Pretzel Turtles

One of my favorite places to visit in the DC area is Old Town Alexandria.  I first discovered Old Town as a 1L.  I really, really needed to get out of DC and away from law school for a few hours one day, so I rode the Metro down to King Street and walked up and down, checking out the shops, watching the boats cruise by on the Potomac, and enjoying some frozen custard.  I felt like I was on vacation.  Since then, I have jumped on the Metro (or more recently, into the car) many times when I needed a quick getaway for an afternoon.  It’s one of the most enjoyable ways to spend an afternoon, and hubby loves Old Town as much as I do.  Some time ago, as we wandered through some side streets, we happened upon The Sugar Cube, quite possibly the best confectionary EVER.  They sell a mix of old-timey retro treats and gourmet sweets.  Last time we stopped by, I bought a “turtle” style truffle made with crushed pretzels.  Salty and sweet, this goodie represented everything that I love about chocolate-covered pretzels in a compact, bite-sized package.  YUM!  I love experimenting with different kinds of candy, so I knew that this would have to be on the menu for my next party… and these little beauties went over famously, as chocolate always does with my friends.

Pretzel Turtles

2 cups crushed pretzels
1 package milk-chocolate chips
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 package dark-chocolate chips
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
Maldon sea salt, for garnishing (optional)

  • In a double-boiler, melt the milk chocolate chips and cream together until they form a smooth mixture.  Stir in the crushed pretzels.
  • Lay out a sheet of parchment paper on a counter.  Using a teaspoon, portion out the truffles on the parchment paper and allow to dry.
  • Meanwhile, melt the dark chocolate chips and corn syrup together until smooth.  Pour over the truffles to create a ganache-style topping.
  • If desired, sprinkle truffles with Maldon sea salt.  Allow truffles to dry before serving.

Source: Inspired by The Sugar Cube.

Yield: approximately 24 truffles.

Cinnamon-Chocolate Fudge

Hubby had just one request for the Superbowl: fudge.  We saw Giada make this cinnamon-chocolate fudge as part of her football snacks episode on “Giada At Home,” and ever since then, hubby has been wondering how he made it through so many football games without fudge.  Now, I like chocolate fudge just fine – generally, it’s not what I would choose, but it’s fine – but I had never tried making it before.  But seeing as this was ridiculously easy to make, and it made hubby oh-so-happy, I’ll probably be making it again.  Not for awhile, though… we’ve got quite a bit left.  To hubby’s coworkers, if you’re reading this… bring your appetites to work tomorrow (or whenever we dig out from “Snowmageddon” and actually see our offices again).

Cinnamon-Chocolate Fudge

2 cups milk chocolate chips (preferably Ghirardelli)*
1 can sweetened condensed milk
2 teaspoons cinnamon**
3 tablespoons butter
Maldon sea salt (about a tablespoon)

  • Prepare an 8×8 baking pan by buttering the sides and bottom, then lining with parchment – leaving an overhang – and buttering the parchment.
  • In a double boiler, melt together the chocolate, condensed milk, cinnamon and butter until smooth.
  • Pour the chocolate-cinnamon mixture into the buttered baking pan and smooth the top.  Sprinkle over the Maldon sea salt to your taste (I like to be a bit generous with the salt).
  • Place the fudge in the refrigerator and allow to set, at least 2 hours.  Slice into small pieces and serve cold.

*The original recipe called for dark chocolate, but I generally prefer milk chocolate – and my picked-over grocery store was all out of dark chocolate.  (It’s good to see where people’s priorities lie when a blizzard is coming.)  Feel free to substitute dark chocolate of whatever percentage you prefer – the recipe recommends 60%, but I could see up to 72% being good if you are a dark chocolate fan.

**I stuck with the original recipe’s recommendation and used cinnamon, and it did give the chocolate a nice depth of flavor.  Hubby really liked the combination of chocolate and cinnamon, but I was less keen on it.  Objectively, they did work well together, but I just don’t care for the combination, apparently.  I think that next time I make this fudge, I’ll do it with a teaspoon of coffee-flavored extract or raspberry-flavored extract for a bit of a different spin.  You could also leave out the flavoring altogether, and stir in some chopped nuts instead.  This fudge recipe leaves lots of room for creativity.  Go nuts!

