Archive for the ‘Cakes’ Category


Irish soda bread muffins,  that is.

On St. Paddy’s day, I am always reminded of the  “holiday” cards my mom would get from the O’Wileys or the O’Gormans. Her friends always adding the “O'” to their last names to get in the spirit of things. I also remember my mom making corned beef and cabbage back when I was in grade school. I haven’t eaten beef since I was 12 yrs old but I was just telling my husband yesterday that I remember it tasting SO good. While he won’t be having that tonight I did just buy some Guinness beer and will make him a beef irish stew. As for me, I have already had a delicious irish soda bread muffin with my morning coffee.

These are super fast and easy to put together. Since they are baked in a muffin tin the baking time is only 20 minutes. The size is perfect. One went in my daughters lunch box, another wrapped up for her teacher.

Back in the day, for a few years I had an office that overlooked 5th Avenue in Manhattan and had the annual St. Patrick’s Day parade pass under my window. The streets would be filled with many drunk folks and after work I am sure I was one of them too. Never green beer though. Now I bake muffins. O’ the times they are a changin’….

Bake On!

Yields 12 muffins

1 1/2 cups (177 g) AP Flour
3/4 cup (85 g) whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup (74 g) granulated sugar (I actually used 1/4 c)
1  cup (135g) currants
1 teaspoon caraway seeds, or to taste
1 large egg
1 cup (8 oz)  buttermilk
1/3 cup (2 3/8 oz) canola oil

Preheat your oven to 400 F and line a muffin tin with papers.

Whisk together all of the dry ingredients.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients (egg, buttermilk and oil) wet

Pour the wet ingredients over the dry and give a few quick stirs with a large spoon to combine everything. Do not overmix! As with all muffin recipes, this only toughens the dough. It will be a thick batter. Fill each muffin tin 3/4 of the way full and sprinkle with some course sugar (I used green).DSC_0115
Bake for 20 minutes or until light golden brown. Flip them out of the pan so the bottoms don’t get soggy. Let cool slightly before digging in.






The leprechaun catcher…….



Recipe adapted from King Arthur Flour

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The infamous Viennese Sachertorte is taking center stage today. This is a very traditional cake that has been made famous by the argument of who originated the recipe. This is between the Sacher hotel and the Demel Bakery, and it has even gone before the courts to decide, with intense legal battles ensuing between 1954 and 1963. In the end, the Sacher hotel won the rights to call it’s cake the “original” sachertorte  and gave the Demel the rights to decorate its tortes with a triangular seal that reads Eduard-Sacher-Torte.

In the end, it is a chocolate sponge cake brushed with apricot glaze and covered in a chocolate glaze. Perfect after a night of music at the Vienna opera house. Better yet, at your house after a delicious meal with friends.



This months Baker’s challenge is hosted by Korena of Korena in the Kitchen. Korena is a crazy good baker, so I insist that you must visit her blog and show her lots of praise. She deserves it.

It has to be 15 years since I made a sachertorte, so this was a treat to bake. It really is a pretty dessert. Please visit Korena’s page to see her recipe for a 9 inch torte. Since I have don’t have a need for such a large cake, I made a 6 inch version, which will easily serve 6 people.

Overall, it is a pretty simple cake to bake if you break it down. You will need 2 bowls to make the cake; one to whip the egg whites, another for the eggs/butter/flour portion. I whipped my whites, then transferred them to a clean bowl while I then mixed up the remaining batter. The apricot glaze is just strained jam. The boiled chocolate glaze is traditional, but does require a candy thermometer. I am going to say that if you don’t have a candy thermometer that you could just use a chocolate ganache poured over it with the same results. It’s all about working recipes around what you have. So my friends, Bake On!


Chocolate sponge:

3 large eggs, separated
1/2 cup (2.2 oz) all-purpose flour
1/4  cup (1 oz) almond flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 oz (3/4 stick ) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup (100 g) sugar
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled slightly

Apricot Filling/glaze:

2/3 cup apricot preserves (I actually used low sugar spread and I  eyeballed the amount)
1 tablespoon water
1 tablespoon rum

strong>Boiled chocolate icing:

3/4 cup (150 g) granulated sugar
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup (30 g)  cocoa powder
1/3 cup (80 ml) water

Preheat the oven to 375 F. Grease and flour (I prefer to use cocoa powder) a 6 inch springform pan.

In a clean bowl, whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form. Slowly add 2 tablespoons of the sugar and continue beating until firm peaks form. Set aside.

In another bowl, beat the butter and the remaining sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, until well mixed. Add the dry ingredients and mix until combined, then gently fold in the beaten egg whites until no white streaks are left. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, level off the top and bake for 30-35 minutes or until tested with a clean toothpick. Let cool for 10 minutes then loosen the ring and let cool completely.

Invert the cake onto a cake board or plate (the bottom is now the top). Slice the cake horizontally in two.

Sept 26, 2014

make the filling/glaze

Put the preserves and the water in a bowl and heat until warm. Give it a good stir, mix in the rum, then strain to get out any big fruit bits.

