Lime Chiffon Cake with Mango Whipped Cream

lime chiffon cake with offset spatula

I’ve been dreaming of making this cake for some time now: soft, fluffy layers of chiffon sandwiched with citrus curd and mango frosting. I’ve tried once or twice in the past, but it was never as good as I wanted: cake layers were too dry, or the frosting was too heavy. But this time around it was just right! This is the perfect style of cake to serve to people who don’t like desserts that are too sweet, or as a light ending to a large meal.

A few notes:

  • If you’ve never made any type of sponge cake before, I recommend reading through the tips on my mom’s sponge cake recipe before starting. Same principles apply.
  • If you make your own lime curd for this recipe, I definitely recommend saving your lime rinds and making some fresh lime syrup to use as your cake soak. I followed the directions here (substituting limes for lemons) and just let the mixture sit overnight before draining.
  • The mango whipped cream frosting uses a game-changing food processor method by Stella Parks (which she learned from a Japanese bakery), and it’s the perfect accompaniment to chiffon — light but flavorful from the addition of freeze-dried fruit. I really don’t recommend using a butter-based frosting with this cake as it’s just too heavy.
  • I got my freeze dried mangoes from Trader Joe’s, but you can also source it online.
  • To decorate this cake, I dehydrated some lemon and lime slices by baking them at 200F for a few hours until dry (flipping them every hour or so). I also added a bit of chopped freeze-dried mango.
lime chiffon cake from above

Lime Chiffon Cake with Mango Whipped Cream

Makes one 6-inch cake

Ingredients:

For the lime chiffon cake:

  • 4 large egg yolks, at room temperature
  • 5 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 150g cake flour
  • 175g caster sugar, divided
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • generous 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 60g (1/4 c or 60ml) lime juice
  • 60g (1/4 c or 60 ml) water
  • 76g (1/3 c or 80 ml) oil
  • Zest of two limes
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp cream of tartar

For the mango whipped cream:

  • 23g freeze-dried mango
  • 75g granulated sugar
  • 3 c heavy cream, chilled

To finish:

  • Simple syrup or fresh lime syrup
  • ~4 Tbsp lime curd (I use David Lebovitz’s recipe: it makes a lot more than you need for this cake, but you can use the rest on toast or freeze leftovers)
  • Dehydrated lemon and lime slices (optional, for garnish — see notes)
  • Chopped freeze-dried mango (optional, for garnish)

Method:

For the lime chiffon cake:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F with a rack in the lower third. Line three 6-inch pans with parchment, but do not grease the sides of the pan.
  2. Sift together the cake flour, 150g caster sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl (you’ll eventually be mixing the whole batter in this bowl, so choose a nice wide one!). Whisk to combine. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Add the egg yolks, lime juice, lime zest, water, oil, and vanilla to the well, and whisk until smooth.
  3. Beat the egg whites on medium-low speed until foamy. Add the cream of tartar, increase the speed to medium, and whisk until soft peaks. With the mixer still on medium, slowly add the remaining 25 grams caster sugar. Increase the mixer speed to medium-high and beat until you have glossy firm peaks.
  4. Using a silicone spatula, carefully fold the egg whites into the egg yolk batter 1/3 at a time. Mix just until the batter is homogeneous and no white streaks remain.
  5. Divide the batter among the three prepared pans, about 250g each. Give each pan a couple raps on the counter to dislodge any big air bubbles.
  6. Bake until the cakes are puffed and firm and a tester comes out clean, about 25-30 minutes (do not open the oven door until at least 20 minutes have passed or the cakes might collapse!). Allow to cool a few minutes in the pan, then run an offset spatula around the edges (this helps minimize shrinkage). Cool another 10-15 minutes in the pan, then remove the cakes from the pans and allow to cool completely on a wire rack. Once cooled, Chill the cakes before frosting, at least 1/2 an hour.

For the mango whipped cream:

  1. In a food processor, grind the freeze dried mango and sugar into a fine powder. Stir with a fork to break up any clumps.
  2. Add the cream and pulse until very thick and creamy, about the consistency of Greek yogurt. Be careful not to over-process or the cream will turn to butter! If you spoon out some of the cream, it should hold its shape when the spoon is overturned. Use immediately, or refrigerate until needed (it should keep for about a week).

