 1 cup of whipping cream into a chilled bowl and beat it slowly until it begins to foam. Gradually increase the speed to moderate and continue to beat until the beater leaves traces on the surface of the cream and the cream holds soft peaks.  Fold in 2 tablespoons of confections sugar and a few tablespoons of brandy, rum or sweet liqueur, or a few tablespoons of pure vanilla extract.

Baby Chocolate Oblivions

servingIt doesn’t get much better than this.  Four ingredients, minimal prep work, the barest amount of hands on work and a result that is pure heaven.  These little cakes go together in no time and the hardest thing about them is waiting for them to set so you can dig in.  An added bonus for me was the tiny amount of sugar in these.  Being diabetic in a house of diabetics, desserts aren’t something that we keep around.  As a matter of fact, I have been bringing the results of this bake through to work.  Not so for these little beauties. With only 3 tablespoons of sugar in the entire recipe, we can all enjoy one of these little cakes.  Decadently rich and delightfully chocolatey.

I started by combining the chocolate, sugar and butter in a double boiler and allowing them to melt.  Then I put the mixture into a bowl to cool to room temperature.  While the chocolate was cooling I cracked the eggs into the work bowl of my Kitchen Aid and lightly beat them, then set them over a pan of simmering water and whipped them with a wire whisk until the mixture was hot to the touch.  Once they reached temperature I put the bowl on the mixer and whipped them for about 5 minutes until they had tripled in volume and were very light.  I folded the whipped eggs into the melted chocolate in two additions just until combined. 

melted chocolate

The melted chocolate, butter and sugar

whippedeggs

The heated and whipped eggs

final batter

The completed cake batter

I placed my muffin pan on a rack in a roasting pan.  I filled the muffin pans with the prepared batter and set it in the preheat 425 degree oven. 

filledpanfinal

The filled pans ready for baking

I then added hot water to the bain marie until it was almost half way up the side of the muffin pan. I back the cakes for 5 minutes, then covered the muffin pan with an inverted 13×9 baking pan and baked them for another 10 minutes. 

bakedcake

The baked cakes just out of the oven

I then transfered the muffin pans, still on the rack to the counter top to cool for around 45 minutes.  I then put the cakes in the refrigerator to set up overnight.

stack

A nice dessert stack

These are delicious with just a dusting of confectioners sugar.  When we ate this for dessert after Sunday dinner I actually made a nice orange sauce and some Creme Chantilly to go with them and they were incredible. Total decadence.

serving1

Next Up: Woody’s Lemon Luxury Layer Cake

Pumpkin Cake with Burnt Orange Silk Meringue Buttercream

final1I was really looking forward to making this cake.  I just love pumpkin.  As soon as the first cool days of fall arrive I start craving pumpkin pie and pumpkin bread and pumpkin muffins so I really couldn’t wait to make this cake.  Unfortunately, by the end of the week my schedule was so full for the weekend that I wasn’t sure I would have the time to make it.  As luck would have it I had a few hours of Friday after work so I set about making this cake.  Because of the small amount of time that I had I didn’t get to really do anything fancy with it other than get it baked and slap on the frosting so I appologize for the lackluster presentation but at least I got to make it and I WILL be making it again.

I usually shy away from all the specialty pans on the market.  Everytime I have ever purchased one I found that I used it for the one time I bought it for and then a couple years later it ended up in someones garage sale having never been used again.  I seriously thought about buying this pumpkin pan.  I was serious enough to go to the kitchen store to get it and when I got there and saw the size of it and the $35.00 price tag I turned around and walked right back out of the store.  I imagine with a little searching I could have found it cheaper but then again, I am sure it would have been destined for the garage sale table after one use so I decided it wasn’t really worth it.  I ended up using a standard bundt pan for the cake.

I toasted and de-skinned the walnuts.  Measured and mixed the dry ingredients and set about beating the wet ingredients together.  Once mixed I added the dry ingredients and mixed until combined. Poured the batter into the prepared pan and put it in the 350 degree oven.  In my convection oven the cake took 35 minutes to fully bake.

batter

While the cake was baking I set about making the buttercream.  Now I have to admit that I often find some of Rose’s directions a bit fussy and overcomplicated and I have to wonder if all these extra steps are really worth the effort.  Those were my thought when I read the directions for this buttercream.  I must have read through them at least 5 times to make sure I was fully understanding what she was telling me to do.  These were all techniques I had done hundreds of times yet her instructions seemed so complicated.  All that heating and boiling and taking the syrup off the heat and then refrigerating it and then rebeating. Add to that the fact that my instant read thermometer only goes to 220 degrees and with such a small amount of syrup my regular candy thermometer was too big to get an accurate reading.   I finally decided that I was adept enough at making caramel and Italian meringue that her instructions were unnecessarily complicated and I did it my own way.  Reading her instructions I thought it would take me at least an hour to put this together. It ended up taking me about 25 minutes to get it finished.  I can understand alot of her warnings and precautions but if I was making this for the first time having never done these techniques before I think I would have really been intimidated.  In the end I loved this buttercream.  It has a very bright orange flavor and then just that hint at the finish of the burnt carmel.  I will definitely make this again.  I think  it is a perfect finish for this pumpkin cake.

To make the creme anglais I separated the eggs and beat the yolks and set them aside.  I scalded the milk and set it aside.  Imixed the sugar and water until the sugar was dissolved, then boiled it until it reached 370 degrees.  I added the milk and whisked the mixture until combined and smooth.  I then continued to cook the mixture until it reached 170 degrees.  I took it off the heat and strained the mixture and set it aside to cool.  When cool I stirred in the vanilla. 

To make the Italian meringue I whipped the egg white until foamy and added the cream of tartar.  I continued whipping until soft peaks formed and slowly added the sugar and continued whipping until firm peaks formed.  I then mixed the sugar and water until the sugar dissolved and then brought it to a boil.  Once it was boiling I slowly added it to the whipped egg whites and continued beating until stiff peaks formed.  Then set it aside to come to room temperature.  I whipped the butter until very creamy, then added the creme anglais and mixed until combined, then added the italian meringue and mixed until incorporated.  Then I added the orange zest and concentrate and combined until smooth.

Once the cake was baked I let it rest in the pan for 10 minutes and then unmolded it onto a cooling rack to cool completely before I frosted it.  All in all I think this was a top notch cake and frosting and the next time I make it I will make sure I have enough time to frost it smoothly and make some marzipan decorations for it.

baked

final2

Next Up:  Baby Chocolate Oblivions