Place the bottom layer of cake (on the cake board) onto a wire cooling rack  set over a piece of wax paper.This is to catch the drips; if you skip this step you will have a mess on your hands! Brush the top of the layer with some of the warm jam. Let it set up for 5 minutes before placing the top on. Remember, your top layer started out as the bottom of the cake. Brush the entire outside of the cake with the remaining jam mixture. Let this set while you make the chocolate icing.

October 27, 2014

make the boiled chocolate icing

Place the sugar, chocolate, cocoa powder and water into a small, heavy saucepan over medium heat. Stir until blended and bring to a boil. Cook, stirring, until the sauce registers 220 F on a candy thermometer.

Pour the hot sauce (be careful!) into a bowl and stir with a wooden spoon until smooth and glossy. Stirring makes it thick and smooth.


Pour the chocolate icing over the top of the cake and spread with a spatula to cover the cake completely. Work as quickly as possible as to get the smoothest surface. Let stand until the icing is set (about 20 minutes) Lift the cake with two flat spatulas onto a serving plate. ..

NOW… if you want to get fancy (and who doesn’t?) you can melt a little chocolate and pipe it over the top to write out “sachertorte” or some pretty designs. Feel free to thin the chocolate out a little with a pinch of coconut oil or shortening. I used semisweet chocolate for my writing so it would show up better against the dark chocolate glaze. It really looks just a pretty without it so don’t stress yourself out if you are afraid of piping on your now beautiful cake.

Serve with a large dollop of whipped cream. Enjoy!!!



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Wow- what a fun bakers challenge this month!  Baumkuchen (which translated to tree cake) is a cake that is traditionally cooked on a spit, with a thin layer of batter spread on, then cooked, then another thin layer of batter, cooked, and so on, until many layers (as many as 30) are built up. It is then taken off the spit and stood upright. When cut into the slices look like the many rings of a tree. This cake is also extremely popular is Asia during weddings since it looks like a ring. During the 18th & 19th centuries these cakes were very popular in Europe, sometimes with 300 (!) eggs being used for a big occasion.

Since not many people own a spit, for this months Bakers Challenge, Francijn , from “Koken in de Brouwerij gave us  simpler version to try,  which is Schichttorte (layered cake, Schicht means layer). This is a simple version of Baumkuchen, with horizontal layers. The layers in Schichttorte are not dipped, but smeared, and the cake is not baked on a spit, but in a baking mould (tin) (pan) producing a flat multi-layered cake. It is Schichttorte that we will be baking for this month’s challenge.

I have two old pastry books that have information about Baumkuchen but I never thought I would be giving it a go, even in a modified version. My first version was made using Francijn’s recipe. It was moist and delicious, thanks to almond paste and 6 eggs. This cake definitely improves with age. The big problem with this cake? I didn’t brown it enough on top to get the distinct layered look.DSC_3868
And this is 10 layers of batter!. I was so afraid of burning it and drying it out that I lost the effect. I also had the oven rack in the middle of the oven when it should have been on the top, closer to the top burner. Not all was lost though, since it was really tasty. Next time I will try it with the oven on broil and see what happens.

For my next version, I decided to use a recipe from my own pastry book, Traditional Cakes and Pastries by Barbara Maher. This book is out of print, unfortunately. I used a 6 inch square pan for this one, so I halved the recipe (less temptation). A few tablespoons of cocoa powder went into half of that batter and orange zest (& a drop of color) into the other half.

Each layer takes about 4 minutes to cook so this is not a cake to make when you are busy doing other things. It’s also very easy – it just takes time. Bake On!


Prepare a  10-inch (25 cm) spring form pan or a 8×10-inch (20×25 cm) cake pan
Makes 12 pieces


6 large eggs (room temperature)
pinch of salt
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (150 ml) (4-1/4 oz) (120 gm) granulated sugar
2/3 cup (160 ml) (5-1/3 oz) (150 gm) marzipan
1 cup minus 2 tablespoons (1-3/4 sticks) (7 oz) (200 gm) softened unsalted butter
3/4 cup (180 ml) (3-1/2 oz) (100 gm) confectioner’s (icing) sugar
2 teaspoons (10 ml) (1 package) (8 grams) vanilla sugar or granulated sugar
2/3 cup (160 ml) (3-1/2 oz) (100 gm) all-purpose flour (sifted)

1/3 cup (80 ml) (3½ oz) (100 gm) apricot jam
2 tablespoons (30 ml) orange liqueur (optional)
1 cup (240 ml) (7 oz) (200 gm) dark chocolate couverture chunks
1 tablespoon (15 ml) pure coconut oil

oil to grease your pan parchment paper 10-inch (25 cm) spring form pan / 8×10 inch (20×25 cm) cake tin

Directions: Preheat your oven to hot 450°F/230°C/gas mark 8. Line your cake tin with parchment paper, grease both paper and pan.

Separate the eggs.

Beat the egg whites with the salt until nearly stiff, add the sugar and beat until really stiff.  Finely crumble the marzipan and beat it with the softened butter, confectioner’s (icing) sugar and vanilla sugar until soft and creamy. Add the egg yolks one by one and beat well between each addition. Add the stiff egg whites and flour and gently fold it into the batter, trying not to lose too much air.

