Lemon Blueberry Cake

I’m clinging tenaciously to summer’s hem right now, about to topple off into fall. I do have a quiet excitement growing about the upcoming season — crisp air, pumpkins, spice cakes, pies, stews and chilis — but I’m just not ready yet. I need a few more months of summer dresses, fruity cupcakes, and flip flops (although, let’s be honest, I will continue wearing those well into winter).

Along with the end of summer, I’m facing the beginning of another school year teaching middle school English. Our teacher workdays start this coming week. Don’t get me wrong: my school is an absolute Utopia, and I’m excited to spend time with my students in our little classroom together. They’re experts at creating special moments: sometimes insightful, sweet, hilarious, and even absurd. I’ll listen them complain about (and sometimes start to care about) Shakespeare and Hemingway. We’ll laugh over Sei Shonagon’s scandalous Pillow Book. We’ll fold over a thousand paper cranes after reading Sadako’s story. I know it’ll be fun (I just have to convince them of that).

But right now, though the first day of school is still a week away, I’m overwhelmed. Mike and I have been squabbling while trying to make my chaotic mess of a classroom into a decent learning space. I have to make a thousand copies. I have to create a seating chart. I have to plan the first week of school. It’s no wonder that this week, rather than any particular food, I craved simplicity. When I saw the recipe for this Lemon Blueberry Cake, I knew it fit the bill. It’s an ode to summer with plump blueberries and tart lemon, and a simple recipe at that: mix, bake, glaze, eat!

The cake is buttery and moist, and the flavors are a great combination — I adore blueberries and lemons together, as you may already know. While it wasn’t the absolute best cake I’ve ever had, it was a nice dessert for the end to a crazy week. How satisfying, to crack the tart glaze with my fork and shovel a bite of dense, sweet cake into my mouth — and after only having baked for an hour or so! So while I’m not utterly astounded, I am pleased.

This cake would be perfect at a brunch, tea, or garden party, what with its fresh flavors. I’m not going to pretend I have brunches, teas, or garden parties, though; Mike and I will almost certainly devour it while watching Star Trek or something similar. I give you permission to do something more sophisticated with your lemon blueberry cake.

Lemon Blueberry Cake



Recipe by: Joy of Baking and Silent Auror (adapted by me)
Yields: about 8-10 pieces of cake

Ingredients:
1 cup (226 grams) butter, room temperature
1 cup (200 grams) granulated white sugar
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Zest of 1 large lemon
2 cups (280 grams) all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup (60 ml) fresh lemon juice
1-1.5 cup blueberries

Icing:
1 cup (115 grams) confectioners’ (powdered or icing) sugar, sifted
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Grease a 9″ springform pan or a 8″ round cake pan. Note: I used a 9″ round cake pan, because I’m a rebel.

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla extract and lemon zest.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt and then add to the batter along with the lemon juice. Mix only until incorporated, adding the blueberries at the very end.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake about 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Note: If you notice the cake is done on top but not in the middle, shield it with aluminum foil for the rest of the baking time. This happened around 35 minutes for me. Place on a wire rack to cool, then gently remove the cake from the pan. Wait until the cake is completely cool before icing.

For the icing, combine the sifted confectioners’ sugar with the 2 tablespoons lemon juice. (You want the icing to be thicker than a glaze but still thin enough that it will just run over the sides of the cake. If not the right consistency add more lemon juice or powdered sugar, accordingly.) Frost the top of the cake, allowing the icing to drip down the sides. Place blueberries over the top as you like.

Note: This cake is another of the many baked goods that tastes better after being refrigerated in an airtight container (such as a cake dome) overnight. The lemon and blueberry get a chance to mingle and chill.


In the oven, and then fresh out of the oven. My cake got a little darker than I wanted on top; keep an eye on it!


Enjoy!

As a side note, I’m “on the spot” this week at The Daring Kitchen — go and take a look!

