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

Mom’s Sponge Cake

sponge cakeWhen we went back to Seattle to visit this past Christmas, I spent some time going through my mom’s recipe box and making some childhood favorites. This sponge cake was first on my list, then and now. It’s soft, light, and fluffy — perfect with a cup of tea or coffee. This cake is perfectly delightful plain, but just to be a little fancy I drizzled on a simple lemon glaze (colored with natural food powder from Go Supernatural).

A few notes:

  • This cake is traditionally baked in an ungreased aluminum 10″ tube pan for the best rise. Don’t use a non-stick pan; the cake has to cling to the sides to rise.
  • The most important keys to success with these type of cakes are properly whipped egg whites and good folding technique. For beating egg whites, I have the best success starting on a low speed and gradually raising it; this helps build a tighter, more stable structure and helps reduce the possibility of overbeating.
  • I find it easiest to fold these types of batters in a large, wide stainless steel mixing bowl with a silicone spatula. For the longest time I was so afraid of over-mixing my sponges that I’d end up undermixing them; it’s important to make sure you don’t have any pockets of flour or unincorporated egg whites or your cake won’t bake up properly. Just be patient and gentle and mix until you have a homogeneous batter.
  • The order of mixing is sort of personal preference. You could beat the egg whites first, transfer them to another bowl, and then beat the yolk mixture with the stand mixer. Or you could beat the yolk mixture with the stand mixer, transfer it to another mixing bowl, clean the mixer bowl and attachment thoroughly, and then beat the whites. I prefer to just start with my yolk mixture in my big mixing bowl and beat that with handheld electric mixer (or a whisk); that way I minimize the number of bowls used and I don’t have to clean stuff during the mixing process.
  • The cake should be cooled completely upside down to minimize shrinking. If your tube pan doesn’t have feet, you can invert it and slide a funnel or a heavy bottle through the center insert.

sponge cake in pan

sponge cake from above

sponge cake slice

Mom’s Sponge Cake

Makes one 10” tube cake

Ingredients:

For the sponge cake:

  • 10 large eggs, separated when cold but brought to room temperature before mixing the batter
  • 188g (1.5 c) cake flour
  • 300g (1.5 c) sugar (preferably caster), divided
  • 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1/2 c neutral oil (I use grapeseed)
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract

For the lemon glaze and garnish (optional):

  • 188g (1.5 c) icing sugar, sifted
  • 2-3 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Pinch of salt
  • Zest of one lemon, for sprinkling

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 350F with a rack in the lower third.
  2. Sift cake flour into a small bowl and set aside.
  3. In a large, wide mixing bowl, combine half the sugar (150g), egg yolks, oil, salt, and vanilla and beat on medium until creamy and the sugar is dissolved (3-5 minutes). Set aside.
  4. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar on medium-low until foamy. Increase the speed to medium. When the whites reach soft peak stage, slowly add the remaining sugar (150g) one tablespoon at a time. Once all the sugar has been added, continue whipping on medium to medium-high until the mixture is glossy and holds medium-stiff peaks.
  5. Sift the flour into the yolk mixture in three batches, using a silicone spatula to mostly fold each portion in before sifting in the next. Once all the flour has been added, continue folding until all the flour is incorporated and the mixture is thick and smooth. Be sure to scoop all the way down to the bottom of the bowl to make sure the flour is evenly incorporated, but take care not to overmix.
  6. Fold in the whipped egg whites in three or four portions, using a silicone spatula to mostly fold in each portion before adding the next. Once all the egg whites have been added, fold until the batter is smooth and uniform in color, again taking care not to overmix.
  7. Pour the batter into an ungreased aluminum 10″ tube pan. Bake for 45-55 minutes or until the cake is well browned and a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. Do not open the oven for at least 45 minutes or the delicate cake may fall. Invert the pan to cool completely (if your pan doesn’t have feet, you can insert a funnel or heavy bottle through the center). Slide an offset spatula around the edges to loosen, remove the insert, then slide the spatula around the bottom. Flip the cake onto a serving platter.

For the glaze and assembly:

  • Whisk together sifted icing sugar and salt in a medium bowl. Gradually whisk in the lemon juice 1 Tbsp at a time until desired consistency. Drizzle onto the cooled cake and sprinkle with lemon zest, if desired.

Chocolate Sheet Cake

chocolate sheet cake slices

I don’t have a whole lot to say about this cake. It’s easy and delicious in that moist, tender bakery-style sort of way; and it feeds a crowd. You don’t need a mixer; it’s almost a dump-everything-in-a-bowl-and-stir situation. The frosting is my favorite ever chocolate frosting: it’s swoopy and glossy and not too sweet, and if you use black cocoa and good dark chocolate it comes out basically black without a smidge of food coloring involved. I love it! Plus it’s all made in the food processor — even easier than the cake. Add a few sprinkles (the colorful ones and/or flaky sea salt) and you’ve got yourself a pretty classy sheet cake with minimal work involved.

frosting sheet cake

single slice

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Note:

  • If you don’t care about the color of the frosting, you can use Dutch-processed cocoa in place of black. The ultimate color of the frosting will depend on how black your black cocoa is (I got mine at a local baking goods store and it’s exceptionally dark) and what kind of dark chocolate you use. The frosting also tends to darken as it sits. The frosting isn’t too sweet — I definitely prefer it this way, but if you like a sweeter frosting, you can increase the amount of confectioners’ sugar to taste.