Smear 1/12th to 1/10th  of the batter (about 2 tablespoons) on the bottom of the pan, keep the sides of the pan clean, and bake for (about) 4 minutes in the oven, until it is cooked and brown. Take the pan out of the oven, smear the next portion of batter carefully over the first, and bake for another 4 minutes or until cooked and brown. Repeat until all batter is used. If you need to flatten a bubble insert a tooth pick or similar to deflate the bubble.This is only 2 tablespoons of batter
Let the cake cool down for a few minutes, take it out of the pan, remove the parchment paper and let the cake cool completely on a wired rack. Trim the edges.  Heat the jam a little, pass it through a sieve, and add the orange liqueur (optional). Cover the cake with the jam and let it cool.
Melt the chocolate with the coconut oil in a bowl above warm water. Pour it over the cake to cover completely, move the cake to a cool place and wait until the glaze is dry

Version 2
for a 6 inch square pan

125 g/4.5 oz butter, softened
125 g/4.5 oz granulated sugar
4 eggs, separated
1 tbsp. rum
25 g/1 oz ground almonds
65 g/2 1/4 oz AP flour, sifted
65 g/ 2 1/4 oz potato flour, sifted

2 Tablespoons cocoa and zest of 1 orange. One drop orange coloring, if desired.

follow the same mixing method as above except before adding the stiff egg whites, split the batter in half. I used a scale to make this very easy but by eye is fine too. Add the cocoa powder to one half, then the zest and coloring to the other half. Now fold half of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture and the other half of the egg whites into the orange mixture. Layer the batter and cook as above.

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The princess torte has been on my bucket list for some time now so I was tickled pink (notice my non traditional color) when I found what or Baker’s Challenge this month was . Our very talent host this month is Korena, of Korena in the Kitchen, and she chose the Swedish Prinsesstårta for us. Exciting, exciting, exciting… It has lovely  layers of sponge cake, jam, pastry cream and fluffy whipped cream all covered in a layer of marzipan. Is there anything not to like about this??? Oh, I guess that it doesn’t hurt that this cake is so damn pretty look at you almost don’t want to eat it. This is traditional covered in a green colored marzipan but I thought the pink reflect so much better with my flavor choices. The sponge cake is flavored with raspberries, the jam is rhubarb-raspberry, and the whipped cream is infused with rosewater. Everything pink for a princess. It is also supposed to be topped with a marzipan rose for decoration but I love to make gumpaste flowers so I chose to do this instead. Please check out Korena’s tutorial on the marzipan rose.

The best part about this is that it is actually” kind of”  easy to put together. The real challenge here is covering the cake with marzipan. If you have never covered a cake with this or fondant it can seem scary, but that should not hold you back from trying. It just takes a little practice. I bet this would be amazing assembled as a trifle if you too afraid of trying to cover the cake – but try it at least. Once you get the hang of it you will want to cover everything you bake. Well, maybe not, but you will be glad you know how to do this and it will impress your guests. Hey did you know that the princess torte is as popular in Finland as well as Sweden – so much so that the third week in September is officially Prinsesstårta Week. Oh, the things we learn….

So, it’s best to break this cake down into components so that when you are ready to assemble everything is ready to go. First is the marzipan covering the cake. Marzipan is a sort of sweeter version of almond paste. Almond paste is made with granulated sugar and marzipan is made with confectioners sugar (a lot of it). You can buy marzipan but it is pretty expensive and it’s  easy to make your own if you have a food processor. You can make it well ahead of time and keep it in the fridge until you are ready to use it.  You could even use fondant if almond allergies are an issue. Next is the custard; again,you make it up to 2 days in advance. The sponge cake can be baked the day ahead and that really just leaves the whipped cream, which should be made at time of assembly. DSC_2585Oh wait, and the jam. Any store-bought jam can be used though traditionally it is seedless raspberry jam. BUT, since rhubarb season is in full swing here (at least in my backyard) , I made my own rhubarb-raspberry spread. This allows me to control the sugar since I like my jam on the tart side and it only takes about 30 minutes to make. You just put fruit and some sugar in a pot and let it bubble away until soft. If it is too thin I will make a slurry of cornstarch and water and add a little bit to thicken it up.

I also stabilized the whipped cream. This is done by adding some dissolved gelatin to the cream and will keep your whipped cream good and sturdy for a few days. I highly recommend doing this step but it’s your choice.

I know this seems like a lot, but challenge yourself. It will be easier than you think. Read through the entire recipe (twice) before starting.  Bake On!


Egg-free Marzipan Recipe

(adapted from Cake Central)

4 oz (115 gm) ground almonds
8 oz (225 gm)  icing sugar
1/4 cup (60 ml) corn syrup
3/4 teaspoon (5 ml) almond extract
1 Tablespoon (15 ml) lemon juice or water

Place the ground almonds and icing sugar in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine and break up any lumps. Add the corn syrup and almond extract and pulse again to combine. The mixture should be quite dry and crumbly still.

With the food processor running, slowly drizzle in the lemon juice, stopping as soon as the mixture starts to clump together.Scrape the marzipan out onto a work surface and knead it into a ball. Wrap in plastic and chill overnight in the refrigerator to let the flavours ripen. Makes just over 1 lb.