Red Velvet and Oreo Kisses

Need a kiss? Everyone does sometimes, and these past few weeks, it was Mike. He’s been studying intensely for the math GRE this summer. He’s interested in stellar grad schools, so he needs to hit the ball (or the sphere, perhaps? or the open ball? or the unit circle? okay, enough with the bad math jokes) out of the park on this exam. I have complete faith in his ability to do so, but he needs some encouragement now and then. What’s better for encouragement than a little kiss? Well, maybe a BIG kiss!

I think I’ve mentioned before that Bakerella is one of my heroes. I love cuteness, and she’s the Queen of Cute. When I saw her Oreo Kisses, I knew they couldn’t wait until Valentine’s Day. They were the perfect surprise to lift Mike’s spirits.

In addition to Oreo, I decided to make some red velvet kisses. While the Oreo version is a no-bake combo of crushed cookies and cream cheese, the red velvet version is essentially a cake ball (or a cake cone in this case). You bake a cake, rip it up (heartbreaking, I know), add frosting, and form the mixture into balls (or cones, or hearts, or zebras) and dip into your candy coating (incidentally, if you try out the zebra shape, please do send a photo). Any flavor combination of cake and frosting will do. And don’t let the idea of baking a cake deter you; while I bake mine from scratch, cake mixes and canned frosting work just fine!


Oreo Kisses



Red Velvet Kisses

Dipping these kisses (or any cake ball) is always the most (ahem) interesting part of the process. I use Candiquik as my chocolate coating of choice, but you can use any chocolate bark or dipping chocolate. I don’t recommend baker’s chocolate or chocolate chips, however, as they don’t form the same hard shell. You should be able to find Candiquik at Lowes Food, SuperTarget, or (I recently discovered) Bloom.

Regarding the act of dipping itself, you’re going to have to get a little creative. Bakerella’s instructions (below) say to use a spoon to dip your kisses and then drain the excess chocolate against the side of the bowl. This hasn’t ever worked for me, though; I’ve used everything from forks to toothpicks to bamboo skewers to dip cake balls. I’ll go ahead and admit that I’ve had visions of standing on the counter lowering a cake ball into chocolate with dental floss (thankfully, I haven’t resorted to this just yet). For dipping these kisses, I used a two-tined grill fork to support the kiss while I spooned chocolate over it. I then let the excess drain off for a long while before sliding the kiss onto wax paper. When it was dry, I went back and re-dipped the bottom. You can try this technique, but the most important message to take home is this: experiment with your kitchen supplies. Necessity is the mother of invention and all that, so try any utensil that looks promising and keep your sense of humor!

One thing I love about these sweet kisses (apart from, oh, everything about them) is the messages you can attach. I used a word processing program (font: light blue, 14 point, Helvetica Neue Bold) to create the little strips of paper that sail out of each kiss. Get creative: you can label various kiss flavors; send encouragement, congratulations, and thank yous; or even say happy birthday. My wonderful Dad’s birthday is this coming Monday — the perfect occasion for a special message! Whether with Oreo kisses, cake kisses, or plain old hugs and kisses, tell someone you love them today!

Oreo Kisses


Recipe By: Bakerella (kisses decoration/assembly)
Yields: About 11 2-inch high kisses

Oreo Kisses Ingredients:
1 package oreo cookies (divided; use cookie including the cream center)
1 8-ounce package cream cheese (softened)
chocolate bark (chocolate candy coating)

Directions

1. Finely crush all but seven cookies in a food processor or place them in a ziploc bag and crush into a fine consistency. Note: As for the extra 7 cookies, just eat them. Or, if you have extra dipping chocolate, make some chocolate covered oreos.
2. Stir in softened cream cheese. Use the back of a large spoon to help mash the two together.
3. Roll the mixture into 1-2″ balls and place on wax paper covered cookie sheet.
4. Then, begin to form the shape of a kiss. Flattening the bottom and forming a point at the top. Note: mine ended up about 2 inches tall and 1.5 inches wide.
5. It helps to put the uncoated balls in the freezer for a few minutes to keep the mixture from starting to fall apart when you drop into the melted chocolate. Note: I refrigerated mine overnight and then froze for a couple of minutes before dipping.
6. Melt chocolate as directed on package and then dip “kisses” one at a time into chocolate, tap off extra and slide them off spoon onto wax paper covered cookie sheet to dry. Note: Dipping is often the most difficult part. These are Bakerella’s instructions, but find what works for you. Let your kitchen be your playground. Look through your utensils for useful tools, and be creative. I used a grill fork to hold my kisses while spooning chocolate over them, and then redipped the bottoms separately.