Source: Adapted from Giada At Home.

Angel Kisses

I’m going to put my money where my mouth is: these cookies deserve to be called angel kisses.  They are shaped like kisses, but they’re as light as clouds in heaven.  Not to mention that eating them is, quite literally, like being kissed by an angel.  That’s right, they’re that good.

Okay, angel kisses is just my adorable name for simple meringue cookies.  And these really are simple, but they are a bit of a time investment.  You are going to need just over two hours to make them, so budget the afternoon – but really, most of that time is spent in the oven, totally hands-off for the baker.  Although they are a time commitment, angel kisses are remarkably low maintenance and they keep very well – that is, if you can stop yourself from popping them into your mouth.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you… but these truly are heavenly.

Angel Kisses

8 egg whites
1 cup superfine sugar
1 teaspoon lemon extract (or vanilla extract, or grapefruit juice)
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
pinch salt

  • Preheat oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • In a stand mixer, beat the egg whites on medium speed until they have begun to get white and foamy.  With the mixer running, pour in superfine sugar slowly, in a thin stream.  Add lemon extract, cream of tartar and salt.
  • Raise mixer speed to 8 (if using a KitchenAid) or medium-high, and continue to beat for 8 minutes.  After 8 minutes – the egg whites should be shiny and smooth – raise mixer speed to 10 (if using a KitchenAid) or the maximum possible speed, and whip for 2 minutes, or until egg whites hold stiff peaks.
  • Transfer egg whites into a piping bag with a large star tip attached.*  Pipe the meringues onto a baking sheet covered with a Silpat or parchment paper.  (Don’t worry about spreading, because they won’t.  Pipe them as close together as you can – this recipe makes a LOT and you want to get as many onto your baking sheet as possible.  They won’t be as good in a second batch, so it’s best to try to get them all in the oven at once.)
  • Place baking sheets into the oven and immediately reduce heat to 200 degrees.  Leave in the oven for 2 hours.   After the two hours is complete, test one – it won’t be hot, but it should be completely dried out.  If they need more time, leave them in the oven for another 45 minutes or so, with the oven off.

Source: Covered In Flour

*Nota Baker: This recipe works best if you do take the time to pipe these out.  Piping is very easy, but very important – it ensures that the meringues will dry out relatively evenly.  However, if you don’t have cake decorating supplies – which are sold at Michael’s craft stores and are very inexpensive and worth owning – you can dollop the egg whites out with a teaspoon.  They won’t look as cute, and they won’t dry out as well or as thoroughly, but the teaspoon method works in a pinch.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you, though.

Grapefruit Curd

Citrus is one of my all-time favorite flavors, and grapefruit is right up there with limes and Meyer lemons fighting for top billing as my favorite citrus.  I’ve been a fan of grapefruit since college.  We always had them in my sorority house, and I got to the point where I would be grouchy if I didn’t start the day with grapefruit.  I even took to packing grapefruits in my lunch and eating them like oranges, until my friend Amy staged an intervention.

I’m serious.

Yes, I’m serious about citrus and I’m serious about grapefruit.  You see, I grew up and went to college in a region of the country where citrus was about the only taste of sunshine we got in the winter, off the ski slopes, that is.  Since I’ve started cooking, I’ve made many citrus recipes, some including grapefruit – grapefruit and fennel salad, for instance, or roasted halibut with grapefruit-mint salsa.  So I’m shocked that it took me until now to consider making grapefruit curd.  After all, I love lemon curd and lime curd.  Once the thought occurred to me – call it the mid-winter doldrums, but I needed some citrus in my life this weekend – I did some sniffing around and found that my gal Martha has a recipe for grapefruit curd.  Apparently grape minds think alike! 