Vanilla Custard

1 cup (240ml) heavy cream, divided (I used 1/2 cup heavy cream, 1/2 cup whole milk)
4 egg yolks from large eggs
2 tablespoons (30 ml) (15 gm) (½ oz) cornstarch
2 tablespoons (30 ml) (30 gm) (1 oz) granulated white sugar
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped (or 2 teaspoons (10 ml) vanilla extract)


In a medium bowl, whisk together the cornstarch, sugar, and egg yolks. Gradually whisk in ½ cup (120 ml) of heavy cream until smooth. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the remaining ½ cup (120 ml) of heavy cream and the scraped vanilla bean and bring just to the boiling point. Remove the vanilla bean pod, leaving behind the seeds. Slowly whisk the hot cream into the bowl with the egg mixture to temper the eggs. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and cook over medium-low heat, whisking constantly, until it becomes thick like pudding and just comes to a boil. The mixture must hit a boil for the cornstarch to properly thicken the custard, and also to cook out any starchy taste. If it starts to look curdled or lumpy, remove it from the heat and whisk vigorously until smooth, then return to the heat. As soon as it comes to a boil, remove it from the heat. If using vanilla extract, add it now. Strain the custard through a fine mesh sieve. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the top of the custard (to prevent a skin from forming ) and chill completely.

Sponge Cake

You will need a 9 inch springform panDSC_2579-001

Fine dry breadcrumbs for the pan (such as crushed panko) I did not have any breadcrumbs on hand so I used finely crushed rice krispies – they worked great!

4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup (240 ml) (225 gm) (8 oz)  granulated white sugar
½ cup (120 ml) (70 gm) (2½ oz) all-purpose (plain) flour
½ cup (120 ml) (65 gm) (2¼ oz) potato starch (or cornstarch, which is what I used)
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (5 gm) baking powder 1/8 teaspoon salt

For a raspberry version:

I added 4 Tablespoons  raspberry puree and 1 tsp natural raspberry extract . To compensate for the additional liquid I added 1 Tablespoon potato flour (which is not the same as potato starch)DSC_2624


1. Preheat the oven to moderate 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4 with a rack in the lower third of the oven. Thoroughly butter a 9” (23 cm) round springform pan, line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper, then butter the paper. Dust the buttered pan with enough breadcrumbs (or rice krispies!) to coat the bottom and sides, just like flouring a cake pan. Set aside. This gives the batter something to cling to as it rises during baking.

Place the eggs and granulated white sugar in a mixing bowl and beat on medium-high speed with an electric mixer or stand mixer with whisk attachment until the eggs are tripled in volume and very light coloured and fluffy, about 5 minutes. The mixture should fall from the beaters in thick ribbons. Don’t overbeat the eggs – once they form thick ribbons and stop growing in volume, stop beating.

Sift the all-purpose (plain) flour, potato starch (or cornstarch) , baking powder, and salt into a bowl, then sift the flour mixture over the whipped eggs. With a balloon whisk, fold the flour into the eggs until blended, keeping as much air in the batter as possible. Use large, gentle yet confident strokes, bringing batter from the bottom of the bowl to the top. Add the puree and extract, if using. Once mixed, the batter should be quite thick and smooth.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, spread it out evenly, and bake in the lower third of the preheated moderate 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4 oven for about 40 minutes or until golden brown on top, springy to the touch, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs sticking to it. Let the cake cool in the pan for a few minutes then run a knife around the edge and remove the sides of the springform pan. Don’t worry if it sinks a bit in the middle. Invert the cake onto a cooling rack and peel off the parchment paper. If the cake is lopsided, press gently to make it level, then allow it to cool completely before continuing. The cake can be made a day ahead and stored, well-wrapped in plastic, at a cool room temperature.


  • 2 cups (480 ml) heavy cream, chilled
    2 Tablespoons rosewater (if you want rose whipped cream)
    granulated white sugar, to taste (scant 1 tablespoon is plenty)
  • Sponge Cake, cooled
  • 1/3 cup (80 ml) seedless raspberry jam (or regular jam pressed through a sieve to remove seeds)
  • Vanilla Custard, chilled
  • Marzipan Covering and Rose Icing sugar, for rolling and dusting

Optional: melted chocolate, royal icing, or piping gel (for decorating)

In a large bowl, whip the heavy cream until soft peaks form. Add sugar to taste (keep in mind that the rest of the cake components are sweet, so the whipped cream should be very lightly sweetened at most) and continue whipping the cream until stiff. Stabilize it with the gelatin if desired. You want it to be sturdy enough to provide structure to the cake, but not over-whipped enough to make butter. Set the whipped cream aside.