Chocolate Sheet Cake with Glossy Black Frosting

Makes one 9×13 cake

Ingredients

For the chocolate sheet cake:

  • 284g AP flour
  • 380g granulated sugar
  • 84g dutch process cocoa
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 226g sour cream, at room temperature
  • 114g grapeseed oil (or other neutral oil)
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 c freshly brewed hot strong coffee

For the glossy black chocolate frosting (adapted from Sweetapolita):

  • 255g unsalted butter, softened
  • 90g confectioners’ sugar
  • 45g black cocoa powder
  • 1/4 c hot water
  • 60g / 1/4 c sour cream
  • 3/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • Generous pinch of salt
  • 145g good quality dark chocolate, melted and cooled (I use Callebaut 70%)

To assemble:

  • Sprinkles
  • Flaky sea salt

Method

For the chocolate sheet cake:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Lightly grease and line a 9×13 pan with parchment paper that overhangs on the two long edges by at least a couple inches. This will make it easy to remove the cake from the pan later. (I like to secure the long edges with binder clips so the parchment doesn’t fall onto the cake in the oven.)
  2. Sift together all ingredients from the flour through the salt. In a small bowl, whisk together all the remaining ingredients except the coffee. Add the wet to the dry ingredients and whisk to combine. Add the coffee and stir just until the batter is smooth. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and level the surface with an offset palette knife.
  3. Bake until the cake is lightly springy to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few moist crumbs (but no raw batter), about 28-35 minutes. Cool on a wire rack completely before frosting.

For the frosting:

  • Combine all ingredients except the melted chocolate in a food processor and process until combined. Add the melted chocolate and process until smooth. Use immediately. (Note: the frosting is glossy as long as it stays at room temperature; it will harden and take on a more matte look after refrigeration. If you do refrigerate the cake, make sure to bring it back to room temperature before serving. It just tastes better!)

To assemble:

  • Transfer the cake to a serving platter if desired. Spoon large dollops of frosting around the cake and use an offset spatula or spoon to swirl it around. Add sprinkles. Enjoy!

close up slices

Carrot Cake for Two

mini carrot cake

Every February I make carrot and chocolate cakes, one for our anniversary (on Feb. 1st) and one for Valentine’s Day. Since you can…er, should only eat so much cake, I’ve been converting cake recipes to cute little 4-inch versions. You could make one large cake layer and cut out rounds, but this way you don’t have any scraps and the cleaner edges make frosting easier. (I use two pans like these.)

By the way, this is also the perfect size for smash cakes and kids’ birthdays!

Finally, this post was created as part of a blog/Instagram carrot-themed collaboration! Be sure to check out all the recipes and photos of the many delicious carrot creations from around the world (links at the end this post).

mini carrot cake cut

Carrot Cake for Two

Makes one 4-inch cake

For the cake layers (adapted from BraveTart: Iconic American Desserts):

  • 66g toasted pecan or walnut pieces
  • 152g whole, unpeeled carrots (About 1 large)
  • 70g unsalted butter
  • 10g grapeseed oil
  • 52g AP flour
  • 24g WW flour
  • 50g granulated sugar
  • 38g light brown sugar
  • 3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • heaping 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • heaping 1/8 tsp baking soda
  • 1/8 tsp grated nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg, fridge cold

For the cream cheese frosting:

  • 150g unsalted butter, softened
  • 180g powdered sugar, sifted
  • 200 g cream cheese, cold
  • Dash of vanilla extract
  • Generous pinch of salt

Method

For the cake layers:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F. I like to toast the chopped nuts while the oven is preheating; spread them out in a single layer on a small sheetpan and put into the preheating oven. (Just don’t forget about them! This small quantity should toast pretty quickly — about 5-7 minutes.) Shred the carrots and set aside. Grease and flour two 4-inch cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper.
  2. In a small saucepan, brown the butter. Transfer browned butter (plus all the toasty bits) to a pourable, heat-safe glass cup and add the oil. In a separate bowl, whisk the all purpose and whole wheat flours together and set aside.
  3. In a bowl of a standmixer fitted with a whisk attachment, combine the remaining ingredients (sugars through egg). Mix on low speed to combine, then turn up the speed to medium and mix until the mixture is thick and fluffy, 6-8 minutes. With the mixer still running, slowly drizzle in the brown butter/oil mixture. Turn the mixer to low and add the flours. Once the batter is smooth, turn the mixer off and fold in the nuts and carrots with a silicone spatula, mixing just until everything is evenly combined.
  4. Divide the batter evenly between the two pans and bake until the cakes are golden and lightly springy to the touch, about 25-30 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool for about 15 minutes, then run a thin spatula around the edges and turn the cakes out of the pans to cool completely.

For the cream cheese frosting:

  • Beat the butter on medium-high speed until pale. Add the icing sugar, then beat until light and fluffy. Add the cream cheese, vanilla, and salt and beat just until smooth.

To assemble:

  1. Level the cakes if needed and slice each layer horizontally in half to make four total layers. (You can pop the cooled cakes into the freezer for about 10 minutes; this makes them easier to cut.)
  2. Attach the first layer to a cake board (or cake stand) with a dollop of frosting. Using a small offset spatula, spread on an even layer of frosting and top with the next layer. Continue until you have used all the layers, then cover the entire cake with a thin coat of frosting to lock in all the crumbs. Refrigerate the cake for about 20 minutes, or until the frosting is hard.
  3. Spread a thick, even layer of frosting over the entire cake. Use an offset spatula or the back of a spoon to create swoops and swirls if desired. Store covered at cool room temperature until ready to serve.

#24carrotgoals Carrot Collaboration Links