Chocolate Stout Cake

Seattle has seen one of the most dreary winters since I moved here, but Spring is coming – slowly but surely. In the mean time, gotta keep our spirits up with some sweet, rich chocolate cake. 33775845846_fb0dedf912_k

I have not baked since the Holidays last year, trying to be “healthier”, but for St. Patty’s Day – I wanted to flex my baking muscles again and get to some new recipes. I reviewed a bunch of chocolate stout recipes and decided to use Smitten Kitchen’s Chocolate Stout Cake as a guide. 33686952111_0d09917646_kI could have used good ol’ Guinness, but living in Seattle means having a lot of unique beers at hand. Because I’m such a coffee addict, I was super excited to use this Elysian Espresso Stout.  33775851426_4ddace117c_kWhisked the butter (sooooooo much butteerrrrrrrr!) with the stout and cocoa powder. This makes your kitchen smell amazaballs. 33686951321_0bc727cae5_kSeparately mix the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt) into the mixed liquids (egg and sour cream). 33660272562_e34de53fc5_kThen lastly, mix the stout mixture (after cooling a bit) into the batter. Fold gently with a spatula. For my recipe, I poured it into a 9 in. springform pan. Smitten Kitchen uses a bundt cake pan, but mine was too small and I wanted to make more of a simple round cake. 33431605210_696783f270_k

I’ve made the recipe twice now and for some reason 35 minutes from the original blog is not enough, I would recommend an additional 10-15 minutes. It came out super dense, rich, and deeply chocolatey. The stout gives it a nutty and creamy taste, unlike the traditional sweet light chocolate cake.
33003329843_39dd54025a_kPart 2! As the cake cools on the rack, it’s time to make the ganache! I’m excited, but nervous because I don’t have a lot of experience making this. 33003330723_ca280103c0_kI had to carefully improvise since I do not have a double boiler, I used a heatproof bowl over a pot of boiling water….eekkks! I stirred everything very carefully until it became a smooth chocolate sauce. 33686947831_44244c1b77_k

33686944441_10aeaba0d1_kWith the cake on a cooling rack, place a sheet or large plate underneath to catch the excess ganache. Take the ganache and pour it on to the middle of the cake, using a flat knife/spatula – spread the ganache over the sides and let it drip off the sides.

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The ganache cools and starts to solidify pretty quickly, so work without hesitation (even if you’ve never done this before). Smooth out the sides and the top with your knife while the ganache is still malleable, this will ensure a lovely smooth finish on the cake.

As you can see, I still need some practice and I found out there were still some chocolate chunks in the ganache. Hey, this just means I need to make more chocolate cakes huh?  33003326613_09bf4b7a06_k

Mini Pumpkin Cheesecakes with Vanilla Wafter Crust

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Hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving full of laughs and delicious food. I stayed in Seattle again this year and went to a Friendsgiving on Friday. Of course, while I was studying and writing papers, my breaks were recipe hunting for a good dessert to bring to the table. While I could have brought a healthy quinoa salad, I decided to go with a pumpkin dessert (again). This is my first time making flavored cheesecake! I decided to adapt this Mini Pumpkin Cheesecakes with a cookie crust recipe from Love From the Oven blog. Easy enough to make but just decadent enough to impress.

This recipe comes in 3 “phases” – the crust, the cheesecake, and the topping! Definitely recommend making the crust and base a day before so you don’t have to rush around the kitchen the day of. NOTE: I doubled the recipe to make about 18 muffin tin-sized cheesecakes. The original recipe was a little different due to different mold sizes.

First up: the crust! 

You will need:

  • one box of vanilla wafers or 48 gingersnap cookies (my grocery store didn’t have gingersnap cookies!)
  • 3 tablespoons of melted butter (should be Unsalted but I grabbed the wrong one in the pre-TG supermarket frenzy)

23330523595_12e8d78637_oI don’t have a food processor, but have no fear, you can do it the good old fashion way: a large ziplock bag and a rolling pin. An awesome arm workout. I did have to separate the crumbs a few times to make sure I did not have big pieces left.