With a long serrated knife, slice the sponge cake into three even layers. This cake is very delicate, so do this as carefully as possible. Use a gentle sawing motion to move the knife through the cake instead of trying to pull it through the cake. Use a spatula to help you lift off each layer after you cut it. Set aside the middle layer – this will become the top layer of the assembled cake as it is the most flexible and therefore easiest to bend into a dome over the whipped cream.2013-05-20

Place one of remaining layers on a cake board or serving platter and spread it evenly with the jam. Spread or pipe half the chilled custard over the jam in an even layer, leaving enough room around the edges so that it doesn’t spill over the sides of the cake. Top the custard with another layer of cake. Spread or pipe the remaining custard evenly over it, again leaving some room around the edges.  Reserve ½ cup (120 ml) of the stiffly whipped cream. Pile the rest into a mound on top of the custard. Spread it into a thick layer with a thin, flexible spatula or off-set spatula, then hold the spatula at an angle to shape the whipped cream into a dome, piling it up in the middle of the cake as much as possible.  Place the final layer of sponge cake (the one cut from the middle of the cake) on top of the whipped cream. Do not press on the top of the cake – instead, gently tuck the edges of the cake layer into the whipped cream, so that they are flush with the cream. This will create a smooth, seamless dome on top of the cake. Gently spread the reserved ½ cup (120 ml) of whipped cream over the entire cake to fill in any cracks and even out the surface. If necessary, refrigerate the cake to firm it up before continuing ( I did this for an hour before moving on).


Dust your work surface with icing sugar and press the marzipan into a 6-inch (15 cm) disc (knead it a bit to warm it up first). Coat both sides with icing sugar and roll it out into a 14” (35½ cm) diameter circle less than 1/8” (3 mm) thick. Use plenty of icing sugar to prevent it from sticking. Alternatively, you can roll the marzipan out between two wide sheets of parchment paper (still use plenty of icing sugar).
Use the rolling pin to drape the rolled-out marzipan sheet over the cake and smooth it around the cake gently with your hands.If it seems like it wants to fold or buckle around the cake, gently lift and stretch it away from the cake with one hand while smoothing it down with the other.DSC_2612

Trim the excess marzipan from the bottom of the cake with a paring knife or spatula blade. Dust the cake with icing sugar, then place the marzipan rose and leaves in the middle of the cake.
(You can also use melted chocolate, royal icing, or piping gel to pipe a design on top of the cake, if you wish.)

To serve, cut the cake into wedges with a large, sharp knife (run the blade under hot water and wipe it clean after every cut for neater slices). The cake can be served immediately but will be easier to slice after chilling in the refrigerator for at least an hour.The finished Prinsesstårta should be refrigerated until serving, and any leftovers refrigerated as well. Ideally the cake is eaten the day it is made, but will keep in the refrigerator for a day or so, after which it may lose its structural integrity and aesthetic appeal,but it will still taste good. If you stabilize your cream it will be picture perfect for at least 3 days.

Here is a cross-section diagram to illustrate the layered components of a prinsesstårta:

  • Marzipan                                 (top)
  • Sponge cake
  • Whipped cream
  • Custard/pastry cream
  • Sponge cake
  • Custard/pastry cream
  • Raspberry jam
  • Sponge cake                            (bottom)


These videos show some prinsesstårta variations (videos are in Swedish but the visual is very informative):Finally!

  • Hallonprinsesstårta, or raspberry prinsesstårta, made with custard, whipped cream flavoured with raspberry jam, whole raspberries, and topped with pink marzipan
  • Karl-Gustav tårta, made with custard, sliced banana, a chocolate-covered meringue disc replacing the middle layer of cake, and covered with yellow marzipan
  • Williamtårta, made with custard, poached pear, whipped cream, topped with marzipan, covered with a shiny chocolate glaze, and garnished with toasted sliced almonds

Thanks Korena for such  a great challenge!!

I forget to mention how perfect this worked out for my monthly dinner club. Since I wanted to make this for when I had company over I decided to have a Swedish theme. On the menu:

Swedish meatballs (of course) , handmade egg noodles, boiled potatoes with dill, cucumber salad, and roasted beets and apples.

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So I’m looking through a baking book the other day trying to find inspiration that will satisfy my need to bake something. I came across Lemon Brioche Doughnuts and thought “Perfect!”, but then suddenly remembered that I hadn’t checked yet  to see what was up for March from  the  Bread Baking Babes. Well. after finding out that  Lien was the host I was more than thrilled to see that she chose “Gateau a la creme” which is yummy brioche with a lemon custard filling. Talk about perfect timing. I was looking forward to making brioche since there hadn’t been any made since Christmas time. Buttery brioche baked in small pannetone papers are perfect gifts for people since they freeze beautifully and you can pull out one at a time without being tempted to eat an entire loaf of bread by yourself. Now it is March and it seems like a perfect time for brioche and this gateau is luscious and would be perfect for a Spring brunch (now all we need here in Calgary is Spring (as I look out at the snow on my lawn)).BBBuddies march 2013

After reading Lien’s recipe I was a little concerned about the small amount of eggs and butter (for brioche that is) but then when I started looking through my baking books I realized that there seems to be many variations on the quantity of these items.  One book uses 4 1/4 Cups of flour to 3 eggs, while another uses 4 1/2 Cups of flour and 6 eggs. Some recipes call for all  ingredients to be very cold, others for room temperature. Normally, I follow Peter Reinhardt’s recipe but now I think that in my near future a brioche bake-off is called for. The recipe Lien used has a relatively short kneading time, while it was my thought pattern that brioche (as well as panettone and stollen) needed a long kneading to fully develop the gluten structure so you get the “windowpane” effect. What was also interesting was that this version only called for the dough to chill in the fridge for about an hour and then you are ready to work with it, usually it chills overnight. Ahhh, the very perplexing world of enriched doughs….DSC_2421