To decorate:
1. Handwrite your messages or create them on the computer. Cut out the strips (about 1/4″ tall and however wide you need).
2. Cut up some square sheets of aluminum foil (about 6″ square)
3. Place dry kiss in center and start wrapping the foil around the base. Insert message near top and secure it by pressing the foil together at top. Note: It really helps to use cheap foil here! The thinner and more malleable the better. Crush it a little first to make it more flexible.
4. Refrigerate in an airtight container.

Red Velvet Kisses


Recipe By:

Bakerella (kisses decoration/assembly)
-Mom (red velvet cake)
Paula Deen (cream cheese frosting)

Yields: About 28 2-inch high kisses

Red Velvet Cake Ingredients:
1/2 cup Crisco shortening
2 eggs
2 tablespoons cocoa
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup buttermilk
2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon white vinegar
2 ounces red food coloring
chocolate bark (chocolate candy coating; for kisses)

Cream Cheese Frosting Ingredients:
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 stick butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar

Directions

Make the cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream Crisco, sugar, and eggs. Make a paste of the cocoa and coloring and add to the Crisco mixture. Add salt and vanilla. Add buttermilk alternately with the flour, beginning and ending with flour. Mix vinegar and soda right before using and add to mixture by folding in. Pour batter into a 9 x 13 in. pan and bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes (check periodically, and if the edges are getting too done, you might want to shield them with foil while the middle continues to bake). Cool completely.

Make the frosting: In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese, butter and vanilla together until smooth. Add the sugar and on low speed, beat until incorporated. Increase the speed to high and mix until very light and fluffy.

Make the kisses:
1. After cake is cooked and cooled completely, crumble into large bowl.
2. Mix thoroughly with about 2 cups cream cheese frosting. (It may be easier to use fingers to mix together, but be warned it will get messy.)
3. Roll mixture into 1-2″ size balls and lay on cookie sheet.
4. Then, begin to form the shape of a kiss. Flattening the bottom and forming a point at the top. Note: mine ended up about 2 inches tall and 1.5 inches wide.
5. It helps to put the uncoated balls in the freezer for a few minutes to keep the mixture from starting to fall apart when you drop into the melted chocolate. Note: I refrigerated mine overnight and then froze for a couple of minutes before dipping.
6. Melt chocolate as directed on package and then dip “kisses” one at a time into chocolate, tap off extra and slide them off spoon onto wax paper covered cookie sheet to dry. Note: Dipping is often the most difficult part. These are Bakerella’s instructions, but find what works for you. Let your kitchen be your playground. Look through your utensils for useful tools, and be creative. I used a grill fork to hold my kisses while spooning chocolate over them, and then redipped the bottoms separately.

To decorate:
1. Handwrite your messages or create them on the computer. Cut out the strips (about 1/4″ tall and however wide you need).
2. Cut up some square sheets of aluminum foil (about 6″ square)
3. Place dry kiss in center and start wrapping the foil around the base. Insert message near top and secure it by pressing the foil together at top. Note: It really helps to use cheap foil here! The thinner and more malleable the better. Crush it a little first to make it more flexible.
4. Refrigerate in an airtight container.

Process Photos:


You may need to shield the sides of the red velvet cake if they’re done before the middle. I halved my cake recipe since I was making two kinds of kisses; if you do this, half the frosting too.


Shaped into cones and then dipping.


Cutting messages into strips.




Did I mention that they were giant?



XOXO


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Chocolate Cheesecake Stuffed Cupcakes with Ganache

I did some super secret daring baking this weekend, but I can’t do the big reveal until later in the month. I’m not too disappointed, though, because I have a stack of past baking endeavors just waiting for their internet debut. Like Chocolate Cheesecake Stuffed Cupcakes, for example.