23330521065_95dfb89672_oMelt the butter is a small saucepan on low heat just long enough that it’s all melted, you don’t want it to bubble. Let it cool for 5 mins. Slowly mix the butter into the wafer crumbs until there’s no dry crumb spots.
23311351986_b81221b51c_oScoop about 1 heaping tablespoon of crumbs into muffin tins (either slightly greased or with paper liners). I love more crust for more texture to balance out the richness of cheesecake but feel free to put in more or less. I loved this shot glass trick from Love From the Oven to make flat, even, tightly packed crusts. Put your crusts into the fridge for about 1 hour. 22969548589_242d5d1642_o

Phase 2: the pumpkin cheesecake! 

You will need:

  • 2 (8 oz each) packages of cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs

23101607800_a822b756c7_oPut the cream cheese, sugar, pumpkin, vanilla, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice into a mixing bowl and beat on medium speed until smooth. Add the eggs, one at a time, and mix well.
Preheat the oven for 350ºF.

Scoop the batter on top of the firm crusts, up to you how big you want the cakes to be, they don’t expand very much so however much batter you scoop in is how the big cakes will be. Bake for 25 mins. Take them out of the oven and let them cool for about 1 hour and place them in the fridge for at least 2 hours or overnight!

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Phase 3: the topping(s)! 

Okay this part is totally optional, those cheesecakes are ready for palette pleasure, but for presentation’s sake – I wanted to go all out with the cream (it’s Thanksgiving after all!). Whipped cream from a spray bottle melts after awhile and knowing these cakes were going to sit out on a potluck table, I wanted something that would hold shape but still be light and fluffy. I bagged some whipped topping and just pipped them right on, took less than 5 mins! 23371272136_8e5fdeb269_oI did not want to overwhelm the presentation or make it too messy to eat so I used Trader Joe’s Cinnamon Sugar mix grinder and gave 1-2 twists over each cake for a pretty crystal sugar sparkle.
Of course, go crazy creative with the toppings as you want. Use chocolate shavings, cocoa powder, toffee bits, leftover vanilla wafer crumbles, or Fall-themed sprinkles!

The results are perfect layers of sweet and crunchy, rich and smooth, and light and fluffy! 23101290180_cceba05a21_o

French Apple Cake

 

This French Apple Cake, or “Gateau aux Pommes“, from Food Network is simple to make but like anything French- feels kinda fancy. This cake is dense without feeling heavy, delicately sweet without frosting or cream, and has a nice rustic look to it. I imagine packing this on a picnic!

I bought too many apples and found this delicious way of getting rid of some.

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Pre-heat your oven to 400ºF.

For the cake you’ll need:

  • 9 inch springform cake pan, buttered
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup whole milk (needs whole if you want that rich luxurious cake texture)
  • 4 baking apples (about 2 lbs) – peeled and cut into small wedges or squares
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)

Take a large mixing bowl and combine your dry ingredients: flour, sugar, baking powder, salt.

Add your wet ingredients one-by-one: vanilla, beaten eggs, oil, whole milk- blend.
2014-12-13 20.34.48While not crucial, I would recommend dicing your apples AFTER you mix your ingredients so they don’t start browning. I personally added about 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon and coated the apples.

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Add the apples to the batter and make sure it’s well-mixed and coated. Then pour the mixture into the prepared springform pan. Bake for about 25 minutes or until the the cake looks firm and the top is golden. 2014-12-13 20.56.14

Not done yet! To create an awesome sweet crispy, creme-brulee-like top mix in a small bowl:

  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 3 tablespoons of melted unsalted butter

2014-12-13 21.17.46Take out the cake from the oven and immediately pour the topping mixture gently and evenly over the cake.

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Return to the oven and bake for another 10 minutes until the top has a medium golden brown color like creme brûlée. Take the cake out of the oven and cool on a rack until it’s room temperature (it will be very tempting to try a piece earlier!). 2014-12-13 21.59.04

Run a knife around the sides of the pan and release and remove the springform side. Serve and enjoy with a side of freshly whipped cream! 2014-12-14 09.16.26

Japanese-style Cheesecake in a Rice Cooker!