To assemble:

  1. Trim the tops of the cakes to level if needed and peel the parchment paper off each one. Place a dollop of cream on a cake board / plate / cake stand and place the first cake round on top.
  2. Brush the top of the cake generously with syrup. Spoon about 1/3 c of mango whipped cream on top of the first round and spread it on smoothly with an offset spatula. Drizzle a couple tablespoons of lime curd in the center, taking care not to go too close to the edge so the curd won’t leak out the sides.
  3. Repeat step 2 with the second layer. Finish by placing the last cake round top side down (soak it with simple syrup before placing it on top).
  4. Spread a thin, even layer of mango whipped cream over the sides and top of the cake to lock the crumbs in. Refrigerate for about 15-20 minutes until set.
  5. After the cake has chilled, spread a thick, even layer of cream on the top and sides. I used an offset spatula to create some texture. Decorate with dehydrated citrus slices and freeze-dried mango pieces, or as desired. Chill until ready to serve.
lime chiffon cake

Mushroom Meringues

mushroom meringues
These mushroom meringues may well be the most magical things I’ve made all year. I honestly couldn’t stop smiling after making a batch of these because they just looked so….mushroomy! These fungi confections are a traditional decoration for Buche de Noel (I used them to decorate a “Yule Log” cake), but they would also make a quirky addition to a cookie box or a sweet little stocking stuffer. They aren’t difficult to make, but they do take a bit of time. However, you can easily break up the work over a few days — just bake the meringues one day, and decorate while watching your favorite cheesy holiday movie!

A few notes:

  • This recipe is easily scalable. The basic proportion I used is 1 part egg whites to 1.5 parts sugar. (You can use 1:2 if you want them sweeter, but honestly they were plenty sweet for me.)
  • If you want your mushrooms to stand on their own, keep the caps on the smaller side (maybe 1-2 inches across) and the stems on the shorter, squatter side.
  • If you’re using these mushrooms to decorate a buche de noel or something of that sort, it’s perfectly fine (and even desirable) to have caps and stems of different sizes and lengths — it adds to the whimsy and realism! You can always use a dab of frosting to stick them down so you don’t have to worry if they don’t stand on their own.
  • If you make a mistake piping, just use a spatula to scoop up the meringue and put it back into the piping bag.

mushroom meringues 2
mushroom meringues in egg carton

Mushroom Meringues

Makes 20-24 medium mushrooms

Ingredients:

  • 70g egg whites (about 2 large)
  • 105g caster sugar
  • Large pinch of salt
  • Pinch of cream of tartar
  • Seeds of half a vanilla bean or 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 50g white chocolate or white candy melts
  • Cocoa powder for dusting

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 225F. Line one large (or two medium) sheet pans with parchment paper. Prepare a pastry bag fitted with a large round tip (I used a 1/2″ one).
  2. Put the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Beat on medium low until frothy, then add the salt and cream of tartar.
  3. Turn the speed up to medium and continue beating until the meringue holds soft peaks. Add the sugar a spoonful at a time, waiting about 10-15 seconds between additions.
  4. When all the sugar has been added, turn up the speed to medium high and continue beating until the meringue is glossy and holds very stiff peaks. Add the vanilla bean seeds (or vanilla extract) and whip until combined.
  5. Transfer half the meringue to the prepared pastry bag. Use a dab of meringue in each corner of the sheet pan to “glue” the parchment paper down. To pipe the caps, hold the pastry bag vertically about 1/2 an inch above the baking sheet and squeeze (without moving the bag) to form a round. When the cap is your desired size, stop squeezing and flick your wrist to complete the cap. Continue piping rounds until you’ve used up all the meringue in the bag. They won’t spread or puff much so you can pipe them quite close. If you have any peaks of meringue, use a damp finger to flatten and smooth out the caps.
  6. Fill the bag with the remaining meringue and pipe stems. Again, hold the bag vertically about 1/2 an inch above the baking sheet. Squeeze and slowly lift the bag, then stop squeezing but continue lifting to form “kisses”. Continue piping until you’ve used up all the meringue. (You’ll want to pipe a few more stems than caps as they’re more likely to topple or break.)
  7. Bake the meringues until they’re completely dry and release easily from the parchment, about 80-90 minutes. Turn the oven off and let the meringues cool down completely (a few hours or overnight).
  8. When the meringues are completely cool, use a microplane to shave down the tops of the stems so they’re flat. Dust some cocoa powder over the mushroom caps if desired. Smudge the cocoa with your finger to get your desired “dirty” look. Smudge a little on the stems as well if you like. (I used different cocoa powders — natural, Dutch processed, and black — to get a variety of looks, but use whatever you have or like.)
  9. Melt the white chocolate or candy melts. Use a small paring knife or flower nail to make a small hole in the bottom of a cap. (Work gently so you don’t pierce all the way through!).* Use a chopstick to widen the hole so the end of the stem will fit inside. Dip the end of the stem in melted chocolate, then stand the stem up. Carefully but firmly push the stem through the hole. Using a small brush, dab a little extra white chocolate around the join to seal. Set the mushroom in the well of an egg carton to allow the chocolate to set. Store in an airtight container for 1-2 weeks.
  • *Note: you can also just “glue” the stems to the caps without making a hole. I tried both ways and found the hole method to be a little more secure and realistic-looking, though more time consuming…
  • Gingerbread Latte Snickerdoodles

    gingerbread latte snickerdoodle stack
    I’m a relative latecomer to gingerbread. Neither of my parents are fans of spice cakes and the like, so gingerbread men and houses weren’t a part of my childhood. It wasn’t until college, when one of my best friends suggested a gingerbread making party, that I had my first memorable gingerbread experience; and ever since then I’ve been trying to make up for lost time. I enjoy sneaking in gingerbread spices wherever possible — bread, morning pastries, coffee, cakes, and now — the classic snickerdoodle. And since one of my all time favorite flavor combos is espresso and gingerbread, I also added a bit of espresso powder to make these gingerbread latte snickerdoodles!