These cupcakes — which are also floating around the internet as Black Bottom Cupcakes — remind me of the chocolate cake cookies Mike and I used to buy from the local grocery store and scarf down shamelessly. They had a cream cheese filling and when you heated them for a few seconds in the microwave, they were exquisite. In fact, I was secretly excited when Mike started eating less sugar, because that meant more cheesecake cookies for me! Oh sure, I would offer him some — but what a relief when he refused! Mike’s sugar abstinence aside, I knew I had to make these Chocolate Cheesecake Stuffed Cupcakes when I saw them. They were pure genius: moist chocolate cake AND creamy cheesecake combined in one cute cupcake! I was sure that even Mike with all his willpower wouldn’t be able to resist. I eagerly awaited the perfect occasion to make a batch.

I have a confession we may as well get out of the way: I’m a bit hokey. I like Scrabble. Mike and I are watching our way through Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. I collect Nancy Drew books even though I’m over 10 years old. I own and love those turtle plates above. And I adore theme dinners! You know, you pick a theme ingredient or idea and create dishes to match. I finally got my chance to make the cupcakes as part of one of these very dinners. The theme was “stuffed,” so we dined on my semi-homemade Taco Stuffed Crescent Rolls (one of Mike’s favorites), a pan of hearty stuffed portobello mushrooms, and last but not least, the Chocolate Cheesecake Stuffed Cupcakes.


“Stuffed” Dinner — after which we were stuffed!

Never content to leave delicious enough alone, I decided to make a smooth ganache to drizzle over each cupcake, adding some goo factor. What’s chocolate without some gooeyness? It turned out to be an exceptional addition to an already exceptional cupcake.


Some ganache for good measure.

In addition to being delightful, these cupcakes are also extremely simple to whip up. It’s one of those great recipes where the taste far outweighs the effort. I hope you’ll give it a try and let me know what you think.

Chocolate Cheesecake Stuffed Cupcakes with Ganache


Recipe By:

JoyofBaking.com (cupcakes)
JoyofBaking.com (ganache)

Yields: 12 cupcakes

Cream Cheese Filling Ingredients:
8 ounces (227 grams) cream cheese, room temperature
1/3 cup (65 grams) granulated white sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Chocolate Cupcake Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups (195 grams) all purpose flour
1 cup (210 grams) light brown sugar
1/3 cup (30 grams) natural unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch processed)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (240 ml) water
1/3 cup (80 ml) unflavored vegetable oil
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Ganache Ingredients (optional):
8 ounces (227 grams) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, cut into small pieces
3/4 cup (180 ml) heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons (28 grams) unsalted butter
1 tablespoons cognac or brandy (optional)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C) and line 12 muffin cups with paper liners, or generously butter or spray each cup with a non stick vegetable spray.

Cream Cheese Filling: In your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Add the sugar, egg, and vanilla extract and beat until creamy and smooth. Set aside while you make the Chocolate Cupcake batter.

Chocolate Cupcakes: In a large bowl sift together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl mix the water, oil, vinegar, and vanilla extract. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and stir in the wet ingredients until nice and smooth. Evenly divide the batter among the 12 muffin cups (resist the urge to overfill — remember that the cream cheese filling needs some space too). Spoon a few tablespoons of the cream cheese filling into the center of each cupcake.

Bake in the preheated oven for about 25 minutes, or until the cream cheese filling is a little brown and the cupcakes feel springy to the touch (a toothpick inserted into the chocolate part of the cupcake will come out clean). Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool.

Ganache: Place the chopped chocolate in a medium sized stainless steel bowl. Set aside. Heat the cream and butter in a medium sized saucepan over medium heat. Bring just to a boil. Immediately pour the boiling cream over the chocolate and allow to stand for 5 minutes. Stir with a whisk until smooth. If desired, add the liqueur. Makes enough ganache to cover a 9 inch (23 cm) cake or torte.