This is going to be my last post of 2014! I had this recipe bookmarked for a long time and just kept putting it off until the end of the year! It’s a perfect light dessert to end the year with (before we start on all those resolutions…).

When I was a kid, I used to love love New York-style cheesecake- with its crunchy sweet crust and dense, rich creamy cheese layer- I would eat it every chance I got. Over the years I started thinking the regular cheesecakes were too sweet, too rich, and too unhealthy. I did continue to love the Japanese-style “sponge” cheesecakes that you can find pre-packaged at Asian supermarkets for $2-3. They were crustless, super fluffy and light, with a hint of sweetness and cheese. Japanese cheesecakes are also usually made steamed or baked.

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This was one of those rare occasions I set out to find a recipe for something specific I wanted to make. I found Namekkoseijin’s Ultra-Easy Cheesecake in a Rice Cooker Recipe from Cookpad Japan.

IMG_0466You will need:

  • 2 eggs
  • 40 g (for light sweetness), 60-80 g (normal sweetness), or 100 g (sweet!)
  • 2 tablespoons of lemon juice
  • 200 g of cream cheese
  • 200 ml of heavy cream (or milk)
  • 40 g of pancake mix (or cake flour)

IMG_0465There’s no easy way to convert the measurements so I busted out my trusty kitchen scale. This is 100 g of sugar shown here (I have a sweet tooth!).

IMG_0467My cat, Tenshi, makes here first appearance on Sweet Therapy. I know having a cat in the kitchen is not too sanitary, but she was super curious about my Kitchen Aid mixer. I had forgotten to thaw the cream cheese so I microwaved the block for about 30 seconds in 10 second intervals and stirring. I added the eggs, lemon juice and sugar and blended until it looked smooth with no chunks.

IMG_0468I added the pancake flour and the cream, spoonfuls at a time and switching between the ingredients. Mix until it is well blended and smooth, if you have a sieve- it is recommended to run it through for a smooth texture. The mixture should still be very thin and watery.

IMG_0471Pour the mixture into a rice cooker (no need to butter or grease the bowl) and hit the cook button! I don’t have a fancy Asian rice cooker, I’m still using the one I used in college that I’m pretty sure I bought in a drug store. I found my rice cooker going to “warm” when clearly the cake was not even solid yet. I had to hit the “cook” button for about 10 times until the cake was solid enough. Stick a toothpick or wooden chopstick in to make sure it comes out clean. 

IMG_0473In the Cookpad recipe, you are suppose to remove the rice cooker bowl, cover it with plastic wrap and cool until room temperature. When it’s cool, place a plate (or use your hand) into the container and flip the whole thing right side up onto the plate.

Well…I got too excited and tried to flip the cake early while it was still pretty warm and I was distracted talking so my cake literally fell apart! It’s a very soft, delicate cake so please wait! I managed to salvage a few pieces for pictures. IMG_0475My cheesecake was still a bit undercooked, but a perfect taste of sweetness and has much more cheese flavor than the store bought cakes. It’s a perfect post-dinner dessert that won’t fill you up but will satisfy your sweet tooth.

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Have a happy and safe New Year’s Eve! 

May your new year be filled with love, joy, good people and good food! ~ Sweet Therapy

2 (okay more like 4) Minute Chocolate Mug Cake

I’ve been wanting to try these “mug recipes” that pop up on my Facebook newsfeed- amazing meals and treats that you cook and eat in your friggin’ mug!! Good news for those college students in dorms! No excuses- all you have to do is mix and let your chef microwave do the work!

Plus- keeps the clean up to a minimum.

I borrowed this super-easy recipe from I Am a Food Blog: 2 Minute Chocolate Mug Cake Recipe. Doubling the recipe because I have a feeling I won’t be sharing!

2014-06-16 21.18.37First find a slightly larger microwavable mug (you want a bigger mug because the batter does rise and could spill over a little.)

Stir together 1 egg, 3 tablespoons of milk, 3 tablespoons of oil (coconut, vegetable, canola, etc.)