    These festive snickerdoodles are delightfully simple to make. I’ve added brown butter and brown sugar to add a bit more chew. I also prefer a mix of flours — bread, all purpose, and some type of whole grain flour — for texture and flavor, but all purpose will do just fine as well. A drizzle of white chocolate and a few Crispearls add a little festive flair. I hope you’ll enjoy these as much as I do!

    Gingerbread Latte Snickerdoodles

    Makes 12 cookies

    Ingredients

    For the gingerbread spice mix:

    • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
    • 1 tsp ground ginger
    • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
    • 1/4 tsp allspice
    • 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
    • 1/8 tsp cloves
    • Few cracks of black pepper

    For the cookie dough:

    • 113g unsalted butter
    • 60g light brown sugar
    • 60g granulated sugar
    • 1 large egg (straight from the fridge is fine)
    • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
    • 1 tsp cream of tartar
    • 1/2 tsp baking soda
    • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
    • 1 1/2 tsp espresso powder
    • 80g bread flour
    • 60g AP flour
    • 30g einkorn flour
    • 1 1/2 tsp gingerbread spice mix

    For the sugar coating and decoration:

    • 1 1/2 Tbsp granulated sugar (or cane sugar)
    • 1 1/2 Tbsp light brown sugar
    • Remaining gingerbread spice mix
    • 30g white chocolate, melted
    • Sprinkles or Crispearls

    Method:

    1. Combine all the gingerbread spice mix ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside.
    2. In a small saucepan, brown the butter. First, melt the butter over low heat; then turn up to medium high and cook, stirring frequently with a silicone spatula, until the butter foams, crackles, then browns. Transfer the butter, along with all the browned bits, to a large bowl and allow to cool slightly while you prepare the remaining ingredients.
    3. In a small bowl, whisk together the flours, cream of tartar, baking soda, salt, espresso powder, and 1 1/2 tsp of the gingerbread spice mix.
    4. Whisk the brown and granulated sugars into the brown butter until smooth. Add the egg and vanilla and whisk until incorporated. Add the dry ingredients and mix just until combined. Cover and refrigerate for about 30-60 minutes to allow the dough to hydrate and solidify slightly. (Cookie dough can be chilled overnight; if chilled for more than a couple hours, allow to soften for 20-30 minutes at room temperature for easier portioning.)
    5. About 30 minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 375F with a rack in the center. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpats.
    6. Prepare the sugar coating by combining the granulated and brown sugar with the remaining gingerbread spice mix.
    7. Portion the cookie dough into 12 golf-sized balls, about 35-40 grams each. Roll between hands into a smooth ball, then toss in sugar coating. Space cookies a couple inches apart on the prepared baking sheets.
    8. Bake sheets one at a time for 9-11 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through. Cookies should be puffed and the tops starting to crack, but the centers should still look a little soft. After removing the pan, bang it a couple of times on the counter to help deflate the cookies and get that crinkled top. Cool cookies on the pan for about 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
    9. When cookies are cooled, melt the white chocolate. Decorate cookies as desired, topping with sprinkles or Crispearls before the chocolate sets. Cookies keep well in an airtight container for about 3 days.

    Chewy Ginger Molasses Cookies

    chewy ginger molasses cookies on marble
    When it comes to cookies, I am very much a creature of habit. When we need a batch of something sweet, I’ll usually whip up our house chocolate chunk cookies or maybe some snickerdoodles. And every fall, I have to make at least a couple of batches of chewy ginger molasses cookies.

    ginger molasses cookies closeup

    For the past several years, this Bon Appetit recipe has been my go to. Soft and chewy centers, sugared exteriors, a vibrant amount of spice, and dead easy to make — can’t ask for much more!

    This year, though, I’ve been tinkering with this recipe and made a couple of tweaks to pack even more of a punch into each bite. Swapping in some rye and bread flour adds even more chew and richness of flavor. A little fresh ginger and black pepper add a spicy kick. I like to roll my cookies in a mixture of turbinado and sanding sugar for a nice balance of shine and crunch and top each cookie with a small piece of candied ginger. These are hands down my favorite fall/winter cookies — I hope you’ll love them too!