Grapefruit Curd

1/4 cup fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice
1 cup granulated sugar
pinch salt
8 egg yolks
1 1/4 sticks butter, cut into tablespoon-sized pieces

  • In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine grapefruit juice, sugar and salt.  Whisk to blend evenly.
  • Heat the grapefruit-sugar mixture over medium-high heat, stirring in the egg yolks one at a time with a wooden spoon.  Continue stirring for 8 minutes, until mixture has thickened slightly.  (Work the spoon slowly; you don’t want to scramble the eggs.  Odds are you will have little eggy bits.  Don’t worry about this – we’re going to deal with it in a minute.)
  • Take the pan off the heat.  Working one piece at a time, melt the butter into the curd.
  • Pass curd through a fine mesh sieve to remove any eggy bits (See?  I told you we’d deal with them).  Decant into a glass jar or container for storage.  Allow curd to rest in the fridge for 2-3 hours, until set.  Serve on scones, toast, meringues, over ice cream… you name it.

Source: adapted from Martha Stewart‘s Baking Handbook, by Martha Stewart

Nota Baker: Curd is a fantastic candidate for canning.  These instructions assume that you are going to keep the curd in the refrigerator and consume it within a few days.  If you intend to can… well, I can’t help you with that.  I currently do not have room in my kitchen for the canning apparatus.  Don’t worry, I’m working on that problem and you’ll see canning recipes on here before too long (I hope).

Upside Down Pear and Chocolate Cake

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Despite all of my best intentions, I’ve still had trouble getting to the keyboard to wave “hi” to the blogosphere.  It’s been a crazy few weeks at work, and I’ve been doing some traveling, which is keeping me away from my computer on weekends.  I haven’t even been doing all that much cooking – we’re living on cheese and pickles and bean dip these days, it seems.  But I do want to share this wonderful cake with you… provided you still like me, even though I’m such a lousy blogger.

I’ve been wanting to make this cake for awhile.  It’s from Rustic Fruit Desserts – a baking book that has become a standby for me even in the short time I’ve had it.  But complications arose which prevented me from baking this.  You see, hubby doesn’t like pears.  Don’t ask me why.  Don’t ask him why, either.  He doesn’t know why, he just knows that he doesn’t like them.  So with hubby not liking pears, and me not being the biggest chocolate afficianado, this cake seemed destined to end up in the pile of good-ideas-that-will-never-get-baked.  But I kept it in the back of my head, because really it’s a lovely recipe and I wanted to give it the old college try.  Then last weekend I finally got my chance – I was down in Miami visiting my college B-F-F, the adorable Rebecca, and it just happened to be her birthday.  Clearly, Rebecca needed a birthday cake, and clearly, I was just the girl to bake it for her!  We pulled out a bunch of cookbooks and this recipe from Rustic Fruit Desserts – which Rebecca had ordered after I raved about it – was the clear winner.  After one bite, we both agreed that this is a cake to make again and again.  The cake is moist, which you don’t always get in chocolate cakes, with a deep, dark, chocolatey flavor, and the pears and homemade caramel take it over the top.

I might even bake it for hubby.  See if I can change his mind about pears.

Upside Down Pear and Chocolate Cake

Fruit Topping
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
3 firm-ripe pears, peeled, cored and sliced

Cake
1/4 cup unsalted butter
4 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup Dutch-processed (unsweetened) cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup whole milk

  • Butter a 9-inch round cake pan and set aside.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Make caramel: Put 1 cup sugar and 1/4 cup water into a heavy saucepan with a tight-fitting lid and stir until sugar dissolves.  Bring the sugar mixture to a boil over medium heat, then cover and allow to cook for two minutes.  Uncover and allow the sugar mixture to continue to boil, gently swirling occasionally, until the caramel takes on a dark amber color.  Pour the caramel carefully – very carefully! – into the prepared baking pan and allow it to solidify.  Arrange the pear slices over the caramel (either fan them out if you want them to look pretty, or strew them haphazardly for a more rustic look – I would have preferred the latter, but the birthday girl requested the former, so that’s what I did).
  • To make the cake, melt the butter and chopped chocolate together over a double boiler.  Meanwhile, sift tgether the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt, whisk to combine if necessary, and set aside.
  • Transfer the melted chocolate to the bowl of a stand mixer, add the sugar, and beat with the paddle attachment (or use a hand mixer with beaters) for 3 minutes on medium speed, until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating well to incorporate and scraping down the sides after each addition.  Stir in the vanilla.
  • Mix the dry ingredients into the chocolate, sugar and egg mixture in three additions, alternating with the milk.  Pour the batter over the pear slices in the prepared pan and bake for 45 minutes, until springy.
  • Cool the cake in its pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes, then invert onto a plate, leaving the pan on the cake for another 5 minutes before removing it.  (Nota Baker: Don’t rush this!  I’ve tried to unmold things before they were ready.  Major disaster.  As the Pioneer Woman would say, don’t be like me.)  Serve cake warm, preferably with vanilla ice cream.