These cupcakes can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for about 3-4 days.


Ready to bake!



Enjoy!

Mango Raspberry Rosecakes

I’ve had a very important objective for awhile now. I think there comes a time in every baker’s life when they realize that they need perfect basics. I love to make new things, sweet things, and even the occasional odd thing, but you really need delicious bases on which to build. That’s why I’ve been determinedly scouring the internet for recipes, reviews, wives’ tales, photos, comparisons — you get the idea — for (drum roll, please) the PERFECT WHITE CAKE. Not a dry styrofoam white cake. Not a brick of white cakeness. I wanted a moist, tightly crumbed, perfectly dense white cake. It was my great fortune to find this very thorough white cake comparison on The Way the Cookie Crumbles during my search. I baked the author’s adaptation of Cooks Illustrated’s Classic White Cake, and I feel like I’ve hit the jackpot. I have a new perfect white cake base!

White cake does not a cupcake make, however, if you’ve got a hankering for experimenting and a reputation to uphold. For that reason, I decided to try a few new things along with my white cake: first, a sultry mango curd filling (the beautiful thing about filling a white cake with a curd is that white cakes typically use only egg whites, while curds use egg yolks — what a perfect pair). Second, buttercream roses.

My first brush with a mango occurred at an intimate table with friends in the curried, rosy air of Jaipur. I wish I meant the Indian city, but actually, I mean the small restaurant situated in an unassuming, bustling Charlotte strip mall. A group of college friends and I drove 45 minutes one night to South Boulevard for the delicious buffet. Mike and I were regulars, so the waiter already knew to bring me a diet coke. On this visit, though, at my friend’s suggestion, I also asked for a mango lassi — a cool, sweet mango yogurt drink. Perhaps they should rename it ambrosia and nectar, the fabled food of Greek gods, because it was definitely divine. Since that fateful meeting, I’ve had delicious mango pudding at another Indian restaurant and a refreshing frozen mango sorbet from the Indian grocery down the street. Mangoes make me think of sitar music, bright orange marigolds, and a beautiful love scene in the rain under an umbrella of flowers (if you haven’t seen Monsoon Wedding, you should!)


Monsoon Wedding: Dubey and his love in the rain under a marigold umbrella.

In short, I love mangoes. When I saw Smitten Kitchen’s version of mango curd, I immediately knew that I had to stuff it in a cupcake. Why is my reaction to beautiful things sticking them into baked goods? That’s probably a question for another day.

As for the buttercream roses, they answered my need for something pretty and simple on top of my cupcakes. I came across the beauties on Smitten Kitchen again, if it’s any indication of how much time I spent perusing her blog this week. I’d never tried to make an icing rose, but after watching millions (no, really, ask Mike how many I forced him to watch with me) of videos on the topic, I thought I’d give it a try. I whipped up a raspberry buttercream, bought a flower nail and some rose tips, and went to work. While my frosting was an imperfect consistency and it proved harder than it looked, I think the technique was a success. I can’t wait to try again with different frostings! I hope you’ll try it (and keep trying . . . and keep trying) if you haven’t already. If you want a great tutorial, I like this one and this one.

All of these delicious components — the perfect white cake, the tangy mango curd, and the raspberry buttercream — came together to form these Mango Raspberry Rosecakes.




Peekaboo! My mango curd is smiling.

The moist white cake envelopes the exotic and bright flavor of the mango and, topped with tart raspberry, forms a sweet, summery treat. The only thing I wonder, both because of my frosting rose difficulties and because the buttercream almost overpowered the mango, is if a raspberry cream cheese frosting might be a better choice. I’ll leave that up to you to decide. Either way, I know you’re going to enjoy these amazing flavors. Feel free to deconstruct these treats and use the perfect white cake base with other fillings and frostings, and the mango curd in other cakes (or even as a delicious spread for shortcake, shortbread cookies, or toast).