    Chewy Ginger Molasses Cookies

    Makes about 15 cookies | Adapted from Bon Appetit

    Ingredients:

    • 125g AP flour
    • 75g bread flour
    • 50g rye flour
    • 2 teaspoons baking soda
    • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
    • 1 tsp ground ginger
    • 3/4 tsp freshly ground cardamom
    • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
    • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
    • 2 tsp freshly grated ginger
    • 1 large egg, at room temperature
    • 113g unsalted butter, melted
    • 65g granulated sugar
    • 113g fancy molasses
    • 50g dark brown sugar

    To finish:

    • 40g turbinado sugar
    • 40g sanding sugar
    • Candied ginger

    Method:

    1. Preheat the oven to 375F with a rack in the center, and line two large baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
    2. In a small bowl, whisk the flours, baking soda, spices (except for the fresh ginger), and salt together.
    3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the granulated sugar and dark brown sugar. Add the grated ginger and rub it into the sugar with your fingers to distribute.
    4. Whisk in the melted butter, molasses, and egg to combine.
    5. Add the dry ingredients and mix just to combine. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes to firm the batter up slightly to make it easier roll. (If refrigerated longer than an hour, let stand at room temperature for 15-20 minutes to soften slightly.) Meanwhile combine the turbinado and sanding sugar in a small bowl.
    6. Using a cookie scoop or your hands, form golf-ball sized rounds (about 40-45g each). Roll in sugar and place on prepared baking sheets about 2 inches apart. Press a piece of crystallized ginger on top of each cookie.
    7. Bake sheets one at a time for 8-10 minutes, rotating halfway through, until cookies are puffed and starting to crack and the edges are set. Cool on the sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

    chewy ginger molasses cookies

    Cranberry Lime Shortbread Tart + Cookbook Giveaway!

    cranberry lime shortbread tart
    Every year around this time, I start thinking about edible gifts to make for the holiday season. I remember a few people who would annually gift us an assortment of homemade treats. We would look forward to receiving those gifts every year, and it’s a goal of mine to come up with my own traditional holiday treat box. I’m still a little ways off, but hopefully this year I’ll get a little closer with the help of my friend Fanny Lam’s new cookbook Oh Sweet Day!: A Celebration Cookbook of Edible Gifts, Party Treats, and Festive Desserts!

    Fanny and I have been internet foodie friends for a couple years now (she runs a lovely blog and posts delicious treats on her Instagram page); so when I received a copy of her cookbook, I knew it would packed with delightful yet approachable recipes perfect for sharing with loved ones. As Fanny writes in her introduction, “A lovely dessert doesn’t require a demanding recipe. It needs love! It needs personality! I hope this book will inspire you to go beyond your comfort zone, try something new, play with abandon, share with your loved one, make it a tradition, and let it be a memory.”

    Trying out Fanny’s famous shortbread cookies and cheesecakes are high on my to-bake list, but the first thing I knew I had to make was this gorgeous cranberry lime shortbread tart — a lovely press-in shortbread crust filled with a velvety, vibrant curd. And let’s not forget that showstopping natural color! This dessert would be perfect for Thanksgiving dinner — it’s tangy, creamy, and bright, the perfect foil for a rich meal. Plus, it can be made ahead of time — always a bonus on busy cooking days!

    cranberry lime shortbread tart 2

    Update: Winner of the giveaway is Quyen Weng. Congrats!I’m happy to be giving away one copy of Oh Sweet Day!: A Celebration Cookbook of Edible Gifts, Party Treats, and Festive Desserts to one of my readers! To enter, comment below with your favorite edible gift to give or receive. For more entries, you can also follow me on Instagram and enter on the related photo. Deadline to enter is Sunday, October 28, 2018, at 5pm EST. Winner will be announced here and on Instagram. Open to residents of USA and Canada.
    oh sweet day cookbook cover

    cranberry lime shortbread tart from side

    A few notes:

    • I decorated the cranberry lime shortbread tart with a bit of melted white chocolate (about 25 grams), tinted the faintest of pink with a bit of cranberry powder. I transferred the melted chocolate to a ziplock bag and cut a tiny hole in one of the corners, then quickly piped it on. In her recipe, Fanny suggests topping the tart with whipped cream and lime zest (instructions included below).
    • I didn’t have quite enough lime juice, so I used about half lime and half orange juice (both freshly squeezed). The orange juice gave the curd a beautiful deep pink color; if you use all lime juice as the recipe states the color will be just as vibrant and beautiful but probably a little lighter.
    • The curd can be made up to 5 days ahead and refrigerated with a piece of plastic pressed against the surface to keep a skin from forming. The tart shell can also be made a couple of days ahead and kept covered at room temperature. Assemble the tart the day you’ll be serving — just make sure to allow a full 4 hours for it to chill so you can get nice clean slices.
    • For clean slices, use a sharp knife cleaned with hot water after each cut.