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Source: Rustic Fruit Desserts, by Cory Schreiber and Julie Richardson

Apple Pluot Crisp

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How’s this for a transition dish?  The last of summer’s beautiful, mouthwatering pluots, combined with the first of fall’s abundant apples, and topped with a crunchy, sweet oat crisp.  Yes, please!  This is seasonal food at its best… crisps are a fantastic option for summer and fall desserts because they welcome any fruit filling you can imagine.  I think of fruit crisp as the quintessential farmers market dish: just pick the most delectable fruit you can find at your farmers market (or, better yet, at a local orchard – go to www.pickyourown.org to find one near you) and go nuts.  Your dinner guests will love it!

Apple Pluot Crisp

Fruit Filling
5 pluots
3 medium apples
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
pinch salt

Crisp topping
1 cup flour
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup sugar
4 tablespoons butter, cubed
pinch salt

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Prepare fruit: peel and core apples, then chop into medium-large chunks.  Bring a pot of water to a boil; score the bottoms of the pluots with “x” marks and drop them in the boiling water.  Allow pluots to boil for 30-45 seconds, then remove and place in cold water immediately.  Peel pluot skins off (they should come off easily now) and core and chop pluots.  Mix apples and pluots together in a medium bowl.  Add salt, sugar and cornstarch and toss to coat evenly.
  • Combine flour, oats, sugar and salt in a separate bowl; whisk together.  Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter or two knives (alternatively, combine dry ingredients in a food processor, then pulse in the butter).
  • Spread fruit filling out in 8×8 baking dish.  Cover evenly with crisp topping.  Bake for 50-55 minutes, until fruit is cooked through and topping is golden brown.  Serve with homemade vanilla bean ice cream.

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Source: Covered In Flour, inspired by The Barefoot Contessa

Apple Coconut Family Cake

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Last week I wasn’t quite ready to welcome fall, and I’m still not quite there.  I’m getting closer, but I’m not at the point where I’m ready to haul out my autumn candleholders and research pumpkin patches.  This is late for me; as I type this post my husband is yelling out “TOUCHDOWN!”  Usually, I’ve already got my Thanksgiving menu planned by the NFL kickoff, but not this year.  Still, I am making my first concessions to the season.  According to Dorie Greenspan, this Apple Coconut Family Cake tastes like “early fall.”  Okay.  I’m on board with early fall… especially when it tastes like a moist cake flavored with apples and coconut.

Apple Coconut Family Cake

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch of salt
2 or 3 apples (see below), peeled and cored
2 large eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup coconut milk
6 tablespoons applesauce
1 tablespoon dark rum
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup shredded coconut

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Butter and flour a loaf pan (or spray it with PAM for Baking or another baking spray) and set aside.
  • Chop 2 of the apples into small dice, cover with plastic wrap and set aside.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.  Set aside.
  • In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar together until smooth (approximately 1 minute).  Whisk in the coconut milk, applesauce, rum and vanilla for another minute, until smooth.  With the whisk or a spoon or spatula, stir in the dry ingredients.  fold in the shredded coconut and diced apple.
  • Pour batter into prepared loaf pan.  If desired, slice a third apple into decorative half-moon shapes and place atop the cake.  (If using third apple, dot with a small amount of butter to aid in coloring.)  Place the loaf pan on a foil- or parchment-lined baking sheet.
  • Bake for 50-55 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.  Remove cake from oven and cool another 20 minutes.  After cake has cooled, transfer to a platter.  If desired, dust with powdered sugar and serve.

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Source: Adapted from Baking: From My Home To Yours, by Dorie Greenspan.

