Two Bite Carrot Cakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

I was really in the mood for carrot cake, but I am trying to stick with my diet.  With all the seasonal parties, open houses and work related dinners it is just too easy to gain weight during the holidays.  My solution, to being able to indulge in having the cake I crave yet keep the portion sizes small, is to bake the carrot cake in a mini-muffin pan.  This way I can have the cake that I want but I don’t eat a huge slice.

I pulled my copy of Joy of Cooking and adapted their (yes the cover may list the Rombauer family as the authors but we all know that the latest edition was put together by a huge team of accomplished cook book authors, just read the introduction for a complete list of names) recipe.

Printable recipe

Two Bite Carrot Cakes with Cream Cheese Icing

 Ingredients

 Cake

1 ½ cups all purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon grated nutmeg

½ teaspoon ground cloves

½ teaspoon ground allspice

2 large eggs

¾ cup sugar

1 ½ cups finely shredded carrots

¼ cup orange juice

5 tablespoons vegetable oil

½ cup chopped pecans

½ cups golden raisins

 Frosting

8 ounces room temperature cream cheese

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

3 teaspoons vanilla

2 ½ cups sifted powdered sugar

 Method

 Cake

1        Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and all spices.  Set aside.

2        In mixer, on medium, combine eggs and sugar till smooth, about 2 minutes.

3        Stir in carrots

4        Mix in, till combined, orange juice and vegetable oil.

5        Fold in pecans and raisins.

6        On low, slowly add the flour mixture until just combined.  Do not overmix!

7        Using an ice cream scoop drop batter into spray coated mini-muffin pan.

8        Bake at 400 degrees about 15 to 18 minutes, until the muffins pass the toothpick test.

9        Remove to rack and let cool completely.

10    When fully cooled top with frosting.

 Frosting

In the bowl of a food processor combine, by using a few short pulses, the cream cheese, butter, vanilla and powdered sugar, till smooth.

Advertisements

Peanut Butter Banana Chocolate Cake

Printable recipe

Peanut Butter Banana Chocolate Cake

 

Ingredients

½ cup (1 sick) unsalted butter

1 cup sugar

1 large egg

2 teaspoons vanilla

2 cups (about 3 medium) mashed bananas

1/3 cup creamy peanut butter

1 ½ cups all purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

¼ cup cocoa

1 cup Nestle’s Peanut Butter & Milk Chocolate chips

 

Method

In a mixing bowl, on medium, cream together the butte and sugar till smooth, about 3 minutes.

 

Mix in egg, vanilla, bananas and peanut butter.  It may look curdled but don’t panic.

 

In separate bowl mix together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.

 

With the mixer on low, add the dry mixture to the wet in three batches.

 

Divide the batter in half.

 

Stir the cocoa into one half of the batter until well combined.

 

Spread the cocoa batter on the bottom of a greased 9×13 inch baking pan.

 

Spread the remaining plain batter over the top of the cocoa batter.

 

Sprinkle the cup of peanut butter chips over the top of the batter.

 

Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes, until the cake passes the toothpick test.

 

Let cool at least 15 minutes before removing from the pan to a cooling rack to finish the cooling process

Homemade Ice Cream Cake

The family was going to get together to celebrate my daughter’s birthday and her Grandmother, as always, volunteered to purchase an ice cream cake from so as to not get sued please insert national chain of your choice here.  I find most commercial ice cream cakes to be pretty mediocre.  The ice cream is either rock hard or a melting flavorless mess and the quality of the cake and icing are worse than mediocre.  Then to top it all off the price that they charge is way way too high.

This year I put my foot down and said that I would make the cake.  So as to keep peace in the house and appear to be the “compassionate” father, I consulted with my daughter about what she wanted in an ice cream cake.  She explained, in the tone and manner that only 16 year old girls seem to have mastered, that birthday cakes MUST have chocolate cake and chocolate icing.  Her favorite ice cream flavor is Moose Tracks so that MUST be incorporated into the cake.  Now that I have been given my marching orders it is off to the kitchen.