In the end, I used Ciril Hitz’ version, and only because I wanted to put some dough into the freezer for later in the week (those doughnuts, remember?). His version actually has fewer eggs than the Raymond Blanc recipe – again, the mystery of it all – but it is so lovely to work with and to eat. A few people commented that Raymond’s recipe was a little dry so I went with this version to be on the safe side. It has a long chilling period, 6 hours in the freezer then 12 in the refrigerator, but it is really easy to make and patience is the only thing needed. Oh, and a standing mixer with a dough hook. At least for me. I was more than impressed to read that some of the BBB’s were kneading this by hand (I would never want to be cornered by one of them in a dark alley – arms of steel!), but in my opinion this is one of those doughs that a standing mixer is crucial. My Kitchenaid is over 20 years old and still works like a dream!

The filling is super simple to put together. It calls for 6 egg yolks (this is a good time to think about making macarons since you will have all those whites leftover), lemon juice, a little sugar and creme fraiche. Easy except I didn’t have any creme fraiche nor any heavy cream to make any, so I made mine with marscapone cheese. Yes, this is over the top indulgence, but boy did it work nicely. I only had 5 eggs left since I needed one for the egg wash so that would have to do (and it worked out fine). I found there was a little too much filling for the two small (about 7 inches around) brioche I made and I also filled one up too high which in turn made a burnt mess in my oven.

The seal of approval!

The seal of approval!

Would I recommend this? Yes. Was it easy? with a mixer, Yes.  Was is delicious? Totally, without being too sweet. (maybe I’ll have another piece right now just to make sure…) Bake On!

Please go to Liens post for the original recipe.

Gateau a la Creme

Brioche dough

yields four 7-inch gateau’s (or freeze half of the dough for up to 2 weeks for another use)

4 1/4 Cups (530g) All-purpose flourDSC_2401
1/4 Cup (50g) granulated sugar
4 tsp (14g) instant yeast (I used SAF Gold)
1 1/2 tsp (8g) salt
zest of 1 meyer lemon (use a regular lemon if you don’t have a meyer)
3/4 C (7 oz) whole milk
14 Tablespoons (200g) unsalted butter
1 whole egg
2 egg yolks

Egg wash (1 yolk,as needed – I double washed so I used almost the whole thing)
swedish pearl sugar (decoration, as needed- optional)

Crème filling

5 egg yolks
1/4 Cup + 2 teaspoons (60g) granulated sugar
1 meyer lemon, juice and zest (I also threw in the juice leftover from the zested lemon needed for the dough)
200 G marscapone cheese

Make sure that the milk, eggs, and butter are cold.

Place all of the ingredients, except the butter,into the bowl of your standing mixer. Mix at low-speed until it all comes together, form a solid mass, and cleans the sides of the bowl (about 5 minutes). While this is mixing, pound your butter with a rolling-pin to make it pliable. You are not warming up the butter, just making it easier to blend. Break it up into 4 or 5 pieces.  Alternately, you can cut the cold butter up into tiny cubes.DSC_2403

Increase the speed on your mixer to medium and start adding the butter, slowly and in stages (4 0r 5). Make sure that all of the butter is fully mixed in before adding the next batch of butter. Continue to mix until all of the butter is fully incorporated into the dough and you get a good gluten structure. This will take 10 to 20 minutes. You want to be able to stretch the dough thin enough to see through (the “windowpane”) without tearing the dough. Form the dough into a ball, wrap with plastic wrap and place in the freezer for at least 6 hours, or up to 2 weeks. I cut my dough in half so I would have 2 pieces – I used one and the other is still in the freezer.

The day before baking remove the dough from the freezer and transfer to the refrigerator for 12 hours.

When ready to bake remove the dough from the fridge and let it sit out for 20-30 minutes at room temperature. Cut the dough in half..Take half of the brioche dough and bring it together with the palms of your hands to form a ball, then place it on a parchment lined baking tray and flatten it slightly. Starting from the middle of the dough, gently press the dough flat and spread it out to form a circle to approx 7 inches  in diameter, but leave about a 1 inch gap from the edge as this will create the rim of the tart. DSC_2404

Be careful not to stretch the dough and try to keep the base even in thickness. Use the second half of the dough for another gateau. I made the error on one of mine by making the rim too thin and then pouring in too much filling which of course made a mess in the oven….


Cover these with greased plastic and a kitchen towel and let rest for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, pre-heat your oven to 350F

For the crème filling, mix the egg yolks, sugar, lemon zest and juice together in a mixing bowl and gradually mix in the marscapone cheese. Set aside  until ready to fill.


When you are ready to bake, brush the rims of your bread with the egg wash and sprinkle with the pearl sugar , if using. Pour some of the creme mixture into the middle about 1/3 way up. Pour the rest in (about 3/4 way up) when you have it in the oven so you don’t spill it all over when transferring it. Bake for 25 minutes or until golden and the filling is set. Cool completely, or serve slightly warm. Enjoy!