Lemon and Almond Semifreddo

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For dessert on our anniversary, I wanted to make something simple and refreshing (it is August in DC, after all), something that seemed special and unusual, and most of all, something that wouldn’t require me slaving over the stove when I ought to be drinking wine and relaxing with hubby.  A semifreddo perfectly fit my requirements.  I had made one before – once – a few years ago for an Easter dinner with my parents and their close friends (practically my second set of parents) and it had been the most popular dish of the meal.  I started thinking back to that semifreddo and wondering why I don’t make them more often.  They are simple, easy, light, refreshing, and people go crazy for them.  Plus, semifreddo is a frozen dessert that doesn’t require me to lug out my ice cream maker.  What more could I want for an anniversary dessert?  I whipped this up early in the morning before work and it sat in the freezer all day.  10 minutes of beating eggs and cream in the morning, and dessert was just about done.  It doesn’t get much better than that!

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Lemon and Almond Semifreddo

4 egg whites (be sure they are very fresh and don’t drop any shell, because they won’t be cooked)
1 1/4 cup powdered sugar, divided
1 1/2 cups chilled whipping cream
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon (I like ceylon)
1 cup coarsely ground almond tea biscuits (or amaretti)
1 package frozen raspberries, thawed

  • Puree the raspberries with 1/4 cup of powdered sugar.  Press through a fine mesh strainer to remove seeds.  Cover and chill, up to 2 days.
  • Line a loaf pan with 2 layers of plastic wrap, leaving considerable overhang.  Place in freezer to chill while you proceed with the recipe.
  • Using a hand mixer, beat egg whites until soft peaks form.  Add 1/4 cup of powdered sugar and beat until stiff peaks form.
  • Using the same beaters, but a different bowl, beat cream until soft peaks form.  Add remaining sugar (3/4 cup) and beat until stiff peaks form.  Fold a large spoonful of the whipped cream into the beaten eggs, then fold the beaten eggs into the cream in 2 additions.  Add cinnamon, lemon zest and 3/4 cup of the crushed biscuits into the mixture and fold gently until the flavorings are distributed throughout.
  • Transfer mixture into prepared loaf pan, cover with the overhanging plastic wrap, and freeze at least 4 hours and up to a day.
  • To serve, unmold and peel off plastic wrap.  Slice and our raspberry sauce over, then sprinkle reserved biscuit crumbs over slices.

Yield: Serves 8-10 (or 2 for an anniversary, with considerable leftovers!)

Source:  Adapted from Epicurious.com.

Note: I think this would also be nice with sliced almonds substituted for the crushed tea biscuits, but my husband doesn’t care for nuts running amok in desserts, so I stuck with the recipe’s recommendation on that one.  If you try substituting sliced almonds, though, tell me what you think!

Vanilla Spiked Plum Galette

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Easy as pie?  No – easier.  Easy as galette.  This dish tastes like summer’s very essence encased in a crisp, sugary shell.  This is the second recipe that I’ve made out of Rustic Fruit Desserts, and so far we are two-for-two, although I like this even better than the Blueberry Cobbler with Cornmeal Biscuit I made a few weeks ago.  The plums are sweet and tart; leaving their skin on imparts fantastic color and wonderful flavor.  The vanilla bean seeds spread across the fruit and the crust, giving the entire dessert a delectably speckled appearance.  I don’t know about you, but when I see those little black dots, I just know I’m in for something good.  This galette is no exception…

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Vanilla Spiked Plum Galette

Galette Dough
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
3/4 cup cold unsalted butter, in 1/2 inch cubes
3-5 tablespoons ice water
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

Filling
3/4 cup sugar
seeds scraped from 1 vanilla bean
1 tablespoon cornstarch
6 plums, cut into eighths