    Cranberry Lime Shortbread Tart

    Makes one 9-inch tart

    Ingredients

    For the Vanilla Shortbread Crust

    • 113g (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
    • 40g (1/4 cup) powdered sugar
    • 1/2 Tbsp. vanilla extract
    • 125g (1 cup) AP flour
    • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt

    For the Cranberry Lime Curd

    • 454g (4 cups) cranberries, fresh or frozen
    • 200g (1 cup) granulated sugar
    • 1/2 cup lime juice
    • 2 tsp. lime zest

    • 1/2 cup water
    • 4 large egg yolks
    • 1 Tbsp. cornstarch
    • 28g (2 Tbsp) unsalted butter, softened

    For the Whipped Cream Topping

    • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream, cold
    • 1 Tbsp. powdered sugar
    • 1/4 cup fresh cranberries

    • 1 tsp. lime zest

    Method:

    For the Vanilla Shortbread Crust

    1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom.
    2. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and powdered sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
    3. Mix in the vanilla until combined.
    4. Sift in the flour and salt. Mix on low speed until just incorporated.
    5. Press the mixture onto the bottom and sides of the prepared pan.
    6. Freeze the crust for 10 minutes.
    7. Bake the crust for 15 to 20 minutes. Let cool completely.

    For the Cranberry Lime Curd:

    1. Cook the cranberries, 1/2 cup sugar, lime juice, lime zest, and water on medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries are popped and release their juice.
    2. Pulse the mixture in a food processor.
    3. Blend in the egg yolks, remaining sugar, and cornstarch until combined.
    4. Cook the mixture again on low heat while whisking for 10 minutes until thickened.
    5. Remove from heat. Whisk in the butter until combined.
    6. Strain the mixture to make it smooth.
    7. Let cool to room temperature.
    8. Fill the cooled crust with the cranberry lime curd.
    9. Refrigerate the tart until set, at least 4 hours.

    For the Whipped Cream Topping:

    1. Whisk the cream and sugar until firm peaks form. Transfer the whipped cream to a piping bag with a star tip.
    2. Remove the tart from the pan.
    3. Pipe the whipped cream along the edges of the tart.
    4. Top with cranberries and lime zest.

    Recipe from Oh Sweet Day!: A Celebration Cookbook of Edible Gifts, Party Treats, and Festive Desserts, reprinted by permission of Front Table Book, an imprint of Cedar Fort, Inc.

    Financiers

    marcus eating financiers

    I let out an audible “Oh, yay!” when I first received Mardi Michel’s delightful cookbook In the French Kitchen with Kids: Easy, Everyday Dishes for the Whole Family to Make and Enjoy. As I’ve mentioned a couple times on this blog, my older child is, as he reminds me often now, “Almost 3” and eager to help in the kitchen whenever possible. I’ve been looking for more recipes to try out with him, so this cookbook was truly a welcome delivery.

    marcus reading in the french kitchen with kids

    One of the things I appreciated most about In the French Kitchen with Kids is that it assumes kids are capable. There are recipes for quick croissants, creme caramel, eclairs, and steak frites — dishes one might not normally think of as “kid-friendly” but written up in a way that makes them very achievable for young people (with assistance). The book is thoughtfully well-written; the recipes are easy to follow and are peppered with historical tidbits and anecdotes to enhance the learning experience.

    The first recipe we decided to make was financiers, or little almond cakes, because my son is currently very into muffin shapes and we had a few extra egg whites to use up. Buttery and nutty, financiers are the perfect little teatime treat and it’s all too easy to keep popping them into your mouth — they’re addictively delicious.

    financiers

    A couple of notes:

    • Michels’ recipe calls for melted butter, but I went the extra step to brown the butter. I love the extra nuttiness it lends and it’s worth the extra couple of minutes to me. Incorporate the browned butter while it’s still a little warm; this makes it easier to fold into the other ingredients.
    • I refrigerated the batter for a few hours after mixing because of time constraints (and I wanted to bake them off fresh for some guests). This isn’t necessary, but the batter does hold nicely in the fridge for a few days — it just might take a little longer to bake. My financiers took about 15 minutes to bake.
    • The recipe yield is 24 mini muffins, but naturally it depends on the size of your tin. I used this Wilton mini muffin pan and got 15 cakes, using OXO cookie scoop to portion the batter.

    marcus mixing bowl
    marcus pouring

    Financiers

    From Mardi Michels’ In the French Kitchen with Kids: Easy, Everyday Dishes for the Whole Family to Make and Enjoy. Reprinted by permission.
    Makes 15-24 mini muffin financiers (see notes, above)

    Ingredients

    • Unsalted butter, for greasing the pan
    • 1/2 cup (113 g) unsalted butter
    • 4 large egg whites
    • 3/4 cup (150 g) granulated sugar
    • 1/2 cup (50 g) almond meal
    • 1/3 cup (50 g) all-purpose flour
    • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
    • 1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract (optional; my addition)
    • Icing sugar, for sprinkling