Whenever I am confronted with making a classic type of dish I go to consult a stack of “old fashioned” classic cookbooks that have been either handed down or collected over the years.  For a chocolate cake that would stand up to being make into an ice cream cake my first choice is an old ring-bound promotional cookbook from Hershey’s.  This is the Hershey’s book that my Mother received at the end of a tour of the Hershey’s factory (back when they gave real factory tours not the crappy Disney style ride they use today) in Lancaster, PA during the summer of 1969.  The rest of the world was at Woodstock while I was with my family touring a chocolate factory.  To paraphrase Jerry Garcia, what a strange, strange trip it’s been.

The Hershey’s book did have a recipe for ice cream cake but it called for using a buttercream frosting.  I thought about it for a while and decided to use a chocolate ganache to coat the cake layers.  By using a ganche I solved two issues:  1) a 16 year old wants a more “mature” type of cake and ganache is more “mature” than buttercream and 2) the ganache would serve as insulation so if the ice cream started to melt it would not turn the cake into a mushy mess but it would retain it’s cakey texture.

Printable recipe

Homemade Ice Cream Cake

Inspired by a recipe from a Hershey’s promotional cookbook

 Cake

2 cups sugar

1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour

¾ cups cocoa

1 ½ teaspoons baking soda

1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

2 eggs – at room temperature

1 cup milk

½ cup vegetable oil

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1 cup boiling water

 

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray and line 2 9” round cake pans.
  2. In a mixing bowl combine all the dry ingredients.
  3.  Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla.  Beat on medium until well combined. About 2 minutes.
  4.  Stir in the boiling water till smooth.  Batter will be very thin.
  5.  Pour into prepared pans and bake 30 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.
  6.  Cool in cake pans about 15 minutes, then remove to cooling rack to finish cooling.

 Ice Cream Layer

  1.  Take a 1.5 Qt container of ice cream, your choice of any flavor, out from the freezer and let soften on the counter for about 10 minutes.
  2.  Using the same size pan you used for the cake layers, cover the inside of the pan with plastic wrap.  Let the plastic hang over the ends of the pan.
  3.  Pack the ice cream into the lined pan and smooth the top.  Move the ice cream back to the freezer to harden for at least an hour.

 Ganache

  1.  1 c. heavy cream
  2.  2 Tbsp. butter
  3.  2 Tbsp. sugar
  4.  12 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, broken into small pieces

Place heavy cream, butter and sugar into a saucepan. Stir frequently and bring the mixture to a boil.

Place the chocolate pieces in a stainless steel bowl. Pour the hot cream mixture over the chocolate and cover with plastic wrap. Let sit for about 5 minutes so as to allow the chocolate to melt. Mix thoroughly, making sure all the pieces of chocolate are combined.  Let cool to room temperature.

To Assemble

  1. Pour the ganache over the two cake layers.  Coat the entire top and sides of each layer.  Let the cake layers set up by chilling in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
  2. When the cake layers have set up (the ganache has become stiff) remove the cake from the refrigerator and the ice cream from the freezer.
  3. On a serving platter or a cardboard cake round place a layer of cake, then top with the ice cream, then finish with the remaining cake layer.
  4. Place cake back in the freezer for at least 2 hours.

 Remove cake from freezer 10-15 minutes prior to serving.

Yield 12-16 slices.

Double Chocolate Brownies

Double Chocolate Brownies

More poker night deserts!

There are so many brownie recipes floating around that it is hard to pick just one that I like best.  The basic brownie recipe is very simple with just a few ingredients, but then the chemistry of baking steps in and creates many exciting possibilities.  By making a few slight adjustments in ingredients and ratios of ingredients you can create brownies that are cakey or fudgey or thin or high or dense or moist, with or without nuts, with strong or mild chocolate flavor.