2014-06-16 21.28.39Mix in 3 tablespoons of flour, 1/4 cup sugar (I know it’s a LOT of sugar proportionally- so I’d say you can use less), 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder. Stir until well mixed. Lastly, add a splash of vanilla extract and 2 tablespoons of chocolate chips. Give it a few good stirs.

2014-06-16 21.28.49Depending on your microwave’s power-you’ll “bake” it in there for 2-4 minutes. I had to do 4 minutes because I have a dinky cheap microwave (that I need to clean…..I know I know.) At 2 minutes it still looked really softed, so I left it in longer. It was pretty firm, so maybe next time 3- 3 1/2 minutes would have been good too. Place a plate underneath to ensure no messy spillage in the microwave.

2014-06-16 21.36.31There it is, my first mug cake! It’s hot, definitely use mitts and let it cool for 5 minutes.

2014-06-16 21.52.48Enjoy it any way you like, this is a very basic chocolate cake you can eat straight from the mug with a spoon. Or you can jazz it up in all sorts of ways. Consider adding:

  • sprinkles (can’t go wrong with sprinkles)
  • whip cream
  • a scoop of ice cream
  • caramel sauce
  • banana slices/ fruit
  • nutella
  • walnuts
  • bacon bits
  • sea salt
  • All of the above.

2014-06-16 21.51.49It falls out pretty easily from the mug if you want to put it on a plate. It’s almost like an upside-down cake with the melted chocolate chips that fell to the bottom giving the top an extra creamy sweetness. The cake is very dense and fudgy. I’m so intrigued by the idea baking with oven-alternatives!

2014-06-16 21.53.11-1All good things come to those who wait, but no need to wait long for chocolate cake!

Wilton Course 2: Flower and Cake Design (Day 3 & 4)

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Week 3 of the Wilton Course 2 was pretty much more practice of making flowers, that week: bright sunny daffodils and delicate little violets – both great for the upcoming spring season!

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One the last class, we got to bring what we learned in the past few weeks all together. At home we designed and planned what cake design we wanted (well at least we were supposed to, I wasn’t a very good prepared student). We practiced and made more flowers at home and let them harden to bring to class. I decided to make a simple violet cake.

I over mixed my cake batter and it came out with a giant dome that I had to even out with a knife, unfortunately I realized I should really invest in a cake leveler. Thankfully most flaws were hidden by layers upon layers of icing! We started off learning to do a basket weave design to cover the cake up, it was surprisingly easy and creates a complex-looking design on the cake. The picture of the cake slice below will reveal the ridiculous amount of icing used.

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I started by adding the large violets in a bunch as the center piece of the cake. Then I started “sticking” the little violets to the sides as “randomly-even” as possible all around the cake.

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After making sure the flowers were where I wanted them to be, I piped little leaves and foliage to give it some color. Makes a big difference!

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This was a cake to look at not to eat, it definitely was a super-sweet cake and I sadly ended up tossing most of it. I know I still have a long way to go, but even practicing this takes real dedicated time, effort and lots of money buy supplies (and a lot of dish washing!)

Wilton Course 2: Flowers and Cake Design (Day 1)

After a crazy past couple of months, I finally felt like I had enough free time to sign up for more Wilton cake classes at Michael’s! For just $20 I am taking a 2 hour class every Wednesday this month. The instructor was Gloria again, she’s really sweet and remembered me from my the first course I took. I was surprised to find out that the class was just me and one other student…$20 for a semi-private cake class yay! Though this time I was disappointed to find out that now Michael’s requires students to purchase their own course booklets (last time it was provided by the class).
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We wasted no time and jumped right into trying out gum paste and fondant. We mixed some fondant (looked like bars of play dough) and gum paste (lives up to the name) and tried out the Cut-n-Press Set. 2014-02-05 18.42.33It was fast and easy to make these adorable little button flowers- great for a kid’s birthday cake!

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I got to use lots of new tools from cake tool kit to make these pansies- really pretty and delicate! I did not get to take a lot of pictures in class, because my hands were stained by the pink fondant!

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It’s pretty amazing what some colored gum paste and fondant can become with the right tools! I can tell already this class is going to be a lot of work, but I’m really excited to learn more!