    Method

    1. Preheat the oven to 400˚F (200˚C). If you are using a nonstick mini muffin pan you may not need to butter them, but otherwise generously butter the cups of the pan.
    2. Melt the butter either in a small pot on the stovetop over medium heat or in a microwave-safe bowl in the microwave for about 1 minute. Set aside to cool. (Note: I browned the butter and let it cool until slightly warm.)
    3. Beat the egg whites until frothy with handheld electric beaters on high speed, 1 to 2 minutes.
    4. In a separate bowl, whisk together the sugar, almond meal, flour and salt.
    5. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and fold them in gently with a rubber spatula until just combined.
    6. Add the cooled, melted butter to the batter and use a rubber spatula to gently mix until the butter is completely incorporated. (Note: at this point, I refrigerated the batter for a couple of hours.)
    7. Divide the batter between the cups of the muffin pan. You can do this with a 1 1/2-tablespoon cookie scoop or a small spoon. Fill each cup almost to the top.
    8. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the center is slightly puffed and the edges are golden and slightly crispy and coming away from the pan. There may be cracks in the tops. That’s totally okay!
    9. Remove the financiers from the muffin pan immediately and allow to
      cool on wire racks.
    10. Once they have cooled completely, sprinkle them with icing sugar to serve. These are best eaten the day they are made, although they can keep for a couple of days in an airtight container at room temperature.

    Option: Raspberry financiers

    • Just before you bake the financiers, cut 12 raspberries in half and place one half, cut side down, on top of each financier. Press down gently.

    marcus reaching for financiers

    Buckwheat Plum Berry Crumble

    This post is sponsored by Weight Watchers Canada. Find out more about the WW Freestyle program, which encourages the freedom to eat the foods you love while nudging you towards healthier choices using the SmartPoints system. As always, all ideas and opinions expressed here are my own.

    I love a good rustic fruit dessert. Galettes, crisps, crumbles, pies — yes, please and thank you, to all of them. Homey and unfussy, they’re the kind of thing you want on a summer evening after a casual cookout with good people — a la mode, of course.

    If you’ve been around these parts long, you probably know I like incorporating whole grains into baked goods when I can — not just for added health benefits but also for flavor! The nutty, toasty tones of whole grains pair especially well with fruit and give simple crumbles such as this one extra depth. In this plum berry crumble I’ve used buckwheat and oats; but you could easily substitute spelt, kamut, rye, or whole wheat if that’s what you have on hand. If whole grains aren’t your thing you can use all AP, but I encourage you to try some new flours if you have the opportunity! It really opens up a whole new world of flavors.

    This crumble is very adaptable — substitute whatever fresh summer fruit you have on hand. You can also make the topping ahead of time and store it in the fridge or freezer — a great thing to have on hand for impromptu BBQs. And this is quite wonderful cold from the fridge with a bit of yogurt, should you want this to double as breakfast. (I always do.)

    crumble a la mode

    Buckwheat Plum Berry Crumble

    Serves 9

    Ingredients

    For the buckwheat crumble:

    • 40g buckwheat flour
    • 80g AP flour
    • 30g rolled oats
    • 40g walnuts, chopped
    • 50g light brown sugar
    • 25g turbinado sugar
    • 1.5 tsp ground ginger
    • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
    • 100g cubed, unsalted butter, room temperature

    For the plum berry filling:

    • 3 c plums, chopped
    • 3 c mixed berries, chopped if large
    • Juice of half a lemon
    • 2-3 Tbsp arrowroot starch (Use 3 if your fruit is particularly juicy or if you have a large proportion of strawberries)
    • 50g granulated sugar (or to taste)
    • A few turns of black pepper
    • Pinch of salt

    Method

    1. Preheat the oven to 375F and lightly grease an 8×8 pan or 9-inch pie plate.
    2. First, make the crumble. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together all the dry ingredients. Add the cubed butter and, using your fingers, rub it into the dry ingredients until crumbs form. The crumbs shouldn’t be uniform in size — a variety of large and small pieces are good to have. Refrigerate while you prepare the filling (topping can be refrigerated for several days, or frozen for longer storage).
    3. Combine the fruit in a large bowl. Add the lemon juice and stir gently to combine. Whisk together the remaining ingredients, pour over the fruit, and stir gently to combine. Scrape filling into prepared pan.
    4. Sprinkle the crumble mixture evenly over the fruit, squeezing some of it together to form larger pieces so you have a nice variety of crumb sizes.
    5. Bake until the filling is bubbling, 35-45 minutes. Allow to cool slightly before serving.

    Almond Creme (Almond Jello)

    This post is sponsored by Weight Watchers Canada. Find out more about the WW Freestyle program, which encourages the freedom to eat the foods you love while nudging you towards healthier choices using the SmartPoints system. As always, all ideas and opinions expressed here are my own.