The Bread Baking Babes

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What a tasty treat from the Bread Baking Babes for January!  Elle, from Feeding My Ethusiasms chose fantans, a little single portion of deliciousness. |In the past I have made Flo Braker’s Lemon Pull Apart bread (to die for), which is really just a giant version of this so I was eager to give these individual babies a try. While the recipe was for jam filled fantans, I still has some leftover speculaas spices from the Gevulde Speculaas I made last week  that I knew would be perfect for something like this. I just mixed the potent spice blend with some sugar that made a spicy  cinnamon roll effect treat. With a slathering of cream cheese frosting these were outstanding!

I definitely want to try a savory version next time since I think these would be great for a side of soup but in the meantime I am trying desperately not to eat the entire pan these delicious buns. Bake On!

At least 4 hours ahead prepare the starter (I did this the night before):

1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup water
2 1/4 teaspoons (1 packet) active dry yeast

Stir together until well blended, cover with plastic wrap and set aside until later.

Dough Ingredients:BBBuddies_Jan_2013
2 – 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat bread flour
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1 cup non fat evaporated milk
¼ cup (1/2 stick) butter
¼ cup honey
1 egg, lightly beaten
½ teaspoon vanilla
6 tablespoons + 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, divided

1/4 Cup + 2 Tablespoons dark brown sugar, packed
1/4 Cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons speculaas spice mixture


Sift 1 cup of the all-purpose flour, the 1 cup of whole wheat bread flour, salt, and nutmeg into a large mixing bowl. Stir until well blended. Set aside.

Placed evaporated milk, butter and honey into a saucepan and heat until butter is nearly melted. Remove from heat. Stir a few minutes to help mixture cool. Let cool to 110 degrees F.

Add the starter mixture to milk mixture, then add milk mixture to flour mixture; beat well. Add egg and vanilla; stir until blended. Add 1 cup all-purpose flour, stir until thoroughly incorporated. Gradually add enough of the remaining flour to make a soft, tacky dough.

In a standing mixer with the dough hook attachment,knead for 3 minutes or until dough is smooth and silky. If doing by hand, lightly flour your work surface and knead for about 5 minutes adding additional flour if needed, but only enough to keep it from sticking too much.) Place in oiled bowl, turn dough to lightly coat with oil. Cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm place to rise for 1 ½ to 2 hours. I tend to place my dough in my bottom oven with a bowl of steaming water along side of it. This provides a warm, moist environment for the dough to rise.DSC_1952

Dust your work surface with flour. Punch down the dough, then half it. Roll one half into a 12×12-inch square. Brush dough with half the melted butter. Score the bottom every two inches so you can cut even strips. Cut one two-inch wide strip off and set aside.DSC_1954

Spread the surface of the remaining rolled out dough with  1/2 of the speculaas sugar filling. Remember, don’t put the filling on the  1/6 plain strip. This will allow you to have a plain side of dough on each side of the roll touching the muffin cup. Cut into 5 equal strips, then stack the strips on top of each other with the plain strip on top. You will now have 6 layers.  Cut through the layers into 6 equal pieces, then place each into a buttered muffin cup, standing up so the layers are visible. Gently fan them open. Each will have six dough pieces with marmalade or other filling in between. Repeat with the remaining dough and the rest of the marmalade for the other six cups of the muffin tin.DSC_1955

Cover with a clean dish towel and let the rolls rise in a draft free spot at warm room temperature until the dough doubles, about 1 to 1-1/2 hours. I actually covered mine with plastic wrap and put them in the fridge for about 2 1/2 hours since I had to go out. I then just let them come to room tempeture and “wake up” for an hour before baking.

Place the rack in the middle and preheat the oven to 375° F/190° C.


Remove the towel and bake the rolls until they are golden brown, about 20 to 25 minutes. Cool in the pan ten minutes, then transfer to a rack and allow to cool for about another 20 minutes before serving. If desired, make a simple cream cheese glaze by mixing together cream cheese, confectioners sugar and cream until smooth  then drizzle over the fantails while still warm. Enjoy!


Please visit all of The Bread Baking Babes to check out their awesome work:

Bake My Day – Karen
Bitchin’ Bread Baking Babe Bibliothécaire – Katie
blog from OUR kitchen – Elizabeth
Feeding my enthusiasms – Elle
Life’s A Feast – Jamie
Living in the Kitchen with Puppies – Natashya
Lucullian Delights – Ilva
My Kitchen In Half Cups – Tanna
Notitie Van Lien – Lien
Paulchens Foodblog – Astrid
Provecho Peru – Gretchen