  • To make the dough, whisk together flour, sugar and salt in a bowl, then chill the whole thing in the freezer for 10 minutes.  After chilling, add the cubed butter, then toss quickly to combine.  Transfer to the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Stir 3 tablespoonse of ice water and 1 teaspoon of lemon juice together, then drizzle through the feed tube of the food processor and pulse a few times to combine.  The pastry should hold together when squeezed in the palm of your hand; if it doesn’t, add more ice water as needed.  (I ended up with about 5 tablespoons of ice water.)  Dump the pastry onto a floured work surface and quickly shape into a disc.  Chill for 1 hour, until ready to roll.
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Roll out dough into 1/8-1/4 inch round.
  • Rub vanilla seeds into 3/4 cup sugar until well combined.  Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of the vanilla sugar over the center of the pastry round, leaving about a 2-inch border.
  • Stir cornstarch into remaining sugar.  Add plum slices and toss to coat.  Arrange the plum slices in a spiral in the center of the pastry round (over the same area as you previously sprinkled with sugar).  Stir together the plum juice and sugar mixture remaining in the bowl, until goopy.  (That’s a technical term.)  Pour the goopy sugar mixture over the plum slices.  Fold the outer edge of the pastry over the plums, pleating the dough periodically to seal it.
  • Make an egg wash (use your preferred recipe) and brush over the outer crust.  Sprinkle crust with vanilla sugar (either reserve some or use some from your pantry – I like Penzey’s brand).
  • Bake on a rack in the lower third of the oven for 30 minutes.  After 30 minutes, lower the oven heat to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and bake another 20-25 minutes, until the crust is golden brown and the kitchen smells so good that you have to beat people back with a wooden spoon.  Let the galette cool for 5 minutes or so – or as long as you can keep your family away – then slice and serve with vanilla ice cream.

Source: Adapted from Rustic Fruit Desserts, by Cory Schreiber and Julie Richardson

Note: The recipe actually only calls for the seeds of half the vanilla pod.  I used the whole thing because I really love vanilla, and I thought the plums could take it.  They could.  But go ahead and omit half if you want – especially if you have something else in mind for the other half of the seeds!  Oh, and don’t waste the vanilla pod, either.  Tuck it into a sugar bowl for homemade vanilla sugar.  Yum!

Cranberry Almond Cake

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I’ve been taking Wilton classes for the last eight weeks – I finished Wilton 1 in June and just finished Wilton 2 recently.  It’s been a blast and I wish I could continue to Wilton 3, but my schedule has just gotten impossible to juggle.  I definitely plan to take Wilton 3 in the future, but for now any cake decorating will be done with the many techniques I learned from my fabulous instructor (who reads this blog – hi, Gabriella!) in Wilton 1 and 2.  I couldn’t have even learned those techniques, though, if it weren’t for a gaggle of people who promised to eat my cakes every week, because I’m certainly not up to all those sweets.  So thanks to my hubs and our pals Gorka, Stephen, Susanna, Eliina, Sindy, Kevin and Tequila and their wonderful spouses and significant others for their endless sugar tolerance and iron stomachs!  (Wow, it’s turning into shout-out central around here.)  I let them vote for the cake they wanted to eat as my final Wilton 1 cake, and they voted for chocolate – out-voting me and one other lone member of the group.  So, I promised my fellow non-chocolate-lover a cherry almond cake next.  Well, fate ordained that we spent all of Wilton 2 making sugar flowers – mmmmm, sugar flowers! – and this was the first opportunity I had to make another cake, and then I switched grocery stores, couldn’t find the dried cherries, and had to make do with cranberries.  The long anticipated cherry cranberry almond cake was well-received all the same!

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Cranberry (or Cherry) Almond Cake

2 1/2 cups cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cup dried cranberries
3/4 cup milk
2 teaspoons almond extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 sticks unsalted butter
1 2/3 cup granulated sugar
4 eggs

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Prepare two eight-inch round or oval cake pans (either grease and flour, or spray with Pam for Baking).
  • Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.  Transfer 1 1/2 tablespoons of the flour mixture to a separate bowl, add the cranberries, and toss to coat.
  • In another separate bowl, combine the milk with the almond and vanilla extracts and set aside.
  • In an electric stand mixer fitted with the beater attachment, beat together the butter (which should be softened) until creamy.  Add the sugar and beat together until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes, stopping to scrape down the mixer bowl as necessary.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  • Reduce speed to low and add the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with the milk mixture, and mix only until all ingredients are just combined.  Gently fold in the cranberries.
  • Pour half the batter into each of the prepared cake pans.  Bake about 55 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
  • Fill the cake with your choice of filling (I used almond cream) and decorate as you desire.

Source: Adapted from Williams-Sonoma.

Cake Design: Wilton II Grand Finale Cake

Sorry I didn’t get a picture of the inside of the cake!  Take my word for it; it looks like cake.

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