    While visiting my family over the holidays, I spent some time going through my mom’s recipe box, looking for gems from my childhood. Almond Creme popped up, and I couldn’t believe I hadn’t thought to ask my mom for this recipe sooner! It’s no bake and quite light, perfect for warm summer days when no one feels like turning on the oven.

    My family calls this dessert “Almond Jello”, but the texture reminds me more of panna cotta or silken tofu — smooth and creamy, and not at all rubbery. It’s a little too soft to unmold, so if you want to be fancy I’d suggest chilling it in individual glasses or ramekins. (Personally I’m lazy and just chill it in one dish and scoop it into bowls.) We ate this with fruit cocktail or canned mandarin oranges when I was a kid, but these days I prefer it with fresh fruit — sliced strawberries or mangoes would be my top choices.

    Almond Creme

    Serves 4-6

    • 1 1/2 c water, divided into two 3/4 c portions
    • 1 pkg powdered gelatin (7 g)
    • 75g granulated sugar
    • 1 1/4 c evaporated milk
    • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
    • 1/2 tsp almond extract
    • Sliced fresh fruit (strawberries or mangoes are my favorite), to serve

    Method:

    • Prepare an 8×8 square pan (or similar sized pan, or six small ramekins).
    • Measure 3/4 c cold water into a small bowl. Sprinkle gelatin evenly over cold water. Let stand while you prepare the other ingredients.
    • Combine evaporated milk, remaining 3/4 cup water, and sugar in a small saucepan. Bring just to the boil over medium heat, stirring frequently to dissolve the sugar. Remove from heat and add gelatin mixture, stirring to dissolve the gelatin completely. Add vanilla and almond extract and stir to combine.
    • Pour mixture into prepared pan(s). If any bubbles form on the surface, use a silicone spatula to push them to the edge of the dish and they should pop. Refrigerate until set, at least 4 hours (preferably overnight).
    • Served with sliced fruit.

    Fresh Fruit Tart

    fresh fruit tart

    After a decidedly wintry April here in Toronto (complete with snow and ice storms), May has brought some downright summery days. Seriously, I went from wearing a winter jacket to t-shirt + sandals in the span of a few days!

    While chocolate is always in season for me, the warmer temps do put me in the mood for light, fruity desserts — preferably those that don’t require much oven time. Fruit tarts are one of my go-to desserts because they’re easy to make ahead. Both the crust and filling can be prepared a few days in advance. When you’re ready to serve all that’s left to do is fill the tart and pile on some fresh fruit, and you’re golden!

    This classic fruit tart recipe is from Giselle Courteau’s Duchess Bake Shop: French-Inspired Recipes from Our Bakery to Your Home. This lovely cookbook is full of gorgeous recipes ranging from rustic pies to fancy gateaus to elegant pate a choux, all designed with the home baker in mind. It’s beautifully photographed and includes photo tutorials for items such as croissants and danishes — always a nice feature for those like me who learn visually. I love the mix of quick recipes and weekend projects, and look forward to test-driving more of these recipes in the months to come.

    “Pastry and desserts are for celebrating, spending time with family and friends, and treating ourselves. Have fun with it and don’t take it all too seriously. If you don’t succeed on your first try, don’t give up: every time you make a recipe, you’ll learn something new to improve it next time. Allow yourself the freedom to make mistakes and be sure to take pride in your end result, whether it looks like the picture or not.”

    -Giselle Courteau, Duchess Bake Shop (p. 14)

    fresh fruit tart closeup

    Fresh Fruit Tart

    Makes one 8 or 9 inch tart

    Ingredients

    For the pastry cream:

    • 365g (1 1/2 c) whole milk
    • 1 vanilla bean, sliced open lengthwise
    • 80g (1/3 c + 1 Tbsp) egg yolks
    • 15g (2 Tbsp) cornstarch
    • 1/4 tsp salt
    • 40g (3 Tbsp) unsalted butter, cubed

    For assembly:

    • Fresh fruit of your choice (berries recommended)
    • 1/4 c apricot jam (I used apple)
    • 1 tsp water
    • Fresh lemon zest, for garnish (optional)

    Method:

    For the pastry cream:

    1. Heat the milk and vanilla bean in a saucepan until scalding.
    2. While the milk is heating, place the sugar and egg yolks in a bowl and whisk until the yolks have lightened in color. This will take a few minutes of vigorous whisking. Whisk in the cornstarch and salt.
    3. Remove the vanilla bean from the heated milk and using the back of a knife, scrape the seeds back into the milk.
    4. Slowly drizzle the hot milk into the yolk mixture while continuing to whisk. If you add the hot milk too quickly the eggs will curdle and your pastry cream will come out lumpy.
    5. Once all the milk has been added, transfer the mixture back to the saucepan and place over medium heat. Whisking constantly, bring the mixture to a boil and continue cooking for 5 minutes more, whisking the entire time.
    6. Remove from heat. Immediately strain the pastry cream through a fine mesh strainer to remove any lumps. Add the butter and whisk until smooth, or, if you want your pastry cream even smoother, use an immersion blender.
    7. Cover the pastry cream and refrigerate for 2-3 hours, until set.