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The January Daring Bakers challenge was hosted by Francijn from Koken in de Brouwerij (cooking in the brewery), all the way the Netherlands. She chose a traditional Dutch treat called Gevulde Speculaas (which I am told translates to stuffed spice). The speculaas is a spice blend (you know how cookie butter is all the rage? that is speculaas spice you are drooling over) that is unique like curry powder – every one can be different depending on who’s making it. Cinnamon is the major player here but the team consists of many including, nutmeg, ginger, mace, cardamom, white pepper, anise, clove, coriander… you get the picture. It’s warm, spicy and mellow all at the same time.  Anyway, the dough for this cake is infused with the heady mixture and then it is stuffed with almond paste. Seriously, doesn’t just the thought of almond paste get you salivating?DSC_1928  Overall, this was fun and easy to make. Wait, I take that back. I have been making my own almond paste exclusively for many years now  and almost always have some in the freezer.(Funny sidenote: I actually put 2 pounds of almond paste in my suitcase to bring to my mothers in New York just this past December!) It can seem scary at first but if you own a food processor than you too can make almond paste. This will be the hardest part of this recipe and it’s not hard at all!! Oh, I forgot to mention how cheap it is compared to store-bought. Once you make it yourself I doubt that you will ever buy store-bought after that . It is never quite as smooth as store-bought but unless you are modelling with it you won’t notice the difference and the flavor is so much better. One more thing on making almond paste – you must use blanched almonds = almonds without the skin on. There are two ways to go about this; boil up a pot of water and then add a few cups of almonds. Let them boil 3 or 4  minutes then drain. Once cool enough to handle, the skins will slide off easily. Then you need to let the almonds thoroughly (like for a few days) OR, you can be really lazy like me and buy the big giant bag of blanched, sliced almonds sold at Costco. These take virtually no time at all to process down to a fine powder. You do what works best for you. Believe I have skinned many pounds of almonds in my time.

Okay, so there are three elements to this challenge: mixing up some speculaas spice, making almond paste, and preparing the dough. The almond paste and the dough can be prepared a few days in advance if you like (this really gives the spices a chance to develop), but you can also whip this up in a jiffy as well. Bake On!

Speculaas Spice blend

This is the blend I made up but please feel free to make up your own. All spices are ground before starting

8 teaspoons cinnamonDSC_1937
2 teaspoons nutmeg
2 teaspoons dried ginger
1 teaspoon cardamom
1 teaspoon clove
1 teaspoon anise seed
1 teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon coriander

mix everything together and store in an airtight container.

Almond Paste

Francijns recipe: (I actually used this one for the cake so as to stay true to her recipe)

7/8 cup (210 ml)(125 gm)(4½ oz) raw almonds (or 1-1/3 cups (320 ml)(125 gm) (4½ oz) ground almonds)
5/8 cup (150 ml) (125 grams) (4½ oz) granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (3 gm) lemon zest

Grind the almonds for one or two minutes in a food processor, until you see nothing but very small pieces. (Or skip this step if you use ground almonds.)
Add the sugar, and grind for another one or two minutes. It must be very fine after this step.
Add the egg and let the food processor combine it – if it is powerful enough. Otherwise you will have to combine it with your fingers.

My usual recipe:

1  cup blanched almondsDSC_1922
1 cup confectioners (powdered sugar)
3 Tablespoons light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon rose-water
dash almond extract

Place the almonds and a few tablespoons of the sugar in the bowl of a large food processor and whirl until it is a fine powder. Add the remaining sugar and start the machine. Add the rose-water and extract. Drizzle in the light corn syrup until it comes together and forms a smooth ball.

You can store this in thee fridge for a few weeks or months in the freezer.

I use a scale to measure out equal parts blanched almonds and confectioners (powdered) sugar so I can make large or small amounts. I tend to eyeball the light corn syrup and add little by little until I get the consistency I want. (I told you this was easy…)


1 ¾ cups (250 gm) (9 oz) all-purpose (plain) flourDSC_1923
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (5 gm) baking powder
¾ cup (150 grams) (5-1/3 oz) brown sugar, firmly packed
a pinch salt
2 tablespoons (30 ml) (15 gm) (½ oz) speculaas spices
3/4 cup (1½ stick) (175 gm) (6 oz) unsalted butter, softened

Put flour, baking powder, sugar, salt and spices in a bowl. Cut the butter in dices and add. Knead until smooth. Feel free to add a little milk if the dough is too dry. Wrap in plastic wrap and put in the refrigerator for two hours. I used my standing mixer to do this and I did need to add a little less than 1/4 cup of milk to my dough. I then let it sit in the fridge overnight.

You can choose to make the dough a few days in advance, just like the almond paste, that will benefit the flavor.

Assembling and baking the Gevulde Speculaas

Ingredients: speculaas dough, almond paste, 1 large egg, and blanched almonds for decorating (optional)

shallow baking pan, 8×10 inch (20×26 cm) or, round with of diameter 10 inch (26 cm)

Grease the pan. Preheat the oven to  350°F/180°C/gas 4

Divide the dough into two portions.


Roll out both portions on a lightly floured surface, until they are exactly the same size as the baking pan. Put one of the layers in the pan and press it lightly to fill the bottom.

Lightly beat the egg with a teaspoon cold water and brush  1/3 of the egg over the dough in the pan.

Roll out the almond paste between two sheets of parchment, until it is exactly as big as the pan, and put it on the dough in the pan. (If you chose to make the paste soft, you can smear the paste instead of rolling it.) Press the paste lightly down to fit in the pan, and brush the next 1/3 of the egg over it. Place  the second layer of dough on top of the paste, press it lightly, and make as smooth as possible. Brush the last 1/3 of the egg over the dough. and decorate the pastry with the almonds, if you like. I sprinkled swedish pearl sugar down the center of my large one with just a few almonds slices down the sides. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool completely. Enjoy!


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