The recipe I made for poker night yields a dense chocolatey brownie with toasted pecans thoughout.  The guys loved the brownies and there were many comments about the texture and the deep chocolate flavor.  My kids don’t like brownies with nuts so I was able to keep the few leftovers for myself. 

Printable recipe

Double Chocolate Brownies

Adapted from a recipe by Robert Morocco

 

Ingredients

1 cup pecan pieces

5 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped

2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces

1 cup sugar

2 teaspoons pure vanilla

1 teaspoon salt

2 large eggs, room temperature

¼ cup all-purpose flour

 

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Line a 9-inch square baking pan with foil and allow excess foil to hang over the sides.
  2. In a saute pan, over medium heat, toast the nuts about 3 to 5 minutes.  Stir frequently.  Keep an eye on the pan, as nuts will go from raw to toasted to burnt very quickly.  Let cool.
  3. Melt the chocolates and butter together.  The classic method is to melt the chocolate and butter in a metal bowl placed over a pot of shimmering water.  The easy way is to melt the chocolates and butter in the microwave on high for 30 seconds, stir and repeat until just melted and combined.
  4. Stir in the sugar, vanilla and salt.
  5. Beat in the eggs, one at a time.  The batter should have a slight shine to it.
  6. Whisk in the flour until the batter is smooth.
  7. Fold in the toasted nuts.
  8. Spread evenly in the pan and bake for about 40 minutes.  The top should look shiny and may be cracked.  A toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs.
  9. Let the brownies cool in the pan.  To get smooth cuts, freeze the brownies for about 30 minutes.  Remove the foil and cut with a sharp knife.

Mini Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

Mini Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

Today will be a brief posting day.  The kids are off from school today (Veteran’s Day),  my wife is in New York for business and I have my regular work that needs to be done.  I just wanted to continue posting some of the deserts that went over so well at my Sunday night poker game.

The Mini Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins take about 10 minutes to assemble and fit in one pan for a quick 15 minutes in the oven.

Printable recipe

Mini Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

 

Yield 24 mini muffins

 

Ingredients

½ cup butter at room temperature

1 cup brown sugar

2 large eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 ½ cups all purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground allspice

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

½ teaspoon ground cloves

2 medium bananas, mashed.  About 1 ¼ cups

1 cup chocolate chips plus reserve extra chips to top the muffins with

 

Method

  1. Spray the cups of a 24 count mini muffin pan.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  3. In a bowl sift together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg and cloves.  Set aside.
  4. In a mixer, on medium speed, cream the butter and sugar until smooth. About 3-5 minutes.
  5. Beat in eggs one at a time, until well incorporated.
  6. Stir in vanilla.
  7. On low, slowly mix the dry ingredients into the wet until just combined.
  8. Stir in the mashed banana.
  9. Fold in the chocolate chips.
  10.  Spoon the batter into the muffin cups till about ¾ full.  If you over-fill the cups the muffins will overflow onto the top of the muffin tin, take longer to bake and be difficult to remove from the pan.  Sprinkle 3 or 4 of the reserved chocolate chips on the top of each batter filled cup.
  11.  Bake for 15 to 18 minutes or until the tops are light brown and a toothpick inserted into a muffin comes out clean.
  12.   Let cool in the pan for about 10 minutes before removing the muffins to a cooling rack.

 

Book Review – Bobby Flay’s Burgers, Shakes & Fries

flay cover resized

Bobby Flay’s Burgers, Fries & Shakes  Bobby Flay with Stephanie Banyas & Sally Jackson  Photographs by Ben Fink  Clarkson Potter Publishers 2009

 Has anyone considered re-naming the Food Network the Bobby Flay Channel?  Currently airing shows include: Iron Chef America, Boy Meets Grill, Throwdown with Bobby Flay, The Next Food Network Star and Grill It with Bobby Flay.  When Mr. Flay is not appearing on the Food Network he can be found on TV as the Food Correspondent for The Early Show on CBS, creating new dishes for his growing restaurant empire or writing another book (this is his ninth).