    To assemble the tart:

    1. Use a spatula to slightly break up the cold pastry cream. Fill the tart shell with pastry cream to just slightly below the rim, spreading it out smoothly with a knife or a small offset spatula.
    2. Arrange the fresh berries or other fruit in a pattern on top.
    3. In a microwave or over the stove, gently melt the apricot jam with the water — without letting it come to a boil — and brush it generously over the top of the fruit. Garnish with fresh lemon zest. If not serving immediately, refrigerate until ready to serve.

    From Duchess Bake Shop: French-Inspired Recipes from Our Baker to Your Home. Reprinted by permission.

    Mini Chocolate Cake with Strawberry Ganache

    mini chocolate cake
    This is my favorite chocolate cake to make for small celebrations. It’s really simple to whip up, but it stands nice and tall for an impressive treat. The cake itself is sturdy (especially important for these minis), but still has a fine, moist crumb. We are big chocolate raspberry fans around here so I almost always fill it with raspberry jam, but use whatever floats your boat (peanut butter, nutella, another jam…). I often use up bits and bobs of frosting I have leftover from other baking projects, but if you don’t have anything on hand I highly recommend this ganache. It’s also super easy to make (just requires some time to set up to a frosting consistency), and it’s rich so a little goes a long way.

    I typically bake this cake in my 4-inch cake pans. If I’m super lazy, I’ll just split the batter between the two pans (they’ll be about 3/4 full but I haven’t had any problems with overflowing), but usually I’ll bake some off in a little ramekin for a baker’s treat.

    slice of chocolate cake

    Mini Chocolate Cake with Strawberry Ganache

    Makes one 6-layer 4-inch cake

    Ingredients:

    For the mini chocolate cake (adapted from Linda Lomelino):

    • 100 g unsalted butter
    • 1/4 c milk
    • 120g AP flour
    • 3/4 tsp baking soda
    • 34g dutch-processed cocoa powder
    • 157g granulated sugar
    • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
    • 1 egg, at room temperature
    • 80g (1/3 c) sour cream, at room temperature
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract
    • 1/4 c hot coffee or espresso

    For the strawberry ganache (adapted from The Cake Bible):

    • 204g bittersweet chocolate (~53% works best here — I used half milk and half 70%)
    • 51g white chocolate
    • 139g heavy cream
    • 81g strawberry puree

    For assembly:

    • Simple syrup
    • ~1/2 c raspberry preserves or jam
    • Fresh berries, for garnish

    Method:

    For the mini chocolate cake:

    1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Line the bottoms of two 4-inch pans (plus an extra ramekin, if desired) with parchment paper, then grease the pans and dust them with cocoa powder.
    2. In a small saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. When the butter has melted, remove from the heat and whisk in the milk and vanilla. Allow to cool slightly while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
    3. Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, salt, and baking powder in a medium bowl. Set aside.
    4. Whisk the sour cream into the butter mixture, followed by the egg. Whisk the wet ingredients into the dry until combined. Add the hot coffee and whisk just until smooth.
    5. Divide the batter among the pans (I usually put ~275g into each of the cake tins and the rest into the ramekin) and bake for 30-35 minutes (20-25 minutes for the ramekin), or until a skewer inserted into the center comes out with just a few moist crumbs. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Once the pans are cool enough to handle, run a thin knife around the edges and turn the cakes out to finish cooling completely. For easiest assembly, I prefer to chill the cakes in the fridge before filling and frosting.

    For the strawberry ganache:

    1. Break the chocolate into small pieces and process in a food processor until very fine.
    2. Heat the cream and strawberry puree in a small saucepan until just before the boiling point.
    3. With the food processor running, pour the cream mixture through the feed tube in a steady stream. Process for a few seconds until smooth.
    4. Transfer to a bowl or glass measuring cup and allow to cool at room temperature until ganache reaches a spreadable consistency (this takes me 2-3 hours).

    To assemble:

    1. Level the cakes and cut each into 3 thinner layers for a total of 6 layers.
    2. Place the first layer of cake on a cake board or serving plate (use a dab of ganache to “glue” it in place) and brush with simple syrup.
    3. Pipe a ring of ganache around the edge and fill the center with raspberry jam. Continue this process until you’ve used up all the layers.
    4. Spread a thin layer of ganache over the entire cake to lock in the crumbs, followed by a thicker coat. (My kitchen was on the cold side, so my ganache set pretty quickly and I didn’t need to refrigerate the cake between coats.)
    5. Garnish with fresh berries and serve at room temperature.

    mini chocolate cake - dark