Mango Raspberry Rosecakes


Recipe By:

The Way the Cookie Crumbles (white cake, adapted to cupcakes)
Smitten Kitchen (mango curd)
-Me (buttercream frosting)

Yields: 25-26 cupcakes, 1-1.5 cups of mango curd filling

Perfect White Cupcake Ingredients:
2¼ cups cake flour (9 ounces)
1 cup + 2 tablespoons whole milk, at room temperature
6 large egg whites (¾ cup), at room temperature
2 teaspoons almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or 1 inch vanilla bean seeds)
1½ cups + 2 tablespoons granulated sugar (11.35 ounces)
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon table salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1½ sticks), softened but still cool

Mango Curd Ingredients:
1 15-ounce ripe mango, peeled, pitted, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/3 – 1/2 cup sugar (depending on your preference for tart vs. sweet)
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
Pinch of salt
4 large egg yolks
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

Raspberry Buttercream Ingredients:
(double this if you’re planning on attempting roses)
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup vegetable shortening (white)
4 cups powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla flavoring
1/2 teaspoon almond flavoring
1/2 teaspoon imitation butter flavoring
1/2 teaspoon raspberry extract
2-6 tablespoons sweet milk, depending on consistency
Food coloring as desired

Extra supplies needed to create buttercream roses:
Flower nail
Rose tips #104 (I used two, to create two-toned roses)
Offset spatula
Patience

Make mango curd: This can be made a day in advance and refrigerated. Puree mango, sugar, lime juice and salt in processor, scraping down sides of work bowl occasionally. Add yolks; puree 15 seconds longer. Strain through sieve set over large metal bowl, pressing on solids with back of spatula to release as much puree as possible. Discard solids in sieve.

Set metal bowl over saucepan of simmering water (do not allow bottom of bowl to touch water); whisk puree until thickened and thermometer registers 170°F., about 10 minutes. Remove from over water. Whisk in butter 1 piece at a time. Cover with plastic wrap (directly on the curd to prevent a skin from forming) and refrigerate for several hours (or overnight). Note: I’m freezing my excess according to Fine Cooking’s instructions for lemon curd, that is, up to two months.

Make the perfect white cupcakes: Set oven rack in middle position. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray cupcake pans with nonstick cooking spray or line with cupcake papers.

Pour milk, egg whites, and extracts into 2-cup glass measure, and mix with fork until blended.

Mix cake flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in bowl of electric mixer at slow speed. Add butter; continue beating at slow speed until mixture resembles moist crumbs, with no powdery streaks remaining.

Add all but ½ cup of milk mixture to crumbs and beat at medium speed (or high speed if using handheld mixer) for 1½ minutes. Add remaining ½ cup of milk mixture and beat 30 seconds more. Stop mixer and scrape sides of bowl. Return mixer to medium (or high) speed and beat 20 seconds longer.

Divide batter evenly in cupcake pans and smooth tops of cupcakes. Arrange pans at least 3 inches from the oven walls and 3 inches apart. (If oven is small, place pans on separate racks in staggered fashion to allow for air circulation.) Bake until thin skewer or toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 15-16 minutes.

Let cakes rest in pans for 3 minutes. Transfer to wire rack for cooling completely, about 1½ hours. To fill with mango curd, core the middle of the cupcake using something like the cone method (not easy with such a moist cake, but no worries — your frosting will cover any mess you make). Pipe or spoon in as much mango curd as you can fit. Replace your cupcake “cone” and frost.

Make raspberry buttercream: Cream all ingredients (except milk) together. Add milk slowly as needed to produce desired consistency. If you’re planning on making roses, you want a thick, stiff frosting (but still smooth). For the roses, frost cupcakes lightly with the back of a spoon or an offset spatula. Then create the roses on the flower nail and transfer to the top of the cupcake (use this tutorial or this one). Otherwise, frost as desired.

Process Photos:


Mango curd finished.




Perfect white cakes fresh from the oven.




Stuffed with mango curd and ready for frosting.




First frosting layer finished.




Roses added.




Enjoy!