 The book opens with an excellent primer covering all the burger knowledge essentials that a home cook needs to turn out juicy burgers.  According to Bobby, to create the perfect burger, you need to start with 80% lean 20% fat fresh ground chuck and then season with just salt and pepper.  If you are tempted to add breadcrumbs, fillers, egg, spices or herbs then the result is a meatloaf and not a burger.  The meat should be handled as little as possible and not over-compressed when the patty is formed, so as to avoid becoming dry and tough when grilled.  When grilling sometimes you see burgers that have blown up so as to resemble baseballs rather then burgers.  The solution to the ball-of-meat problem is to put a large dimple or depression in the center of the patty when forming a burger, this helps to ensure a moist, juicy burger.  The bun should be soft, without becoming squishy, while also being strong enough to support a juicy burger with all the toppings.

 Once you have created the perfect burger it is time to go wild with the toppings.  At Bobby’s Burger Palace, Flay’s new chain of burger joints, the list of available topping reads like the inventory of an entire ethnic grocery store.  The Bolo Burger combines a smoky paprika aioli with Marengo cheese and sliced Serrano ham.  The Carolina Burger is topped with a spicy Mustard Barbeque Sauce and creamy Green Onion Slaw.  A favorite is The Cheyenne Burger which layers smoked cheddar, spicy barbeque sauce and crispy fried onion rings.  One of the secrets to making a great burger is the quality of the toppings, if you start with average ingredients you end up with an average burger.

 There is an entire chapter covering French Fries, Chips and Onion Rings.  Combine seven recipes for fried potatoes, two styles of crispy onion rings with home made chips and you have increased the WOW factor exponentially.  For the Grilled Steak Fries Bobby leaves the skin on the potatoes so they don’t fall apart while being grilled to a golden brown.  In the Beer-Battered Onion Rings the beer acts as a leavening agent which yields a tender, delicious skin covering sweet onions.

 Don’t be tempted to skip the chapter covering Condiments and Seasonings, this is not filler or an afterthought.  The recipes in this chapter are those little extras that transform the burgers and fries from the mundane to the spectacular.  The Chipotle Ketchup, with just a few tweaks to store bought ketchup, produces a smoky condiment that is fast and easy to stir together.  The Cuban Seasoning and Southwestern Seasoning, while great on fries, will find themselves being used to season other types of food, such as grilled fish and chicken.

 A book that is titled Burgers, Fries & Shakes would be incomplete without a chapter covering milkshakes.  The recipes for 17 different kinds of shakes plus toppings will have you smiling and the family arguing over which to make first.  Warm chocolate is drizzled into the Banana-Milk Chocolate Crackle Milkshake, which leaves thin strings of hardened chocolate throughout the shake.  Combining heavy cream, Marshmallow Fluff, cream of coconut, milk, chocolate syrup and premium chocolate ice cream is then layered to make the Dark Chocolate Milkshake with “Fluffy” Coconut Cream.

 This book would be a welcome addition to any carnivore’s library.  The recipes are easy to make even with minimal kitchen skills. This is one of those rare cookbooks where any home cook can produce a dish that looks exactly like the photo in the book.

Peanut Butter Banana Marshmallow Shake

Bobby Flay’s Burgers, Shakes & Fries  Clarkson Potter Publishers c 2009
 
1/2 cup whole milk
1 medium overly ripe banana (should have black speckles), peeled and quartered
3 heaping tablespoons creamy peanut butter (do not use natural)
3 heaping tablespoons Marshmallow Fluff
10 ounces premium vanilla ice cream (about 1 2/3 packed cups)
 
Combine milk, banana, peanut butter and Marshmallow Fluff in a blender and blend until combined, about 7 seconds.
Add the ice cream and blend until smooth, about 10 seconds.
Serve immediately.

Printable recipe