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Milan Cookies

Saying that I love to try new recipes and techniques is an understatement. Even when I’m making a tried and true dessert that I’ve made repeatedly, I always have a crazy urge to try a new decorating technique or another twist. It was a wonderful decision, therefore, to join The Daring Bakers.

Each month, one of the Daring Bakers is responsible for hosting a challenge that they issue to all of the others. Bakers complete the challenge and everyone posts their results on the 27th of the month. This is my first month in the group, and I can already tell I’m going to love it.

The July Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Nicole at Sweet Tooth. She chose Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies and Milan Cookies from pastry chef Gale Gand of the Food Network (to see my Mallows, go to this post).

First and foremost, I think the Daring Bakers will encourage me to try recipes I might not otherwise consider. These Milan Cookies, for example, aren’t something I would have decided to try on my own, but they are delicious and sophisticated. I can picture them being served at tea; they’re so prim in their little paper bowls! The cookie filling is a thick ganache with a hint of orange zest that complements the slightly citrus flavor of the cookie itself. Everyone who tried these loved them!

Just a hint: I had some lemon curd frozen from my Lemon Burst Fairycakes, so I spread it on a cookie and gave it a taste. It was heavenly! You could even sandwich some lemon curd between two cookies and dip them in ganache! Clearly, these cookies have inspired me.


Milan Cookie with lemon curd filling in the place of ganache.

This recipe is from Gale Gand and Food Network, but of course, I tweaked some things. Changes to the recipe are marked in italics below. I hope you enjoy these cookies, and be sure to send me a photo and/or leave me a comment if you make them! I’d love to see your results!

Milan Cookies


Recipe By: Gale Gand (slightly tweaked — changes in italics)
Yields: about 50 sandwich cookies

Ingredients:
12 tablespoons butter, softened
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
7/8 cup egg whites (from about 6 eggs)
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons lemon extract
1 1/2 cups flour
Cookie filling, recipe follows

Cookie filling ingredients:
1/2 cup heavy cream
8 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 orange, zested

Directions:

Cream the butter with a paddle attachment then mix in the sugar. Add the egg whites gradually and then mix in the vanilla and lemon extracts. Add the flour and mix until just incorporated. With a small (1/4-inch) plain tip, pipe thick 2-inch sections of batter onto a parchment-lined sheet pan (note: it’s easier to pipe onto parchment if you “glue” it to the pan using some nonstick cooking spray), spacing them 2 inches apart as they spread. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 7-8 minutes or until light golden brown around the edges. Let cool on the pan.

Cookie Filling: In a small saucepan over medium flame, scald cream. Pour hot cream over chocolate in a bowl. Whisk to melt chocolate, add zest and blend well. Set aside to cool (the mixture will thicken as it cools). Spread a thin amount of the filling onto the flat side of a cookie while the filling is still soft and press the flat side of a second cookie on top. Repeat with the remainder of the cookies.

NOTES on storage from Audax Artifex: Let cookies cool completely before storing them, or the residual heat will produce steam that will soften the cookies and accelerate spoilage. Separate layers of cookie with wax paper or foil.

In a dry climate, keep unfilled cookies crisp by storing them in a loosely covered container, such as a cookie jar without a snug lid. In a damp, humid climate, store in a tightly covered container.

Also keeping the unfilled cookies in an air tight container with a muslin bag of salt or bicarbonate of soda – this will absorb the dampness keeping your cookies crisp.

All of that said, I will tell you, my cookies got soft. We actually enjoyed them that way, so don’t fret if yours aren’t as crisp on day 2. Many of the Daring Bakers also tried fun combinations — chocolate Milan cookies with chocolate mint ganache, plain Milan cookies with no citrus, etc. So do some experimenting!

Process Photos:


Baking in the oven.



Cooling off (here you can see that a few were quite
wonky! To reduce the number of crooked cookies,
quickly and confidently pipe a thick, straight line.)



Mixing cookie filling.



The sandwich construction station!



LOTS of cookies!






Enjoy!

Visit the Daring Bakers (temporary) Blogroll to see more of these treats from amazing bakers!

Since I mentioned challenges, what’s the most challenging recipe you’ve tried?

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